CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Special Edition Live From Persian Gulf -- Showdown: Iraq
Aired December 15, 2002 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington; 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles; 8:00 p.m. here in Doha, Qatar; and 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad as well. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for our special LATE EDITION, live from the Persian Gulf, Showdown: Iraq.
We'll get to all the latest developments, including interviews with two key United States senators, not only on what's happening in Iraq, but what's happening in Washington as well, in the United States, as far as the future of the Senate Republican leader, Trent Lott.
First, our CNN news alert.
BLITZER: Joining us now, two key United States senators to discuss not only what's happening in Iraq, but also what's happening as far as Senator Lott is concerned. In Washington, Senator John Warner. He's a Republican from Virginia. He's the incoming chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. And in his home state of Connecticut is Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd. He serves on the Foreign Relations Committee.
Senators, thanks very much for joining us.
We'll have plenty of time to talk about Iraq in just a few moments, but, Senator Warner, the bombshell from your friend and colleague, your Republican colleague, Senator Nickles, today, what's your reaction?
SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: Wolf, I have participated in the deliberations thus far on this issue. I'll not comment specifically about what Senator Nickles has done, but I will share with you fully what I have done.
I spoke with my colleagues in that conference call on Friday. It was a very good and, I think, constructive exchange of views. And I said to them at that time, "Colleagues, as Harry Truman said, the buck stops here."
WARNER: Only these 51 proud Republican senators can make the decision as to who should be our leader. I feel we should come together as a group and make that decision and put to rest, once and for all, this controversy. We're all saddened by it. The party's been hurt by it. I fully subscribe to the very, I think, well-stated case by our distinguished president. And now it is our responsibility, not the president's, not the people across this country. Fifty-one senators must step up and make that decision.
In fairness to Senator Lott, he has made a series of apologies. He's doing his best. And should we leave him dangling out there for another two weeks or so before we come back on the 7th? I say no. I don't think it's fair to the party.
We're going to be judged, we're going to be judged...
BLITZER: So, Senator Warner, let me interrupt.
WARNER: We're going to be judged by how we handle this.
BLITZER: I was going to say, Senator, if you mean you want to have a new decision, does that mean you want to have a new vote, a new vote for a Senate Republican leader, a majority leader?
WARNER: I think the important thing is that we come together, have the interaction and exchange of our views face to face. Hopefully all of us can join. I know it's inconvenient.
But we're going to be judged as to how we handle this situation. And to leave this very fine leader -- and he's been a good leader through the years; I've worked with him carefully -- just out there by himself and leaving it to the journalists and the people to all pick us off individually and singularly, I think, is not in the interest of the nation.
Wolf, let's make it clear. This nation is at war. We're approaching very serious decisions with regard to the future actions we may take. We've got a distinguished and wonderful president who's making decisions nationally and internationally of enormous consequence. And we have the integrity of the institution which we love and serve, the United States Senate.
And it seems to me those three things require us to come together and exercise -- which is our responsibility, the buck stops with us -- as to how we wish to handle this situation and not leave it dragging on to individual comments, selectively people coming on, giving their views. Let's meet and speak to the nation as a group, this is what we wish to do.
BLITZER: All right. Senator Warner, I'm going to come right back to you, but I want to bring in Senator Dodd.
You've been watching. You've been, of course, like all Democrats in the Senate, wondering what's going to happen to Senator Lott. What do you think Senator Lott should do right now?
SEN. CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, first of all, this is a -- on a personal level, I know Trent Lott, served with him now for more than 20 years, and I feel for him on a personal level. But this issue transcends personalities.
Let me put it to you this way, in responding to what my friend and colleague from Virginia just said. If Tom Daschle or another Democratic leader were to have made similar statements, the reaction would have been very swift. I don't think several hours would have gone by without there being an almost unanimous call for the leader to step aside.
It's a painful thing to do, but this issue of race is still one that's unhealed in our country, and it needs to be addressed. This was not an aberrational statement. There's a pattern here over the years.
I think what John Warner has suggested, I hope his Republican colleagues are listening. This is not a Democratic choice. I'm going to vote for Tom Daschle for leader. I don't get a chance to vote on the Republican leadership, that's their decision to make. But I would strongly recommend they listen to John Warner and they listen to Don Nickles, because this is choosing the majority leader of the United States Senate, not just the leader of the Republican Party.
And to leave this issue out there, to leave someone in a position of power who's embraced this view, over the years has taken strong views on matters of race, going back to his first days in Congress, up to most recent decisions, in fact the only senator to vote against John Warner and George Allen's black candidate to be on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, is an indication of the differences here that need to be addressed.
BLITZER: Well, let me ask -- Senator Dodd, let me interrupt you and ask you a blunt question. In your opinion, is Senator Lott a racist?
DODD: No, I won't go that far at all here. That's not appropriate.
But there is a difference here. It isn't just one person either. I mean, I -- you know, this has been a pattern going back for 40 years now. And I -- we're focusing on Trent Lott, but there are views here, there are differences in our parties.
Lyndon Johnson had it right 40 years ago when the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act were passed: The Democrats were probably going to lose a good part of the South.
You've had sort of a good-cop-bad-cop strategy here. You have moderate Republicans who have embraced civil rights legislation, but mainstream Republican thinking over the last 40 years has been opposed to an awful lot of the civil rights legislation.
Now, that's an unfortunate comment to make, but I believe it to be true.
So this isn't just about Trent Lott. It's about a party that needs to come to terms with this view here that you go to the South, you say one thing to one group of people, another thing nationally. You can't go to Philadelphia, Mississippi, and talk about states' rights. You can't go to Bob Jones University and talk about their right to have a tax-exempt status, hear that some racial discrimination is good public policy -- and I'm quoting Trent Lott in that case.
That's the Republican Party leadership here. They need to come to terms with this quickly, because if not, they're going to pay an awful price politically, and it hurts the country terribly, in my view. BLITZER: Senator Warner, I want you to respond to Senator Dodd, but I also want you to listen to what -- the precise words in the statement that your friend, Don Nickles, the Republican senator from Oklahoma, issued earlier today.
"I am concerned that Senator Lott has been weakened to the point that may jeopardize his ability to enact our agenda and speak to all Americans."
Powerful words from Senator Nickles, and you just heard some powerful words from Senator Dodd. Go ahead, Senator Warner.
WARNER: Well, that statement is obvious to all of us. And indeed, Friday afternoon, when some 25 or 30, however many it was, got together on the phone, it was not a Lott-bashing session, it was rather a very respectful and personal assessment of how we view this thing and what our constituents are saying to us, much the same.
But I simply say, it is our responsibility as a group to come together, make a decision and then go forward, not to let this thing be dangling out there day after day. And your responsibility as a journalist is to constantly question.
I joined you this morning to talk about Iraq. I'm deeply concerned about the future of that situation, but I'm happy to answer this question, as I have done.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to talk about Iraq. We're going to talk about Iraq in just a moment.
I want to take a quick break, but before I do, Senator Dodd, if the Republicans decide that Senator Lott should remain their leader in the United States Senate, would a censure resolution be appropriate at this point?
DODD: Well, I think first things first. Again, I'll suggest that the Republican Party in the Senate ought to listen to what John Warner has said here, because they have to come to terms with this.
If, for whatever reason, that were to fail, then a censure resolution might be appropriate, but it ought not to be a censure resolution just offered by Democrats. If it's going to be an effective message, then it has to be a bipartisan resolution on censure. And we ought not to get to that point until there's been a decision.
There's got to be an answer now. Don Nickles has raised the bar here. He's brought out -- and John Warner has, to some extent here, and said we all ought to get together quickly and resolve this issue among themselves. They've got to do that.
As I said earlier, if a Democratic leader had made these statements, we would have to call for his stepping aside, without any question whatsoever. And the Republican Party in the Senate needs to make that decision.
And then if they do make the decision he stay, then I think a censure resolution takes on a more of a reality, but it ought to be bipartisan, it ought not to be Democrats versus Republicans.
WARNER: Wolf, let me answer that...
BLITZER: All right.
WARNER: Again, my step is just to try to be fair to Senator Lott. He has apologized. Should he or should he not be given a chance to prove that he wants to be a leader on helping to remove the insidious problems of the past? I think he should be given that opportunity.
But on this resolution, I am strongly against the United States Senate taking the time to engage itself in that type of discussion at this point. When we're at war, when we desperately need to get on with an economic agenda, whether it's a quick start in our economy, whether it's prescription drugs, we should not as a body have to deal with that issue right now.
It is the responsibility of our Republican caucus, and I'm confident we're going to step up and accept that responsibility.
BLITZER: All right. Senators, stand by. We have to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about. Stand by.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: States like these and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world. By seeking weapons of mass destruction, these regimes pose a grave and growing danger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush speaking last January in a State of the Union address about the dangers from Iraq, Iran and North Korea, three countries he calls the "axis of evil."
Welcome back to our special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, live from the Persian Gulf. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Doha, Qatar.
We're continuing our conversation now with two important United States senators, Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia, Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut.
Senator Warner, I'll begin right with you and get to the issue that the New York Times raised today about these assassinations, if you want to call them that, targeted killings. The New York Times saying there is a list, approved list of al Qaeda terrorists out there that the CIA could go ahead and kill if -- if -- there's no other way to capture them and if there's imminent danger to civilians.
Is this a good idea?
WARNER: There's no such thing as a good and a bad idea. It becomes a necessity of these incredible times in which we live that a single individual, as opposed to state-sponsored aggression, a single individual or a small number can inflict frightful damage to this nation.
We've had a policy, it's been a presidential-type of policy through the years, which Congress basically has followed, that our nation should not be put in the category of those countries that go out and order the killing of leaders of other nations.
But with regard to terrorists, I certainly support the president in clarifying and, if needed, broadening that prohibition against killing people to allow the absolute strictest and swiftest reprisal against terrorists and, indeed, to take them out before they have a chance to hit us.
So I've examined that policy, and I'm going to be supportive of our president.
BLITZER: The president, Senator Dodd, calls these terrorists "enemy combatants," and as a result, he's authorized these kinds of killings. What do you say about that?
DODD: Well, I think what John Warner said is important.
My concern here is that we get on a slippery slope here, where all of a sudden we're dealing with -- if you're talking about terrorists here, and we all nod our heads across the country collectively and positively, this is something we ought to be doing.
But you've got to have strong controls on this. If it gets out of control you could fall into the situation that Senator Warner just described, where all of a sudden you move away from the clear case of those who are terrorists and, all of a sudden, to those who support them or governments that may support them in some way. And all of a sudden you may find yourself where, all of a sudden, our leaders become the subject of assassinations, as well.
So you've got to be careful about it. Obviously, we need a lot of watching here how this works.
But on the fundamental point of whether or not you ought to have an executive order that would allow, under the last resort, to take out these terrorists, I don't disagree with that. But it ought to be monitored carefully. What we also need to have here, and since we're talking about this, is we've had this Homeland Security Bill now and we've left out the FBI and CIA for some major reorganizational efforts. Now, the independent Intelligence Committee made some recommendations, but we need to get our hands around these two intelligence-gathering agencies, the FBI and CIA.
There were some real shortcomings, as the Intelligence Committee has pointed out, in information they blew when it came to 9/11. We need to be focused on that more deliberately than we have been, in my view.
BLITZER: And, Senators, we're looking at these live pictures of President Bush and the first lady. They just returned from Camp David to the South Lawn of the White House aboard Marine One. The president stopping by to shake some hands of some tourists who've gathered on the South Lawn of the White House.
We'll continue to watch the president. If he stops by our microphones and decides to answer some questions from reporters, we'll, of course, bring you his comments live.
But as we watch the president, Senator Warner, when the defense secretary, Don Rumsfeld, was here in Qatar this past week to observe these exercises, these war games that have been going on, I interviewed him, and he said there's no doubt the Iraqis do indeed have weapons of mass destruction, despite their denial in that 12,000- page document.
If there's no doubt -- and I assume you have no doubt, you agree with the defense secretary -- what should the United States do next?
WARNER: First, directly to answer your question, as late as yesterday, I worked with the Department of Defense, as I did four times this week. I agree with secretary of defense. He is absolutely correct. Our president has said that. Saddam Hussein has them, and it's the obligation, not just of the United States, but the world, to rid themselves of those weapons.
We've gone about it -- our president, I think in a very distinguished way and proper way, has gone to the United Nations. He is working with the community of nations to eliminate these weapons. And presently, and for the foreseeable future, I think our president and other world leaders, Great Britain principally, are moving in the correct direction.
We are going to have let these inspections play out. So far they have not yielded much. A lot of controversy about what has and what hasn't been done.
But two points: Eventually, our administration -- our president has got to make the decision to share with the world such information that we have that confirms that these weapons of mass destruction have been under manufacture, are being manufactured. And unless we step up and eliminate them, the whole world, not just the United States, stands at the peril of this one despotic leader, Saddam Hussein. Now, I'm confident that that will be done.
BLITZER: All right.
Senator Dodd, as you know, even as we speak right now, there is a group of Iraqi opposition leaders meeting in London -- Kurds, Sunnis, Shi'ites. They are trying to get their act together. Do you believe they represent the future of Iraq?
DODD: Well, you know, first, let me just, in response to your last question, I supported President Bush's resolution before the United States Senate. And I agree with John Warner, they're proceeding the right way with the Security Council of the United Nations.
But one problem I have here with all of this, when the president of the United States says that Iraq has these weapons of mass destruction -- and I have no reason to doubt him on that -- we've got an obligation right away now to make that information to the public.
Those of us who are old enough recall the film footage of Adlai Stevenson, then the ambassador of the United Nations, holding up the aerial photographs of the installation of Soviet missions in Cuba. We made the case at the United Nations that there was a real threat.
We need to do something like that here. We just can't rhetorically be talking this way and then keep the information to ourselves. So if the president is going to make these statements and have them endorsed by key members of Congress, we need to make that information available to our allies if we're going to continue to have that multinational support to deal with Iraq that I think is critical.
Now, whether or not these factional groups -- remember, Iraq was created after World War I by colonial European powers. It's a highly fractured country. I have no doubt that we could win the war militarily against Iraq and do so rather quickly. The issue for many of us is going to be whether or not we can win the peace, and that is, keep this country together without having factional, tribal conflicts.
So we've got to be careful as we pick sides here to understand that we could be endorsing a civil conflict with the departure of Saddam Hussein that could be almost as bad, if not as bad, as the present leadership.
BLITZER: All right.
WARNER: Could I reply to my good friend?
BLITZER: Senator Dodd and Senator Warner -- I wish you could, Senator Warner. Unfortunately we are up against the clock. We are all out of time for this segment. We'll have you back. We'll continue this discussion on Iraq on several future occasions.
Always good to have Senator John Warner, Senator Chris Dodd on LATE EDITION.
WARNER: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thanks so much to both of you.
DODD: Thank you.
BLITZER: Up next, we'll take a look at a new and critical relationship that has been forged in this part of the world, the relationship between the United States and the small state of Qatar. When we come back, we'll hear from the foreign minister of Qatar, Sheik Hamad Bin Jassim. An exclusive interview coming up with this foreign minister. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to this special edition of LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, live from the Persian Gulf. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Doha, Qatar.
Earlier this week, the United States and Qatar signed an important military pact giving the United States expanded use of the huge Al Udeid Air Base here. I spoke earlier with Qatar's foreign minister about that and much more.
BLITZER: Your Excellency, thank you very much for joining us on our program, LATE EDITION. It's good to be here in Doha. We've enjoyed your hospitality.
It looks like region potentially right now is on the verge of yet another war. Will your country, Qatar, be part of a U.S.-led coalition if -- if the Iraqis don't comply with the United Nations Security Council resolution?
SHEIKH HAMAD BIN JASSIM, QATARI FOREIGN MINISTER: First of all, I would like and I hope actually to see no war or military action in our area and would like that -- this problem between the Security Council and Iraq solved peacefully and according to the United Nations resolution and Security Council resolution.
At the moment we are, as you know, I said this and this is the position of my country, that Qatar is again a standing military action. And we push both sides or everybody in our little capacity to try to find a peaceful solution and to try to let the Iraqi government accept, you know, the resolution and try to comply with it.
BLITZER: But you know, excuse me...
BIN JASSIM: If there is -- if there is a war -- this is your question actually -- if there is a war, still we did not make our mind because your country doesn't make your mind. Mr. Rumsfeld was here day before yesterday, and he said still we don't make any decision about war.
So for us, we -- this is our wish, and our intention is to help our friend, the Americans, to try to stand by near them, but also to help our brothers in Iraq by not do any military action. And this need everybody to work closely and sincerely to find a peaceful solution.
BLITZER: Do you know Saddam Hussein? You've lived in this part of the world obviously your whole life. You know this leader of Iraq. Is he capable of coming completely clean and cooperating completely with the United Nations resolutions?
BIN JASSIM: Well, I know -- I met Saddam Hussein personally a few times, not a lot. And I met him last two month or three month ago to push him for -- to accept the inspectors to be in Baghdad. And I have a good conversation with him, which I felt from it that he is willing sincerely to comply with United Nations resolution. And he would like to end this peacefully, and he assured me that he have nothing from the weapon which the inspectors or United States looking for it.
BLITZER: Do you believe him?
BIN JASSIM: I'm not an expert. I don't know Saddam very well, but I feel that he know now, at least President Saddam know now that he cannot hide anything. And he know that there is consequences which could be bad for his country and for his brotherly neighbors.
So I wish and I hope that he's sincere in what he said, and I hope that they don't have any weapon which give worry for the international arena.
BLITZER: So you want the process to continue. But do you believe that he does have weapons of mass destruction?
When I interviewed yesterday, here in Doha, the defense secretary of the United States, Donald Rumsfeld, he says there's no doubt that they still have -- the Iraqis, have weapons of mass destruction, despite their denials.
BIN JASSIM: Well, I don't have the same capability of United States to know if he's right or not. You have a lot of capability to know if he have some weapons or not. But for me, I believe the guy which I sit with him, and he said that he doesn't have any weapon.
BLITZER: When you saw him in Baghdad, did you get the impression that he is fully aware of the consequences if he doesn't cooperate?
BIN JASSIM: I think he know it now, yes.
BLITZER: What did he say to you?
BIN JASSIM: Well, he say he know that this military campaign is serious, and he will do his best to try to cope with United Nation and with Security Council resolution, and he would like not to have war for his people and his country, but if he's pushed for it, he will have to face it.
BLITZER: So you...
BIN JASSIM: That's exactly the world which he sees (ph).
BLITZER: And so you left Baghdad encouraged -- you encouraged him to accept weapons inspectors in Iraq. But when you left, you got the impression that he was willing to be cooperative?
BIN JASSIM: Yes, that's my -- and what happened now with the inspectors in Baghdad, it shows that they are willing sincerely to solve this peacefully.
BLITZER: When you look at the overall situation right now, how tense is it in this part of the world? Because as you well know, you just met with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, the Bush administration does not trust Saddam Hussein.
BIN JASSIM: Well, yes, they have their experience with them, and we have our experience with Saddam. But we cannot live with our, you know, past. We have to find a way to live together.
For us as a principle in Qatar, we are not looking for, you know, to change the regime in any countries because we are small countries. And we would like this to -- if there is any change, to happen through the people, peacefully, through the Iraqi people, not through any power from outside. That's principle.
BLITZER: So you don't support regime change from the outside?
BIN JASSIM: No, no, we don't support that, because that, if it is not according to the international law and not according to the people of Iraq or any other people in any other countries, I think it will be a dangerous method to be taken for the future wars (ph). And we are a small country, we don't support this.
BLITZER: Do you believe there is any connection between Iraq, the regime of Saddam Hussein, and al Qaeda?
BIN JASSIM: I am not expert in these things, and that's sincerely. But I cannot see the link between the Iraqi and al Qaeda. I know the mentality of El Ba'ath regime is different than al Qaeda.
BLITZER: Because one is secular and one is very fundamentalist Islam.
BIN JASSIM: Exactly, exactly. This is as a principle. And for that, I cannot see how they will meet.
BLITZER: So you're skeptical of that connection between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
BIN JASSIM: Yes, exactly.
BLITZER: Your country has been in the forefront of cooperating with the United States, not only politically, but militarily. You received the secretary of defense openly this week. You signed a new military agreement with the United States expanding access to the Al Udeid Air Base.
How concerned are you that there could be anti-American retaliation against Qatar?
BIN JASSIM: I will tell you one thing, his highness, the emir, have a policy not to hide anything from his people. And the strength of his highness and the government is from the Qatari people. The Qatari people now, they know exactly our relationship with the United States.
The first agreement, the military agreement which we signed with the United States in the '90s has been passed through the Maglis Asura (ph) and it's been passed through all the tribes, everybody in Qatar. I mean, the Qataris know exactly why we are doing this.
BLITZER: The assembly, the parliament.
BIN JASSIM: Yes, and they are supporting this. That's a very important strength, for there is no anti-American against their stay here. But I cannot say all the Qataris, of all the people in Qatar supporting United States.
But I can assure you, and this is not for publicity, that the Qataris, most of them, they support United States as a friend in Qatar. We don't support United States -- we, as a government -- in their position in the peace process. We think they should do more.
BLITZER: In the Israeli-Palestinian...
BIN JASSIM: In the Israeli and Palestinian issue, yes. We think that United States should do more. And we are talking with them as a friend and as a close friend to try to let them activate their role and they try to pressure the Israelis to accept what's been agreed before and to proceed in the peace process. That's one thing.
The Qataris may be -- they are all the people in this area maybe they are not knowing what you are doing in Afghanistan in term of aid now, in terms of helping the people, in term of the infrastructure. And they saw your plane when it hit Afghanistan and killed the people.
BLITZER: But at the same time...
BIN JASSIM: And I think this is a weakness in how you should show the people that what you are doing after that.
So for us, your stay here is welcomed. And we will not welcome it if our people doesn't want it. That's a very important subject.
BLITZER: We have to take a quick break. More of my exclusive interview with the foreign minister of Qatar right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to this special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, live from the Persian Gulf.
We return now to my exclusive interview with the foreign minister of Qatar.
BLITZER: Qatar has been a very progressive country, relatively speaking, throughout the entire Arab world, as a country that works together with the United States, but also is trying to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. You have a relationship of sorts, obviously with the Palestinians, but also with the Israelis.
BIN JASSIM: Yes, we have relation with both, and we are trying to encourage both of them. And we are doing a few things to try to let the understanding more, according to our capacity.
And we think that, if we want to live peace in this area, we have to talk with the Israelis and with everybody. And I think, if we have any discussion about the peace process, we have to sit on a table and talk with everybody, with the Israeli and with the Arab nations, and try to find a solution, and try also to let the Israeli understand the Arabs is ready for full cooperation, for normal relation, but we have to sort the problem between the Palestinian and the Israelis.
BLITZER: What should the Israelis do in the face of the suicide bombers that come into the supermarkets or the restaurants, the malls? How should they deal with that kind of terrorism?
BIN JASSIM: Let me tell you one thing. This suicide bombing, it was not there almost before. And I remember late Rabin, when he was in power, and he was trying to achieve a peace process, to proceed more in the peace process with the Palestinian and with the others. There was three, four suicide bombings to stop him from doing this, but he did not stop.
I think this is part of the frustration, part of the killing from the Israeli side, part of the settlement which it happens the areas which they settle in, the Israelis, part of the Israeli, you know, mood that they would like to negotiate the '67 border, they would like to negotiate everything, they would like to negotiate Oslo, Madrid. And in the end, after more than 12 years from talking about peace, there is no peace actually, the Israelis trying to bargain in the peace.
I think we will cut the suicide bombing if we give the rights which we promise all the international arena, on top of them, United States, to give the right to the Palestinian. Then we can push the Palestinian and the people there to tell them, "Look, there is no reason now to continue this."
No, I am against the suicide bombing by any way, but there is people that say, but we are weak, we only have the suicide bombing, which we can't help (ph). The Israeli, they have tanks, they have planes, they have a lot of things to hurt our people. We cannot face them face by face, because we are a weak military.
BLITZER: How concerned are you -- if you are concerned, I assume you are -- that, because of your progressive policies, your support, your cooperation with the United States, your country, your people could become the target of al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations?
BIN JASSIM: This is possible. This is possible, but there is a very important issue. As I -- when I mentioned the Qatari people, we have the support of our people. And when we have our support of the people, then I think things could be easiest.
Things could happen, here or anywhere else, but we believe in what we are doing, and we didn't do it under table.
This signature, the day before yesterday, we supposed to sign it in a closed office and finish. His Highness decided, no, I need my people, everybody to know about it, I will not do anything with the United States under table. Because we know from history, this revenge, when you do things under tables, people could take it and speculate about it and what is going on, and they did this, and they did that. But now the people know what we sign and what we are talking about with the United States and why we are doing it.
We are not doing it against Iraq or anybody else, but we feel, as a small country, as a wealthy country, that we need to have a cooperational relation with a superpower like United States. We have same, an excellent relation, for example, with France, and we have a relation also with U.K. and with other countries.
But this is, we think, we need this. The Americans, they need something from us and we need something from them.
BLITZER: When I went to the As Sayliyah base this week, it's a very impressive facility, the U.S. Central Command has established temporary headquarters there during these exercises that are going on right now.
Obviously, you're cooperating with the United States, not only as a favor to the U.S., because you believe it's also in your country's best interest. You live in a dangerous neighborhood, you'd like to have some protection, if necessary, from the United States. Is that a fair assessment?
BIN JASSIM: Yes, that's one of the things. And the other things, you know, most of the country in the region they have their relation with the United States. And most of them they say it's something different from than what they sign or talk with your official. And I think this is very dangerous for the future.
And I'm saying a very important sentence here, that if we are telling our people we are against this and we are against United States and we hate them and we do this and we build this hate and wall between our people and United States, despite if we agree or we don't agree with you on some issues, but in the end, they saw the plane flying from our ground, they saw the troops going from our grounds, they saw that we are supporting militarily, financially supporting the United States, what are our people will think about us?
They will think that we are a big liar. And also United States people and your government's people, they will think that this people, they don't have confidence in their people and themself. So for us, we cannot do this in Qatar.
BLITZER: And you're moving toward democracy, obviously, very impressively compared to the rest of the Arab world. The secretary of the state, Colin Powell, this week had an important speech in which he urged the Arab world to reach out for Democratic values, Democratic traditions.
Until that happens the Arab world will not achieve what the emir really believes should be achieved elsewhere.
BIN JASSIM: Well, you know, we make a declaration, we support what Mr. Powell says. Yesterday we make our declaration after his speech, which I'm encouraged with this speech. And I think, yes, we need a democracy. We need the people to be more involved in their affairs in this countries. And we are in Qatar here, His Highness decide this line since he take the power in this country in '95.
And we are continuing this, as you know, you can see any newspapers in the market here with no objection. All the TVs here, you are free to go anywhere else. Nobody is guiding you where to go, where not to go in Qatar. And also we did the municipal election, and we did our constitution, and now we are going for an election for the parliament.
BLITZER: Your Excellency, you've been very generous in your time and your hospitality. Thank you so much for joining us.
BIN JASSIM: Thank you very much, sir. Thank you.
BLITZER: And the new al Qaeda threat, how real is it? How real is the threat? How worried should you be?
Much more of our coverage, our special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, live from the Persian Gulf, the next hour is coming up.
BLITZER: We'll get to our interview with three experts on intelligence in just a moment, but first let's check the latest headlines in this CNN News alert.
BLITZER: We have a lot to discuss. We have three special guests coming up right now. Joining us from Washington, the outgoing vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama. Also the former United States counterterrorism ambassador, Paul Bremer. He's now the chairman and CEO of the Marsh Crisis Consulting Group. And the former CIA officer, Robert Baer, he's the author of the book, "See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism."
Gentlemen, thanks for joining us. Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're going to get to all of this information on the war against Iraq, the war -- potential war against Iraq, the war against terrorism in just a moment, but Senator Shelby, I have to ask you, first of all, to react to what your colleague, Senator Don Nickles, said this morning, that it's time for a new elections among the Republican members of the U.S. Senate in order to consider whether Senator Trent Lott should remain your leader.
What is your reaction?
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R), ALABAMA: Well, my basic reaction is this. Senator Lott has apologized four times, and I think he's very contrite on what he said. He's very sincere. He's made a mistake, a big one.
He is still our leader. I have a lot of confidence in him as the leader and as a senator. And I think we should not lynch him, we should give him an opportunity.
And I don't know what will happen. I don't know if Senator Nickles will pursue what he's saying now, but I have confidence in Senator Lott, and I believe right now that Lott would have the confidence of the caucus.
BLITZER: And what do you say about what Senator John Warner said on this program earlier, namely that it's time for those 51 Republican senators in the next Senate to get together and have another meeting and work this out amongst themselves?
SHELBY: Well, I think we will do that. We have to do this. And I believe it's a Republican Caucus thing. I think Senator Lott has got a lot to prove. He's going to to have to show a lot in the future, not just say he's sorry, but work for an America that we all would support, that we all believe in.
BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and talk about what I invited all of you to talk about, namely the war on terrorism, a potential U.S.-led war against Iraq.
And I'll start with you, Senator Shelby. You're the vice chairman, at least you were until very recently, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. You're privy to all sorts of information the rest of us are not necessarily privy to.
In your assessment, the so-called axis of evil as defined by President Bush -- Iraq, Iran, North Korea -- which of those three countries represents the greatest threat potentially to the United States?
SHELBY: Well, the potential greatest threat at the moment, in other words, in the next few weeks, few months, I believe without a doubt is Iraq, because of where it is, what it will do.
I believe that we also have to recognize that North Korea and Iraq are different regimes, but they also would pose a threat to us, perhaps in a different way. BLITZER: What about you, Ambassador Bremer? What do you say?
PAUL BREMER, FORMER COUNTERTERRORISM AMBASSADOR: I agree with the senator. And, you know, I think, Wolf, it's important not to get ourselves into a sort of zero-sum game here as if we have only a choice of dealing with one of these three regimes. We're going to have to, in due course, deal with all three.
And part of the challenge of a good foreign policy is to figure out your priorities. I think our priority, as the senator said, for the coming months is obviously going to be Iraq.
BLITZER: But are you comfortable, Ambassador Bremer, with the way the administration seems to have one line of approach, one strategy in dealing with Iraq, a second in dealing with Iran, and yet a third in dealing with North Korea?
BREMER: Well, yes, of course I am. I mean, I was a career diplomat myself for 25 years, and I know that there's no simplistic formula you can apply everywhere in the world. These are three different regimes with three different challenges.
In the case of North Korea, we have obviously a country which now admits that it's working on and probably has nuclear weapons, but they are able to attack Seoul from a standing start. We have 37,000 Americans there.
Iran is in almost a pre-revolutionary situation, where there's a lot of dislike on the streets for the theocratic government that's running them there.
So of course we should have a nuanced policy toward these three countries.
BLITZER: And, Bob Baer, you were a CIA officer for years. You were on front lines in the various wars the U.S. engaged, overt as well as covert. I'm curious on your reading of the so-called threat from this axis of evil?
ROBERT BAER, FORMER CIA OFFICER: I think we have a bigger problem in Iran. In 1979, Iran declared war on the United States. We have effectively ignored it. The radical regime has remained in power until today, and they're much closer to a nuclear weapon.
The difference is that Iraq is easier to hit today, and maybe we'll be sending a message to the Iranians to back down. And that's the best possible solution we could come up with.
BLITZER: Let me get back to Senator Shelby and ask about this decision this week, the so-called Scud ship, the ship, the North Korean ship that was bringing Scuds Yemen. In the end, the Bush administration decided it had no recourse but to let those Scuds continue on to Yemen.
Senator Shelby, are you pretty comfortable with that decision? SHELBY: Well, I'm sure that that was a political decision to some extent. Yemen has been very helpful in the last year or so with us, with some of our policies. That should and was taken into account. That's why -- and we had reassurances from them that this would not be used except as defensive weapons.
Now, I think you could argue the other way, what is the standard here? But I think, considering the problems in the Gulf, the Bush administration probably made the right decision.
BLITZER: Is that your sense, as well, Ambassador Bremer?
BREMER: Yes, it is. I think as long as these weapons were headed, and apparently it was a legitimate purchase, to a country which at least for now is an ally of ours, there really was no basis, political basis on which to deny letting them take delivery.
We do, obviously, need to be very careful to monitor everything that North Korea is up to. And at least, at a minimum, this stopping at sea was a message to the North Koreans that we're watching what they're doing, and that's a good message.
BLITZER: Bob Baer, you know this part of the world, Yemen in particular. The notion of Scud missiles being in Yemen, what does that say to you?
BAER: It's a question of proliferation at this point. What are they going use them for? I mean, how far are the Yemenis away from biochemical weapons? We don't know. It's difficult to tell.
The whole region is starting to arm now. And that's why we have to get over this Iraq crisis as soon as we can. If it's going to be a war, it's got to be quick. Because we need Yemen, we need Saudi Arabia, we need all these countries. We can't start disarming them now. But we really do have to tamper down the real anger in the Middle East and come to a couple solutions here and there.
And it's going to be a very large problem. We've got some serious stability problems in Egypt and Jordan if a long war should occur.
SHELBY: Wolf, can I add one thing to...
BLITZER: Well, we're going to get to that -- go ahead, Senator.
SHELBY: I just want to say, if we're successful, and I believe we will be, ultimately in Iraq, that's going to send a strong message to Iran and also to North Korea that they've got some problems.
We want to negotiate with them to deal with those problems. That is, North Korea's nuclear weapons possibility, Iran's trying to get it. Those are problems that will upset a lot of us, including our foreign policy.
BLITZER: All right, gentlemen, stand by. We're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to go through, including phone calls for our three experts on intelligence and the counterterrorism effort. Much more coming up. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to this special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, live from the Persian Gulf. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting today from Doha in Qatar.
Let's get back to our discussion with three special guests in Washington, the top Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, at least the outgoing Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, former Vice Chairman Richard Shelby; the former U.S. counterterrorism ambassador Paul Bremer; and the former CIA officer Robert Baer.
Senator Shelby, on the whole notion of the U.S. urging Hans Blix, the chief U.N. weapons inspector, to find defectors in Iraq, nuclear scientists, military officers, who might be willing to leave the country with their families, how realistic is that?
SHELBY: Well, you can always pursue it. You can always ask. I don't know how realistic it is.
BLITZER: All right, catch your breath, Senator. Have a glass of water. Let me bring Ambassador Bremer in while you're doing that.
Ambassador Bremer, you tell me, is this -- do you really believe Hans Blix is going to do that, find some defectors, and get them out of the country, and then question them?
BREMER: Well, I certainly hope he does decide to do that, Wolf, because it's really the only way to make anything useful come of this inspection regime.
If you talk to inspectors, they will tell you -- guys who have been on these inspections before -- they'll tell you that there really is no such thing as a no-notice, surprise inspection. A lot was made this week of these inspections of this uranium, or alleged uranium yellow-cake place, it's a five-hour drive from Baghdad. There's certainly no surprise to the Iraqis when these guys show up.
So the only way you're really going to get intelligence is if you can get some of these scientists to come out of Iraq and tell us what is really going on. I hope Blix now in fact pursues that, because it's the only way we're going to get anything out of this operation.
BLITZER: Bob Baer, you know this part of the world very, very well. Earlier, you thought that it was time to either move or not move, but you seemed to be saying the United States should get the job done, go to war against Iraq, even while -- let me just hear you say this -- even while these inspectors are trying to get their job done?
BAER: We're being drawn down the path to a trap. The people that control the biochemical weapons in Saddam's inner circle are all family members. Even if we're able to take them out, they know what will happen to them and the rest of their family if they spill the beans on this -- tell where the weapons are, ones that haven't been hidden, or give any leads at all. It's a family-based, clan-based society, and they're not going to make that break.
Now, what happens if they pull these people out and they say there are none? Then we're really stuck. We've committed so many resources to this. We're going to lose so much credibility once we've gone so far, that we're really going to -- it's going to be a dilemma for the United States at this point.
BLITZER: So what are you saying, Bob Baer, this is all a waste of time, this whole U.N. inspection process?
BAER: I think we're going to fall into a trap. I mean, I think that if the administration has a smoking gun on Saddam, now's the time to bring it out, make the case internationally, with the United Nations, with world opinion, and then simply move. But if we don't have the evidence, I think it's been a big mistake.
BLITZER: Senator Shelby, I think you've had a chance to have some water. I hope you're feeling OK right now...
SHELBY: I have, thank you.
BLITZER: ... because I'm very interested in whether or not you believe the Bush administration should go public with the evidence it has of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, assuming it does have that kind of evidence and it wants to prove that the Iraqis are lying.
SHELBY: Well, I think everybody that knows anything about Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime believe that they're lying. They are not forthcoming. I believe what they produced thus far is a bogus situation for us. In other words, I have no confidence in them. I don't believe anybody does.
On the other hand, I believe the Bush administration will be forthcoming with more evidence at the right time, as far as his noncompliance, and also with evidence showing that Saddam Hussein indeed has weapons of mass destruction. I know he does.
BLITZER: And I want to get this question to all three of you, and I'll start with Senator Shelby, this story in the New York Times today about a list that's been compiled, a so-called hit list of al Qaeda terrorists and others authorized by the president to allow the CIA, in effect, to go out and kill these guys, if they present an imminent danger to civilians.
Senator Shelby, is this a useful idea?
SHELBY: I'm not going to acknowledge any list or anything like that. But I can tell you, President Bush said after September the 11th that we're going to pursue these terrorists, these killers, wherever they are. And that's what the administration has been doing, and I think they are right in this regard.
BLITZER: Ambassador Bremer? BREMER: You know, Wolf, the thing that September 11th really showed was we can no longer rely on the policy we used to have of waiting for terrorists to attack us and then responding. The stakes are simply too high. They want to kill us in our thousands.
And so, effectively, we have to move from wait-and-respond to detect-and-destroy. And we're doing that in terms of our foreign policy toward Iraq, if you will. We're basically saying we can't wait until they have nuclear weapons. And I think it's the same thing on the war on terrorism. We've got to go after these guys wherever we can find them.
BLITZER: Bob Baer, you were once a CIA case officer. You once -- supposedly, if you had been around right now in the CIA, you might have received that order to go ahead and kill someone. Is this something that CIA officers, your successors right now, are anxious to do, look forward to doing?
BAER: They're anxious to carry out U.S. foreign policy, but what they want is the full backing of the administration and the legal backing to do this.
What they don't want is to go out and conduct a war all over the world, end up killing somebody -- and they're going to kill innocent people, let's get straight. This is not an easy operation. It's not foolproof, but they want the backing of this government before they engage in it. They don't want to have hearings two or three years from now and see people going to jail. And I think that's the only reservation at this point.
BREMER: Wolf, can I add something to that?
BLITZER: Go ahead.
BREMER: One of the findings that we had on the National Commission on Terrorism, which I chaired, was that basically the CIA has become risk-averse precisely for the reason that Bob Baer just mentioned. People were afraid that the political leadership, at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, would hang them out to dry if they made a mistake.
Of course they're going to make mistakes. They're human beings. And if they make honest mistakes, the political leadership in the executive branch and in Congress have got to be willing to stand up and tell the American people, "Mistakes happen, and we're not going to hang these guys out to dry."
BLITZER: All right. We're going to leave it right there. I want to thank all three of our guests for coming in on this Sunday. Senator Shelby, Ambassador Bremer and Bob Baer, always good to have all of you on the program.
Just ahead, we have much more coming up on this special edition of LATE EDITION. U.S. troops mobilizing here in the Persian Gulf, but is the battle plan ready to be carried out? We'll get some insight from retired U.S. Air Force Major Generals George Harrison and Don Shepperd and retired U.S. Army Brigadier General David Grange.
This special LATE EDITION, live from the Persian Gulf, will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Let there be no doubt, you are what stands between our people -- the American people, free people all over the world, and an evil that cannot be appeased.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The defense secretary of the United States, Don Rumsfeld, speaking here in Qatar earlier this week as he visited U.S. troops engaged in a military exercise called Internal Look.
Welcome back to our special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, live from the Persian Gulf. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting today from Doha, Qatar.
Joining me now to discuss the military and what the military is preparing to do, three special guests: At the CNN headquarters in Atlanta, retired U.S. Air Force Major General George Harrison. In Oakbrook, Illinois, the retired U.S. Army Brigadier General David Grange, he's also a CNN military analyst. And here in Qatar with me, the retired U.S. Air Force Major General Don Shepperd, himself a CNN military analyst.
Thanks to all of you for joining us.
Let me begin with General Shepperd, who's here with me. You've had a chance, like I have, to see these troops up close with this Internal Look exercise, the simulated high-tech war game that's going on.
Do you emerge from the time that we've spent here with a sense that the U.S. military is ready to go, or they still have a way to go before they will be ready if the president gives them the order?
MAJ. GEN. DONALD SHEPPERD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Wolf, I think they're ready to go from the standpoint of they have all the skills and the equipment, et cetera, that they need if they go to military action. But they are not poised to go.
Before we're ready to go to war other troops have to be deployed into the area, supportive government has to be deployed. Now, you could go with the 40,000 to 60,000 you've got in the area right now, but not to do the war planning that we're talking about with Iraq, changing the regime, et cetera, Wolf.
BLITZER: What about you, General Grange? What's your assessment as you look at these forces deployed here in the region, perhaps ready to move? GEN. DONALD GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, the forces are already deployed, I'm sure already. They're going to reach a peak, and then the key challenge will be to maintain that high peak of readiness. Then it is a timing issue on when they would have to rotate out depending on, if a war starts, when it starts.
And so what really is tough to do is the planning and how you keep ready units poised to attack and how you bring in and surge other units into that mix. That's the real challenge.
BLITZER: General Harrison, I had a chance to interview the secretary of defense while he was here in Qatar this week. I want you to listen to this exchange on this specific issue that I had with Don Rumsfeld.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is the U.S. military right now ready if the president were to give that order to go into battle?
RUMSFELD: The United States is capable is doing what the president might ask it to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I want your assessment, General Harrison, if you would share with us the readiness. How do you keep that readiness at a high level if it's going to be strung out over a long period of time?
GEN. GEORGE HARRISON (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: Well, of course, the secretary's right. We are capable. The United States is capable, as is the coalition capable, of doing what the president wants done.
As to whether we have the forces in place right now to do everything that needs to be done, I agree with General Shepperd and General Grange, depending on the strategy, we might have to bring in more forces.
Now, as you recall, during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, we were able to bring in forces over a six-month period of time, maintain a high level of readiness for those forces throughout that entire period. And then when it was time to go, the United States and the coalition went.
So I think that the secretary's right, we can do it. He's also right that the people who know what's going on aren't talking; the people who don't know what's going on are talking. So there's a certain amount -- there is a great degree of uncertainty in what any of us on the outside might have to say.
Nevertheless, I think the forces are well trained, ready, and some more deployment obviously will be in the cards.
BLITZER: General Shepperd, we're hearing over this weekend that Reserve units are being at least alerted. Some 30,000 Reservist Guard personnel that they probably will be called up. You know this issue quite well. What does that specifically mean?
SHEPPERD: Yes, well, our Guard and Reserve forces are very capable. We try to give them as much notice as possible before we actually mobilize them.
What's happened is an additional 30,000 Guardsmen and Reservists have been notified that they are likely to be called up after the 1st of the year. This is, for the most part, port facility people, engineers, this type of thing, and of course military police.
Now, we're going back to the well very often on our Guard and Reserve forces. And this is an unusual -- we're in unchartered water, using them as much as we've been using them, Wolf.
BLITZER: And how dependent, General Grange, is the U.S. Army, let's say -- you're a member, you're retired from the U.S. Army -- how dependent is the Army right now on Reserve units?
GRANGE: The Army is totally dependent on Reserve and National Guard forces. The Army is really too small to do all the requirements it's asked to do right now around the world and prepare and execute Iraq at the same time as you have these other holding actions going on if a war starts.
And so, because of shortages in certain specialities in the active force, the Reserve components have to fill those ranks and fill those units where they're not available. So, totally dependent.
BLITZER: General Harrison, is that smart, at a time like this where there are such serious threats, not only from Iraq, but as we've heard, from Iran, North Korea, around the world, for the U.S. military to be as dependent as it is on Reserve and Guard forces?
HARRISON: Well, whether it's smart or not, it's a fact. We are dependent in all the military services on Reserve augmentation, Reserve and Guard, and on maneuver units from the Guard and Reserve. As General Shepperd knows very well, the United States cannot effectively go to war other than on a very small scale without the Guard and Reserve.
That's a decision that's been taken over the last -- probably over the last 20 years as we've moved to total force. Whether it's a good idea or not's really a moot point at this time. That is what we have. That's how we're going to fight. And our challenge, or our strategists' challenge is to operate and achieve national objectives within that context, with that force structure as it is right now.
BLITZER: General Shepperd, you and I were at the As Sayliyah military base here in Qatar earlier in the week, at that exercise when the defense secretary had that so-called town meeting with the troops. And he was asked about this question, about the Guard and the Reserve. And he seemed to indicate, at least to me, I was listening to his answer, that he's open to changing the current ratio between active duty and reserve forces.
SHEPPERD: Yes, I think he's looking for balance in a lot of areas, and balance makes sense. It may not be wise to put all of one mission area in the Guard or Reserve so that you have to call them up every time you do anything.
I think what the secretary was saying is that in smaller-type operations, it makes sense to be able to do with active duty. On the other hand, we were structured the way we are now to save money. It doesn't pay to have active duty forces standing around doing nothing. The idea of the Reserve or Guard is to call them when you have a war.
And Secretary Laird, way back in the Vietnam era, and Creighton Abrams (ph) after Vietnam, structured our military so that you could not go to war without the support of the American public and had to call up the Guard and Reserve. As General Harrison said, that's the way it was structured, and that's where we are right now, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Generals, stand by. We're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about.
We're also anxious to get your phone calls. This special LATE EDITION, live from the Persian Gulf, will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to this special LATE EDITION, live from the Persian Gulf, Showdown: Iraq.
We're continuing our discussion on potential U.S. military preparedness for a war with Iraq with three special guests: retired U.S. Air Force Major General George Harrison, retired U.S. Army Brigadier General David Grange, and retired U.S. Air Force Major General Don Shepperd.
General Grange, I want to show our viewers some pictures of these live-fire exercises that have been under way in northern Kuwait, literally on the border with Iraq, over these past several weeks. U.S. tankers, all sorts of armored personnel carriers, getting ready for the possibility of desert warfare.
How important are these actual live-fire training exercises for the U.S. Army and Marine Corps?
GRANGE: These training exercises are very important. They're live-fire, large units, up to battalion-size, battalion-task-force- size. All units rotate through Kuwait, or they have in the past, to get this type of training opportunity. Very large maneuver area, a lot of air support and ground fire combined together on these exercises. So it really is like a graduate-level course for units to go through.
BLITZER: Looking at those pictures of those tanks, General Harrison, and the armored personnel carriers, the artillery, I was wondering what the Air Force is doing, in particular, to make sure that there's no so-called friendly-fire incidents, no accidental bombings of those troops during these kinds of maneuvers, if it comes down to the real thing? HARRISON: Well, the key to avoiding friendly-fire, given the state of our equipment right now, is joint training and a lot of training, a lot of understanding by the Air Force as to how the Army operates in maneuvers, and a lot of understanding by the Army as to where the Air Force needs to be pointed, what are the feasible places that you can organize activity.
We've heard a lot of talk about information warfare over the last couple of years. This is a key part of information warfare. That is, the person delivering the ordnance needs to have a good understanding or needs to be controlled by somebody with a good understanding of where the friendlies are, where the enemy is, and where the fire needs to be applied.
This is not an easy operation. Integration-of-firing maneuver between ground forces and air forces, whether they're rotary-wing or fixed-wing, is a very complex operation. And training, training, training is the key to success in that kind of operation.
BLITZER: All right, let's take a caller from Manitoba in Canada.
Go ahead with your question, please.
CALLER: Hi. Can the United States win this showdown with minimal civilian casualties to the Iraqi people?
BLITZER: Let me ask General Shepperd.
SHEPPERD: That's a very difficult question, Wolf. There are always civilian casualties in every war. We do everything we can to minimize those civilian casualties, particularly in this era of worldwide coverage of television. They really hamper military operations. They affect the perception of the American people and their support for war, and they affect the support of our allies and coalitions. So we'll do everything possible to minimize them. It's a tough business with bombs and bullets.
BLITZER: And I want to hear from General Grange on that specific, it's an excellent question, that specific question.
How do those ground forces who are preparing in northern Kuwait right now make sure that when they go into Iraq, if they go into Iraq, there will be a minimum of Iraqi civilian casualties?
GRANGE: Well, American units are always cognizant of the fact there are civilians in the area, and extreme measures are taken not to have civilian casualties, though some will happen.
I think the key part will go back to the information warfare aspects, information operations. The ability to get the word out, what's happening on the battlefield, from the coalition instead of from Saddam, where he may use disinformation or twist what's actually happening on the ground, that's a key aspect of shaping the battlefield before the combat forces actually go in.
BLITZER: General Harrison, a lot of the focus of attention over these past few weeks since the U.N. Security Council resolution was passed on those incidents in the northern and southern no-fly zones in Iraq, U.S. warplanes engaged, they're being targeted by Iraqi ground fire, radar. They go in and they drop precision-guided munitions.
There was what was called a SAM-trap the other day. Two U.S. fighter planes were approached by an Iraqi jet that took off near Baghdad, and they tried to lure those U.S. planes toward some surface- to-air missile batteries.
How dangerous is that for the U.S. pilots?
HARRISON: Well, that's certainly a dangerous game because the pilots don't know what kind of trap they're facing, where they're going.
We do have the advantage of 10 years of operation in southern Iraq and 10 years of operation in northern Iraq. So all of our pilots are well-aware of the situation on the ground to the extent that our intelligence can give that to them. They maintain awareness.
They have good crossover briefings as we change crews from one unit to another, as we go through that kind of operation. But there's always an element of danger.
I would point out, however, that in the 10 years -- more than 10 years of operation in northern and southern Iraq, we have not lost a U.S. airplane or a U.S. aircrew due to enemy action. So obviously we're doing something right.
We're doing quite a bit right, as a matter of fact. We are making sure that we have good, solid rules of engagement, good, solid operational procedures. And while the danger is always there, I think that our well-trained aircrews are doing the right kind of job.
BLITZER: All right. We're unfortunately going to have to leave it right there. Three excellent generals, three good -- a sense of insight, what the U.S. military might be expecting if the president gives that order to go to war.
I want to thank all three of our generals, General Grange, General Harrison, General Shepperd. He's here with me here in the Persian Gulf.
We have much more coming up. Up next, we're going to switch gears, talk about smallpox, the dangers that may be out there from terrorists or terrorist states. We'll get some insight from the U.S. secretary of health and human services, Tommy Thompson, on President Bush's decision to go ahead and authorize vaccinations for smallpox.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to this special LATE EDITION.
President Bush announced on Friday the resumption of the smallpox vaccinations in the United States, the first time in 20 years there will be such vaccinations. Military personnel and health care workers will be among the first to receive the vaccines.
Earlier today, I had a chance to discuss this and other issues with the U.S. secretary of health and human services, Tommy Thompson.
BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us.
You made a historic announcement, the president did this week, that he wants first responders, military personnel to begin with, to get that vaccine for smallpox. Where is the direct threat coming from?
TOMMY THOMPSON, HHS SECRETARY: We're not sure if there is a direct threat. We just have got to assume that Iraq, North Korea and other countries that are exporting terror are individual countries that would have this virus. And therefore, we have to get prepared for it.
We cannot wait and have the luxury of waiting until something happens, and then try and find enough vaccine first and then set up a plan in order to vaccinate our American citizens. Because if we waited that long, 30 to 35 percent of the Americans could die who are exposed to this terrible, contagious virus. That's why we have to be prepared.
We have to assume that Iraq and other countries that are practicing the war on terror may have it, and that's why we have to get prepared to prevent a terrible, terrible exposure in America.
BLITZER: Is the threat more from a country, a state like Iraq or North Korea, as you say, as opposed to al Qaeda, a terror organization?
THOMPSON: Well, the threat has got to be the worst from a country, because they have the potential of getting it into America. They have the potential of using their laboratory capacities to engineer and genetically change it. They've also got the possibility of having the kinds of expertise in order to produce it and expand it and be able to weaponize it.
But you always have got to be worried about al Qaeda being able to get it, purchase it from countries like -- if Iraq has it or if North Korea has it, and be able to use it.
And so we have to be prepared for all of these incidents. But of course, a country has much more resources in order to expound the problem by producing it and expanding it.
BLITZER: In making the announcement this past week, the president said there was a two-step process that he was going to begin with the smallpox vaccine. Step number one, half a million U.S. military personnel.
THOMPSON: That's correct.
BLITZER: The defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, told me this week he's beginning that vaccination process right away.
Step number two, half a million or so medical or first responders, and only later the public at large.
Could you tell these people how imminent in your assessment, the assessment of the U.S. intelligence community, how imminent a threat might, in fact, be?
THOMPSON: Well, at this point in time, we have no information that a threat is imminent. But we have to be prepared for it. And that is why, first, the soldiers and those individuals, people in the armed forces that are in harm's way, have got to be vaccinated first. And that process, as you've indicated, has already started.
The second process is not actually the first responders. It's the health workers, the people in the emergency wards of our hospitals that would have to take care of individuals if they do come down with this terrible, contagious disease. And so we have to make sure our hospitals are prepared to handle them if, in fact, we do have a smallpox epidemic.
The third step then, of course, is our first responders -- police, firefighters and the EMTs and so on. And that group of individuals could total all the way up to 10 million. We are recommending that at least half of those, at least 450,000 to 500,000 of the health workers get the vaccination right now.
And then we would move into allowing for a vaccine to be licensed, which would probably take until the end of this year -- or into next year, the first part of 2004, before we would ever recommend it to the public. We are not recommending to the public to get the vaccinations, because we do not believe the threat is that imminent or is imminent at this point in time.
That's why we're taking our precautions, getting prepared, getting the individuals who will have to take care of people if, in fact, this terrible disease ever breaks out in America.
BLITZER: The American Public Health Association put out a statement Friday. You probably saw it. I think it's consistent with your policy. I'll put it up on the screen and read it to our viewers.
"Vaccinating the general public should be conducted only if there exists a substantial risk of exposure to smallpox supported by a scientific assessment or identification of significant national security threat."
I don't think you have a problem with that, do you?
THOMPSON: Absolutely not. In fact, a lot of that information comes directly from CDC, which is part of my department of Health and Human Services. I happen to have the best doctors and researchers and scientists in the world working on this, Wolf, and they have made a tremendously detailed study. They made an exhaustive investigation to find out what can be done, what should be done.
And we're implementing the plan that actually came up from the Department of Health and Human Services to be prepared, to make sure that the health workers that would have to deal with this disease in the first instances are taken care of and are protected so they can go in harm's way and take care of people if, in fact, this disease breaks out.
The second one, of course, are the first responders, the police and the firefighters and the EMTs and these individuals, should be the next group of individuals which are protected.
And we will not, at this point in time, believe that the smallpox epidemic or smallpox breakout is imminent. Therefore we are not -- and I want to underscore that -- we are not, as you have pointed out with the scientific group, are not recommending to the general public to getting the vaccination.
BLITZER: It's been some 20 years since this vaccination was routinely given to people around the country. There are some potential serious side effects, and I want to show our viewers what they include. Everything from scarring, rash, soreness or swelling, severe fever, skin infection. The most serious, swelling of the brain. And maybe one out of every million or perhaps two out of every million people who get this vaccination might die.
The public needs to know the potential risks. Are you going to begin a campaign to explain what those side effects could include?
THOMPSON: Oh, absolutely. We have already started that, Wolf. You're absolutely correct. One or two out of a million could die and more than likely will. Fourteen to 52 other individuals could have life-threatening diseases. Most of that would be vaccinia encephalitis, which is a inflammation of the brain. And then up to 900, from 52 to 900, would not be life-threatening, but could have scarring, could have progressive swelling and scarring.
And these are the individuals that we want to make sure understand that there could be some problems. There could be some consequences with this vaccine, because it is a live virus, and most of the vaccines are not.
Therefore we are not recommending to the general public, and you will have to go through a very exhaustive interview process before you would ever get the vaccine.
And we're making sure that this information is getting out. We are publishing pamphlets which describe what could happen. We are very upfront with all the Americans what could happen if in fact there is an epidemic or if in fact an individual citizen would like to receive this vaccine. There are some consequences. That is why the president and that is why the department is not recommending at this time that the general public go through and get the vaccinations.
We are also putting out on a weekly basis new information. We have two websites, one at CDC and one at the Department of Health and Human Services, which you can interact with and be able to get all the updated information, all the information concerning the consequences, as well as any kind of risks there is out there.
So we're making a tremendous effort to educate the American public and making sure that people understand why we're doing what we're doing and what we are recommending. And that's why we do not believe at this time that the American public should go through and request the vaccination.
BLITZER: And the newspaper USA Today put out an interesting chart, an important chart this week. People who shouldn't even consider getting the smallpox vaccine under any circumstances really, because it could kill them or severely hurt them. Among those people people with primary immune deficiency, 100,000 people have that. Total HIV-AIDS, almost a million people, some 900,000. Undiagnosed HIV, 300,000. Transplant patients, 184,000 people in the U.S. Cancer patients, 8.5 million. Excema, other skin ailments, 50 million.
So that's a lot of people who probably under no circumstances will want to take -- receive this vaccine. Is that a fair assessment?
THOMPSON: That is not only a fair assessment, we would strongly advise that all of these individuals that you've listed -- those are the individuals, immune-suppressed, those individuals that have cancer or are taking cancer treatments, HIV, those individuals who have excema, atopic pharmaceutical problems -- those individuals would not in any way receive the vaccination.
THOMPSON: We would strongly urge that they do not. Only in the case of a widespread exposure or an epidemic would we make those individuals available to have the vaccination.
So you have to go through, as I've indicated earlier, Wolf, we go through a very strong, intensive questionnaire period. We will screen individuals as they come in, making sure that none of these individuals are pregnant or have any of these kinds of immune- suppressed problems in their bodies before they would ever be able to get the vaccination.
So we're going to make sure that we are as safe as we possibly can be and protect the public, both from the epidemic and also protect them from the vaccine.
BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, when President Bush made the announcement on Friday about the smallpox vaccine, he said he would get vaccinated. Will you?
THOMPSON: Absolutely not, because the president is doing it because he is the commander in chief. And he believes that if he is ordering his troops, the troops of America, the armed forces, to get this vaccination, he should do it as well. He's doing it as the commander in chief. And he also is recommending that elected officials be considered just like the general public. And I have also made the same kind of recommendation to the governors and to health officers who are not going to be in the first line. Those individuals should not get the vaccination as well, because those are the individuals that are not going to be the health workers that will be dealing with those people if they do come down with it, or the first responders, who will have to make sure that those individuals are protected.
Therefore, I am not, and I would strongly recommend other people in the Cabinet not, request a vaccination because I do not believe it is necessary or it should be taking place.
BLITZER: Secretary Thompson, an important issue, a vital issue. Thanks for sharing some time and explaining what's going on to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Always good to have you on LATE EDITION.
THOMPSON: Well, thank you, Wolf. And you be careful over there, and hurry back.
BLITZER: Thanks very much to the secretary of health and human services.
It's time now to say goodbye to our international viewers. Thanks very much for watching.
Up next for our North American audience, we have much more coming up on a bombshell decision today by Senator Don Nickles to question whether the Senate majority leader, Trent Lott, should remain in that position. When we come back, we'll speak with two people who strongly disagree on this matter, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania and the chairman of the NAACP, Julian Bond.
All that and much more coming up in the next hour of LATE EDITION.
BLITZER: Welcome back to this special LATE EDITION. I'm Wolf Blitzer, reporting live from Doha, Qatar, in the Persian Gulf.
There have been major developments in the controversy surrounding the Senate Republican leader, Trent Lott. We'll have an extensive discussion on that, all the latest news, but first, here's CNN's Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta with a news alert.
BLITZER: We'll get to my interview with Senator Arlen Specter and NAACP Chairman Julian Bond in just a few minutes, but first I want to bring in two of our correspondents covering this whole story involving Senator Trent Lott.
BLITZER: We have two special guests now to continue our conversation on the problems that Senator Lott appears to have created for himself. Joining us now in Washington -- actually, not in Washington, in Philadelphia, is the senator from Pennsylvania, the Republican senator, Arlen Specter. And in Washington, the chairman of the NAACP, Julian Bond.
Thanks, gentlemen, so much for joining us.
Senator Specter, you've been a defender of Senator Lott. But in aftermath of what Senator Nickles said this morning, what Senator Warner said on this program earlier, what is your recommendation? What must Senator Lott do now?
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: Well, I'll be interested to see what Senator Lott does when he appears before Black Entertainment tonight for a very extensive discussion tomorrow night. I think he will have an opportunity to more fully explain his views on what'll be done for minorities and African-Americans for the future. I'm hopeful that he will speak to an agenda, bringing up hate crimes and other legislation which will show his very deep concern.
But if you go back to the day in question, and I was there, it was Senator Thurmond's 100th-birthday party, a very emotional setting. I had to return to Pennsylvania before the speeches were made, but I saw the setting.
And I can personally attest to the fact that Trent Lott is not a racist and not a bigot. I have known him for 14 years. There is no doubt about the fact that he said something very foolish and something that shouldn't have been said.
And there's no doubt, and I've said this many times for decades, that segregation was a blight on America. And there's a great deal that has to be done yet to expiate that conduct that the country had for -- really, since slavery.
But Trent Lott has made an apology. And I believe that you have to take a look at his whole 30-year record. And I think he accurately said that he shouldn't have to resign for being called something that he is not, and I'm not prepared to throw him overboard.
BLITZER: All right.
I want you to listen -- Julian Bond, I want you to react to this, but I want our viewers to go back, listen to the controversial remarks that Senator Lott actually made at that birthday party for Strom Thurmond, and also part of his apology that he made on Friday.
Listen to this, Julian Bond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOTT: I want to say this about my state. When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We're proud of it. (APPLAUSE)
And if the rest of the country would have followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all of these problems over all of these year, either.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOTT: My choice of words were totally unacceptable and insensitive, and I apologize for that. Let me make clear, though, in celebrating his life, I didn't mean in any way to suggest that his views of over 50 years ago on segregation were justified or right. It was wrong and immoral then, and it is now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Julian Bond, does Senator Lott deserve a second chance?
JULIAN BOND, NAACP CHAIRMAN: Well, I think that he deserves a sixth chance at apology, and that will be his appearance on TV on Tuesday night. He's apologized four times already, so that will be his fifth chance.
And when he does so, he's got to apologize for having said these exact same words 22 years ago when there was no birthday party for Strom Thurmond, when there was no celebratory mood. This is not a choice of words. These are his favorite words.
And he's also got to apologize for a lifetime, an adult lifetime, spent in opposition to civil rights. Opposing the integration of his school, the University of Mississippi in 1961. Voting against civil rights measures, including the Voting Rights Act right that almost every Republican and Democratic senator supported. Being the sole senator to vote against the nomination of a black judge.
I mean, there's a long, long history here. This incident of a week or so ago isn't something brand new. This is part of a pattern of behavior.
And the question now for Republicans, like Senator Specter, whose record is very, very different from that of Senator Lott, is whether or not this is the man they want to lead them in the coming year. Is this the guy they want to rally behind? Is this the guy they want presenting the face of the Republican Party to the American people? I don't think they should, and I hope they don't think so, either.
BLITZER: All right, Senator Specter, go ahead and respond.
SPECTER: Well, if you take a look at what other senators have had to say, former Senator Paul Simon was at the event. And Senator Lott quoted former Senator Simon as saying that Senator Simon understood the comments that were made and accepted Senator Lott's apology. Senator Jim Jeffords, who's a very independent guy and has a very strong civil rights record, as does former Senator Simon, endorsed Trent Lott as being a man of conscience.
And you had Senator Daschle immediately after the event accepting Senator Lott's apology.
Now, the matter has snowballed. It's proliferated here. And what is really now an issue is the record of the Republican Party for many, many years. And in many ways, the record has not been good, and I think that President Bush is trying to correct that record.
I was with him in Philadelphia last Thursday when he made an impassioned plea, castigating in the strongest terms the stain of segregation and the inequity involved and the commitment that he had personally and the party -- the Republican Party has to civil rights.
So, that if you take a look at what Trent Lott did in 1961 when he opposed integration and some of his other votes, it's a different world. But I've talked to him almost every day for 14 years, and the man is a decent man.
BLITZER: Let me let Julian Bond go ahead.
Go ahead, Julian.
BOND: Here's Senator Lott's record. In 1992, he spoke to a white supremacist organization. He endorsed their goals. '95, he spoke to them again. '97, he hosted them in his office. In 1998, he said he didn't know anything at all about them, while they say he's a paid-up member. Now, what's true here?
And what were these problems he said Strom Thurmond's presidency would have gotten rid of, both in his statement of last week and in his statement 22 years ago? Are the problems those pesky black people casting votes? Those pesky black people having protection from the civil rights laws? Are those the problems that he wanted Strom Thurmond to make go away?
You know, the irony of all this is that in many of these awful votes Senator Lott cast in the Senate, Senator Thurmond was voting the right way. In a peculiar way, Senator Thurmond's record of the recent past is more progressive than Senator Lott's record.
BLITZER: All right, gentlemen, stand by. I want to take a quick commercial break. I want to continue this conversation. This is an important issue, especially on this day when Senator Don Nickles has suggested that the Republican Caucus go ahead and meet and consider a new leader for the U.S. Senate.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Every day our nation was segregated was a day that America was unfaithful to our founding ideals.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush speaking out about the situation involving Senator Lott during his speech in Philadelphia this past week.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation on this sensitive and important subject with two special guests, the Republican senator from Pennsylvania, Arlen Specter, and the chairman of the NAACP, Julian Bond.
Senator Specter, let me read to you precisely the statement that your friend and colleague, Don Nickles, the Republican of Oklahoma, the former whip, put out, the number two in the Republican leadership.
He said this today: "Senator Lott has apologized profusely, and rightly so. His comments did not represent Republican ideals. I accept his apology.
"However, this is bigger than any single senator now. I am concerned Senator Lott has been weakened to the point that it may jeopardize his ability to enact our agenda and speak to all Americans.
"There are several outstanding senators who are more than capable of effective leadership, and I hope we have the opportunity to choose."
Do you think that Senator Nickles just issues a statement like this randomly? He is obviously very concerned about the capability of Senator Lott to lead in the aftermath of this uproar.
SPECTER: Well, you have to bear this in mind, Wolf, that Senator Nickles was a contestant for the leadership position against Senator Lott in our last election and decided not to run. So that has to be evaluated.
But Don Nickles has every right to say whatever he wants to. I would have thought it a little more in line if Senator Nickles had consulted with some of the rest of us, and if he wanted to take some action, would have gotten four other senators, a total of five, to have another meeting in a more formal way.
I do not believe that Trent Lott has lost the confidence of the Republican Caucus. And I say that because we know the man. When you talk about looking back at the 1948 Republican platform, I think that Mr. Bond has accurately pointed out that even Strom Thurmond's folks are away from that. When they made a statute to Strom in South Carolina recently, they left off his 1948 candidacy. And he approved the text of the statute.
So when Senator Lott appears on Black Entertainment tonight, tomorrow or Tuesday, whenever it is, I'd like to see him address the issues as to where he wants to take our caucus. And I would start with the hate crimes legislation.
BLITZER: We'll be watching that, but I want to bring back Julian Bond now.
And I want to read to you, Julian Bond, an excerpt from an editorial that appeared Friday in the Wall Street Journal. It said this: "It's also an unfortunate fact of politics that Republicans are up against a double standard on matters of race. Jesse Jackson can utter an anti-Semitic slur, "Hymie-town," but somehow still claim the moral authority to lecture Mr. Lott. Senator Robert Byrd, a former member of the Ku Klux Klan and the only senator of either party to vote against both African-American nominees to the Supreme Court, is exalted as a Democratic eminence gris."
What do you say about that?
BOND: I say, you know, when somebody issues anti-Semitic or bigoted statements of any kind, we need to be loud and clear in our condemnation.
But unlike Jesse Jackson, and unlike Senator Byrd, Senator Lott is two or three heartbeats away from the presidency, and he is the visible public spokesman of the Republican Party in the Senate of the United States.
And those 51 senators have to ask themselves, do they want to be counted on as supporting the kind of bigotry that Senator Lott has stood for all of his adult life, not just in this statement of last week, but as long ago as 1963 when he was in college, and in almost every year from that time until this?
This almost canine-like affection for this white supremacist group, I mean, that just defies any interpretation or any kind of explanation. It's beyond belief that he would persist in it over a period of years...
BLITZER: All right.
BOND: ... and then try to dodge it and say he didn't know anything about it.
BLITZER: Go ahead, Senator Specter.
SPECTER: Well, first of all, Senator Lott's not two or three heartbeats away from the presidency. After the vice president, it's the speaker of the House, and it's the president pro tempore. Today Senator Robert Byrd is president pro tempore of the United States Senate. He is really in line there.
But I don't think it does any good to talk about who said what in the past. The fact of life is that in our profession, in the government and in politics, we talk a lot, we talk too much, and all of us say foolish things. That is an occupational hazard. It happens to every one of us.
But this comment has been scrutinized -- and that's OK, you can scrutinize any comment. If you make a speech for an hour, you have to be prepared to have three words extracted. And in the broader context, there has been a resurrection of the failures of the Republican Party, and that is what has to be corrected. And I think that all this can do is perhaps to provide some good.
I think our caucus ought to focus -- the Republican Caucus ought to focus a lot more on education, on Title I, especially for disadvantaged youth...
BLITZER: All right.
SPECTER: ... and programs to give...
BLITZER: All right.
SPECTER: ... African-Americans -- just a minute, Wolf -- to give -- you've got three hours here -- give African-Americans a chance to go on to higher education.
I come back to that hate-crimes legislation. I think Trent Lott has the capacity to hit a home run on Black Entertainment Tonight, and I think that would stifle a lot of the objections.
BLITZER: All right. Unfortunately, we have to leave it right there.
Senator Specter, always good to have you on the program.
SPECTER: Nice to be with you. Thank you.
BLITZER: And Julian Bond of the NAACP, always good to have you on LATE EDITION as well.
BOND: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thanks to both of you for joining us.
That's all the time I have right now, but more of LATE EDITION coming up, our Final Round. Jonathan Karl will be having our panel in Washington. They'll be going through this issue, all the other important issues of the week.
Thanks very much for watching.
I'll be back tomorrow, both noon Eastern for Showdown: Iraq, as well as 5 p.m. Eastern on Wolf Blitzer Reports.
Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer reporting from the Persian Gulf.
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's time for the Final Round. Joining me, Julianne Malveaux, the syndicated columnist; Peter Beinart of the "New Republic"; Jonah Goldberg of "National Review Online"; and Robert George of the "New York Post." We begin with what has turned into a uphill battle for Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott to redeem himself. By week's end, the Mississippi Republican issued, by some counts, four apologies for praising Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist candidacy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOTT: I apologize for opening old wounds and hurting many Americans who feel so deeply in this area. I take full responsibility for my remarks. I can't say it was prepared remarks. As a matter of fact, I was winging it. I was too much into the moment.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: So was the fourth time the charm? Peter?
PETER BEINART, NEW REPUBLIC: I don't think he got it right on the fourth time, and here's why. By this fourth apology, things had moved beyond the statement itself to people had started looking at his whole career. And what they had found was a whole career of hostility to racial equality.
And this is what conservatives misunderstand when they compare Lott to Robert Byrd. It's that it wasn't just a couple of stupid statements; it's many, many, many actions over many years. It's a problem not just of words but of actions. And words can't solve that problem.
ROBERT GEORGE, NEW YORK POST: Yes, and we'll just say some -- we'll say some conservatives, because two conservatives right here were actually ones who, like, started this ball rolling.
KARL: ... right here on this show.
BEINART: To your credit.
GEORGE: Yes. It's a credit to our ideology.
JULIANNE MALVEAUX, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Not at all.
GEORGE: But Peter is right. We've seen it. We've seen it, it's a pattern. We've seen -- there's even a pattern, frankly, in his responses.
I mean, three years ago when the Council for the Conservative Citizens issue came up and somebody wanted to have a resolution condemning that group, he basically urged J.C. Watts to put out a resolution that was a lot -- that downplayed the whole issue. And then on Tuesday, he was telling the media to go talk to J.C. Watts for a comment rather than have one himself.
There's a history -- there's a history here, and that's unfortunately what is covering Trent Lott right now.
MALVEAUX: You know, this man finally just took the sheet off his head and made it clear what kind of Klan member he was. He...
KARL: Klan member?
MALVEAUX: Klan member. The Conservative Citizens Council is just a upgrade from the KKK; it's the CCC.
And the fact is that he had to issue four apologies, and none of them were sincere. But they were increasingly contrite that he didn't get it right the first time, as Peter said, but even more than that, that he as this history, that his Pickering nomination is the nomination of yet another quasi-Klan member.
MALVEAUX: Seriously, because you have to be clear about this...
KARL: Jonah, you're...
MALVEAUX: ... and that you use a dynamic of tokenism, to throw J.C. Watts out there as...
KARL: OK. But, Jonah, you're no friend of Trent Lott, I mean, but you're not going to call him a Klan member.
JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: No, I think that's -- I think that's silly. I mean, I think you can draw the line and say that what he said was stupid, that it was morally indefensible and repugnant in all sorts of ways. But there is nothing actually in Trent Lott's record that says he goes around lynching people, burning crosses on people's lawns.
And I think you could condemn the guy enough for what he has actually done without throwing rhetorical gasoline on the fire. I mean, and Trent...
MALVEAUX: He's the one who the rhetorical gasoline.
GOLDBERG: And I agree.
MALVEAUX: He's the one who threw the gasoline, let's be clear.
GOLDBERG: Yes, I agree.
KARL: OK, OK. I want to move on to the important question that happens next here. The Lott controversy appears to be sparking a fight within the Republican Party.
Today, the number-two Republican in the Senate, Don Nickles, called for a new vote on Lott's leadership position. In a statement, Nickles said, quote, "I'm concerned that Senator Lott has been weakened to the point that it may jeopardize his ability to enact our agenda and speak for all Americans. There are several outstanding senators who are more than capable of effective leadership, and I hope we have an opportunity to choose."
But there were also expressions of support for Senator Lott. His colleague, Senator Mitch Mcconnell, said there was no need for a change in the GOP leadership.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
U.S. SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Look, I think Senator Lott can be effective.
MCCONNELL: I think we ought to be big enough to accept his profound apologies here and move on. The president has accepted his apology, I don't know why we can't.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
KARL: You know, I don't know, listening to some of the defenses of Trent Lott today, it sounded a little bit less strong than what we heard, you know, Tariq Aziz defending Saddam Hussein also this morning.
But if he does step down, or if he is forced to step down, who replaces him, Jonah?
GOLDBERG: Well, you know, first of all, I do think you're right, that McConnell has gotten himself into a position of basically arguing that this is a high-tech lynching of an uppity segregationist.
And I think it's an indefensible position.
MALVEAUX: Jonah, why would you even use the term, "lynching," in this context?
GOLDBERG: I don't think you understood the sarcasm of the context.
GEORGE: It was a joke.
MALVEAUX: Well, this is something I just don't joke about, I guess.
GOLDBERG: Yes, you can call people Klansman, but I can't -- whatever, that's silly, Julianne.
Regardless, I think... MALVEAUX: It's not silly, Jonah, it's principled. It's not silly. There is nothing silly about this at all. And it's not silly to use words like "lynching" and to use words that hark back to 1948. There is nothing silly about this.
GOLDBERG: Julianne, you're not going to get me into some corner where I'm going to get mau-maued on this. That's just silly.
GEORGE: When Jonah used that phrase...
MALVEAUX: You're using racial language yourself here. You are two steps away from Trent Lott.
GOLDBERG: Oh, that's absurd.
GEORGE: Julianne, that's unacceptable. I'm sorry, that's just unacceptable. The phrase that Jonah just used there, the high-tech lynching, you may remember, was used by Clarence Thomas when he was talking about being assaulted...
MALVEAUX: Why are you...
GEORGE: ... on a personal level. And what Jonah was making the point was that the McConnell was almost doing that.
KARL: But the issue here is, where do we go, where do we go from here? I mean, if it's not Lott, who is it?
BEINART: Well, I think, it seems to me, it probably comes down to Nickles, who's obviously been going through this for a while, versus Frist, who's a guy who a lot of conservatives love, who the White House likes.
But I would say one thing on this question. I think if the Republicans can find somebody amongst this group, someone in their leadership who has a kind of Jack Kemp record on race, it can be a conservative, but someone who has some real record, not just of not saying offensive things but of actually doing something, of actually having some connection to the black community, of working on some issue that's of particular concern, I think that would make an important statement.
GOLDBERG: Frist has some of that in his background. Frist has actually been very good on issues of Africa. He's, you know, he says the right things, and I think everyone thinks he actually means them, which is good too. I mean, Trent Lott is now saying the right things, but no one really thinks he means them.
GEORGE: And he also, from the standpoint of the Republicans also, he was the one responsible, largely responsible for them getting back their majority when he was heading up the Republican senatorial committees. KARL: But are the Democrats going to let this one go, though, even if Trent Lott gets thrown over?
MALVEAUX: Well, I don't think that Democrats are using this for political gain. I like what Peter said about Jack Kemp. Jack Kemp is one of the few Republicans that I think actually does have a decent record on race. But I don't see anyone in the Republican side of the Senate that even begins to equal Jack Kemp.
Jack Kemp was one of the first people to come out and condemn Trent Lott from the Republican side. And I think that if you look at his history, Jack Kemp is someone who's gone to the NAACP, the National Black MBA Association, other places, and gotten a very warm response.
GEORGE: What's interesting is...
MALVEAUX: But the Democrats -- but I think that what Democrats -- Democrats don't get a pass on this either. Quite frankly, nobody's right on race in America. So I think that the Democrats cannot sit back and fiddle and say, "Gee, look at Trent Lott," when we've our own bigots.
GEORGE: The irony of this is, every time Sharpton and Jesse Jackson come out on this, it actually fortifies Trent Lott. So in a sense, Lott and Sharpton are as tactical twins on this.
MALVEAUX: Robert, that is...
KARL: All right, we've got to take a quick break. But just ahead, celebrities speak out against a possible war with Iraq. Is Hollywood in tune with the rest of America? We'll debate the issue when the Final Round returns.
KARL: Welcome back to the Final Round.
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is resigning as the head of the new 9/11 independent commission. He doesn't want to reveal a list of his international clients that critics say could present a conflict of interest.
So, Julianne, was Henry Kissinger a bad choice to begin with?
MALVEAUX: I think so. I mean, he has had this consulting firm for over 20 years, and he has made a lot of money on international concerns. But, you know, so has Democrat George Mitchell.
The fact is that globalization means relationships with lots of people. I don't think the president paid enough attention to this.
And I think that bringing Kissinger in raised a lot of specters of his past, which has always, in my opinion, been checkered.
GOLDBERG: Yes, I never liked Kissinger for detente. But, you know, the issue here...
KARL: Talk about holding a grudge.
GOLDBERG: Tell me about it.
But yes, no, the problem, the real story here is that, according to the congressional rules, you cannot be a member of this commission -- Kissinger came from the White House, but the congressional rules say you cannot be a member of this commission if you've made more than -- you have to reveal all of your clients for the last two years, if they've paid more than $5,000 in the last two years. And that means all the clients of your firm.
And so, what we're basically seeing is, is that, because of these ethics rules -- forget Kissinger, forget George Mitchell -- that's why he got out of there -- it's very difficult to get anybody really good in these things, because it basically means you can't have any lawyers or anybody who works in the private sector with these clients.
MALVEAUX: Or it means you reveal it.
GOLDBERG: Yes, but it's not unfair to Kissinger. I don't care about Kissinger. It's unfair to his clients. Clients pay to have confidentiality. When you have a lawyer, you go to a lawyer, the confidentiality isn't to protect the lawyer, it's to protect the client.
KARL: But is this commission going to be able to do anything? They've had their chairman and their vice chairman now step away. I mean, what's going on?
BEINART: Yes, and I also think it's being -- you know, it's a year late, this commission.
But, look, Henry Kissinger is 79, 80 years old. Presumably he has made a lot of money in his time during government. He does not want for money. I don't see why this guy doesn't say, "This is going to be my crowning glory, this is one of the most important commissions in American history, I'm going to do it, screw the clients, screw making money on these things, I'm going to do this." And I don't see why George Mitchell did it either.
This is a time people are being asked to sacrifice. We're in a war. I don't see why these guys can't.
GEORGE: Well, no, he basically was a bad choice. I mean, he's somebody, obviously, with a history, even though, I mean, people on the left and the right can argue about the implications of some of his decisions, but he was a lightning rod from day one.
What you're going to probably end up with now is a lot of -- you have a couple of retired members of Congress and maybe some academics who don't run into some of the ethics problems. KARL: Because we always seem to turn to the same people, I mean, Lee Hamilton, George Mitchell, I mean, you know, Warren Rudman has been talked about for this thing. It's like there's a group of like six people that seem to do all the commissions in this town.
MALVEAUX: And the issue, quite frankly -- I mean, this is what gives conspiracy theorists grist for their mill, when you say that he -- I mean, I think Peter's point is really perfect. You're 80 years old, you've made a bunch of money, you know, do something else for your country. But when you can't, what you're doing is, you're telling conspiracy theorists that there's some interlocking crap going on...
KARL: Conspiracy theorists love Henry Kissinger.
MALVEAUX: And for good reason.
KARL: All right. Next up, a group of Hollywood celebrities gathered this week, urging against U.S. military action in Iraq.
Meanwhile, the actor Sean Penn is in Iraq. He spoke with CNN's Nic Robertson this weekend.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEAN PENN, ACTOR: If there is going to be blood on my hands, be it the blood of American soldiers or of Iraqis, be they military or civilian, to live with myself, I don't want that blood to be invisible. I want it to have a human face on both sides. And so, that is entirely, for the moment, the purpose of this trip.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: And there's the guy who played Spicoli.
Of course, now he actually sounded...
KARL: He actually sounded a little more moderate than Jim McDermott and David Bonior in Iraq, but Jonah, what do you think? Is he giving aid and comfort to Saddam Hussein?
GOLDBERG: Oh, I don't know if he's giving aid and comfort to Saddam Hussein. I think he's certainly giving aid and comfort to his own ego. I mean, this guy takes himself awfully seriously and thinks that somehow what his views are on this matter matter very much.
You know, Hollywood types, they seem to think that, you know, they've been elected to something or that they have some grand expertise about things. And the reality is, most of these Hollywood types, they just think that the sound of their own voice is real important.
MALVEAUX: I think he has a right, like any other citizen, to go there. I would step off of Jonah's point on ego, I don't think that's it at all. Many Americans don't have the means.
A lot of people have not made up their minds. I mean, here's the thing. We're behaving as if people have made of their minds. I'm not following Sean Penn or this, you know, cultery of Hollywood highlights, but I want to know what they think, what other people think, and I do think that it makes some difference.
BEINART: Here's the problem. I'm all for learning more about the war, trying to come to an informed position. But the exact place you can't do that is Baghdad, which is a police state where your every move is going to be followed, where you're going to be fed propaganda that you're just going to have to spout again.
MALVEAUX: Do you think they're so stupid that they can't sift it through, Peter?
BEINART: You're not going to learn anything about this war in Baghdad. These guys -- these guys are so stupid. GEORGE: You know, memo to Hollywood activists: If Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins haven't gone over there, stay away. Just stay away.
The point is, he's not -- in one sense, it's better that he's over there, actually, I think, than Bonior, because, I mean, obviously Sean Penn isn't really representing any arm of government. But he's really not bringing anything more to the table. He'll be shown around to the place.
GOLDBERG: He's a prop.
GEORGE: Yes, he'll be shown around to where the Iraqis -- the Iraqis want, you know, want to show him and...
BEINART: There's a long, sad history of Hollywood lefties being used by dictators, and it's despicable.
MALVEAUX: And at the same time, if he's a witness to justice or injustice, if there's something that he sees and that he can say, I think we're all the better for it.
I think we can't get on our high horse and talk about people's ego when people are putting themselves out there. What does he get out of this? He doesn't get a darn thing of it. He's out there putting himself on the line. I admire him for it.
GEORGE: What's he putting -- what's the risk? How is he putting himself on the line?
MALVEAUX: He's spending money. He's spending time. GEORGE: Oh, it's costing him a whole lot.
GOLDBERG: He's getting on CNN, he's having a grand old time.
MALVEAUX: Just like you, huh, Jonah?
KARL: He's probably getting a discount hotel room in Baghdad, too. All right.
BEINART: Let's see him go to Iraq and denounce Saddam Hussein.
KARL: OK, we've got to move on. We've got to take a quick break. The Lightning Round is just ahead. Stay with us.
KARL: Time now for our Lightning Round.
The Bush administration is resuming smallpox vaccinations for the first time in more than two decades. President Bush says it's a necessary move in light of the terrorist threat, and he'll be taking the vaccine despite the risks. You can die from this vaccine.
Robert, are you ready to take your shot?
GEORGE: I think I'll hold off just a little while yet. I think, actually, though, I mean, obviously, I think the administration is acting responsibly on this. I mean, the shots are going to be voluntary. And they're obviously starting with some of the, you know, first responders, emergency type, and so forth before they start expanding it. And given the world we live in, I think it's appropriate.
BEINART: Yes, I agree. It's a middle path, not mandatory vaccinations for everybody, but focusing on mandatory vaccinations for the few people.
And I think we don't know how big the risk is. But we do need -- if this does happen, we need some people who can actually go in there and try to heal the sick without getting the disease themselves, and I think it makes sense.
KARL: What about the president, though, stepping up? Is this a moment of profound courage?
GOLDBERG: I think it's a good move for him, and he should do it when, you know, it makes sense for him to do it. And a lot of generals are saying he should do it too.
But, you know, I think the media has overplayed the risks, and maybe the administration has too. I mean, everyone before...
KARL: How can you say the media has, you know, overplayed the risks when they're the ones just saying it should be available for every American?
GOLDBERG: Well, look, my point is is that before 1972, everyone got smallpox vaccinations. And we -- this country wasn't gripped with fear that these vaccinations were so terrifying and dangerous.
KARL: I see.
BEINART: That was before AIDS, though. A lot of people have a weakened immune system.
GOLDBERG: Sure, no, I understand, I mean...
MALVEAUX: I think -- I mean, I agree with Jonah that the risk seems to be overplayed. I mean, many people -- most people had them in elementary school, that little thing they stuck on your arm, so.
It is a precaution for times that are dangerous, and I think that the administration, rarely I would say, is going in the right direction.
KARL: All right, let's move on. The Supreme Court is being asked to decide if cross burning is a form of free speech. Should cross burning be protected under the Constitution? Some liberals wanted flag burning protected. What do you say?
BEINART: And I think we should protect this as well. Look, if you go on someone's lawn, then it's trespassing, it's vandalism, that's fine. But if you do it in an empty area, it's not on anyone's property, I think it is protected free speech.
And I actually thought it was kind of pathetic, frankly, that the Supreme Court all of a sudden threw away all of these constitutional arguments because Clarence Thomas happened to speak up and say cross burning was a terrible thing. Of course it was a terrible thing, but lots of terrible things are constitutionally protected as free speech.
KARL: Do you defend Clarence Thomas on this one?
MALVEAUX: Well, he had a melonin alert, and I'm happy for that. I mean, I didn't expect him to speak up, and he did.
But the fact is that cross burning is not about speech, it's about intimidation. And Clarence Thomas, in this case, was absolutely right. There is no space in our country for this kind of thing. And it's amazing that in the same week that we've got Lott, we've got the cross burning.
And, Peter, I am really disappointed and disturbed that you would think it's OK to burn crosses.
BEINART: It's not OK. It's terrible. But it's free speech. GEORGE: Well, we also know that there are always -- there are actually limitations on free speech. I mean, for example, you know, you can't yell "fire," you know, in a crowded theater.
GOLDBERG: If Julianne's disappointed with Peter, imagine how she'll feel when I agree with her.
I think, you know, look, I mean, free speech is not absolute. Virginia law was properly worded about intimidation and how it's done. It is not a sweeping thing. It says, you know, as Scalia said, it was kind of funny, he says, "Surely, you can burn a cross in the sanctity of your own bedroom." You can.
KARL: Very quickly, we've got to go, but what about flag burning, free speech or not?
MALVEAUX: Free speech. Different thing. Not intimidation.
KARL: OK. Former Vice President Al Gore may have a new career in comedy. He hosted Saturday Night Live last night. Here's a sampling.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL GORE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: I want you to know that I respect all of you. And I wish I could have three running mates, but it's just not constitutionally viable.
I've made my decision.
Joe, will you be my running mate?
(UNKNOWN): Yes! Yes, oh, yes!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: Now, what was priceless about this was obviously the dig at Edwards and Kerry, two potential rivals to Gore for the presidential nomination.
How did he do? Is he ready for Hollywood?
GOLDBERG: I don't know if he's ready for Hollywood, but he did a good job. You know, give the guy credit where it's due. And Saturday Night Live did an even better job of making Al Gore funny, you know.
MALVEAUX: Yes, not ready for Hollywood, but maybe ready for the White House.
KARL: Well, you know, the thing about this is Trent Lott was all over that Saturday Night Live. I mean, they were making fun of him left and right, which, you know, including Al Gore performing as Trent Lott.
What did you think of that?
BEINART: I know, another left-wing media conspiracy to bash the Republicans.
No, I agree. I thought it was one of the best Saturday Night Lives I've seen in ages.
GEORGE: Yes, they tailored it for Gore's personality very well.
GOLDBERG: Or lack thereof.
GEORGE: Or lack thereof.
KARL: Now, what a minute.
MALVEAUX: You were behaving so well, Jonah.
GEORGE: The whole smooch with he and Tipper in there was very funny.
KARL: All right. Well, great. Well, thank you all very much.
That is it for LATE EDITION this Sunday, December 15th.
GEORGE: Happy anniversary.
KARL: This is the one-year anniversary of the Final Round. Happy anniversary.
Be sure to join Wolf next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.
Wolf will also be here Monday through Friday from noon to 1:00 p.m. Eastern with Showdown: Iraq, and later at that same day, at 5:00 p.m. Eastern for Wolf Blitzer Reports.
He is a ubiquitous figure around here.
Until then, thank you very much for watching. I'm Jonathan Karl in Washington. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com