July 8, 2003 | Broadcast

CNN America Morning

Joining us now with their reaction from Washington is Cliff May, the president of the Foundation for defense of Democracies, and then also Victor Kamber of the Kamber Groups.

Gentlemen, I thank you for joining us.

Cliff, we’ll start with you and before we get into the op-ed from Senator Lieberman, let’s talk first about the latest published reports that essentially the president was wrong when he said in the State of the Union Address that Iraq had recently sought uranium in Africa.

Give us a sense in your mind how serious this issue it is for the administration.

CLIFF MAY, FOUNDATION FOR THE DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Not very serious at all. We found out recently that the one scientist had buried a centrifuge the key component for making a nuclear weapon in his backyard, and he came forward. It shouldn’t happen that a report that turns out to be bogus finds its way into a State of the Union Speech. The president should find out how that happened. Did the CIA not vet the speech, or did the speechwriter not know? But It’s really pretty meaningless.

By the way, we’ll probably send troops into Liberia shortly, not because we think Charles Taylor has weapons of mass destruction, but because it’s the right thing to do from a humanitarian point of view and from the point of view of national security. The same is true in terms of Iraq. Saddam Hussein was a threat. Americans get that and they want their president to protect them from these threats.

O’BRIEN: Victor, do you agree that it’s meaningless, as we hear?

VICTOR KAMBER, THE KAMBER GROUP: No, I don’t. Mistakes happen and people are human,. The problem is there’s been too many mistakes under this administration, its foreign policy and the statements he’s made. I’m not sure today that the same Congress would have voted authority to go into Iraq if they had known all of the information that the president and his advisers knew prior to declaring the war. I think that the bottom line, yes, we got rid of Saddam Hussein. I’m not sure it’s yet been proven he was a true threat to the you said. We haven’t seen the weapons of mass destruction. The idea that we’re going to Libya and possibly North Korea.

MAY: Liberia.

KAMBER: Liberia, I’m sorry, North Korea and possibly other places is sort of frightening at this point. I think Lieberman, his op-ed, stated it correctly. You know, we won a quick war according to the president. I think people were euphoric, but there was no understanding of what the win means, and the long-term commitment that this country has to make to preserve that victory.

O’BRIEN: Lieberman also essentially says that the soldiers who are there are operating blind. Victor, give us a sense if you think that is an accurate assessment.

KAMBER: Blind is a little strong. I mean, this is the problem when you get to the politics — the rhetoric of both sides gets shrill. I don’t know if they’re operating blind, but they certainly are operating, and you’ve still got terrorists in Iraq and partisans in Iraq that want America out, for different reasons, not necessarily all pro-Saddam Hussein, but people that want Americans understand they’re going to take risks and chances to get rid of us, killing one at a day, two at a day, three at a day.

O’BRIEN: Cliff was laughing when you say blind is too strong. Cliff, why are you laughing about that?

MAY: I don’t mean to laugh at it. Joe Lieberman is making serious points, but what we have to understand is we have terrorists in Iraq right now fighting our soldiers. They want Saddam Hussein to come back. We have outsiders who are agitating. Syria’s dictator Basja Asad (ph), he said he was going what happened in 1983 when the U.S. embassy was bombed, the Marine barracks were bombed and America ran away. That’s what we want to do.

Look, the fact that we won this war in three weeks is wonderful, major combat operation is over, but if even 1 percent of that 25 million population is against us and is loyal to Saddam Hussein, we’re talking about 250,000 thugs and terrorists out there that we — what we have to do is win, and we’ve got to make it very clear to the Iraqis and to the world that we are there to stay.

Right now, what Saddam Hussein’s thugs are saying, is if you cooperate with the Americans, we will kill you. We have to make it clear that we are not going to go wobbly. And I’m afraid Victor is prescribing that we should go wobbly. Lieberman is not, to his credit.

KAMBER: No, what I’m prescribing is we should be honest with the American public. If Cliff was saying there are 250,000 terrorists in Iraq and we have to get every one of them out of there. He’s prescribing a plan that’s 10, 15, 20 years of occupation. Is the American public ready to spend the next 10, 20 years of our troops and our monies to try to build a country that, in the end, is religiously, diametrically opposed with us.

SOLEDAD: And we will leave it with that question. Gentlemen, I’ll have to interrupt you there. While this is a great debate, we are out of time. Cliff May and Victor Kamber, thanks, guys.