July 16, 2003 | Broadcast
Lou Dobbs Tonight
HOPKINS: That brings us to tonight’s face-off topic, which is, is the Bush administration on track with its Iraq policy? Katrina Vanden Heuvel says no and adds that America’s legitimacy is being questioned. She’s editor of the “Nation.” Cliff May says yes, the administration is on track. He is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.
Katrina, let’s start with you. Why do you think that the administration is not on track with its Iraq policy?
KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, “THE NATION”: The administration gravely underestimated the enormous human, political, and economic costs of this occupation. Unless it changes course for the sake of this country, the world, and the Iraqi people and brings in the United Nations, the international community, more and more American men and women will die. Every day we see a death. The costs to this country, the staggering costs which they misled us about, will deplete the possibility of healing our domestic agenda at home. And finally, I think an independent investigation is desperately needed to find out who knew what, when, and why we didn’t know the truth about why we were taken into war.
HOPKINS: With all of these questions, Cliff, why do you think that the administration policy is on track with Iraq?
CLIFF MAY, PRESIDENT, FDN. FOR THE DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Well, understand, what we’re doing is very difficult. What we’re doing is something that certainly people on the left like Katrina once supported. It’s called nation building. We have freed the Iraqi people. Now the challenge is to keep them free. And we do that by helping them develop Democratic institutions, which they’ve begun to do. We now have a multiethnic, multireligious council that is beginning to govern Iraq. We’re going to have war crimes trials. They’re all things that are useful.
Now, there’s no question there are Ba’athists and there are terrorists from other place that’s are in Iraq because they don’t want Iraq to stay free. The terrorists would like to take Iraq back from us. And we can’t give it back to them. So this is going to be a challenge. We haven’t had a good record in nation building in places like Haiti or even Kosovo or Bosnia. We did it with Germany and Japan. If we turned it over to the U.N. said, okay, but we’re going to let the Ba’athists back in. We’re going to see that Saddam was toppled, we’re going to bring him back in, that wouldn’t be okay. If the U.N. comes back in who’s going to pay for it, it’s still us. We have the responsibility now. We’ve saved Iraq, and like the old Chinese saying, we’re now responsible to get this done, or help the Iraqis get it done.
HOPKINS: But Cliff, I bet in this White House, as President Bush’s ratings fall with each passing day, mounting casualties, there is support, as there is among the broad American majority of people, for an internationalization of this occupation. And the United States has had a very poor track record in nation building. The U.N., if given the capacity, and NATO would allow American soldiers to come home instead of having to listen to bring ’em on, we could say bring them home.
MAY: You know what Katrina, I don’t necessarily disagree with you. I think we should invite, and we are inviting others in. The problem is that we can’t turn over responsibility to Kofi Annan for this. We can’t say, okay, you do it, it’s no longer our concern.
If they’ll work with us, if they’ll work with Paul Bremer, the civilian administrator, I think we should welcome them and I think we will welcome them. We haven’t gotten a good reaction yet. But we can’t turn this problem over to the U.N. The U.N. does not have a great track record…
VANDEN HEUVEL: But Cliff, if given the capacity, there would be more security, legitimacy, and expertise, and it would be viewed in the Arab world and in the international community as an international nation- building problem. It is now a Pentagon occupation. You know that that will lead to more deaths of American men and women.
MAY: Again, we should invite them in to join us, but we have to maintain the responsibility. You don’t want the human rights commission of the United Nations headed by Libya, to be in charge of human rights in Iraq, surely, Katrina, you wouldn’t be in favor of that.
VANDEN HEUVEL: That’s an anomalous situation Cliff, and not directly related …
HOPKINS: Let me jump in here and start on another topic, which is, what about all of the information about the faulty intelligence that ended up in the president’s speech and may have been the justification for going in? Cliff, does that derail the administration’s Iraqi policy?
MAY: Not in my view. Let me make two very quick points. One is that all the Democrats, as you heard in Bill Schneider’s report, who are serious about national security. I’m talking about Joe Biden. I’m talking about Joe Lieberman. I’m talking with about Dick Gephardt. They voted in favor of this military intervention, and they don’t regret that vote.
Second, everybody who was serious about this matter, and U.S. intelligence included, knows that Saddam Hussein had chemical weapons, he used them, had biological weapons, he admitted it. And was trying to rebuild his nuclear weapons capacity. If he was trying to do that, he needed uranium. Where was he going to get it from? He was going it get it from Africa or Serbia most likely. That’s what all this about. The rest is just footnotes.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Cliff, please don’t just say move on and instead of the blame game and stonewalling think about the scores of intelligence officials who believe this country was misled into war. Disparately needed independent investigation to explain to the American people accountability is at the heart of Democracy, we need to know the facts. It is important for the future.
MAY: Congress is investigating. George Tenet, head of the CIA will be testifying tomorrow.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Closed Republican hearings.
MAY: Well, this is what this is about, national security. We don’t want to turn this into a political circus. Again, all the Democrats who were serious about national security, they all voted for this and they haven’t changed their mind because they understand Saddam Hussein was a butcher. We’re finding mass graves every day…
VANDEN HEUVEL: That does not justify…
MAY: And he never accounted for his weapons of mass destruction as he was obligated to do.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Cliff, you can have two ideas in your head at the same time. The world is better off with Saddam Hussein, but we were led into this war with the justification that we faced an imminent and grave threat. Which, they can’t find the weapons of mass destruction, Cliff.
MAY: Actually, if you’ll recall, people like yourself complained that the administration had too many arguments. You wanted there to be just one. And the fact that we haven’t found the weapons or found Saddam Hussein is troubling, but I think we will. The possibility is that the weapons were either buried or the weapons were dispersed to another country or perhaps…
VANDEN HEUVEL: Meaning, Cliff…
MAY: he destroyed them himself and was going to rebuild them.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Meaning, Cliff, that the world may be more insecure after this war than it was before if those weapons had been dispersed.
MAY: As you just said, the world is a safer place without Saddam Hussein in a palace controlling billions of dollars, an army, oil money, and weapons of mass destruction or the programs to build them as soon as the heat was off. We agree the world’s a better place without him in power, and the Iraqi people are certainly better off.
HOPKINS: Just a second. Let me ask another question. And that is, with the morale of the soldiers that are still in Iraq, tumbling every day, Cliff, doesn’t that derail the administration’s Iraqi policy?
MAY: It doesn’t derail it. It does raise a serious question that I think we have to begin to address in the 21st century. Combat soldiers are not necessarily the people who should be policing a country after a war like Iraq, or nation building. We may need different kinds of structures for that. Even to go after the remnants of the Ba’athists and the other terrorists in Iraq. That’s not infantry you want to do that. That’s special forces. We’re going to have to adjust because we’ve got a lot more of this coming in the 21st century.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Adjusting means working with the United Nations, with NATO, and building alliances instead of dissing allies, and then we would then not have this military overreach, and men and women of America could come home without abandoning Iraq and rebuilding more effectively.
MAY: Sure, but the U.N…
HOPKINS: Thank you very much, both of you.
MAY: Thank you.
HOPKINS: Cliff May and Katrina Vanden Heuvel.
VANDEN HEUVEL: Thank you.
And that brings us to tonight’s quote on now the infamous 16 words about Iraq’s alleged attempts to purchase uranium from Africa. “It was a mistake to include it in the State of the Union Address, but that was one piece of one part of an overall body of evidence that exists showing why we went to war in Iraq.” That from White House spokesman Scott McClellan.