CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Interview With Pervez Musharraf; Interview With Colin Powell; Levin, Warner Assess War on Terrorism
Aired September 15, 2002 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9 a.m. in Los Angeles, 8 p.m. in Baghdad and 9:30 p.m. in Islamabad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for LATE EDITION.
We'll get to my interview with the U.S. secretary of state, Colin Powell, in just a moment, but first a news alert.
BLITZER: Meanwhile, U.S. officials are assessing the impact of Pakistan's capture in Karachi in recent days of a top al Qaeda operative, Ramzi Binalshibh. He's believed to have been a prime planner in the September 11th terror attacks. Binalshibh's apprehension is widely seen as a potential breakthrough in the continuing hunt for al Qaeda terrorists.
Pakistan's president, Prevez Musharraf tells me his government will cooperate fully with the U.S. in the investigation.
PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PRESIDENT, PAKISTAN: We launched an operation. It was I (ph) who came to know that, in Karachi, there was -- they were living in a residential area. The place was raided, and there was a shoot-out. Two of the al Qaeda members were killed and 10 arrested. We suffered about seven injuries on our side.
It was a good operation. And there was one Egyptian, one Saudi and eight Yemenis in this. And I'm told maybe there was an important person also involved. I don't know whether he's the same as the one you are referring to.
BLITZER: And that person is now in the custody of your government, the ISI is the Pakistani Intelligence Service? Is that right?
MUSHARRAF: Yes, all of them. All 10.
BLITZER: They're all in your custody? What will you do with them?
MUSHARRAF: We are going to interrogate them. Obviously there is a procedure. There's a process of interrogation known to all the intelligence agencies. And we cooperate on this. And then we declare them white or black.
But since there was a shoot-out, there is no doubt that they are al Qaeda members.
BLITZER: And presumably at some point you'll either share the information or allow the United States authorities to question them as well?
MUSHARRAF: Well, yes, on such issues there's total cooperation and collaboration, because certainly the U.S. intelligence agencies have better investigative expertise.
BLITZER: And in the past, at least, if the past is any precedent, occasionally you've even extradited, handed over, some of these terrorists to the United States.
MUSHARRAF: Yes. I think the collaboration, in this respect, is very good.
BLITZER: My complete interview with President Musharraf will air in the second hour of LATE EDITION. He'll weigh in on the war against terror, where his government stands on a possible war with Iraq, and the tensions between Pakistan and India over Kashmir. That's coming up in the second hour of LATE EDITION.
Now to the crisis between the United States and Iraq. Just a short while ago, I spoke with the U.S. secretary of state, Colin Powell.
BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us once again on LATE EDITION.
I want to get to Iraq and the war on terror and a lot of other subjects in just a moment, but the Pakistani president, Pervez Musharraf, says that he's ready to cooperate with the U.S. as far as Ramzi Binalshibh. Do you want Ramzi Binalshibh extradited to the United States?
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, that's really a matter for the Justice Department to decide. And I'm sure that we are anxious to have access to him and to get him under control, but the specific legal requirements or requests, I'll let that remain with the Justice Department.
But this is indicative of the kind of support we have received from President Musharraf throughout this campaign against terrorism for the past year. He really has been in the forefront of helping us, chasing down leads, looking for terrorists. Because what he understands is that these terrorists are as great a danger to the people of Pakistan and to his government as they are to the people of the United States and our government.
BLITZER: How big of a fish is this Ramzi Binalshibh?
POWELL: I think he's a pretty big fish. I mean, this is perhaps -- he's within the circle of those who were responsible for 9/11. And so, I think he is a pretty big catch.
And I congratulate not only our law enforcement and intelligence experts who participated in this, but I also congratulate as well the Pakistani officials who worked on it. And I hope that all the Pakistanis who were wounded and injured in the firefight that ensued will be OK.
BLITZER: Let's talk about Iraq. Tariq Aziz, the deputy prime minister, says those U.N. inspectors might be allowed back in, but he's got some conditions: lifting of sanctions against Iraq, and the U.S. has to forget about a so-called military preemptive strike.
Are you ready to accept those conditions in order to get the inspectors back in?
POWELL: Look, it's too late for us to sit around having the bi- monthly set of conditions presented to the international community by Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz. They know what they have to do. It is in all of the resolutions.
I think we have to do now is, within the Security Council, put down a strong resolution that first says, "These are the violations. They're in material breach. This is what they have to do," not what we're going discuss with them about what they should or should not do. "This is what they have to do."
And then I believe a third element of any such resolution, or resolutions, if it turns out to be plural, should be, "This is what the U.N. is prepared to do if Iraq does not respond."
The time for Iraq to respond was years ago. They now have an opportunity to respond now with this new resolution. But what we cannot allow to have happen is to get into this haggling and listening to the duplicitous comments that are constantly coming out of Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.
BLITZER: Do you want one resolution to emerge from the Security Council or a series of resolutions?
POWELL: I think that the elements I just described -- material breach, this is what they have to do, this is what we're prepared to do if they don't -- really are one piece.
Now, I really want to hear from my colleagues in the Security Council, because some of them believe it is better to break this into two resolutions.
And so, I'm inclined toward one, but because this is a dialogue and it is diplomacy and we have to get the necessary votes, I want to hear the argument for two from my colleagues.
BLITZER: Breaking it up into two, that third element that you talk about, leaving that for a separate resolution, that would, in effect, give Saddam Hussein two more chances.
POWELL: Yes. And the danger in that second-resolution idea is that nations who are willing to vote for the first resolution cannot at that same time be unwilling to vote for the second resolution, because then it's just a resolution like -- the first resolution's just like all other failed resolutions.
So I think that that is a danger, and I think I have to point that out to my Security Council colleagues.
But I don't rule it out, because I want to hear the arguments and this is a negotiation. President Bush did not go before the U.N. to dictate what the resolution supposed to look like. We have our view, we have a strong view, and I'll present that view and listen to others and see what will require the votes necessary to pass the resolution.
The one thing I would make a strong point on though, Wolf, is that it can't just be business as usual. It has to be any time, any place, any where, if inspectors are part of the action required. And we have to make sure that we do not get into the same kind of situation that existed four or five years ago, when the role of the U.N. and the role of the inspectors was frustrated.
The issue really isn't inspectors or inspections. The issue is, is the Iraqi government, Saddam Hussein, ready to act differently? We have every reason to be skeptical. We have every reason to be doubtful and dubious because of his past actions. But let's see what he will do in the face of this strong international consensus that this can no longer continue in this way.
BLITZER: And you've said you want this resolution, or two resolutions, from your perspective one resolution, passed not within months, but within perhaps a few weeks. Could you be more precise?
POWELL: Yes, here's our strategy coming into this. About five or six weeks ago, the president decided that we would go to the United Nations and we've been working toward that end for the last several weeks, starting to talk to some of our friends and getting the president's message ready.
He delivered a powerful speech on Thursday. Everybody wanted us to be multilateral. Everybody wanted us to come to the U.N. He did that. And he came and did not issue a declaration of war, but he issued a declaration of purpose, that the U.N. will had to be obeyed.
I then stayed in New York with the president there part of the time on Friday, but the rest of Friday I talked to Security Council members, all the Security Council members, many of the leaders, in a political discussion -- what the elements of a resolution should look like and what we wanted to do next. They need time to go back and talk to their leaders, their cabinet ministers. They have the same kind of debate in each of those capitals that we have in ours.
And I think, over this weekend and into the next several days of next week, we'll start to get feedback as to what they think in their capitals. And I hope toward the end of next week, and there's nothing fixed and firm about this, but I would think that toward the end of next week, we can actually start working on the resolution in a way that such things are done with our permanent representatives, our ambassadors in New York.
And Ambassador John Negroponte is very skilled in this, our ambassador. And you can be sure he and I will be talking five, 10 times a day as we go into this resolution-drafting process.
BLITZER: And so, by not this coming week but perhaps the following week, there could be a vote?
POWELL: I don't know. It's going to take some time to negotiate a resolution. So it isn't that you have one day of discussion and you vote. It's going to take some time. But we're talking about weeks, not months. We can no longer have something like this drag on for months.
And keep in mind that, even though we're talking about resolutions and we are trying to get the collective will of the United Nations through the Security Council behind this resolution, the president still retains all of his options to act in any manner that he believes is appropriate to protect American interests and American lives.
BLITZER: Specifically, what do you mean? During the next two weeks, let's say?
POWELL: What I mean is that we want to work within the multilateral organization that has been designed for this purpose, the United Nations, and we hope the United Nations will meet its responsibilities at this time.
But the president always has the option of doing whatever he believes is necessary to defend U.S. interests. So it doesn't mean that if the U.N. fails to act, the United States won't act. The president has made it clear that he will do what he believes is necessary.
But at this point, he is anxious to see the U.N. act. He has made no decision with respect to military options, but certainly that is an option.
BLITZER: Parts of this resolution, the three parts you described, the first part enumerating the violations that the Iraqis have engaged in; the second part, what they must do, let the U.N. inspectors back in.
Talk to me about the third part, the threat, in effect, the ultimatum that is given if there is no compliance. How far do you want that threat to go?
POWELL: I think the U.N. should speak clearly, that if, once again, the Iraqis do not respond, the United Nations can not just say, well, "Nevermind, we'll be back here next year at next year's General Assembly session and talk about it again." I think that the United Nations has to ask for action be taken by its member states. Now, how that is actually phrased remains to be seen. And I don't want to put a particular term out there, because I would like this to be part of the dialogue we are having with our friends.
But it should be an action event, so that nations, willing nations or all nations, are prepared to act. And it doesn't mean that every nation has to participate in military operations. But once it becomes the word of the Security Council, it is something that is directed to all of the nations of the United Nations to work on. We are all obliged to take steps that would support that resolution.
BLITZER: And you think that's doable, that the four other permanent members of the Security Council -- the British will be on board, but France, China, Russia -- will give the United States, in effect, and perhaps a small number of -- perhaps a large number of allies, the right to use military force against Iraq if they are not in compliance?
POWELL: I don't know, and it would be very, very wrong for me at this point to say what France, China, and Russia or, for that matter, the United Kingdom might do, although I have a better idea of what I think the United Kingdom will do, and they've been very forward- leaning on this issue.
What we're going to do is discuss it with them. I don't think there's any debate about the first element, that they are in violation. It could be called a material breach without any question. I don't think there's much debate about the fact that we need to put demands on Iraq, unconditional demands on Iraq.
BLITZER: They all support wanting those inspectors back in, the Russians, the Chinese, the French, everybody.
POWELL: I think everybody has been saying to the Iraqis, let the inspectors in. President Bush has said it a number of times over the past year.
But they can't be inspections like the last set of inspections, where they are frustrated because they can't go to this site or that site. If part of this action, this second element, has to do with inspections, then it has to be anywhere, any time, talking to anybody that has to be spoken to in order to get to the truth.
But remember, inspections isn't the issue. The issue is eliminating weapons of mass destruction and dealing with the other issues that are within those Security Council resolutions, such as the return of Kuwaiti prisoners, accounting for the American airman who was lost over Iraq in the Gulf War, human rights issues, issues having to do with terrorism, issues having to do with the use of the oil-for- food program. There are a lot of elements.
Maybe these sorts of elements might also be in another resolution. The president was careful in what he said. He said "resolutions," because we want to give the Security Council all the flexibility necessary to examine this issue and then make a considered judgment. BLITZER: Two weeks ago, when I interviewed Tariq Aziz, the deputy prime minister -- he was in Johannesburg -- he said Hans Blix, the leader of the inspection teams at the United Nations, is persona non grata, he's not acceptable, given his record when he was chairman of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
POWELL: We're not going to listen to these sorts of demands and these sorts of conditions put forward by the Iraqi government.
Hans Blix has been selected by the United Nations to head UNMOVIC. He is a very dedicated individual. He has spent the last several years of his life pulling together an experienced team of individuals who are ready to expand into an even larger team and perform this mission if the circumstances warrant.
And so, Hans Blix is the person who is going to do this. And we cannot allow the Iraqi regime to tell us who's going to head the U.N. inspection team.
Now, once again, it is not inspections that are the issue. It is disarmament. And the question is not whether they will let Dr. Blix come in or not. The question is, are they making a fundamental change in their attitudes? If they are, then all of these other issues are secondary questions.
Maybe we want them to come back to us before sending inspectors in, with a declaration of the kind that was required under U.N. Resolution 687, letting us know exactly what they have out there and making it available for inspection and destruction. That would be an expression of seriousness on their part. Letting inspectors in after that, if we find their input acceptable, might be an expression of seriousness on their part.
But so far, for the last 11 years, they have not shown that kind of seriousness. They have tried to frustrate the will of the international community.
If they have no weapons, what are they hiding? They find all kinds of excuses, a thousand excuses -- there are spies on this team, we don't want this, when are sanctions going to be relieved and removed? The issue is Iraqi noncompliance, and we should not allow them to move us off that issue.
I'm very pleased that, in all of my conversations on Thursday and Friday and through the weekend so far -- and I'm going back to New York tonight -- all the leaders that I have spoken to recognize that this is a challenge for the U.N. And I think they all believe it is a challenge the U.N. must meet.
BLITZER: We have to take a quick commercial break. When we return, more on the possibility of a war with Iraq. I'll ask the secretary of state, in addition, about the fate of a U.S. pilot who went missing during the Gulf War.
LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: We return now to my interview with the U.S. secretary of state, Colin Powell.
BLITZER: You raised the issue of Scott Speicher, the U.S. Navy captain. You were chairman of the Joint Chiefs. He was the first U.S. pilot who was lost over Iraq.
Tariq Aziz insists he died in that crash, and there's no issue here, it's over with. Recently the Pentagon changed his status from killed in action to missing in action.
Do you seriously believe he might still be alive?
POWELL: I don't know. That's the issue. And I think, because we don't know, that's why the Pentagon changed their determination.
And if the Iraqis have information that would answer this question, they ought to stop playing games, they ought to stop playing with people's emotions, the emotions of the family, and bring that information forward.
This is one of the problems with this regime. It's the way they act. Not just Scott Speicher, there are hundreds of Kuwaitis and other nationalities who are unaccounted for. They traffic in this kind of human misery. It's the nature of this regime.
BLITZER: The U.N. secretary general, Kofi Annan, spoke just before President Bush at the opening session of the General Assembly in New York.
And, at least to the average listener or viewer out there -- you were sitting there -- it sounded like he was lecturing the Bush administration. I want you to listen to this excerpt from the secretary general's address.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KOFI ANNAN, SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS: Choosing to follow or reject the multilateral path must not be a simple matter of political convenience. It has consequences far beyond the immediate context.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And then he went on to list four crises around the world that represent what he called "a threat to world peace." He didn't begin with Iraq. He began with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Was that seen by you as a snub to the U.S.? POWELL: Not at all, because you left out one of the sentences in the latter part of the speech where he clearly said that Iraq must come into compliance and that the United Nations cannot turn away from this challenge.
Now, we saw the speech the day before, and he was kind enough to share it with us. And I smile slightly because what he was going to see the next day is President George Bush standing before a multilateral organization and presenting a challenge to that multilateral organization, the United Nations. And so, you wanted to see us multilateral, you saw it. And it was a powerful presentation.
With respect to the crises that he talked about, we deal with those in a multilateral basis, whether it's with the Israeli- Palestinian issue, I worked closely with the European Union, with the Russian Federation, with Norwegians, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund. All of the international organizations were all working together, and we'll be in New York on Tuesday to discuss it.
With respect to the Indian-Pakistan situation, which the secretary general also made reference to, I work with all of my European Union colleagues and others to try to help the Indians and Pakistanis resolve this situation.
So the United States is working in multilateral fora. In fact, when you look at attitudes in Europe, not of the elite, but the attitudes of average people in Europe as a result of polling, they are not different terribly from what Americans think. They recognize that the United States has important responsibilities and works multilaterally. And these occasional frictions that come along between us and our European or other colleagues are just that, occasional frictions.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the congressional resolution. In addition to a U.N. Security Council resolution, you want a congressional resolution.
First of all, when do you want the Senate and the House of Representatives to pass a resolution giving you authority to do what?
POWELL: We are in discussion with the House and the Senate, and it is our position that they should pass it as quickly as possible, and certainly before they recess for the mid-term elections.
BLITZER: So that would be within the next three or four weeks?
POWELL: Within the next three or four weeks. Which, as you know, we will start sending up administration witnesses on this this week and next week. What should be in the resolution is something to be determined by the House and the Senate together, and of course we will provide input and assistance to that deliberation.
BLITZER: Even some Republicans say they need more information, for example, Chuck Hagel, an important member of the Senate Foreign Relations committee. Listen to what he told our Judy Woodruff on Friday. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: They have not persuaded me. This is a dangerous, uncertain world. America must use its relationships with its allies. We must enhance our position in the world. We can't fight every war alone. We need answers from the administration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: "We need answers from the administration." And you hear that from a lot of members who want to support you, are sympathetic, but they say you're still not giving them enough information.
POWELL: Well, here's what -- here are a couple of elements about which there is no debate, they don't need any more information. One, Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime is in violation of 16 resolutions and multiple conditions within those resolutions. Nobody needs any more information about that.
The other thing nobody needs any more information about is that he has every intention of developing and acquiring, stockpiling and perhaps even using weapons of mass destruction. He's done it before.
What we are debating is whether or not he has got X number of VX shells or Y number of biological agents. That is a legitimate discussion to have. We will try to give the Congress and our friends all the information that we can, subject to not losing sources and methods by giving out too much.
And that process will continue this week with administration witnesses going up. We will put out more documents. We put out one document this past week. The British will be putting out a document.
I think there's more than enough information out there to satisfy anybody who is interested with respect to the nature of this threat and why this is not a matter we can look away from.
BLITZER: Will you be providing any information, additional information, do you have any information linking the Iraqi regime to al Qaeda and 9/11?
POWELL: There is no question that there are some linkages between the Iraqi regime and al Qaeda. But so far, I haven't seen anything that would give you a linkage to 9/11.
We don't rule it out, and we are constantly examining the information that comes to us, but there is no direct linkage between the regime in Baghdad and 9/11 yet.
BLITZER: Last week on this program when I interviewed Senator Bob Graham, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, he was very blunt in saying the Iraqis have now been informed formally what would happen to them if they used weapons of mass destruction in a buildup or at any time. Listen to what Senator Graham said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D-FL), CHAIRMAN, INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Our belief is that Saddam Hussein fully understands that if he were to use a weapon of mass destruction that it would result in the annihilation not only of him, but of much of his society.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is that right?
POWELL: I think the Iraqis might want to assume that, but I'm not aware of a formal presentation to them. I'll have to talk to Senator Graham to see specifically what he was speaking about. He's always careful in his comments and in his presentations, but I think I want to make sure I understand what he was making a reference to before I comment on it.
BLITZER: I think he was suggesting that the Intelligence Committee was asking people who brief them behind closed doors, do they know how serious the United States is if they were to use biological or chemical or a nuclear weapon? And apparently the briefer suggested, well, maybe they don't. So they went back and they made sure in some forum (ph) that Saddam Hussein would know.
POWELL: That may well be the case, but I've just heard this statement this morning and focused on it. So what I think I better do is make sure that I've had a chance to talk to Senator Graham and then see what he might have been told.
BLITZER: Irrespective of what he said, would they be annihilated if they used weapons of mass destruction?
POWELL: You know, we've been down this road before with the Iraqis when I was in a position to communicate such messages. And they fully understand the potential consequences of using weapons of mass destruction. And I'm quite sure they have a solid understanding of the capacity of the United States -- our conventional capacity and other capacities.
BLITZER: I'll leave it right there. Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.
POWELL: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And this programing note for our North American viewers: Tonight on CNN, 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 p.m. Pacific, the attorney for the family of the missing U.S. pilot, Scott Speicher, who was shot down during the first days of the Persian Gulf War will be a guest. That attorney will be on the 10:00 p.m. show tonight. Please join us then. Just ahead, we'll get an assessment on the heightened tensions with Iraq, as well as the war on terror, from the two leading members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan and Republican John Warner of Virginia.
LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
BLITZER: President Bush's address before the U.N. General Assembly is getting generally favorable reviews from both Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress. But it's still far from certain that U.S. lawmakers will back unilateral military action against Iraq.
Just within the past hour, I spoke with the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan, and the committee's top Republican, Senator John Warner of Virginia.
BLITZER: Senator Warner, Senator Levin, thanks for joining us on LATE EDITION. Always good to have both of you on the program.
And I'll begin with you, Senator Levin. Has the Bush administration made its case completely, at least as far as you're concerned, that would authorize a Senate resolution approving potentially the use of force against Iraq?
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: I think the president has made a strong case at the U.N. for U.N. action here to enforce U.N. resolutions. That's a very different issue from whether or not we should go it alone.
And the case which has been made has been made to the U.N., we ought to focus all of our energies, all of our resources on getting the U.N. to act as a world body, so that it is the world against Saddam Hussein. It's not just the United States against Saddam Hussein.
And I think it would be a mistake for us to prematurely debate whether or not, if the U.N. didn't act, whether or not the U.S. should act unilaterally, whether we ought to be authorizing force on our own.
The president has not requested that resolution. I think it's been made clear again today, there's been no request to the Congress for authority to go it alone using military force. The president has kept his options open, he's said he hasn't made a decision.
So I think we ought to be together and unified in pressing the U.N. to issue a very strong resolution saying that the Iraqi government must open to inspections, setting a deadline, issuing an ultimatum, and the U.N. saying that appropriate force will be authorized if the Iraqis do not allow for not only inspections but to not get on with the disarmament.
BLITZER: Senator Warner, are you on the same page as Senator Levin? Basically, he's saying he wants the U.N. Security Council, if I'm right, to act first and the Senate to act second. President Bush, the other day, thought that was not necessarily the right framework.
SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: You know, the president was very clear. Carl Levin and I were in the Cabinet Room with other leaders of the House and the Senate when he explicitly said he desired and wanted, really, a resolution before we left.
Wolf, that's going to happen. I find, as I talk to colleagues here and there and elsewhere, listen carefully, I see a convergence of viewpoints, nonpartisan, in the Congress to stand foursquare behind the president.
And really we owe the president, not only the United States but the world, a great deal of credit for elevating this debate to where it is now, on front square before the United Nations. Because for four years they've done nothing, and this situation has progressively gotten worse and worse each year.
So well done, Mr. President.
WARNER: And we're going to -- but let me follow this answer explicitly. Our Constitution gives our president the right to use our armed forces at any time he deems it's in our national security interests. So that's implicit. Don't let that get lost in the translation.
BLITZER: So he doesn't need a Senate resolution to do that, is that what you're saying?
WARNER: That's always been the case for the 215 years of this democratic republic that we have.
Now, he has, quite wisely, in my judgment, put aside these criticisms on the unilateral, gone to the United Nations, made a strong case. Kofi Annan, prior to the president's speech, said Iraq must comply. The president has said, "U.N., it's up to you now. And if you're going to remain a credible organization, honoring your charter, you must act as the secretary general stated."
BLITZER: Senator Levin, just to get specific here, do you want the U.N. Security Council to pass a resolution before the Senate passes a resolution? Is that what you're suggesting?
LEVIN: I'm saying that we should -- yes, I want the U.N. to act. I think it's important that we focus our energy supporting the president's request to the U.N. I view that as a very supportive gesture on our part, if we will support the president's request to the U.N. to act.
If they're going to be relevant as a body, I agree with the president, they should act. We should keep them relevant, keep the focus on them, not get involved in a speculative "what if" debate as to what if the U.N. doesn't act. Because that then divides us, engages us in a very speculative issue.
And it has not been requested. I emphasize and I think that both Condi Rice and Colin Powell have made it clear again, there has been no request for a resolution from the Congress for unilateral force authorization for the president unilaterally. Unilaterally -- I emphasize this, Wolf. There's a huge difference in the ramifications of our going it alone versus the U.N. authorizing force. It is a huge difference.
And in the Gulf War, we in fact waited for the U.N. to make a decision, and the U.N. didn't decide it in the right way. Hopefully they'll decide in the right way here. And they'll decide with an ultimatum, a deadline, authorizing force on the part of member states if Iraqis do not disarm. But we should not engage in a divisive debate which is speculate on a "what if the U.N. doesn't act"?
BLITZER: Senator Levin, I just want to play for you an excerpt of what President Bush said on Friday, specifically on this notion that the U.N. Security Council must act before the Senate and House of Representatives acts. Listen to the president on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I can't imagine an elected United States -- an elected member of the United States Senate or House of Representatives saying, I think I'm going to wait for the United Nations to make a decision.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He was basically ridiculing that notion, saying the Senate and the House must act now, irrespective of what the U.N. Security Council might do.
LEVIN: I am suggesting that we should act, Wolf. I'm suggesting that we should act. We should support the president's request to the United Nations. That is action on our part. That is strong action, saying we support the request of the president to the United Nation.
The president has not asked us for a declaration of use of unilateral force. And there's a big difference between the two.
BLITZER: Let's let Senator Warner weigh in.
Go ahead, Senator Warner.
WARNER: Carl, you remember that I drew up the resolution that was finally voted on by the Senate in '91. And the same procedure is now being followed. Colin Powell said this morning that we would -- that is, the administration would be sending up to bipartisan leadership, Senate and House, words to be used in the resolution. So I think it's presumptuous for Carl and I now to try and pick on one phrase when they haven't started the process.
LEVIN: I agree with that. WARNER: But here's what my concern is. Carl, my deep concern is that, as the U.N. starts on its course of action, I do not want it to appear that there's any daylight, any distance, any differences really between the president wanting -- excuse me, the Congress wanting to back the president, as they should and I predict will, so that the U.N. begins to wiggle and Saddam Hussein finds another reason to delay and drag this out.
Because I don't want a two-step process. We're due to return to our constituencies the 1st of October. I would hate to see the Congress have to call back once again to act on facts that Saddam Hussein delays.
BLITZER: All right, Senators, we have to -- Senators, we're going to take a break.
We have more to talk about with the two top members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Democrat Carl Levin and the Republican John Warner.
LATE EDITION will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We will not relent until justice is done and our nation is secure. What our enemies have begun we will finish.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush addressing the nation on Wednesday on the anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation with the Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin. He's the chairman of the Senate Arms Services Committee. He's also a member of the Intelligence Committee. And the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia.
Thanks once again. Let's pick it up right now with Senator Warner.
I want you to listen to what your colleague, Senator John McCain, a Vietnam War veteran, said about the prospect of another U.S. war with Iraq, how difficult or not difficult it might be. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: I am very certain that this military engagement will not be very difficult. Saddam Hussein is vastly weaker than he was in 1991. He does not have the support of his people. And I'd ask one question, what member of the Iraqi army is willing to die for Saddam Hussein when they know he's going to be taken out? (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you agree with Senator McCain, that this basically would not be a very difficult military operation?
WARNER: I think that's the very reason we're going to have hearings before the Armed Services Committee. And John McCain, whom I respect and his views I respect, will be there to ask that same sort of question.
I listened very carefully to the public comments of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs this week. General Myers said, "We're ready, we're prepared, we can handle the war on terrorism as we're now fighting it, at the same time take on this action."
My concern is as follows. General Myers said that the level of numbers of forces of Saddam Hussein, that's down since the '90, '91 conflict. What concerns me, this time, we know we're after him and his regime, not the people of Iraq. It is him. And he may have his finger on a trigger of weapons of mass destruction, which I believe he has in excessive quantities. And if he were to use those weapons against our forces or against those allies hopefully that will be with us, or inflict it on his neighboring nations, that is a very serious problem.
BLITZER: Like Israel, for example. You heard Senator Graham say he's been -- Saddam Hussein's has been informed formally he'd be annihilated if he were to use weapons of mass destruction.
LEVIN: I'm not going to get into that dialogue. I don't have the facts on which he, Graham, made that statement. But it is clear that, certainly, we will not tolerate the use of weapons of mass destruction. I led off with the fact our president has the authority if ever that were to happen to use such force as he deems necessary.
BLITZER: Senator Levin, how difficult of a military operation would this be if the U.S. were to go it alone against Iraq?
LEVIN: Much more difficult if we go it alone than if we go as part of a coalition. Just yesterday, I believe, for instance, the Saudis announced that we will be able so use their bases if there is a U.N. declaration here but we will not be able to use those bases if we go it alone.
There's a huge difference in other ways, by the way. The greatest chance of getting him to capitulate, to open up and disarm, is if it's the world against him. A much lesser chance if it's us, the U.S., against him alone.
And there's no doubt in my mind that, if he is attacked, he will let everything go, he'll use those weapons he has, usually biological and chemical, and that could lead to a cataclysm in the Middle East.
So how we do this, how we go about this, could make a huge difference in the outcome. The military is much more cautious than some of the civilian leaders have been. I have talked to them personally. It is important that we proceed to do this as part of a coalition, both because it gives us the best chance of him capitulating, and it also means that we will be more effective because we will have more greater use of bases.
And one other point, I want to go back to something that Senator Warner said because I think it's really important. Back in 1990, we supported the president in October with a bipartisan leadership resolution, which both Mitchell and Dole, two Senators, the leaders, supported, supporting the efforts of the president at the U.N. There was a separate vote on that resolution. Then the U.N. acted, and then we authorized force in a close vote, as Senator Warner has indicated, and he was a leader in that second step.
But there was a first step, that Congress as a Congress on a bipartisan basis supported the appeals to the U.N. to respond. And that is what we should do now, support our president's appeals to the U.N. to act as a world body.
BLITZER: Senator Levin, we're going to take a quick break, but before I let you go, do you know what Senator Graham -- you're a member of his Intelligence Committee -- was referring to when he said that the Iraqis have been formally informed of annihilation if they were to use weapons of mass destruction?
LEVIN: I do not know that, but it's very possible. I think they would know that anyway, whether they've been formally notified or not.
There's no doubt that, if the Iraqis began anything, for instance, they're gone, they're completely gone. And if they used a weapon of mass destruction, and initiated a weapon of mass destruction, they are committing suicide. And that's one of the reasons why it's possible, at least, that Saddam would not initiate an attack with a weapon of mass destruction.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to pick this up right after this commercial break.
Much more to talk about with Senator Levin and Senator Warner. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Senator Warner, can the U.S. military, and you're an expert on this, fight two wars simultaneously, a war on terror in Afghanistan and elsewhere and a war against Saddam Hussein?
WARNER: My own personal judgment is yes, and it's based on the very clear public statements of recent by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs and my own private consultations with military leaders.
BLITZER: So that would not be a huge issue, fighting a two-front war?
WARNER: We're competent to do it.
Now, I agree with Carl, it's better to have allies. But we shouldn't isolate ourselves to the point we're saying to the U.N. if the allies don't join, then we're not going to act in our own self- interest and, indeed, of those allies that we have.
BLITZER: Senator Levin, the vice president made that exact point in an interview on Novak, Hunt and Shields here on CNN this weekend. Listen to what Dick Cheney said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it was pretty clear that we'd prefer to do this on an international basis with the approval and cooperation and support of other nations. But that this is deemed to be such an important issue and such an important problem that we will address it by ourselves if we have to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That's a pretty blunt threat, if I've heard him correctly. Do you think that's the right kind of tone to take right now?
LEVIN: I think the Powell tone is a lot better, which is that we're at the U.N., we should focus all of our energies at the U.N., and that there's been no decision made by the president as to specifically what he would do if the U.N. does not act. He's kept all of his options open, and I think that's been again confirmed today by a number of administration spokes people. And it seems to me, that is the better course. It's very clear that the best chance we have of getting him to capitulate is if the world is going after him instead of us. And it's also clear that we would reduce the risks that would result from unilateral action if we don't act unilaterally, and those risks are heavy.
And in terms of, can we prevail, I believe we can prevail, but it would take a significant buildup. We're going to hear from the Joint Chiefs separately on that issue. They have many concerns. It is not going to be a cakewalk, Wolf. I'll assure you of that.
BLITZER: You disagree with Senator McCain and Ken Adelman, the former Pentagon official, on that point.
Senator Warner, we only have a little time left. Should the central command, General Tommy Franks move his headquarters from Tampa, MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, over to the region? There's talk of Qatar perhaps being open to that. Would that be significant?
WARNER: Very simply, yes. He's the only major CINC that has...
BLITZER: CINC being a commander in chief.
WARNER: ... commander in chief which has these whole headquarters really apart from his area of operation.
Now, this has been a decision that I and others have been urging the administrations, successive administrations, as a matter of fact, for some time. So do not look upon this as just a signal of war. It's a clearly and a prudent managerial step. It happens to coincide at this point in time when our president has said it's not the United States against Saddam Hussein, it's the world against him.
BLITZER: As far as you know, Senator Levin, are the Qataris on board?
LEVIN: I think they are. They have been very supportive. They are very clear they want a U.N. declaration, however. But in any event, I think we can move part of that headquarters. We should. We should've done it long ago. And I think the decision, actually, to do it was made prior to the events of 9/11. I'm not 100 percent sure of that, but I'm pretty sure of it. In any event, it's the right thing to do.
BLITZER: Senator Levin and Senator Warner, thanks to both of you for joining us. Appreciate it very much.
BLITZER: And coming up in the next hour of LATE EDITION, a special interview with Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf. Also, former U.N. weapons inspector Scott Ritter and former Pentagon official Frank Gaffney will face off over the extent of Iraq's military threat.
That and much more, coming up in the next hour of LATE EDITION.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We'll have a debate on the military threat posed by Iraq in just a moment, but first, here is CNN's Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta with a news alert.
BLITZER: President Bush has just returned to the White House. Marine One has just landed on the South Lawn. We see the president now walking inside. Usually, on these Sundays, he greets some friends, tourists who show up at the White House to see Marine One touch down.
We'll watch the president as he continues to say hello to some friends and others. If he stops and speaks with reporters, we'll go back to the White House and get his remarks live.
In the meantime, joining us now are two men with very, very different views about a possible preemptive U.S. strike against Iraq, indeed, the entire threat posed by Iraq. In Albany, New York, the former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter. He was part of the team that conducted inspections in Iraq after the Gulf War for many years. He has just returned from a private visit to Baghdad. And here in Washington, Frank Gaffney. He was a former top Pentagon official during the Reagan administration and is now president of the Center for Security Policy here in Washington.
Gentlemen, welcome to LATE EDITION. And let me begin with you, Scott Ritter. Tell us why you believe that Iraq and its program of weapons of mass destruction represents, at this point, no serious threat to the United States.
SCOTT RITTER, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Because no case has been made that it does represent that they have this capability.
Let's be clear about one thing, Wolf. I have never given Iraq a clean bill of health in regard to their weapons of mass destruction program. I have been very consistent throughout.
When I testified before the Senate in 1998, I made clear the case that we have many outstanding issues and many great concerns about aspects of our ex-programs that can't be accounted for. I spoke for the need of getting inspectors in Iraq that can do the job of completing this disarmament.
I have -- I wrote a book, "End Game," in 1999 where I put forward a case regarding the threat posed by Iraq that very much mirrors the case currently being made by the Bush administration.
But if you look at it carefully, it says, "Probably, may, could." There's no evidence. There's no smoking gun.
So we have to be careful about talking about going to war based upon a grave and imminent threat posed by Iraq, when one hasn't yet made the case that Iraq has these weapons.
Should we be concerned? Absolutely. Should we get inspectors back in? You're darn right. Rolf Ekeus, the former -- my former boss, who ran the inspection programs from 1991 to 1997, when he left, has said that we fundamentally disarmed Iraq, but we're not done, we need to go in and complete the job. I concur.
Let's focus on getting inspectors back in, and start deemphasizing this warlike rhetoric that talks about putting hundreds of thousands of American troops at risk in that area and, frankly speaking, discrediting the United States in the eyes of the international community.
BLITZER: But, Scott, a week ago on this program, Condoleezza Rice, the president's national security advisor, said very bluntly that the United States doesn't want to wait for a smoking gun that could be a mushroom cloud. Very strong words from her, raising the fear, is it worth waiting if you have those deep suspicions?
RITTER: Those are extremely strong words, but they're grossly irresponsible, especially coming from a woman such as Condoleezza Rice, who should know better. She has not made anything that remotely resembles a viable case that Saddam Hussein or Iraq has reconstituted a nuclear-weapons capability, none whatsoever. In fact...
BLITZER: All right.
RITTER: ... the Bush administration's had to back off on some of its rhetoric, when it was confronted by the International Atomic Energy Agency, responsible for disarmament, and said, we don't back up anything you're saying about Iraq's nuclear capability.
BLITZER: Frank Gaffney, Scott Ritter, he spent years in Iraq, he speaks with some authority. Why do you think he's completely wrong?
FRANK GAFFNEY, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: Well, there are two Scott Ritters, of course. There's the Scott Ritter -- and he alluded to it a moment ago rather selectively -- there's the Scott Ritter who first came out of Iraq, who had some firsthand information, some hard experience, for which I at the time gave him a great deal of credit, about what was going on in Iraq at the time, the situation that he left behind.
And just to give you a couple of quotes, in his testimony, which he mentioned a moment ago, before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senate Armed Services Committee, he said, quote, "Iraq today is not disarmed and remains an ugly threat to its neighbors and to world peace." He went on to say, "We have clear evidence that Iraq is retaining prohibited weapons capabilities in the fields of chemical, biological, and ballistic-missile delivery systems over 150 kilometers."
He has said, in addition, that "The entirety" -- and I quote -- "The entirety of Saddam's former nuclear, chemical, and ballistic- missile delivery system capabilities could be reconstituted within a period of six months"...
BLITZER: But the point is, the point you're trying to make is...
GAFFNEY: I think he had it right. It's just that there is no resemblance between he's saying now and what he's saying then, because what he has been saying now, on your program, on any other network he can get on, is, there's no threat...
BLITZER: All right.
GAFFNEY: ... he's been completely, fundamentally disarmed, and that's simply wrong.
BLITZER: Let me let Scott Ritter respond to that.
And I do have an excerpt from what you did say, Scott, in 1998, October 23rd, what you said about Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction. I'll play that and give you a chance to respond. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RITTER: We could not present to the Security Council the most compelling evidence we had of Iraqi noncompliance, the proof that Iraq was not living up to its obligations to disarm, that in fact Iraq was actively undertaking efforts to rearm, to build prohibited capabilities. We had the proof, we couldn't present it. And that's where we are today.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And, Scott, as you well know, that was just before those weapons inspectors left Iraq, and over these nearly four years, there have been no inspections, so presumably what you said then is probably worse right now.
RITTER: Well, first of all, you used the operative word "presumably." You can't presume anything when we're talking about war.
With all due respect for Frank Gaffney, stop misquoting me. First of all, I stand by everything I've said. I haven't retracted anything -- let me make that very clear. I stand by everything I've said. There's no two Scott Ritters. There's one Scott Ritter, and he's been thoroughly consistent.
In October 1998, what I spoke about was a covert operation we were running in Romania with the assistance of Great Britain, Romanian intelligence, Israeli intelligence, in which Iraq was violating the provisions of Security Council Resolution 715 to acquire aeronautical production capability that could be used to manufacture missiles.
In this case, the Al Sammoud (ph) missile, a permitted system. But it's against the law for Iraq to do that, it's against Security Council resolutions. But given the covert nature of the activity, we couldn't present that evidence to the Security Council.
So I really don't see where you or anybody else gets off taking my words selectively, throwing it out there and saying somehow I've contradicted myself. From the very beginning, I've spoken about the need to preserve the integrity of the inspection operation, and I'm saying that today.
BLITZER: All right, let's let Frank Gaffney respond.
Go ahead, Frank.
GAFFNEY: Well, I think you have been consistent about the idea that we need to have inspectors back in and that that would take care of the problem, if properly backed up by U.S. and international support.
What you have not been consistent about, Scott -- and I'm not misquoting you, I'm not taking your quotes out of context -- I'm talking about what you said to two committees of the United States Senate. And I'm quoting them in the context of what you were talking about, that Iraq is not disarmed, not fundamentally, not otherwise, it is retaining these weapons.
And all I am saying is I can't, for the life of me, and frankly, I think, almost everybody else in this country, can't figure out what's happened to make this better in the interval since you said that, and since I think you said it correctly and on the basis of first-hand knowledge, and what you're saying now, which is that really there's no evidence ...
RITTER: Look, Frank, I didn't say anything now except to say I agree with you. I just said I agree with you. I'm not backing away from my quotes.
So what the hell are you saying, Frank?
GAFFNEY: You've just tried to misrepresent me.
RITTER: What are you doing, Frank?
BLITZER: All right, hold on one second. Go ahead, Scott, very briefly, respond because I want to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about. Go ahead, Scott.
RITTER: Well, this is just absurd in the extreme. I haven't backed away from any of my quotes. I don't know what Frank's saying. I agree with everything I've said.
The point is, Iraq hasn't been disarmed. Can I be any more clear than this? Iraq hasn't been disarmed. So what do I need to say?
There's a big difference between saying that we have not accomplished the tasks set forth by the Security Council and saying that Iraq now poses a grave and imminent risk to international peace and security that requires the United States to flout the foundation of international law set forth by the Security Council regarding disarming Iraq and seek unilateral removal of Saddam Hussein.
I'm not in support of removing Saddam Hussein. I think that that's wrong. I think America going to war to do this is wrong. But I do believe that Iraq must still need to be disarmed and we have to get inspectors in. There is my point.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to pick that up in just a moment, but we are going to take a quick break. We'll continue our debate between Scott Ritter and Frank Gaffney. They'll also be taking your phone calls, so call us now.
LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're talking about the extent of Iraq's weapons threat with the former United Nation's weapons inspector, Scott Ritter, and Frank Gaffney, he's president of the Center for Security Policy, a former Pentagon official.
Frank, let me pick up, a lot of e-mailers, a lot of people write me, and they point out Scott Ritter was a Marine, served during the Persian Gulf War, spent years on the scene there, he comes with a great deal of authority with personal expertise. If he says the Iraqis really don't represent much of a threat to the U.S., why is he wrong?
GAFFNEY: Well, again, I just call you back to what he was saying before, and I think he is today saying Iraq doesn't represent much of a threat. I can't square the two, but let's get off this, because, you know, I think people in this country are smart enough to be able to say, well, when he first left the country, he said one thing. He today says something different.
And whether you acknowledge that or not, Scott, you are saying something different.
The question is a matter of judgment. Do we, on the basis of what we've known about Saddam Hussein, we know of his ambitions, which Scott previously has attested to, to have weapons so that he could -- weapons of mass destruction, specifically, chemical, biological, nuclear and ballistic missiles to deliver them.
Given what we've known about this man, for so many years, given what we've seen, the lengths to which he's gone, the sacrifice he's imposed on his people to pursue those weapons, because, as Scott said, he wants to be a regional power, even indeed a regional superpower, has it -- is there anything in the past four years that would cause us to say he's not continuing to work on those problems, and that it could do so without our being absolutely certain it's going on?
And can we, can we -- this is really the bottom line. Can we afford to operate on the premise that he's not a threat, when all of this background and history and sorry story for his people attests to the other?
BLITZER: Go ahead, Scott.
RITTER: Again, you know, let's be absolutely clear. You know, there's a great deal to be concerned about. I have said over and over again -- and, Frank, just read the record, quit trying to twist my words. I've said over and over again that Saddam Hussein's arsenal of weapons of mass destruction has not been completely accounted for.
But I've also been very clear, that, you know, while there are great concerns, 90, 95 percent of this has been accounted for, verifiably dismantled -- all the factories, all the production equipment, most of the product. And this isn't my figures. Rolf Ekeus, who oversaw this period of disarmament from 1991 to 1997, these are his figures. We have fundamentally disarmed Iraq. That's his terminology.
The fact is, there's a lot to be concerned about. We need to get inspectors back in, but now we're talking going to war. Now we're saying that Iraq poses a grave and imminent threat to the national security of the United States. And this is where we have to be careful.
Yes, we need to be concerned. Yes, we need to focus on getting weapons inspectors back in, but someone's going to have to show to me how Iraq suddenly went from being, you know, contained and fundamentally disarmed.
And remember, even though I say we couldn't account for everything -- even although I say we couldn't account for everything, from 1994 to 1998, we monitored Iraq's weapons programs, their factories, with the most intrusive on-site monitoring inspection program in the history of arms control, and never once found any deviation, never once found retained prohibitive capability or reconsituted.
So, Frank, you show me how Iraq's reconstituted in the last four years.
GAFFNEY: Let me show you. Scott, stop talking and let me show you.
BLITZER: Go ahead.
RITTER: No, you don't tell me to stop talking, Frank. Wolf can, he runs the program, you don't.
GAFFNEY: Let's just say that it's 90 to 95 percent disarmed. Let's just say, for the purposes of discussion, that four years ago when you left, there was fundamental disarmament of Iraq.
You, yourself, have talked about the fact that the United States knows Saddam retained the technical expertise, the cookbooks, I think as you once put it in the New Republic, to get back into this business. You, yourself, said within six months he could be...
RITTER: Yes, no dispute.
GAFFNEY: ... back into this business. So that's six months...
RITTER: No dispute.
GAFFNEY: ... three and a half years ago.
RITTER: No dispute.
GAFFNEY: So let me just ask you, if you had evidence, as I believe the United States government has evidence, that he has done what you warned he would do, that he has pursued in exactly the way you said he would using existing scientific skills, using existing resources, using existing technology that you didn't take away, by your own admission, that was there, just that alone, to say nothing of what you didn't find when you were, it only stands to reason, it is only prudential to assume that this guy has the weapons you said he had, and that we have reason to be concerned about, not only him having them, but his willingness to use them including against us.
BLITZER: Go ahead, Scott.
RITTER: It's prudential to stand up and make sure that before we send 250,000 American troops or more into a region to wage war, to fight, perhaps die, to give the ultimate sacrifice for their country, that we ensure that this is a sacrifice worth giving.
Remember, Frank, it's not going to be your butt on the line. It's not going to be mine. It's going to be other people who are going to do the fighting and dying for your war-like rhetoric. Let's make sure, let's make sure, before we ask them to make the sacrifice, that there is a threat.
Yes, I share your analysis. I concur that Iraq could have done many things. I'm very concerned about it, Frank. I said so from the beginning. Six months, they could reconstitute. It's been four years.
RITTER: We need to be concerned. But we can't jump off to war.
GAFFNEY: The reason that we are now facing the prospect of war is not because we have sought it, it is because Americans here at home, not just Americans that might be sent to Iraq, are at risk, I among them, you among them, perhaps, but certainly a great many of innocent Americans.
And that's what's prompting the president to say, we don't have the luxury of further inaction, we don't have the luxury of hoping that somehow inspectors are going to do what you couldn't do four years ago.
BLITZER: All right. Scott, we'll pick up that point right out of this commercial break, but we have to take another short break.
More of our conversation with Scott Ritter and Frank Gaffney when LATE EDITION returns. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Scott Ritter, I want you to listen to what the president told the United Nations General Assembly on the issue of weapons inspections on Thursday. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: In 1991, the Iraqi regime agreed to destroy and stop developing all weapons of mass destruction and long-range missiles, and to prove to the world it has done so by complying with rigorous inspections. Iraq has broken ever aspect of this fundamental pledge.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you agree with the president?
RITTER: No. They haven't broken every aspect of this fundamental pledge because if they had, we wouldn't have achieved the fundamental level of disarmament that, you know, even Mr. Gaffney says could have possibly been accomplished.
The bottom line is ...
GAFFNEY: I'm just saying give you the benefit of the doubt. RITTER: Right, thank you for giving me the benefit of the doubt.
GAFFNEY: I'm not sure that's true.
RITTER: OK, whatever.
Let's talk about what is the case here. Here you have the president of the United States putting out a very stark, black-and- white case against Iraq, when in fact it's fairly hypocritical to have the president of the United States stand before the United Nations and claim to be totally the good guy wearing the white hat.
You know, in 1991, we supported a resolution that said if Iraq is disarmed, we would support the lifting of economic sanctions. But every -- you know, in 1991 Secretary of State James Baker said that even if Iraq complies we're not going to lift sanctions until, what? Saddam Hussein's removed.
The United States has had a policy of regime removal in place since 1991 that flouts international law.
BLITZER: Let's let Frank Gaffney -- Scott Ritter does make a point, though, that even if the Iraqis were to comply with all these resolutions, the Bush administration's position is that he still must go. There must be what's called regime change.
GAFFNEY: Look, the reality, Wolf, as I think you know having documented most of this sorry history of the past 11 years, is the people of Iraq have suffered unspeakable privation at Saddam Hussein's hands, not because of the sanctions regime, not because of the oil- for-food program, but because Saddam Hussein has found it expedient to manipulate those to the maximum detriment to his people.
We have seen throughout this period, much of it anyway, that inspections can't work. It's a means to an end, not an end in itself.
At the end of the day, what we now know, I believe, on the basis of this sorry history is the Iraqi people will be better off, the people in the neighborhood will be better off, we will be better off, and we will have the only certitude we're likely ever to have that the weapons of mass destruction program has, in fact, been ended when Saddam's regime and the ruling clique around him have gone. It's the only way to do it.
BLITZER: Scott Ritter, I just want to make our viewers -- your position be very precise. You're not defending the Iraqi regime. Even though you went to visit Baghdad a week or so ago, you haven't emerged as an apologist for Baghdad, have you?
RITTER: God no. I'm an American patriot. I love my country. I put my life on the line for my country once. I'd do it again, many times. I despise the regime in Baghdad. I hate it. From my lips to God's ear, may the man right die now. I agree with everything Mr. Gaffney just said. Saddam Hussein has cruelly manipulated the suffering of the Iraqi people. He has distorted the facts, et cetera. I don't -- I just have no sympathy for that government. I do hold my government to the highest possible standards, and I'm not going to stand by while my government does something that's wrong. We need to ensure that if we're going to run a prosecution against Saddam Hussein, it's a clean prosecution. We can't distort the facts. We can't plant the evidence. We have to do it right.
BLITZER: All right. Those are serious allegations, Frank, that Scott Ritter makes, you know, planting evidence, things along that line. What's your response?
GAFFNEY: As I was just saying a moment ago, Wolf, I think the only way we're actually going to know the full extent of Saddam Hussein's weapons programs and malevolant activity is once we're in the bunkers and in the files and able to find them out.
That can't be done with inspection regimes. This coerceive inspection nonsense, I think, is a formula for Blackhawk Downs or worse. It has to be done, I believe, subsequent to regime change. And, Scott, I trust that you mean what you say and you don't mean to be anything other than a patriotic American. But I can tell you, you're being used by Saddam Hussein's regime right now...
RITTER: Frank, you're so wrong.
GAFFNEY: ... and you're coming across to the normal people like an apologist for his regime.
RITTER: No one uses Scott Ritter. No, that's your interpretation, Mr. Gaffney.
GAFFNEY: I'm just telling you how it's being read by millions of Americans right now across the country.
RITTER: Well, there's 268 million Americans, and I guarantee you the majority of them don't share your opinion.
BLITZER: All right. Well, we're going to...
GAFFNEY: I'm not sure they share yours, either.
BLITZER: We're going to have to continue this debate on another occasion. Frank Gaffney, Scott Ritter, thanks for joining us here on LATE EDITION.
RITTER: Thank you.
GAFFNEY: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you.
And coming up, we'll get the military's perspective on Iraq, with the former NATO supreme allied commander, General George Joulwan.
But up next, Pakistan, it's a key U.S. ally in the war against terrorism, but will it support new military action against Iraq? We'll have a special interview with that country's president, General Pervez Musharraf.
LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
While President Bush's speech to the U.N. General Assembly grabbed most of the headlines, many other world leaders at the General Assembly are playing key roles in the war on terror.
During his visit to New York, I had a chance to speak with Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, about the war on terror and the U.S. case against Iraq.
BLITZER: President Musharraf, thanks so much for joining us on LATE EDITION. Always good to be speaking with you.
Let's begin right with the issue that's gripping much of the United States, indeed much of the world: a potential war between the United States and Iraq. Where do you stand on President Bush's speech that he delivered before the United Nations General Assembly?
MUSHARRAF: Well, yes, he covered -- the major part of the speech did cover the issue of Iraq. And part of it also covered the Palestinian issue. On the Palestinian issue, of course, it was heartening to note that he believes that a balanced approach, where both existence of an independent state for the Palestinians and Israelis themselves should -- ought to be living together; we support that.
And on the Iraqi issue, the argument or his point of view that he would like to go through the United Nations Security Council and develop consensus is certainly the approach that needs to be followed. And whatever decision the United Nations Security Council takes is mandatory for every nation to adhere to.
BLITZER: Do you believe, Mr. President, that the Iraqi government right now is in violation of existing U.N. Security Council resolutions dealing with weapons inspectors?
MUSHARRAF: Frankly, if what is being told is true, then, yes, it is in violation. But I don't have any personal information on this subject.
BLITZER: Can the United States count on Pakistan, not only in the war against terrorism -- and you've been a major ally with the Bush administration, the United States on that front -- but can the U.S. count on your support if it comes down to another war between the U.S. and Iraq?
MUSHARRAF: Now, I've been seeing everywhere that we already have our plate full in our region. Pakistan is involved on the western border with whatever is happening in Afghanistan and al Qaeda. On our east there is tension with India on the issue of Kashmir. We have our own sectarian problems within Pakistan. So one doesn't want to get involved anywhere else in the world.
BLITZER: In other words, you have your hands full already with existing problems. Well, let me ask you this question then.
BLITZER: If the United States does in the end decide to go to war against Iraq, what will be the fallout among Muslims around the world, and including in your own country in Pakistan?
MUSHARRAF: Well, yes, it will have a fallout. It will have a political fall out and maybe an economic fallout.
The political, of course, is the common man is, even now, talking of this issue. It's in knowledge of every individual an attack on Iraq will create some kind of internal disturbance in Pakistan.
But on the economic side, wherever oil is involved, one can visualize Pakistan has thermal plants producing electricity, which are mainly based on oil -- furnace oil imports. As long as care is taken not to impact on the import bill of Pakistan, that will become a little problematic in our country. It will have -- it may have some economic impact also.
BLITZER: Mr. President, in the past you've suggested that you believe Osama bin Laden is dead. Do you still believe that?
MUSHARRAF: It's just a conjecture. I can't be sure. And I don't -- I've never given a definitive statement. Out of the possibilities, I still believe that that is the leading possibility. But I can't be sure; he may be alive.
BLITZER: Why do you believe he may be dead?
MUSHARRAF: I've been giving my reasons. I have two reasons to believe that he is dead. Because initially, when we moved against him, when we were moving in Afghanistan, we got intelligence reports that he's heading toward the Tora Bora region. We were reasonably sure about that. After that, the hundred of caves which are there in Tora Bora were all bombed, each one of them. And I know for sure that they haven't been searched out. So we don't really know what is inside those caves. One is this reason.
And the other is the fact that he was considered to be a patient, a dialysis patient, a kidney patient. And we know that he bought two dialysis machines, one for himself, one for general public use. So one wonders whether he will get him treated in those mountains.
So for these two reasons, I believe maybe that he is not alive. But as I said, I would like to repeat, this is not a definitive answer. It's a calculated guess.
BLITZER: It's an assessment, a conjecture, as you say.
BLITZER: At this point, how strong, though, would al Qaeda still be without Osama bin Laden at its leadership?
MUSHARRAF: Certainly it won't be strong. Because any organization of this kind has to have the jelling factor, the motivating factor to give it homogeneity is the leadership. If you disperse the leadership -- and also the other factor is command and communication. So homogeneity is given by a leadership with proper command and communication within itself. I think if we disturb all these elements, they will not be homogeneity, and they can't be an organized body.
BLITZER: There have been some terrorist actions inside Pakistan in recent months, as you well know in Karachi, even in Islamabad, the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was executed. Do you believe al Qaeda was responsible for this terrorism?
MUSHARRAF: It is a presumption as yet. We haven't got definite information.
There is al Qaeda element, obviously, in Karachi. What we got day before yesterday were 10 al Qaeda people. One was an Egyptian, a Saudi and eight Yemenis. So there's no doubt that there are al Qaeda. But what maybe you are asking are the few terrorist attacks in Pakistan in the past about three or four months, where a church and a school and a hospital was attacked, whether they included a nexus between sectarian extremists and the al Qaeda. But there's no conclusive evidence of that. But a possibility does exist that there was this kind of a nexus maybe.
BLITZER: Is the cooperation between the United States and Pakistan in this war on terror continuing to the extent that U.S. troops are still needed inside Pakistan, especially along the border with Afghanistan?
MUSHARRAF: No, there is no need of it. The need of it is not being felt with the military commander in Afghanistan. I've been in contact with General Tommy Franks, and there's no need of it.
On Pakistan, it's a very clear arrangement. On the one side, U.S. troops are operating. And on the Pakistan side, it's Pakistani troops operating. There's a communication link between the two. And the operations are going very well.
Having any foreign elements coming into the tribal belt where even Pakistani troops never operated for the last over a century, nobody entered those areas, I would say it would be extremely contentious. And it's much better -- this arrangement is much better. And we are -- our troops are producing excellent results.
So there's no need of any further reinforcement. If the reinforcements are required, the Pakistan army will send more reinforcement.
BLITZER: When the U.N. secretary general, Mr. President, Kofi Annan, addressed the United Nations this week, he cited four potential threats to world peace. One of them was the tension between India and Pakistan over the disputed area of Kashmir. I want you to listen to what Secretary General Annan said. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KOFI ANNAN, SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS: In South Asia, the world has recently come closer than for many years past to a direct conflict between two countries with nuclear capability. The situation may now have calmed a little, but it remains perilous. The underlying cause must be addressed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: How perilous, Mr. President, is this potential nuclear confrontation between Pakistan and India?
MUSHARRAF: I would say it's not as perilous as being quoted, because of the conventional balance that exists between the two countries. The danger of a conflict, yes. Previously the danger was there, in that the Indians were showing an intention through their rhetoric, and also they developed the capability when they moved their troops on to the borders. But now the intentions seem to have receded, because the rhetoric has gone down.
But the capability of the forces, the armed forces still are in eyeball-to-eyeball contact. So to that extent, the capability exists, and therefore the danger.
But when we talk of nuclear conflagration, I would differ. Now, if we know that there's a conventional armed balance between the two countries, and I'm reasonably sure that because of this balance, the conflict will never go to the limit of unconventional modes.
BLITZER: The secretary of state of the United States, Colin Powell, this past week suggested that what was critical right now was that Pakistan adhere to its commitment to stop what he called "cross- border infiltration" into these disputed areas of Kashmir. Is your government committed to make sure there are no such cross-border infiltrations?
MUSHARRAF: We've already said that nothing is happening across the Line of Control, and both United States and even India agreed that either it has stopped or it has been minimized.
We always have been saying, and everyone knows that this is a highly -- this area is most treacherous. There are high mountains. To seal the border and give a guarantee of nothing going across, it is not possible by anyone; even 700,000 Indian troops in Kashmir haven't been able to ensure this. So asking Pakistan to give that kind of a guarantee is just not realistic.
But we have said nothing is happening on the Line of Control. And this has been recognized by everyone, that definitely infiltration is not there or it has been minimized. And that is the reality. BLITZER: One of the most beautiful spots on Earth, this whole disputed area between India and Pakistan, Kashmir certainly still a very potentially dangerous spot as well. I've been there.
Mr. President, welcome to the United States. Thanks so much for joining us on LATE EDITION.
BLITZER: And when we return, what can U.S. forces expect if there's a new clash with Iraq? We'll get military perspective from the former supreme commander of NATO, retired General George Joulwan.
LATE EDITION will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We fight as Americans have always fought: not just for ourselves, but for the security of our friends and for peace in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush marking the first anniversary of the September 11th terror attacks in a ceremony Wednesday at the Pentagon.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
While the U.S. battle against Saddam Hussein was relatively brief 11 years ago, U.S. forces could face a very different situation in a new war. Then again, maybe not.
Here to help us sort through the possible scenarios is the former supreme commander of NATO, retired General George Joulwan.
General, welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Let's talk about military scenarios, military options. There seems to be, correct me if I'm wrong, a military buildup that the Pentagon is already engaged in around Iraq?
GEN. GEORGE JOULWAN (RET.), FORMER NATO SUPREME COMMANDER: Yes, and I think it's prudent work that's going on by our military commanders. We have put command of control headquarters into the region recently.
But we have had a steady increase over the last decade in both the northern and southern fly zones, as well as prepositioned equipment within the Gulf states. We have had bases now developed in many of the Gulf states, as well as prepositioned stocks in the base at Diego Garcia. So we're in much better posture than we were 10 years ago in that region.
BLITZER: So presumably, to deploy a lot of troops, it wouldn't take as long as it did during the six months of Operation Desert Shield which led to Desert Storm during the Gulf War?
JOULWAN: Absolutely not. And we learned a lot from that. And we now have fast sea ships that can take a brigade, 5,000 troops and their equipment to the region at 20 knots. We've got about a dozen or more of those ships. We have prepositioned stocks that we can get up to a division on the ground very quickly. The Marines have prepositioned stocks.
So from a military standpoint, we're at much better posture that we were 10 years ago if and when we have to go to fight in Iraq.
BLITZER: A lot of people don't pay much attention to the almost weekly, if not daily, skirmishes that are going on in the northern or southern no-fly zones. U.S. and British planes get locked on by Iraqi radar, if you will, anti-aircraft, and then they fire right back.
JOULWAN: Well, in many respects, recently, we have taken out a great, a good deal of their air-defense command of control. I truly think that this interdiction that's going on is a result of what the Iraqis have done against us in the no-fly zone, but also could be a prelude to any action we may want to take.
We want to take down their air defenses, and we have been doing that. Particularly I think, was in the last 24 hours, we had another strike.
So this observation that we've had over the region for the past decade is very useful if and when the political decision is made to conduct operations against Iraq.
BLITZER: The Saudi foreign minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, suggested that if there is a U.N. Security Council resolution, Saudi Arabia will be on board if the Iraqis don't comply. That's pretty significant. The difference of going to war for the U.S. with Saudi bases, Saudi assistance, is very significant, as opposed to without the Saudi cooperation.
JOULWAN: Exactly. And we have bases not just in Saudi Arabia, but Qatar, Kuwait and elsewhere. The Gulf states have been cooperative. So it's very important to keep them on board, as well as it is with our allies, particularly in NATO. The bases that we have in Turkey are extremely important. And the assets that we can -- that can be made available from Europe are also important.
So I think the step with the U.N. was very important by the president. And I believe what's going to happen in the next several weeks is going to be further consultation with our allies. This team that will be built, I think, is going to be extremely important for success in the region.
BLITZER: General Tommy Franks, the central commander, in charge of the Central Command which deals with parts of the Middle East, the Persian Gulf area, South Asia, moving the headquarters from Tampa, from MacDill Air Force Base in Florida, to Qatar. A lot of our viewers say, "Well, what's the big deal?" What is the big deal?
JOULWAN: It is a big deal. I think Tommy is learning here about how to anticipate.
Political decisions, in my view, always come late, and then the political masters expect the military to respond very quickly. I think what General Franks is doing is very prudent, to have command and control there in the guise of an exercise, but if something does happen, you have the command of control there, which is the most important piece of all of this, so they are in not in Tampa, you're in the region and you could orchestrate the fight, not just in Iraq, if it comes to that, but also in Afghanistan.
BLITZER: I want to put some numbers up on our screen, Iraq military capability right now. Take a look at what they have now as compared to 11 years ago. What, half the number of troops, half the number of tanks, half the number of aircraft. A lot of those planes probably aren't even working.
It looks like it shouldn't be -- John McCain, the senator from Arizona, says it will be a relatively easy operation.
JOULWAN: I would always caution about when you look at numbers. We're one-half the army that we had in 1990. We are one-half the ships. And we are one-half the planes. We have much more technology and lethality than we did then, but never underestimate your enemy. And I would be very cautious of those numbers.
What we do have the advantage on is that we have been flying over this area for 10 years. It gives us a great advantage. They cannot move on the ground without us knowing it. They can't move missiles or tanks or an aircraft without us knowing it. So we have a clear advantage here.
He does have less numbers. I truly think it will be easier than it was 10 years ago. But I would not underestimate what it's going to take. Because clarity will have to come, what do you want the force to do. And if it's regime change, what does that mean to the military? And how do we get that clarity that I think is going to be so important for our military commanders to plan the strategy that's going to be required?
BLITZER: And they want -- or Colin Powell and Casper Weinberger used to talk about an exit strategy, what happens the day after. Do they have that exit strategy in mind, the military planners already?
JOULWAN: Well, I'm not sure. But it's much more than just military. It's what we should be doing and thinking in Afghanistan now. What happens the day after? I mean, how do you get stability within a region that has caused so many problems when the Soviets were there? It can (ph) happen, hopefully, when we leave.
There has to be some buildup, and it has to be much more than just military. And that has to be factored in. And the same thing has to happen in Iraq.
By the way, NATO is willing to accept some of that, particularly in Afghanistan. And I think they would be also helpful if it comes to that in Iraq. They have good experience. And we need to work our allies into all of this. It can be very important for the future.
BLITZER: General Joulwan, always good to get your expertise. Thanks very much.
JOULWAN: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.
It's time now to say goodbye to our international viewers. Thanks very much for watching.
Coming up for our North American audience, the next hour of LATE EDITION. We'll talk with two members of the House Intelligence Committee about the state of homeland security and the search for Osama bin Laden. Plus, Bruce Morton's essay and our Final Round.
LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We'll talk with two key members of Congress about where the United States stands, both at home and abroad, in the war on terror in just a moment, but first here is CNN's Fredricka Whitfield with a news alert.
BLITZER: Joining us now with some congressional insight on the war on terrorism, the status of homeland security and much more are two key members of the House of Representatives. At the CNN center in Atlanta, Republican Congressman Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, he's a member of both the House Select Intelligence Committee, as well as the Armed Services Committee. And here in Washington, Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman of California, she's also a member of the House Select Intelligence Committee.
It's good to have both of you back on the program.
Congressman Chambliss, let me begin with you, this most recent arrest, series of arrest outside of Buffalo, New York, my home town. What do you know, what can you tell us about this al Qaeda-trained cell, if you will, if that's what in fact it is?
REP. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R), GEORGIA: Well, being it's your home town, we weren't looking for you, Wolf, that's the good news.
But, you know, this is, again, part of our extended war on terrorism. And as we have said so many times over the last several months, that there are probably any number of cells that exist within the United States. And because this war is going to be long and enduring, and because we know that there are folks abroad and in United States that are part of the al Qaeda operation, we've got to continue to do a better job of investigating, gathering intelligence. And I think this is an example of the fact that we're doing that. There was certain intelligence gathered on this particular cell, as they are observing other cells around the country at the same time. And this particular operation just happened to be moving forward a little bit faster, a little further than what other cells probably have. So...
BLITZER: I was going to say, Congressman Chambliss, as far as you know, was the arrest, was the information involving this cell a factor in convincing the Bush administration to elevate the level of alert status from the yellow to the orange, the high state of alert?
CHAMBLISS: I'm not sure that this particular cell was directly involved in the elevation of that. I frankly don't know the answer to that question. But I do know that this particular cell has been under observation for some time.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Harman, there are five men in their twenties, all Americans, all born in the United States of Yemeni ancestry -- we'll show our viewers, here they are -- that were arrested. Two of them, the allegations are, actually trained at a base, an al Qaeda base, in 2001 before 9/11, trained and actually heard Osama bin Laden.
REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: Yes. Well, I think we can assume there are other cells like this all over the United States. I represent LAX, LA International Airport, which has been the site of an intended attack by an al Qaeda operative, who fortunately was arrested at the Canadian border.
I'm looking for cells in the Los Angeles area, and I'm sure there may be cells in Georgia too, Saxby.
But let's not assume everyone is going to be a male of Arab descent. It could well be, looking at you, Wolf, that a blue-eyed person, looking at me too and Saxby, could be among the next group. Let's just not automatically assume that only males and only Arabs are the ones involved.
BLITZER: On the basis of what, though, do you think that there could be these kinds of cells all over the United States?
HARMAN: On the basis of information that al Qaeda remains lethal. It is widely dispersed. It has been planning these attacks for years. It declared war on the U.S. in 1998; that's four years ago. And we have evidence that a cell was rounded up in Morocco, that there may be cells. You know, there's evidence of what went on in Germany, all over the world, and so I think we should have upgraded the threat.
By the way, I think the basis for that was some information from a top operative abroad, and it was primarily directed to some of our foreign facilities. But nonetheless, I think we were wise to upgrade the threat in the U.S., because last year we had the same kind of information and they attacked us at home. BLITZER: What is your sense, Congressman Chambliss, how widespread are these al Qaeda cells here in the continental, or the 50 states of the United States?
CHAMBLISS: Well, I wish we knew the specific answer to that question. There's been a number tossed around there are 5,000 to 7,000 of al Qaeda operatives in the United States, but that's somebody's best guess.
BLITZER: Whose best guess is that?
CHAMBLISS: Well, I just heard that number thrown around within circles in the newspaper or wherever, and I don't know where the number came from. That's what I say, I mean, it's just a guess. We have no way of knowing.
But what Jane says is exactly right. These folks are scattered all around the world. I mean, we know they've been active in Germany. We know they've been active in other parts of the world, and thank goodness we had some success in the last couple of days in Pakistan. And we had some success here in Buffalo.
And hopefully, information that we gather from these particular instances will lead us to other cells, so that we can begin to dismantle and disrupt any potential activity that may be ongoing.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Harman, do you believe that anyone who trained in an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan before 9/11, before September 2001, is potentially a terrorist? Or could that have gone for political reasons, religious reasons, thinking they were going to fight the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan? There are all sorts of explanations perhaps why someone would want to go to Afghanistan and work with al Qaeda or the Taliban.
HARMAN: I think our working assumption should be that they intend us harm if they were trained in an al Qaeda camp. I think there maybe evidence that disproves that, but I frankly think that the intent of the organization all along, whether unwitting people, perhaps unwitting people like John Walker Lindh went there or not, the intent of the organization was to train killers to attack America and America's allies.
BLITZER: Do you agree with that, Congressman Chambliss, that the intent was to train these people to kill Americans? Because some of them are suggesting well they were being trained to kill Northern Alliance members who were fighting the Taliban.
CHAMBLISS: Wolf, I don't think there's any question but what bin Laden has made it very plain that in his training camps, he is training people to kill Americans. And that's where his attacks have been focused and where his venom has been focused.
So, they may have gone over for some reason other than that, but while they were there, rest assured that's what they were taught.
And you got to remember, too, these are the meanest, nastiest killers in the world that were trained over there. They will stop at nothing to kill and harm Americans. So, Jane's right, the presumption is, and we've got to assume, that these folks are terrorists.
BLITZER: So they're not necessarily -- if their defense is they were well-intentioned, naive individuals, they had no idea that what they were being trained to do would result in killing Americans, you don't think that's going to hold up much of a defense? CHAMBLISS: Well, I think they'd have the opportunity to show that. Now, just because we have disrupted a cell, it doesn't mean that everybody is violating the law. We still got to make a case against people, and certainly they've got the right to defend their actions.
CHAMBLISS: But I think the presumption must be that they were trained in a terrorist camp in Afghanistan and that the purpose of that training and the dialogue that was preached to them while they were there was we're going to teach you how to kill and harm Americans. And that's what those camps were for.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Harman, tell the viewers why the arrest of this Ramzi Binalshibh in Karachi, Pakistan, is so potentially important to the overall U.S. investigation into Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda and 9/11?
HARMAN: Oh, it's a huge deal. I mean, he's been called the 20th hijacker, Moussaoui was intended, or so it is needs be proved, but that's our allegation, he was the substitute.
BLITZER: Ramzi Binalshibh tried to get into the United States several times but couldn't get a visa.
HARMAN: Yes. He was in Germany, he was one of the few who couldn't get a U.S. visa, and perhaps it was because he was of Yemeni origin. But at any event, he couldn't get into the U.S.
He was Mohammed Atta's roommate in the cell in Hamburg, Germany. And when he could not come to the U.S., he became the money man in part of the staging effort for the attacks that culminated on September 11th.
And I think it is a terrific compliment to the Pakistanis that they played a big role in capturing him. There's some dispute whether the U.S. was involved or not, but let's just congratulate everybody on a very successful and very dangerous operation.
BLITZER: Do you want him to be transferred to the United States?
HARMAN: Well, I think that's a decision that has to be made. I understand that he's been moved somewhere in a safe place and he may be transferred to U.S. custody somewhere, again not specified. But I certainly want us to have the benefit of whatever information, not disinformation, he may give us.
BLITZER: Congressman Chambliss, what do you want to see happen to this individual, Ramzi Binalshibh?
CHAMBLISS: Well, we know that he was an integral part in planning the attacks on America of September 11. Therefore, I think at some point in time he's got to answer for that. And I don't know who else may be claiming some jurisdiction over him. I understand the Germans want him for some serious questioning and possible charges. And that dispute between claims from different companies (sic) will be to be resolved somewhere along the way.
But this guy was part of the financial scheme, he was a part of the planning scheme. We think he was the intended 20th hijacker, and for some reason our visa program happened to work in this instance, and they thought he would not return, so therefore they didn't grant him a visa.
All of that just generates ideas about the fact and probably pretty positive thoughts that he was a part of the overall scheme. And if that is the case, then he has to answer to the American authorities and the American judicial system for that.
BLITZER: Congressman Chambliss, there are some who suggest it's better from the U.S. perspective to keep him outside of the United States and even keep him within the custody of a foreign government that may be able to use interrogation techniques that the FBI might not be all that comfortable engaging in.
CHAMBLISS: Certainly other countries have different means of gathering information from prisoners than what we can use here in America, and I am sure that he's in a situation right now that he would rather not be in. And I hope we're gathering a lot of information from him.
BLITZER: You agree with that?
HARMAN: I agree.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about.
More of our conversation with Congressman Chambliss, Congresswoman Harman. Plus, your phone calls. Please call us right now.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation with two key members of the House Intelligence Committee, Republican Congressman Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman of California.
We have a caller from Georgia. Go ahead, please.
CALLER: Thank you, Wolf, outstanding program.
Representative Chambliss, do you think bin Laden is still alive, and, if so, do you think we'll eventually get him? CHAMBLISS: I think he is still alive. Again, it's an educated guess based on the fact, primarily, that I think, if he were deceased, I don't believe the operatives of his group could keep that quiet, and I think that the al Qaeda folks would have produced him somehow by now to make a martyr out of him. They probably would claim Americans had killed him, which would tend more to make him a martyr.
And I think, at the end of the day, we will find him. The noose is tightening. We're finding more and more key operatives every day over there, and this weekend is just another example of that.
So, my opinion is, he's still alive, and I think ultimately we'll get him.
BLITZER: Congresswoman, what's your opinion?
HARMAN: Well, I think our working assumption has to be that he's alive, because we don't know that he's dead.
But I suggest that we put some U.S. troops along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. In hindsight, I think a lot of al Qaeda crossed that border, unfortunately, because we only had Pakistani troops there. And we still need to do that. We don't want any more hemorrhaging of those folks into Pakistan, where they easily disappear.
BLITZER: Congressman Chambliss, this past week we saw, on the eve of the anniversary of 9/11, the federal government escalate the alert level from yellow to orange. We'll show a graphic, we'll show what that means, going from the elevated status of alert to high. There's a high risk of a terrorist attack.
Some have suggested, Congressman, that it's easy to go up, but it's not that easy to go back down. What do you say?
CHAMBLISS: Well, certainly that's true. As Jane said earlier, we know the reasons why they went up. And some of those were very public -- the fact that we saw a pattern that paralleled the pattern pre-September 11, 2001, with respect to the killing of Masood, and a lot of chatter that was taking place last summer. In this year, there was a lot of chatter, there was the attempted assassination of Karzai. We had the specific information regarding attacks on U.S. assets, particularly U.S. embassies abroad.
So I think the reason for going up was right. Certainly, there may be the decision or the intention on the part of al Qaeda to throw us off guard, to lead us into a false sense of security that, once we reach this high level and we back off of it, that's when they come after us.
But at some point in time, I think we'll have to make the decision, probably in the next several days or a couple of weeks, that the threat is not as great as at least as what it was on September 11th.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Harman, if you stay at that high orange state of alert, you run -- and if it's really not necessary, you run the risk of making the American public complacent.
HARMAN: I agree, but I do think it's necessary.
I think what it points out, though, Wolf, is, how much we need the homeland security legislation that passed the House with my strong support and Saxby's strong support, on a bipartisan basis, and is still pending in the Senate. We need one integrated national strategy. This threat-warning system is beginning to work, but we really need a capability to fuse all of the intelligence about threats in one place. And that's what we get if we pass this department.
BLITZER: Are we going to have a Department of Homeland Security any time soon?
HARMAN: I sure hope so. I'm very interested in the subject of Iraq. I don't think we should postpone it until after the election, but I do think we should pass this bill as soon as possible.
BLITZER: The homeland security -- creating the Homeland Security Department?
HARMAN: Yes, the homeland security bill, as soon as possible.
BLITZER: Can it be done before the recess, within a month?
HARMAN: I think it can be done. It was -- you know, Dick Gephardt, our minority leader in the House, had called on the president and the Congress to pass it by September 11. We missed that deadline. But I would think the Senate could act in the next week or two, then we could have a conference, and hopefully the president will sign the bill that the Senate and House agree on.
BLITZER: Congressman Chambliss, what do you say?
CHAMBLISS: Well, you know, the Senate left out on their August break saying that they were going to come back and begin debate on the homeland security bill on September 3rd. They didn't do that. They're really dragging their feet over there.
I think, under Jane's leadership, and a number of others on both sides of the aisle, we came together on the House side, acted very responsibly, we produced a homeland security bill. They have some different ideas, but heck, that's what we're about. When we have those differences in ideas, let's get something done over there, and let's get together on and get this department in place.
Every day we delay, in my opinion, we're putting lives of Americans in jeopardy.
BLITZER: I'll give you the last word, go ahead, Congresswoman.
HARMAN: I agree with that. That's our top priority, we need strong action on Iraq too, through the U.N. I commend the president for going there first.
I am for coercive inspections. If they don't work, then I am for using all appropriate force, hopefully multinationally, to remove some guy that really threatens our U.S. security.
BLITZER: But if they continue to defy the United Nations, you'd support the president, even if it meant going it alone?
HARMAN: If they defy the U.N., but, you know, they've defied 16 resolutions over 11 years. But I think the U.N. is poised to act now, and I would support the strongest possible resolution through the U.N.
BLITZER: All right. I lied, let me give Saxby Chambliss the last word on Iraq.
Where do you stand?
CHAMBLISS: Well, I strongly support our commander in chief. I know what his reasoning is. Jane and I both know that it's very factually based.
And, you know, the thing about it is that these U.N. resolutions, they've been in violation of them for these 11 years with nobody doing anything. The U.N. has really just not shown very much in the way of leadership.
Now President Bush has stepped forward. He is providing leadership, and it's time to make a move with respect to this dangerous individual.
BLITZER: Saxby Chambliss and Jane Harman, two members of the United States House of Representative, both on the Intelligence Committee, thanks to both of you for joining us.
CHAMBLISS: Thank you, Wolf.
HARMAN: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you.
And now time for Bruce Morton on whether the world can coexist with Saddam Hussein.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You have to wonder, as the troops warm up for the invasion of Iraq, whatever happened to deterrence.
The Soviet Union -- remember it? -- had way more nuclear missiles than Iraq, which may at present not have any. The Soviet Union had piles of them. So did the United States. And for two generations, we avoided World War III and kept the sullen peace because deterrence worked.
The premise was simple: You launch one missile at us, and we'll launch all of ours at you instantly. Most of your people will die and your country will glow in the dark for a long time. It had a wonderful acronym, MAD, for mutual assured destruction. And it worked until the Soviet Union collapsed and Cold War ended. If it worked then against a superpower, why not now against a minor power?
Because Saddam Hussein is a bad man? Well, sure. But compared to Josef Stalin, he was bad in a much bigger scale.
Not only did deterrence work then, you could argue it's worked for 10 years now against Saddam, ever since the end of the Gulf War. He's huffed and puffed, but he hasn't really done anything, because he knows that if he does, he will get nuked and his people will die and his oil fields will glow at night.
BUSH: We can not stand by and do nothing while dangers gather. We must stand up for our security and for the permanent rights and the hopes of mankind.
MORTON: There may be reasons why deterrence won't work anymore against Iraq, but nobody in the administration has so far said what they are. And absent some kind of explanation, people may remember an old saying: If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
Yes, the United States is world's only superpower nowadays, but does it want to be the block bully beating up on countries it doesn't like? And again, where is the evidence that deterrence hasn't worked or won't work? Politically, war maybe popular short term, and the president's political advisers surely know there is an election coming up. But the feeling you get from Congress is the feeling Georgia Senator Zell Miller said he found in his state during the August recess: Maybe there's a case for invasion, but the president hasn't made it yet.
I'm Bruce Morton.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Bruce.
Up next, LATE EDITION's "Final Round." Our panel is ready to debate all the big stories of week. Our "Final Round," right after a news alert.
BLITZER: Welcome back. Time now for our "Final Round." Joining me: Donna Brazile, the Democratic political strategist; Peter Beinart of the New Republic; Jonah Goldberg of the National Review Online; and Robert George of the New York Post.
We begin with President Bush's heightened efforts to remove Saddam Hussein from power. This past week he laid out his case against Iraq before the U.N. General Assembly, urging that body to take tougher action. Earlier today the Secretary of State Colin Powell suggested to me the administration wouldn't hesitate to go it alone if the U.N. fails to act.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
POWELL: Even though we're talking about resolutions and we're trying to get the collective will of the United Nations through the Security Council behind this resolution, the president still retains all of his options to act in any manner that he believes is appropriate to protect American interests and American lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Jonah, all this talk at the U.N., is this just a formality? Has the decision to go to war against Iraq basically already been made?
JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: I think it's already been made, but it wasn't just a formality. I think the reality is is that Bush has managed -- I've been pretty hard on him lately, but this was one of the most impressive pieces of statesmanship I've seen in a very long time.
He managed to take the international -- the weight of international criticism, domestic criticism and even the State Department cookie pushers and turn it on them in an act of jujitsu (ph) and the U.N.'s honor at stake in America's war on terrorism and war on Iraq. It was a brilliant move.
BLITZER: He did that basically by accepting the demands that he go to the U.N. and accepting demands to go to Congress.
ROBERT GEORGE, NEW YORK POST: That's exactly right. And he, in his speech this week, he listed four or five, at minimum, different resolutions that Saddam Hussein had violated. And he basically said, he said, "Look, this is not just the United States against Saddam. Or it's not, you know, the Bush family's honor against Saddam. In fact, he is taking on the U.N., and do you want to do something about it?"
BLITZER: He basically did challenge the U.N. He turned the tables and said it's up to the U.N. now to either get real or become irrelevant.
PETER BEINART, NEW REPUBLIC: Yes, and that's actually what I didn't like about this speech. I think I may be the only person in Washington who didn't really like the speech, because we're not really going to war over these U.N. infractions. We're not going to war because Saddam Hussein hasn't returned Kuwaiti prisoners, for instance, which is one of the things he's listed. We're not going to war to restore the honor of the U.N., because the last time I checked we hadn't even paid our U.N. dues.
We're going to war because Saddam Hussein is trying to get nuclear weapons, and that's a grave danger.
And while I understand tactically why he did this, I fear he may have muddled the message in the long term.
BLITZER: What do you say?
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think the train is clearly already down the tracks. There are still a lot of questions in terms of who will be on board with us, who will replace Saddam once he's taken out, and, of course, who will help us pay for it. So, while the train is moving, I still believe the administration must answer some of those questions.
BLITZER: That Acela train, it's on the tracks. It's going away.
BEINART: Let's hope it stays on the tracks.
BLITZER: Twelve years ago, while most Democrats in Congress did not necessarily back the Gulf War, what turned out to be the Gulf War, at least not initially, this time they're being more cautious. And some critics led by Peter's own magazine, the New Republic, in its latest edition are accusing Democrats of dodging the entire Iraqi issue.
Today, the Senate Democratic leader, Tom Daschle, insisted his party is out front when it comes to Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: We're not ducking at all, George. In fact, we're the only ones out there asking the questions. You poised some of the questions that I've been asking of Dr. Rice. I think we need to do that. We've not held back at all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Are they holding back at all, Peter, the Democrats?
BEINART: Yes. Surprisingly, I think they are.
Asking questions isn't good enough. The Bush administration has proposed a new way of thinking about American foreign policy -- preemption. That is what's undergirding this idea of going to war with Iraq.
The Democrats have to say what they think. They have to say how they see this world. Either they agree with this preemption document, they still believe in containment.
It's not enough to ask questions, if you were the other party in American politics. You have to have a foreign policy vision of your own. Right now, very sadly, the Democratic Party does not have one.
BLITZER: But you can't expect all Democrats to be on the same page when it comes to Iraq. The Republicans aren't even on the same page.
BEINART: No, you can't. But I think that if they are going to oppose it, I would much rather they be forthright and say, "We don't agree with this," as opposed to just saying, "We have all these questions." And if they do agree with it, say that forthrightly.
BLITZER: All right, let's let Donna answer.
BRAZILE: Well, it depends on what Democrat you are talking to. If you are talking to Joe Lieberman and Dick Gephardt and John Edwards, they agree with the administration, and they are ready to support whatever resolution the president needs.
But if you are talking to some other Democrats, John Kerry and perhaps Tom Daschle and others, they have, I believe, relevant questions that should be answered, but in the context perhaps of a resolution that is put before the American people over the next couple of days.
Look, I think Democrats can walk and chew gum at the same time when it comes to being able to have a voice on foreign policy, at the same time continue to raise these important domestic issues.
GOLDBERG: Well, when Donna says important domestic issues, and when other Democrats say important domestic issues, what they really mean is they want this election to be about Democratic issues -- i.e., free pills for old people and a whole bunch of other entitlements that may be good or bad. We could argue about that another day.
But it is indisputable that the next year is going to be taken up with the issue of war and peace. And that is far more important, as Peter's magazine notes, it's far more important than these relatively trivial issues of free pills for old people and that kind of thing.
And Daschle has it absolutely wrong on all fronts. First of all, they are not out front. They're not only ones asking questions. Actually Brent Scowcroft and others members of former Republican administrations and Dick Armey, the majority leader of the House, have been asking more forceful and forthright questions about American foreign policy and questioning this administration than any Democrat. The Democrats are basically out of the loop (ph).
BLITZER: I want Robert to weigh in, but I know we're going to be flooded with e-mails. Free pills for old people, prescription drug benefits for seniors, many of whom desperately need these prescription drugs. We shouldn't necessarily trivialize this issue.
GOLDBERG: Therein lies the debate.
GEORGE: And to be accurate, Jonah, it's actually cheap pills for old people, not free.
GOLDBERG: Fair enough.
GEORGE: But no -- But Jonah is exactly right. Most of the -- most of the Democrats who are against going to war have really waited until Scowcroft, Armey, and others Republicans came out, listed their objections, and then gave sort of this very kind of a quiet, "me too, us too" kind of thing. And for an opposition party, you'd think that they would at least have a more coherent philosophy in responding.
BRAZILE: But, Robert, Joe Biden is a Democrat, and he's the person who convened the hearings in the Senate. And Joe Lieberman is a Democrat, and he's been talking about this for a long time. And Al Gore, in February, in his international speech in New York, Council on Foreign Relations, he talked about Iraq.
So I don't understand why just because Republicans would like to dominate the airwaves about Iraq...
GEORGE: Al Gore, who got more votes than George W. Bush, where does Al Gore stand on going into Iraq?
BRAZILE: I believe Al Gore addressed that back in February.
GEORGE: Which was?
GOLDBERG: He asked a bunch of questions. That's not a position.
BEINART: I think only Lieberman and now, belatedly, Edwards have really come forward and said which is the honest thing, which is, "We believe in doing it even if we don't have the world." Gephardt said something then backtracked in an interview with a Saint Louis paper. I think only to those two guys have really been out front.
GOLDBERG: Well, and to be fair, Kerry, who has actually said he's against it in more or less one way or another.
BEINART: Well, I think what he said is pretty murky.
BLITZER: Let's just go around very quickly. When all is said and done, when it comes up to a vote on going to war with Iraq, the Democrats and the Republicans, almost all of them are going to support the president.
BEINART: And it should be before the election, not after.
BLITZER: OK, let's move on.
We'll take a quick break. When we come back, we have a lot more to talk about, not only Iraq, but another Florida election snafu. That and much more, when our Final Round returns.
** BLITZER: Welcome back. In the year since the terrorist attacks, some Republicans and pundits have suggested the failures of the Clinton administration contributed at least indirectly to the 9/11 attacks. Earlier today, the former first lady and the current junior senator from New York, the Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton defended her husband's administration.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I think the record is clear that he spent an enormous amount of time. And you know, I don't think that a lot of what is being said and written about now actually is accurate. There is quite an extensive record of Clinton administration's efforts against terrorism.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Robert, does the Clinton administration bear some of the responsibility for 9/11?
GEORGE: Yes. If you look at '93 World Trade Center, '95 the Khobar Towers Marine bombing, the -- I think it was the '98 embassy bombings, the bombing of the USS Cole. The response, generally speaking, to that from the Clinton administration was quite ineffectual. I mean, you had a few missiles launched at aspirin plants in Africa and so forth. Yes, you had some prosecutions in the World Trade Center, but generally speaking, the Clinton administration did not have any kind of a comprehensive plan to respond to these terrorist acts.
BLITZER: Is that fair?
BRAZILE: That is totally unfair. First of all, President Clinton raised the budget, the counterterrorism budget, against objection from Republicans on Capitol Hill. He had a working group on counterterrorism, and when the president struck back at bin Laden, he almost got him. And what happened on Capitol Hill? The Republicans said he was wagging the dog, playing politics, because they were playing politics with Monica Lewinsky. So I think -- and look, when George Tenet and Dick Clark, who, by the way, George Bush kept on, went into the White House and said, something is going to happen in the millennium, they gathered together, got intelligence and they prevented that attack, we all know, in Los Angeles. So I don't think it's fair to lay what happened on 9/11 on...
BLITZER: Jonah, what do you think?
GOLDBERG: I don't think -- look, I think it's unfair to say that Bill Clinton caused 9/11. And I don't think that. But I think it's obvious at the same time, that in retrospect nobody did enough to prevent terrorism. By definition, when the World Trade Center and the Pentagon are attacked and by hijacked planes, and thousands of people are killed, the government failed. Now, that does not mean that individual people were venal or corrupt or did anything legitimately wrong, but it does mean that we had a wrong outlook on things.
And I think the Clinton administration was in part, in a way, because it wanted to stay on message about the economy, did not want to lead (ph) the American people on the issue of terrorism, and also I think there was this general attitude out there to treat things like terrorism as a criminal justice issue, and that is a real problem.
BLITZER: Button this up for us, Peter.
BEINART: Yeah, and I think the fundamental thing that Clinton administration and others did not recognize was that Saudi Arabia, our ally, was involved in a systematic campaign of spreading radicalism throughout the Muslim world that was going to come back to haunt us. The Clinton administration didn't realize the seriousness of that. Nobody took it seriously as a foreign policy problem. That was a critical thing they missed, I think.
GEORGE: And that's still actually a failure of the Bush administration, their trust in Saudi Arabia.
BLITZER: Look, the U.S., if it's going to go to war against Iraq, it needs Saudi Arabia, those bases there.
GEORGE: It needs Saudi Arabia, but it's still an open question as to whether they are going to even allow us to use those bases.
BLITZER: All right. Let's go from foreign policy to a domestic issue. A sequel to the Florida fiasco of campaign 2000. Extensive voting problems this past Tuesday marred the Democratic gubernatorial primary between the former Attorney General Janet Reno and the Tampa lawyer Bill McBride. Unofficial returns show Reno lost to McBride by just over 8,000 votes. But state officials have denied Reno's request for a manual recount. Donna, who's to blame for this mess?
BRAZILE: Well, clearly, I am going to lay this on the desk of the governor of the state of Florida, Jeb Bush. He promised to have a world-class election system in place by the November elections, and look what happened this past week. But also, we should also blame Congress for its failure to act, and President Bush for his failure to lead the Congress on this issue of election reform. So there is a lot of blame to go around.
Problem is that we have an election in 51 days, and we have problems all over the country. And we have not solved those problems. And how do you restore democracy...
BLITZER: But do you blame Governor Bush for one county, Dade County, basically, screwing things up?
BRAZILE: It wasn't -- Dade County, once again, we're focusing on the largest county. We're not focusing on some of the smaller counties, where you had problem with the ballots not being read by these new machines, you had problems with poll workers not showing up, you had problems with in some counties the poll workers leaving before the actual closing of the polls. So there were problems all over the state of Florida. BLITZER: Robert.
GEORGE: Well, I mean, I think you have to focus a lot of those problems, actually, at the, you know, at the county level. I do think, though, that the -- that Jeb Bush should not have been quite so flip when he said, you know, what's the problem with Democrats, why can't Democrats vote correctly.
It is a case that there have been more problems, it seems -- it seems, anyway, in the last four years, since he has been governor, and I think he does need to focus a little bit more on it.
BEINART: Yeah, I want to make a point about the press. The press is now focusing much more on these problem on election day, which is good. They will focus a lot more in November. But they have a responsibility to focus now on the fact that Congress is not acting. It will be a disaster if we have this happen nationwide.
BLITZER: What do you want Congress to do?
BEINART: Congress needs to pass election reform, get some money out to the states, get better rules across the board about how states operate these things, and we have to focus on this now, because otherwise we'll all be kicking ourselves the day after November 5 if we see this across the country.
GOLDBERG: Well, let me -- I do not necessarily disagree with anything that has been said here. I think a pox on the entire state of Florida; they should revert it to territory status until they get their act together, fine by me.
That said, in 2000, there was this heated rhetoric out there that said that the mistakes and the screw-ups and everything else, and all craziness in Florida, was part of a concerted effort to disenfranchise black people, that it was deeply rooted in racism and so forth. Jesse Jackson was saying that the victims of the Holocaust and of slavery were singled out, and all this kind of stuff. And it turns out that at least a big part of this story has to do with generalized incompetence and not some conspiratorial racist cabal trying to disenfranchise selective groups of people.
BLITZER: Let Donna respond to that.
BRAZILE: Well, let me just say throughout our history, and even recent history, there have been attempts, organized attempts to disenfranchise people across the board. I must say, I have with me today my sister from Seminole County. She had to produce three forms of I.D. Now, the state law is you don't have to present any ID, but why is it some folks have to present not one, not two, but three forms of ID to vote?
GOLDBERG: Was this in the primary?
BRAZILE: This took place in 2000.
GOLDBERG: OK. BRAZILE: No, so she got through this time, because I think I made it known that don't mess with my little sister.
BLITZER: Let's take another quick break. Our "Lightning Round" is just ahead. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Time now for our "Lightning Round." There was no escaping the first anniversary of the September 11, wall to wall coverage of the commemorations. How should we mark future 9/11 anniversaries, Jonah?
GOLDBERG: Well, first of all, we should commemorate next year's anniversary by sealing a weasel into Osama bin Laden's abdominal cavity, but, other than that...
BLITZER: Tell us how you really fell about it.
GOLDBERG: But for more tasteful thing, look, I think the media took it too far, but I think the media had no choice in this. And that doesn't mean -- there is some specific coverage that I thought was full of pathos and silly, but in general there was -- it was, in a sense, a race to the bottom or a race to the top, however you want to put it. No one was going to be outdone in how they were going to do this, and it's just the nature of the market.
BLITZER: It was not just the TV networks. It was the print. Everybody was extensively -- but we couldn't ignore it, could we?
BRAZILE: Absolutely not. I mean, we must remember the 3,000 innocent Americans who -- that gave their lives on September 11, but I believe it should be a solemn occasion, a day of renewal and resolve to continue to fight the war on terror.
BLITZER: Make into some sort of a federal holiday, you think?
BRAZILE: I don't think so. But I do believe that the American people, at least this generation, will never forget that horror.
BLITZER: 9/11 will always be remembered.
BEINART: Yeah, I would hope in future years we did it perhaps in a slightly quieter way. I like this tradition they have in Israel on Holocaust Remembrance Day, where it's just a siren, everyone stops where you are for two minutes, I think it is, and there is just silence and reflection. I think that would be for me a better way of doing 9/11 in the future.
GEORGE: Yeah, what we have really here was almost a 365-long day, long day, really, because for the whole year we had like a month remembrance, you know, two months, 100 days and so forth. So, we in a sense have been mourning for a full year. So I have a feeling in future years, it will be just a lot more toned down and slightly -- a little bit more reflective.
BLITZER: All right, let's go back to politics a little bit. The name Kennedy used to be synonymous with victory in politics, but this past week, Kennedy cousin Mark Shriver failed in his bid to win the Democratic primary congressional race in Maryland, while his cousin Kathleen Kennedy Townsend appears locked in a very tight race for governor of that state. And Kennedy in-law, by the way, Andrew Cuomo, was forced to drop out of New York's Democratic gubernatorial primary. Is the bloom coming off the Kennedy rose, Donna?
BRAZILE: Oh, no, I don't think so. Look, one, Mark had a double-digit lead and he blew in the last final weeks of the campaign. He sat on his lead. He didn't re-engage his electorate, and look what happened. Van Hollen came from behind. On the other hand, I think Mr. Cuomo had a double-digit deficit that he could not overcome his lead. But I think Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, a new generation, will be able to surpass all odds and beat Mr. Ehrlich in the fall.
BLITZER: And Maryland, of course, being a very Democratic state, if she were to lose, that would be a huge, huge upset.
BRAZILE: I think she will win this by a large margin.
BLITZER: Kennedy, the name Kennedy, how important is it in politics?
GEORGE: Well, it's always great in terms of some name recognition, and obviously it helps you get out of the gate in terms of raising money and so forth, but almost all elections basically come down to the quality of the candidate. As Donna said, you know, you've got Shriver who sat on his lead and lost. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend is a bad candidate, you know, and you can't infuse the charisma from her father. She has to win this on her own. And Andrew Cuomo, again, it was his own personality that did him in.
BEINART: Yeah, I think, first of all, the problem is, these candidates aren't in Massachusetts anymore, where there is a political machine that can push even sometimes weaker candidates, like, for instance, Joe Kennedy, my former congressman in 8th District, to success. Second of all, they -- because they are Kennedys, they sometimes overreach, don't pay their dues, and I think then the electorates slap back. If they took a slower pace, I think they might do better.
GOLDBERG: Not necessarily I disagree with any of this, I do think it, also at the same time, and as Donna points out, that these people are candidates and they should be treated as candidates. And I for one think that there are few things less American than the notion of political dynasties, where there are certain people who are born with the right to office, and that goes for Republicans and Democrats alike.
I think that the Kennedy thing is largely the function of a certain baby boomer fascination with the myth of Camelot, not the reality of Camelot, and I for one think we should bid farewell to the whole thing, and the idea that someone gets to trade in their name on this stuff in all perpetuity is ridiculous.
BLITZER: Tonight is a big night on television. As many of you I'm sure know, after nearly a year and a half away, a new season of the extremely popular cable TV series, "The Sopranos," begins tonight. Of course, "The Sopranos" on HBO, which is part of the AOL Time Warner family. Let me ask you -- CNN, as you know, is also part of that AOL Time Warner family as well.
GEORGE: I heard that.
BLITZER: Robert, are you happy that Tony Soprano is back?
GEORGE: Thank you, Godfather Blitzer. It is a good show. You know, nice writing on it. I think the whole cultural obsession of "The Sopranos" is a little bit -- is a little bit disturbing. You know, I mean, it's kind of funny that people hate gangster rap, but love gangster TV. So I will watch it, but I am not in love with it.
BLITZER: Are you in love with "The Sopranos?"
BEINART: Love is too strong. I like the show. And I do think that actually there is an interesting message in this, which is that the line between evil -- I mean, these people are killers, after all -- and humanity and living a normal human life is actually...
BLITZER: Well, they're neurotic. I wouldn't say normal.
BEINART: That's right. But hey, we're all neurotic. I mean, they're also evil and neurotic, and yet it brings these two things together, and I think that actually sends an interesting message (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
BLITZER: Very quickly.
BRAZILE: I am going to watch once again "The Sopranos" whack the competition.
GOLDBERG: I like the show a lot. My wife detests it. I think Peter has it wrong. Actually, what a lot of people like about mob movies and mob stuff in general is that even though they are evil, there is a strong moral code, and people like moral absolutes and they like to see it on TV. And "The Sopranos," even though their moral code is evil, it's still strong, and it's one of the only places you will find a strong moral code.
BEINART: Isn't that an immoral code?
BLITZER: We've got to go. We've got to go. Just wanted to let everybody know, I love "The Sopranos."
That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, September 15.
This note: We had hoped to bring you an interview with the Deputy Iraqi Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, live from Baghdad. Unfortunately, he was unable to join us. We look forward to having him on LATE EDITION in the future. Please be sure to join us, of course, next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk. Don't forget, tune in right here Monday through Friday, 5:00 Eastern, for "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."
Until then, thanks very much for watching. To our Jewish viewers, happy new year out there, enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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