January 8, 2004 | Broadcast

Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents could also kill untold thousands.


ANDERSON COOPER, HOST: Well, that was President Bush during his last State of the Union speech. And while Saddam Hussein never accounted for the weapons of mass destruction the president described, apparently neither has the U.S. military.

And a new report today suggests they’ll likely never find any. The report came from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a respected, but politically left of center group that opposed the war.

With me from New York, Albany, New York, is Scott Ritter, a former chief U.N. weapons inspector.

Scott, good to see you.

And joining us from Washington is Andrew Apostolou. He’s with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Andrew, thank you, as well, for being with us. Andrew, I want to start off with you. We learned today 400 weapons hunters have left Iraq empty-handed, it seems. What does this suggest to you?

ANDREW APOSTOLOU, FOUNDATION FOR THE DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Well, what it suggests actually is — and, frankly, you’ve answered your own question. The Iraqis could never account for their WMD stocks. The U.N. never believed the lies that they told them. And what we have found is there is still a mystery as to the stocks.

The fundamental truth, however, is Iraq was in flagrant and blatant violation of its U.N. obligation. This regime was never going to tell us the truth, was never going to comply with the WMD obligations under the Gulf War cease-fire. And what we did quite rightly was to enforce those U.N. resolutions and end the regime.

COOPER: Scott, is the hunt for WMD over?

SCOTT RITTER, FMR. U.N. CHIEF WEAPONS INSPECTOR: No. I think that the technical aspects of the hunt are over. The political aspects aren’t.

Obviously, what we just heard from Mr. Apostolou is indicative of the kind of political spin I think we’re going to get from the Bush administration and those who support the Bush administration’s Iraq policy, trying to make a case that there still is the potential of a threat posed by Iraq weapons of mass destruction and the need to look for them, no matter how long that hunt may be. And, you know, therefore, legitimizing the military invasion of Iraq.

COOPER: Andrew, we learned in this report today from Carnegie — basically, they say it is unlikely that WMD will ever be found in Iraq. Does that mean—I mean do you think the U.S. has been on a wild goose chase this whole time?

APOSTOLOU: Well, no. I mean, the point is this, that as Hans Blix said in March of last year, he had a strong presumption that there were 10,000 liters of anthrax that couldn’t be accounted for and might exist.

The Iraqi story that they destroyed the WMD but forgot to make any records of the destruction, didn’t have any trace of the destruction, and whoops, didn’t have anybody to witness them, was simply not credible. They lied to us and they then went about concealing their lies. And that is why they were in violation of their obligations.

And as for Mr Ritter’s comment about President Bush, well I’m not, as you may be able to tell, an American, so I don’t support people in American politics. My view is that UN resolutions are there to be enforced and I’m very glad that my government was involved in enforcing them.

COOPER: Scott Ritter, all along you were saying that there were no WMD. What do you think, in your opinion, you knew that you claim others didn’t?

RITTER: Well, I base my statements from my seven years on the ground experience in Iraq, knowing that we accounted for 90 to 95 percent of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction capabilities, knowing that we had in place an effective modern regime covering the totality of Iraq’s industrial infrastructure, that they had not reconstituted a WMD manufacturing capability in 1998.

Knowing that the inspection process itself, although not perfect, worked. And the case of biological weapons is clear. Hans Blix indicated that he had an issue with the Iraqi accounting. He Blix had teams on the ground doing their job.

You know, they just published the 15th report, UNMOVIC, Hans Blix’s old group, in which they said they took samples from sites that had been indicated by the Iraqis that destruction had taken place. They did genetic geno typing. And guess what? The Iraqis were telling the truth.

The anthrax was destroyed. The anthrax that was in bombs was the same anthrax that they produced.

The inspection process, if given the chance, would have confirmed what the Iraqis stated in 12,500 pages they presented to the United Nations in December of 2002, all weapons were destroyed. We should have given this process a chance to play itself out. Instead, the Bush administration rushed off to a war, a war that’s killed hundreds of Americans, wounded thousands, killed thousands of Iraqi and destroyed the credibility of the United States and Great Britain.

COOPER: Andrew, do you think WMDs will be found?

APOSTOLOU: Well, I’m sorry. I mean Mr. Ritter told the U.S. Senate in September 1998 that Iraq had not disarmed. He’s clearly changed his mind. The fact is David Kelly, the late British arms inspector quite rightly said, the problem with this regime is it would never give up its weapons, its weapons options and that the only way to stop those programs from coming to military maturity, and that’s the key danger, was by regime change.

Rolf Ekeus said exactly the same thing. He said that talking about the stocks as Mr. Ritter continually does is to trivialize a grave threat to international security. The fact is this regime used these weapons repeatedly for external aggression and internal repression. The victims of Saddam’s weapons still suffer the consequences. Talk to people in Iraqi Kurdistan, talk to people Iran, talk to the victims. You will see that the consequences of what this man did live on to this day and they will live onafter he has faced justice.

COOPER: We are going to have to leave it there. Scott Ritter, appreciate it. Andrew Apostolou, as well.