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PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT

Petraeus Testifies on Benghazi; Rising Fears of Ground War

Aired November 16, 2012 - 21:00   ET

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


PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Good evening.

Tonight: Rising fears of a ground war in the Middle East. Today, Gaza was bombarded by Israeli missiles. Hamas rockets also rained down today in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Israeli troops are amassing in the border with real possibility of a ground invasion imminently. The latest on the showdown in the moment.

First, inside the Capitol where General Petraeus testifies about Benghazi. The ex-CIA chief brought down by an affair says the classified intelligence showed it was a terrorist attack.

He also said (INAUDIBLE) of al Qaeda was intentionally withheld because of fears of tipping off the terrorist group. Petraeus testified the CIA's talking points in response to the assault initially calling it a terrorist attack, that that was edited out of the final version. And he said the change was not made for political reasons.

Here with me now is Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger. He's a Democrat, ranking member of House Committee on Intelligence.

Welcome to you.

REP. C.A. "DUTCH" RUPPERSBERGER (D-MD), RANKING MEMBER, HOUSE SELECT INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Good to be here, Piers.

MORGAN: So we now know from the White House, the statement that's coming from the NSC spokesman Tommy Vietor. And I'll read it to you.

"The talking points about the intelligence assessment that Susan Rice used were produced by the intelligence community. The White House and State Department offered one edit, changing consulate to 'diplomatic facility' for accuracy."

RUPPERSBERGER: OK.

MORGAN: So, a pretty clear line being drawn there by the White House that they didn't change anything that the intelligence report went to Susan Rice other than what you named the consulate or diplomatic facility. What do you make of that?

RUPPERSBERGER: Well, what is the issue that has been raised as a result of that? I think we al know the intelligence community had created the talking points that did come out about the incident that occurred. The purpose for that basically was for the intelligence community to make sure that any information or that they would give to the media would not be classified. And I think that's how a lot of these issues with the talking points started to begin with.

I think the issue that's been raised in the last couple of days has been the issue of having al Qaeda taken out of the talking points and putting extremists in there. My answer to that is that the analysts who would have made those different changes, and you have the intelligence committee who collects the information and then it's analyzed and then it's disseminated to whoever -- they give it to the administration or us.

What happened in that situation is there are some who have said that by taking the word al Qaeda out and putting extremist, that changed the content. I don't see it that way. I think extremist covers a lot of different individuals -- not only terrorist, but people involved in the militias in Libya and other area. But that has been a debate today.

Has General Petraeus' position changed from when he first appeared three days after the incident in Benghazi to now? Has he shifted? Because he seems to be conveying the impression now that he pretty much knew from the start it was probably a terror group or probably this one that's named Ansar al-Sharia. And yet at the same time, he said there were lots of other reports flying around in the intelligence community that it may be connected to the video protest.

RUPPERSBERGER: Well, first, let me say -- I think his testimony today cleared up a lot of issues on both sides of the aisle. I think it was also important that the director of the CIA at the time of the incident -- it was important that he testified. I think it was important for our country, our intelligence community and for General Petraeus and his family and himself to bring some closure to the issues involving him.

One of the issues was a lot of people were putting out that he resigned so he wouldn't have to testify about Benghazi. That's ridiculous. And he stated today that was not the case.

So as far as what his comments were when he came to our committee three days after the event, he basically said and this is what is out there now and it's been debated a lot, that they thought that initially that it was a protest that was really stimulated by what happened in Egypt in the film. He also said at the same time, though, that they felt very strongly that there were terrorists involved and they also said that they knew that that area of Benghazi was a hot spot, but there was no direct intelligence that there was going to be an attack that day.

MORGAN: The Republicans now say that there's a clear line being drawn now, there was no protest. There were nobody -- no one was at that Benghazi diplomatic facility who was a protester about that video.

Can we say that for certain or could it be that there were some protesters and there was also a planned attack because it was September the 11th?

RUPPERSBERGER: Yes. Well, the first thing, Chairman Rogers and I decided not to subject ourselves to the media until we came back into session because our job on the intelligence committee is to follow the facts and find out what occurred. We oversee the intelligence community and we deal with issues of national security. And so, that's clearly where our focus was as far as that is concerned.

Now, what the general basically said at that time is that he -- there was a terrorist situation and that there were people outside. If you look at the tapes and if you look at the information, that it was kind of a chaotic type of situation. We had looters who came in. We had people with weapons running around and there didn't seem to be any command and control.

But that changed three hours later. When they went to the annex you had a sophisticated operation of terrorists who knew how to operate weaponry, who made direct hits and that seemed to be clearly a terrorist attack.

Now, you know, the issue is the films and you can se the two situations occurring especially the one -- the first attack where it seemed to be chaotic and they were attacking our consulate.

MORGAN: From everything, Congressman, you've now heard and gleaned, and from all of the evidence today from General Petraeus, it seems to me that there say collective view that Ambassador Rice really acted in good faith. I mean, she was repeating what she had been told by the intelligence community with no interference, it appears from the White House other than the name of this facility, and she was simply repeating what she'd been told.

RUPPERSBERGER: Well, that's what my understanding is, but we have to follow the facts. She had been given the information and just the same information that our intelligence had been given. And that's what she testified to.

It's the same issue that occurred with General Colin Powell when he dealt with the issue, when he went before the United Nations, he had information. There were weapons of mass destruction which there were not. So, these situations occur all of the time.

But as far as Ambassador Rice is concerned, you know, I don't know enough about the things she said other than what I've read. And I think that hopefully she was acting in good faith and she will be acting on her reputation and the job that she's done.

I think that President Obama got it right when he said, she received information from my administration, and if you have an issue with what she said, then you come to me. And I think he's right. He's accepting responsibility as the president as far as this issue is concerned.

You know, we have to move on. We know that there are issues involving Benghazi and the most unfortunate thing is that we've lost four lives. And I want to focus on, number one, you know, why this happened, how did it occur, how -- to make sure it doesn't occur in the future, did we have the security that was requested?

These are the issues that we need to start focusing on and to make sure that we can protect the people who work for the State Department or for the United States and hot spots throughout the world. The highest priority is to protect their lives in the future.

MORGAN: Congressman, thank you very much for joining me.

RUPPERSBERGER: OK. Got it.

MORGAN: My next guest has known General Petraeus and Paula Broadwell for 15 years.

Tom Ricks is the author of the new book "The Generals." And he joins me now.

Welcome, Mr. Ricks.

TOM RICKS, AUTHOR, "THE GENERALS": Thank you.

MORGAN: You say at the start of this book: there are no bad soldier, only bad generals. Many people have taken a dim view of General Petraeus' conduct. But where do you position him in terms of his legacy as a general?

RICKS: One of the saddest aspects of this entire mess was that Petraeus was one of our best generals in recent years. What bothers me as a nation is we're paying a lot more attention to the sex lives of our generals than to the real lives of our soldiers. We have a bunch about of mediocre generals in Iraq, Tommy Franks, Ricardo Sanchez, George Casey.

Petraeus went in and got the United States out of the war in Iraq. And for that, the nation owes him a great debt. Yet we seem to have forgotten all those combat tours and we're focusing on aspects of his private life.

What I say in my book is we really need to focus much more on high standards of professional duty. I would much rather have an excellent general who slept around a little bit than a mediocre general who kept his pants on.

MORGAN: The hearings that went on today seem to have vindicated him in many ways. He was remarkably composed given all he's been through in the last week, very forensic about the detail, and at the end of the day, sort of cleared up a lot of the issues surrounding the Benghazi incident -- not pretending there hadn't been mistakes made, but certainly it didn't appear to be some sort of conspiracy going.

Was that your reading of it?

RICKS: Yes, pretty much. But I never thought there was a conspiracy. I always that FOX News had gone kind of whacko on this and was stirring up a lot of anxiety about a bad situation in which a lot of things are inherently unknowable.

I have tried to report several times through the years on fire fights and incidents of combat. There is nothing more complex. You will always find conflicting stories. That does not mean the people are lying. It simply means that combat is one of the most stressful things anybody can go through.

MORGAN: Where do you think General Petraeus ranks as a general, say, in the last hundred years?

RICKS: I think he'll be remembered a lot like Matthew Ridgway, which is to say pretty much not at all except by the experts.

He's a very good general. He's a real standout. He's an exception in being not only a successful general in Iraq, but also he understands the generalship in a way that a lot of our generals don't -- a critical thinker who is able to understand the situation, adjust to it and get thousands of people to carry out a different sort of orders. That's what a general does.

The reason I compare him to Matthew Ridgway was that Ridgway was a great general in the Korean War who did exactly that same sort of thing, but is kind of forgotten except by the specialists and military who also read books like mine.

MORGAN: Did the Paula Broadwell book that came out about General Petraeus, did you like that as a historian?

RICKS: I -- I had introduced Paula, actually, to my book editor. I knew there were a lot of people who say they have a book in mind, and I say here, talk to my editor. She was one of the many over the years. I did blurb it, and I wrote something like this is a unique view of General Petraeus. It feels like we're reading his e-mails.

(LAUGHTER)

RICKS: It's come back to haunt me.

MORGAN: All the press (ph), yes.

I mean, on the -- I've been talking about it a lot this week, but on this theory of the general or political leader's sex life should be immaterial unless it adversely affects his job. Of course, the converse argument is, well, if he's got enough time to conduct a clandestine affair, can he really dedicate himself to the job at hand? What do you think of that?

RICKS: What I think is that spies are probably like soldiers. They're not really going to concern themselves with the private life of the commander.

What soldiers want in battle, in a war, is one thing. They want to survive. It's a legitimate request to want to survive.

They will forgive a lot -- alcoholic leaders, racist leaders, pure sons of bitches like George Patton -- if they are feeling well led, if they're feeling this guy is giving them a chance of surviving the war. And so somebody like Petraeus actually inspired troops, hey, this guy will get us through and he doesn't, if I die in this war, at least my life would not have been thrown away by some blow hard know- nothing general.

MORGAN: Tom Ricks, "The Generals" is out now, "American Military Command from World War II to Today" -- thank you very much indeed for joining me.

RICKS: You're welcome.

MORGAN: Coming up: on the verge of potential ground wars in Hamas and Israel, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S. joins us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Israeli missiles pounding Gaza today. The show of force posed days of rocket fire between Israel and Hamas. The fighting is taking a deadly toll.

With me now is Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren.

Welcome to you, sir.

MICHAEL OREN, ISRAELI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: Good evening to you, Piers.

MORGAN: It's really very dangerous, escalating situation. How is this going to resolve itself?

OREN: It's going to resolve itself when Hamas cease firing rockets at millions of innocent Israeli civilians. Very simple. They just have to stop and the confrontation will stop.

MORGAN: I mean, Israeli rockets firing as well, and killing more Palestinians than Israelis are dying.

OREN: Well, we have thousands of rockets raining down on our civilians. You know, Piers, over the last four years alone, something in the order of 3,000 rockets have been fired by Hamas and other terrorists in Gaza at our civilians. That's more than twice than the number of V-1 and V-2 rockets dropped on London during World War II.

No government can sit passively by while terrorists are firing rockets at our homes, at our families, trying to kill us -- while all we do is want to live peacefully among ourselves and with our neighbors.

MORGAN: They're interesting mobilizing of ground forces. Are you preparing for a ground invasion?

OREN: We are certainly keeping that option open. Yes, there is a call up of reserves. We do not want to escalate. We do not want to have ground action, but we'll take whatever measures are necessary to defend our citizens.

MORGAN: Would you like to live on the Gaza Strip?

OREN: No, and I think the Gazans should make a decision about the type of government they want. They should want a government that's not investing at 12,000 rockets to shoot at innocent Israeli civilians, but is investing that money in schools and hospitals, in community centers.

I hope that they'll make that choice some day.

MORGAN: Who is creating this ghastly situation in Gaza where you have 1.5 million very oppressed people, very poor people, very angry and helpless people. Nothing legitimizes appalling attacks on Israel, but at the same time the catalyst for all of this disgruntlement, anger, resentment on the Gaza Strip is the abject poverty and appalling conditions that they're living in.

It can't simply be blamed on Hamas. The international community has got to somehow offer the people in Gaza more hope, doesn't it?

OREN: Well, the crossings have been open. There's humanitarian aid flowing. Even as they're shooting us, we're letting aid go into Gaza. We've even letting Gazans come into Israeli hospitals during the middle of this.

Again, I -- we have to blame the government of Gaza, which is a terrorist organization, which is dedicated to the destruction of Israel. It's in their covenant. Actually, they're dedicated to destruction of Jews anywhere. Jews in the United States of America, Hamas wants to kill you.

And if they're investing all of their income in rockets, in explosives, what do you expect? The people will be poor.

MORGAN: It's certainly crucial to happen next, maybe the position of Egypt. And today, President Mohamed Morsi said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOHAMED MORSI, PRESIDENT OF EGYPT (through translator): We support the people of Gaza. We are with them in their trenches. What hurts them hurts us. And the blood that flows from their children is our blood, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Fairly combative statement. What did you make of that?

OREN: Well, we preferred to look at Egyptian deeds rather than words. Egypt has played a constructive role in the past in mediating ceasefires with Gaza and we hope that the Egyptians will continue to fulfill a constructive role in the future.

MORGAN: Right. You must have been disconcerted by the tone of President Morsi's rhetoric there.

OREN: Again, we prefer to look at the Egyptian deeds and we hope they will play a constructive role in helping to convince Hamas to stop firing these thousands of rockets at our civilians.

MORGAN: Is your intention at the same time to continue targeting Hamas leaders and to continue, if you can, killing them?

OREN: Well, we're going to take any measures necessary to stop the aggression against the civilians. And we're taking immense precautions not to hurt Palestinian civilians. We -- our planes have carried out hundreds of attacks and the number of Palestinian civilians that have been hurt have been very, very small. We regret any loss of civilian life.

But we're fighting an enemy -- keep in mind, Piers -- we're fighting an enemy that is hiding behind its own civilian population while it's trying to kill a maximum number of Israeli civilians. The difference between a terrorist organization and a democratic state is trying to minimize the number of civilians who are hurt.

We make tens of thousands of phone calls to Palestinians in areas that might be hit, giving them ample warning to leave their homes. We send them text messages. We leaflet their areas. We are exercising immense caution.

In one case that I know of, an Israeli pilot actually aborted a bombing run against the long-range rocket because he saw children running around that rocket, that area and one of the rockets later hit outside of Tel Aviv. It's the price we paid for what we do.

MORGAN: Right. I mean, it's an awful price that the Israeli people have to pay for the endless rockets fired at them. But there's also an increasingly large number of women and children being wounded and killed in Gaza too.

And there is a humanitarian aspect of this. And the core problem has got to get fixed. This has been going on for years and years and years, and it seems to be completely insoluble to any politician.

What is the way to break through this?

OREN: The way to break through it would be for the Palestinians to accept that there is a state of Israel, which is permanent and legitimate, and to sit down with us at the negotiating table to negotiate all the outstanding issues -- whether it'd be borders, refugees, Jerusalem, security, recognition.

That's the position of the government of Israel. It's the position of the Obama administration. It's the position of the European Union and the quartet.

It is not the position of Hamas and the terrorists. They're dedicated to our destruction.

MORGAN: Ambassador Oren, thank you very much for joining me.

OREN: Pleasure, Piers.

MORGAN: And joining me now is Dr. Hanan Ashrawi of the Palestinian Legislative Council, a member of the PLO Executive Committee.

Welcome to you.

HANAN ASHRAWI, MEMBER, PALESTINIAN LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL: Thank you, Piers. Good to be with you.

MORGAN: We just heard there from Ambassador Michael Oren, very strong words, really saying this is entirely down to Hamas and the grip that Hamas now has on the Gaza Strip.

What is your reaction?

ASHRAWI: That's not only disingenuous, but it's very misleading and it has very little to do with the truth. But we're used to the Israeli officials' spin. Actually before Hamas took over in 2007, the Israelis continually used Gaza as a firing range, shooting at will, killing, destroying. In 2008 and 2009, they actually killed 1,440 Palestinians, mainly civilians.

Today, they're killing over 30 Palestinians mainly civilians, children and women and at the same time, they're talking about surgical strikes and they use the label terrorist. Every Palestinian is a terrorist.

The real issue, Piers, is that there is an occupation. There is a brutal siege of Gaza. They have turned that area into a disaster area.

They starved the people. They destroyed the resources. They cut them off from the rest of the world. We have about 80 percent who need food aid. We have 45 percent unemployment in Gaza.

And then they shoot at will, and should anybody retaliates, they say, of course, these are terrorists and we're shooting civilians and so on. Deal with the issues. I can give you the exact timeline and the exact dates as to what happened in this latest round of violence.

MORGAN: But if you're an Israeli and you have been living under this hailstorm of rockets now for year years, living in terror as well, it cannot be justified. You cannot just have the rule of rocket.

ASHRAWI: Of course, you can't, in the same way as you cannot have the captive civilian population totally at the mercy of a ruthless military occupation. So the projectiles that Hamas sends into Israel is in direct response to what Israel is doing.

So we can start discussing all of the different cycles of violence without addressing the real cause which is the occupation, and without looking at a settlement that is very unjust, which is the Israeli withdrawal from all of the occupied territories lifting this brutal siege of Gaza, and again not using Gaza as a shooting range, killing at will. And at the same time going back to the table by stopping settlement activities, acknowledging international law, behaving within a global rule of law as a civilized country and then we will have peace, and you wouldn't need to constantly be shooting and killing and then crying foul should your victim respond in any way.

MORGAN: Does the PLO have any real control over Hamas?

ASHRAWI: No, we don't have control over Hamas. Hamas is part of the political system. They did win reelections and, of course, we were sanctioned because Hamas won. And at the same time, we would like to have elections and we would like to have a pluralistic, democratic system where we can talk.

It's not a question of control. It is a question of --

MORGAN: That is part of the problem. If you're an Israeli listening to this, it's saying, well, it's all very well you talking in about how to resolve this, but if you have no control whatsoever over the activities of Hamas, why should they trust you?

ASHRAWI: No, because Hamas did acknowledge that should there be a negotiated settlement that's accepted by a referendum, by the Palestinian people, then they are quite willing to abide by it.

Actually, the person who whom Israel assassinated on the 14th and started this spiral again was Ahmed al-Ja'abari. He was negotiating with an Israeli, Gershon Baskin, not just a cease-fire, but also a long-term truce.

So in a sense, by just dealing with the surface issues and the latest expression of violence and not addressing the real issues then they're putting both people in jeopardy.

Hamas is responding. Now, we do not respond violently and we do not condone violence, but at the same time, the occupation is the most pervasive and brutal and cruel form of violence against a captive, defenseless population.

In the West Bank, we don't have weapons and so on and there is no violence and yet you have settler terror all over the place, and the Israeli army protects the settlers and defends them against the Palestinians who are actually sitting ducks and civilian victims.

So in a sense, the real issue is the occupation. The real issue is Israel's sense of entitlement, of privilege, of exceptionalism as a country above the law, not bound by international law or international humanitarian law. When Hamas was just part of the system and wasn't in control of Gaza, Israel did exactly the same and more and continues to do that.

So the question is not whether Hamas is in control of Gaza. The question is the occupation and Israel's sense of impunity and, of course, the international community's granting this military occupation immunity to carry out whatever it wants against the Palestinians.

Not only that, but we get branded, we get labeled, we get blamed, and I've heard lip statements that are really dangerous because they fail to address the real issues.

MORGAN: Dr. Ashrawi, thank you very much for joining me.

ASHRAWI: You are most welcome. Thank you.

MORGAN: Coming next, Nicholas Kristof, Alan Dershowitz and General Mark Kimmitt join me to talk Petraeus, Benghazi and the Middle East, coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): This is an aggression against all the Palestinian people and we all have to stand to be -- to act in one hand.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Leaders of Israel and the Palestinians not backing down in the growing battle between Hamas and Israel. Where will the conflict lead to? Let's bring in my panel, "New York Times" columnist Nicholas Kristoff, Alan Dershowitz, lawyer and author of "The Trials of Zion," and General Mark Kimmitt, former director of plans and strategy at Central Command.

Welcome to you all. Here's the thing about Israel and Palestine, because it always comes back to this in the end -- you can have all the other Middle East turmoil you like, but it always comes back to this. Nothing new about what's going on now.

If you spend enough time talking to a senior Palestinian or a senior Israeli, by the end of both of those interviews, as conducted, you find yourself nodding. You put yourself in their shoes. How do we get through the fact that both of them have pretty good arguments?

NICHOLAS KRISTOFF, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I think the danger is that they both escalate as a result. And what we both desperately need is for each side to be deescalating. And one of the misfortunes is that each -- the hawks on each side empower the hawks on the other. And that makes it harder to resolve.

I always compare this to Ireland a little bit. When I lived in the U.K. in the 1980s, it would have been impossible to imagine a deal between Britain and Ireland.

MORGAN: I say this a lot, and I think it's an absolute parallel. You have two implacable foes, generational implacable foes, living side by side, terrorizing each other. Now you have prosperity and peace. But what had to happen was the people had to realize there was a different way.

KRISTOFF: But you had to inch toward that. In other words, at that time, it would have been possible to do a deal. Today it's impossible to do a deal between Israel and the Palestinians. It is possible to inch a little bit closer, so a deal would be possible in 10 years or 15 years. And what's going on right now makes that farther away. ALAN DERSHOWITZ, AUTHOR, "THE TRIALS OF ZION": But I think it's exactly the opposite. It's the doves who empower the hawks. And I think I'll give you an example of it. In 2005, Israel conducted an experiment. They left the Gaza. And I spoke to the prime minister at that time, Sharon. He said, this is a model. We will leave the Gaza and then we will leave the West Bank.

And then the big question is what happens if the Gaza is used to fire missiles. And the whole international community says, well, we expect you to fight back. And then Israel had to do that. And then came the Goldstone Report.

And so -- put out by the, quote, doves. And so the Israeli moderates now say, how can we leave the West Bank, because if we leave the West Bank and Hamas takes over and there are rockets, and we try to defend our people, people like Nick and others will attack us. And therefore, it's been very, very hard to make peace because of the way Israel is condemned.

I support the Obama administration's view. Defending Israel's right to defend its people by proportional means -- and it's important for the international community to support that, if you want to see Israel eventually leave the West Bank. That's the only way Israel can leave the West Bank, if it knows it will have support if it has to defend itself against rocket attacks. .

MORGAN: General Kimmitt, it's an absolute mess over there and it has been for a long time. From a military point of view, is there anything that the Americans could be doing or pushing the Israelis to do to try and somehow come to a resolution that can work?

GENERAL MARK KIMMITT, FORMER DIRECTOR OF PLANS AND STRATEGY, CENTRAL COMMAND: Well, first of all, I think we have to accept that we're not going to kill our way to a solution here, that, in fact, in many cases the use of military force is counterproductive. However, there have been some recent advances in terms of our technology, such that systems such as Iron Dome have made it more capable -- a more capable Israel in terms of defending against these rocket attacks.

But if we believe that the military is going to be the solution to these problems, I think we have got another thing coming.

MORGAN: Yes, I mean, Tony Blair, ironically, was a man who was prime minister of Britain when he solved the Northern Ireland issue. And he's now right in the middle of all of this as the Middle East peace envoy. He would say to me that this comes down, in the end, when they debate with each other over a table, to tiny little parts of territory.

KRISTOFF: We know what the outcome will be if there is a peace deal. And they are very close.

MORGAN: Fractional issues, but still cause this terrible bloodshed, because it cannot be resolved.

DERSHOWITZ: We know what a peace deal would be to the Palestinian Authority. We don't know what a peace deal will be with Hamas. Hamas refuses to recognize Israel's right to exist.

MORGAN: This is why I asked the lady from the PLO, which is how much control do they have. Nick, I have a lot of sympathy for the poor people of Gaza, not Hamas who are blasting rockets, but the main booed of 1.5 million severely oppressed people living with no hope, no jobs, nothing.

What is the way to try and get a better life for them? Who can bring that to them?

KRISTOFF: Well, I agree with Alan that Israel certainly has a right to self-defense. A, I guess I would contest the idea that this is an effective way to do that. No Israelis have been killed by this shower of Hamas rockets, which is absolutely unacceptable and deplorable. But nobody had been killed until this action.

DERSHOWITZ: You can't wait until it hits a school bus. You have to take -- you have to stop the risk when you have hundreds and hundreds of rockets. You just can't wait until it hits a school.

KRISTOFF: But the upshot is that nobody had been killed until now. And now Israelis have died. And I also, you know, think that at the end of the day, this is going to be an ineffective way of advancing Israeli security. I do think that engaging with the Palestinian Authority is a way to undermine Hamas.

And that's not going to be something that is going to happen immediately. And Hamas is oppressive for Palestinians as well as Israelis.

MORGAN: I think it's a good point. Let's hold that thought, come back after the break and we'll talk more about this and also Benghazi and General Petraeus.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MORGAN: Back now with my panel, Nicholas Kristoff, Alan Dershowitz and General Mark Kimmitt. General, let me start with you about the events today involving General Petraeus and the Benghazi hearings.

It seemed to clarify a lot of messy issues in relation to this. Was that your reading?

KIMMITT: Actually, in some ways, it made things more confusing. We now understand that there was a set of unclassified talking points used by Susan Rice and then the classified talking points, which had a completely different set of conclusions in terms of who did this, when they did it, how they did it. So I think we're sort of left with more confusion. If, in fact, the article by Eric Schmidt in "the New York Times" is correct, it would indicate that these unclassified talking points had a specific purpose, to deceive the American people, but more importantly to deceive al Qaeda, so that they could continue to monitor their communications.

So I think there are still a lot of questions out there. And I'm not sure the last couple of days have clarified much.

MORGAN: Fascinating. Well, let me turn to you, Nick Kristoff. I mean, depending again who you talk to -- there you have a top general saying it's just gotten a lot muddier, and that actually -- is this the danger when you have the need to keep stuff classified because you're going after certain groups you think may have done this, but sending people out like Ambassador Rice to spin a yarn that it may have been a video protest?

KRISTOFF: In some ways, I think Mark is right that it has gotten muddier. But at the end of the day, while it is clear that security was inadequate in Benghazi and while it is clear that Susan Rice's statements, in retrospect, do not look right, I think it is clear that they're being blown totally out of proportion.

Susan Rice was not the person responsible in any meaningful way. She seems to have reflected the intelligence she was given. And the issue of security of Benghazi is not decided by the White House. It's decided at a far, far lower level.

So there's lot of mysteries here and lots of enigmas. But it doesn't seem to me that one of them is Susan Rice's responsibility.

MORGAN: There is also an each bigger picture, isn't there Alan, which is the whole resolution of the Arab Spring and how that it is playing out now in the region. It's Libya. It's Syria. You've just been to Syria, I know, Nick. And we'll talk about that. You have Israel and Palestine. Everything now seems to be a tinderbox.

DERSHOWITZ: There's no question. And I think what we're seeing in Gaza is Gaza testing Egypt. Gaza -- remember, Gaza started this. This didn't start with the assassination of the Hamas guy. There were rockets that came over and over again. The assassination was a response to that. This is not a cycle of violence. A cycle of violence doesn't exist when you have one group that's attacking civilians from behind civilians and the other group sending its military to stop the rockets.

It's a double human rights crime against accurate defense. But why would Hamas start this at this point? They want to test Egypt. And they're winning. Egypt is supporting them. Qatar is supporting them. Turkey is supporting them. This is what's so dangerous about this. This makes the likelihood of peace in the Middle East much harder. It empowers Gaza. It weakens the Palestinian Authority.

I agree with Nick that it would be best if the Palestinians and the Israelis now sat down and tried to work it out among themselves. But this all relates to the big picture of what's going on in the Middle East.

MORGAN: You've just been to Syria. It's an absolute basket case there, isn't it?

KRISTOFF: And it is heartbreaking. You just see these middle class -- I talked to one woman who a week ago was this -- living this middle class existence with her husband in a nice home with a car in Aleppo. And then a bomb destroys her house and then her husband goes missing, maybe shot by -- and she's living with her family in a little white tent in the middle of nowhere.

This is happening day in and day out. And I think the turmoil in Gaza is a gift to President Assad. It's the kind of distraction that he's probably delighted to have.

DERSHOWITZ: But the world in the Arab community is paying more attention to 30 people being killed in Gaza than 30,000 people being killed, Muslim on Muslim, Arab on Arab. And that's a sense of disproportionately as well.

MORGAN: The Arab Spring fallout, what is your take on that?

KIMMITT: Well, I think I would like to go back to Alan's point, which is exactly right. As you and I talked about three nights ago, Egypt could be the key player in this. Morsi's been in power now for about four and a half months. It will be very important to watch, is he going to be a pragmatist and hang tight to the policy of the last 30 years, maintain the Arab/Israeli peace agreement, the Egypt/Israeli peace agreement? Or is he going to pander to his -- not only to the masses and to the street, but to the fundamental philosophy of the brothers, which is to break ties with Israel.

The impact of Gaza goes well beyond Gaza, and could just add to an already unstable Middle East.

MORGAN: Yes, very, very dangerous situation. Thank you all very much for joining me.

Coming up, the explosive and always honest Jesse Ventura with his take on a second Obama term and how the Republican party can recover, if it can.

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MORGAN: President Obama wins. But will a second term bring any real change? Many Americans are fed up with Washington. Jesse Ventura has had a lot to say about that in the past. I'm sure he will tonight.

The former governor is the host of "conspiracy Theory With Jesse Venture" on our sister network, True TV. Welcome back, Jesse. How are you?

JESSE VENTURA, FORMER GOVERNOR OF MINNESOTA: Hi, Piers. How are you doing? Always a pleasure to talk with you.

MORGAN: So I was sitting there watching the election the other night, thinking, I wonder what Jesse Ventura is making of all this. You've got the Senate still Democrat, the House still Republican, Obama still president, nothing much has changed. Can we expect anything to improve?

VENTURA: Well, I don't know. They spent six billion dollars -- was spent to keep it the same. And we could have used that money for a lot of different things. And they have told us this time that they are going to work together with bipartisanship. And after all, Piers, they are politicians. They wouldn't lie to us, would they?

MORGAN: I suppose the ones with the real problems are not the Democrats, because they've got back in. But it's the Republicans who seem to have just run up against a large cliff. What do the Republicans do to try and reinvent themselves and make themselves more relevant, do you think?

VENTURA: Well, I think they need to change their ideas rather than their people. You know, if you just bring forward the same people with the same ideas, you are going to head off the same cliff. I think they need to modernize. They need to change some of their basic principles that don't discriminate against women and their rights.

Republican policy creates a lot of static and tension with different groups of people throughout the United States. And I think they need to somewhat back away from that a little more. If you look at demographics, the Republicans don't do well with young people very good. And they certainly don't do well with women. So they need to look at positions that maybe look more toward youth and look more towards the opposite sex.

MORGAN: What does President Obama need to do? He has got now four years left. Then that's it. We saw with Ronald Reagan and with Bill Clinton that with a second term, with a better economy, you can achieve quite a lot and become very popular in the process? Has Obama got that in him? Will he enjoy a better economy, do you think? And what do you want him to do now that he has four more years?

VENTURA: The big thing he has going for him is that he has four years that he doesn't have to worry about getting re-elected. You know, they start these elections about two years ahead of time usually. And that's where their focus goes on how do I keep doing this job, whether you're a senator, a congressman, or whatever it is. If you are a career politician, you always look out for yourself first.

When the president's in this position, having been elected a second time, now he has nothing to lose.

MORGAN: Where do you think he's been weak and where does he need to be stronger?

VENTURA: Well, I think he's been weak -- my son was a huge Obama supporter until Obama ordered that American's death with the drone. And then he lost my son, because my son was so offended that a president could kill a United States citizen without a trial, without anything like that. And my belief, is Obama has to stop prosecuting whistle blowers the way he has. He needs to go to state rights.

Let me say this, hooray for Colorado. Hooray for Washington, who took the first huge, substantial step in ending this idiotic War on Drugs. The people voted to legalize recreational marijuana, to treat it the same as alcohol. And that's going to create a dilemma for the federal government now. And this will be a good thing to see if the federal government will back off and allow states to have state's rights when it comes to things like drugs, marijuana, and a lot of the decision making.

MORGAN: Blimey, Jesse, you have ended on a slightly positive note.

VENTURA: I'm a positive person. What are you staggered about? I'm also very pleased -- I'm very pleased because we had the gay rights issue in Minnesota, where they wanted to put on our Constitution that marriage was between a man and a woman alone, and it failed. And so hooray for the state of Minnesota for standing up and voting against discrimination.

MORGAN: Well, Jesse, I can only say I totally agree with you on both the drugs and the gay marriage issue. So we end on a surprising consensus. Good to talk to you again.

VENTURA: Good to talk to you. And I encourage everyone to enjoy "Conspiracy Theory." They sure were fun to make. And I met all sorts of people that I can't believe I met. It was a great time making another season of it.

MORGAN: I can't think of anybody better to front a show called "Conspiracy Theory With Jesse Ventura." It begins its third season on True TV every Wednesday. Good luck with it, Jesse.

VENTURA: Thanks, Piers. Good to talk to you.

MORGAN: Take care. And we'll be right back.

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MORGAN: This Sunday, Sir Roger Moore tells me about being James Bond. He also talks about his rivalry with Sean Connery.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: I always think, with all of the Bonds, that Sean Connery would win a fight. If you all went into a bar and a big fight broke out, Sean Connery would probably be the hardest. I think that you, though, would -- you would pull the most women. I think they would gravitate to that little twinkling raised eyebrow.

ROGER MOORE, ACTOR: I always said that Sean was a killer and I was a lover. I now say that Daniel Craig is the real killer.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: Roger Moore. That's all for us tonight. "AC 360" starts now.