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Katrina Vanden Heuvel, Cliff May on Iraqi Acceptance of U.N. Resolutions

Aired November 13, 2002 - 12:45   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The majority of Americans still favor the use of military force to remove the Iraqi president from power, even if that means using ground troops.
In the latest CNN/USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, 59 percent of those questioned favor a U.S. invasion. That's similar to the number that's been in recent months: 54 percent in October, 57 percent in September, 53 percent in August, 61 percent in June. But the figure is much lower than the number -- than the number was in November 2001, when nearly 74 percent of those polled said, they'd favor the use of military force against Iraq. The polls margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.

If nothing else, Iraq's acceptance of the U.N.'s conditions means there probably won't be a war at least over the next few days or weeks. At some point though, there's sure to be a flash point and then what?

Joining me here in Washington is Cliff May, president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. From New York, we're joined by Katrina vanden Heuvel, she is the editor of the weekly magazine "The Nation".

Thanks, to both of you for join us.

Katrina, does this mean the Iraqi acceptance of the U.N. Security Council resolution, does it mean that all of us can stand on and relax a little bit?

KATRINA VANDEN HEUVEL, EDITOR, "THE NATION": Well, I think it's half a victory that this process is now at the United Nations, and a testament to the growing ambivalence, and opposition internationally and in the United States, to a go-it-alone, unilateral U.S. war approach. The question now, there many -- there are crisis and flash points ahead because of diverging interpretations and agendas. The most serious one is will the United Nations, be used as to prevent war or is the smoke screen in violation of the U.N. Charter to go to war? Does this administration, the Bush administration still commit to regime change, or are we looking at disarmament, and finding the divergent interpretation of the resolution. The majority of the council believes that the United States must come back to the security council if they are to declare a material breach, but the United States, particularly emboldened by the Republican victory -- last week believes it won't be, it shouldn't be handcuffed.

BLITZER: All right, Cliff, Katrina said a mouthful over there. Go ahead and respond.

CLIFF MAY, PRESIDENT, THE FOUNDATION FOR THE DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: OK, What's happened today, in terms that Saddam Hussein accepting the resolution, that's no surprise, we all know he would do it. Now it what happens is a high stake poker Game. Which Saddam Hussein believes he can win, because for 11 years he has managed to play successfully, hide and seek with the weapon inspectors, he thinks he can do it again.

How does he lose this? Well, one possibility is that the United States through its intelligence capabilities knows where a lot of the weapons of mass destruction and capabilities are being hidden, and when he doesn't turn those over, that will be a trigger. Don't forget one of the things he will probably do is turn over a huge document dump to the inspectors, then he will give up some things he thinks we know about or can give up anyhow.

But his plan is to continue to build weapons of mass destruction. The other possibility is what you and General Clark talked about, that he will continue has been, to shoot at planes and will use that as a trigger. To address what Katrina said, about the Security Council, what we agreed to in this resolution, was to go back to the Security Council to let them assess and deliberate but not to let them decide. This needs to be our decision if and when we decide to secure regime change. In order to disarm Saddam Hussein we will do so with our allies, the British, the Israelis, the Turks, the Australians, the French, etcetera.

HEUVEL: But Wolf, might I point out today there is news of a tape, this Bin Laden tape. We don't know if it's genuine. But I -- you know, it goes back to the unfinished business this country has in the fight against terrorism. Invasion of Iraq, there is no evidence of link between Iraq and al Qaeda. Is a distraction from the on going unfinished fight against al Qaeda. This war, if there is a war in Iraq will destabilize the region, and will cause the United States, because of the backlash and the anti-Americanism in that region, make it much harder to work with Islamic countries in the enforcement, intelligence and other fight and other methods needed to fight Al- Qaeda.

MAY: All right.


BLITZER: Hold on one second in that clip. That's a fair point that Katrina makes. And it echoes what we just got an e-mail from Steve in Pennsylvania, who wants to ask you this, isn't Al-Qaeda a far more significant threat to America than Saddam Hussein's regime? The new tapes prove Bin Laden is still alive, and that his network is ready to strike.

MAY: It's a little like asking a question on War World Two, which is it important that we fight Japan or that we fight Germany. They are both important and they part of the jihad-ish network, the terrorist network. Whether or not they working hand and glove, the possibility that Saddam Hussein, would give weapons of mass destruction to Al-Qaeda or other terrorist groups to use against us has to be taken very seriously. al Qaeda, Saddam Hussein, they have a common enemy in the United States. Most slims are not terrorists, we know that, but under the umbrella of jihadism, we have Bin Laden-ism, we have the bath-ism of Saddam Hussein and we have also I would say wahab-ism, and we have (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BLITZER: Katrina, that sort of echoes this e-mail we just got from Scott in Missouri. Let me read it to you and get your response.

If the U.S., and the U.N., do not act now against Iraq, it could come back to haunt us later. Given the fact that Osama Bin Laden might still be around, we should do everything we can to prevent Saddam Hussein, Bin Laden alliance.

What do you say to Scott?

HEUVEL: I say that, there is no evidence of any links between Hussein, a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) authoritarian secular regime in al Qaeda. That the consequences of war in terms of destabilizing the region, reviving Bin Laden's political project, let us not forget, it was U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia that in many ways made Bin Laden the force he is today. And that the consequences, and don't speak for myself or the nation, but let us listen to CIA Director Tenet, the danger of unleashing whatever weapons of mass destruction Saddam has are far greater if there is an U.S. invasion. And the occupation of a country not only costing $100 or 200 billion, may well lead these element if they are in that country into rogue hands.


MAY: One, we cannot let Saddam Hussein, I hope you'll agree, develop weapons of mass destruction to use against us. Every day we don't disarm him, he becomes more powerful. Secondly, whether he is intimately linked or only a little linked with al Qaeda, he is a terrorist leader, one of the leading terrorists in the world. You have to agree with that. Abu Nadal just died in Baghdad the other day and linked with terrorists for years. And lastly as somebody of the left, I don't understand how you in any way can defend the oppression of the Iraqi people represented by Saddam Hussein, who is essentially a Nazi, that's what his ideology is based on.


HEUVEL: Mr. May, I am not defending an authoritarian oppressive regime, but you do not bring human rights to a country on the tip of a bayonet. And if you want to help encourage people, you tell Mr. Wolfowitz -- you tell Mr. Wolfowitz, to stop -- the Turks, our allies from oppressing their Kurdish people. And you help the U.N. Security council with their with their protectorate of the Kurds. This is not a war about human rights.


MAY: You're comparing the Turks to Saddam Hussein.

HEUVEL: Don't say this is a war about human rights because it is not that. If it is anything, it is perhaps a war about empire or oil.

MAY: Primarily, this should be a war of self-defense. Secondary we should liberate the Iraqi people from this oppressive regime. By the way, the Kurds in northern Iraq, now have freedom and prosperity than they've ever had, thanks to American and British war planes. I hope you don't think we should abandon those people again.


HEUVEL: The U.N. Security Council, the U.N. and its role must be highlighted in the very perilous time. If we don't use the United Nations and go to war unilaterally for regime change...


MAY: "Unilateral" should be out of your vocabulary at this point. Resolution 1441 was signed by all 15. It was unanimous. What's more, at any point that we go in, we will have allies, it will not be unilateral.


BLITZER: Katrina, go ahead your the last word.


HEUVEL: I would just like to say there was a double containment process at work in that U.N. Security resolution. Most of the security council members are worried about the U.S. ambitions in this region, and that resolution is as much about containing a despicable regime in Iraq as it was about containing U.S. ambitions in the region.


MAY: Pertaining to the Iraqis is something different. You should be able to understand the difference.


BLITZER: All right, we going leave it unfortunately right there. Cliff May and Katrina vanden Heuvel, thanks to both of you. We're going to have you both back because you both make powerful arguments.


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