FTN - 4/20/03

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BOB SCHIEFFER, Chief Washington Correspondent: Today on Face the Nation, Saddam Hussein's regime is finished. But what now? How will the United States handle the rebuilding of Iraq? How will Syria and North Korea react to what happened there?

And remember the 2004 campaign for president? It's still out there, and we'll talk to Joe Lieberman, Democratic candidate and senator from Connecticut.

Then we'll talk to one of the earliest advocates of the war on Iraq, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle.

Dana Priest of "The Washington Post" will join in the questioning. And I'll have a final word on surviving Susan. But first, Senator Joe Lieberman on Face the Nation.

ANNOUNCER: Face the Nation with CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer.

And now from CBS News in Washington, Bob Schieffer.

SCHIEFFER: And good morning again. We start this morning in New Haven, Connecticut where Senator Lieberman is standing by. Dana Priest of "The Washington Post" is here with us in the studio.

Well, Senator Lieberman, let's get right to it. You were one of the Democrats who perhaps was one of the strongest supporters of the president going into Iraq. The military part of it seems to be over, but now we're finding a very difficult job ahead getting this country organized. It appears that now there are those who want an Islamic republic.

What happens if the people of Iraq decide they want an Islamic republic, like a government like we just took down in Afghanistan, like we have in Iran? Are we prepared to live with that?

SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN, D-CT: That's a very important and relevant question, Bob. Let me say first that I did long support the overthrow of Saddam Hussein because I felt that the combination of this brutal dictator with weapons of mass destruction was a threat to our security, that he would either use those weapons against us directly or would give them to terrorists who would.

So I would say today, thanks to the brilliance and bravery of the American armed services, we and our children and grandchildren are going to be protected from that threat to our security. So we've won the war. And now, as your question illustrates, we've got to work hard to win the peace. We've got to work to make a transition to a representative and hopefully Democratic government.

But obviously, we don't want this to turn into a theocracy. In some ways, the Shi'a Muslims, for instance, never had freedom of religion under Saddam Hussein. They have a holy day this week. They're so excited to be able to go to the holy city of Karbala without fear. And I think what we want to help them do now is build a country in which all forms of Islam, all forms of all religions can be respected and not have freedom compromised in any way.

That's the challenge we have. But it's one, I think, that the majority of Iraqis will support and ultimately, they're the ones who will make the decision.

SCHIEFFER: Well, you talked about going to Iraq to disarm Saddam Hussein. The problem, many people say, is "Yes, we went there. We toppled him. But we have found no weapons of mass destruction." Does that make a difference?

LIEBERMAN: Well, it does make a difference, but it shouldn't diminish the fact that we have toppled him, that Saddam is no longer in control of the Iraqi government, that the Iraqis are free, which they weren't under him, and that we're free from fear of what he or terrorists working with him might and would have done to us.

Clearly, the pursuit of the weapons of mass destruction goes on. I am convinced and remain convinced, based on my own review of classified information that our government has, but also based on my review of United Nations conclusions in 1998 when the inspectors were last thrown out, that Saddam definitely had chemical and biological weapons.

We know he used them earlier. We know he had enormous quantities that were never accounted for. And that's why we've got to continue to look for them. He clearly hid them. We'll find them eventually.

DANA PRIEST, "The Washington Post": Senator Lieberman, many experts believe that weapons of mass destruction were developed in the Arab world that encircles Israel as a response to the Israeli nuclear program. If you really want a region free of nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction, do you think Israel should renounce its nuclear program and give up its nuclear weapons?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I think the question is who's the threat here? And a brutal dictator, undemocratic, who is probably responsible for the death of a million of his own.

I don't believe that they developed those weapons of mass destruction in response to anything Israel did. I believe that they developed them to use them against their neighbors. I'm talking about the Iraqis, their neighbors in the Arab world and the Persian Gulf.

Remember that Saddam was very clear that he had a plan. And the plan was to become the emperor, if you will, of the Arab world, to make Baghdad the capital of the Arab world.

Now, of course, that would have been terrible for the Arab world, and it would have been terrible for us. And, I think, in the short run his neighbors in the Persian Gulf and the Arab world are probably more significantly safe today than they were before, almost equal to our increase in safety as a result of our victory.

PRIEST: If you look at the post-war construction that's going on right now, and getting back to the previous question about an Islamic state developing, what exactly do you see the U.S. government trying to do to prevent that, if anything?

It doesn't look very clear right now that they have a plan to do that.

LIEBERMAN: Well, I felt over the last week or so, week and a half since Baghdad fell, and since the end of this past week when the Pentagon, though some fighting continues, effectively declared that the war was over, that we haven't seemed as ready as I had hoped we would have been.

And I've been speaking about this for months, to secure a post-Saddam Iraq, to get humanitarian aid in quickly, to get the sanctions lifted at the United Nations, to show the Iraqis that their lives would be better.

And I hope that we can now move more quickly to achieve those ends. But remember, it's only a small group that has demonstrated for what sounds like an Islamic state.

They may be jockeying for power within post-Saddam Iraq themselves. It seems to me that the majority of the Iraqis, who ultimately will decide, that's what our values are all about, democracy, the majority rules, will not want to go back to another form of dictatorship and loss of freedom through a theocracy.

They'll want to have democracy in which all religions, and all forms of Islam, particularly, are free to be observed in whatever way people want to observe them.

But we've got some delicate work ahead of us. And we've got to draw in all factions within Iraq so that they all feel that they're going to have a stake in post-Saddam Iraq. And I think we can do that.

We've got to move more quickly to it than we have so far, though.

SCHIEFFER: How long do you think the United States is going to have to be there with military troops on the ground in Iraq, Senator Lieberman? Months, years?

LIEBERMAN: Yes, well, one of the things we learned during the '90s in the Balkans, when we set a deadline, is that deadlines are arbitrary and don't make much sense, that the deadline has to be when the mission is completed.

And the mission is completed when real security is achieved and there's an Iraqi government that is stable, that represents the Iraqi people, that is in charge.

In fact, we may, over the long term, with the consent of the new Iraqi government, establish some permanent bases in Iraq. And wouldn't that be a dramatic change, where we have an allied government there in Iraq, at the center of the Middle East, where we may have not a permanent police presence, but one or another military base that's working in cooperation with the government there.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you about something you said the other day. You said the administration would be right now to use its influence to lean on Syria.

What specifically do you mean by that? Were you talking about military action?

LIEBERMAN: No, I'm not. I don't think that we should be going around picking fights now throughout the Middle East or throughout the Arab world.

We should take action where action is required to protect our security.

And remember that the war on Iraq was specifically targeted to Saddam Hussein and his weapons of mass destruction, but it was also part of our continuing war against terrorism.

And remember that after September 11th, when we declared that war on terrorism, we said it was time for the nations of the world to take sides. Either they were with us or they were with the terrorists.

The Syrians have not clearly taken sides. They have helped us some in pursuit of al Qaeda, but in other ways they continue to house and support several terrorist groups right in the Syrian capital of Damascus.

And I think it's time for us, through very aggressive diplomacy, to convince the Syrians to join us, to come to our side and to open up a new chapter in Syrian-American relations where economic assistance and business investment would be greater than it's been before, and the beneficiaries of that, of course, would be the Syrian people.

PRIEST: So it sounds like you're advocating a rapprochement with Syria?

LIEBERMAN: Yes, I think that would be one of the best results to come from our victory in Iraq over Saddam Hussein. Remember that Syria had the closest relations of any of Iraq's neighbors with Saddam.

So they're probably feeling unsettled right now, and they should. But there is no inherent conflict between us and Syria, geopolitically. I think they've got an opportunity now to truly gain long-term security for the Syrian people, and in the process help us to win the war on terrorism by stopping the support that they have given to terrorists.

That's the choice they face. And I hope that a combination of aggressive diplomacy, maybe the threat of some economic sanctions against Syria, will be enough to get them to join us in the civilized world against the terrorists.

SCHIEFFER: Well, what if we find out that there are some of these Iraqis who are part of Saddam's regime who are in Syria? What should we do about that? Go get them?

LIEBERMAN: I think we've got to give an ultimatum if we find that is so. And, clearly, that probably is the most logical path of escape for some of those around Saddam, through Syria.

We've got to give an ultimatum to the Syrians to help us capture or kill those elements of a Saddam Hussein regime that may be in Syria. There's some hopeful indication that the Syrians are beginning to cooperate with us, and I think we ought to build on that and try to make it into a broader rapprochement, to use the word that Dana used.

That would really help our security and stability in the Middle East.

SCHIEFFER: But is the other side of that if they don't cooperate then we should go after those people? Is that what you're saying, Senator?

LIEBERMAN: Yes, I hope we don't get do that, Bob. But they're war criminals. And if the Syrians don't cooperate I think we should use every part of our skill and bravery to go in and capture or kill those Saddam Hussein loyalists ourselves.

PRIEST: Countries in the region keep asking the United States to bring in the U.N. Do you think it's time now to bring in the U.N. in Iraq?

LIEBERMAN: Well, in a way. Let me explain what I mean. Because the United States, Britain, Australia and a few others put the lives of our own on the line in the war on Iraq, and spent a lot of money in supporting them, it seems to me that we should have the most significant early role in post-Saddam Iraq.

But it would be a good idea for us to bring in other nations of the world and, in some measure, to bring in the United Nations to share the responsibility and the costs.

I think that makes every bit of sense. And remember that this is now about the Iraqi people, not about the United Nations. It's about letting the Iraqi people enjoy the freedom and better lives that our victory over Saddam ought to entitle them to.

I'd be hesitant. I know there have been some talks about bringing the United Nations inspectors, Mr. Blix's team, back in to help us find the weapons of mass destruction.

I don't think that's a good idea. I think they lost their credibility as a group. But there may be some international inspectors, people from other nations, perhaps people from NATO nations that didn't cooperate or stand by our side in the war in Iraq that now want to come in and help us find those weapons of mass destruction. I think we ought to welcome that assistance.

SCHIEFFER: All right, Senator Lieberman, thank you so much. It's good to get your views. We hope as the campaign unfolds we'll get to talk to you about some other things, including the economy. But thanks this morning for giving us your views on what's going on in Iraq right now.

We'll be back in a moment to get a perhaps different point of view from Richard Perle, in a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: And joining us now is Richard Perle, who is a member of the Defense Policy Board. That's an advisory group that advises the secretary of defense.

Welcome, Mr. Perle. We should add that you resigned as chairman of that board last month after some criticism that you had interest in companies that do business with the Pentagon. You're still a member of the board, and I must say you remain a person of considerable influence, I would say, on defense policy.

I saw this week where you said that people are saying that the way to sort of legitimize all of this, is to bring the United Nations in, and you said the way to legitimize this should be to let the Iraqi people themselves legitimize it.
What we're also se
eing this week on television, the emergence of large groups of people there who want to turn this into an Islamic republic, a theocratic state. You just heard Senator Lieberman and what he said about that. What if that happens? Can we tolerate that?

RICHARD PERLE, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense: Well, if we want, as I believe we must, Democratic rule in Iraq, then we will have to accept the consequences of freely chosen leaders by the Iraqis. That's where legitimacy lies, not in some bureaucracy either from New York or elsewhere, but in what the people of Iraq want for themselves.

I agree with Senator Lieberman that they are unlikely to choose another source of oppression, which, the theocracies unfortunately of the Muslim world are in fact. You look across the way at Iran. There's no freedom in Iran. So I believe that, given a choice, the Iraqis, after a quarter of a century of brutal oppression, will opt for freedom, for pluralism, for something that represents the interests of all Iraqis, not just one group.

SCHIEFFER: Well, how can the United States prevent that from happening? Is there a role for us and our government here from here on?

PERLE: I believe it's important that we help bring stability to Iraq as quickly as possible, and then leave. Leave as soon as we can safely turn Iraq over to the people of Iraq. The longer we're there; I think the greater the danger that opposition to our presence will build.

And it will certainly be encouraged by outside forces, by the Iranians, for example, who will do everything they can to destabilize Iraq as part of their ongoing conflict with the United States.

SCHIEFFER: Well, when you say we should leave as quickly as possible, do you think that can be done in a matter of months? Is it going to take years as some are now saying? What's your estimate if you had to make one?

PERLE: So many people are now dusting off their earlier predictions about everything including how long the war would last. So it's always hazardous to make predictions, but I think a transition could be short, a matter of months. I would hope it would be only a matter of months.

SCHIEFFER: Really?

PRIEST: Going back to the notion that there might be an Islamic state in Iraq, how does that make the United States safer? Didn't we go into Iraq in order to counter terrorism? Islamic states these days seem to be very anti-American. How does that then go to our interest to now have created and allowed to flourish an Islamic state?

PERLE: Well, I think it goes too far simply to refer to an Islamic state to assume that it would be hostile to American interests. It depends very much on what kind of a state it is.

I think the Iraqis are going to prefer a state in which people enjoy real individual freedom, in which they are not oppressed by the extreme forms of Islamist thought; for example, the Wahabi Saudi propagated a form of Islam which preaches hatred of the west, which preaches jihad or holy war.

It doesn't have to be that kind of state. And I very much hope, and I think most Iraqis hope, that it will be a real democracy in which all the people of Iraq can profess their religion freely and live in real freedom.

PRIEST: Well, in that regard, we know that the Iranians are sending people into Iraq now and have given substantial arms and money and support for exactly that Shi'a community that we're most worried about. What should we be doing about that, and does the United States have a plan that it's putting in place now to counter that?

PERLE: We are trying to provide a secure basis for the transition to Iraqi government. I think we have to do that very quickly. I don't think we'll be given a long time in which to do it before the kind of activity you are referring to, which is stirring up hostile sentiment, is able to have its effect.

So the sooner we can leave, the better, and we can leave as soon as there is an Iraqi government or even an interim Iraqi government in place.

SCHIEFFER: You were one of the earliest advocates of toppling Saddam.

Now we hear reports that Syria is not being helpful to all this. What should be our position toward Syria? Should we be prepared to send military forces into Syria if, for example, as I asked Senator Lieberman, we discover that there are Iraqis there, part of Saddam's regime there?

PERLE: Well, I very much agreed with Senator Lieberman's response, that we should be prepared to chase down those closest to Saddam's regime, wherever we find them. I would hope that the Syrians would cooperate. It's certainly not in their interest, after what they have just seen in Iraq, for them to so blatantly oppose the interests we have in bringing this war to a conclusion, a final conclusion, and that means apprehending as many of Saddam's followers as we can.

They've also been supporting terrorism and we've been urging them not to do that. They're on the terrorist list. I would hope that they would pay close attention to reasonable requests from the United States on both those issues.

SCHIEFFER: But you basically favor going in, if we need to, if they do not cooperate, as Senator Lieberman said?

PERLE: I think if we knew that some of the people that we're most interested in apprehending were at a location that we can determine, we certainly have the skill to go in and retrieve them.

SCHIEFFER: Mr. Perle, thank you very much. It's always interesting to get your side of the story and your point of view.

PERLE: Thank you.

SCHIEFFER: Thanks so much for joining us.

Back with a final word in just a minute.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: And finally today, I thought the administration had no choice but to disarm Saddam Hussein, but when a group of film stars spoke out against the war and, in fact, became the main opposition group, I invited several of them, including Susan Sarandon, to state their reasons on Face the Nation, because that's what we try to do here -- present all sides of public issues.

The film stars seemed sincere, but I found their arguments unconvincing, as did most Americans, if the polls are right. Nevertheless, they did have a legitimate point of view that added to public understanding.

That's why I found it so ridiculous when the Baseball Hall of Fame Museum canceled a ceremony honoring the baseball movie "Bull Durham" because it starred Ms. Sarandon and her companion Tim Robbins, because, as the museum director put it, their opposition to the war could undermine U.S. policy and put our troops in more anger.

I doubt that. A nation that got through two world wars and Vietnam will probably survive a bad review from two actors.

But here is what does bother me: There seems to be a notion going around lately that any criticism of government policy is somehow dangerous, even unpatriotic. I doubt that too, because, to me, here is what is un-American: the idea that Americans will ever agree completely on anything, or that we would want to.

Knowing we can criticize the government is what makes us strong, not weak.

And you know who never figured that out? Saddam Hussein, to name one. Let's hope we don't make the mistake he did.

That's it for us. We'll see you next week right here on Face the Nation.

  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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