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NEWS FROM CNN

Interview With Joel Mowbray, John Stauber

Aired October 2, 2003 - 12:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: The hunt is on for those banned weapons in Iraq and the person who outed a CIA employee. Both issues up for debate right now with Joel Mowbray, in Washington. His latest book is "Dangerous Diplomacy: How the State Department Endangers America's National Security." And John Stauber, he joins us from Madison, Wisconsin. He is the author of "Weapons of Mass Deception."
Welcome to you both.

JOHN STAUBER, "WEAPONS OF MASS DECEPTION": Thank you.

JOEL MOWBRAY, "DANGEROUS DIPLOMACY": Thank you.

COSTELLO: We just heard from Terrence Taylor, who was a U.N. weapons inspector. He said that the search for weapons must go on. And he really thinks that something will be found. Do you agree with that, Joel?

MOWBRAY: Yes, I do. You know we have -- you're talking about a very large country. Now, the search for WMDs might have to encompass more than just Iraq. You might have to go into Iran and Syrian as well. Let us not forget that these borders can be rather porous when the neighboring countries want them to be. And we know that Syria has been and continues to provide cooperation to bad guys, thugs and terrorists in and outside of their country.

(CROSSTALK)

COSTELLO: So, John, do you think that is where the majority of those weapons of mass destruction went, into Syria and other countries like that?

STAUBER: Well, let me say that the weapons of mass destruction I think we can safely now say should be called the weapons of mass deception. It has been five months now that we've had troops scouring Iraq. And clearly, weapons of mass destruction, as they were portrayed by the Bush administration, as an excuse for this war, are not going to be found.

Is David Kay and the Bush administration going to eventually find something that they can wrap up and try to sell to the American public as the much (UNINTELLIGIBLE) weapons of mass destruction program? I guarantee it, because these people are expert at PR. But, let's face it, the American people were mislead. The weapons of mass destruction, as they were portrayed by the administration, do not exist.

COSTELLO: Joel, would you agree with that? Of course you wouldn't.

MOWBRAY: No, I think all we need to find are programs that existed, because if you had weapons of mass destruction programs, you had weapons of mass destruction. Whether or not fully complete in all forms and facets or not, it doesn't matter. If Saddam had WMD programs, that is the same as having WMD threats.

COSTELLO: Yes, but, Joel, are you going to ask American taxpayers -- Joel, are you going to ask the American -- I'm sorry, we are going to head live to California now because Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken the podium. There have been new serious allegations against him in groping women in the "L.A. Times." Let's hear what he has to say.

(INTERRUPTED BY LIVE EVENT)

COSTELLO: We're going to continue our discussion now with Joel Mowbray and John Stauber. And, Joel, as I recall, you were saying that as long as the United States finds programs -- you know, papers that Saddam Hussein had that detailed his weapons of mass destruction programs, that would be OK.

MOWBRAY: Yes, because if you had WMD programs, the only point of having WMD programs is to have WMDs. The two are one in the same. They are not mutually exclusive, and you can't say, well, gee, he had programs, but he must not have had the weapons that are always created from such programs.

(CROSSTALK)

COSTELLO: So you're going to ask the American taxpayers for $600 million to find some papers that say Saddam Hussein was supposedly developing weapons of mass destruction?

MOWBRAY: Well, you know, I wouldn't characterize it as just finding papers, that he was supposedly doing something. If you have documentation that WMD programs existed, that's very important and significant, and it goes to prove the claim that the weapons of mass destruction program was ongoing under Saddam Hussein. And he did pose a gathering threat to the world by existence of that program and other things this ruthless tyrant had done over the years.

COSTELLO: Yes. And, in fairness to you, Joel, Terrence Taylor, the former U.N. weapons inspector, told us the same thing. But, John, what do you think?

STAUBER: Well, of course Saddam Hussein had programs for weapons of mass destruction. Let's remember that, in 1988, when he was an ally of the Reagan-Bush administration, his components for the chemical agents he was using to kill his own Kurdish citizens at Halabja and elsewhere were coming from Western countries, including the United States.

Of course he had programs, but what we want to know is whether the inspections worked, whether there were active programs after the Gulf War. And we know that this administration has consistently lied and misrepresented that issue.

For instance, you can look at the defector who was the son-in-law of Saddam Hussein. He clearly stated -- and I'm talking about Mr. Kamil (ph) -- to UNSCOM investigators that the weapon programs were shut down after the first Gulf War, that the inspections were successful. "Newsweek" came out with that in March of this year, and that is another example of this administration deceiving.

They had been saying that Mr. Kamil's (ph) testimony to UNSCOM indicated there was an active weapons program, when his testimony indicated the opposite. It is clear that WMDs, as depicted by this administration, were simply weapons of mass deception.

COSTELLO: All right. We've got your point there, John.

We have James from Nevada on the phone right now. What would you like to ask? James are you there?

CALLER: I am here.

COSTELLO: All right. What would you like to ask?

CALLER: I can barely hear you, though.

COSTELLO: OK. But we can hear you just fine, so you shoot.

CALLER: OK. My question is, how long do we have to look for these weapons of mass destruction? Is it going to be in my lifetime that we find them? I am 65 years old and I'm wondering, what effort do we have to do to find these things, and when does the Bush administration take responsibility for not finding them and tell us the truth that there were no weapons of mass destruction but we needed to go to war because the Bush policy of extracting oil and taking control of the Middle East?

COSTELLO: Whoa, that's a loaded question. So, Joel, let's just concentrate on how long does the United States continue to look for these weapons of mass destruction, or papers that prove that such a program existed?

MOWBRAY: Well, because the critics of the president won't die down until they have the proof shoved in their faces, and even then they probably won't quiet very much, I think that the research will have to go on until ample evidence is collected to make it sufficiently clear that the programs existed and that Saddam Hussein posed the threat that he did.

And remember, these things become feeding frenzies, as Bob Novak is finding out right now in dealing with this flap over the supposed leak -- or the leak over the supposed uncovering of an undercover agent, if the person is even an undercover agent.

COSTELLO: Whoa, man. OK. You're getting into our next argument right now. I wanted to ask John, though, how long do you think the search go on? And how expensive should it be allowed to get? STAUBER: Well, I think it is clear that the search is going to go on for a long time. And, at some point, this administration is going to bundle together a bunch of information and say, see, this is what we told you we always told you we would find. Here are the WMDs.

But I also predict that they are absolutely not going to find the type of WMD program components, parts, whatever you want to call it, that they used to justify this war. It is a neo-con shell game.

COSTELLO: Well, John, I think James from Vermont would agree with you. This is an email we have gotten in. He says, "Saddam did not have weapons of mass destruction. He had a few mustard gas missiles, which he used. He bluffed to the U.S. for the past 12 years, and now the U.S. continues to look for these weapons. We need to give up that search and concentrate on eliminating the hundreds of tons of weapons lying around Iraq that are used daily to kill young soldiers."

Joel, you want to respond?

MOWBRAY: Well, first, I would like to respond to the last comment made about the neo-con shell game that's going on. This is a big red herring that the people on the left always want to drag out. You know, the so-called neo-con cabal. Some people just come outright and say that they mean the Jews in the administration.

But regardless, you have people who are attacking some group of people, as well as others who happen to think that the evil tyrant known as Saddam Hussein deserved to be taken out. And I think the world is a much safer place. Remember, Saddam Hussein, as everyone knows, used weapons of mass destruction on his own people.

He is an aggressor, invaded two separate neighboring nations. And this is a man who posed a threat to the world, and he was not going to give up the weapons programs voluntarily, which is why he had to kick out the U.N. weapons inspectors in 1998.

COSTELLO: Yes, but, you know, Joel, there are reports out there now that Saddam leaked like phony intelligence, saying that, you know -- like he gave his top officers the OK to use chemical weapons against U.S. troops, but he really didn't have it. And it was all to deter the United States from going to war with Iraq. If that is true, why didn't U.S. intelligence pick that up?

MOWBRAY: Well, I think as we know now, U.S. intelligence is hardly foolproof. And, in fact, the point of intelligence estimates is not to know exactly what's going on, but to be able to point in certain directions. And you have certain scenarios that are more likely than not.

And if I have to take my pick between letting Saddam Hussein stick around, and maybe he will blow us up and maybe he won't kill Americans, or you take him out and you minimize the risk to the world, you have to choose the latter option. Because you cannot play Iraqi roulette and have a gun pointed to your head. Maybe there are only two bullets in the chamber, but that's two bullets too many. COSTELLO: All right. We're going to end it there because we have breaking news to deal with.

Joel Mowbray and John Stauber, many thanks for joining us this afternoon.

STAUBER: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Thank you both.

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