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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Interview With Donald Rumsfeld; Suicide Bombing Kills 7 in Ashdod, Israel
Aired March 14, 2004 - 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 a.m. in Los Angeles, 6 p.m. in Madrid, 8 p.m. in Baghdad. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for "LATE EDITION."
We'll get to my interview with the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, in just a few moments. First, though, let's go to CNN headquarters in Atlanta for a quick check of the hour's headlines.
BLITZER: Let's get more information now on these latest suicide attacks at the Israeli port of Ashdod, just south of Tel Aviv. CNN's Chris Burns is joining us now on the phone. He's on the scene in Ashdod.
Chris, tell us what you're seeing, what you're learning.
CHRIS BURNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, there is still smoke rising up from this office bungalow, where one of the suicide bombers, according to officials, walked in and caused that explosion.
It is not exactly clear how the explosion was set off, whether there was a suicide belt, whether he walked in with a bomb, it is not clear. They're still combing through the wreckage now, trying to figure out what exactly happened.
They also have some, at least two or three, bodies here on stretchers they're ready to take away.
Across the street is where the other explosion happened, inside this warehouse inside the port here in Ashdod. It's a very industrial port city here, and inside that warehouse another suicide bomber walked in and blew himself up.
Now, according to officials, nine people are dead here at this site, including the two suicide bombers, 16 other people injured.
And there is an effect on the peace process here, because there had been expected to be talks between the Palestinian and Israeli prime ministers some time in the coming weeks, and the Israelis say they are putting that off because of this bombing, Wolf.
BLITZER: Breaking news for us in Ashdod. That's north of Gaza, south of Tel Aviv, along the Mediterranean coast. Suicide bombers striking, killing Israelis. Chris Burns on the scene for us.
Chris, stand by. We'll get back to you as soon as we get some more information.
Let's move on, though. Right now, exactly one year ago this week, the U.S.-led war against Iraq, Saddam Hussein began. And while the regime of Saddam Hussein was quickly toppled, the security and political situation in that country remains very volatile, even as some inroads toward stability have indeed been made.
Within the past hour, I spoke with the U.S. defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.
BLITZER: Mr. Defense Secretary, welcome back to "LATE EDITION." Thanks very much for joining us.
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Thank you, Wolf. Good to be with you.
BLITZER: All right. Let's get right to Spain for a moment. Do you know right now who's responsible?
RUMSFELD: I don't. Certainly everyone seeing that terrible tragedy and 200 people killed has to -- their heart just goes out to those people and their families and their loved ones. Spain has been an important partner in the global war on terror. And we value their involvement and certainly are thinking of them today.
BLITZER: There was a statement released supposedly in the name of al Qaeda which suggested that this is a response to the crimes that you have caused in the world, and specifically in Iraq and Afghanistan, and there will be more, God willing, supposedly linking Spain's cooperation with the U.S. in the war in Iraq and the war against terrorism to this act.
Do you have any reason to believe that's not true?
RUMSFELD: No, we have no evidence for that. There have been terrorist attacks all across the globe, in Indonesia and in Turkey and in Saudi Arabia, the United States and Israel and now Spain. So I think trying to link it this fast is probably not a useful thing to try to do.
BLITZER: So you're ready to leave all options open at this point?
RUMSFELD: Spain has been dealing with terrorist attacks for decades, and has done it effectively in many instances.
BLITZER: The search for Osama bin Laden, there seems to be a new spring offensive gearing up, Operation Mountain Storm you're calling it.
I spoke with Porter Goss, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, earlier in the week. He suggested you're making progress in finding bin Laden. Are you?
RUMSFELD: Well, Porter Goss is a great guy and a very thoughtful expert on intelligence.
We are certainly better organized today, and we've put a lot of pressure on the al Qaeda network around the world. And we believe that we're safer and more secure because we have put pressure on that network.
BLITZER: Are you narrowing the area where you suspect he might be hiding out?
RUMSFELD: No. That's what I would want to disabuse anyone of. You know, he may be alive and he may not be. We don't know if he's alive or dead.
He may be in Afghanistan. He may be in Pakistan. He may be someplace else.
What's going on is a normal activity that takes place. And from time to time, there are sweeps made. And I think to hype it or suggest that there's something major going on is probably a misunderstanding.
These things tend to ebb and flow. We've got a lot of wonderful people, dedicated men and women in uniform, who are doing a great job out there. And god bless them for it. We appreciate it.
BLITZER: One of your spokesman, an Army spokesman in Afghanistan, Colonel Brian Hilferty, said earlier, a few weeks ago, that bin Laden will be caught this year.
RUMSFELD: I don't know if he'll be caught this year. If he's alive, I'm sure he'll be caught eventually. And when, I don't know.
BLITZER: Do you have enough troops along the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan hunting for bin Laden, his associates, and the Taliban, who might still be out there?
RUMSFELD: Well, we've had an increasing effort over the year or two. When you think of the terrific cooperation we're getting from the Pakistanis, they're working closely with the tribal leaders in that area. We have also trained an Afghan national army, and the Afghan national army is participating with our coalition forces. And they're working their way around in that country to see that the Taliban and the al Qaeda don't have an opportunity to regroup and try to cause additional terrorist acts.
They're determined to try to do that. And they'd like to go kill more innocent men, women and children. And we're equally determined to see that that doesn't happen.
BLITZER: Is there anything that you want President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan to do that he's refusing to do?
RUMSFELD: Oh, my impression is he's doing everything that he can do. And we have a lot of respect for the efforts they're making. And they've been helpful.
They've rounded up al Qaeda from time to time and put pressure on the Taliban. And we appreciate that cooperation in the global war on terror both by the Afghan government and by the Pakistan government.
BLITZER: I wonder if you'd care to say anything. The accusation is that you've sort of, as a government, the administration, went easy on the Pakistani nuclear export issue. A.Q. Khan, their chief nuclear scientist, and you deliberately avoided making that too big of an issue in U.S.-Pakistani relations precisely because you're so desperate to keep President Musharraf on track.
RUMSFELD: Oh, I think the way I'd characterize it is that everyone in the world, including President Musharraf, seeing the interaction on the proliferation of these technologies is deeply concerned. The A. Q. Khan network is now out of business. And that is an enormously important thing. It's a good thing.
They had been peddling, marketing nuclear technologies around the globe to more countries than simply North Korea. And I think that as we approach the one-year anniversary of the war in Iraq, it's important to recognize that one of the byproducts of that conflict very likely is the fact that one of the A. Q. Khan network's customers, Libya, has, in fact, decided to do what Saddam Hussein didn't decide to do.
He's decided to open up his country and show that he is willing to give up his weapons of mass destruction programs, and that's a good thing. It's a good thing for the world.
BLITZER: Let's talk about the first anniversary approaching of the war in Iraq. Six more U.S. soldiers killed this past weekend, bringing the total by our count to 564 since the start of the war.
RUMSFELD: I think you're mixing up those that were killed in action and those that have been killed in accidents and various other things. I think it's something like 379 that have been killed in action.
BLITZER: You're right. This is both hostile and so-called non- hostile reasons. But still, 564 American troops have died because of their service.
RUMSFELD: Oh, more than that if you count Afghanistan, if you count accidents in the United States.
BLITZER: Well, I guess the question is, looking back over this past year, was it worth it?
RUMSFELD: Oh, my goodness, yes. There's just no question. Twenty-five million people in Afghanistan are free; 25 million people in Iraq are free.
They've been liberated. The schools are functioning. There's a new interim constitution that protects the rights of women and will protect minorities and ethnic elements in that country. It's an advance for freedom. And the pressure that's being put on terrorists in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and elsewhere in the world, is clearly advancing freedom and making the world a safer place.
BLITZER: Did you think a year ago that a year after the war U.S. troops would still be dying in Iraq?
RUMSFELD: Well, if one goes back and looks at what happened in Germany, certainly at the end of the war things don't suddenly go away. Major combat stops, but resistance can continue. And it is continuing. And we are continuing to resist it, along with the Iraqis.
We now have 200,000 Iraqi security forces that are out there providing security in their country and, frankly, being killed themselves. There have been more Iraqi security forces killed in the last four, five or six months than coalition forces. And it shows that they're taking over responsibility for their country.
BLITZER: Is this mostly insurgents, Iraqi insurgents, or foreign terrorists who have infiltrated into Iraq?
RUMSFELD: It's a mix of both. They're undoubtedly remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime and Baathists that still think they can reimpose a dictatorship and repress those people. But they're also foreign terrorists that are in that country that have come across the Iranian and Syrian borders.
BLITZER: Are they still coming in through those borders?
RUMSFELD: We're in the process of working with our neighboring countries in -- friendly neighboring countries in securing the borders, and making more efforts along the Iranian border and Syrian border to try to reduce it. But if you look at our country and the difficulty of securing borders here with Canada or Mexico, it's a very difficult thing to do. And it's very rugged terrain.
BLITZER: There was some candid testimony from the acting Army's secretary, Les Brownlee, this week, this past week on Capitol Hill. He said, "I also regret that we were not more farsighted here. We simply were not prepared for that kind of a counterinsurgency that attacked our convoys and our soldiers in the rear as it has proven to be."
With hindsight, were U.S. forces adequately prepared to deal with this insurgency?
RUMSFELD: I think that what you do is you develop a plan, and there was a war plan, and you develop a post-war plan, and there was a post-war plan. And you anticipate the kinds of things that can go wrong or the kinds of things that you'll have to face, the challenges. And then you start.
And it's always different than you expected. And the question is, did you build in that kind of adaptability? And I would submit that our forces did build in a great deal of adaptability. BLITZER: What would you have done differently, though, with hindsight? Obviously, all of us are smarter with hindsight. But there are certain things you probably would have done differently had you known what really was going to happen.
RUMSFELD: Well, one of the things that comes up from time to time is the suggestion that you would not allow the Iraqi army to be disband, and you would make an effort to try to use the Iraqi army to contribute to security in the country. The problem with that argument is that it was pretty much just dissipated. It disappeared.
There were a bunch of recruits that didn't want to be serving in Saddam Hussein's army. And they just fell into the countryside and left. And the idea that they could have been kept in units, it seems to me, is a misunderstanding of the situation.
There was no humanitarian disaster. The hospitals have been reopened, the schools have been reopened. The electricity is back on for the most part. So a great deal has been accomplished, it seems to me. And this new constitution, interim constitution, is a wonderful step forward.
BLITZER: Just ahead, more of my conversation with the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld. Does the U.S. still expect to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
"LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
L. PAUL BREMER, U.S. CIVILIAN ADMINISTRATOR IN IRAQ: It's really an extraordinary thing that the American soldier does these days. He has to know how to win a war, and then he's got to know how to win the peace.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The U.S. civilian administrator in Iraq, Paul Bremer, praising the work of American soldiers in Iraq.
Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
We return now to my interview with the U.S. defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about the intelligence leading up to the war, the weapons of mass destruction. David Kay, you sent him over there, the administration. He was there four (ph) months. He came back and he said, you know what? I couldn't find any.
And he also said this before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Listen to this exchange that he had. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID KAY, WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Well, let me begin by saying we were almost all wrong. And I certainly include myself here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He's acknowledging there probably weren't any weapons of mass destruction, and they're probably not going to be found in Iraq no matter how long you go on.
Was there bad intelligence on WMD going into the war?
RUMSFELD: Well, certainly intelligence is always imperfect. It is in any war. It is in any given moment of the day or night, it's imperfect, because they're trying to know something that others are trying to keep you from knowing.
What David Kay also said, to put it into context, was that he figures we're about 85 percent complete in the effort, and that we have a good team of people, 1,000 to 1,200 people, over there that are continuing to determine what actually took place.
We do know there were weapons of mass destruction there. We do know that he used weapons of mass destruction on his own people and on his neighbors.
BLITZER: But that was in the '80s...
RUMSFELD: We do...
BLITZER: ... before the first Gulf War.
RUMSFELD: Right. Just a minute. And we also know that David Kay's people have found that he had ballistic missiles that exceeded the range limitations under the U.N. resolutions.
So it's not as though they found nothing, as you said.
BLITZER: Well, no...
RUMSFELD: They did, in fact, find things. And David Kay's report indicates that.
BLITZER: But we're not talking about missiles. We're talking about chemical and biological agents.
Listen to what you said, what you told the Senate Armed Services Committee on September 19, 2002. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUMSFELD: He's amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of biological weapons, including anthrax, botulism, toxins, possibly smallpox.
He's amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons, including VX, sarin and mustard gas.
His regime has an active program to acquire nuclear weapons.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RUMSFELD: Right. And those are the assessments of the intelligence community. Indeed, they were the assessments of the United Nations.
And what happened was there was no way to know what had happened to those stockpiles that the United Nations had indicated existed. And when he filed his declaration, everyone concluded that it was fraudulent because of the way it was prepared.
BLITZER: But he may have been telling the truth.
RUMSFELD: Then why would he forego billions of dollars of Oil for Food revenues that he could have had for his oil, by not allowing the inspectors in, allowing that process to go forward as other countries did? Why would anyone do that?
BLITZER: Because -- one of the suggestions is that, you know, this was an element of pride for him and his own status, political status, within Iraq.
RUMSFELD: Well, we'll know more when we know more. I mean, we've got 1,000 people out there continuing to look...
BLITZER: So you're still...
RUMSFELD: ... in an area the size of California. They're doing a good job. We'll know what we know when we know it.
BLITZER: You were severely criticized the other day when you testified on the Hill because of this comment that you made.
After the war actually started, about a week into the war, on March 30th, you were asked, "Is it curious to you that, given how much control U.S. and coalition forces now have in the country, they haven't found any weapons of mass destruction?" To which, you replied, "It happens not to be the area where weapons of mass destruction were dispersed. We know where they are."
RUMSFELD: Right. First of all, I wasn't widely criticized. One member of the Congress raised that issue, and I pointed out that when the comment was made, we had come up about halfway to Baghdad, and people were already saying, "All right, you're halfway to Baghdad, where are the weapons of mass destruction?" And we had forces trying to fight their way in to defeat the Iraqi army and conquer the country and liberate the people.
And all of the intelligence community's suspect sites, as I recall, where in the area from just south of Baghdad to north of Baghdad, up toward Tikrit and Kirkuk.
Now, if that's the area that was of interest, the suspect sites, which is what they generally were referred to, the reason I said they're not -- we've only gotten this far, it was a perfectly rational answer in context.
BLITZER: So you were referring to suspected sites, not where actual weapons of mass destruction were when you said we know where they are?
RUMSFELD: Well, you can't know actually if you're not on the ground. You know what the intelligence is, and the intelligence said, "These are the areas that have suspect sites," and they had them all indicated in the intelligence information.
And that was available to -- listen, Wolf, why do you think the people, the military people got up every day and put on chemical protective gear on their heads and their arms and their legs and their bodies? Uncomfortable, hot, not pleasant. Because they believed that chemical weapons would be used if they got far enough north. Why do you think Saddam Hussein had chemical protective gear that we found? Hundreds and hundreds of suits of Iraqi chemical protective gear.
BLITZER: But was the intelligence wrong? And in other words, if the intelligence was wrong, looking back, was it a mistake to go to war at that time instead of giving the U.N. more time to continue their own inspections?
RUMSFELD: Well, the U.N. inspectors were not in there. The U.N. inspectors were out.
BLITZER: Well, they left after the U.S. made it clear that the war was about to begin.
RUMSFELD: And I would just say the answer is yes, you asked this question at the outset, and I answered it yes, I think it was the right thing to do. I don't know how many resolutions one would want. There were 17. Should you go to double it, to 34?
Should you go -- our planes were being shot at every other day over Iraq. American planes, British planes. Our air crews were being fired on by Saddam Hussein's gunners from the ground with missiles. Now, the idea that that wasn't a threat to our forces, it was a threat to our forces. It was the only place on the face of the earth where our people were being shot at.
BLITZER: But you have to admit, the major reason to justify the war going in to the world was not because of the violations of the no- fly zones. The major reason was because of the stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.
RUMSFELD: Indeed. That's why the Congress passed the resolution, that's why the United Nations passed its resolution. And that's why there was unanimous agreement not about whether or not he had violated and filed a fraudulent declaration. But the only question was about timing, whether it should be done here or later, after still another resolution.
BLITZER: Will this June 30th handover to Iraqi authority be successful?
RUMSFELD: Well, I hope so. I pray that it will.
BLITZER: Is it set in concrete, that date, June 30th?
RUMSFELD: Well, we'll see. I mean, that's clearly the date that everyone's been working to. The Iraqis have.
Look, Wolf, they have gone from a vicious dictatorship that was giving $25,000 to suicide bombers, that had relationships with terrorists -- let there be no doubt about that, they were doing that, encouraging suicide bombing -- to a country where 25 million people are free.
They're going to have an Iraqi solution for the future. It's not going to be an American solution or coalition solution. They're going to have an Iraqi solution.
And what happened when they passed this interim constitution was really impressive, not simply for the words in the constitution, but for the process that took place. There they were, Shia and Sunni and Kurds, negotiation, discussing, compromising, agreeing finally. That's impressive. I think it's been a very impressive thing that has taken place.
BLITZER: In your planning, how long are you planning for U.S. troops to have to remain in Iraq?
RUMSFELD: Oh, we planned for -- we plan always a year and a half or two years ahead. But that doesn't mean that's how long it will be. We have no way of knowing that.
As long as we keep training and equipping and deploying Iraqi security forces, my hope and my expectation is that the Iraqis will take over the security, just as they're going to take over their government at some point. And so far, they're out with joint patrols and doing a very fine job of providing security.
BLITZER: In the interrogation of Saddam Hussein, is he cooperating at all?
RUMSFELD: How do I characterize this? I would say not to any great extent, no.
BLITZER: When do you think the trial of Saddam Hussein might begin?
RUMSFELD: I hope soon. I think it's important for the world to see just what kind of a dictator this man was and what he -- the tens of thousands of people he killed and the things he did that were crimes against humanity.
BLITZER: Some suggest it would be politically advantageous to the Bush administration for that trial to begin before the election in November.
RUMSFELD: Oh, come on now, Wolf. It's going to begin when it begins. I don't know when it will begin. I think it's important that it happen. It will not be timed to anything like that.
The president has indicated he thinks that the Iraqis ought to have a central role in it. And that being the case, it's up to the Iraqis as they develop a government and a process goes forward, which suggests that it will be later rather than earlier.
BLITZER: A couple of loose ends and then I'll let you go. Russia, they're having elections today. Vladimir Putin easily going to be...
RUMSFELD: I think he'll make it.
BLITZER: ... reelected. There's no doubt about that.
But there's a lot of concern that he's taking actions which would undermine real democracy in Russia. How concerned are you?
RUMSFELD: Oh, I think anyone looking at what's taking place there has to have a mixed impression. On the one hand, you see the fact that they have made some progress forward toward democratizing and human rights and individual freedoms. On the other hand, we see people being arrested, we see people put in jail, we see actions taken that are less than democratic. And one has to, you know, have a cautious view about it.
And I think in the last analysis, Russia is going to succeed or fail depending on the extent to which they create an environment that's hospitable to investment. To the extent they do that and connect themselves to the West and to the rest of the world, they will have an opportunity to succeed. And to the extent they don't -- and violations of human rights, obviously, is not a good way to encourage investment.
BLITZER: There are nearly 2,000 Marines in Haiti right now. Former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide apparently getting ready to leave the Central African Republican for Jamaica, in the Caribbean. Is that a good idea for him to come that close back to Haiti?
RUMSFELD: Well, the secretary of state has indicated that he would think that that's not a good idea. And others have suggested that. And the hope is that he will not come back into the hemisphere and complicate situation.
BLITZER: As we speak, we are getting word of more apparent terrorist actions in Israel, at the port of Ashdod. This is a problem that the Israelis have faced. Is it a problem for U.S. policy, though, what's happening between the Palestinians and the Israelis?
RUMSFELD: Oh, sure. It's a problem for the world. It's not a problem for U.S. policy, particularly, but we care. We would love to see the situation in the Middle East solved, where there was an effective peace established and an understanding that peace could go forward and there would be security for people on both sides, and allow the circumstance of the Palestinian people to improve.
And I think that obviously the president has set out a road map and suggested a direction, and we're hopeful that it will go that way.
BLITZER: Listen to what John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate, said in Florida this past week. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The job of the president of the United States is to maximize the capacity for success, minimize the cost to the American people and minimize the risk to American soldiers.
And by going almost alone in rushing forward, we did none of those.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I wanted to get your reaction.
RUMSFELD: Well, I don't get involved in politics. The president has asked Colin Powell and me to not get involved in it. So if you could set aside the way -- the context that you just made by quoting him and just let me make a comment about how the extent to which this has been internationalized.
The president has put together probably one of the largest coalitions in the history of mankind, some 90 nations, for the global war on terror. In Iraq alone, there are 34 or 35 countries with troops on the ground. There are many more countries that are contributing humanitarian assistance and financial assistance. I think the total international community has come up with something like $32 billion to assist the Iraqi people recover from the regime of Saddam Hussein.
In Afghanistan, we have a very broad coalition. NATO has now taken over the International Security Assistance Force. I think out of the 26 NATO nations and NATO invitee nations, something like 19 have forces either in Iraq or Afghanistan or both.
So the suggestion that it has not been internationalized, it seems to me, is a misunderstanding of the situation.
BLITZER: If the president asks you, if he's reelected, to serve in the second term...
RUMSFELD: Come on, Wolf.
BLITZER: ... will you?
RUMSFELD: He hasn't asked me.
BLITZER: Well, if he does?
RUMSFELD: I think -- listen, he's a very talented person and a fine president in my view, and I'm fully enjoying serving him and serving the country in an important post.
BLITZER: Would you like to spend another four years over there?
RUMSFELD: Come on, I am not going to get into that. He hasn't asked me. And you, sir, are not the president.
BLITZER: All right. I know that.
Thanks very much, Mr. Defense Secretary. Thanks very much for joining us.
RUMSFELD: You bet.
BLITZER: Up next, a quick check of the hour's headlines, including the latest on those suicide bombings in Israel.
Also, terrorists strike Spain. Is al Qaeda punishing allies of the United States? We'll get insight from two leading United States senators: Intelligence Committee Chairman Pat Roberts and former Democratic presidential candidate Joe Lieberman.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The enemy declared war on us. And as I tell people, war is what they got with George W. Bush as the president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush this week saying he won't back away from the fight against terrorists.
Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
Joining us now, two leading members of the United States Senate. In Kansas City, the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republican Pat Roberts of Kansas. And in New Haven, Connecticut, Democratic senator, former presidential candidate, Joe Lieberman.
Senators, welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
Senator Roberts, let me begin with you and get your thought. Now that we see this series of terrorist attacks -- in Madrid this past week, right now within the past hour or so in Ashdod, Israel, just south of Tel Aviv -- do you see a connection between what's going on in these various terror attacks?
SEN. PAT ROBERTS (R), KANSAS: Well, I think there's a connection in terms of -- I think the terrorists are very politically sensitive. The attack in Israel has occurred right before we were going to go into yet another round of consultations. Obviously that puts a monkey wrench right in the middle of that, or at least is an obstacle.
And the attack in Madrid, which was very sophisticated, comes the day before the election. And it just so happens that the Socialist Party candidate for the prime ministership indicated he would simply withdraw all the Spanish support in regards to Iraq. So I think it's very politically sensitive.
I don't think those two attacks were connected in terms of the same organization, but I think it certainly is motivated and they are very sophisticated and they know what's going on, in terms of the current events in the world.
BLITZER: Senator Lieberman, I know you've spent a lot of time studying the whole issue of terrorism. What's your thought?
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, I think Pat's right on target. I mean, these attacks are similar in the sense that it is use of violence against innocents to advance political goals, and both are motivated by the major threat to the rest of the world today from terrorism, which is from fanatical Islamic terrorists.
And the fact that this terrible terrorist attack occurred in Spain is a warning to the rest of the world that these fanatical terrorists are not just focused on the United States, they're focused on the rest of the civilized world.
And anyone who thinks that if, for instance, their troops, as Pat referred to the candidate for the prime ministership in Spain, if a nation's troops stay out of a particular military conflict that they'll be somehow protected from the fanatical Islamic terrorists is just wrong.
I hate to say it, but that's the same kind of logic that led Neville Chamberlain of Munich to try to pacify Hitler in the late '30s, and, obviously, that didn't work, and it won't work anymore with al Qaeda or their ilk around the world.
We have to stop them. We have capture and kill them to protect our own security and that of our children in the next generation.
BLITZER: Senator Roberts, you're the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, you're privy to the most sensitive information. Without releasing any classified information, obviously, what is your suspicion right now in Spain? Was it the work of Basque separatists, the ETA movement, or was it al Qaeda or some sort of Islamic terrorist organization?
ROBERTS: Well, the good news is that the Spanish intelligence service is now working with our intelligence service. We have a close relationship.
As a matter of fact, I might say that regardless of some of the politics from some of the heads of state and some of their remarks from time to time, as we go through this very trying period, we are working very closely with the intelligence agencies with all of the countries involved. And so consequently, we are working with the Spanish, as well.
I, for one, do not think that it was the Basques or the ETA, as they call themselves. And that they had a previous attack, I think they killed 21. That was some time ago. However, the Spanish did really prevent two other attacks, but this looks like to me it's an al Qaeda situation.
We don't know the details yet. We haven't had a hearing in the Intelligence Committee. We will. But my guess is it's the al Qaeda, European division, if that's the way to put it, in regards to Spain.
BLITZER: And if it was in fact al Qaeda, that raises all sorts of additional questions.
We're going to take a quick break. Senator Lieberman and Senator Roberts, when we come back, we'll continue this conversation: terror around the world.
Also, we'll get into the issue of one year after shock and awe in Iraq. U.S. Forces battling a new enemy there. We'll get perspective on what's still a very dangerous situation.
"LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." We're continuing our conversation with the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Republican Pat Roberts of Kansas, and Democratic Senator and former presidential candidate Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
Senator Lieberman, if in fact the terror attack in Spain was the work of al Qaeda, that raises a lot more ominous issues for the U.S. and other friendly countries around the world than if it were merely the work of Basque separatists or the ETA movement, as it's called.
LIEBERMAN: Well, it does, Wolf, but I've got to tell you, you've got to look at Osama bin Laden's comments over the last decade or more and everything that al Qaeda has said and done to understand that these people believe that they are in a worldwide movement to strike out at everyone who doesn't totally agree with them. And that includes the majority of Muslims in the world, who don't agree with them.
And we know that they have cells all over the world. They were working out of Afghanistan. We weakened them by overthrowing the Taliban there, but they've got cells all over Europe, and unfortunately they've got associated individuals here in the United States of America.
And until they declared war on us, and until the world unites truly and understands that everyone is their target, that in some measure they are trying to establish a fanatical Islamic empire across much of the world, then we're all going to be in danger. And I think that's the warning that comes out of Madrid in the last few days.
BLITZER: Senator Roberts, how vulnerable is the United States?
ROBERTS: We've been very fortunate that we have not had an attack. We've been able to deter and detect. In case of consequence management, we are much better prepared. But we have been very fortunate we've not had an attack.
As Joe has indicated -- and I might add, I've agreed with everything he's said. It's nice to have you back in the Senate, Joe.
LIEBERMAN: Thanks, Pat. Good to be back with you.
ROBERTS: I would -- there's a part of me, however, that says I would just as soon you'd be the standard bearer on the other side, because I think it would be one heck of a lot more civil. Now, having said that, I am in agreement with what you've said.
We have, in Riyadh now -- you know, they have had -- and by "they" I mean Saudi Arabia -- they've had their September 11th. Same thing in Bali, Indonesia. And the same thing all over the world. Now Madrid, in terms of Spain, is hit.
It's a real wakeup call. It's a real tragedy. And I wish it hadn't happened, but that is the case all over the world. So I am in agreement with the distinguished senator from Connecticut on that point.
BLITZER: How dangerous, how vulnerable is the situation, Senator Lieberman, as far as train security in the United States, based on what you know?
LIEBERMAN: Look, as a general point, the challenge of terrorism is that they strike at vulnerability. They have no scruples, they have no morals, they have no humanitarianism. So we've got to raise our guard everywhere.
The sad fact is that we have not done enough to defend our transportation systems except for aviation. As far as I can tell, there's no money in the Homeland Security Department budget for improving rail security, rail transportation security. I tried to increase that budget in an amendment I offered on the Senate floor this week; it was defeated.
I think we've got to take what happened in Madrid as a specific alarm, and we've got to do better than we're doing at security of rail transportation, including particularly bridges, tunnels.
And we've got to begin to consider, and I'd say begin to implement, security measures regarding passengers as they enter trains. I know it's open, more open than airports and airline passengers. But just basic security checks on people and the stuff they're carrying on with them. It's going to be inconvenient, but I think most of the passengers will appreciate it, because it'll give them a greater sense of security.
BLITZER: I want Senator Roberts to weigh in very quickly.
A lot of people take trains in Connecticut, Senator Roberts. I don't know if that's true in Kansas. But are you willing to go...
ROBERTS: Well, we would like to.
BLITZER: ... along with Senator Lieberman on this issue and increase security on train traffic in the United States?
ROBERTS: Well, Senator Lieberman did put down a marker when we considered the budget, although I would say that amendments to the budget are made exactly for that, to set down a marker.
They very seldom take place because the appropriators really do the job with the top figure of the budget. But he made a good point.
And the assistant secretary, Asa Hutchison, has really focused on this in regards to doing a better job of protecting our transportation.
But let me point out there are 32 million Americans that take transit, and more especially trains every day in America, and 2 million that ride airplanes. It's going to be very difficult.
Let me also point out that there were, what, 10 explosives, I think, four trains in three locations. But the bombs were in basically gym bags and backpacks, and they were detonated by cell phones.
Now, that means -- I don't know how you take 32 million people and check them all and, you know, check all their luggage without a tremendously complex system. It doesn't mean that you can't increase security, which we're going to do. But the challenge there is just enormous, not to mention all the trackage and all the miles involved.
BLITZER: All right, Senator, stand by, because we have to take another quick break.
But we have much more to discuss with the two senators.
Also, the world's most wanted man: Is Osama bin Laden any closer to being captured?
That, much more, on our "LATE EDITION."
BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
We're standing by to hear more from two U.S. senators, Pat Roberts and Joe Lieberman. We'll get their assessment, where things stand in the war on terror.
First, though, let's go to CNN headquarters in Atlanta for a quick check of the hour's top stories.
BLITZER: More details now on today's suicide bomb attacks in the Israeli port city of Ashdod. At least nine people are dead. More than a dozen others are injured.
CNN's Chris Burns is joining us now live. He's on the scene along the Mediterranean port of Ashdod.
Chris, set the scene for us.
BURNS: Wolf, the death toll, by the way, is now 10, plus the two suicide bombers. Some 20 people injured, at least three of them seriously.
Over my shoulder, you can see some of the work going on there at the office bungalow that was shattered by the second suicide bomber.
These two bombings happened within minutes of each other. The first was across the street in a citrus warehouse that blew a hole open in the roof. Minutes later, as people were gathering to figure out what had happened, that second bomb went off in this -- what you can see what's left of this office bungalow. It's believed that they were employees that were just standing, trying to figure out what was going on.
Now, the two bombings have been claimed by the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade that is loosely linked to the Fatah organization of Yasser Arafat, and also the Hamas militants.
They say that the two bombers came from Gaza refugee camps. That is very significant because the Israelis had believed that the fence they built around Gaza was secure and they wouldn't be able to allow any suicide bombers to pierce through.
Another first here is this is also the first economic target that suicide bombers have targeted, and perhaps there could be more there as well.
Now, the Israelis are reacting by putting off any meeting that was expected next week between the two prime ministers -- the Israeli and the Palestinian prime ministers. So this is having an immediate impact on any peace overtures. The Palestinian Authority is condemning this attack and calling for talks -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Chris Burns on the scene in Ashdod in Israel.
Thanks very much. We'll check back with you throughout the day here on CNN.
Let's get back to two United States senators who are joining us on LATE EDITION: Senator Pat Roberts, he's the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. And Senator Joe Lieberman, Democrat of Connecticut, formerly a presidential candidate.
Senator Roberts, in the hunt for Osama bin Laden, do you discern, based on what you know, any significant progress being made?
ROBERTS: Well, I was interested in a comment by Secretary Rumsfeld -- I know you had the secretary on before -- that we are working overtime with both the Pakistanis and the Afghans to basically tighten the noose, if that's the proper word for it, in an area between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The secretary indicated we don't really know if he's there, but that seems to be what the intelligence says.
Let me point out what a tough job that is. You're in a mountainous area where you have mountains 11,000, 12,000, 13,000 feet high. Some member of the intelligence community told me the last Caucasian there was Alexander the Great. This is an area where you have about 100 tribal clans. The Afghans don't go there. The Pakistanis don't go there. Normal military operations don't work.
But we have an increased presence. We have the same unit that worked so hard to find Saddam Hussein now over in that area. I think I would probably repeat what a lot of people have said, that hopefully the noose is getting tighter, but it's a very difficult job.
BLITZER: Senator Lieberman, as you know, politics not very far away from the minds of a lot of Americans in this election year in the United States. There are many Democrats who suspect that the Bush administration is, in fact, going to find Osama bin Laden -- in fact, some already think they have found him -- only to get this kind of boost, political boost before the November election.
Give our viewers in the United States and around the world your thoughts on all these conspiracy theories that are out there.
LIEBERMAN: I don't believe them. And I hope that they don't enter into the political discourse.
Obviously, the sooner we find Osama bin Laden, the better it will be. I'm confident, as difficult as the search will be, as Pat Roberts has quite correctly said, that we have extraordinary capabilities and the bravest, most intelligent special operations forces.
We will find Osama bin Laden. And it will be a tremendous victory in the war on terrorism because of the personal loyalty that every individual member of al Qaeda swears to Osama bin Laden himself.
But it won't be the end of it. We're going to have to continue to persist all around the world. And, of course, we're going to have to have an affirmative side to this, which is to reach out to the overwhelming majority of Muslims in the world who have nothing to do with al Qaeda or terrorism, and offer them more freedom, more economic opportunity, and show them that there's a better way to achieve a better life than the hatred and death that al Qaeda offers.
But we will find Osama, and it will be a great day when we do.
BLITZER: Let's take a caller from Florida.
Florida, go ahead and ask your question. Florida, are you there?
I don't think we have Florida, unfortunately. Let's see if we can connect with Florida.
Let's move on, Senator Roberts, to Iraq. A lot being thought about right now, the intelligence services, the blunder -- apparent blunder that was made about weapons of mass destruction, going into the war.
Had you known then what you know now, that the U.S. has not been able to find any significant stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons, would you have supported sending the U.S. military into Iraq?
ROBERTS: Well, school is still out, to some degree. I know the Iraq Survey Group is still working on it, and Dr. Duelfer is over there. He replaced David Kay. They have about 15,000 boxes of documents that still have to be, I guess exploited is the proper word.
We have ramped up our intelligence efforts. We have the largest CIA station now in Baghdad in the world.
But, you know, Dr. Kay said -- well, the headline said, "We got it wrong," but if you read what Dr. Kay said about the situation in Iraq, the chaos in Iraq, and the assumption that every intelligence service all throughout the world had, that he did have the weapons of mass destruction, I think it could become even a more dangerous place. Now, that's his words, not mine.
So I do think the decision was still proper. I do think that the world is a safer place with Saddam out of Iraq.
Now, we have an inquiry ongoing in the Intelligence Committee. We are very close now. We have finished the draft report. We are writing the conclusions. We're taking a look at the WMD, the ties to terrorists, his threat to regional stability and also his violation of -- well, the obvious violation in regards to human rights.
And so consequently, we hope to have those conclusions done. This is not going to be a "gotcha" report, but I will tell you that the picture in regards to intelligence is not very flattering.
BLITZER: We'll stand by and get that report.
Senator Lieberman, let me briefly switch gears with you. This is your first Sunday show interview since you dropped out of the presidential race. Looking back, you went in with such high hopes. You had been the vice-presidential running-mate four years earlier. What went wrong?
LIEBERMAN: I didn't get enough votes.
Well, I'll tell you, in a way, that's the truth. What went wrong is I didn't get enough votes in the primaries. But what didn't go wrong was that I did stick to exactly what I thought was right for the security and prosperity of my country.
And I knew it was controversial in the context of the people who come out for a Democratic primary, but I felt very strongly that, unless we run a candidate who will guarantee the American people that they can protect their security, reflect their values, and also do a lot better than this administration and president have done to improve the economy, protect jobs, grow jobs, protect the middle class, help with health care, then we're not going to win.
So I look back with some disappointment but with a lot of pride about what I fought for, what I stood for. And a lot of gratitude that I have the opportunity to continue my work on behalf of what I believe is right for my country's security and prosperity and values in the United States Senate with great colleagues like Pat Roberts.
BLITZER: Senator Lieberman, how much ill will or bad feeling is there on your part toward former Vice President Al Gore for endorsing Howard Dean, not only endorsing him, but doing it in a way that stunned you, surprised you, not giving you a heads-up that he was going to do that?
LIEBERMAN: I was disappointed personally, and I was hurt. But, you know, I doubled my determination. As you may remember, Wolf, it turned out to be the week in which I raised more money on the Internet than any other single week of the campaign. So, you know, that's all history now.
I do want to say that I will forever be grateful to Al Gore for the honor and opportunity he gave me to run as his vice-presidential candidate in 2000. And as you know, a lot of people think we actually got elected that year.
BLITZER: One final question, Senator Roberts, for you. I'm going to play a soundbite from what Senator John Kerry, the Democratic presidential candidate, said this week. He may or may not have known he was being overheard with an open mike, but listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Keep smiling.
KERRY: Oh, yeah, don't worry, man. We're going to keep pounding, let me tell you. We're just beginning to fight here.
These guys are the most crooked, you know, lying group that I've ever seen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Well, those are pretty strong words. He said later he was referring to attack dogs, not Republicans in general, not Bush administration officials or a campaign for the president, but attack dogs, presumably Republican attack dogs.
How rough do you think this campaign is going to be, Senator Roberts?
ROBERTS: Well, if you call somebody a liar or a crook in Dodge City, well, you take it outside.
I note that Joe is back in the Senate, and, you know, working with all the liars and crooks on our side, and doing so in good faith.
I think it was unfortunate. I think you get, you know, all emotional. I hope it's not indicative of some kind of insight in regards to Senator Kerry, but basically I'm going to take an out here.
You know, being the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, we have to be nonpartisan. We've had a few bumps in the road. We've had a few attack memos. But we put those aside, and we're trying to work together.
I would simply say again, if Joe Lieberman were the standard bearer, I think it'd be a lot more civil. And I just hope we don't get in-- I know politics is not beanbag, but we don't want to be lobbing hand grenades without any pins on them. So I would hope that Senator Kerry -- and, for that matter, those on our side -- would tone it down a little bit. I think the American people would certainly deserve that, and they would certainly like to see it.
BLITZER: All right. I don't think that's going to happen, necessarily, but I want to thank both of the senators for joining us on "LATE EDITION" today. Senator Roberts, Senator Lieberman...
LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: ... always good to have you on the program.
ROBERTS: Thank you.
LIEBERMAN: You too. Good to be here.
BLITZER: Thank you.
And when we return, an intelligence panel will weigh in on what could be coming up next in the war against terrorism and what's happening in Iraq.
Stay with "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
RICHARD PERLE, AUTHOR: ... and the group that claimed responsibility also claimed responsibility for the blackout on the East Coast last year. So their credibility is far from solid.
BLITZER: Are you still inclined to believe it's ETA, the Basque separatist movement?
PERLE: It could very well be a joint venture. It seems clearly intended to affect the Spanish elections. And both ETA and al Qaeda have an interest in seeing the current government defeated.
BLITZER: How unusual would that be, Peter, for al Qaeda to cooperate with ETA? PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Extremely unusual. There's no record of al Qaeda cooperating with secular type of groups -- the IRA, ETA, these kinds of things. It would be very unusual.
BLITZER: You disagree with that thought?
PERLE: I do disagree with that. I think there is evidence of collaboration between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
I also think that what has happened in recent years is that an informal set of arrangements has developed as people with a common purpose help one another in various ways.
BLITZER: Peter, you want to respond, the cooperation between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein?
BERGEN: I mean, I think the evidence for that is somewhere between tenuous and nonexistent. I mean, sure, there were contacts in the early '90s between Iraq and al Qaeda, but these contacts had no outcomes.
PERLE: Well, we don't know that. It's very easy to assert it. We don't know it. There were lots of contacts, and there were agreements between them. George Tenet has testified to that effect.
BLITZER: You spent a career at the CIA, at the NSC, the National Security Council, Ken, trying to assess, is there a connection, was there a connection between Saddam Hussein's regime and al Qaeda?
KEN POLLACK, CNN ANALYST: Certainly, I don't think one has been proven. As Richard is pointing out, there are people who suggest that there is evidence out there. I will tell you, from my experience, all the stuff that I saw, led me to believe there was not a very significant relationship. There may have been informal contacts, but I have yet to see evidence that proves to me, demonstrates to me, that there was some kind of a meaningful relationship between them.
BLITZER: An operational relationship.
Have you seen that kind of evidence, Richard?
PERLE: Well, what we have seen is evidence of many meetings between al Qaeda operatives and others who were not religious terrorists. We've seen indications of the training of al Qaeda people in Iraq. And I believe it has been documented that an agreement existed between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein's intelligence organization.
BLITZER: I'm not familiar with that.
Are you familiar with that kind of connection?
BERGEN: No. I think there are probably more American members of al Qaeda than Iraqi members. One of the interesting thing is that, if you look at the people who actually make up al Qaeda itself, very few Iraqis in the organization, almost none. A lot of Egyptians, Saudis, Yemenis. And I think the notion that there was an operational link between al Qaeda and Iraq is not truthful.
BLITZER: What about when I interviewed the vice president, Dick Cheney, the other day, he pointed to Abu Musab Zarqawi, who's on the loose right now, public enemy in Iraq number one, Ansar al-Islam, and he was getting treatment in Baghdad, he was somebody who associated with al Qaeda.
BERGEN: Yes. I mean, his group certainly cooperated with al Qaeda on occasion, but he actually has a separate group, according to both European and American intelligence officials. This is a group that will cooperate with al Qaeda, but it doesn't mean that there was this link between Saddam and al Qaeda. I think the case has not been proven at all.
BLITZER: What do you think?
PERLE: I think the important thing is precisely what we just heard. There was cooperation. It gets semantic and splitting definitions to talk about whether it's cooperation or an operational link. The fact is that in this witch's brew of terrorist organizations, there's a lot of collaboration.
BLITZER: I know you've looked into this, the whole connection between Mohammed Atta supposedly meeting with an Iraqi intelligence official in Prague in Czechoslovakia before 9/11. You've looked into that, you've studied it about as carefully as anyone possibly can. What do you make of that?
POLLACK: As far as I am concerned, on that one I think that the evidence demonstrates that the meeting did not happen.
BLITZER: He is the mastermind of 9/11, supposedly.
POLLACK: Correct. The Czechs have gone back and forth on this any number of times. The latest one is that they're agreeing that the meeting did not happen. And what's more, the FBI is pretty convinced that Atta was in Florida at the time that he was supposedly in Prague.
BLITZER: Richard, do you accept that?
PERLE: I think Ed Epstein, who has done a tremendous amount of work on this and whose findings are at his Web site, which I think is edepstein.com, has looked into it methodically, seriously. And I don't think we know the truth yet. You certainly can't definitively say that they didn't meet.
BERGEN: You can't definitively say a lot of things, but when you have the largest criminal investigation in history -- after all, the subject, was Atta meeting an Iraqi intelligence agent, would be part of it. The fact is, that the CIA and the FBI have not found this to be the case.
PERLE: Nevertheless, Czech intelligence reported it at one time. There have been stories to the effect that they withdrew their conclusion when that wasn't the case, when they stood by the conclusion.
There's controversy about it. It's not definitive either way. And frankly, the CIA and the FBI together have yet to convince me that they can run these things to ground effectively.
BLITZER: You're among those who are not necessarily convinced that the CIA was doing such a great job looking at all these connections, going into the war.
PERLE: I'm convinced that they were not doing a good job. In fact, they were doing hardly any job at all, because they were blinded by a theory. We've just heard it expressed today. The theory was...
BLITZER: That al Qaeda could not work with a secular group like Saddam Hussein's Baath Party regime. Is that the theory?
PERLE: That's right. That al Qaeda, which was run by religious fanatics, would not work with secular...
BLITZER: Let's let Ken weigh in on that, because you used to work with the CIA. Was there this mindset that prevented these analysts, your former colleagues at the CIA, from appreciating that perhaps al Qaeda could work with a secular group like the Iraqi government?
POLLACK: Wolf, this is only one person's view, and, when I was at CIA, I was an analyst, I had a worm's eye view of things. But I would actually argue the opposite, that in fact the folks at CIA really wanted to find that link, because, in all honesty, if we could have tied al Qaeda more closely to Iraq, it would have justified a whole lot of other things. It would have allowed the United States to make a much stronger case against Iraq much earlier on. And I think most of the folks at CIA wanted to find that link, and didn't.
And yes, it may be the case that their tradecraft wasn't as good as it should have been. It may still be that we will find something. But, you know, my sense was that most people wanted to find...
BLITZER: All right, I want to move on, but go ahead and wrap up your final thought on this issue.
BERGEN: No, I have no dog in the fight ideologically. I mean, if there is -- if we find a huge warehouse of documents in Baghdad proving the Iraq-al Qaeda link, I'd be the first person to say, case closed. But I don't think we've seen that.
BLITZER: One issue that has come forward, Richard, is the fact that the intelligence community, the National Intelligence Estimates in general, going into the war, they were all convinced a year ago that there would be huge stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons discovered in Iraq, and none have been found.
PERLE: Not only were they convinced a year ago, they were convinced during the Clinton administration, which expressed its own view entirely consistent with that, which is why it is clearly politically motivated and disingenuous to suggest that President Bush somehow misrepresented or exaggerated the intelligence.
BLITZER: Well, you wrote in a compelling article not that long ago suggesting that there was this tailoring of intelligence, picking and choosing, you know, cherrypicking what they wanted to hear and ignoring what they didn't want to hear.
POLLACK: And there were a whole variety of different things going on. I'd say that that's a somewhat different issue.
I think that there were people within the administration who were trying to make a case that there was a much more threatening Iraqi weapons-of-mass-destruction capability than even the intelligence community believed.
But Richard's absolutely right that there was a consensus in the intelligence community that predated the Bush administration that the Iraqis did have weapons of mass destruction.
What I wrote about in the piece I wrote in The Atlantic was that what I thought was somewhat disingenuous on the part of the administration were speeches by various high-ranking administration members where they stressed the most alarmist elements of the CIA estimates, that the Iraqis might have a nuclear weapon in a year or two, rather than what the agency and the other intelligence community agencies thought was most likely.
BLITZER: Peter, the defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, was on this program within the past hour.
And he made the case -- and I remember personally the briefings I had going into Kuwait a year ago on the eve of the war, being prepared for a chemical attack, a biological attack, learning how to use a gas mask, learning how to use atropine, having that full gear, chemical protective gear ready to go. There were a quarter of a million U.S. troops who went in with that gear. They firmly believed that the Iraqis were going to launch a chemical or biological strike against the invading U.S. troops.
BERGEN: Well, I mean, I was in favor of the war on the WMD grounds, not on the war-on-terrorism grounds. I think it was a huge, you know -- let's file it in the correct category.
We did not help ourselves in the war on terrorism with the war in Iraq. We've seen the bomb in Spain just now. The al Qaeda got a tremendous sort of ideological -- it excited them, and it kept them alive, I think.
On the WMD, you know, it seemed the right thing to do. It turns out, of course, there wasn't any WMD.
BLITZER: Did this war in Iraq set back the war on terror, Richard?
PERLE: Absolutely. If we had recoiled from taking on Saddam Hussein after his defiance, after everything we had good reason to believe about his capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction and distribute them, we had to go after Saddam Hussein.
BLITZER: I asked, did the war in Iraq set back the war on terror? You said absolutely.
PERLE: Oh, no, no. It absolutely did not set back the war on terror. Sorry about that.
BLITZER: Because I was getting confused.
PERLE: But look, you can't have it both ways. You can't on the one hand say that al Qaeda was inspired by our attacking Iraq, and on the other hand say that al Qaeda is hostile to Iraq on ideological and religious grounds.
BERGEN: Well, you can have it both ways. It's not having it both ways. These things appear mutually contradictory, but they're not.
I mean, Osama bin Laden was on the record many, many times about how Saddam is a secular socialist. Believe me, these are not terms of endearment on his part. But he was opposed to the policy on Iraq.
These are two separate things. They're not having it both ways.
BLITZER: Richard -- well, let me ask Ken. Will the transition scheduled for June 30th take place as scheduled?
POLLACK: I think that there will be a transition on June 30th, because I think the administration has made it clear that they are committed to that date. At this point, that date is also being invested by the Iraqis with some real significance.
I am very concerned, though, about what that transition is going to look like. You know, we had this November 15 political process, which I thought was a good process, but it has clearly failed. And so far, the U.S., the Iraqis and the U.N. have failed to come up with an alternative.
BLITZER: What do you think?
PERLE: I think to talk about failure, at a moment when the Iraqis have adopted the first constitution in the Arab world to promise individual liberties and to put them on a path to democracy, is a bit churlish, frankly.
Of course it's a difficult situation. It's bound to be. But the Iraqis are making enormous progress, far greater than most people believe. We didn't have the civil war that was predicted.
BLITZER: There still could be a civil war down the road, though.
PERLE: Well, there clearly are terrorists trying very hard to precipitate a civil war, and they've been unsuccessful in their efforts to do so. It isn't going to be easy, and there will continue to be bombs intended to drive us out.
But most of all, what the people who are setting off these bombs want to do is prevent the success in Iraq that has important implications for the dictatorships in the region.
BLITZER: All right, we have to wrap it up. But I'll give Peter the last word. Go ahead.
BERGEN: Well, I mean, I think Mr. Perle is right, of course, there has been progress. There has been progress, and we can't deny it.
Of course, there may be a civil war tomorrow. These things aren't necessarily in contradiction.
BLITZER: Between the Shiites, the Sunnis and the Kurds, getting them to cooperate. If that happens -- and you've studied Iraq for many, many years -- that will be a huge development.
Just in response to Richard, I would say it's a lovely constitution, Richard, I absolutely agree. But it's got a huge piece missing, which is what this interim government is going to look like. And that was the key to the November 15 process. It's why it was a good process. But unfortunately, that has failed, and we don't yet have an alternative.
PERLE: Well, if this were Philadelphia, we'd do it a different way. But under the circumstances, it's a pretty impressive result.
BLITZER: All right, Richard Perle, as usual, thanks very much.
Peter Bergen, thank you.
Ken Pollack, thanks to you, as well.
Coming up next, we'll have a quick check of what's making news at this hour, including an update on the terror attack investigation in Spain. Plus this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUMSFELD: What you do is you develop a plan, and there was a war plan, and you develop a post-war plan, and there was a post-war plan. And you anticipate the kinds of things that can go wrong.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in the past hour here on LATE EDITION. We'll ask our panel of retired U.S. generals about how the war was fought and what risks remain to U.S. military personnel right now.
Stay with "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: My fellow citizens, at this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Almost exactly a year ago, the president announcing the war against Iraq, citing as one of its goals to defend the world from grave danger.
From the vantage point of 12 months, how do we view the war right now, its goals and accomplishments?
Joining us, three guests: The former NATO supreme allied commander, retired U.S. Army General George Joulwan; retired U.S. Air Force Major General and CNN military analyst Don Shepperd; and in Oak Brook, Illinois, retired U.S. Army Brigadier General and CNN analyst David Grange.
Thanks to all of you for joining us.
General Joulwan, a year after the war, does the U.S. military have enough troops on the ground in Iraq right now to get the job done?
GEN. GEORGE JOULWAN (RET.), FORMER NATO ALLIED SUPREME COMMANDER: No, I really think they do not. We are now involved in this rotation of forces. We have yet to see a stable or secure environment. The borders are still porous. We still have a lot of thugs and gangs that are running around the countryside.
I think it's going to take a concentrated effort, not necessarily more U.S. forces, but I think we have to bring multinational forces into this operation as well.
BLITZER: How many?
JOULWAN: That's up to the military command, the troop-to-task analysis, but I think it's going to take more troops than we have now.
BLITZER: I think the U.S., General Shepperd, has about 130,000 troops on the ground right now. If you were advising General Abizaid, the central commander, how many more he might need, what would you say?
MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD (RET.), CNN ANALYST: Yes, well, in the switch out, they're going from 130,000 down to about 110,000. When I was there in October, the commander said we don't need the troops to do the mission we're doing.
But the mission has suddenly changed, needing more security and, also, particularly along the Western Syrian border, they're calling for more troops. So somehow, the commanders there seem to be saying we need some more troops to do a change in the mission.
BLITZER: You know, General Grange, a lot of viewers, a lot of Americans, they hear these stories that the troops who are there, they don't have enough armored cars, Humvees. They don't even have body armor that they need. Their families have to go to the Internet to send them some of the equipment they need. You've heard these horror stories.
Is there any truth to all of this?
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN ANALYST: Somewhat. There's still a lack of armored Humvees available to all the troops. They've increased the production, but there's just not enough right now to outfit all the needs over there. They've gone from heavy vehicles, like tanks and Bradleys, to smaller, more agile vehicles, like the up- armored (ph) Humvee. So there is a shortage.
GRANGE: In reference to armored vests, there was a shortage. I think most of that is solved now. And for a while there, there were fund-raisers to send vests and people were buying them for themselves.
This is a long-term problem that should have been fixed, however, well before the Iraq war started.
BLITZER: General Joulwan, when people hear this, they go crazy. They can't believe, in this day and age, the United States would send military personnel into a war zone not fully prepared.
JOULWAN: Absolutely. I visited one of these units in December that was getting ready to deploy. That was December, they were deploying in January, and they were short basic equipment: radios, vests, armored Humvees, et cetera. We're better than that as a nation, and we're better than that as a military.
But we have to be clear: This takes a concentrated effort to provide modernization to the current force, not just where we're going to be 30 years from now. We have not done that well.
BLITZER: When you were there, General Shepperd, and you met with men and women on the ground in the military, what were they saying to you?
SHEPPERD: Well, they were saying that we are short on on the up- armored Humvees, we're short of the proper body armor. Everybody had flack jackets and some body armor, but not the new body armor.
They showed us the schedule, and said it was going to be done. They was short at that time, I believe, around 1,400 up-armored Humvees that were coming into the country, and the body armor was on schedule.
So these shortage will drastically come down, but it does leave you wondering why couldn't we have done this before the war, and we simply didn't.
BLITZER: Is it your sense, General Grange, that this rotation of troops -- they're going in for a year at a time now, and there's about to be a significant rotation -- that this an especially dangerous period, while troops are going out and coming in?
GRANGE: Well, the transition period is always dangerous. Relief in place from one unit to another is probably the most vulnerable time during an operation.
And the bad guys know that. The enemy works the seams. They work the cracks. They work the different standard operating procedures between organizations. Especially if there are different types of armies in the coalition. And they work different force protection measures. They work those seams.
So very dangerous, but there is a very good transition plan to take care of some of those challenges.
BLITZER: General Joulwan?
JOULWAN: What was interesting to me, in this unit that was getting ready to deploy, this was a different mix of soldiers than fought the war. They're going in with the mission of stabilization, which is a combination of combat, nation-building, peace-keeping, but it's a clear mission of stabilization.
So I think, in many respects, this rotation that's going in will have a better understanding of this new mission than the troops that they're replacing.
BLITZER: All right. Stand by, Generals. We're going to take a quick break. We have much more to talk about.
Stay with us on "LATE EDITION."
BLITZER: We're looking at a live picture of Moscow, Red Square. Only moments ago, a huge fire has erupted in an exhibition hall off of Red Square. We're getting some information from the Associated Press. It ranks five on the scale there, the most serious category.
It's an 18th-century building known as the Manez (ph), an equestrian training hall, a stone's throw from the Kremlin. It used to be a frequent source for exhibitions, trade fairs.
We don't know the cause of this. We don't know if anyone has been injured. We'll continue to monitor what's happening in Moscow, in Red Square right now, on this day when there was a presidential election throughout Russia, Vladimir Putin easily getting reelected.
We'll take a look at this picture. We'll keep it up for our viewers.
But let's continue our conversation with our three generals who are here. Retired U.S. NATO Supreme Allied Commander General George Joulwan is here; retired U.S. Air Force Major General and CNN military analyst Don Shepperd; and retired U.S. Army Brigadier General and CNN analyst David Grange.
General Joulwan, you're the former NATO commander. You see a picture like that going up in Red Square -- we don't know what it is, but you get a little nervous seeing it.
JOULWAN: You always get nervous when this occurs, particularly on election time. But we have to wait for it to settle down and just see what it is, and not overreact to it.
JOULWAN: But offer whatever help we can.
They are a member of the Partnership for Peace, by the way, and so they are tied in to the NATO-Russian Council. All of that is important to the alliance.
BLITZER: Is this end strength of the U.S. Army, as they say, the number of active-duty troops in the U.S. Army, adequate right now?
JOULWAN: I think we have to really examine that, in light of what we're doing with the Guard and Reserve. We've called up a tremendous amount of Guard and Reserve to help rotate some of the active force.
Personally, I think -- I said this before I retired, that we should have at least 12 divisions, or two divisions more of forces. I still believe that today.
If we're going to conduct a global war on terror that's going to have us -- 250,000 Army troops are now deployed in 120 countries, we are going to have the force structure to back that up.
BLITZER: I want to get to the Guard and Reserve issue in a moment.
General Grange, do you think the U.S. Army needs another division or two?
GRANGE: I think the U.S. Army in particular is short on people. Right now, you know, they have the temporary emergency addition of up to 30,000, which means that we're short anyway.
And so the sustainment of all the commitment around the world, not just Iraq, I think the Army is too small, and it has to be increased in size.
BLITZER: And it's causing, General Shepperd -- and you were very active in the Air National Guard -- it's causing a huge burden on a lot of these so-called "weekend warriors," who think they're going to go in for one weekend a month, a couple of weeks during the summer for some active duty, but they wind up spending a year in Iraq.
SHEPPERD: Yes, things have really changed. The weekend warrior went out a long time ago. These are quasi-full-time soldiers now, pulling real time and rotation in missions around the world. Traditionally, the Guard and Reserve were to be called up as a strategic reserve in time of war, and then, when the war was over, they went home and went back to training.
Now, they're being used regularly around the world, and it's going be in a long war. We're plowing new ground here. We're at the early stages, and we don't know what the effects on recruiting and retention are going to be.
BLITZER: What was the main lesson you learned from the war in Iraq, as far as the military, General Joulwan, is concerned?
JOULWAN: That you have to prepare for the peace, as well as how to win the war. We did that first phase very well. Stabilization is a mission. It was not prepared for properly. And we've made that mistake in Lebanon, we made it in Somalia, we made it in the Balkans, we made it in Afghanistan, and now we've made it in Iraq.
We must have a doctrine and prepare for the stabilization. We did not do that in Iraq.
BLITZER: General Joulwan, thanks very much. General Shepperd, General Grange, thanks to all of you for joining us as we approach the first anniversary of the war in Iraq.
Straight ahead, the results of our Web poll are in. Our Web question of the week: whether the U.S. is prepared to stop the kind of terror attacks that occurred in Spain.
Plus, Bruce Morton's last word on jobs: where they're going and why there aren't more new ones.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: LATE EDITION's Web question of the week: Is the U.S. prepared to stop the kind of terror attack that occurred in Spain? Here's how you voted: Eleven percent of you said yes, 89 percent said no. Remember, this is not a scientific poll.
Time now for Bruce Morton's last word on what many Americans feel is the number-one issue in this election year, namely, jobs.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The Dow Jones industrial average is above 10,000 again, despite some shimmying this past week. Americans are buying cars and other things. But jobs are still a problem for the country and politically for the president.
The number of new payroll jobs in February was just 21,000, a teensy figure. And news reports said those jobs were in state and local government. The private sector was dead in the water.
So much for Mr. Bush's argument that tax codes tilted toward the wealthy would turn things around.
On the other hand, it's hard to find an economist who thinks that Dennis Kucinich-style protectionism -- get out of those nasty trade pacts, put up tariffs and all that -- would work either. American auto workers used to enjoy wrecking Toyotas outside their factories, but it didn't help.
John Kerry talks of tax incentives for keeping jobs here, but they might have to be very big incentives. The fact is, labor in America costs a lot compared to Europe and the Third World.
It's not just take-home pay. Health care costs a lot more here than it does in other countries, and employers commonly pay some of that. The United States is just not going to be able to compete for some of those jobs. It's cheaper now to hire phone answerers in India, of all places.
And all of this is going to get worse as the baby boomers start to retire. The number of workers per retiree goes way down, and the demand for government benefits, Social Security and Medicare, goes way up.
There are two solutions, neither pretty: cut benefits or raise taxes.
Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan says cut benefits. The Bush administration says privatize Social Security, individual citizens invest in stocks. But experts say that would cost another trillion dollars the government doesn't have.
As for the jobs problem, Greenspan says the solution is education. He is surely right. The U.S. must compete by being high- tech, not by battling Indians over who will answer the phone.
The problem is anybody who looks at American education knows that we are very far from a system in which everybody gets as much education as they can absorb. Lots of school systems don't work well. Lots of test scores are low. And the states are complaining that Mr. Bush didn't give them the money it takes to meet his Leave No Child Behind law's requirements.
Maybe the presidential candidates could argue about this stuff instead of just insulting each other. Maybe.
I'm Bruce Morton.
BLITZER: And that's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, March 14th. Please be sure to join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.
I'm here Monday through Friday twice a day, both noon and 5:00 p.m. Eastern.
Until then, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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