October 18, 2003 | Broadcast

CNN Live Saturday with Andrea Koppel

But what do the votes of the United Nations and on Capitol Hill mean in the real world of politics, occupation, and reconstruction?

Our guests have thoughts on that, opposing view points mind you.

Cliff May leads the foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

And Phyllis Bennis is a senior fellow at the institute for policy studies. Both are joining us from Washington.

Cliff, I’d like to begin with you, clearly the 15-0 unanimous vote that the Bush administration got at the U.N. this week was a huge diplomatic victory, but in practical terms, in terms of troops, in terms of money what does it mean?

CLIFF MAY, PRES. FOUNDATION FOR THE DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: It means that you now have the United Nations good housekeeping seal of approval, as it were, on the U.S. effort in Iraq. If I can make the connection to your previous interview with Nic Robertson, because I think it’s connected here. You now have the U.N. and international community, there 30 nations helping us so far, hopefully there will be more, saying we understand that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein should not be allowed to take back Iraq, take back Afghanistan use them again as safe havens for terrorism. That’s very important. I think in a practical term, Andrea, troops from South Korea will now be able to come, a lot of governments will feel more comfortable helping us. We’re still not going to get a lot of help from countries like France. Nothing we do is going to do to change that. Even if we give them New Orleans they are not going to help us a whole lot.

KOPPEL: Well, Phyllis, it wasn’t when this talk first began about the U.S. and Great Britain putting forward a draft of U.N. Security Council resolution. They weren’t just kind of hoping other countries were going did ante up troops and money, they were really counting on the fact that this resolution would do that.

How much of a blow is it then and what does the resolution mean if you don’t have lots of troops and money to come out of this?

PHYLLIS BENNIS, SENIOR FELLOW, INSTITUTE FOR POLICY STUDIES: Clearly, this is really a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) victory for the Bush administration. They need to call it a victory. They need a victory. The polls are tanking. 43 percent support, the lowest of his entire presidency. There’s massive resistance in the Congress. There is massive discontent with the costs, particularly because as we know, of that $87 billion, only $15 billion is actually designated for the reconstruction of Iraq. There’s $5 billion more for an Iraqi military, $65 billion for the Pentagon. Which means these days a lot of it going to outsourcing corporations of the Pentagon. So I think that there’s a great deal of unease. The White House is faced with a situation where as you say, they’re not going to get significant money at the Madrid Conference. The $200 million that was offered by South Korea was matched in what was really a terrible insult to the Bush administration by the European Union, which offered a really insulting $200 million as well, which I thought was an appropriate gesture. This was something that the U.S. did unilaterally when it went to war. And it’s now asking the rest of the world to pick up the pieces, while it refuses to share any authority. That’s just not going to fly.

KOPPEL: Cliff, you don’t believe the U.S. should be giving more authority to the United Nations. Why not?

MAY: Well, I don’t think we can. If we want this to succeed. If we want to establish a decent and free society in Iraq. The U.N. is an organization comprised of dictatorships and Democracies and institutionally, the U.N. makes no distinction between them. That’s why Libya can head the human rights commission, why Syria can sit on the Security Council. The question is, what do we want to do in Iraq? We’ve liberated the Iraqis from a genocidal mass murderer, a terrible despot, nobody should apologize for that except those who turned a blind eye to the oppression of the Iraqi people for all these years. Now to build a better Iraq, a better Mideast, make America safer from terrorism, we want to make a real effort to help the Iraqis achieve something there. How are we going to do it? Not by turning it over to Kofi Annan unfortunately. But I simply want U.N. involvement for sure.

KOPPEL: Cliff. Cliff. I mean, the fact is that the U.N. as you mentioned has close to 200 countries all shapes, sizes, denominations. But what about Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor those were judged to be successes that the U.S. led in terms of post-war reconstruction.

MAY: I would disagree. If look at Kosovo. It’s been a very slow progress. It’s really not happened. East Timor has been a sort of mild success. Look we should have all the U.N. help we can have, but to turn it over to them would be too cut and run. The U.N. is not going to fight the Ba’athist and jihadies Osama bin Laden is sending to kill American soldiers. No other nation can do that part. But others can guard hospitals and schools and do things like that.

Phyllis seems to be against the $87 billion. It was a bipartisan vote.

BENNIS: I’m not a partisan here.

MAY: We’re supporting our troops.

BENNIS: Do I get to speak here?

MAY: We are also supporting a reconstruction effort in Iraq. And that’s very important.

KOPPEL: Phyllis. Phyllis, why don’t you have the final word here.

BENNIS: We have an obligation under international law, as well as a moral obligation, to pay for the reconstruction of Iraq, the things that we have destroyed. And we have destroyed a great deal. The words I haven’t heard from Cliff May today is weapons of mass destruction. That was what we were told was the reason that George Bush took us to war. We weren’t told at that time that it was about the human rights violations. If it were, we would have been involved in this 20 years ago when the U.S. was selling the biological seed stock to Iraq.

KOPPEL: And that unfortunately, Phyllis, is another can of worms that I’m afraid and I apologize, Cliff, we do not have time to give you an opportunity to address. But something tells me we’re going to have both of you back.