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Analysts Discuss Iraq Inspections

Aired October 30, 2002 - 12:34   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: As the U.S. continues its troop build- up in the Persian Gulf, diplomats struggle to prevent military action. What's likely to happen?
Joining us now from New York, Katrina vanden Heuvel; she's the editor of "The Nation."

And Max Boot, with the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of the book "The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of the American Power."

Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Let me begin with an e-mail question, Max, for you, that we got in from Henry in Raleigh, North Carolina. "What happens if, after invading Iraq, causing thousands of deaths, ousting Saddam and assuming control of the country, no WMDs" -- weapons of mass destruction -- "are found in Iraq? Would the reputation of the U.S. on the international stage be ruined? Could our economy and security be affected?"

MAX BOOT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: Well, that to my mind is an outlandish question because I don't think anybody seriously disputes that Saddam does have mass stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons. That was certainly the experience of the weapons inspectors who were in there in the 1990s. And they subsequently said that they did not recover all of those weapons and that he has other stockpiles which he has certainly built up over the past four years. So it's just inconceivable to me that we would not find weapons of mass destruction.

And hopefully, we will not find evidence that he is actually close to constructing a nuclear bomb because that's the ultimate danger. But in terms of biological and chemical I think the intelligence is pretty solid that he does have that.

What about that, Katrina? You accept that intelligence?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR, 'THE NATION': I think the important thing, and your e-mailer addresses it, is war is unnecessary. Inspections are the route, diplomacy, regional pressure. If there are weapons of mass destruction, inspections monitoring are fully sufficient.

And I think the questions raised about the U.S.'s role is a crucial one because the international community is deeply suspicious of the U.S.'s imperial ambitions, and the stories we've heard about a U.S. military occupation after an invasion. And the impact it would have on our economy is a very important one for Americans to address in terms of their role in the world.

BLITZER: Katrina, let me just interrupt for a second. Imperial ambitions? What are you suggesting? That the Bush administration wants to take over that part of the world?

VANDEN HEUVEL: I'm not suggesting that. I'm suggesting when we read the leaks from this administration in terms of the occupation plans, this administration is devising a policy that might not end with Iraq, which is why we see such opposition in the UN Security Council to the U.S.'s position for basically an international imprimatur on unilateral action, because what the preemptive national security strategy of this administration is very clearly Iraq and then perhaps Iran, Syria. And the destabilization of the region in light of these imperial ambitions is a very, very dangerous one, and dangerous for our democracy, which your e-mailer is addressing.

BLITZER: Let me bring Max back. Do you have a problem with what Katrina calls some imperial ambitions by the United States?

BOOT: Well, I'm really confused by what the liberal position on Iraq is supposed to be, because until recently I heard a lot of liberals saying, well, we don't want to bomb Saddam unless we're prepared to rebuild afterwards, unless there's a more humanitarian aspect to this intervention. And I'm completely in favor of that as I was in favor of the Bosnia and Kosovo. And now I'm in favor of rebuilding Afghanistan after the American military action there. But I'm not really sure what the liberal position is anymore because I hear a lot of suspicions on the left now about the prospect of rebuilding and democratizing Iraq, which I think would be a necessary part of any American intervention.

And I'm really not sure what the positive alternative from the left really is because...


BOOT: Let me finish, Katrina, because what you're talking about is containment and weapons inspections and all of that, and we know that hasn't worked in the past decade, we know that Saddam has diddled around with the inspectors, he's managed to divert oil money into building weapons of mass destruction, and he kicked -- and in fact, the inspectors were kicked out in 1998 and have never come back. And we have no idea what he's been constructing ever since. So I don't think we can have any kind of confidence that weapons inspections will do anything to curb the evil of Saddam Hussein.

BLITZER: Katrina, go ahead.

VANDEN HEUVEL: War is not the answer. The weapons inspections have clearly neutralized Saddam's danger to the region of the United States, his military capabilities. But most important, engagement, containment, and not the idea of bringing human rights on the tip of a bayonet. You do not bring human rights or democracy to a region through military invasion, particularly by the United States. I mean, if there's...


BOOT: We certainly did a pretty did job of bringing peace and democracy to regions like Germany or Japan or Italy after World War II at the tip of a bayonet.

VANDEN HEUVEL: That was the international community at the end of a very different war.

BOOT: We occupied Japan unilaterally.

VANDEN HEUVEL: The danger today, the shifting ambition of the United States government, Wolf. If we are trying to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction, let us do that through treaties, diplomacy, regional pressure. You do not do that through war. Look at North Korea, the example there: This administration is using diplomacy there. Let us use it toward Iraq.

BOOT: I think North Korea is a very good example, but I think what it shows is the opposite of what Katrina is trying to suggest, because we did try diplomacy there: We signed a treaty with them in 1994, and now we know that Pyongyang has had absolutely no regard for that treaty. They've gone on to build nuclear weapons despite signing that treaty.

What I think that shows is the bankruptcy of this approach of trying to seek peace through paper. This is what we saw at Munich in 1938. It didn't work. People like Kim Jong Il or Saddam Hussein understand only one thing, and that is force. And that's ultimately how we have to deal with these evil dictators.


VANDEN HEUVEL: What Max Boot is calling for, first of all, the use of appeasement, is a wrong term. I am talking about diplomacy. If one wants endless war in this world, you then decide you're going to go to war with every country that has weapons of mass destruction. Let us use the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty which we should abide by, 182 countries have abided by. Otherwise, it is a recipe for endless war with any country which has weapons of mass destruction, including the United States, which has the most of any nation in this planet.

BOOT: Keep in mind that North Korea signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and they've had absolutely no regard for it. So I don't see how we could have any confidence that someone like Saddam Hussein would abide by it.


VANDEN HEUVEL: The philosophical difference is does someone engage the world through diplomacy and pressure and regional alliances, multilateralism, or does one go to war unilaterally with all the countries that perhaps threaten us in a preemptive war? BLITZER: We're going to wrap this up. But I want a quick response from you, Katrina. If the U.S. gets the international support through the UN Security Council and the allies are on board and Saddam is not allowing unrestricted inspections, would you then change your stance?

VANDEN HEUVEL: I think we need to see how the inspection process proceeds. At the moment, I see a double containment process. The Security Council majority is trying to say to the United States, we want to -- war is unnecessary with Iraq, we want to contain Iraq. And they want to contain the United States from unilateral war. We need to see how the process goes. Give it time, give it time.

BLITZER: All right. Last word for you. Go ahead, 10 seconds, Max.

BOOT: I wouldn't give it too much time, because if we give it too much time, Saddam Hussein will develop nuclear weapons, and then he will be free to do whatever he wants. And the only way we'll find out that containment isn't working might be perhaps if we see a mushroom cloud going up over Manhattan.


BLITZER: Well, that's an ominous thought to have to leave it on, but we'll have to continue this debate on another occasion.

Thanks, Katrina vanden Heuvel and Max Boot, two very thoughtful analysts who have obviously spent a great deal of time studying this kind of situation.


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