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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Showdown: Iraq

Aired October 19, 2002 - 12:24   ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TARIQ AZIZ, IRAQI FOREIGN MINISTER: America wants to fight alone because America doesn't have a just cause. If America had a just cause, it could have made it clear to the whole world and the world would support it if it was just.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Fredricka Whitfield at CNN headquarters. On now to our focus on Iraq. Defiance from that country's foreign minister as President Bush presses his case against Iraq at the United Nations. This is SHOWDOWN: IRAQ.

Let's catch you up with the developments this week involving this conflict. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is reelected with 100 percent of the vote, and his government says with 100 percent turnout. U.S. President Bush signs the Congress-approved resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq. Now, the focus is on the United Nations.

The U.S. submits a new draft resolution that makes no explicit mention of the use of force against Iraq. The White House says it's optimistic the Security Council will sign off on a deal. Let's get the view from inside Iraq now, CNN's Nic Robertson joins us live. And, Nic, a couple of issues at stake now. With the U.S. military buildup in that region and now North Korea admitting to a buildup of nuclear arms, what is the dialogue there?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there has been no comment, official comment here from any Iraqi politician or even comments in the newspapers about the North Korea issue. Some comments in the newspapers, however, about the debate going on at the United Nations. One newspaper saying that this shows -- the debate shows that the world community wants peace. Paper also saying that Iraq doesn't want a new resolution.

However, there has been some indication this week that Iraq perhaps might be prepared to accept a new resolution, as Saeed Ibrahim (ph), the vice chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council, saying that if there was a new resolution, they would cross that bridge.

However, yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, when asked to comment on the new language being muted for that resolution and the debate going on at the United Nations said he wasn't aware of any -- he wasn't aware of that new language and, therefore, wouldn't be prepared to speculate about it.

However, the diplomats here in Baghdad generally feel that there is an atmosphere that if a new resolution has the -- what they see as the correct language, language that doesn't humiliate Iraq, then they believe that perhaps Iraq might accept a new resolution. And, of course, President Saddam Hussein alluded to in his speech earlier this week that the Europeans with their knowledge of the Arab world, could perhaps provide some guidance here. Many Iraqi officials really looking to France at this time to soften any language in the resolution or bring about a resolution that might be more acceptable.

Of course, Iraq's current position is that there is no resolution needed and they're very resolutely against any new resolution of any type. That is their current position -- Fredricka

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks very much, Nic Robertson from Baghdad, appreciate it.

Well, as President Bush considers an attack on Iraq, there is a change in status for the first American pilot lost in the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The Navy now says that Michael Scott Speicher was captured after crashing over Iraq, and that there is no evidence that he is dead. A new intelligence report says, quote, "analysis of the wreckage by U.S. Navy experts concluded that Lieutenant Commander Speicher initiated the ejection sequence, jettisoned the canopy and likely ejected from the stricken aircraft prior to the crash. Flight surgeons and aircraft life support systems experts believe Lieutenant Commander Speicher would have had at least 85 to 90 percent chance of surviving," end quote.

And with us now from Austin, Texas, is Speicher's nephew, Rich Adams. And, Rich, initially, the family's reaction when the Department of Defense said it was likely he was killed in action, what was the initial reaction from the family? Did they believe that?

RICH ADAMS, NEPHEW OF SCOTT SPEICHER: Well, we had every assurance that every measure was taken to look for Scott. So, we did -- he was a hero. He was shot down the first night of the war. He served his country. And he served a mission that he very much believed in. So, we believe that every corner was looked at to search for him and that all measures were taken, and we were assured of that in every way.

So we did what, you know, was the natural thing to do. My aunt went on with her life. We had him declared killed in action. We had a memorial for him. And she went on with her life, as we told her to do, as her government told her to do. And she remarried.

WHITFIELD: So everyone went on with their live and believed what initially they had heard, he was killed in action. Now this change of status that, perhaps, he is missing in action, at least that's the classification now. Does this cause the family to grieve all over again, or does this boost hope that perhaps he may be alive?

ADAMS: Well, backing up just a bit. In 1995, when they originally found his plane, and we uncovered all of the mistakes that were made in the investigation, they found his flight suit. So we at least know from that point on that somebody in Iraq found his body. So our position has been since that time, that at least Scott needs to be returned, his final resting place will not be Iraq. It will be the United States. We owe that to him.

Yes, since that time, it has been very difficult to get on with, you know, a normal life knowing that your loved one and somebody who served his country, a U.S. serviceman, is possibly being held by Saddam Hussein.

WHITFIELD: Does this in any way raise hopes? Does it concern you that if there is a U.S.-led war in Iraq, that perhaps if he is alive, this might further jeopardize his status, his life?

ADAMS: You know, we had to make the decision some time ago that we had to go public with this, with the information that was available. Scott would have wanted that. He would not have wanted us to go on the way we've had to, not knowing. From this point forward, it really, you know, kind of sets the stage. Right now, all diplomatic means should be taken to find Scott, and our government, we're confident our government is doing that.

We are also undertaking a humanitarian -- through our family -- a humanitarian mission, hopefully. We've written a letter to Iraq for a meeting, just to receive some information about Scott. Thirdly, however, if evidence does come across that Scott is there, hard evidence, hard intelligence, where he is, exactly where he is, the military should be used to go repatriate him.

WHITFIELD: So you're not privy to what that intelligence is now as to what evidence declares his status changed?

ADAMS: I am not privileged to the specific evidence. However, my aunt and her present husband and their attorney do have a classified status. They are receiving classified information. They can't tell me that information, but I can tell you this -- Scott was the first person in the history of the U.S. military to first be declared from killed in action back to MIA, and then from MIA to captured. That would not have been done if there was not sufficient evidence to do that.

WHITFIELD: Is it your feeling, or is it the family's feeling that there is reason to be doubtful or, perhaps, say this is a strange coincidence that this new declaration of his status would come about at the time when the U.S. were about to engage in war?

ADAMS: Personally, I just think it's pure coincidence. There is evidence there. And...

WHITFIELD: Are you afraid that Scott Speicher's case is being used in the ammunition to perhaps gather more support, more world support in this U.S.-led war?

ADAMS: Well, I think that should be a strong point. This is a U.S. serviceman who put his life on the line to serve his country. He belonged to a military that he believed in a code that you don't leave your fallen comrade behind. You know, I am outraged that another nation, that another leader, would do that to an American soldier.

So, this should definitely be intertwined in any type of foreign policy against Iraq. And President Bush made that very clear in his declaration to the United Nations. He talked about Scott in that declaration and has included him on the bill that's going before that body.

WHITFIELD: So quickly, Rich, it sounds like you and the family are very hopeful that perhaps, as a result of war or as we draw closer to it, that perhaps there's a greater chance that Scott just might be alive.

ADAMS: Right, and we just want to make very sure and very clear that he's not lost in this. I would hate to think that he's been alive for 11 years and that at the last minute, something happens and we can't find him

WHITFIELD: Rich Adams, thank you very much for joining us, appreciate it.

ADAMS: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Well, on now to he carried the Iraqi flag at the 1996 Olympic opening ceremony in Atlanta. Now, he lives in the U.S. Coming up, Raed Ahmed speaks out about his homeland and its current leader.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: A former Iraqi Olympic athlete says he was a witness to atrocities carried out by Saddam Hussein's regime, and our guest says he knows some of the Iraqi president's family members, including Saddam's eldest son, Uday. Raed Ahmed has lived in the United States now since 1996. He carried the Iraqi flag during the opening ceremonies of the Atlanta Olympic games, then defected. He's with us now from Southfield, Michigan. Good to see you.

RAED AHMED, FORMER IRAQI OLYMPIAN: Thanks, ma'am.

WHITFIELD: All right, explain, why is it that you would carry the flag during the Olympic opening ceremonies, and then just weeks later end up defecting?

AHMED: My name is Raed Ahmed from Iraq. I come to here in July, 1996 to Olympic game. And after Olympic games, I called my friend who lives in Michigan. I told him I'd like to stay here. I don't like to go back to Iraq.

WHITFIELD: You stated this case knowing that there was a possibility this would raise the risks for your family members in your homeland. What happened to them once you defected? Once you found political asylum in the U.S.?

AHMED: OK, when I stayed here, they heard that because he took all my family, he send struck (ph) from Baghdad in my house in Basra. He took all my family. I got three brothers and three sisters and father and mother. And my wife. He send them to Baghdad, to Olympic camp, because he's a leader for Olympic camp. And another day, he talked to my brothers and fathers, why Raed, he stay in America? Why he didn't come back to Iraq? So there's a lot of problems. I want to send all your families into jail, because he got a big jail in Olympic camp, so, I don't know, maybe somebody they're doing (ph) like that.

WHITFIELD: What was it about your life in your homeland that provoked you to say, enough is enough? I want a different life, and I'm using this opportunity to compete as an Olympic athlete to win asylum?

AHMED: Yeah, because they like to know why I stay here. Maybe I got with -- I work with the team, you know, with some people. So Uday, he said, I would like Raed to come back to Iraq, because there's nobody before he stay out Iraq. So...

WHITFIELD: Raed, let me ask you this -- how well do you know Saddam Hussein? How well do you know his sons Uday and Kusay?

AHMED: OK, because he's already he talked to my brothers and sister, would have to call Raed to go back to Iraq. If he didn't come back to Iraq, I send all you to jail. So he sent to jail my father and mother and three brothers and sister and my wife two weeks in Baghdad.

WHITFIELD: Now, let me preface this by asking you or stating, you in no way are a spokesperson for all Iraqi exiles. The opinions you have are opinions that are yours. And when we talk about the potential toppling of Saddam Hussein, is it your worry that his sons, Uday or Kusay, would be next in line, and if that were to happen, how do you see that helping or further hurting that country?

AHMED: OK. I want to tell you something. I stay here because in -- in 1991, after uprising, so everybody knows uprising in Iraq in 1991, and I see Ali (ph), you know, Ali Hassan Majeed (ph), he is Saddam's cousin. He came to Basra, and he catch 20 peoples from Tikrit ...

WHITFIELD: Well, let's talk about quickly -- we've got a couple more seconds left. Let's talk about Saddam Hussein, what you know about him and his sons, because they are apparently what is at issue in terms of possibly succeeding their father if Saddam Hussein were removed from power?

AHMED: Yeah, because they -- his responsibility about me, because he's my leaders in that Iraq. So that's why he takes care about my family.

WHITFIELD: OK, Raed Ahmed, thank you very much for joining us. Appreciate it.

AHMED: You're welcome.

WHITFIELD: Well, with the recent attacks from Bali to Kuwait, officials are saying the threat from al Qaeda is far from over. Coming up, we'll hear from the Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S. on the fight against terrorism.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: On to Kuwait now and concerns over anti-Western sentiments. Fears were raised earlier this month when a U.S. Marine was killed in a surprise attack and another was wounded. Now U.S. forces and Western businesses in Kuwait are on heightened alert. For more insight, we turn now to Kuwaiti ambassador to the U.S., Sheikh Salem Al-Sabah, and he joins us live from Washington. Good to see you, Mr. Ambassador.

SHEIKH SALEM AL-SABAH, KUWAITI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: It's good to be here.

WHITFIELD: Well, with the continued military buildup, are you seeing that these attacks are perhaps evidence that there is resentment to the U.S. presence there?

AL-SABAH: I would say that the quick answer to that is no. There's no heightened bad feelings towards the United States in Kuwait. Do we have fundamentalism in Kuwait? Yes, we do, like every other country has fundamentalism. Are our fundamentalists militants? I would say the answer to that would be no.

We were shocked in Kuwait by the tragic act of terrorism that took the life of Corporal Sledd (ph), and we had wide range condemnations for all parts of society for that terrorist attack. The government condemned it, society condemned it as a whole, even fundamentalist organizations condemned it.

WHITFIELD: You agreed that there is a presence of fundamentalists. How widespread are we talking? How many different organizations, fundamentalists groups are you talking about?

AL-SABAH: Well, you know, it's not an easy question to answer, because fundamentalism varies. You have the radical fundamentalism, you have the center fundamentalism, and you have the regular fundamentalism. We in Kuwait, we have fundamentalism, like every other country in the world, fundamentalism exists.

WHITFIELD: Is there evidence that there is the group of al Qaeda re-forming there or entrenching themselves in Kuwait?

AL-SABAH: I would say it's too soon to tell. As you know, we have currently 15 people in detention that are connected to, in one way or another, to the terrorist attack that happened on Failaka Island around 10 days ago.

WHITFIELD: But have they been positively linked to al Qaeda?

AL-SABAH: Not yet. Not yet. We suspect some indirect links to al Qaeda, but the investigation is still going, and I wouldn't want to speculate about the outcome of that investigation. But we're working very closely with the U.S. authorities, and we will get to the bottom of this. And when we do, we will announce our findings. And if there are links to al Qaeda, we will come out and say that. But at this point in time, the investigation is ongoing. It's only been 10 days. But I think our law enforcements agencies, together with the American authorities, we've made a lot of headway and we've uncovered other plots that this cell was planning to undertake. So we preempted that.

But the investigation is still going, and I wouldn't want to speculate about the outcome of that investigation.

WHITFIELD: Knowing what you do about the investigation in Kuwait, are you seeing any reason to believe that that there's a connection between what's happened in Kuwait, in Bali and now in the Philippines?

AL-SABAH: Well, I think if it shows, it shows that the war on terrorism is far from over yet, and I think it also shows, as President Bush said, that no country is exempt from terrorist acts. And I think it should increase everybody's resolve to continue the fight against terrorism and put an end to it, one way or another. And we are working very closely with the United States in the war against terrorism, and we are working very closely with the U.S. authorities concerning the act of terrorism that's happened in Kuwait.

And as I mentioned before, the investigation is ongoing, but we will get to the bottom of this. And if there are any links with al Qaeda from these groupings that we have in detention, we will know that, and we will say it.

WHITFIELD: Would it be your view that at least these attacks, given that there are some similarities, and there are an awful lot of differences, that perhaps it all may be linked to the continued beating drums of war against Iraq?

AL-SABAH: Well, everything's possible. But, again, it's hard for me to answer. I don't want to be evasive or anything of that sort, but the fact of the matter is, the investigation is ongoing. We're getting information. It's trickling through. And once we have a clearer picture, we will know exactly the motives of the attack, who was behind it, why did they do it, and why did they choose Kuwait as a theater of action for them.

So the investigation will uncover all these details, and until it does, I wouldn't want to preempt or speculate about anything that has to do with this investigation. We're doing a lot of headway, as I mentioned, and we will crack it soon.

WHITFIELD: All right, Mr. Ambassador Sheikh Salem Al-Sabah, thank you very much for joining us from Washington.

AL-SABAH: Thanks for having me.

WHITFIELD: Well, he laid out the air campaign for the Persian Gulf War. Coming up, we'll talk to a retired colonel about strategies for military campaign in Iraq if the U.S. decides to go to war. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: If the United States goes to war with Iraq, will the military strategy be different from the Gulf War of 1991, or even the ongoing war in Afghanistan? And what lessons were learned from those conflicts? The architect of the Operation Desert Storm air campaign in 1991, retired Colonel John Warden has a new book, "Winning in Fast Time," and he's keeping a close watch on the current developments in Iraq. Good to see you, colonel.

COL. JOHN WARDEN, USAF (RET.): Fredricka, good to see you.

WHITFIELD: Joining us from Montgomery, Alabama. What lessons, perhaps, might have been learned from the Afghanistan war, as well as the Gulf War, that may possibly be applied to a potential war with Iraq?

WARDEN: I think that there are a couple that are particularly outstanding. First of all, from the military standpoint, that we've gotten a pretty good feel that you can accomplish some pretty extraordinary things by the application of a combination of different kinds of air power.

The second thing that we're seeing, and I think your past interview with the Kuwaiti ambassador as well as our experience in Afghanistan, Soviet experience in Afghanistan says that if you put a lot of American forces on the ground in any particular place, that you are going to begin to attract a fair amount of opposition.

So what that says to me is that to the maximum extent possible, that we try to think through our strategy in such a way as to not end up occupying Iraq, which then, in turn, drives a military campaign, which would be largely based on American air power done to assist the Iraqi military to overthrow not just Saddam Hussein, but Saddam Hussein and his family and his friends from Tikrit.

WHITFIELD: Now, colonel, today's "Washington Post" is reporting that the Bush administration is giving $97 million to the training of up to 10,000 Iraqi exiles, a mission that ultimately would help restore some order if and when Saddam Hussein were to be removed. So what are some of the things -- and this training apparently would take place outside of the U.S. and outside of Iraq -- how does anyone try to discern the method of training that would take place and who would these exiles be, and where would they be plucked from?

WARDEN: Well, there are lots of Iraqi exiles from a lot of different places. I mean, you just had one on a few minutes ago. I don't think there are any shortage of exiles.

WHITFIELD: That would be able and be equipped or trainable for military warfare?

WARDEN: Sure, that are trainable, that's right. But I think that what the big point is, let's say we actually ended up with 10,000 very, very quickly, that that is a very, very small number against the probably roughly a million that are under arms already in the Iraqi military. And if we go back to I think one of the lessons from the first Gulf War was that we made the Iraqi military an enemy and decided that we needed to do a lot of damage to it, rather than figuring out how to support it and allow it to do what it's wanted to do for 20 years, and that is to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

In other words, the military forces really there on the ground and it exists right now. All we need to do is give it some protection from Saddam Hussein's internal terror organizations so that that Iraqi military can overthrow that government and then establish some sort of a government that probably would be reasonably amenable to what we're asking Iraq to do.

WHITFIELD: So it sounds almost as though you have to immobilize the Iraqi military first before trying to remove Saddam, or does that take place simultaneously?

WARDEN: No, as a matter of fact, you do not want to immobilize the Iraqi military. In fact, just the opposite. What you really want to do is immobilize that relatively small number of Gestapo-like people that are keeping Saddam Hussein in power. That's not the Iraqi military in general. So it's that small group that you need to suppress and immobilize, and, in fact, what you really want to do is to mobilize the Iraqi military to go in to do the things in Baghdad and wherever else that's necessary in order to replace the government, and I think that they would be more than willing to do what we'd want them to do from a bioweapons, nuclear things and so on and so forth.

WHITFIELD: Isn't that a great risk, though, that the U.S. military would have to be willing to take because, perhaps, you know, these Iraqi military men may say they want to now help in this U.S.- led effort, but they certainly could -- that effort could backfire potentially, couldn't it?

WARDEN: No, I don't think so. And obviously, it's possible that it might not work, and if it didn't work, then, we would still have other options to examine. But, the thing is that the Iraqi military is not much of an offensive threat to anybody. So even regardless of what they said that whether they liked what we were proposing or whatever, that there's not much that they can do against us from an offensive side. So the most downside risk that you have is really that the thing simply doesn't work quite the way that you want, and then you've got to go on and think about something else.

WHITFIELD: And by having members of the Iraqi military involved, would that help reduce the potential risk of other Arab nations, neighboring nations who don't like the idea of the U.S. leading this war?

WARDEN: I think that it would make a huge amount of difference, because I don't think that there's much of a case that Islamics around the world, as well as from the neighboring states, can make about an overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime if it is done by internal forces. If it's done by the outside, by the United States, rightly or wrongly, it is going to be called the next -- the eighth, I suppose, crusade, and simply a restart of what has been, from their standpoint, in remission for the last 600, 700 years.

WHITFIELD: All right, Colonel Warden, thank you very much for joining us. Appreciate it.

WARDEN: Fredricka, thank you.

WHITFIELD: More on SHOWDOWN: IRAQ in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WHITFIELD: Iraq isn't the only concern for the U.S., but now, North Korea and its buildup of nuclear weapons. Our Suzanne Malveaux is at the White House with the very latest from there. And Suzanne, what is the Bush administration going to do?

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fredricka, there are really a number of developments. The Bush administration, first of all, is emphasizing they believe that diplomacy and international pressure will force North Korea to comply to the 1994 agreement to disarm. The Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly is overseas. He is bringing that message. First, he was in Beijing, then on to Seoul, South Korea. He held a press conference earlier this morning to make the case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES KELLY, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE: We are watching very closely to see if North Korea takes the action we and the rest of the international community are demanding, to immediately and visibly end its nuclear weapons program and to abide by its international commitments.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Now, one possible option, of course, is the economic option, whether or not the United States may actually cut off oil or fuel supplies assistance to North Korea in the short-term, for those non-humanitarian needs. Also putting a great deal of pressure on other governments as well to cut off their trade relationships.

Now, Fredricka, on the Iraq front, we're getting word from U.S. officials that there is some progress that is being made for the U.N. Security Council resolution that would call for Saddam Hussein to be held to account to disarm Iraq. We are told that the compromise would be that the United States would not have the language saying that, yes, they would use military force if Saddam does not comply, but, rather, there would be consequences, and in exchange the United States would not have to go back to the U.N. Security Council for another resolution that would authorize using military force, but rather just simply go back for consultations. So there are some developments on that front.

And as you know, Fredricka, there's a lot of concern from this administration as well on these series of terrorism attacks, as you had mentioned before in the show, in Yemen, in Bali, in Philippines and so forth. President Bush today actually addressing the people of Australia, giving his condolences in a taped message to them, the latest victims of attack in Bali -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: All right, Suzanne Malveaux from the White House, thank you very much.

That is SHOWDOWN: IRAQ for this hour. NEXT@CNN will not be seen today, but you can catch it tomorrow at 4:00 Eastern time. Coming up next, join me for "CNN SATURDAY" with other news making headlines today, including the latest on the hunt for a sniper in the D.C. suburbs.

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