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Showdown Iraq: Interview With Arianna Huffington, Janet Parshall

Aired October 2, 2002 - 12:36   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The debate on Iraq is raging on Capitol Hill and in the news media.
The columnist, Arianna Huffington, is strongly against the administration's policy on Iraq, calling it -- quote -- "mixed up." She joins us now live from Los Angeles.

Here in Washington, the radio talk show host, Janet Parshall, supports the president's views on Iraq, saying he is protecting national security.

Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Arianna, what's wrong with the president's strategy right now in dealing with Saddam Hussein?

ARIANNA HUFFINGTON, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, as your previous guest said, Wolf, he has not made the case to the American people that Saddam presents an imminent threat to our national security. There is near unanimous agreement that he is a madman with the possibility of using weapons of mass destruction.

But remember, the president himself had identified an axis of evil that included North Korea and Iran, and suddenly, we hear nothing about Iran. We are sending an envoy to North Korea. North Korea actually has nuclear weapons it can use right now.

BLITZER: All right.

HUFFINGTON: And everything has been reduced down to one threat: Iraq.

BLITZER: All right. What about that, Janet?

JANET PARSHALL, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Well, I think that you have the choice of going after the foot of the monster or the head of the monster, and I think the president has made a very strong case as to why Saddam Hussein is the head of this monster.

We know, as a matter of fact, that Mohammed Atta met with one of the Iraqi officials prior to 9/11. We know that two of the assassins on 9/11 did, in fact, have money transferred from Baghdad to their accounts. We know, as a matter of fact, that he hands out checks to the tune of $25,000 to Palestinian killers and psychopaths. The case has been made. And not only that, the case has been made because the man has thumbed his nose on 16 -- count them -- 16 UN resolutions, not the least of which is one dated April 1991 that said not only would he allow inspectors in, but he would -- operative word here -- disarm.

BLITZER: All right.

PARSHALL: None of that's been done.

BLITZER: Arianna, are you convinced?

HUFFINGTON: The case absolutely has not been made. It is truly irresponsible to use these little pieces of information to prove a connection between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda; that even Senator Bob Graham, who is the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has said absolutely clearly has not been made.

All of those meetings that you are talking about have not been documented, and we have clearly documented meetings between Saudi Arabia and al Qaeda. Why aren't we going after Saudi Arabia?

BLITZER: Let me get...

HUFFINGTON: Why aren't we going after Iran?

BLITZER: Let me get to some e-mails. Let me get to some e- mails, and we'll continue this debate.

Jonathan is e-mailing us from North Carolina. This is for you, Janet. "President Bush has accused Saddam Hussein of violating UN resolutions. Wouldn't he be doing exactly the same thing if he ordered a military attack on Iraq that contravenes any decision of the Security Council?

PARSHALL: Absolutely not. You know, the president made a very powerful statement not too long ago that I think the majority of the American public got, which is why the majority of the American public still puts this man in such high esteem, and that is this: What U.S. elected official waves his hand in deference to the American people and bows instead in submission to the United Nations?

What the president said quite clearly when he gave his very powerful address to the UN was simply this: We're going to move. We welcome you to join us.

And by the way, here is a very documented report. Professor Hamza is an Iraqi defector who worked with the Iraqi Atomic Energy Council. He said they have stolen goods from Germany and Brazil; that if they don't have it now, within three months, he would have the capability of having three nuclear warheads with centrifuges the size of a washing machine.

BLITZER: All right.

PARSHALL: We have a problem on our hands. BLITZER: Arianna, that's Khidhir Hamzi, the former Iraqi nuclear scientist, who defected in the mid 1960s -- in the mid 1990s -- excuse me -- to the United States.

HUFFINGTON: Right, right.

BLITZER: Let me read you this e-mail, Arianna, from William in Canada. "Saddam is throwing another party and wants the guests to bring all of the good. Is the UN naive or what? Inspectors will find nothing when they get to Iraq."

Is the whole thing a sham, Arianna?

HUFFINGTON: Well, I definitely agree with the viewer, who is not likely to trust Saddam Hussein. That's not the point. I am not arguing that Saddam Hussein should be trusted. I am arguing that there are thousands of threats to America, and we need to concentrate on fighting the war on terror. We need to concentrate on bringing those who perpetrated the assault on us on September 11 to justice. Just because we have failed to do that so far, we should not pretend that Saddam was behind September 11.

BLITZER: All right.

HUFFINGTON: And do you know what, Wolf? Even Dick Gephardt made the same error when he said, after his breakfast with the president, that Iraq presents a problem after September 11 that it did not before.

Now, this case has not been made...

BLITZER: All right, let me read another...

HUFFINGTON: ... and that's what the American people want to hear.

BLITZER: Let me read another e-mail to Janet that picks up precisely, Arianna, on the point that you just made.

Pat from Warren, Ohio, wants to know this, Janet: "What happened to Osama bin Laden? He's no longer the prime focus of the administration and has dropped out of the news. Why is the Bush administration shifting all of the attention to Saddam now?

PARSHALL: Well, I don't think I was the only American, Wolf, who heard the president say that this was a war against terrorism. People, who strike this rather Herodian posture that say show me the head of Osama bin Laden and all of our problems with terrorism have evaporated, are wrong. Osama is very much an equation of this. Osama has been wandering in and out of the Saddam airspace for quite some time, figuratively speaking. So, trust me, he is very much on the radar.

But as the president said right after 9/11, courage, perseverance, patience -- they're either with us or against us. It's an all-inclusive battle. Arianna, we're getting a lot of e-mails, and they're ranging, as you can imagine, the complete spectrum of thought.

This one from Doug in California: "Let's all just sit on our hands and wait for another disaster like 9/11 or worse, a biological attack on a U.S. population center where hundreds of thousands will die. Saddam's days are numbered. One tyrant at a time. Iran and North Korea should be next."

What do you say to Doug?

HUFFINGTON: Well, there is absolutely no reason to think that focusing on Iraq is going to make us stronger and more secure. On the contrary, the greatest weapon in the war on terror is information. And if we solidify our enemies, especially if we go against Iraq unilaterally, then we block many sources of information. And the way for us to be able to take preemptive action and protect America is to have the kind of information we had, but did not act on before September 11.

BLITZER: Arianna Huffington and Janet Parshall, thanks to both of you for joining us in our debate segment.

PARSHALL: Thank you.

BLITZER: We'll have you back.



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