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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

War with Iraq Not Cheap

Aired October 1, 2002 - 12:19   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: No one ever said a new Gulf War would be cheap, but just how much money are we talking about? The Congressional Budget Office came up with some ball park figures earlier today, and you may want to sit down, if you are not already when Barbara Starr reads them.
She is our Pentagon correspondent, and she is joining me now live from the Pentagon -- Barbara.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, hello, Wolf. Yes, the Congressional Budget Office got out its calculator and has tried to figure out exactly what a Gulf War would cost the American taxpayer.

Now, the numbers are just estimates. It's all very uncertain, but the numbers such as they are are quite significant.

Let's begin with noting that the Congressional Budget Office has now calculated that it would cost between $9 billion and $13 billion to send a military force back to the Persian Gulf, and they looked at two options, two ways that the Pentagon might do this and made their calculations. The first is known as the "heavy ground option." This would involve, of course, a greater number of ground troops, a force of about 370,000 troops with 1,500 aircraft, 800 helicopters, 800 tanks, 60 ships. Those 370,000 troops and all that equipment, well, it would cost about $13 billion to send it.

If the Pentagon, if the military decided to go with the "heavy air option," more aircraft, less ground troops, that would be about 250,000 military personnel, 2,500 aircraft instead of 1,500, 500 helicopters, 300 tanks, 60 ships -- well, that might be a bargain at $9 billion.

Now, once the U.S. troops, equipment, warplanes, ships all got there, the cost of running a war would run between $6 billion and $9 billion every month. And what happens when the war is over? Well, an occupation of Iraq after a war, that could run taxpayers about $4 billion a month.

The CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, saying that occupation force might be as few as 75,000 international peacekeepers, but very interestingly, the CBO all reported they looked at an option that they say they have from the U.S. Central Command for 200,000 U.S. troops to remain in Iraq as an occupation force.

And once again, Wolf, all of this, acknowledged right up front, very uncertain because nobody knows the exact size and composition of the U.S. military force, but according to the CBO, no matter which way you cut it, it is going to be a lot of money.

BLITZER: Indeed it is. Barbara Starr at the Pentagon. Thanks very much.

For more now on a potential ground war with Iraq, and the fire power it might require and the costs indeed, let's bring in our CNN military analyst, the former NATO supreme allied commander, retired General Wesley Clark joining us from Little Rock, Arkansas.

Those numbers, General Clark, I interviewed Ken Adleman (ph), a former Pentagon official in the Reagan Administration a few days ago. He said eventually the U.S. should send the bill to the Iraqis themselves for liberating their country. It's a rich country, the second largest oil reserves in the world. Is that realistic?

GENERAL WESLEY CLARK, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's not realistic. That's rhetoric, but it's not realistic.

BLITZER: Why isn't it realistic to say, you know, over the next 20 years, Iraqis, you're going to be selling a ton of oil, making billions and billions of dollars, thanks to this liberation of your country from Saddam Hussein. Why not have them repay U.S. taxpayers?

CLARK: It's going to strike people in the Middle East very much as a form of reparations, and that's precisely what we don't want when we go into this conflict. If we go into it, we want everybody we can get with us. We want to try to diffuse the sense of humiliation on the Arab street. We want to portray it as a whole coalition of people, including Arab nations against this ruler, and then there is going to be an enormous reconstruction task in Iraq if, indeed, the Iraqis fight. Even if they don't, I suspect there will be a reconstruction task, and whether or not it's a wise thing for U.S. policymakers to assume that they can siphon off the money from that reconstruction and bring it back to the United States, I think it's a very questionable approach at this stage.

BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about that videotape, the series of tapes that the Pentagon released yesterday showing violations of the no-fly zones in the north and the south, Iraqi efforts to shoot down U.S. and British warplanes. We got an e-mail from Kay who wants to ask you this question.

"Rumsfeld said yesterday at the Pentagon briefing that Iraq has been launching missiles at U.S. and British aircraft for over a decade, yet I have never heard reports of any casualties or loss of aircraft. Why?"

CLARK: The answer is because we're very, very good at our business. We do very extensive reconnaissance. We have all the right defensive techniques, and when we go in there, we know we are going in there for war. On every single flight, we expect to be engaged. We're prepared to receive that engagement, and take the necessary evasive action, and shoot back if that opportunity presents itself, and that's what has been going on for years.

BLITZER: Dramatic videotape as we're seeing now on our screen. This question from Ellen in Virginia. She wants to know this, General:

"Why are we being shown 2-year-old footage of Iraq firing on U.S. planes? How significant is it in making the case for attacking Iraq now?"

CLARK: Well, I don't think it is significant in making the case for attacking Iraq now, but I do think it's an effort by the Pentagon to provide as much information as possible to the American public. In a way, all the people are raising questions about Iraq have more or less asked for this, and one of the issues that has come up is the American public really isn't aware that for over four years we've been flying over Iraq and dropping ordinance, really since the end of 1998, we've had dozens, hundreds of strikes which have delivered ordinance, and we've received fire and radar paintings from their anti-aircraft systems. So, this is an effort to get more information out. It does show that the Iraqis will fight back, but I think it is primarily a response to the appeal for information.

BLITZER: General, this morning there's been a hearing on Capitol Hill involving U.S. preparedness dealing with a possible chemical or biological attack by the Iraqis and the kind of equipment that U.S. troops would have, the clothes that they would have to wear. One member, a critic of the Bush administration's policy, says there's a serious problem here. Listen to what Congressman Dennis Kucinich of Ohio says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH (D), OHIO: We know that many protective suits that would be worn by our men and women who would serve in combat, many of those protective suits currently are in the field, and those suits are defective, suits have holes in them, they have tears in the seams. They cannot protect against a chemical or biological attack. They would leave vulnerable the men and women out in the field.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is he right, as far as you know, General Clark?

CLARK: Well, those suits that are used in the field are training suits, and the way it works is, we use actual mission -- what we call MOP suits. We use those suits for training. We open up a sealed bag, we use a brand new suit, and it wears out. And we would never go into combat with suits like that.

Obviously our people are always on the alert for something that might actually penetrate the filters of the gas mask, or work its way through the new suits that we have, but we believe our suits and equipment are effective. That having been said, if you were under prolonged exposure to chemical agents or, worse, biological agents, a lot of unfortunate things can happen. There's no doubt about it, and no one would ever say that this is an easy thing to undergo. But the fact is we're not going to use defective suits that are torn and ripped when we go to war. BLITZER: During the Gulf War, as you well remember, 12 years ago, 11 years ago, those troops went into battle wearing those protective suits. Realistically, how long can they stay inside those suits and still be safe and be productive, if you will?

CLARK: It's very much a function of environmental conditions, Wolf, and also what they're doing. If the suit gets wet, if they rip the suit as they're getting in and out of armored vehicles. If they get on the ground and tear the knee open, well, then the suit's no good. Otherwise, 24, 48, 72 hours, yes. But of course, the suit doesn't protect the hands or the feet or the face and the lungs and the eyes, and so forth, and so you have to have additional items -- hands, gloves, booties for the feet, and the gas mask, and you cannot stay in those for 24, 48 hours. You have got to, at some point, take those off. You have got bodily functions to perform. There are a lot of tricks of survival here, and our people have practiced this, we think we're good at it, but we don't underestimate the difficulties.

BLITZER: You may have heard Rolf Ekeus, the former chief weapons inspector, on this program just a few minutes ago say he's not overly concerned about Iraq's ballistic missile capabilities. He's convinced that almost all of those Scud missiles were destroyed by U.N. inspectors during the course of the '90s. Do you agree with that assessment?

CLARK: Most of the information that I have received says they have a very small supply, maybe a dozen, two dozen Scuds. They also have the authority to have these 150-kilometer range missiles. They probably have several hundred of them, and as Rolf mentioned, they probably tried to extend the range on these. But even with only a limited range that they have, they're still a potential threat to us and they are a threat to their own population.

The thing I'm worried about most, Wolf, is that they would lose a biological agent against their own population, creating a humanitarian catastrophe in southern Iraq, and then blaming it on the United States, perhaps, but also creating an enormous humanitarian problem for us to deal with as we go in there.

BLITZER: General Clark, thanks for your expertise. Thanks for joining us.

CLARK: Thank you.

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