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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Interview with Victoria Jones, Armstrong Williams

Aired September 25, 2002 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: CNN "USA Today" Gallup Poll finds strong public support for a multinational assault on Iraq: 79 percent of Americans say they would support sending U.S. troops to Iraq if other countries participate.
A smaller majority, 57 percent, say they would support sending troops specifically to oust Saddam Hussein. The poll's potential sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.

So, the question is this: should the United States go into Iraq or not, and can the United States go it alone?

For today's debate, we turn to two guests with some very different opinions -- Victoria Jones, with the Talk Radio News Service, and syndicated columnist Armstrong Williams. Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Let me get an e-mail question to you, Victoria, and we will start this debate with this.

"We cannot allow nations that support terrorism to flourish into more dangerous threats. This is exactly what the president told the nation last year, on September 20. Saddam must be deal with, as one who fosters and sustains terror" -- Paul from Jacksonville.

What's wrong with that argument?

VICTORIA JONES, TALK RADIO NEWS SERVICE: Well, there is nothing wrong with it in theory, except if we are going to deal with these nations, we also have to deal with Pakistan, our major ally, who is a huge supporter of al Qaeda, and didn't even deny it.

BLITZER: They are not a supporter right now, not President Musharraf.

JONES: That's what -- well, Musharraf is somebody who got rid of democracy in Pakistan. We say that Saddam is a dictator...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: He is not supporting al Qaeda -- he is not supporting, he is fighting al Qaeda.

JONES: We don't know what his version of the CIA is doing. He says he is fighting al Qaeda, but we don't think he is.

BLITZER: Let's get to the -- forget about Pakistan. The issue, right now, if the president says Saddam Hussein represents an imminent threat to U.S. and U.S. interests, why not go after him?

JONES: Well, are we saying he is going to bomb on Tuesday, or are we saying he is going to bomb in three or four months, or are we saying he is going to bomb in three or four years, and I haven't heard what imminent means from President Bush...

BLITZER: Have you heard, Armstrong?

JONES: ... I want him to do inspectors first, and then multinationals. That is all.

ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I don't need to hear from President Bush because I trust his leadership and his administration. The bottom line is, Saddam Hussein is a bully. You know what happens to a bully when he is on a bully yard? He keeps growing more and more in stature and power if you don't deal with him.

Saddam Hussein is not the bully he was when we went into the Persian Gulf after he invaded Kuwait. He has more strength in his arsenal with his missiles, and this man has to be death with, and there no better time than the present.

BLITZER: All right, but there is an important question and Jack from Charlotte, North Carolina asks it to you, and I'm going to read it.

"Yesterday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that Saddam has chemical and biological weapons, and is trying to obtain nuclear weapons. This has been known for years. So, what is new? What the need to act right now?"

WILLIAMS: Because sources -- very reliable sources are saying that Saddam Hussein sees the United States and places like Britain as a threat. He sees us as infidels, he sees as enemies. Now they are finally saying something that we have heard for some time, that Saddam Hussein was connected to the al Qaeda network that wreaked havoc on our soil on 9/11 a year ago, and so we cannot trust this man any longer. He has to be dealt with, and the time is now.

BLITZER: Why not?

JONES: Well, we certainly can't trust him, and we just had Rumsfeld saying yes, there is a connection. We haven't been told what it is, and it is just coming out today, so I'm very dubious of exactly what the connection is.

We do have to deal with him. We have to deal with him as a planet. We have to do the inspections. If he doesn't let us in, then we have to go in globally.

BLITZER: Do you believe, Victoria, do you believe Czech intelligence in Prague when they say they know for sure that Mohamed Atta, the ringleader met before 9/11 with a high-ranking Iraqi intelligence official in Prague, and they monitored that meeting.

JONES: Well, you then have to check whether the CIA is correct when they say no, they don't believe that the meeting ever took place...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: The CIA does not say that. The CIA does not say that.

JONES: Yes, they do...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: I have spoken to the highest officials of the CIA. They don't say that.

JONES: OK. Well, people on ground at CIA say that.

WILLIAMS: If I could make a point...

JONES: Let's look at it this way. Even if there was a meeting, does that mean that Iraq is a bigger supporter of al Qaeda than any of these other countries in that region? If they are, then let's know about it and lets do something. If they are equal supporters, then let's talk about the real reason we are doing it.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Is it relevant at all though, Armstrong -- isn't there enough to go after Saddam, irrespective of any al Qaeda connection that may or may not be there?

WILLIAMS: Absolutely, unequivocally yes, and another thing, Victoria, this is not a war that is going to be fought by the media. We cannot expect this administration to give us every little detail about what they are doing, because it is going to compromise our success and our right.

They need to do what -- I don't need to know anything. That is not our...

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: I'd like to know just one detail.

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: ... it our position to demand from this administration to tell us every detail. That is part of the problem. We are not fight this war in the press.

JONES: We don't need to know every detail, we need to know something.

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: We know enough. We know what happened on 9/11.

BLITZER: Armstrong and Victoria, look at this. I want to put it up on the screen. There was an op-ed page ad put in the "New York Times" today. I don't know if you saw it, but we will show it to our viewers right now. Basically makes the point, that, if the U.S. does go to war against Iraq, look at this. It is good for al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, assuming he is still alive, playing into his hands. There will be a lot more martyrs out there, ready to go after the United States if U.S. attacks Saddam Hussein.

Armstrong, do they have a point, this group, that makes -- that paid for this ad in the "New York Times" today?

WILLIAMS: More propaganda. The bottom line is the United States has basically dismantled al Qaeda. They have been a very good job of silencing -- bin Laden. We have not heard from him. I presume that he is dead. I think that is strong probability, and what they want to do -- what they want to do...

(CROSSTALK)

WILLIAMS: We cannot pay attention to this propaganda. The great thing about this American president is that he is focused, he knows exactly what he wants do, he is not going to allow Democrats in Congress, not any-sayers like you, to interrupt...

(CROSSTALK)

JONES: ... to sway him either way.

BLITZER: I am going to let you have the last word, but I want you to react to this e-mail from James.

"Americans have been complaining for the past year that the government didn't do anything to prevent 9/11." We now have information that leads us to believe Iraq is going to do something to us. What would this country not act to prevent another devastating attack? We should go to war."

JONES: We absolutely should if we have that evidence, and we should take the rest of the world with us, as the American people want to do.

BLITZER: We'll leave it right there. Victoria Jones, I think this debate is just getting going. Armstrong Williams. Thanks to both of you for joining us. I'm sure on your radio shows you are hearing a lot of angry callers on all sides of this debate. I know we are as well. Thanks to both of you.

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