CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
Showdown: Iraq: Sound-Off
Aired November 12, 2002 - 12:38 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: The Iraqi parliament tells the United Nations no, but that's not necessarily, of course, their final answer. Sounding off right now on these late developments, Victoria Jones from Radio Talk News Service, and Ramesh Ponnuru, with "The National Review."
Victoria, what's wrong with the Bush administration's stance right now that this is the final, final chance for Saddam Hussein to comply? If he fools around at all, any cheat and retreat whatsoever, that sets the stage for military action?
VICTORIA JONES, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: There isn't really anything wrong with it per se, it depends on what your definition is of fooling around. They are going say, look, we can't find a lock to the door, we're going to wait 15 minutes, and we say OK, right, that's it. If they say you can't come in for a day, then that, to me, it seems is a breach. It's a question of how we are going to interpret it, and whether we are going to go actually back to the U.N.
BLITZER: That seems to make sense. There could be a little minor technical discrepancy, or there could be a serious issue. Let's judge, Victoria, saying based on the cheat and retreat.
RAMESH PONNURU, "NATIONAL REVIEW": I think the decision time may actually come before that, and that is on December 8th when the Iraqis are supposed to make a full disclosure, and if it turns out that is not full disclosure, I don't see how the administration can play along and say, well, we're going to work with the regime on this, without saying this entire inspection regime is going to be a farce, because Iraq is already signaling from the beginning it's not going to cooperate. I think before we get there, we may have a real decision.
BLITZER: So in other words, if they declare they have programs in x, y and z, but the U.S. and the rest of the world knows they have programs in other areas as well, you say that's a cause right then and there.
PONNURU: Yes, I believe it is.
JONES: I think it probably is. It could be very tricky. We've got our list. They're going to come up with our list. Unless they've seen our list, I don't think the two lists can possibly tally, even through interpretation, although I think they're going to try and do it through lying, but no, I think it's going to be very problematic.
BLITZER: They always try to stretch it out, as long as they can and give a little bit, and move back. They could stretch it out for a while.
PONNURU: One would expect, the people in the West who really want to avoid this war were sort of hoping Iraq would play along with the inspections regime, and the parliamentary vote suggests that they are digging in right now.
JONES: I have a theory about that.
BLITZER: Let me just read an e-mail to you, then we can weave in your theory, Victoria. "Even if Saddam accepts the U.N. resolution, despite his parliament's recommendation, there is no reason to trust he will abide by it."
JONES: No, there is no reason to trust he will abide by it, but we, as decent human beings, can't say we don't trust to you abide by it, even though you've said you will, so we're going to take you out anyway. We don't do that. We wait for him not to abide by it, and then we take him out. That's the right thing to do.
BLITZER: Is that acceptable to you?
PONNURU: As I said, December 8th will be the decision.
BLITZER: You think that quickly, December 8th.
PONNURU: You want my theory.
BLITZER: Hold that theory for one second, because I want Ramesh to respond to Herschel in Jonesboro, Arkansas, who writes, "The only thing that the passage of the U.N. resolution means is that the U.S. will shares the spoils of Iraq with the Security Council members. The intentions of the U.S. is to go to war, not to conduct inspections."
PONNURU: I think it is clear that the administration does believe that regime change is necessary in Iraq, but a disarmed Iraq is in many ways a very different sort of regime.
BLITZER: If they do disarm, it's not the same regime.
PONNURU: Yes, if they did disarm, it would have to be a different kind of regime, sort of six of one and half a dozen of the other.
BLITZER: Victoria, what's your theory.
JONES: I won't say I think that was crazy, but my theory is...
JONES: I think it's crazy because regime change, it's a regime change, just because the disarm, if they did disarms, it's the same regime in power. They can still get more weapons.
BLITZER: So what you're saying, Saddam Hussein can save his regime by complying with the U.N. Security Council. PONNURU: What I mean is I do not believe that the regime as currently constituted is capable of disarmament and -- which is to say that the only way to get disarmament it is to have regime change.
JONES: That makes sense.
BLITZER: Go ahead and tell us your theory.
JONES: My theory is that the Iraqi parliament said no, because they know that they have until December 8th to play around with us.
BLITZER: They have till Friday to say yes.
JONES: But they can sort of say yes on Friday, then I think the way Saddam Hussein thinks, he probably thinks he has a little bit more time. He may not have more time, but I think he is trying to drag it out. So I don't think there was anything to be lost and much to be gained at home by them saying no, we don't want them coming in.
BLITZER: What is this whole charade about the Iraqi parliament unanimously votes that they're not going to accept it, they recommend to Saddam Hussein don't accept it, but everyone expects, our Jane Arraf reporting from Baghdad, that by Friday, he will accept it. So what are the Iraqis trying to do here?
PONNURU: I guess they're just trying to create the impression that he is more moderate than himself or something.
JONES: Which is not hard.
I don't know what he wins by having this parliamentary vote, other than I guess I assumes he will look like a reasonable guy.
BLITZER: It makes him look like a reasonable guy. His son Ude (ph) has already said, well, he thinks they should go ahead and accept it. That foreshadows what's going to happen. We have another e-mail, Victoria, from Joy in Toledo, who writes this, "The president has done all he can diplomatically to save the United States from war with Iraq. The U.N. resolution is quite specific and should be adhered to by Iraq. If that fails, there is only one option, the U.S. has: to go to war."
JONES: The U.S. and the U.N. coalition has to go to war, that's the key here, not just the U.S. going to war. If the U.N. resolution is not adhered to, then we go back to the U.N., and then we all go in. That's the way that this is going to work. We don't just go back to the U.N. for five minutes and say we're going in.
BLITZER: You got the last word.
PONNURU: I don't think the U.S. has committed itself to that, and I don't think the U.S. should commit itself to that.
BLITZER: Because the U.S. is leaving all its options open, including going in with Britain and Romania if necessary.
Ramesh, Victoria, thanks for joining us.
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