CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Aired March 2, 2003 - 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, 7:00 p.m. in Jerusalem and 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching, from around the world, thanks for joining us for this special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq.
We'll talk with two key members of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee in just a moment. But first, a CNN news alert.
BLITZER: Let's move on and talk about what's being called a key capture in the war on terror. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is now reported to be in U.S. custody after being apprehended in Pakistan in a joint raid by U.S. agents and Pakistani security officials.
He's suspected of plotting the September 11th attacks, as well as other al Qaeda operations, and is being held at an undisclosed location.
The White House commended Pakistani and U.S. authorities on the joint capture and said it's hard to overstate the significance of the arrest. A senior White House official, indeed, put it this way: "There's no question that because of how high up he is, how charismatic, it's likely he has information on the whereabouts of other al Qaeda, possibly Osama bin Laden."
U.S. government officials say there are no plans at this point to bring Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to the United States.
Joining us now to talk about this key arrest and where the U.S. should go from here in the war on terror, as well as in the showdown with Iraq, are two key members of the U.S. Senate Select Intelligence Committee: Republican Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi and the vice chairman, Democratic Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia.
Senators, welcome to LATE EDITION. Thanks very much for joining us.
Senator Lott, let me begin with you on the arrest of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. How big of a deal, in the estimate of the U.S. intelligence community, is this?
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), MISSISSIPPI: Well, I believe it's very large. He's been described as one of the biggest fish, maybe the big fish, other than Osama bin Laden. He's number three, as I understand it, in their hierarchy. He was their operations man. It's very significant. And it shows there's a continuing effort going on, that others were arrested with him. And they're still pursuing some of the other top 10 leaders of al Qaeda. So, I think it's very important.
BLITZER: Based on what you know, how many others were arrested with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed?
LOTT: Well, I have the impression, at least two, maybe one more. But, you know, I can't say beyond that.
BLITZER: And the other -- those were significant arrests, as well, based on what you know?
LOTT: Not as big as, obviously, Khalid Mohammed, but very important.
BLITZER: You've been critical in the past few weeks, Senator Rockefeller, suggesting the administration is overly, perhaps, focusing in on Iraq and not spending enough time in the war on terror. But does this seem to undermine that criticism, the arrest of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed?
SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER (D), WEST VIRGINIA: It doesn't undermine it, but it is huge. Other than Zawahiri, who would be number two, I would think that this arrest is as big or bigger than bin Laden, because this was the brain. This is the guy who's been behind everything. And, you know, we took him down.
The Pakistanis deserve tremendous credit on that. They've taken down 483 al Qaeda before that. We don't give them credit for that. You know, Musharraf is doing that in a highly Islamic country, walking a dangerous line. He really scored big on this one.
LOTT: I want to say, I agree, we should give credit to the Pakistanis, what they've done here. This is very significant, and, you know, that is a large number that they've already taken down.
BLITZER: So, you believe that President Musharraf is fully on board, even though he was arrested, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, in Rawalpindi, right near the military headquarters of the Pakistani military.
And there's continuing suspicion, as you well know, Senator Lott, that certain elements in Pakistan, perhaps even within the military, in the intelligence service, are giving sanctuary to some of these al Qaeda operatives?
LOTT: I have no doubt that's some of that's going on, but I do think that President Musharraf has been very cooperative. And boy, this is very clear evidence is of it, with this arrest.
BLITZER: Senator Rockefeller, what happens now to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and the others who were arrested?
ROCKEFELLER: Well, happily, we don't know where he is. BLITZER: When you say "happily," what does that...
ROCKEFELLER: That's good. That means that he's in safekeeping, under American protection. He'll be grilled by us. I'm sure we'll be proper with him, but I'm sure we'll be very, very tough with him.
And, you know, again, I have to -- I have to credit Musharraf. I was in Pakistan last week, and we talked with some of the people who were talking about precisely this kind of arrest, not just in Rawalpindi but also in the tribal areas. And it was always felt that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed would not be in the tribal areas, would probably be more near Quetta or in that area. But they got him, and that's all that counts. He is huge.
BLITZER: When you say that he will be forcefully questioned, not in the United States where he might be subject to domestic U.S. laws, but someplace overseas, the whole issue of torture, coercive questioning comes into play.
He presumably has information that could prevent future terrorist actions against Americans. How far should U.S. interrogators go in trying to get that information out of him to save lives?
ROCKEFELLER: That's always a delicate question, and there are presidential memorandums that prescribe and allow certain measures to be taken, but we have to be careful.
On the other hand, he does have the information. Getting that information will save American lives. We have no business not getting that information.
BLITZER: Well, the question I'm asking, I guess -- and I'll ask it directly to both of you -- torture, should the U.S. torture this guy?
ROCKEFELLER: We do not sanction torture, but there are psychological and other means that can accomplish most of what we want.
LOTT: We should aggressively pursue the information that he has. I'm sure he'll be interrogated to the maximum that the law allows. But I don't think it'll go over the limits.
BLITZER: So, in other words, just short of formal torture, but psychological pressure and sleep-deprivation, other forms of that...
LOTT: I don't know the details of how they do that, but I suppose there'll be some of that, to try to get the information he has, because you're talking about information that could lead to the arrest of others, and you're talking about knowledge that could involve lives of thousands. And so, you know, we've got to do all we can to get the information he has.
BLITZER: There has been speculation, Senator Rockefeller, in the press that U.S. authorities, given the restrictions on torture, might hand over Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and his colleagues to a third country, a friendly Arab state, Jordan, Egypt, some country like that, where the restrictions against torture are not in existence.
ROCKEFELLER: I don't know that. I can't comment on that. And if I did know it, I wouldn't comment on it.
But I wouldn't rule it out. I wouldn't take anything off the table where he is concerned, because this is the man who has killed hundreds and hundreds of Americans over the last 10 years.
BLITZER: Do you believe he does know the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden?
LOTT: I wouldn't be surprised if he does know his whereabouts, but, you know, that may be a very complicated route that we may not be able to find out.
I don't expect that he'd be brought to the United States, though.
ROCKEFELLER: I don't see how he could not know where Osama bin Laden is. I don't see how he could not know where Zawahiri is. I don't see where he could not know where some of these top 10 that we're targeting now, to get, the Pakistanis and the CIA working together. I'm sure he knows where they are, and I'm sure that we're going to try and get it from him.
LOTT: But because of that, they're all probably on the move right now.
BLITZER: So these are critical hours, is that what you're saying?
LOTT: I think so. And because they're on the move, may give us another opportunity at some others.
BLITZER: And to look around.
BLITZER: Can the American public rest a little bit easier right now, Senator Rockefeller, with the arrest of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed?
ROCKEFELLER: No, because he's only one of hundreds or tens of thousands of al Qaeda who've been trained over the years in Afghanistan and the madrassa schools. They're in six of the seven continents, in 60 to 70 countries, including our own. They don't rely on Osama bin Laden for instructions. They don't rely on Khalid Shaikh Mohammed for instructions. They're trained to do their own damage, and their purpose in life is to kill Americans and destroy Americans' life.
LOTT: But as Senator Rockefeller said at the beginning, this was a key thing, because he is the operations guy, he is the one that was probably giving orders and directions. And while a lot of them operated cells and independently all over the world, this was a blow, I think, to their coordination.
BLITZER: And other al Qaeda operatives have provided extremely useful information to U.S. law enforcement and the intelligence community over these past several months, so the hope obviously is, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed will do precisely that.
We're going to take a quick break. A quick question, on this decision this past week to go back to the yellow or elevated status, as far as the terror alert, as opposed to the orange or high level of alert. It's confusing the American public, as you well know, Senator Lott. Is this good to sort of fluctuate back and forth?
LOTT: I don't know if it's good. You worry that people will begin to ignore it if you cry wolf too much. But if you're getting intercepts, if you're picking up threats, and if there's an increased level and there's some degree of specificity, somebody has to make a decision, do you put out some additional warning?
I do think it's causing people to think more about their own safety, what they would do, in terms -- particularly here in the Washington area, what route would you take, how would you communicate with your family, what can you do. Even that is positive. But there are those who would say, you know, it does confuse people, and wonder whether it's really helping.
But I know, for instance, there are people that are planning just next week to have an emergency, you know, evacuation plan, to see how it actually works.
BLITZER: On the Hill?
BLITZER: In the Senate?
BLITZER: And the House?
LOTT: Maybe I shouldn't speak for the House, but I mean, that kind of thing is happening. It's probably positive, in many regards.
BLITZER: What about that, Senator Rockefeller, are you confused by this terror alert, up and down, the fluctuation?
ROCKEFELLER: No. I think it's important to do it, and I know it's an harassment to do it, and I know the American people don't like doing it. But this is -- post-9/11 everything has changed, and this is part of the adjustment of making that change.
ROCKEFELLER: We have not gone up to orange before, much at all...
BLITZER: Except for the first anniversary of the first...
ROCKEFELLER: Yes, except for the first anniversary, and this is only the second time. We've gone back down to yellow, and it may be that we went back down to yellow because if we go to war we'll go back up to red...
BLITZER: If there's war with Iraq.
ROCKEFELLER: ... because if there's that, there's probably going to be retribution.
BLITZER: And red being the highest level, severe. And we're going to talk about the showdown with Iraq, but we're going to take a quick break.
We have a lot more to talk with two key senators, Senators Lott and Rockefeller, both key members of the Intelligence Committee. We're going to talk about the showdown with Iraq. They'll be taking your phone calls, as well.
Our special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, will be right back.
ROCKEFELLER: (OFF-MIKE) U.N. inspectors watching. I mean, this process could -- and he could have all kinds of reasons...
BLITZER: But what's wrong with letting it...
ROCKEFELLER: Why didn't he...
BLITZER: If it takes a month, what's wrong with that? Isn't that better, the critics will argue...
ROCKEFELLER: How do you know he does it in a month?
ROCKEFELLER: How do you know he does it in a month? He's done nothing else in a month.
Now look, if I had to be someplace, I'm more concerned about North Korea and al Qaeda than I am about Iraq, in terms of putting people in harm's way.
But on this thing, I think Hussein is really being cynical, he's manipulative. And it's made me very angry, and frankly, it's made me a little bit more supportive of what the president...
BLITZER: Because you've been critical...
ROCKEFELLER: ... has made up his mind to do anyway.
BLITZER: ... you've been critical of the president in the past.
But, Senator Lott, you know, the Iraqis will say why can't the U.S. simply take yes for an answer?
LOTT: Well, I had a briefing on all this on Monday, and I said then, I'll guarantee you by Friday, they'll say, "Oh, yes, we'll begin the destruction." Well, he beat it by one day. He started it on Thursday.
It is better than nothing at all. But it's part of the continued process that's been going on for 12 years -- delay, deceit and then some, you know, grudging development will occur.
While these missiles are important, because it shows clearly they've been violating the U.N. resolutions, that's not what concerns me the most. It's all these other chemical and biological weapons that have not been identified, thousands of liters in several categories that are still out there. We don't know if they've been destroyed. They say, you know, they don't have them but, well, show us, give us some proof.
BLITZER: These Al Samoud II missiles, they have a range of more than 150 kilometers...
LOTT: That's right.
BLITZER: ... more than 93 miles. But if they're in the southern part of Iraq, they could endanger a lot of tens of thousands of troops in northern Kuwait.
Why not let U.N. inspectors, if it takes a month, finish the job, go ahead and destroy those missiles?
LOTT: Well, they should proceed aggressively to destroy them. I would think that they could probably do more than two or four or six a day. They've got, as Senator Rockefeller said, 100 to 120. They could be more aggressive in that.
But there are a lot of other things that we're concerned about. This is another deception. This is, you know, another rabbit to chase while they continue to hide other very critical things.
I don't want to diminish the fact that, yes, they've got those missiles, they need to be destroyed. I wonder if they've only got 100 to 120? I had heard at one point many more than that.
ROCKEFELLER: My theory on that is if he's making these missiles available to destroy, that means he's got a whole cache, as Trent Lott has said, he's got a whole cache of a lot of other things that he can use in the event that we go to war. So, I don't put the stock in their destruction that some others are doing.
BLITZER: But you think no matter what he does, Saddam Hussein, President Bush is determined to go to war, sooner rather than later?
ROCKEFELLER: I've always felt that the president made up his mind long ago that he was going to do that, and the group around him has supported him on that, and I don't think anything's going to change that.
BLITZER: And nothing is going to change the president's opinion, no matter what Saddam Hussein does?
LOTT: I don't believe, although he obviously has gone the extra mile, both with the Congress and with the United Nations. We continue to hope that something will happen to allow us to avoid having to go to war. But you can't wait until that moment and then try to get prepared. We're preparing. We've got 225,000 U.S. and British and other troops in the area.
And we still have so many things that are unanswered that are very dangerous, not only to the people in Iraq, but the region, and as a matter of fact, the world. Saddam Hussein's been quoted as saying, you know, he needs something as small as a can the size of your hand with a substance in it to threaten all kinds of destruction.
BLITZER: How big of a setback for the U.S. military is this Turkish government decision, the parliamentary decision, not to authorize the deployment of some 62,000 U.S. troops in Turkey for a move into northern Iraq?
ROCKEFELLER: It's a huge setback for our purposes. It stunned me. It was only three votes. But the defection from the government was enormous. They're talking about bringing up again on Tuesday. I doubt they will. If they do, my guess is it will lose again.
BLITZER: It's not only a huge setback for the U.S. military, but a huge setback in U.S.-Turkey relations.
ROCKEFELLER: Well, and it should be. We spent the last 50 years defending them in NATO. And along comes this opportunity, and by three votes they decline the opportunity to allow us to come in through the north.
You cannot do Iraq simply from the south. If you do it from the south and things go well, the whole war could be over in a month or less. If you don't have the north it might take two months or more. That's a lot of American people in harm's way.
LOTT: Well, obviously, it's a disappointing decision by their parliament, one we shouldn't, you know, underestimate.
We have a lot of other options. And sometimes, what you see in that part of the world is not what you actually get. I suspect that there are some other alternatives that would help us be aggressive in the north of Iraq.
Also, this is a new government, it's only about four months old. And we do have a long history of a good relationship with Turkey. While this is disappointing, and I didn't like some of the bidding, if you will, that was going on, I think we need to continue to work with this important ally.
And while I, too, have some doubts that they're going to have another doubt, you know, there's some indication they might come back to it.
It might be like the Senate. Sometimes you have to vote two or three times to get it right. But no, we shouldn't diminish the fact that this was a disappointment, setback, but we can take other actions to deal with it.
BLITZER: It looks like you're adjusting pretty well to life after being the majority leader?
LOTT: Well, it's preferable to be majority leader, but life goes on and you try to find a niche where you can make a contribution to the people who elected you and to your country.
I'm enjoying the Intelligence Committee. Finally, I feel like I'm getting even more answers than I did when I was majority leader. I got occasional briefings, but usually it was to tell me, "We're doing this." At least the Intelligence Committee you get a little input as you prepare to take an action.
BLITZER: Senator Lott, good luck to you.
LOTT: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Senator Rockefeller, good luck to you. Good luck to everybody.
BLITZER: Thanks to both of you for joining us.
Just ahead, is a sharply divided U.N. Security Council buying Saddam Hussein more time to disarm? We'll get some special insight from former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former U.S. national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.
LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KOFI ANNAN, SECRETARY GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS: And even at this late stage, I don't think I have given up hope. War is -- it can be avoided, and I think the inspectors are working full-steam.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, voicing some optimism about the showdown with Iraq.
The U.N. Security Council is considering a new resolution on Iraq. But at least one permanent member of the Council, namely Russia, is openly indicating a possible willingness to veto.
Joining us now, from Kent, Connecticut, is Dr. Henry Kissinger. He served as the U.S. secretary of state under Presidents Nixon and Ford. And here in Washington, Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski. He was the U.S. national security adviser under the Carter administration.
Gentlemen, welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Let me begin with you, Dr. Kissinger. If the Iraqis are going ahead and destroying these Al Samoud II missiles, as demanded by the U.N., isn't that a good start, enough of a start, that the Bush administration should think about delaying war?
HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: The fundamental problem is that in 1998, the Clinton administration listed large quantities of chemical and biological weapons that Iraq had. Then there were five years without inspection.
Iraq was supposed to list all its weapons of mass destruction three months ago. And destroying some of these missiles is just a small downpayment that puts the inspectors in the position of detectives that have to look for something that Iraq is supposed to produce.
And I believe, the time has come for Iraq to tell us what weapons they have and then to engage in the process of destruction, and at that point we can consider stopping military action.
BLITZER: But, Dr. Kissinger, why not, in the meantime, go ahead and, under the notion a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush, complete destroying those approximately 120 Al Samoud II missiles?
KISSINGER: Well, I'm all in favor of destroying the 120 missiles. The fundamental problem is with the United States, having deployed 200,000 troops, having a unanimous United Nations resolution behind it in October, should stop, at this point, on the basis of a tiny downpayment, to an obligation, and on the basis of a record of 12 years of evasion of its previous obligations, there will never be a time to call an end to it.
We can't keep 200,000 troops in the Middle East for the summer. And as soon as we start withdrawing troops, the whole psychological climate will change and the pressure on Saddam will alter.
There is a way out. He can list the weapons of mass destruction he has and make them available for destruction...
BLITZER: All right, let me bring Dr....
KISSINGER: It's a relatively simple way.
BLITZER: Let me bring Dr. Brzezinski into this conversation.
What do you make of what Dr. Kissinger had to say?
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think that the destruction of the missiles is a step forward, but obviously, it's not a full compliance with what is required.
Nonetheless, one of the problems that we face in all of this is the Resolution 1441 mandated both inspection and verification, and it was worded in such a way that people can legitimately claim that the glass is half full and half empty.
The missile case is the first case in which something very specific was identified and a very specific deadline was set. If it had not been met, it would have been an act of defiance. Since it was met, it is a step forward. It doesn't justify it being labeled as an act of deception, but it is obviously not adequate.
And that brings me to my main point -- namely, we are now in a phase in which we have to really decide whether Iraq is grudgingly disarming or deliberately evading. And the way to establish that is to set a series of specific deadlines related to specific demands, precisely of the kind that Blix made with regard to the rockets.
And at each stage, we are then in a position to define very clearly and, I think, on a basis of far greater consensus than we right now have as to whether Iraq is complying or defying. And if it is defying, I'm inclined to think that we would get much more international consensus in support of military action.
BLITZER: But on that specific point, Dr. Brzezinski, the administration, the Bush administration, including that president himself, no longer simply saying full disarmament is the mission, but also regime change is part of the mission.
Listen to what the president said earlier this week on Thursday when he met with the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you commit troops to war, you must have a clear mission. Should we be forced to commit our troops because of his failure to disarm, the mission will be complete disarmament, which will mean regime change. That was not the mission in 1991.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He was explaining the difference between 1991 and now. But by adding into the equation regime change once again, the administration seems to be saying, "It doesn't make any difference how far the Iraqis go in disarmament, Saddam Hussein must go under any circumstances."
BRZEZINSKI: And that is precisely why we're lacking the international support that otherwise we might have. I think the international community would be far more supportive of the United States if it was convinced that the United States is seriously, truly seeking the goal of disarming Iraq, a goal that everyone supports.
There is a strong suspicion in the international community, which has been fed by rhetoric like this, and many other cases, that the United States really doesn't want disarmament. In fact, it fears that Saddam might disarm because that would impede its effort to overthrow the regime. And on that score, there is very, very little international support, and hence, the costs of military action would be extremely high.
BLITZER: Is the White House right, Dr. Kissinger, by adding the element of regime change once again into the equation, in addition to full disarmament?
KISSINGER: Well, I have argued that the primary emphasis should be put on disarmament.
But one has to look at the situation as it is. Here is a leader who for 12 years has violated, I forget how many U.N. resolutions, more than 10 U.N. resolutions, who has evaded every previous attempt to disarm, who has used these weapons against his own people and against his neighbors.
And if one follows the French and German proposals, the practical result is that the disarmament will take place under Saddam, that even if he carries it out, which I personally would doubt, you are then left with Saddam with unlimited income from oil and the capacity to rebuild these weapons.
So I think that the administration's concern to get a regime change in the light of the experience that we have had is understandable, even though my recommendations were slightly different. I understand it, and at this stage, I back it.
BLITZER: All right, gentlemen, we're going to take another quick break. We're only getting started.
Our conversation with Dr. Brzezinski and Dr. Kissinger will continue, including phone calls for both of them. Call us now.
Our special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq. We're talking with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Dr. Brzezinski, how much damage do you believe there will be in U.S.-Turkish relations if the Turkish parliament does not reverse itself and authorize the deployment of some 62,000 U.S. troops to Turkey?
BRZEZINSKI: I think there would be resentment here, obviously, and understandably so.
But one has to take into account that one of the costs of pressing Turkey into this war, in addition to bribing them, which is pretty expensive too, in any case, might be significant political instability in Turkey. And this is another reason why I feel we ought to let inspection and verification run its course. The political costs we're going to be paying for this, whether in Turkey or in Pakistan, probably in much of the Middle East, already in a great deal of Europe, throughout the world in fact, are going to be so high that, unless there is an imminent threat -- I repeat the word "imminent," which we're not using actually -- I think we can afford to let this process go forward.
BLITZER: But you heard Dr. Kissinger say, you have 200,000 U.S. troops, you can't keep them cocked at ready to go forever. And if you start withdrawing, then it's basically all over, and it underscores U.S. weakness in the face of Iraqi defiance.
BRZEZINSKI: You know, admittedly the Middle East is not Europe, and the climatic conditions are more adverse. But the fact is that we kept war-ready troops in Europe, war-ready, poised for war, for several decades, and we have far greater rapid-redeployment capability today than we ever did.
So the argument that we have to go to war because we deployed troops to press the other side to concede, I think, is not a sufficient cause for a war, which could be very costly, very destructive, and which, at least in the near future, is not necessary.
I don't exclude the possibility that, in the long run, we may have to use force. What I am saying is, let's think of the larger picture, the broad geostrategic costs. Let's think of the dangers elsewhere before we take a plunge which could isolate us in the world at enormous cost to our international position.
BLITZER: Dr. Kissinger, the French foreign minister was on ABC earlier today, Dominique de Villepin, and he was defending France's position in the face of the very different position coming from Washington. I want you to listen to what he said about U.S.-French relations right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOMINIQUE DE VILLEPIN, FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER: France is not opposing the United States. You see, what kind of friends are the friends who always are supporting you, always saying, "Yes, you are right, you are the most beautiful"?
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: But many people in the United...
DE VILLEPIN: That's not the way France believed in friendship.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Many people...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: How much of a rupture, how much damage has there been to U.S. relations not only with France, but with Germany, Belgium, others who are saying to the Bush administration right now, "You are wrong"?
KISSINGER: No, there has been a serious rupture, and one has to define that rupture. It is not just caused by the fact that France and Germany and Belgium are telling us that we are wrong, it is the first time that NATO nations have actively worked in the United Nations to oppose the United States and to thwart what the administration is doing. That has never happened in 50 years of previous controversies, which have been conducted as family controversies.
And when the United States is on the verge of going to war, for close allies to take a position in which they in effect called the briefing of the secretary of state erroneous and misleading and actively work against us in Africa and in other places around the world, it's a shocking experience which will have serious long-term consequences and cannot be blamed on the American administration.
BLITZER: Is this about as bad as you've seen the U.S. relationship with some of these NATO allies?
BRZEZINSKI: I think Henry is right in saying that this is very serious, but I think we have to ask ourselves, how have we conducted ourselves? We have in effect said to them, "Line up." We have treated them as if they were the Warsaw Pact. The United States issued orders, and they have to follow.
Now, let me give you one striking example. The president since 9/11 has uttered the phrase "He who is not with us is against us" -- mind you, "He who is not with us is against us," anyone who disagrees with us is against us -- no less than 99 times. We have a concept of the alliance, inherent in this kind of conduct, which involves giving orders and others falling in line.
The issue of Iraq is a complicated issue. It's related to the whole question of proliferation and global stability. Ultimately, it points even to the issue of North Korea, that we haven't talked about at all.
And how we conduct this problem, how we deal with it is essential to the effective exercise of America's global leadership.
We are literally undercutting it right now. We have never been as isolated globally, literally never, since 1945.
BLITZER: All right. Unfortunately, we have to leave it right there.
Dr. Brzezinski, thank you very much.
Dr. Kissinger, as usual, always good to have you on LATE EDITION as well.
Thanks to both of you for your insight.
KISSINGER: Thank you.
BLITZER: And up next, could war with Iraq be the catalyst for peace and democracy in the Middle East? The Nobel Peace Prize winner and the Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, shares his thoughts when our special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ELIE WIESEL, NOBEL PEACE PRIZE WINNER: If Europe were to apply as much pressure on Saddam Hussein as it does on the United States and Britain, I think we could prevent war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor, Elie Wiesel, speaking out earlier this week on the showdown with Iraq.
Welcome back. Joining us now live from Miami is Elie Wiesel.
And, Mr. Wiesel, thanks for joining us once again on LATE EDITION.
You support the president's tough stance when it comes to Iraq. Tell our viewers in a nutshell why.
WIESEL: Well, I support the president in his fight against terrorism. And I see the Iraqi situation within the context of world terrorism.
He has been -- I mean, Saddam Hussein has been the head of a terrorist state. That is why I support the president. It's not a matter of war, it's a matter of intervention.
I always believe in the necessity, if not the virtue, of intervention when human rights are violated, when human life is at stake and when liberty is being curtailed.
And Saddam Hussein, to me, is a criminal against humanity for what he has done to his people. I remember the late '80s when he killed thousands and thousands and thousands of Kurds and other Iraqis with gas. What he has done to his -- the lessons that they cleared mine fields in his war against Iran. This man should have been indicted then for crimes against humanity.
And, therefore, I feel now is the time to say we are against appeasement, and we have to apply pressure.
Of course, logically, I should have marched with all those who demonstrate against the war. I am -- you can imagine why. I am against war. I know war. I have seen the ugliness of war. But nevertheless, in this situation, it is different because Saddam Hussein is a murderer.
BLITZER: You use the word "appeasement," and obviously that raises the specter of the 1930s, the build-up to World War II.
You spoke out about this earlier in the week, after your meeting with the president and Dr. Condoleezza Rice, his national security adviser, when you emerged from the White House. I want to play to our viewers here in the United States and around the world what you said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WIESEL: I never compared anyone to Hitler. I don't even compare him to Hitler. But I can compare crisis to '38, which to me is an important date in history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What about that? What is the point that you're trying to make? That this is a moment, right now, that was similar to 1938, before the outbreak of World War II in Europe?
WIESEL: I feel, yes, I feel it is a moment, a critical moment and a dangerous moment. In 1938, if the great powers of Europe, meaning France and Britain, would have intervened, would not have accepted appeasement, then there would have been no Second World War.
At that time, too, the public opinion was against war. Public opinion actually was for appeasement. And I remember from history books when the French prime minister came back from Munich, he was greeted by thousands of thousands of people celebrating his arrival. And he turned to his aides and he said, "They are idiots." He used another word, "These imbeciles," he said, because he understood, but public opinion did not, that that was a very bad choice.
BLITZER: So what you're suggesting, Mr. Wiesel, is that countries like France and Germany and Belgium, who are opposing the U.S. policy, the tough policy, standing up to Saddam Hussein, in effect, what you're suggesting are they're making war even more likely by their stance?
WIESEL: You know, I don't like to accuse nations, I don't like to be in such controversy. But I can tell you what I feel personally. I feel that if Saddam Hussein had to face a united world, a united community, a community that has always been united, France and all the other European nations outside the Soviet bloc, usually were with America, if he had to face the entire bloc, he would have behaved differently. Already now he behaves differently. All the concessions that he's making now are only because of the United States' pressure.
And therefore I feel somehow they should come to an agreement, to understanding between Europe and America to say, "Look, let us not repeat '38."
BLITZER: Elie Wiesel, thank you, as usual, for joining us.
Elie Wiesel, the Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Coming up in the next hour of LATE EDITION, we'll talk with the former U.N. -- with several former U.N. weapons inspectors. We'll also have an exclusive interview with Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai.
And a special interview with Dan Rather of CBS News. Howard Kurtz will speak to Dan, just back from his interview with Saddam Hussein.
The next hour of LATE EDITION, right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq. We'll talk about the potential threats still posed by Iraq in just a moment, but first, a CNN news alert.
BLITZER: Joining us now to talk about the hunt for weapons in Iraq and what it means for the possibility of war are three special guests: Here in Washington, Ambassador Joseph Wilson. He was the U.S. Charge d'Affaires in Iraq during the Clinton administration -- actually during the first Bush administration. Also in Washington, David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector. And in Florida, Bill Tierney, a former U.N. weapons inspector himself.
Thanks to all of you for joining us.
Let me begin with you, David Albright. As you're watching the Iraqis cooperate with the U.N. inspectors yesterday and today, destroying, as of now, we're told 10 of these Al Samoud missiles -- about another 110 or 100, more than 100 to go -- what goes through your mind? Is this the beginning of the end? Are they going to be able to avert a war?
DAVID ALBRIGHT, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Well, I think it's very confusing now. I mean, they're revealing all kinds of new information, and it has to be assessed. And so, it's a very dangerous point for the inspection process. I mean, they need to work quickly to figure out what all this means, so they're not being duped. And they don't have a long time. I mean, they...
BLITZER: What's so dangerous about it right now? Why do you say that?
ALBRIGHT: Well, they could make a mistake.
BLITZER: The inspectors?
ALBRIGHT: The inspectors. They could buy into stories, think there's cooperation and compliance and then it turns out there isn't. So they have to move very, very carefully right now, but very quickly.
BLITZER: Well, Bill Tierney, you were there, you were once an inspector on the ground. What's your assessment?
BILL TIERNEY, FORMER U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: I think that the UNSCOM team did a very good job of showing that the Iraqis have no intention of complying. They will never comply. And the best you could possibly hope for from the current program is to have a series of lockouts like you did in '97 and '98, just to repeat the whole exercise.
BLITZER: What do you mean by that? Walk us through that, specifically what you're saying.
TIERNEY: OK. In '97 especially, there were a series of inspections, surprise inspection, where we had very good information that the Iraqis had weapons of mass destruction.
For instance, biological weapons at the second special Republican Guard's battalion. We showed up. They locked us out. Their excuse was, "Well, you were here two years ago, you don't need to go back in again." One of our sub-teams had a view into the location and saw them loading boxes that matched the description we had from defectors that were used for biological weapons.
That's one example. I could go on for the next half hour with that kind of thing.
BLITZER: So you think this cooperation right now is phony. Is that what you're saying?
TIERNEY: Yes, it's phony. Well, it's not being truly tested. Everything they've been doing so far is reestablishing the baseline of old, worn-out, declared sites. The presidential site that they went to, Al Sajud (ph), really that is nothing more than VIP housing for foreign guests.
BLITZER: All right. Well, let me bring Joe Wilson in.
The notion, being phony, the cooperation, well, the actual destruction of the missiles -- that's not phony, because those are missiles that potentially could have chemical or biological warheads, more than 150-kilometer range, could endanger U.S. troops in northern Kuwait, where there are about 100,000 of them right now.
So that suggests that the Iraqis are at least dismantling part of their offensive military hardware.
JOSEPH WILSON, FORMER U.S. CHARGE D'AFFAIRES IN IRAQ: Well, I think that they're dismantling that which the inspectors find, which is what is happening essentially.
The problem is, it seems to me, is this is not a disarmament exercise any longer. The president made it very clear in his speech at the American Enterprise Institute and his comments at the White House that this is a regime-change activity. This is a war to go in, invade, conquer and occupy Iraq, and it doesn't make any difference what Saddam Hussein does.
So, he may be trying to destroy these missiles in order to buy himself a little bit of time and in order to try and drive a wedge between the U.S. and the international community, which I think he's going to be pretty successful doing.
BLITZER: Saddam Hussein?
WILSON: Yes, Saddam Hussein. But that's not going to stop the administration. BLITZER: David Albright, I want you to listen to what the president said specifically about the destruction of these Al Samoud missiles. Earlier in the week on Thursday, before they started on Saturday, he predicted that that would happen. But then he said this, when he was meeting with Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The discussion about these rockets is part of his campaign of deception. You see, he'll say I'm not going to destroy the rockets, and then he'll have a change of mind this weekend and destroy the rockets and say, "I've disarmed." The rockets are just a tip of the iceberg.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is the president right? Are the rockets just the tip of the iceberg?
ALBRIGHT: I think they are, but I the Bush administration is wrong to think that inspections shouldn't continue more. I mean, there's a lot of new information. And while perhaps the Bush administration doesn't care about what the inspectors do or find, the rest of the world does. And I think it would be a big mistake for the administration to just flippantly dismiss all the information that Iraq is turning over and its cooperation to destroy the missiles.
It is real disarmament. I mean, we can argue -- I think it's the tip of the iceberg; others don't. But I do think that the inspectors need to spend more time looking at this and looking for more Iraqi compliance.
BLITZER: So, do you think, Bill Tierney, that more could be achieved through the inspection process, going forward, squeezing as much of this stuff out of the Iraqis as possible, or just forgetting about it and going to war and trying to end it in that way?
TIERNEY: What the IAEA could do is act on information I sent to both UNMOVIC and IAEA on the location of an underground chamber used to enrich uranium. I worked this when I was within the United States government. I continue to validate it.
And I believe, about six kilometers away from Tarmea (ph) Nuclear Research Facility, the Iraqis have put an underground chamber where they have calutrons used for the electromagnetic isotope separation method.
And all they have to do, hop in their cars, go up Canal Road, take a right at the Baghdad Mosul (ph) Road. Forty, 50 clicks up the road, take another right. Go down to the river. There it is. Bring your ground-penetrating radar team.
And all they have to do is go there. Prove me wrong.
BLITZER: Well, if they have this information, the U.N. inspectors, presumably they can go there, and the Iraqis probably would have no choice but to let them.
Joe Wilson, what's wrong with that recommendation?
WILSON: I think that's exactly right. I mean, I think that they probably should. They should be acting on that intelligence information, other good information that they have. They should be ratcheting up the pressure. They should be pressing ahead with disarmament.
If you have disarmament as the objective, then you have a broad international consensus. If you have regime change and redrawing the political map of the Middle East, you have no consensus whatsoever. We go in and do it alone.
BLITZER: All right, David, I know -- I see that you were shaking your head before. What do you have -- you disagree with Bill Tierney on his assessment?
ALBRIGHT: Well, I don't know. I don't know that specific case. I mean, I know the Iraqi -- past Iraqi gas centrifuge EMIS programs that he mentioned intimately, and I know efforts they've made to reconstitute those programs.
Unfortunately, when Bill mentions that information, if it's there, the Iraqis would have cleaned it out. And so, it's actually -- one of the problems is -- and I think, you know, if the inspectors can go there and look, I support that.
But one of the problems has been in the inspection process, particularly on the nuclear side, is a lot of the information that the inspectors have been provided by the U.S. and other governments has not been any good, and that it's been leading to a lot of negative results.
And it may be -- and I personally believe there probably is a nuclear weapons program in Iraq -- but the information, as some inspectors have been quoted saying, has been garbage.
BLITZER: Why do you think, Bill Tierney, that it hasn't been cleaned out a long time ago?
TIERNEY: Well, there's a particular reason why I chose to come out with this. An underground chamber can't be put on the back of a truck and moved out.
Now, if they act on it speedily, they should see some kind of residual radiation that they can pick up. And they'd also have to explain why there's this huge empty room under a power- generation station for a water-treatment plant.
Now, if you're the Iraqis, what better place to put a nuclear- weapons program than under a water-treatment plant, after all the flak we took from the Gulf War for striking this?
BLITZER: All right.
TIERNEY: There are other reasons I could get into...
BLITZER: Let me let David Albright...
ALBRIGHT: I would say, I think it's important to pursue any lead. And we could call inspectors, and the U.S. could do it, Bill could do it, and they could go to this site tomorrow. And I think that's worthwhile.
If they don't find something there, unfortunately it doesn't prove there is not a secret nuclear-weapons program. That's one of the real dilemmas that we're all having to face now, is that we're seeing no evidence of activity, and I think we shouldn't be too quick to assume that that's no activity.
BLITZER: We'll be getting that new report March 6th, this coming Friday, from Hans Blix, the chief inspector.
You have a provocative article in the new issue, the March 3rd issue, of "The Nation," and among other things, Joe, you write this, and I'll put it up on the screen: "The underlying objective of this war is the imposition of a Pax Americana on the region and the installation of vassal regimes that will control restive populations."
Those are strong words, but tell our viewers what you're driving at.
WILSON: Well, the underlying objective, as I see it, the more I look at this, is less and less disarmament, and it really has little to do with terrorism, because everybody knows that a war to invade and conquer and occupy Iraq is going to spawn a new generation of terrorists.
So you look at what's underpinning this, and you go back and you take a look at who's been influencing the process. And it's been those who really believe that our objective must be far grander, and that is to redraw the political map of the Middle East...
BLITZER: But is there something fundamentally wrong with that notion?
WILSON: Well, it's not so much that it's fundamentally wrong. It's the way that you go about doing it. The idea of bringing democracy to the Arabian Peninsula is a noble idea, and I think that there are a lot of Arabs of our generation who would respond well to that.
The question is, can you really bring democracy at the point of a bayonet or at the point of a gun? And is it really America's military's responsibility to go in and occupy a country for 10 years, in the hopes that you're going to create a democracy, which probably will not be any more pro-American than what you've got in the region?
So, you know, you measure stability against instability, you measure our interests in the region, and it's not at all clear to me that you're going to get there by imposing democracy. You may get there by imposing vassal states.
BLITZER: On that provocative thought, we'll leave it right there. Joe Wilson, thanks very much.
David Albright, thank you very much.
ALBRIGHT: Thank you.
BLITZER: Bill Tierney, appreciate your joining us today.
BLITZER: We'll have all of you back to continue this conversation.
And just ahead, as the United States prepares for possible war with Iraq, is it leaving significant unfinished business behind in Afghanistan? We'll have an exclusive interview with Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, when this special LATE EDITION continues.
BLITZER: Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai, was in Washington this past week. His main message to President Bush and the U.S. Congress: Don't forget about Afghanistan in the event of a war with Iraq.
During his visit, I had a chance to speak with President Karzai about the challenges still facing his country and the showdown with Iraq. We spoke at Blair House, the official residence for presidential guests, across the street from the White House.
BLITZER: President Karzai, welcome to Washington. Thanks so much for joining us once again.
You had good meetings with the president?
PRES. HAMID KARZAI, AFGHANISTAN: Yes, I had a pleasant and nice lunch with him and good meetings.
BLITZER: Was there anything substantive that he promised you in order to try to help your country rebuild itself?
KARZAI: Yes, there was a good promise with regard to irrigation projects in Afghanistan, which is very important for us for the current year. Last year we had an emphasis on highways and roads reconstruction. This year we'll be working on the irrigation system and other items.
BLITZER: With the U.S. possibly on the eve of a war right now, there're still almost 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Are you worried that the U.S. military may have to withdraw some of those forces in order to deal with Iraq? KARZAI: Well, I don't worry. I was given a very explicit assurance by the president and by the secretary of state, by other officials that I met, that the United States would not be reducing attention to Afghanistan. As a matter of fact, there seems to be an increased attention to Afghanistan at this time.
BLITZER: And the reason for that is why?
KARZAI: The reason is that it's extremely important to make sure that you finish a war that you start and that you're not leaving it halfway. This is a question of credibility, this is a question of success, this is a question of making sure that the objective that we have is achieved and achieved fully.
BLITZER: Is there any way to assess or predict how much longer you will need a U.S. military presence in Afghanistan?
KARZAI: Well, we are building a national army in the country and 3,000 of our troops already in the form of the nation army. We're building a police force with the help of Germany. We're beginning a program that's called the DDR, the Disarmament Demobilization Reintegration program, which is part of the incorporation of the military force into the civilian structures.
As soon as we have our security institutions in place, there will be no need for the foreign help that we are getting now.
BLITZER: You see these press reports that we get from Afghanistan that the situation seems to be deteriorating, that there are such serious problems unfolding.
The last time we spoke, you were rather upbeat, the last time I interviewed you, that things were moving in the right direction. Can you be as upbeat, as positive today as you were then?
KARZAI: Yes, much more upbeat. I also got the sense yesterday in the Senate that their thinking also was that things were not that well in Afghanistan, and I was surprised. When I give them the assessment on Afghanistan, they thought I was drawing a rosy picture, and that surprised me.
But the truth is that when I was talking to you last year, we were only hoping for things to be good in Afghanistan. Now that I am sitting in front of you, I can tell you that in the past year 2 million refugees have come back to Afghanistan. The whole political spectrum of the country is back in Afghanistan. The former king of Afghanistan and a common refugee from Afghanistan are back in the country. And a vote of 2 million feet coming back to Afghanistan is a significant trust in the system that's emerging in Afghanistan.
Secondly, last year when I was talking to you, I did not know how many Afghans would be going to school. At best, we thought we'll have 1.5 million children go to school. Now we have 3 million children going to school. And for the next educational year, which is going to be in 20 days' time from now, I have my officials telling me that we'll have probably 5 million or more children going to school. We have replaced the whole currency of Afghanistan with a new currency in just three months' time. We collected 18 trillion Afghani notes and replaced it with new currency. The economy is doing well.
There are occasional incidents, of course, here and there on the border, but doesn't worry us. It's not something that we cannot manage. It is natural to occur. The fight against terrorism is still going on. We have won but we have not completed it.
BLITZER: And this notion that Mullah Mohammed Omar and the Taliban are back in action, they're back on the rise?
KARZAI: They are -- they're not back in action. There were certain trust (UNINTELLIGIBLE) activities, and I've had some conversation on this with President Musharraf of Pakistan. We are going to talk on this question when I visit him on the 22nd of March. We'll have a detailed discussion. With cooperation between us and the government of Pakistan, this question will be handled effectively.
BLITZER: Well, do you still suspect that elements within Pakistan may be supporting the Taliban?
KARZAI: I'm not suspecting any elements within the government of Pakistan (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but there are elements, of course, in Pakistan and in Afghanistan whom we will contact or in support of the Taliban. That may be going on. They were there for five or six years. They had lots of means, they had lots of people recruited. And surely some recruitment -- some of the recruit people are still around. But that's not a significant challenge.
BLITZER: You know that -- at least I assume you suspect that Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Taliban, is still alive?
KARZAI: Yes, he is.
BLITZER: Why is he so hard to find?
KARZAI: Nobody knows him. If I -- if I come across him tomorrow in the streets of Kabul or Kandahar or Herat or Mazar in Afghanistan, I would not recognize him. How would you arrest someone that you don't know how he looks?
BLITZER: But there must be people in your military, in your intelligence service, in the U.S. military who know who this guy is?
KARZAI: Yes, but how many -- that doesn't matter. What matters is for people to know him because we're going to count eventually on the cooperation of the common man in Afghanistan to identify and inform us.
BLITZER: Where do you suspect he is, in what part of Afghanistan?
KARZAI: Well, it's really difficult for me to say in certain terms as to where he could be. Probably in Afghanistan, probably on the borders between Afghanistan and Pakistan or, God knows, on some other borders.
BLITZER: The last time we spoke, you probably remember, you suspected then long before the audio tapes came out that Osama bin Laden was still alive. You still believe that?
KARZAI: At that time I felt that way. And then time came six months ago that I thought he was not alive. And now these tapes, I don't know about the authenticity of those tapes, if they are true or not, if they are his voice or not his voice.
There is no picture. If he wants to prove that he's alive, he should come out with some of his videotapes as well. So...
BLITZER: So terrorism from al Qaeda or the Taliban still continues in Afghanistan, including assassination attempts against you?
KARZAI: Assassination attempt, yes. Terrorism, in the form that you imagine from here, isn't a case in Afghanistan. There are occasion skirmishes, occasion intrusions of terrorist elements into Afghanistan, and they run back. It's much, much limited in capacity, in scope to worry us.
But having said this, it doesn't mean that we should ease our guard against them. No, we must continue to be vigilant, we must continue to pursue them, we must continue to fight them, and we must finish the job.
BLITZER: You heard the implied criticism from Senator Hagel, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, when you appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that you were being too pollyannish, too rosy in your scenarios, that you were not necessarily seeing the downside as much as he presumably would have wanted you to see it.
What do you say to that criticism?
KARZAI: Well, it's probably -- probably Senator Hagel does not know as much as I know about Afghanistan, and the pictures that he has is probably taken mostly from the newspapers. And I cannot -- I cannot go to the Senate and repeat what the senators would like me to tell them. I told them my version of things in Afghanistan, and they can have theirs.
BLITZER: So you gave...
KARZAI: My version of Afghanistan is what I told them. We have 2 million refugees returned. We have 3 million children going to school. We have replaced the old currency. We have a better economy. We have more people getting jobs.
Yes, we have problems. We have a bad administration. We cannot collect national revenues. We don't have a full security force. We still have skirmishes here and there with the terrorists.
But to take things on balance, Afghanistan is doing much better than what it was last year. What are we comparing Afghanistan with? Are we comparing it with an ideal situation, or are we comparing it with the situation before this? I am satisfied in comparison with last year over the years before that.
BLITZER: There was a, I don't know if you saw it, but an article in "The Washington Post" that criticized what they said were some of the human rights abuses that are still ongoing in Afghanistan, an article written by the Chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom and another individual who is an associate of his.
Among other things, they suggest that even now, under your government, there are what they call coercive measures by official agencies, including religious police organizations, that require Afghans to follow specific religious practices and require women to conform to stringent codes of dress, movement and behavior.
KARZAI: Well, generally that is not true. There is no religious police. There are -- there are incidents of violations, yes. They occur in Afghanistan, unfortunately. And the purpose is to get rid of that.
Can we in one day or one year or two years or three years correct the whole human rights situation in Afghanistan? No. Can we work on the correction of it over long term? Yes.
BLITZER: So what I'm hearing you say is that you're committed to ending these abuses...
BLITZER: ... that still exist?
KARZAI: That's in my mandate.
BLITZER: How do you do that, given some of the power of those religious institutions, the fundamentalists?
KARZAI: The religious institutions are not doing that. Rogues are doing that. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) are doing that. Certain warlords are doing that. That is what has stopped.
We must create a society run by the rule of law, and that's what we are working for. We have a constitution at work. We have a judicial reform commission at work. We have a human rights commission that's supposed to report these things, and they do report to us.
Compare the situation to a year ago. We had 300 women participate in the Loya Jirga last June. We have a lot of that sort of improvement. We have a free press. There are over a hundred newspapers printed in Kabul on a weekly and daily and monthly basis. There are so many radio stations coming up in Afghanistan. It's a very different picture. Somebody should visit to find out.
BLITZER: And girls are now going to school in much bigger numbers than ever before?
KARZAI: In millions.
BLITZER: I just noticed also that the U.S. government is helping you organize the construction of a new Hyatt Hotel in Kabul.
BLITZER: A Hyatt International Hotel. It's OPIC (ph), the organization that helps U.S. investors go over there.
KARZAI: Yes. Yes.
BLITZER: That seems to suggest that there's at least somewhat of a vote of confidence in the stability of your government.
KARZAI: There's a lot of vote of confidence in the stability of the government. And the biggest support of confidence for me is, of course, the return of Afghans to Afghanistan. Afghans...
BLITZER: And they're coming from where -- from where are they...
KARZAI: From Pakistan, where we had more than 2 million refugees, from Iran, from Europe and America. A lot of Afghans have come back. The poorest Afghans and the richest Afghans are all coming back to the country to do what they can.
BLITZER: Just ahead, I'll talk with President Karzai about the factions that remain inside Afghanistan, as well as concerns about his own personal safety.
Our special LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We return now to my exclusive interview with Afghanistan's president, Hamid Karzai.
BLITZER: How worried are you about your own personal safety, given the assassination attempts?
KARZAI: That was a -- that was a strange incident. It didn't happen to me in public. It happened to me in the governor's house with somebody who was wearing a government uniform, somebody that was a terrorist, somebody that was freed from a prison in the northern part of the country, somebody that after having been freed, he was a Taliban man, had gone to Pakistan and had come back and was recruited somehow, clumsily, but our own security forces, and he was there to do that.
Now, I don't know if that was an isolated incident or if there was a hand behind it or whatever. It was a security incident because of our own lack of attention to details in recruitment.
BLITZER: What have you done since then to make sure that the security situation for you personally is good?
KARZAI: It's much better. I have U.S. security personnel. I have Afghan security personnel. I have security personnel being trained now by the U.S. security personnel in a very good way. A lot of help is being offered in that, a lot of good help.
BLITZER: The other problem that people often refer to that you still have in Afghanistan is opium, the smuggling of opium.
KARZAI: Yes. Yes.
BLITZER: This is a serious problem. Afghanistan, one of the largest suppliers of opium around the world.
KARZAI: It is unfortunately there. It was on the increase last year. This year we've begun eradication of it. We hope to succeed to considerably (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that. We have not had significant resistance to it, that's the very good thing that I have noticed in Afghanistan.
And we must help the Afghan people with crop substitution, with alternative livelihood. I'm glad God has given us some rain and snow this year to remove the effects of drought. And if the economy keeps improving the way it is, and if we continue to have good rains, I'm sure the country will be doing much better in the coming years.
We have to stop, we have to fight poppies and work on the eradication of that crop from Afghanistan because it's creating a criminal economy, a criminalized environment, and the money produced from drugs is feeding terrorism. They go hand in hand. So Afghanistan has to, for all reasons, fight against poppies.
BLITZER: But given the enormous amount of money involved from opium, it's -- you can't do that by yourself.
KARZAI: Well, we must have international assistance. We must have international support. But lack of international support does not mean that we just should just sit there and watch it. No, we cannot. We have to fight.
BLITZER: And you say that the money that they're getting, these opium smugglers, goes to, in part, to the terrorists?
KARZAI: Oh, definitely, in considerable part.
BLITZER: How does that work? How does that happen?
KARZAI: Well, they're hand in hand, they're buddies.
BLITZER: This is where the terrorists get some of their money?
BLITZER: So this is an enormous...
KARZAI: That's what the terrorists do, yes. BLITZER: And they smuggle the opium through?
KARZAI: They're criminals.
BLITZER: You spoke a little bit about the relationship with Pakistan. What about your relationship with Iran?
KARZAI: It's good. I have very good personal relations with President Khatami of Iran. We talk to each other very often. They've been helpful, they've been supportive. And it's a relationship that's been good so far.
BLITZER: And they've not been intervening, meddling?
KARZAI: No. No, not that I know of.
BLITZER: These reports that some al Qaeda operatives may have snuck into Iran, do you know anything about that?
KARZAI: We've heard those reports as well. We are discussing with the government of Iran about this. There is good cooperation. They have cooperated with us in the past, and we hope to continue this. We are doing the same with the government of Pakistan.
BLITZER: If Afghanistan were a member of the United Nations Security Council right now, where would your government stand in the showdown with Iraq?
KARZAI: Well, first of all, Afghanistan respects the Iraqi nation. It's a good part of the Islamic world. It's a nation that has contributed significantly to the Islamic civilization. It's a highly educated population of the Islamic world, the Iraqi people. It's a resourceful people.
We are sorry that they've been suffering for so long under such a regime and a tyranny, under oppression. We are with the Iraqi people. We want the Iraqi people definitely to have the right to choose their governments (ph) of their free will and to exploit their resources in a manner best suited for their well-being and progress.
We are a friend of the United States. The U.S. has helped us in the time of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The U.S. has helped us now. We're not going to leave our friends unsupported, unhelped.
We hope there will not be a war in Iraq. We hope things will happen peacefully and that the Iraqi people will gain access to the rights that they have to the resources that they have.
BLITZER: What I hear you say is you hope there won't be a war, but you hope Saddam Hussein's regime will be removed.
KARZAI: Absolutely. Yes.
BLITZER: Can that be done without a war?
KARZAI: Well, I don't know about that. I'm just talking to you as a human being. No human being wants to see others suffer. I want the Iraqi people to be free. I want the Iraqi people to do as good as they're capable of, and they are quite capable. I want them to have a government that would be good for them, that would be friendly with the rest of the world, with its neighbors.
I don't want the Iraqi people to suffer because of one man. It's not just. It's cruel to make 12 or so million of a very nice nation suffer for one person or for one regime.
BLITZER: Finally, let's talk a little bit about you. Next year you have to seek reelection. Will you seek reelection?
KARZAI: Well, I have not decided that yet. I have to -- I have to deliver until the elections next year to the Afghan people what I am mandated to do. And if I do that properly, and then if I want to reelect myself, maybe people will say fine. If I don't deliver, regardless of my like or dislike for elections, I will have no chance.
BLITZER: But have you enjoyed this time as president of Afghanistan?
KARZAI: Well, it's not an easy task, but I'm glad that we've made the kind of progress that we have made. I'm glad the country is doing better than what it was doing last year or the year before that. I'm glad that we have a greater hope for the future.
BLITZER: I know that based on what it was during the Taliban rule, it's a dramatic change.
KARZAI: A dramatic change.
BLITZER: Even though you still have a long way to go.
KARZAI: We have a long, long way to go, but we have begun well, we've done good so far, and we must achieve more.
BLITZER: And I think you've, since the last time we spoke here in Washington, you've achieved a lot. But I hope the next time we meet, in the not-too-distant future, we'll be able to say you've made some additional progress.
KARZAI: Hopefully, yes, a lot more progress.
BLITZER: Good luck to you and all the people of Afghanistan.
KARZAI: Thanks very much.
BLITZER: Still to come, a special interview with the journalist Dan Rather of CBS News. He met with the Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, just last week.
But up next, the United States prepares for a war, but is it ready for the potentially high cost of battle? We'll get insight from two battle-tested military leaders, retired U.S. Army Brigadier General David Grange and retired U.S. Air Force General George Harrison.
Our special LATE EDITION continues right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq.
Joining us now to talk about the challenges and potential cost, if the fighting does break out in the situation with Iraq, are two special guests: In Atlanta, the retired U.S. Air Force Major General George Harrison, and in Oakbrook, Illinois, retired U.S. Army Brigadier General David Grange. He's also a military analyst for CNN.
Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us.
General Harrison, about 10 days or so ago, I interviewed General Wesley Clark, the former NATO supreme allied commander. He thought the war was likely to break out around mid-March and would probably only last about two weeks.
Is that an accurate or relatively good assessment?
MAJ. GEN. GEORGE HARRISON (RET.), U.S. AIR FORCE: Well, I'm not sure about the timing, obviously. We all speculate that we want to go at a time when the moon is a new moon. We want to go before it gets hot in the Arabian desert kind of environment.
As far as two weeks, I think that's probably a little optimistic. I suspect the air campaign end up taking a little over two weeks, possibly as long as a month, and then there will be a ground phase that could take two or three weeks.
BLITZER: General Grange, there's been a lot of speculation that, as opposed to the first Gulf War, this one won't just start with the air campaign, it'll have a ground or special operations element involved almost from day one. Is that a fairly decent assessment?
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I believe so, Wolf. I think you'll be integrated air and ground, though there may be more air up front. There'll still be some ground operations, especially raids, special raids, for command and control communication targets and weapons of mass destruction sites that may not be able to be hit from air.
BLITZER: General Harrison, the U.S. Air Force got some good news from the Saudis earlier in the week that the Prince Sultan Air Base, that huge, sprawling complex, would indeed be available for certain missions during the course of a new war. How significant of a development is that?
HARRISON: Well, it's very significant. As a matter of fact, first of all, I agree very much with General Grange that the war is going to be an integrated campaign from the outset, and we won't see a separate and distinct air phase with no ground activity and vice- versa. So, I think that's very important. And that makes Prince Sultan much more important, in terms of its tactical importance. That means we won't require as many tankers, we'll be able to get more sorties out of the aircraft and be able to put more offensive weight into the campaign, as opposed to having to fly from long distances.
BLITZER: As you know, General Grange, there are about 62,000 U.S. troops, mostly from the 4th Infantry Division at Fort Hood, Texas, waiting to go into Turkey with their equipment, but the Turkish parliament, at least for now, says no.
How significant of a military setback is this, as far as moving into northern Iraq in the event of a war?
GRANGE: Well, it's not a setback in regards to planning. There's obviously a plan in place, several plans probably, in case that didn't happen.
What it does do though, I think it makes it more difficult to use overwhelming force for multiple directions. Though you can come in from the north with air assault, airborne options, it doesn't give you that hefty, armored build-up early on, which I think, actually, would cause more problems from Turkey than if they supported the U.S. troops coming down from the north because of some of the issues that will come about not having U.S. troops there in a large number.
BLITZER: Well, when you say that they could still come in with the air assault from the north, where would they be coming in from?
GRANGE: Well, they could launch -- I've launched myself from the United States and parachuted into Kuwait in '93. You can come from any base, forward operating base, or from the states itself to seize an air head and build up from there.
But it takes a little longer, forces are at more risk, and I think more lives would be lost from all sides without having a Turkish land option.
BLITZER: What about that, General Harrison?
HARRISON: Well, I agree. Certainly, the fact that the Kurdish semi-state exists in the northern portion of Iraq, the fact that there are more Kurds in Turkey than there are in Iraq, all of which -- all of those factors argue that the Turks should be very interested in supporting having U.S. forces to act as a buffer against all of those various elements.
However, it is a democracy. They had a very close vote. I think we'll see another vote on Tuesday, or another effort on Tuesday. So this Turkish scenario might not be completely played out yet.
BLITZER: In the meantime, those ships remain offshore...
HARRISON: That's correct.
BLITZER: ... and the equipment has not yet been off-loaded. We're going to take a quick break. Generals, please stand by. We have a lot more to talk about.
We'll also be taking some phone calls for our two generals. Our special LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Remember, we're still standing by for a special interview with Dan Rather of CBS News. We'll get to that shortly, but let's continue with our discussion with the retired U.S. Air Force Major General George Harrison and retired U.S. Army Brigadier General David Grange.
Let's talk a little bit, Generals, about the costs of war. It's hard to predict, as this exchange between Donald Rumsfeld and Senator Byrd of West Virginia demonstrated earlier in the week. Listen to this exchange.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: If you don't know if it's going to last six days, six weeks or six months, how in the world can you come up with a cost estimate?
SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: President Bush mentions the looming conflict in nearly every public pronouncement, and yet no cost estimate to fight the war appears in President Bush's budget. None.
Is the administration trying to tell the people of this nation that it is for free?
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BLITZER: General Harrison, how difficult is it to come up with an assessment of how much a war, let's say a month-long war, might cost?
HARRISON: Well, it's very difficult, because you don't know how much resistance there will be, you don't know what the casualty rate's going to be, and you certainly don't know what the cost of humanitarian assistance behind the battle is going to be.
However, we have seen estimates from $30 billion to $90 billion. To put that in perspective, we've spent almost $30 billion enforcing the no-fly zones in northern and southern Iraq over the last 10 years.
So this is -- the cost of not going to war is certainly not -- that is certainly not a free option, as some would indicate.
BLITZER: General Grange, the costs of just maintaining 200,000 troops in the Persian Gulf region for weeks and weeks and weeks, that's significant in and of itself, even if there's no war.
GRANGE: Well, it's significant, not only on the sustainment of the life-support systems, you know, for food and shelter and that, but of course gasoline to rehearse a plan, live-fire exercises, using up some of the munitions, replenishing munitions.
The hard piece is the fight itself. The hard piece is, you know, do you need 20 Tomahawk missiles before they capitulate or 100? You don't know that.
And then again, just like General Harrison said, you bring in the humanitarian assistance. That can be a hefty bill too. And I think is a lot of -- there's some plans to get some support from other nations, and hopefully that's the case.
BLITZER: The Army chief of staff, General Harrison, was outspoken earlier in the week, on Tuesday, when he suggested how many U.S. troops might be necessary to remain after a war. Two days later, the deputy secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz, seemed to reprimand him publicly. Listen to these two exchanges.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
GEN. ERIC SHINSEKI, U.S. ARMY CHIEF OF STAFF: I would say that what's been mobilized to this point, something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers are probably a figure that would be required.
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We don't know what the requirement will be, but we can say with reasonable confidence that the notion of hundreds of thousands of American troops is way off the mark.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BLITZER: In order to secure Iraq after the battle ends, how many, tens of thousands at least, U.S. troops would have to remain in Iraq at least for the first year, General Harrison?
HARRISON: Well, of course that's speculation, and General Shinseki and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz have their views at both ends of the spectrum.
But again, it depends upon the nature of the conflict. It depends on how rapidly we prevail. And it depends upon the emergence of an alternative government or people who compete for alternative government in Iraq after this huge battle or conflict is over.
I suspect the range is about what's been stated by those two individuals. Pessimistically, hundreds of thousands, a couple of hundred thousand, but optimistically, somewhere in the neighborhood of 50,000.
BLITZER: We're going to leave it right there. General Harrison, thanks very much for joining us, General Grange as well. Appreciate both of your perspectives. We'll continue this on another occasion. It's time now to say goodbye to our international viewers. Thanks very much for watching.
Coming up for our North American audience, an interview, a special interview with CBS News's Dan Rather. He interviewed the Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein. Our own Howard Kurtz interviewed Dan Rather.
Our special LATE EDITION will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
We'll get to CNN's special interview with Dan Rather, who just returned from Baghdad after a meeting with the Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein. But first, here's CNN's Fredricka Whitfield in Atlanta with a CNN news alert.
BLITZER: This past week, Dan Rather of CBS News traveled to Baghdad and met with the Iraqi president, Saddam Hussein, who granted him an exclusive interview.
Earlier, CNN's Howard Kurtz of "Reliable Sources" sat down with the CBS anchor.
HOWARD KURTZ, HOST, CNN'S "RELIABLE SOURCES": Congratulations on the interview.
With the benefit of hindsight, "60 Minutes II" gives an hour to Saddam Hussein. Wouldn't it have been better to grant just a few of those 60 minutes to a White House officials for rebuttal, as the administration had requested?
DAN RATHER, "CBS EVENING NEWS": No. It's not my decision to make. Andrew Heyward, the president of CBS News, and Jeff Fager, the executive producer of the program, made the decision, but I think they made the right decision.
I have great respect for Ari Fleischer and everybody involved there, and I understand that they were doing their job as they see it, and I appreciate their contribution to our country at sacrifice to themselves.
But we're journalists, and to do this hour, to do it well, we spent a lot of time thinking about it, putting it together as we thought it should be put together. We respect the White House press spokesman, but if the White House wanted to come forward with somebody to be on this program, my own opinion (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is it should have been someone at a higher level than they suggested.
But honest minds can differ about that. My view of this whole thing, Howie, is we did the best we could, I did the best we could. And you mentioned there's been a lot of criticism. There certainly has been a lot of criticism. I take it seriously. Some of it I think it warranted. But there's also been some praise. And I think, by and large, Americans understand that what we tried to do on "60 Minutes II" was at least something that would contribute to the public understanding of what we're into as we go to the brink of war.
KURTZ: In my view, you asked some important questions. But as a Republican official said to me, why didn't Rather ask Saddam if he had chemical or biological weapons? Why didn't he ask him about gassing his own people? Why didn't he ask him about torturing dissidents?
RATHER: Well, first of all, if he's going to give that kind of criticism, I think you would agree, Howie, it would be better if he would attach his name to that. And as a reporter, I can understand giving people anonymity when national security -- but just to take partisan political potshots at a reporter, I don't respect the person who did that. I would respect them if they put their name on it and said to me, "I think you screwed up." And I might say, in some ways I agree with you.
KURTZ: I'll ask you that question. It's a fair question. Why not get into some of these areas? Saddam's human rights record, or lack thereof, is well known.
RATHER: Well, first of all, I think the American public knows these things. I think the American public is more sophisticated than perhaps some people who write about television and people in politics do.
But honest people, again, can differ about it. There's always another way to do it. I'm not here to say there wasn't a better way to do it. You're question is, why didn't you do this, why didn't you do that? My answer is, hey, I did the best I could.
Now, Howie, you said, well, you're asking the question. You know, Saddam Hussein is in Baghdad. He's there now. If anybody has a suggestion for a better interview, then go to Baghdad and do their own interview and I'll be happy to critique it.
But I'm at peace with this and of good spirit about it. I know that I went in wanting to do the best interview I'd ever done, certainly to do a good, responsible interview. I think I did so. I think the audience understands what I was trying to do and has responded pretty well to it.
As for criticism, hey, when you do what I do, you're going to get a lot of criticism. And particularly you're going to get it from partisan political operatives, such as that person who hid behind anonymity that you described earlier.
KURTZ: Well, it absolutely comes with the territory, Dan. But at the same time, there's starting to be some buzz out there, and I'm sure you heard it, not just -- fueled in part by conservatives, some radio talk show hosts and so forth, saying Rather was too soft.
Rather, the guy who stood up to Richard Nixon and the first President Bush went easy on Saddam. I've even heard the word "traitor" thrown around. What do you make of that?
RATHER: Well, I'll have to let that stand on its own. That's pretty serious business, to use that word.
And again, I would count on the audience, the American people, to put that in its proper perspective. What do I make of it? I get up in the morning and say, OK, it's a new day. I'm going to go about my work. And I'm a reporter. That's all I ever wanted to be. That's what I tried to be in Baghdad.
I'm not only at peace with what we did, but yes, I'm proud of it, for CBS News. It was, after all, a team effort. I understand that people are going to have their pot shots, and I also understand some of the criticism...
KURTZ: I think that some people resent the fact that you did the interview at all. In other words, the whole sort of "would you have interviewed Hitler during World War II" question, why give Saddam this air time. Obviously, lots of news organizations would have seized that opportunity.
But do you think some people resent the fact that you were even there in Baghdad with Saddam Hussein?
RATHER: Well, I just let it stand on its own. I do think you're entitled to -- Howie, you ask, you know, tough questions, and there are no bad questions, there are only bad answers. And your question was, well, you know, why didn't you do it like you did with President Nixon or with then Vice President Bush, the elder, in 1988? I understand those criticisms. I don't think they're germane to the present situation.
With Saddam Hussein, look and listen to the interview. And I know you have. I urge others to do. I ask some tough questions and I put the questions that I thought were on the minds of the public.
But beyond that, Howie, I went in wanting to do two things, and very quickly: One was I wanted to find news. I'm a reporter. I'm always looking for news. Two, I wanted Saddam Hussein to be on America television and be on long enough where each individual citizen could make their assessment of who he is, what he is, and what we're up against when we go to war with this man.
And beyond that, to understand what his appeal has been to those on the Arab streets and in the Muslim world beyond that. When he had great appeal to them -- it on the decline now -- and to those he still has appeal, what is it that appeals to these people on the Arab streets and other Muslims around the world? Because I think we're losing the information war, and I think it's important for Americans to understand what Saddam's appeal is and how he's managed to stay in power.
Now, those were my goals. Other people with another interview might say that they would do something else, but they have not been in Old Baghdad Palace one on one with Saddam Hussein. And I would say until and unless they do that, then they may want to keep in mind just how tough they might have been, just what they might have done.
It's awfully easy to say, "Man, I'd have gone and I'd have done this and that and the other." Well, maybe so and maybe no. But talk is cheap. Show me.
KURTZ: Very few people, clearly, have had that experience.
Let's take a look at some of the interview, beginning with the question you asked about the worst terrorist attack in American history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RATHER: Do you or do you not agree in principle with the attack of 9/11?
SADDAM HUSSEIN, IRAQI LEADER (through translator): Let me tell you absolutely clearly, we believe in humanity. We believe in accordance with what Allah, the God almighty, has taught us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Now, Saddam's answer, which went on for a little while, was, to put it mildly, gobbledygook. Why did you not follow up and say, "Well, do you have any sympathy at all for the 3,000 innocent people who were killed on that day?"
RATHER: Well, if you were there, that's what you might have done. I thought he said about all he was going to say on that subject, and I moved on to something else. Would I have done it differently if I had had half a day or six weeks to think about it? Maybe.
But that's not the way it works. I'm not in to "might have," "could have," "should have," why didn't you do this or that or the other. I did what I wanted to do, stand on the record of it. I think the interview stands up well.
I don't, you know, I wouldn't disagree with anybody who said, well, you missed an opportunity there to follow up...
KURTZ: Let me try one more.
RATHER: I mean, any number of things, I can't do it perfectly.
KURTZ: I don't think any of us can.
Let's also take a look -- you made an issue about Saddam breaking in on the translator. Actually, there were two translators there at the table. Let's take a listen to that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RATHER: It turns out that Saddam was not just speaking, but listening carefully to what they were saying.
At one point, after President Hussein mentioned President Bush, Sr., one of his translators called him "Bush" instead of "Mr. Bush." Saddam Hussein interrupted him in mid-sentence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KURTZ: Would that have been a good time to point out that Mr. Bush, former President Bush, was somebody who was the target of an assassination plot organized by Saddam?
RATHER: I thought about that, and I also thought about putting it into the program as a whole. And, you know, maybe we should have. Again, that's under the hindsight is always perfect.
I believe that most Americans know -- many of these things, people say, why didn't you point out this or why didn't you point out that. But I have more confidence in the audience then apparently these people do, and honest people can differ about it.
Would it have been better to follow up there? Maybe. On the other hand, we went on to another subject, another question. I thought he'd said all he was going to say about that.
But when I look at it, I can say -- I can point 50 places where I say, "Man, I wish I would have done something here or there." But that's not the way it goes. In any game, in any craft, you do it, and then later you say to yourself, "Wow, I wanted to be perfect, but you know what, I wasn't."
KURTZ: I've had that feeling once or twice myself.
What do you do as an interviewer when Saddam Hussein says something ludicrous like, "We didn't lose the Gulf War"? Is it your job to correct him, to debate him, to challenge him?
RATHER: No, I don't think so. Because I think that is such a -- I think it speaks for itself. And what I'd like to do after a question and answer such as that is just take a long deep pause to let it soak in. And I did come back in that and say, "Do you understand that most Americans think, in effect, that that's crazy or delusional?"
But this was important to me, Howie, that I went in journalistically, not jingoistically, and I -- you know, the role of the reporter is to be an honest broker of information insofar as that's possible. Everybody has their own style, and indeed, most of us, you know, we change styles from time to time, from interview to interview.
I thought the approach that I brought to the interview was the proper one under those circumstances and at that time. And we can pick it apart, as I said before. And some of the criticism, a lot of the criticism, is justified, and I fully understand it.
But I think a statement like that, when he said, you know, "I got 100 percent of the vote," I don't think you need to follow up on a question like that. I think it speaks for itself. And I do think the audience understands that. And when he says, "I won the Gulf War," I think the audience understands -- I don't think it's necessary.
For once, at least, for once, I didn't want this to be a showboat. I wanted this to be good journalism. I wanted it to be quality journalism. And I wanted to put on the screen for everybody to decide for themselves the Saddam Hussein who has appeared in the past so greatly to Arabs and other Muslims and the Saddam Hussein that we're about to go to war with, so people understand who he is, what he is and what we're up against.
BLITZER: Dan Rather, speaking with our own Howard Kurtz of "Reliable Sources." And you can catch the rest of Howie's interview with Dan Rather later today here on CNN, 6:00 p.m. Eastern, 3:00 p.m. on the West Coast.
Now to Bruce Morton's essay. As the United States appears to be on the brink of war, Bruce questions whether a new world order is in the making.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For 40-plus years, we had the Cold War -- dangerous, but you knew who was where. Communists over here, free world over there, and so on. That started changing when the Berlin Wall came down, and lately the pace of that change seems to be quickening.
Iraq is a good place to start. President Bush seemingly wants to invade. Most European countries disapprove.
But that's really part of a bigger debate: Does Europe want to be a country? It already has a currency and a parliament. And does it want to be a country independent of the United States? The European Union is talking about a European military force. And if they set one up, would it replace NATO? Would the American military finally leave?
There are no answers to these questions. The Europeans themselves don't agree. Some of the countries waiting to be admitted to the EU, mostly from Eastern Europe, support President Bush on Iraq, causing French President Jacques Chirac to grumble that the candidate countries acted frivolously and had missed a great opportunity to keep quiet when the EU debated Iraq. And, of course, the candidate countries didn't like that. The Czech foreign minister noted, "We are not joining the EU so we can sit and shut up."
And while Europe ponders its future, the United States has asserted its right to act alone, to attack countries it thinks pose a threat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
BUSH: Saddam Hussein's a threat to America, and we will deal with him.
BUSH: War is my last choice. But the risk of doing nothing is even a worse option, as far as I'm concerned.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
MORTON: The White House National Security Statement, which came out last year, notes, "To forestall or prevent hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively." That alarmed some who grew up with the old Cold War alliances, and it's a departure. America has mostly gone to war to respond to an attack, not prevent one.
Will Mr. Bush strike first and invade Iraq preemptively, as most here in Washington suspect? Or will the U.N. emerge as a kind of court which must authorize the use of force?
And if that isn't enough, there is some evidence to suggest that the old policy of nuclear nonproliferation -- a few wise countries will have nuclear weapons, nobody else -- isn't working. You can count nine nuclear powers now, and that number is more likely to go up than down, raising the odds that some leader, some day, somewhere will set off a nuclear bomb.
There's an old Chinese curse, "May you live in interesting times." We do.
I'm Bruce Morton.
BLITZER: Thanks very much, Bruce.
Up next, how might a wartime economy impact your wallet? We'll get special insight from billionaire businessman Robert Johnson, when our special LATE EDITION returns.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
There are concerns about what a war with Iraq would mean for the already-sagging U.S. economy.
Joining us now with some perspective is business mogul Robert Johnson. He's the founder and CEO of Black Entertainment Television. He's also the owner of the new NBA basketball team in Charlotte, North Carolina. He's on the Forbes magazine list of billionaires.
Mr. Johnson, welcome to LATE EDITION. Good to have you on the program.
ROBERT JOHNSON, CEO, BLACK ENTERTAINMENT TELEVISION: Thank you, Wolf. Delighted to be here.
BLITZER: Our new CNN-USA Today Gallup poll shows that Americans are not necessarily very upbeat about the state of the U.S. economy right now. In December, 44 percent thought the economy was in good shape. Now it's down to 34 percent. 55 percent thought it was in poor shape. That's gone up to 65 percent now.
How bad is the economy from your perspective right now?
JOHNSON: Well, I think the economy is doing very well, all things considered, when you take into account the perception, because in the case of the economy, perception is reality.
You have, first of all, the people concerned about the uncertainty of the war. What will it do to oil prices? What will it do to corporate spending? What would it do to consumer spending? And when you have this uncertainty, it shows up in people's attitudes toward the economy.
BLITZER: So you can't make any really long-term planning right now, because you don't know what's going to happen as a result of this war. Is that one of the things that top corporate executives like you have to worry about?
JOHNSON: I think any business person is going to be concerned about uncertainty. And so if you don't know whether or not your investment strategy is going to be impacted by rising fuel costs or impacted by a consumer that's sort of intimidated about spending, you tend to hold back to see where the lay of the land is going to be. Now, that could all change if you get into a war. The war is over relatively quickly. The impact on the economy is slight. And at that point you get people focusing back on, where do we go from here? And I think that's what the American people, American business people are waiting for as well.
BLITZER: Because the rosy scenario is that it's a two- or three- or four-week war. The U.S. wins decisively. No chemical, no biological weapons. Saddam Hussein is overthrown. And then the price of oil immediately goes way down from $40 a barrel right now back to around $25 a barrel.
JOHNSON: Well, even if it just stabilizes, I mean, it doesn't have to go back to where you can see the -- if the oil fields are in good shape, and the Iraqi economy can support some of the costs of the war, and oil prices stabilize, you can begin to see consumer confidence going up.
You can see business spending going up, because now the business community will know that the government's going to start focusing on things like health care spending, the tax cut, on dividend taxation issues, on the policies that affect the economy on the home front and not so much on the international front.
BLITZER: So many of the critics of the Bush administration's tough policy in Iraq think it's only because of oil. The secretary of state flatly denies this. I want you to listen to this excerpt to what he told the House Budget Committee earlier in the week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: We are saying loud and clear that the oil of Iraq belongs to the people of Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Meaning the U.S. isn't going to take over that oil and start making money out of it.
JOHNSON: I don't think anybody in the business community seriously thinks that. I think there's maybe some fringe groups who figure this is an war for oil.
But this really is, from Bush's standpoint, a war to get rid of an evil that, if allowed to exist longer, could be a greater evil. And the debate you have going on within the country is, "Do we have to go to war to get rid of that evil?" And that's really where the debate is joined.
What's the best way to solve this problem? Some say take time and more inspections, tighter sanctions. Bush is saying all that's failed, let's get it over with now before something worse happens.
And, for the business community sitting on the sidelines, we're all saying, "Whatever's going to happen, it should happen quickly. And if it's going to happen, then how do we focus on getting the economy back in order."
You know, you've got historically low interest rates for various reasons. You have an economy that's sort of got a lot of demand pent up, and people are looking to begin building up inventories and investing. But until this war cloud dissipates, you're going to have people holding back.
BLITZER: There's a lot of cash on the sidelines waiting to be invested, but people are nervous, understandably so, because of the war.
JOHNSON: Money is leaving the stock market. Money is being held up, not spent. And no one is figuring out how to go ahead and make that investment at this particular time, and that pent-up is causing the economy to stagnate.
BLITZER: Let me read this excerpt to you from an editorial in "USA Today" earlier in the week: "The administration has ducked a realistic explanation of how the nation would foot this huge bill when the deficit is ballooning and costs for homeland security and the war on terror already are straining the budget."
Is the Bush administration doing a good job explaining to the American public the economic stakes involved?
JOHNSON: I don't think they're doing a good job in explaining it to them, because it's obviously one where no one can put a price on the war scenario. Because you may have four or five moving parts in the scenario, to determine what the ultimate costs will be.
So no one wants to go out and say the cost is going to be this number or that number, because you really can't say.
But I do believe that this idea of, you can have guns and butter at the same time is more a matter of political will than it is of the impact on the economy.
I think the economy is resilient enough to take on some of Bush's domestic program, the war on terrorism, the homeland security, and a quick, decisive victory in Iraq.
But if the question is, is there political will in the country, who's being asked to sacrifice, who's being told, if it goes this way, this is what we're going to do, if it goes that way, we'll pull back on this or that, that's not happening.
And so people are left with, we're going to spend over here on domestic, spend over here on the military, and at the end of the day, what's the impact on the economy? Nobody's willing to say at this time.
BLITZER: And the criticism of the president is, he's really not asking people to sacrifice right now. If anything, he's proposing additional tax cuts, at a time when a lot of the critics say the economy can't afford, the budget can't afford those tax cuts.
Do you believe that an economic stimulus package right now should include tax cuts, including for people like you and me -- you make a lot more money than I do, obviously -- but wealthy Americans who, the critics say, really don't need tax cuts right now?
JOHNSON: Well, I believe we're taxed enough as a society, so I do believe that tax cuts can stimulate investment. It can stimulate investment at the small-business level, it can stimulate investment at the corporate level. And at the same time, it returns money to the American people, who will do more spending. So I'm a believer in tax cuts.
The question is, how do you calibrate the tax cuts based on what you project to be the costs of the war and everything else? I think, if the Bush administration were smart, they would talk about calibration, what we're prepared to do if we run into this scenario, what we're not prepared to push if we run into this scenario.
To say we're going to have a huge Medicare program, we're going to continue to fight for our aggressive spending on education, we're going to continue to spend money on tax cuts, without saying we're prepared to make these adjustments, I think that's where the disconnect is.
I think the American people are willing to sacrifice for the war. They'd love to see the economy back in order. But they'd like their leader to say, this is how we will approach it, and I think that's what's missing.
BLITZER: We know how CNN's planning on covering the war, if in fact there is a war. What about BET? JOHNSON: Well, we're going to take advantage of our partnership with CBS, and have access to all of that resource to provide coverage for our audience.
But I'll tell you an interesting thing, that, when we talk to advertisers about the war, many advertisers are saying, we don't want to see on entertainment networks stories about the war, we want our advertising to be in what they would consider to be positive kind of entertainment...
BLITZER: So does that mean you'll only spend a day or two or three simulcasting CBS, is that what you're saying?
JOHNSON: Well, I think we'll make the decision based on how major the story is, how significant the story is, but there's -- as you know, there's plenty of news coverage out there.
We have a particular angle that we'll cover, from the impact on African-Americans, and we will do that as completely as we can. But I think that, when you look at what the news networks are going to do all across the country, there'll be plenty of coverage of the war effort.
BLITZER: Robert Johnson, good to speak with you. Thanks very much.
JOHNSON: Thank you.
BLITZER: We'll continue this on another occasion.
JOHNSON: Thank you very much. Delighted to be here.
BLITZER: Appreciate it. Good luck with Charlotte and the A- team.
JOHNSON: Thank you.
BLITZER: Up next, LATE EDITION's "Final Round." Our panel is ready to face off the week's big stories. The "Final Round," right after a CNN news alert. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Time now for our "Final Round." Joining me, Donna Brazile, the Democratic strategist, Peter Beinart of the "New Republic," Jonah Goldberg of the "National Review Online," and Stephen Hayes of "The Weekly Standard."
Huge developments this weekend in both the war on terror and a possible war with Iraq. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the man believed to be a key planner of the September 11th attacks, is in U.S. custody after being captured yesterday in Pakistan. U.S. officials say it's hard to overstate Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's arrest.
Meanwhile, a setback for U.S. war plans with Iraq by the way of Turkey, whose parliament yesterday rejected narrowly a plan to allow U.S. troops to be stationed there.
Peter, what went wrong with Turkey?
PETER BEINART, NEW REPUBLIC: Two things, I think. First, that it's a very new government in Turkey, and they seem to have mismanaged this vote, and they seem to have been undercut by the Turkish army, which didn't go to bat for them in getting the votes.
But the other problem is that the Bush administration, I think, really mismanaged these negotiations. As the negotiations went on, and America played very public hardball, I think opposition to the war actually hardened in Turkey, which is part of the reason for the surprise vote.
And it underscores the Bush administration has done a very poor job of building international support for this war. Their arguments are not resonating.
BLITZER: What about that, Steve?
STEPHEN HAYES, WEEKLY STANDARD: Yes, I buy some of that argument. But the problem is, what Peter's saying about the Bush administration is true only to a point. The administration had deals in July with the previous Turkish ruling government. They had more deals, or set up deals in December, November and December of this year.
So I think they've been massaging this relationship for a long time. In fact, we gave the Turks a time line in late November and said basically, "Here's what we need. Start massaging your public." And they didn't do it, they didn't come through.
BLITZER: You know, Donna...
BEINART: We also have to massage their public. I mean, we have to make a case that helps them by getting more of their public on board.
BLITZER: Well, 95 percent or so of the Turkish public opposes letting their soil be used for a war against Iraq.
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: And while the parliamentarians were voting, there was a huge demonstration taking place in the streets of Ankara. And I think the Turks were caught between a rock and a hard place, having been bitten before during the last Gulf War by the United States.
So I don't think with the cash that was being offered and the loans, they could buy the support of the Turks.
BLITZER: So now instead of the $26 billion, they're going to get... JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: Bubkiss (ph), as far as I can tell.
And I think, in many ways, this is terrible news for Turkey. Now they have no say in a post-Saddam Iraq. Now they could have huge problems with Kurdish refugees that we are not going to be at least politically obliged to help them with. And, you know, there are costs for us too, but I don't think this was a great day for Turkey, either.
I do think there's one lesson here that has not been sold enough. On the same day that we had this going on, we have troops massing all around the world trying to go to Iraq, all of this, we capture probably the most important guy in al Qaeda.
And every single opponent of the war says that a war on Iraq distracts from the war on terrorism. And it's just simply not true. They are totally different things.
GOLDBERG: Huge victory in the war on terrorism during a huge setback on the war on Iraq. They are different tracks, and people should stop using that talking point.
BLITZER: Let's move on. The debate over whether to go to war with Iraq seems to be getting more heated by the day. War opponents insist inspections are working and should be given more time, but today Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said that that is a recipe for failure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: The politics of diplomacy has turned into the politics of appeasement. History will look upon this period, will look on the United Nations, as making itself virtually irrelevant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Jonah, is Senator Graham right?
GOLDBERG: I think he's pretty much exactly right.
I think, first of all, as odd as it is, and there may have been a mistake to frame it this way, the United States actually is on the side of the U.N. as an institution. We are the ones who want to enforce U.N. resolutions. It's a weird position to be in, especially for conservatives, saying that we want to uphold the prestige of the U.N., but that's the position we're in.
BLITZER: But at the same time, and let me have Donna answer this, if you have the U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, the chief U.N. inspectors, Hans Blix and Mohammed ElBaradei, saying, "We need more time," it's hard to say the U.S. is on the side of the U.N. when the top U.N. executives, if you will, are saying, "Don't go to war." BRAZILE: Well, you know, from the very beginning, when Vice President Cheney said it would be a mistake to go to the U.N., it's been tough that the U.N. was irrelevant at the time.
I think the U.N. is very relevant, and this discussion that's being had in the Security Council is very important for the long-term stability not only of our country, but other countries.
And so I think it's dumb for any senator to call the U.N. body an irrelevant body.
BLITZER: I think you disagree with that.
HAYES: Strongly. I couldn't disagree more. The U.N. has made itself irrelevant really five years ago, when Kofi Annan took what was then billed as an emergency trip to meet with Saddam, who Kofi Annan said was a man he could do business with. That's a direct quote. It was after President Clinton gave a very strong speech at the Pentagon talking about the need to go to war.
The fact that it's taken five years from Kofi Annan's last chance to Saddam, and now he's calling for more inspections, I mean, makes the U.N. look as silly as anything.
BLITZER: Peter, you have the last word in this round?
BEINART: I think this stuff -- I think the truth is, nobody really cares whether the U.N. is relevant or not. They just care whether the U.N. is doing what they want it to do.
Look, conservatives like the U.N. when it might be a vehicle of U.S. foreign policy. They don't like the U.N. when it's, say, enforcing resolutions about Israel, for instance. And I think this whole U.N. part is really a distraction.
The question is, is Saddam Hussein a threat to the world or not? I think he is. We should do it with or without the U.N.
BLITZER: All right, let's move on and take a quick break.
We have a lot more to talk about. Our Final Round, we'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our "Final Round."
Democrats are accusing President Bush of avoiding discussion of how much a war with Iraq would cost. Today, the just-retired NATO Supreme Allied Commander General Joe Ralston said calculating the cost of war is easier said than done.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. JOSEPH RALSTON, FORMER NATO SUPREME ALLIED COMMANDER: There are so many variables that go into the costing. Is this a six-day war or a six-week war or a six-month war? And until you determine that, you cannot come up with a credible estimate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Donna, should the administration be talking with the American public more about the cost of war?
BRAZILE: Absolutely. I think they should put a price tag on this from the build-up to the clean-up.
And they should also tell the American people how we intend to pay for it. Are we going to break the lockbox, or are we going to, you know, throw away the tax cuts?
GOLDBERG: I actually think that the Bush administration could have talked about costs more than it has. I think it's the responsible thing to do to talk about the money that's going to be spent.
What I think is irresponsible is the opponents of war who bring up this argument as if they would be in favor of the war if it were cheaper, which is just ludicrous. If this war cost $1, you would still see, you know, the Hollywood crowd railing against it.
So it's a very cynical argument that they make, where they argue a point that they don't really care about.
BEINART: Yes, I think Jonah is right. I don't think the Bush administration actually needs to put a price tag on it. I think they just need to say it's going to be a lot. It's going to require a lot of U.S. troops for a long time.
And I would really like them to say, we're going to nation-build. I mean, Ari Fleischer said again a couple of weeks ago, we're not into nation-building. Well, what on Earth are we planning on doing in Iraq if not nation-building? It seems to me that's the thing that worries people.
BLITZER: He was differentiating between the military engaged in nation-building and civilians engaged in nation-building, but we'll leave that fine nuance to another point.
But the whole notion of this -- there is $95 billion supplemental spending bill that they're already talking about to pay at least for some of the initial costs.
HAYES: Sure. I mean, I don't think there's a problem with laying out what some of the projected costs are. But I think Jonah is exactly right. I mean, this is just yet another barrier that Democrats are trying to put up to trip the administration up, because they keep knocking down barriers that are put up.
They said go to the Congress; they did. They said go to the U.N.; they did. They said the administration's not talking about a post-war Iraq; President Bush gave a fine speech on that this week. They said you can't pursue al Qaeda while you're planning for Iraq; they've knocked that barrier down. This is just yet another barrier to slow down the president.
BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and talk about this. Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai was in Washington this past week for meetings with President Bush and members of Congress. He talked to me about his message, "Don't forget Afghanistan, even as you prepare for war with Iraq."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARZAI: It's extremely important to make sure that you finish the work that you start and that you're not leaving it halfway. This is a question of credibility. This is a question of success. This is a question of making sure that the objective that we have is achieved, and achieved fully.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Steve, how much responsibility does the United States have for this stability of Afghanistan?
HAYES: It's a major responsibility, and that was an interesting answer.
I also thought what was interesting was what he said after that, which was that he supports going to Iraq. He thinks we should liberate the people of Iraq.
And the focus that he put on liberating the people of Iraq, I mean, that was -- his argument really, I think, resonates, and it's an argument that the administration hasn't used enough. I mean, if anybody who knows about the need for liberation, it's Hamid Karzai and the people of Afghanistan.
BLITZER: Well, that's funny, because I interviewed the president of Latvia, and she said exactly the same thing: They lived under Communist rule, a Soviet dictatorship, a totalitarian regime, for so many years. That's why they appreciate what President Bush is trying to do now to liberate the Iraqi people from Saddam Hussein.
BRAZILE: Well, the other thing that he needs to be concerned about is the constitution of his country. Once again, we see religious fundamentalists running that country, the warlords are still in charge. So we haven't finished our job in Afghanistan. And the women right now, as we speak, are still being subjugated in that country.
So I would hope...
BLITZER: He says there's a lot of work left to be done.
GOLDBERG: Yes, I think it's -- I don't like it when people say we owe Afghanistan, to rebuild it. In a sense, I don't think that's true. We liberated them from the Taliban. It is not our fault Afghanistan is in the mess that it's in.
But I think it's good strategy. I think that it's in our interest to help Afghanistan, because if we're going to go around saying we're going to liberate countries and we're going to fix the plight of the people in certain countries, then we've got to mean it and we've got to show that we mean it.
BLITZER: Peter, despite the problems that Donna correctly points out, you can't compare what's going on in Afghanistan today than what occurred during the rule of the Taliban and al Qaeda.
BEINART: No question, that's true.
But we do know that because the international peacekeeping force hasn't gotten out in much of the country, there are large swathes of the country that are very insecure, where there hasn't been any rebuilding. More than half of the aid pledged to Afghanistan still hasn't gotten through.
And I actually do think that has undermined the case for war. There are people who will give you Afghanistan as a case study. When you say we're going to rebuild Iraq, they'll say, well, you haven't done that good a job in Afghanistan.
HAYES: But the most important person, Hamid Karzai, makes the case that we should indeed liberate Iraq. And he makes it precisely on the basis of the Iraqi people needing liberation.
BEINART: Sure, but he's also...
HAYES: And nobody knows about that better than Hamid Karzai.
BEINART: That's right, and he's also been begging the United States not to keep blocking the international peacekeeping force from going and reconstructing and allowing the security in his country, and we've been failing on that.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to have to take a quick break.
We have a lot more coming up, including our Lightning Round, just ahead.
BLITZER: Time now for our "Lightning Round."
The big story this week on the legal front, the federal appeals court in California revisited its ruling barring the Pledge of Allegiance in schools in the Western part of the United States. The court on Friday upheld the decision, saying the policy of reciting the pledge coerces a religious act because of the words, "One nation under God."
Jonah, should the Supreme Court here in Washington overturn this ruling?
GOLDBERG: It can, and it will. I mean, the scandal here is that this decision actually makes some sense, given recent precedents, and I think a lot of that has to be overturned, because historically speaking, it's just simply a ludicrous position that this country isn't allowed to mention God in public.
BLITZER: But there are some legal experts, serious ones, who have a real problem with the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance.
BEINART: Yes, but it seems to me it makes sense to distinguish prayer, which is a religious act, from the Pledge of Allegiance, which is a patriotic act which has a religious reference in it. So I think the Supreme Court should and will overturn this.
HAYES: Yes, on the political side, too, I mean, this couldn't come at a worse time as we're preparing, you know, to send hundreds of thousands of people in harm's way to die, and we're quibbling over whether people can say the Pledge of Allegiance? It's pretty disgraceful.
BLITZER: Politically, I don't think any, except for a few, one or two or three members of the House on the very liberal side of the Democratic Party, are going to have a problem if the Supreme Court decides to reverse this decision.
BRAZILE: Well, last year only three individuals voted against a resolution. So I think the Supreme Court will take it up and it will be nine to zero. No hanging chads on this one.
BLITZER: All right, let's move on. The Florida senator, Bob Graham, is joining the race for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination. He's taking on the task even as he recovers from heart surgery.
Donna, is Vice President Dick Cheney's experience paving the way for Senator Bob Graham to run for president?
BRAZILE: Well, I think so. Twenty years ago a candidate with heart problems would have bypassed running for president. Today, they get a bypass and they keep running for president. So I don't see any problems with Bob Graham running this year.
GOLBERG: I like that his office called it a "discretionary double bypass," like it was something he decided to do.
I think there's a big difference being vice president and president, and I think it could hurt him.
BLITZER: It could hurt him? What do you think?
BEINART: I think probably Kerry's health problems, in a way, make it less of a big issue, because there's a general sense that, well, you've got a couple guys out there who've got some health issues running. I think Graham has some other issues, but I think he could be a strong candidate.
BLITZER: Prostate surgery is not necessarily as serious, Steve, as bypass surgery.
HAYES: No, right, but I think Cheney does kind of make this acceptable for people in the future, especially because I think Graham is essentially running for vice president.
BLITZER: He's not the pacemaker. He's the pavemaker. Whatever.
This past week we lost Fred Rogers, known to millions of Americans as TV's Mr. Rogers. He was considered a friend to the generations of children and not-so-young children.
What impact did Mr. Rogers have? Let me go with Steve. Steve?
HAYES: Well, actually, I had the chance to meet Mr. McFealy (ph), who was the postman on Mr. Rogers' show, and it was a highlight of my life. And this happened last year.
No, it happened when I was younger. But it was great. It was a highlight. He was a great man.
BLITZER: Everybody loved Mr. Rogers. Can anybody not love Mr. Rogers?
BEINART: No. And, you know, it's really striking that, you know, the show was very low-tech and it was very low-key. It's so different from what you see on kids' TV today.
And I think it is worth noting that it was public television that produced this, so at least one good thing...
BLITZER: You miss Mr. Rogers already?
BRAZILE: Oh, yes. He was soothing, he was calm. And I tell you, getting up in the morning and have grits and eggs with Mr. Rogers, it was just a delight, growing up in Louisiana.
GOLDBERG: I didn't watch it that much. There weren't enough lasers and explosions for me.
GOLDBERG: But I have to say that every interview I've ever seen him give, he had his values right, his priorities right, and he was an honorable and decent guy.
BLITZER: Guess who may be doing jury duty, or not? None other than the former president Bill Clinton. He's among a pool of citizens who may be picked to hear an attempted murder case in New York.
Would Bill Clinton be better for the prosecution or the defense? Good question.
BEINART: I think as long as he's not actually being prosecuted, I think it's a good situation for him. So I think really either way he gets off winning. He's lucky he's not in a court for other reasons.
HAYES: The better question is, what do the jury, the other potential jurors think of this? I don't think any women who would like to be sequestered with him.
BLITZER: He could have been a foreman on that jury.
BRAZILE: Well, first of all, I think the president has done -- the former president has done a remarkable job. And he has served, and they should let him go.
GOLDBERG: Yeah, he should be excused from jury duty. The guy's a lawyer. They used to exempt lawyers all the time anyway. The security alone will make it a circus. He shouldn't do it.
BLITZER: Why should lawyers be exempt? What have they got going that the rest of us...
GOLDBERG: Because they want to nickel-and-dime the case and decide it on their own.
BLITZER: We're going to leave it on that note. Bill Clinton, don't expect him to be doing any jury duty anytime soon. You might expect to see me doing some jury duty sometime soon.
That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, March 2.
Coming up in just a few minutes at the top of the hour, CNN's "IN THE MONEY." It looks at the state of corporate scandals and what's behind them. That's followed at 4 p.m. Eastern by "NEXT@CNN," which explores how the wording of polls can change their results. And at 5 p.m. Eastern, "AMERICAN STORIES" goes behind the scenes of a dramatics U.S. Coast Guard drug bust.
Please be sure to join me next Sunday and every Sunday at noon eastern for LATE EDITION, the last word in Sunday talk.
Until then, thanks very much for watching. See you tomorrow at noon and 5 p.m. Eastern. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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