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Bush Puts $25 Million Price Tag on Saddam's Head

Aired July 3, 2003 - 19:19   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: With new reports of attacks on Americans coming in daily, the Bush administration appears to be signaling a tougher stance in Iraq.
U.S. officials today put a $25 million bounty right on this man's head, Saddam Hussein. They offered a $15 million reward for information leading to the arrest of the former Iraqi president's sons, Uday and Qusay, the lesser Husseins, or proof even of their deaths.

Officials think uncertainty over Saddam's fate is encouraging anti-American attacks in Iraq.

But some administration critics think President Bush virtually invited aggression with a statement he made this week. Take a look.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are some who feel like that, you know, the conditions are such that they can attack us there. My answer is, bring them on.


COOPER: Well, was the president voicing confidence in the U.S. troops or was he issuing a dangerous challenge?

Joining us from Washington to discuss the questions are Cliff May, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and also Victoria Jones, special correspondent for the Talk Radio News Service.

I appreciate both of you being here.

Victoria, let me start off with you. Appropriate to say, bring them on?

VICTORIA JONES, TALK RADIO NEWS SERVICE: Well, it was kind of stupid because if he was trying to tick off the Iraqis who are launching the attacks, they haven't gotten their electricity so they were the ones who couldn't hear him.

So I think if he was trying to encourage the troops that, you know, it's kind of OK except I spoke to a mother of a Marine today who said, you know, "It's fine to say bring it on when it's not your son who's on the front lines." And it's not as though as if we're not plenty tough as the president said. We know we are, and we know we can take it and we know they can bring it on. But it really doesn't help to say it.

COOPER: Cliff, does it help?

CLIFF MAY, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Yes. It's sending a message. I think you got it exactly right a second ago, Anderson. He's sending a message and that will get through.

You've got to understand what's going on in Iraq right now. In the streets, in the bazaars, in the marketplaces, in the schools, Saddam loyalists and thugs are saying the Americans are not going to be able it take this. They're going to run away. And when they run away we're coming back and we'll remember who collaborated with the Americans and who didn't.

What Bush is saying those who are planning to make bombs in mosque basements, those are who are out there paying money to people to kill Americans, he's saying, "Look, we'll have this fight and we'll win this fight and we're not running away from this fight."

That's the most important thing. People will think in the Islamic world and Iraq, America ran away in Mogadishu, America ran away in 1993 in Beirut. This time, we're staying, we're finishing the job. And if you want to fight us, fight our soldiers. They're well trained, they're well equipped. Don't strap suicide bombs on and come to our...

COOPER: But Cliff, as you well know, a lot of critics, particularly overseas, are going to say, "Look, this is another example of President Bush basically using swagger as a foreign policy, elevating you know, a swagger to national policy."

MAY: I would like to know what Bush should be saying. Should he be saying, "Let's sit around and sing Kumbaya"? Should he be saying, "Let's try to be sensitive. Let's negotiate with Saddam Hussein and his sons and their thugs"? Or should he be saying, "Let's beat them"?

JONES: Nobody is saying that. Nobody is saying that. Nobody has ever said that.

And Cliff is exactly right, these are former Ba'athists to a great extent who are thinking that we won't stay the course and who are intimidating other Iraqi citizens by saying, "We're going to have your tongue cut out if you collaborate with the Americans." This we all know.

And they also know that we just have stayed the course. We just invaded their country, we just took over their country. They don't think we're going to run. This is not Mogadishu. This is Iraq. We just won the war.

We don't need to talk, we don't need to boast. We will take care of them. And if it does mean staying there and if it means bringing more people in that is what we will do. They know we have that kind of resolve.

MAY: They don't, Victoria. JONES: Yes, they do.

MAY: I talk to Iraqis all the time who are over there and let me tell you, they say the Iraqis are worried the Americans are going to say, as some Americans are saying, "My God, this is turning into a quagmire, what are we doing here, bring our troops home, this is too dangerous. Why are we there?"

The possibility that the Americans might say "it's enough, we give up," is real to the average Iraqi on the street and probably will be until and unless we see Saddam Hussein's head on a plate.

You know, this is -- this kind of talk has some history and because Victoria was given the show I looked at things Churchill has said, like "We want to beat the life and the soul out of Hitler and Hitlerism." That was the right kind of rhetoric for that time. What Bush is saying now, "$25 million if we get Saddam Hussein's head and by the way, bring it on. We're professionals. We want to fight." Is actually the right rhetoric.

COOPER: You raise an interesting point. Because Victoria, there are probably many Americans who like this kind of talk. I mean, not only does it make Bush seem personable, very regular guy, but it is taking a very tough stance. And in many people's eyes, an appropriate stance.

Do you think Democrats have missed the boat on this one? I mean, there are some very prominent Democrats who have come out blasting the president for using this kind of language. Do you think they're using politics and maybe even misjudging them?

JONES: Well, I'm an independent not a Democrat so -- As to what they're doing, you know, inside the party I don't know.

But having said that they've missed the boat on just about every single thing they've done the last couple of years. So yes, they have. They're going to miscalculate on this. They're going to make this into more than it actually is.

It was a taunt. I think it was foolish, I think it was boastful. I don't think that President Bush needs to act like Roseanne during the Super Bowl. He doesn't need to act like he saw "Terminator 3" at a special preview. We know who he is. He's the leader of the free world.

The Democrats are likely to miscalculate and try and put him down over the Fourth of July and they will come across seeming unpatriotic.

COOPER: Cliff May, final thought. Final thought, Cliff.

MAY: My final thought is I think the smart Democrats won't take Bush on. What are they going to say? He's acting too tough, he should act less tough? The last thing the Democrats should want, especially if they're running for president, is to say we should be less tough in terms of terrorism and in terms of national security. Terrible mistake. Smart Democrats won't do it. COOPER: All right. Let's leave it there right now. Victoria Jones, Cliff May, thanks for talking with us. Good.

JONES: Thanks.


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