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The European Pluse

Aired June 24, 2004 - 13:00   ET


RICHARD QUEST, HOST: A moment history is waiting to judge. Hello, I'm Richard Quest in London. And welcome to this special program, COUNTDOWN TO HANDOVER: "The European Pulse."
Sovereignty is set to return to the Iraqi people following the handover of power from the coalition that unseated Saddam Hussein. All this week we've been asking how different groups view the transition in Iraq. We've already heard from a group of Arab journalists. And later in the series, we'll hear from American opinion-makers.

Here in Europe, the continent was, and some say, remains, divided, not only on the issue of going to war, but in the aftermath and the reconstruction. So we have assembled a distinguished audience of invited guests here in London who will be contributing throughout the course of the program. And our panel, who will be giving us their thoughts and views.

They are the former Spanish foreign minister under Jose Maria Aznar, she's Ana Palacio. We have from Italy, Lilli Gruber, the prominent former broadcaster, she's former because she's now an elected member of the European Parliament. Niall Ferguson is with us, he is the historian and author of the new book "Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire," a book that some are describing as controversial. Josef Joffe, editor of the weekly German newspaper "Die Zeit." Imam Ajmal Masroor is a representative of the Islamic Society of Britain, and we welcome him. As indeed do we also welcome Nicole Bacharan, the French political scientist. Karen Armstrong is a former nun, she has also written extensively on Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Last, but you're not least by any means, Frederick Forsyth, the distinguished novelist is part of our Panel.

Let us get straight to our first topic. How will history judge this moment and this war?


TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: If we are wrong we will have destroyed a threat that at its least is responsible for inhuman carnage and suffering. That is something I'm confident history will forgive. But if our critics are wrong, if we are right, as I believe with every fiber of instinct and conviction I have that we are, and we do not act, then we will have hesitated in the face of this menace when we should have given leadership. That is something history will not forgive.


QUEST: We were witnesses to what took place. We sat on the sidelines. One person on this panel was actually a player and sat at the table. Ana Palacio was the foreign minister for Spain at the time. This moment in history that we will see with the handover in Iraq, do you have any regrets about what took place?

ANA PALACIO, FMR. SPANISH FOREIGN MINISTER: Honestly, right now, what I have is the commitment to have the Iraq crisis, solving it in a pluralistic and secure environment. This is what concerns me, not history. History will have its ways and history is very stubborn and none of us have a crystal ball of what will happen, what shall concern us is to bring forward this process and to bring forward this reconstruction of Iraq.

QUEST: But history, since we can only look at the future by looking back to some extent, one has to say, do you feel proud of your part in what took place, and what is likely to take place?

PALACIO: Well, you know, Richard, the dilemma of any government is that you have to act on information that is not complete and you have these responsibility and you have two options. Either you act on a hypothesis that you have drawn from the information you have and this hypothesis proves that was not correct, but you have acted, or you fail to act because you think that you need more information or you cannot draw a hypothesis, and the reality is there. I would say that what was at stake, what is at stake, is what shall concern a government. And being in government, it's quite current. You have to decide, you cannot wait until others do.

QUEST: All right. Lilli Gruber, being in government is quite hard, should Europe be proud of its moment in history in this regard?

LILLI GRUBER, EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT MEMBER: I was just wondering what was at stake? From what we know now -- nowadays, the reasons to go to war against Iraq were false. The issue of the weapons of mass destruction and of the links between al Qaeda and Osama bin -- al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were false so...

PALACIO: Well, Lilli, name me one person that was not convinced that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

GRUBER: Me. I was in Iraq for three months and I didn't have anything to protect myself against a chemical and biological war.

QUEST: I do not want to get into the issue of weapons of mass destruction, because that, to some extent, is backward looking. That does not take us forward to whether or not Europe has acted with pride in this regard.

JOSEF JOFFE, EDITOR, "DIE ZEIT": With pride? I mean, Europe -- the first victim of the war was Europe. It fell apart. There was old Europe versus new Europe. There were the French, the Germans, and the great powers of Luxembourg and Belgium on one side. And practically all of the rest of Europe arrayed against them. So there's nothing to be proud about Europe falling apart as it were at the first shot. GRUBER: Europe was divided, of course, and unfortunately, it was divided. And that shows us, again, once more that we need -- that Europe is able to speak by one voice when it comes to foreign affairs.

QUEST: Is it important, Niall Ferguson, that Europe does speak with one voice on these matters?

NIALL FERGUSON, HISTORIAN: Well, it may be important, but it's highly unlikely to happen in our lifetimes, because it's clear that when the chips are down in any foreign policy crisis, the old instincts of the great powers of the European continent kick in. And the instincts of France, Germany and the United Kingdom were very clearly divergent in the crisis of last year.

QUEST: They may be speaking with different voices back then, but isn't Europe now speaking -- Nicole, isn't Europe now speaking with one voice in terms of reconstruction, that they have actually now come together?

NICOLE BACHARAN, POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it seems to be. But it's a very strange way of talking with one voice. Basically, we just had this resolution at the United Nations Security Council that was voted unanimously. And where France and to an extent, Germany, but mainly France, put all of these demands on the American government, demands for the U.N. to be back, the U.N. to have responsibilities, the Iraqi government to get as much as possible full sovereignty. And all of this advice was for free, because countries like France and Germany said no matter what was decided, they weren't going to help. So it's a strange way -- negative way of being active in that situation.

QUEST: Karen, what is acceptable, do you think, for the way in which a new Iraq will be constituted?

KAREN ARMSTRONG, RELIGIOUS WRITER: I think it must reflect the wishes of the people, and it must also reflect the trauma of the people. They've been going through a hideous period of despotism under Saddam Hussein, they've been traumatized by that and they've now have had the added horror of the war with all the catastrophes that have been involved. A people become democratic when it feels free. It exercises democracy when, at a profound level, they have a conviction of freedom, and I'm not sure that Iraqis can have that at the moment.

QUEST: Frederick

FREDERICK FORSYTH, NOVELIST: Broadly speaking, history judges things benignly when they succeed. And is hypocritical when they fail. So the jury is still out. We don't know whether this massive experiment will succeed of fail. If it fails, and Iraq lurches back into anarchy and chaos and civil war, then history will condemn every single thing that we did for the past 14, 15, 18 months. But if it succeeds, then doubtless Mr. Blair will be regarded as a statesman.

QUEST: Well, then it begs the question, should Europe have gotten involved in the first place? FORSYTH: Well, we don't know yet because the decisions haven't been....

GRUBER: The question is, how long is it going to take until we can say it was a success? That's the question, excuse me. Does it take 10 years, 20?

FORSYTH: Richard, what we are witnessing is a regime change in Iraq. It's the seventh in my lifetime. And I don't remember anyone making a fuss about the first six.

QUEST: So we shouldn't make a fuss about the seventh?

AJMAL MASROOR, ISLAMIC SOCIETY OF BRITAIN: Precisely the point. And that is the people have already given their judgment to Blair's government for its failure, to the Spanish government for its failure. And if we are going to judge our success or our failure by what people say, surely we should say it has been a failure. It hasn't been a success.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can we say something about the Iraqis?


MASROOR: That's the first point. The second point is the Iraqi people are more in suffering today, humiliated left, right and center. Their life hasn't become any better...


MASROOR: ... and all of these promises seems like it's not going to...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... can I speak for the Iraqis?

MASROOR: ... get better.

PALACIO: Well, I honestly do not agree. I have been several times in Iraq, and especially in the southern part of Iraq, and there people may be disappointed about what they have got. Because there were great expectancies, there were great expectancies, but by no ways, or by no means, they are unhappier, I think...

MASROOR: Your government was thrown out of power by people because...

QUEST: We'll get to that in a moment.

PALACIO: Which is not history. You know, many, many times...

MASROOR: People gave their judgment.

PALACIO: No, no.


PALACIO: First of all, they gave -- they voted for a different party which is not...

MASROOR: And this is exactly what the Iraqis are saying. Iraqis are saying occupation and imposing values on us, which is not ours, is not going to work. And this is exactly what...

QUEST: And I'm going to bring that to a close because we're going to discuss that in a little bit -- a moment or two longer. But I want to hear from our audience on this question of a moment in history. Sir. and you are, sir?

QUESTION: My name is Farhard Euben (ph) with the London Business School. As Churchill once said: "The price of greatness is responsibility," and if ever there was an opportunity for the countries of Europe to demonstrate their global leadership capability that time is now. Isn't it time for the leaders of Europe to shift the debate from what went wrong to how can we help make things be right?

QUEST: Arguably, Josef Joffe, that's exactly what the leaders are doing. What can go right?

JOFFE: What can go right, or what should they do to go right? I think it's very simple. Iraq needs two things at this point. One is employment. The country's about 50 percent unemployed. And the second obviously is security. And since the Europeans are much too, shall we put it, shy to get involved militarily, they should get involved economically. I think if there was ever a great moment for a kind of Keynesian policy, pump money into the economy, public works, clean up Baghdad, whatever you name it, that's the moment. And that what even Herr Schroeder and Mr. Chirac could do.

QUEST: When we return...


DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: You're thinking of Europe as Germany and France. I don't. I think that's old Europe.


QUEST: ... we will discuss the breakdown of the trans-Atlantic relationship, the United States and Europe. Old versus new.


QUEST: This is "The European Pulse," COUNTDOWN TO HANDOVER on CNN. Just before the break, you heard from Donald Rumsfeld. His characterization of old Europe and new Europe. It highlighted the divisions between the countries of the continents. Have those divisions been healed? Not only between the countries of the continent, but with the United States? Niall Ferguson, appropriate to start with you here.

FERGUSON: Well, I think he was right to identify the division as a division between old and new Europe. Because with one exception, it was the older, original founding members of the European Union that were the most skeptical and the relatively new members that were most enthusiastic. The exception was Italy, which of course, is a founding member but supported the war.

It was a minority of the older countries that were against it. Whether that division still exists today seems to me less clear because I think there's a good deal of disillusionment in countries that were supportive of the war in Iraq last year, in the light of events in Iraq subsequently.

QUEST: And what about the relationship with the United States? Did the United States need any form of European acquiescence, and more importantly, as we look to the handover, because let's look to the future, not the past, does it need European acquiescence in the handover?

FERGUSON: Well, from the military point of view, it was clear that it didn't need any European involvement at all, didn't really need British military involvement, as Donald Rumsfeld also said in a rather unguarded moment. But from the point of view of legitimacy, legitimacy being a far more important thing in this situation than military capability, it desperately did need some kind of European involvement.

And I think what was fascinating last year was that just at the moment when, in fact, the U.S. had gotten a majority of European countries to sign up for the war, it was decided to go to the United Nations, I think this was in some measure Tony Blair's idea, and that was when things went wrong. Because of course only some Europeans are permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and one of those members was France.

QUEST: So denying -- Josef Joffe, denying the legitimacy, was that significant, and now it has given legitimacy for the handover?

JOFFE: I would say that the disillusionment goes both ways. Those nations like especially France, Germany and the great power of Luxembourg, who opposed the United States, have had second thoughts, especially the Germans, and trying mightily to mend their relationship with Washington, and to help in ways which do not involve military engagement.

Is legitimacy important? Niall Ferguson's absolutely right. The United States can conduct three or four wars against anybody in the world and win. But to win the peace is a different story. And for to win the peace, you need legitimacy, which means the power of the larger numbers would give some weight to your cause.

PALACIO: But let's look into the future. And I think that besides legitimacy, which I fully agree with both of you, it's very important, there is another issue. Is that, I mean, it's crazy that we Europeans and the Americans, we do not go together. First of all, because let's be realistic. We have 1 billion a day exchanges between Europe and the States. We have an interwoven economy and we have interests that are in the same wavelength and more than that, we share values and principles. QUEST: Right, but that begs and raises the question then, Ana, what can Europe do to influence the United States in these regards? Or is there nothing that can be done, as is evidenced by the fact -- yes, Nicole.

BACHARAN: There are things that can be done. I mean, the United Nations resolution was one step, even if it's not much help. It does bring legitimacy. And you have a number of social and economic ways of helping, and helping the Iraqis finding their step on the international scene.

We've been talking a lot about, OK, the intervention. The intervention has happened. And it is difficult and it is (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and maybe should not have happened the way it -- but what about we have done nothing? What about we have done nothing? It's not only the issue of weapons of mass destruction. It's that obviously the status quo in Iraq was not to live for.

QUEST: But as a result of what has taken place, has French-U.S. relations been irreparably damaged?

BACHARAN: Not irreparably, but quite deeply. Quite deeply.

QUEST: Iraq is a touchstone for our greater divide.

JOFFE: No, but the divide has to do with post-Cold War setting with the French, you know, kind of an economic power that wants to fly business, has turned into a grand strategy opposing No. 1, Mr. Big. It's not a very -- I think it's a very sterile foreign policy. It's very derivative, very reactive. But that is what the French game is, and that was just exacerbated by Iraq, but not created by Iraq.

QUEST: We haven't heard -- I'll come to you in a second, Ana. But I haven't heard from Karen or from -- for a while.

ARMSTRONG: I think one of the things we need to learn from this experience is to think a little more deeply about what democracy now means. We need democracy not just in our individual countries. We are now living in a global society. We need global democracy. And that means listening carefully to other voices.

QUEST: We'll come to democracy in a moment. I want to stick with this issue, though, of whether or not a trans-Atlantic alliance that has survived...

ARMSTRONG: That's my point...

QUEST: ... from the Second World War...

ARMSTRONG: That's my point, that unless the superpower listens to other voices, it can't -- and that means the divergent...

PALACIO: but -- I mean, Niall Ferguson has said that Blair and others were instrumental in having President Bush going to the United Nations. And he has been accused of unilateralism. When I was appointed foreign minister, the idea was that the United States would go into Iraq by itself. They went to the United Nations and remember President Bush addressed in September 2000 and...

MASROOR: This misses the bigger point. The bigger point is you're talking about Iraq. We're not talking about the interest of Europe and America only. What about the Iraqi people? What about the region? All I'm hearing from everyone here is what matters to Europe and America? But I'm sorry, what about matters to people locally? And hardly...


MASROOR: Let me finish, let me finish my point. Hardly ever...


MASROOR: Can I just finish, please? Hardly ever do we take interest in other people who are violating United Nations resolutions.

QUEST: At that point, I'm going to interrupt you and take a question from our audience. Sir, your name?

QUESTION: Yes, my name is Felix Parenstuter (ph). I'm a Ph.D. student at the London School of Economics. This is a question in particular to Dr. Josef Joffe. With regard to the trans-Atlantic rift, what is your opinion why Germany did not feel threatened by Iraq prior to the invasion to the extent that the United States did? And, more generally, let's say if there is a change in leadership in both countries do you think that would change anything with regard to the relationship?

QUEST: Josef.

JOFFE: Why do Europeans feel less threatened by Iraq? Well, the Europeans think, I think wrongly, that they're so remote and so far from away the Middle East, that they need not worry about what happening inside. I think the Europeans have begun to understand something which they resisted for a long time, which is the kind of pathologies that come out of the Middle East are spilling over in the form of Osama bin Laden or terrorism. And so I think by now they understand that the entire Middle East is a problem for them.


PALACIO: ... has nothing to do with Iraq. You are mixing up everything. Excuse me. I am very -- Richard, I just want to say one thing...

QUEST: I'm sure you do.

PALACIO: First of all, I mean, everybody is happy that Saddam Hussein is not there. I mean, I've been in Iraq in 1991, '92, '93, I know what it was about. There's no doubts about it. That's the first question -- the first thing. The second thing is that we should not forget the reasons, again, why we went to war and what we can't do now and we don't forget the Iraqi people and the will of the Iraqi people. I'm sorry, Niall, but the will of the Iraqi people is to have the occupation forces out. Which I agree when you say that, you know, you cannot build a democracy tomorrow. But which kind of democracy do they want? Does anybody ask them?

QUEST: Let us just take -- OK. Sir.

QUESTION: My name is Iqwan Aseem (ph), president of the Cambridge University Islamic Society. Just to reemphasize the point which has already been made, no one is shedding any tears for the departure of Saddam Hussein. But the point is that if we are legitimizing the war based on the prosperity and stability which Iraq is likely to have now, surely then we're justifying in future any attempt by Europe or America to launch a war with a justified ends, but, you know, on false premises, such as the existence of weapon of mass destruction and also experiencing the loss of many lives in process.

QUEST: Freddie Forsyth, that is a valid point, is it not, that what has taken place in Iraq is justification not only for the preemptive doctrine of the Bush administration but also for future actions of the same sort.

FORSYTH: Yes, I think it probably is. But then there's nothing new there, it has been going on for 1000 years.

QUEST: Is it right?

FORSYTH: Are you talking morality or realpolitik?

QUEST: Realpolitik. We'll get to morality in a minute.

FORSYTH: I though you might say that. If you're talking realpolitik, then I'm amused and puzzled by Lilli and her denpied (ph) regret for the Iraqi war because I remember Italian forces flying wingtip to wingtip, and indeed, the Iron Cross of Germany flying wingtip to wingtip with the world air force when we bombed Serbia back to the stone age in order to spare the Kosovan people from the pogroms of a dictator called Milosevic.


FORSYTH: I don't remember Italy objecting to that liberation. I don't remember Germany objecting to that liberation. I certainly do recall the Foreign Legion being side by side the British Tommies, waiting in the Albanian fields to invade Kosovo. Now as that was not sanctioned by the United Nations either, one wonders why one is so moral and the other is immoral? That's all. I didn't catch you, Niall.

MASROOR: ... people of Kosovo in that way, did they get their institutions destroyed, did they get everything that they...

FORSYTH: Oh, yes.

MASROOR: stand and fight for completely destroyed such as the Iraqi people? Did they get the prisoner abuse that we have seen in the Iraqi prison, and all sorts of issues that have come about? What we are seeing is also the point you made earlier on about the pathology that comes out of the Middle East. That's a crucial one. The pathology is influenced by the misguided foreign policies of these governments and countries...


MASROOR: ... terror has made the war unsafe. That's the problem.

QUEST: We will take one comment from Niall Ferguson, then we must take a ...

PALACIO: Well, may I remind you that the Twin Towers was much before, so...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... there are many towers being destroyed in the world since the Twin Towers. I meant that the Iraqis...

QUEST: Sir, sir, sir, excuse me. There's only one person in the chair here, and that's me.

PALACIO: But the events...

QUEST: And we will take a break after we've heard from Niall Ferguson.

FERGUSON: Absolutely absurd, of course, to attribute Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism to American foreign policy. If anything, American foreign policy slumbered during the 1990s. There's been a huge inquiry...


FERGUSON: If you'd allow me to finish, sir. It slumbered during the 1990s, as organizations like al Qaeda prepared to wage war on the West. So I think one's got cause and effect just a little bit mottled up here.

QUEST: We will take a break. When we come back, we will turn to the issue of the clash of civilizations. We have heard already alluded to the fact of exactly how we got into this mess. Is there more to come?



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This crusade, this war on terrorism, is going to take a while.


QUEST: What you've just heard was from George W. Bush, said after September the 11th, it was hastily retracted. The use of the word crusade being deemed inappropriate. Time and again the coalition has said this is not a war on Islam, but many, including those within the European Muslim community, disagree.

Let's go to Ajmal Masroor. MASROOR: It is not a war against Islam (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

QUEST: Do you believe it's a war against Islam?

MASROOR: Let me explain that. When people say it's not a war against Islam, Islam is not a group of people that you fight against. It's a religion. You cannot fight against a religion (UNINTELLIGIBLE). If you wage war, you'd be waging war against the people, so that contradiction needs to be clarified.

Muslims today living in Europe, they've made a home for themselves in Europe. They want to make themselves, and they want to create an identity for themselves, which is homogeneous to Europe. They've not been given that time, but by statements such as the one George Bush is making, under spotlight all the time, constantly being judged, constantly being pushed to become polarized -- either you're with us or you're with the terrorist. That kind of situation. Muslims all over the world took Bush's statement historically as in what happened in Crusade in the past.

QUEST: But do you believe -- we'll get with you in a minute. But do you believe that when he gets those comments were made and in the actions that have followed on, it has made it more incompatible for Muslims living within Europe?

MASROOR: No, it hasn't made it incompatible. What it has done, it has brought out the true colors of some of the extremists in both camps, both in those who believe from the American administration of domination in that nature, as well as extremists within the Muslim community. So therefore, it has not become incompatible, it has given clear grounds in which we should develop and work.

QUEST: Karen.

ARMSTRONG: Islam is not incompatible with modern Western society. At the beginning of the 20th century, every single leading Muslim intellectual, except one, was in love with the Democratic West, and saw these modern countries as approaching the Islamic ideal better than their own unmodernized countries.

What has happened, though, is in the build-up over the 20th century of mess and hostility, especially in the Middle East, as a result of some of our own policies, especially since the Iraq war, there has been a growing disaffection from the Muslim world. At the beginning of the Iraq war, and at the time of September 11th, there were not many Muslim worldwide who were for al Qaeda. Now more and more people. There's a ground swell of disaffection, which is dangerous.

QUEST: And is that groundswell exacerbated by terms like "crusades," Josef?

JOFFE: Well, I mean, anybody who knows the way Americans use their language know that when they talk about crusades, they don't mean the crusades we have in the United States. There are crusades against drugs. There are crusades against crime. We have drug czars, and yet he is not a czar. So...

QUEST: Sloppy use of language?

JOFFE: I just let that go because -- in English, you don't mean it that way.

But the issue really is, are we against Islam or not? Of course we're not against Islam. We are -- and I am certainly -- against people who pervert Islam, like al Qaeda, who want to destroy, and expel and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) us.

QUEST: And yet, when we then get...

BACHARAN: With all the problems of the American occupation, (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of Iraq are free to practice their religion, it's because of the American occupation. First thing they got is their, you know, freedom of religion.

QUEST: And yet we then end up with events like what took place in Madrid. We then end up in what's taking place at the moment in Saudi Arabia, which at the very least surely, ladies and gentlemen, creates an impression of an Islam against a Judeo-Christian world.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And against the Islamic world.

MASROOR: What it shows is there are backlash, there are people who are finding and exhausted by the fact they're being bullied into one corner. And because the problems that they're facing are not being solved and dealt with, extremes are becoming more apparent in the community. We need to deal with that. How do you deal with that, is the question.

PALACIO: May I just -- one thing. I think it's very dangerous to go along this path. Because this would end up justified in a way (UNINTELLIGIBLE) terrorism, which is unjustifiable. There is no justification whatsoever to kill innocent people. So don't tell me that this is the reaction of people that feel that they are isolated, or backlashed or whatever.

QUEST: What we are discussing is whether or not there is a fundamental rift, a fundamental breach, between the Christian, the Judeo-Christian world, and the Islamic world, that has been exacerbated and made worse by the events in Iraq.

FERGUSON: Well, Richard, it's very clear, one obvious country that there is no such breach, because in Turkey today, there is an Islamic country which has embraced democracy and is, indeed, intent on becoming a part of the European Union. And now if Turkey doesn't demonstrate the falsity of the notion of the fundamental clash of civilization, then I don't know what does.

PALACIO: May I just add one thing on what Niall said? Our -- our culture -- and this is why Turkey will join the European Union -- our culture is not based on Judeo-Christianism. It is based securism, and the rule of law, and democracy and free markets... GRUBER: That's when it comes to Europe. That is the big debate. As you know, in Europe, and was, until yesterday. And I agree. We try to be secular states...

PALACIO: No, we try to be -- no, we are. We are. Not try to be.


QUEST: Let's go to the audience on this question.

GRUBER: It's not the same for America, for example.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Picking up on something that Niall Ferguson said, I think that Iraq is a real test case, in the sense that the assumption that Iraq becoming a democracy will be in Western interests is based on the idea that what will come out of it is a liberal, democratic society, whereas the previous agenda in the Middle East was always that rather than have a democracy, which might let in populist, fundamentalists communists, it will be better to have almost anything else. So it might be interesting to see whether or not it will possible that there could be a Democracy successfully built in Iraq, but that might still not be in Western interests, depending on what came from it.

CAFFERTY: And you are, sir?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Adam Quinn (ph), from the LSE.

QUEST: Right-o -- gentleman at the front.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was right when he said...

QUEST: You are, sir?


He was right. Are we talking about politics, about morals, or about real politick? If we are talking about morals, we must use words like "crusade." Instead, we are talking about real politicks. So we must -- we have to get free of the dictator sitting on the second largest reservoir of all in the world. So our whole thing has been that we use the moral word to hide a real politick war.

QUEST: Let us bring this one to a close. And we will turn our attention to the moral question, when we return. Going to war -- if you go to war against one dictator, should you go to war against them all? When we come back.


QUEST: Welcome back. It's the COUNTDOWN TO HANDOVER: "The European Pulse and the European Perspective."

The moral question. No weapons of mass destruction have been found. A link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein has still not been unearthed. It leads one to wonder, was this about just getting rid of a dictator?

Frederick Forsyth, if it was just about getting rid of a dictator, is that morally sufficient?

FORSYTH: Really it depends, really on what attitude you have toward the hypocrisy of power politics. We got rid of Milosevic, no question about that, and really it was in fact, NATO, the European wing of NATO, asking the Americans to help, which they did.

We also liberated the people of East Timor. And nobody, as far as I recall, complained about that.

Americans unilaterally deposed a dictator in in the island of Grenada and later another one in the Republic Panama. And nobody that I recall complained much about that.

So in other words, we do select our dictators, those who should properly be deposed and those who really should be allowed to get on with it.

One last thing, if I may, about the hypocrisy within Islam because this Sunni Muslim dictator actually wiped out, with the assistance of General al-Majid, 100,000 Shi'a Muslims. And do you know what the reaction from Islam was? Stunning, total, deafening silence. It doesn't seem to matter if...

GRUBER: The same silence of the West. Come on, 1991, we had the chance to get rid of Saddam Hussein.

FORSYTH: No, we didn't, actually.

GRUBER: We didn't get rid of Saddam Hussein.

FORSYTH: Your beloved United Nations absolutely forbad it.

GRUBER: ... thousands and thousands of Shi'as. I was there. Excuse me, so...


QUEST: I want to turn to Karen on this question...


QUEST: I want to turn to Karen on this question of the moral issue of was it, is it justified morally, not only to do what has been done, but to now inflict, impose, whatever, the form of democracy that is going to be put in?

ARMSTRONG: I think what is needed in morality is integrity. And I think we've got to remember first who helped Saddam Hussein to come to power in the first place and who supported him for a long time. We've given a bad impression of democracy to the Middle East, supporting rulers like the shahs of Iran, for example.

And so democracy has seemed to many people in the Middle East -- and it's important to emphasize the difference between the Middle East and Islam as a whole. Arabs, for example, comprise only 80 percent -- 20 percent of Muslims worldwide.

And I think so that we must remember what we've been doing. Now, for many people, democracy seems a bad joke. We seem to have been saying over the years to the Arab peoples, we believe in freedom and democracy. But sorry, for the time being, you've got to have some dictators ruling you.

QUEST: Does it now behold Europe to withhold its legitimacy to the process in Iraq, Nicole?

BACHARAN: No, I don't think so.

QUEST: Is it moral for Europe?

BACHARAN: I think Europe has to do whatever it can to help have a democratic environment in Iraq. And if we look...


QUEST: ... in the case of France and Germany, does that just mean only providing financial support or does it -- withholding any military support for the reconstruction of Iraq? Is that moral?

BACHARAN: Oh, well, you know the answer. There is no military support coming. I don't know if it's moral or not.

But on the moral issue, it's been raised a number of times. You have so many dictators in the world and so many who have been supported by the West. And so many times we don't do anything. Does it mean we should never do anything? We should just sit there? Because so many times we didn't do anything.

QUEST: Isn't there an element, though, Niall Ferguson, you fight the fights you can win -- or the fights that you think you've got a strong chance of winning? You don't go after everybody who you might be able to win.

FERGUSON: Well the key point about Saddam Hussein was precisely that. If he had been North Korea it would have been a great deal less straight forward to undertake his overthrow.

The great thing about Saddam Hussein was precisely that he didn't have weapons of mass destruction. If he had had weapons of mass destruction it would have been far less tempting to overthrow him.


FERGUSON: Richard, can I just add something? We mustn't forget when we look backwards that the circumstances of the Cold War were very different indeed. There was a far more evil empire brought in those days known as the Soviet Union.

And in the war against the Soviet Union that had to be waged by the free world, which included Western Europe as well as the United States, there certainly did have to be some very morally questionable compromises...


GRUBER: ... needed another country, reliable country, like Saudi Arabia, that was not reliable any more after 9/11, where they could put their troops on and where there was oil, where there was all these kinds...


FERGUSON: I just wonder why it is that Lilli is so hostile to this war. It seemed a moment ago that you were arguing we should have got rid of Saddam Hussein in '91. Was that your position then?

GRUBER: Yes, listen...


GRUBER: I don't like when my leaders lie to me. And they were lying to me, public opinion.


JOFFE: Why can't we get rid of somebody in 2003 whom you yourself wanted to get rid of in 2001?

Let me just cut through the hypocrisy quotient here a little bit. Of course we don't go after every monster to slay. Of course there has to be interests and there has to be a reasonable chance of success and a reasonable provocation.

Now it seems to me, if you look at shear evil, then Saddam Hussein was not a bad candidate. You know he started two aggressive wars, rapacious wars, grabbing countries. He has killed about 300,000 inside his own country. He has gassed people for the first time since World War I. So, in terms of evil, not bad.

FERGUSON: And incidentally, he did have links to terrorists organizations, including al Qaeda which is one thing you contradicted him on.


PALACIO: May I just drop one word? We have not may found the weapons of mass destruction. But honestly think there was no government in Europe, or in America, that did not think that Saddam Hussein had these weapons of mass destruction.

QUEST: I want to move off weapons of mass destruction. I want to bring it to a final thought.

GRUBER: Yes, let's talk about Europe and United States, that we have to work together. If there is not a strong Europe, there cannot be a strong and credible United States in the world. Let's get -- can we put it this way? QUEST: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) you say they have to work together. But isn't the realpolitik of this that they will work together because the greater issues ultimately -- they always get -- they always win through the day. There are so many other issues that Iraq is going to move through the back burner sooner probably rather than later?

MASROOR: That's precisely the point Muslims are making from all across the globe, saying if it's true interest of the Muslim world, then work with the Muslim world in developing the capacity and infrastructure of those countries rather than pick and choose as to who you depose and who you support.

That is the destruction and that is the hypocrisy of morality.

GRUBER: But we Europeans, we know the Muslim world, we know Arabs, we know how to deal with them. So let's do it.

MASROOR: How do you deal with it? No, it's not. You don't because what you're thinking is the way to deal with them is pump more money, give more security and the world is OK. It isn't. The world is going to be more unsafe if you do that.

People have a problem. The country's infrastructure is in dire need of change. There is poverty. There is illiteracy. There's dictators governing those...

QUEST: All right, I'm going to jump in here. So Europe's role, and the United States' role, particularly Europe's role is the banker?

JOFFE: Europe's role is the banker?

QUEST: Yes, we end up funding it.

JOFFE: Look, in the end, even whatever my colleague Lilli has said, she wants to get rid of him, too. I don't think she likes the pathologies of the Middle East any more than I do. And we have a good chance in Iraq, just a chance, there's no guarantee, that maybe something better will come out of this than we destroyed.

QUEST: From the audience.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My names' Hajrah Koreshi (ph), and I'm from the Human Rights Chair of the Cambridge University Islamic Society. And I'd like to address a question about democracy.

The USA and the West have long records of internationally preferring brutal repressive and dictatorial governments which are pro-Western as opposed to popular democratic governments which might reflect people's anti-Western sentiments.

Why should we therefore believe the West's claims to want democracy in Iraq considering their record elsewhere?

PALACIO: Well, I would say that these this was probably true in the context of the Cold War. It is not any more true. And it is not any more true -- especially from Europe, because we -- we need -- we are neighbors. We need to cooperate. Therefore, we have -- and we are -- we have taken steps towards this cooperation with the Arab-Muslim world which is our neighborhood, our close neighborhood.

And by the way, the day Turkey is a member of the union -- and I wish Turkey in the Union very soon -- Iraq is our neighbor. Don't forget that.

QUESTION: One more from the audience. Sir.

ERIC POOLEY, "TIME" SENIOR EDITOR: Yes, I'm Eric Pooley from "TIME" magazine. Question for Mr. Ferguson. I wonder if you would agree with the proposition that the -- the campaign in Iraq was an expression of a neo-imperialist urge to bring democracy and Western values to this country?

And if you do agree with that, would you say, then, that that has now been corrected, that the problems of the occupation have rid Washington of its desires to do that? Or would you say that -- that they still have those desires and ideals?

FERGUSON: Neo-imperialistic is a word to be avoided. Of course, the administration hates the word "empire" and hates the word "imperial." And it always denies its intentions are imperialistic.

But the notion, obviously, of transforming Middle Eastern institutions as radically as George W. Bush says he wants to transform them is at least implicitly rather imperialistic. But it's a liberal imperialism.

And one of the arguments I've tried to make is that liberal imperialism is by no means a bad thing. If it does proving -- and this goes back to what the lady behind you just said -- proving that we really do mean it when we say we want to democratize the Middle East. We mean it enough to sacrifice the lives of American and British soldiers to overthrow a dictator and to bring about a transition towards an internationally recognized democracy in that country, which is what's happening.

GRUBER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) nice word. I suggest you write it down and then...

BACHARAN: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) George Bush and his administration is that he recognized, and the West, and the United States in particular for years and decades supported whatever dictatorship, you know, would bring stability to whatever country in the Middle East. And eventually said it was wrong. And he said it brought (UNINTELLIGIBLE) pathology that you're talking about.


QUEST: We'll come to you in second. There's a lady in the front who hasn't had a chance to speak yet, Niall. COURTNEY FINGARD, REPUBLICANS ABROAD U.K.: Hi, I'm Courtney Fingard. I'm with Republicans Abroad U.K. And I just want to say isn't it naive to suggest that a country should go to war when their own interests aren't at stake? It's not just moral. There's that. But realpolitik isn't a bad word, it's just good sense, really.


FINGARD: I'm suggesting you're saying, oh, why take out Saddam Hussein and not every dictator in the world? Well, the fact is you can't. And isn't it only logical that you would look for the ones that matter most to your country and your own security?

QUEST: So you fight the fights that you can win, not the ones that you might like to fight?

MASROOR: Wouldn't it be more plausible and more logical to take on the dictator who is most dictate in the area?

QUEST: Not if you can't win, is what she's saying.

MASROOR: Then there's no moral ground on which to justify a war.


QUEST: ... if you leave morals at of it...

MASROOR: So it's an immoral war...

QUEST: ... what's your basis?

MASROOR: ... immoral policy, immoral war. That's a problem.

GRUBER: But the basis is the just facts. The facts on the ground is that the United States needed to go to war against the country that was to be blamed for the terrorism. They needed a country that was more reliable than Saudi Arabia. They needed a country where to put their troops on. And they needed a country with lots of oil.


FERGUSON: If one had to criticize American neo-imperialism...


FERGUSON: ... it wasn't realistic enough. In fact, one of the great problems of that planning last year, and this is why realpolitik's such an important term, Frederick used it earlier.

You've got to be realistic if you want to be good at realpolitik. And I don't think Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney were realistic about how long it would take to transform Iraq into a democracy.

QUEST: I want to look at the future...


GRUBER: The only super power in the world has the responsibility to know about it because I was just a journalist, and I knew -- like many other journalists...


JOFFE: This is getting too sophisticated. Why can (UNINTELLIGIBLE) say this is an immoral war if that war brought down one of the most evil figures in post-war history? I mean then we're not using English language in the correct way.

If you call that immoral war, then we have different -- then I think we're using...


JOFFE: If you remove an immoral, evil man, you cannot, by definition, fight an immoral war.

MASROOR: If we have two choices to make, a choice to make between two evils, one is lesser and one is greater, which one would you choose? The lesser of the two evils. Correct?

In removing the dictators from the Middle East who poses the most trouble in the area...

QUEST: Let us leave that there for one moment as we come back to our audience. I want to look to the future. Anybody give me a prediction for what you believe the future will look like in Iraq one year from now. Ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: May name is Rachel Zeswell (ph). I'm from the London School of Economics.

And it seems to me that the American people have a tendency to lose interest in wars and interest in funding wars and interest in funding the reparations of wars. And so I wonder how that will impact the future of Iraq.

QUEST: Let us have predictions. Twelve months from now, 18 months from now, if we were all sitting in the same room again. Karen?

ARMSTRONG: I would like to say that I would -- we could see a stable democracy in Iraq. But I have a fear that there will be a lot more blood shed, a lot more confusion, and a lot more sort of -- of the old trauma coming to the surface before we get anywhere near that.

QUEST: Frederick Forsyth.

FORSYTH: Yes, I don't believe in democracy in 12 months. It took us about seven centuries and we haven't perfected it yet. Europe will never perfect it. I'm sorry, Josef. I'll zoom in on your bloodstream. I think five years from now, we might be able to see something in Iraq. But certainly, one year is far, far too quick. What we will see in one year I think is another strong man. But if he's a benign strong man, then I'll be happy.

QUEST: And, Nicole, as relates to Europe in with this, one year from now, divisions healed, everybody's friendly, business as usual, in Europe?

BACHARAN: Business as usual, but still divided and still having the obligation to work together to an extent.

JOFFE: I put my money on the chief -- chief terrorist Zarqawi who has written that how can we fight once the Americans have withdrawn to defensible positions, once there's a kind of government. Says, how can we fight the cousins, the sons, our -- Arab, our cousins, our sons, once we don't have the pretext of the United States being there?

So let that government be transmitting, let authority go into the hands of the Iraqis. And I think the terrorists who are now give giving us most of the problem won't be able to play their game any more.

QUEST: Eighteen months from now, Europe as relates to this issue, your prediction?

MASROOR: Europe, I think, will play its neutral diplomatic role it has always done. Not like the bully pulpit tactic America uses to dominate the world.

However, I would like to see Iraq a more stable community, more stable society where people are free, people are no longer being bombed left, right and center. And that region very stable. And our approach to that region also consistent.

QUEST: Niall Ferguson, the Europe trans-Atlantic relationship, one year from now, bearing in mind there the minor matter of a U.S. election between now and then that could alter issues. How do you see it?

FERGUSON: There's always more than one plausible future. I'll give you two.

In one future, President Kerry succumbs to European pressure to reduce American presence in Iraq prematurely and the country plunges into civil war. An alternative scenario is that President Bush hangs on in there and the Europeans get real about the Middle East. The American troop levels are maintained. And then a year from now Iraq is starting to look like a rapidly recovering economy.

QUEST: Ana, you were part of the table. You've been ejected from the table. But one year from now -- well, you won't be back at the table, but what will you be seeing?

PALACIO: What I expect is, first of all, that Europe does not try to build up an identity on being -- on something as unhealthy as being counter-something to the United States. Counterpower, or counterbalance or whatever.

That we become realistic about what is at stake in the Middle East, what is at stake especially in Iraq, and that being successful is not an option, it's a necessity for us.

QUEST: And I'll giver the last word to a former broadcaster, now a member of the European parliament, Lilli.

GRUBER: I will certainly fight for a strong alliance of the might and also the courage of the U.S. and the experience of Europe. Yes, I think -- I believe in it. I think we have to work together.

And when it comes to Iraq, I really hope that the new Iraqi government will have the support of the Iraqi people because this is the main point: either they trust this new government, otherwise, there's no chance.

QUEST: Many thanks for your contributions.

And that ends this special edition, "The European Pulse." Next in the series, we'll be taking "The American Pulse" from the United States.

We thank our audience and our distinguished guests for their participation. I'm Richard Quest in London. Good-bye.


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