November 16, 2003 | Broadcast

Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer

President Bush says it’s time for the United States to rethink its policy in the Arab and Muslim world, to make democracy a top priority. But there are other huge concerns about the impact involving the situation in Iraq, the goal in the war on terrorism and much more.

Joining us now, two special guests: the former secretary of state Lawrence Eagleburger. He’s joining us from Charlottesville, Virginia. And the former CIA director James Woolsey. He’s joining us from Palm Beach in Florida.

Gentlemen, thank you very much for joining us.

I’ll begin with you, Secretary Eagleburger. The horrific pictures we’ve been seeing out of Istanbul and Turkey, the twin synagogue bombings. Last weekend we were focusing in on Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the residential compound there.

Is there any way that the U.S. and its partners can deal effectively with al Qaeda, assuming these are the works of al Qaeda?

LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Boy, that’s a tough question. Yes, there are ways we can deal with them. But it requires an absolute commitment in terms of resources and in terms of going after them wherever we find them. And it’s a tough job, and it won’t be solved quickly, and it won’t be solved at all unless we’re prepared to commit the resources necessary to make it a success.

BLITZER: Same question to you, Director Woolsey. What’s the most important step that the U.S. should be doing right now to deal with what appears to be an escalating spread of terror?

JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Getting friendly Iraqis into that Sunni triangle so they can tell us who the bad guys are — the Baathists, the Tikritis, the al Qaeda, the few, I guess, that are in there — so that we can move precisely against them and do so quickly.

We would have had a lot more Iraqis go in with us early if we had trained them ahead of time, which Congress provided the money for back in 1998, but wasn’t done.

BLITZER: Secretary Eagleburger, it looks like there was a lot of planning going on at the State Department, a building you used to lead at one point in your life, as far as a postwar Iraq situation is concerned, but people in the Pentagon weren’t paying much attention to that.

Take a look at the situation for us right now and give us your assessment. Was there enough advance work done to understand this postwar environment?

EAGLEBURGER: Not at all, Wolf, not at all. I think, if you analyze the situation, I think the military operation itself was brilliant, and the planning for whatever was to come after that was abysmal. And I don’t think we’ve gotten a hold of it yet, although I think Jerry Bremer is doing a superb job getting things under control.

But I have to tell you, I do not understand how professionals could have so badly misjudged what was going to be necessary after the victory, military victory itself.

And that’s not to say that I think we should have been able to see all of the fighting that’s now going on. That may have been legitimately a surprise. But there’s no question we weren’t prepared for the aftermath.

BLITZER: Do you agree with that assessment, Director Woolsey?

WOOLSEY: A slightly softer version of it. There were a number of things that we planned for and were prepared for, like massive oil well fires, massive humanitarian crises, that didn’t occur precisely because of the rapidity of the military victory.

But we didn’t really have enough forces there, partially because the 4th Division was kept out of the north by the decision by Turkey. We didn’t really have enough forces in the immediate aftermath of the war to repress these Baathists and people in the Sunni Triangle. We’ve got to do that, and we’ve got to do it quickly.

But I think it’s important to realize this is about 15 percent of the country. And the people who are really doing this, the Baathists, a lot of whom are Tikritis from Saddam’s own clan, is maybe 1 or 2 percent of the country.

Nonetheless, we have to get the job done. It should have been done earlier. But the key people, as I said, are Iraqis, to help us and go in with us and tell us who we need to precisely move against.

BLITZER: Secretary Eagleburger, there is a new audio tape that’s just been aired on the Al Arabiya network presumably, purportedly from Saddam Hussein himself. More of the same in terms of his vows, in terms of his own rhetoric.

But this ability for him apparently to be speaking out, to getting his message across and to remain at large, that has to be one of the most frustrating elements for the U.S.

EAGLEBURGER: Oh, there is no question about that either, Wolf. I must say, sort of following up on Jim’s earlier comment, I don’t think we’ve had sufficient military force in the country for some time. I think we still need them. I think particularly we need them in terms now of trying to be extremely nasty against these attacks on us that are taking place now.

But, and there is no question, as well, that until we find Saddam Hussein there is a point around which all of these people can rally, and we will continue to see serious problems. If and when we get him, I think we begin then to see an end to — if not an end to, at least a diminution of the attacks on us, and I think it becomes far less a dangerous situation.

But I think we have to be much tougher, frankly, than we have been so far.

BLITZER: Secretary Eagleburger, though, the point that you’re saying is that you want the U.S. military to get even nastier than it is right now. Operation Iron Hammer under way. There is a pounding going on of suspected targets.

If you get further of the aggression — the aggressive nature could be counterproductive, according to some Iraqis.

EAGLEBURGER: It certainly could be. But all I can tell — and by the way, this most recent attempt at some military activity, I think is a good thing.

But, Wolf, having said all of this and recognizing it could be counterproductive, I simply do not believe that we can continue to take two or three casualties a day. Mind you, this isn’t war and we need to understand that this sort of thing happens. In a real war, we would have a lot more dead than this. But I’m not sure how long the American people are going to be willing to take this sort of one or two or three dead a day with no end in sight.

And there again, I think the issue has to be that the administration and the American military have got to make it clear that we’re going to stay there as long as necessary and we’re going to be as tough as we have to be to make this thing work.

BLITZER: When we speak about casualties, Director Woolsey, we’ll put some numbers up on the screen, 422 U.S. troops have been killed in hostile and non-hostile action since the war began way back in March, and you can see how that’s broken down.

Is Secretary Eagleburger right that the American public is simply not going to understand for this nearly daily, sometimes twice-a-day, three-times-a-day body count, if you will?

WOOLSEY: I think the American people will put up with the casualties, which, you know, our hearts go out to the families of these men and women that were killed. It’s terrible. But I think the American people will put up with this if they see a clear objective…

EAGLEBURGER: That’s correct.

WOOLSEY: … and see us moving toward success.

And to my mind — I think Larry’s right about getting Saddam Hussein. But to my mind, the point is not just being tough, but being tough and smart.

And the things that we did and — I’m saying this as a former chairman of Yale Citizens for Eugene McCarthy in ’68, OK? — the things that we did right in the Vietnam War, such as the Marine combined-action platoons up north, we did right by having a few Americans in with local militia, working together with them, living with them, fighting and clearing out areas. None of those areas that the Marines dealt with that way were ever taken back by the Vietcong.

And I think that if we move in a smart counterinsurgency way, by getting the right Iraqis working with us, and get in there so we know who to arrest, where to attack, maybe the strikes they’re doing now with Iron Hammer, the helicopter gunships and so forth, that — I assume that those are reasonable targets, but we aren’t going to be able to do this largely from afar with helicopter gunships and C-130s. We’re going to have to be on the ground, in there with Iraqis who know the territory.

BLITZER: Secretary Eagleburger, earlier today, I spoke with the Iraqi Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani, who was very firm in insisting that despite the casualties, despite the terrorism, the overall situation in Iraq is clearly improving. Listen precisely to what Talabani, who is now the rotating president of the Iraqi Governing Council, told me. Listen to this.


TALABANI: There are very good news in Iraq which is published in your country. There is freedom, democracy, the level of life increases too much, the people are enjoying free life and with good situation. Please focus on these facts.


BLITZER: What about that, Secretary Eagleburger?

EAGLEBURGER: Everything I’ve heard, Wolf, and I’ve talked to a number of people — Jerry Bremer is a friend of mine. I haven’t talked to him recently. But all of these people say that, with the exception of this area around Baghdad and Tikrit and so forth, right up in the north there, that things are really in very good shape in Iraq.

And I am not at all arguing that they aren’t. I am simply saying that there are some problems that really must be solved. But by and large, I think, with the exception of this one area in Iraq, the conditions within the country are really quite good.

What worries me a little bit right now is, I am beginning to worry that what the administration is now talking about is — I won’t say cut and run, but I’m afraid the tone of what we’re hearing now, except from the president this morning, sort of sounds as if we’re getting ready to leave sooner than we probably should.

I’m not at all sure that’s what’s going to happen, but I’m nervous about the noises that I hear, including the fact that there may be a general in waiting who is going to go out and replace Jerry Bremer. I don’t know if any of this is going to happen, but I know they’re talking about it.

BLITZER: Let me go — Director Woolsey, wrap up this segment for us. There’s an article in the Weekly Standard that came out, referring to a memo that Doug Feith wrote, a top Pentagon official, to the chairman and the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, suggesting that the linkage, the evidence, the intelligence evidence involving al Qaeda’s relationship with Saddam Hussein, goes back more than a decade.

Are you convinced that there has been a close relationship between Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein’s regime throughout the ’90s?

WOOLSEY: Oh, definitely. It had been all along. George Tenet wrote a year ago October to the Congress and told them that, said there’d been a relationship going back a decade. Training in — by Iraqi intelligence of al Qaeda in, quote, “poisons, gases and explosives.”

This memo expands on that. It’s a different question whether Iraqi intelligence had something to do with 9/11. That is certainly arguable. It is a different issue.

But a relationship between Iraqi intelligence and al Qaeda, this memo — and I’ve seen this on the Web — puts flesh on the bones of what George Tenet wrote a year ago.

And I would say, after reading this piece in the Weekly Standard, anybody who says there is no working relationship between al Qaeda and Iraqi intelligence going back to the early ’90s, they can only say that if they’re illiterate. This is a slam dunk.

BLITZER: All right. We’re going to have to leave it right there.

Director Woolsey, as usual, thank you very much for joining us.

Secretary Eagleburger, always a pleasure to have you on this program as well.

EAGLEBURGER: Thank you, Wolf.