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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Debate Over Possible War in Iraq

Aired October 16, 2002 - 12:42   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Within the past hour, President Bush signed a congressional resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, if necessary. It doesn't mean the United States will go to war against Iraq. It just means it's very possible. It also means that the United States -- the Bush administration -- can go to war if the president so determines.
Joining me now to debate this issue, the syndicated columnist, Clarence Page of the "Chicago Tribune," and Jonah Goldberg, the editor of the "National Review Online" and a regular panelist on CNN's "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.

Thanks to both of you for joining us, Clarence.

You don't think the United States -- that this is the moment for the U.S. to go to war against Iraq? Why?

CLARENCE PAGE, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST, "CHICAGO TRIBUNE": Because we haven't got the world approval. I think that the Americans want to see us go to the U.N., which is happening now. That process is in motion. But whenever the president talks about moving unilaterally, when he talks about moving preemptively, he is writing new policy for the country -- making new history that I don't think has been thoroughly debated. The country will be a lot more comfortable when the U.N. approves this move -- Jonah.

JONAH GOLDBERG, EDITOR, "NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE": I don't think that's necessarily wrong. I think that as a matter of politics, it makes some sense to go to the international community -- although we'd hardly be alone if we didn't go to the U.N. There are a lot of countries who have already said they'd be on our side. But what I do find annoying about this position, and I'm not attributing it to Clarence, is the hypocrisy of people who say if the United States goes it alone, that unilateral action would be imperialist or would be blood for oil -- this sort of argument.

What they don't realize is that by buying the approval of the Security Council, we are trading the blood of Chechnyans and the blood of Muslims in China for their approval. What they want is their oil contracts preserved and the right to clamp down on their own dissident groups, and that is what we're buying their approval with. It is not some high-minded utopian scheme where if they agree with us, it must be right.

PAGE: It's like they want blood for oil.

GOLDBERG: They want blood for oil. BLITZER: Clarence, if the United States doesn't threaten the Iraqi regime with this kind of use of force, what incentive will there be for Saddam Hussein to comply with U.N. resolutions and international inspectors?

PAGE: With the U.N. behind us, then we will have force -- and not just military force, which we know we have. We know we can roll right over Baghdad militarily. But what comes afterwards and what repercussions does it have to the rest of the region? And how much is it going to cost this country? Those questions are unanswered. I'm amazed, Wolf, at how little questioning there has been in regard to answering those questions. I understand the fear.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: The precedent it might set for the Indians and Pakistanis -- is that what you're worried about?

PAGE: Well, certainly, as well as around the Middle East region. These questions are supposed to be answered in a deliberative process on Capitol Hill and got remarkably little attention. I think it's all part of post-9/11 fears and concerns, which are justified, but we've got to be careful that we don't create more problems to replace the old ones.

BLITZER: Senator Biden, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, did have a few days of very good hearings, and they asked a lot of those questions.

Let me ask you about this e-mail to you from George -- he wants to know this: "Why should there be another war with Iraq -- why start another war with Iraq when al Qaeda is still active, dangerous, and poised to destroy us? Shouldn't we find Osama bin Laden before we oust Saddam Hussein?"

GOLDBERG: First of all, there are a lot of people after September 11 who said something like this must never happen again. If you take that seriously, then you have to look at all the possible threats out there. And so whether or not al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein are directly linked is somewhat irrelevant.

If your kid gets bitten by one scorpion in your house, you just don't kill that one scorpion and say we've solved the problem. You get the scorpion nest. You go after all the possible threats so that you can really say that something like this must never happen again.

And it is entirely possible that this latest round of terrorist activity is in some way being sponsored by Saddam as a way to distract us and get us back on the war on terrorism and away from going after him.

PAGE: A lot of things are possible. I'm glad that you are breaking the linkage between 9/11 and Saddam, because there is no definite linkage that we know of.

(CROSSTALK) PAGE: There is no definite threat that Saddam poses to the United States -- certainly to his neighbors, but not to the United States. We ought to be clear about that. This White House has muddied those waters in order to get people fearful. People have sent you e-mails and people who are calling in are saying, We don't want to have another 9/11; we've got to stop Saddam.

There's no connection there, you know?

GOLDBERG: There is a connection in the sense that Saddam Hussein is the figure who is most likely and most capable of perpetrating something like 9/11 again.

PAGE: Who's next? Sudan? I'm in favor of that. Sure, we're going to do Iraq? How about Saudi Arabia? Why not? How about Iran, you know?

GOLDBERG: There are good arguments for all those things. But Saddam Hussein is unique in the fact that, first of all, this is not a new war with Iraq -- this is the continuation of it. We had a cease- fire and Saddam Hussein is violating the cease-fire.

BLITZER: Let me read another e-mail for you, Clarence. This is from Saran in Hong Kong. We have viewers all over the world: "Saddam Hussein is providing training and weapons to terrorists. Eliminating him will eliminate terrorist activity, help bring peace to the Middle East, and stabilize the world economy. With the threat he poses gone, the world will be a safer place."

PAGE: Maybe we'll have a cure for cancer, you know? I mean, I hope that's all true, but I'm not going to oversell this, you know? There's good reasons to overthrow Saddam. He's not a guy with a lot of fans in the world. So, why are we so reluctant to want to work with the rest of the world in doing this? I think that we do have to be very clear and not oversell this anti-Saddam action.

GOLDBERG: Of course, it is possible that the rest of the world is wrong. The rest of the world can say two plus two is five and that doesn't mean the United States is wrong for saying it's four.

PAGE: But we still live in the world, that's my only point.

GOLDBERG: That's fair enough and as a matter of politics, I agree. But Saddam is a unique individual both in terms of his capabilities and his past actions.

PAGE: They're all unique.

GOLBERG: This is a guy who weaponized aflatoxin, which is a weapon that has no military value. Its only value is to cause liver cancer primarily in children. It cannot stop an army --

PAGE: You don't need to sell us on he's a bad guy.

BLITZER: I think Clarence will agree he's a bad guy.

On that note, we're going to be in agreement, we're going to all hold hands, and sing "Kumbaya."

Jonah Goldberg, Clarence Page, thank you for joining us. We'll have you back.

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