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Radio Talk Show Hosts Debate Iraq

Aired September 30, 2002 - 12:34   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's have a closer look now at the two sides of this debate, the question of Iraq.
Joining us now to debate the issue, Alan Nathan; he's a radio talk show host here in Washington. And from San Francisco, Bernie Ward, who hosts shows on KGO Radio.

Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Let me begin on this whole issue of the inspections.

I will start with you, Alan. Is it a waste of time, or is it worthwhile letting this play itself out?

ALAN NATHAN, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I do not think it is a waste of time if the inspections are genuinely unfettered, if in fact we are not at the mercy of UN resolution 1284, which allows Iraq's Saddam Hussein to hide his weapons of mass destruction in either mosques or palaces. That is a shell game that can't be appreciated by anybody who has any inclination to think in a circumspect way. It would be absurd not to have a new resolution with greater teeth.

BLITZER: What about that, Bernie?

BERNIE WARD, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I guess you need a new resolution, because you have to be able to go in unfettered, and Iraq said that. But this is all window dressing. Dick Cheney gave a speech more than a month ago, saying it does not matter, the United States will go whether weapons inspectors go or not, that this is not something that they are concerned about. They don't believe that weapons inspectors will accomplish what President Bush wants to accomplish. So all of this is simply window dressing to try to bring around some of reluctant people.

The clearer resolution that Bush wants from the Congress is one that allows the United States to act unilaterally, and that is what Cheney, Wolfowitz and the rest of the hawks have been pushing for a long time.

NATHAN: And it's in keeping with UN resolutions, that same wording is there in Resolution 678, Wolf. There is no change there. We have the right to maintain peace in that region. That word is simply a reflection of what the UN has already agreed to.


WARD: Alan, but it would be nice if they maintained peace also in Israel and Palestine, which this administration...


WARD: They are not only mutually exclusive.


NATHAN: You can't on one hand say we need to respect international law and hold in regard UN resolution, and on the other hand ignore the consequence phase for noncompliance associated with those same resolutions. The same wording that says we should go through a certain number of faces is the same document that provides wording showing what to do when looking at noncompliance and is military action.

BLITZER: Bernie, let me ask you. Are the Iraqis right now in violation of earlier United Nations Security Council resolutions?

WARD: Yes, they are. And they were in violation of that when George Bush ran for president, Wolf. Why didn't he talk about it then?

BLITZER: He did very often talk about Iraq, though obviously...

WARD: Why didn't he talk about Iraq being this terrible threat in the Middle East? Why didn't -- in fact, when he ran for president, you know, Wolf, that he avoided almost all foreign policy talk, including Israel and Palestine. And all of a sudden. So the question I ask you, Wolf, he has been in violation of these for almost 10 years. So why now?

I will throw that question to Alan. What about that, Alan?

NATHAN: Bernie needs to check his history. In the latter part of '99, during the election, he made it quite clear that if Saddam Hussein showed that he would not be in compliance with UN resolutions, he would wish to act. There's no surprise either. He is being very consistent.


WARD: Alan, this is the president who said he would never engage in nation building -- ever.

BLITZER: Hold on one second. I do not want to deviate from the issue. We are getting flooded with a lot of e-mails. Our viewers all over the United States and around the world are e-mailing us.

This is for Alan: "If we go against the UN and start a war with someone who has not shown any aggression towards us in many years, we are no better that Osama bin Laden." Sharon says that, from Houston, Texas.

What do you say, Alan?

NATHAN: I respect what Sharon has to say. I'm just saying denotatively or connotatively there's no correlative relevance to what we are discussing now when looking at a question, becuase if we implement already existing UN resolutions, we are simply following through with what that same body politic has authorized.

BLITZER: Let's move on. Let's get this e-mail from Glen in Santa Fe, Texas. This is for Bernie: "Does the American public actually believe that Saddam Hussein would let the U.S. know the details of its weapons program. People should start waiting for hard evidence of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons in Iraq or of an Iraqi connection to al Qaeda. They're not going to get any."

WARD: If they do not get any, then there is no reason to do any of this. This is a war of choice, just as Vietnam was; this is a war of choice. And the fact of the matter is for 10 years we have been using the American military to contain Saddam Hussein. He has not shown any threat to anyone; he was kept right in his own little box. The Kurds are now prospering very well in the north even as al Qaeda has used some of their connections with the Kurds. This is exactly the point: The point is that one, we do not know what he has, two, whatever he has presents no direct threat to the United States whatsoever.

You know what it presents a threat, though: Israel?


NATHAN: Wolf, containment has been failing. They are able to smuggle in anything they want across the Syrian border, number one. Number two, we just discovered the president of the Ukraine was caught on tape authorizing a very sophisticated radar system, a (UNINTELLIGIBLE), I think it's called, which can go ahead and track our airplanes without ever giving themselves away. So you have to ask if Saddam Hussein has successfully smuggled in these very dangerous, sophisticated radar systems, who'd to say what else can he smuggle in?

WARD: First of all, not only is there no evidence he smuggled them in -- the Ukrainian president was thinking about it, and there's no evidence that the Ukraine even had the ability to give it to them.


BLITZER: We will get a couple more e-mails before we get off on another tangent.


BLITZER: Alan, this is for you. This is from Manfred in Beverly Hills. If in fact, Iraq does have weapons of mass destruction -- some of which, according to Tony Blair, can be delivered in 45 minutes, wouldn't the U.S. invasion of Iraq only be incentive for Saddam to use them?"

NATHAN: So let me get this straight: We should not act against what they might do because of what they might do? Is double standard thinking...


NATHAN: ... wish peace at all costs, even including endangering the lives of millions?


BLITZER: Bernie, Bernie...


BLITZER: I have got a lot of e-mails expressing the following thought -- and this one's specifically addressed to you: "If a U.S. congressional resolution is passed authorizing a strike on Iraq, I believe we should give full support to President Bush. The country needs to appear united." Anthony writes that. If there's a resolution in the Security Council, Bernie, and if there's a resolution at Capitol Hill, authorizing use of force if necessary if the Iraqis don't comply with new weapons, will you support President Bush if he gives the order to go to war?

WARD: No. And the reason is very simple. I will tell you what I would do. If this was all put aside until after the November elections, I would be much more comfortable because there would be a much more vigorous debate. We're had since Karl Rove advising Republicans to use the war for their political effort. We have Andrew Card saying that when they started talking in September that you don't start in the summer. You bring in in September. We had since September 1 with the economy going into the tank, today the Dow down over 200 points at one point, and the president does not mention the economy anymore; he talks about Iraq, he talks about Iraq, he talks about Iraq.

And your own poll, CNN, shows that in the last three weeks, they have been able to change the American people's focus from the economy to Iraq.

BLITZER: So you are not going to support war, basically, under any circumstances?

WARD: Not against Iraq. I'd rather see...

BLITZER: Let Alan have the last word. Go ahead, Alan.

NATHAN: Wolf, look, I am not a right-winger. I was against the Vietnam War. I'm proud to have still been against the Vietnam War. But we took a direct hit on 9/11, and we know that this man is somebody who aids and abets those who wish us killed.

BLITZER: Oh, that is such a (EXPLETIVE DELETED).


NATHAN: I have no control over his power of delusion.

(CROSSTALK) BLITZER: You guys are not going to agree. We will continue this debate on another occasion. Alan Nathan, Bernie Ward, thanks for joining us.

WARD: Thank, Wolf.


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