President Bush says the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein has to go. But has he made his case? Should the administration release its intelligence against Iraq?
We'll ask the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democratic Senator Bob Graham of Florida, and Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who wants to debate the issue in Congress.
Then we'll talk about the politics of an attack, internationally and at home, with Robin Wright of the L.A. Times and Rick Berke of The New York Times.
But first, an attack on Iraq on Face the Nation.
Good morning, and welcome again to the broadcast. Bob Schieffer is off this morning.
And joining us now from Miami, Senator Bob Graham, and from Philadelphia, Senator Arlen Specter.
Thank you both for being here with us this morning.
Let me get right to it. In a piece in the New York Times this morning, former Secretary of State James Baker says that military force is the only way to topple Saddam Hussein and anybody who thinks otherwise is, as he puts it, not realistic.
Senator Graham, do you agree with that assessment?
SEN. BOB GRAHAM, D-FL: I would agree with both the assessment that military force would be necessary and that it would be substantial.
The question that I think needs to be asked is, what is the context in which an attack against Iraq is going to be predicated? I believe we have some other priorities, one of which is completing the war on terrorism. We've made great progress in Afghanistan, although for the last several months, we've been conducting what's been referred to as a mopping-up operation rather than an active war.
We need to have a plan to move beyond Afghanistan, particularly to those countries which have significant Al Qaida cells, and to the training camps where the next generation of terrorists are being prepared. I consider those to be our priorities.
BORGER: So, are you saying that Iraq is not one of those places in which Al Qaida training cells might exist? Because Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld says there are Al Qaida in Iraq.
GRAHAM: There has been some indication that there are training bases in the northern part of Iraq, which are outside of the jurisdiction of Baghdad or under the control of the Kurds in Iraq. There are significant training camps elsewhere that, in my judgment, along with centers of Al Qaida activity, should be our priorities in the war on terrorism.
BORGER: Senator Specter, huge military force necessary to invade Iraq?
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER, R-PA: I believe ultimately it will be, but before we can make a judgment on that, Gloria, I think we have to know what the president has in mind. I believe that the Congress has to consider these matters in depth.
If you have an emergency, then under the Constitution, the president is commander in chief and he can act. But where we have time to deliberate, to debate and to decide, then it's a matter for Congress.
So, I would want to know what the president really has in mind. I would like to know exactly what we are going up against. We have solid indicators that Saddam Hussein has chemical warfare, developing biological. At this point, we do not have clear-cut evidence on nuclear. I believe that before we act in a military way, there has to be a clear and present danger.
I do like what former Secretary Baker said today in his op-ed piece in the New York Times about pushing for inspections. Senator Shelby and I were in Sudan last week in Africa, and there a regime has been set up on spot inspections, no warning, breaking locks, going right in. And the intelligence people who are conducting those inspections are reasonably confident, at least as to the installations they have inspected, that there are no weapons of mass destruction.
So, I think that before we use military force, we ought to try all of the alternatives: economic sanctions, diplomacy, inspections. But ultimately, we've learned a bitter lesson from September 11th. By 20/20 hindsight, which is always so much better, we should have taken out bin Laden a long time ago. And we have to evaluate the Saddam-Hussein threat very carefully and use force only if we have no alternative once that decision is made by Congress.
BORGER: Well, let me go to Senator Graham on those points.
First of all, since you do chair the Intelligence Committee, perhaps you can shed some light for us on whether our intelligence is actually good enough on Iraq's chemical and biological weapons to base an attack on. Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, said this morning that he does not have proof of those weapons.
GRAHAM: Our intelligence is not as good as we would like it to be in Iraq. We are working both unilaterally and with allies to try to enhance that intelligence.
I believe that if the issue for Saddam Hussein, as it is primarily, is one of weapons of mass destruction, rather than the issue of his role as a terrorist, that we ought to look at the issue on a broader basis. The principal place where weapons of mass destruction represent a threat to the world, not in Iraq, but in the former Soviet Union, where there are thousands of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons being held in very non-secure places. There also are areas elsewhere where there are allegations of weapons of mass destruction, as close as Cuba. There is now a State Department assessment that active work toward the development of biological weapons is under way.
I agree with what Senator Specter has just said, that we ought to be using an aggressive United Nations forceful entry into those areas where we think there might be weapons of mass destruction under development, whether it's in Iraq, Cuba or the former Soviet Union.
BORGER: Do you think we should go to the U.N. Security Council, as Secretary Baker suggests, and ask for intrusive inspections?
BORGER: Do you believe that we could get anything of any value from these inspections, Senator Specter?
SPECTER: Well, I think that we could on the analogy which Senator Shelby and I saw in the Sudan. Gloria, I think we have to be very careful that, when we go to the U.N., we do not give up our prerogative to act if we think it necessary to do so.
The first thing we ought to try to do is to develop an international coalition as President Bush did in going into Afghanistan to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda. But if we can't develop an international coalition, we are not going to allow France or Russia to veto what we think we need to do.
But the beauty about what former Secretary Baker said is this, that Saddam Hussein has already committed himself to inspections by the United Nations, and he's thumbed his nose at the U.N. So that going into the U.N. on that one aspect and saying, "Provide force to do those inspections," if he continues to stonewall us, I think, is a very sound idea.
BORGER: Senator Graham, do you believe that that would help us gain more allies in any action taken against Iraq then?
GRAHAM: Yes. I was recently in the Middle East and was stunned at the level of anti-Americanism that I heard from governmental officials and from people in the street. And I believe that one of their concerns is that the United States is acting too autonomously, without consulting with the rest of the world, particularly with our allies.
And by going to the United Nations, making the request, even if it results in Iraq stonewalling a U.N. proposal for intrusive inspections, it would move us into the moral high ground in appealing to our allies for their collaboration and gaining the support of the world for whatever form of action we end up taking against Iraq.
BORGER: So would an Iraq rejection of any inspections be enough provocation for us to attack then, Senator Graham?
GRAHAM: It would be a significant part of building the case that Iraq must be doing something which is going to be of danger to its neighbors and to the world, or they would not be acting in a way that is so contrary to world opinion.
BORGER: Senator Specter, do you believe that the United States would initiate an attack against another country without a specific provocation?
SPECTER: No, but we have a lot of provocation from Saddam Hussein at the present time.
If you take the analogy, Gloria, as to what happened with bin Laden, we should have acted much sooner. He was under indictment for killing Americans in Mogadishu, the embassy attacks. Now we have Saddam Hussein thwarting the U.N. on the inspections, going back on his commitments.
And I think if we followed the path of saying, let's enforce those inspection rights, and Saddam turns them down, and we really confront our allies saying, "If he will not comply with his commitments, let's enforce compliance, use the force necessary," which is the Baker idea, and he still resists, then the common-sense inference is that he has something to hide.
And if you have Congress considered -- and we've had a very good national debate in the course of the past several weeks with many of President Bush's strong allies in the Republican Party coming in to say slow down, analyze; so that if you had congressional action, then it buttresses the point that there has been a lot of thought given to a resolution to use force, that it's not just the decision of one man, even the president of the United States.
BORGER: Senator Graham, some people believe that you have to show a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11 in order to invade Iraq, to attack Iraq. If there were such a link between Hussein and 9/11, wouldn't we know it by now?
GRAHAM: First, there has not been very convincing evidence that there's a link. The link was originally described as having two components: one was complicity in the acts of 9/11, or second, continuing to harbor international terrorists. There is scant evidence to date that Saddam Hussein has been involved in either of those two activities.
I believe the principle box in which Saddam Hussein is placed is not as a protector of terrorism, rather as the developer of weapons of mass destruction.
And it is within that framework that we should be building the case, if we are going to take action against him, to gather international support and to take the high ground, so that when we do act, we will have the moral force of the world on our side.
BORGER: Should President Bush release intelligence that he has to make the case to the American public? Senator Specter, and then Senator Graham.
SPECTER: I believe that he should release it. Key congressional officials, the chairman and ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, perhaps some of us on the Judiciary Committee.
But there has to be public support, Gloria, for anything which is done. We learned a bitter lesson from Vietnam, that unless the public is behind a war effort, unless the Congress is behind it -- so that I believe a fair amount of information has to be released. Unless it is going to compromise sources and methods, the information has to be released.
BORGER: Senator Graham?
GRAHAM: I would agree with Senator Specter. And the analogy is what the president did in September and October, releasing what had previously been classified information to make the linkage between Osama bin Laden and the horrific acts of September the 11th.
BORGER: Senator Graham, very quickly, speaking of leaks, the FBI has intensified its investigation into leaks coming from Capitol Hill regarding 9/11. Seventeen senators have been asked for their own personal records, their phone logs. Have you been asked to take a polygraph?
GRAHAM: I can't answer that question because we're not supposed to discuss the direct interviews with the FBI.
BORGER: Would you take a polygraph then?
GRAHAM: I would -- the answer is yes, subject to the approval of the leadership of the Congress as it relates to issues of the separation of powers between the Congress and the executive.
But we take these leaks very seriously. We have currently under review not only members and staff of Congress, but also executive agency and intelligence agency officials who heard the same information during the same closed hearings.
We felt that the most appropriate means of doing the review was to ask the Department of Justice, which could look at all of the potential sources of this leak. They are conducting that investigation, and we are fully cooperating.
BORGER: Thank you both very much for an illuminating discussion on Iraq. I'm sure we'll be talking about it very often in the future.
And we'll be back in a moment with our roundtable discussion.
BORGER: And with us now, Robin Wright of the Los Angeles Times and Rick Berke of the New York Times.
Well, your own op-ed page today had this op-ed from the former secretary of state, James Baker, saying there would have to be military intervention and that the Bush administration ought to go to the U.N. Security Council and demand intrusive inspections in Iraq.
What's this about?
RICK BERKE, The New York Times: Well, it's fascinating, Gloria, that we're seeing Baker speak out, because he's nowhere to be seen in this debate until today. And it's almost like he's channeling Bush's father, the former president, because they were so close.
And just last week we had Brent Scowcroft, another very close friend and former NSC adviser to the first President Bush, putting his own op-ed piece out in the Wall Street Journal, saying let's go slow, let's not jump into this.
BORGER: Does this mean that they can't talk to the administration directly, they have to go through the...
BERKE: It does make you wonder how -- what the role is of Bush's father in all this.
But I think what we're seeing now is this great public debate over what we should do with Iraq that we hadn't seen before. It seems like this administration was a couple of steps ahead of public opinion. And for months, we heard declarations from the president and others that we have to go in there and we're going to do something about Saddam Hussein. Now we're seeing a pulling back, and we're seeing what I think is a very healthy public debate from former administration officials, people close to the president, people close to his father. And I think it's a good thing.
BORGER: What about the internal debate, though, Robin, inside the administration? Is that what's going on? Is that just kind of bubbling over onto the op-ed pages of the New York Times and Brent Scowcroft in the Wall Street Journal? Is there still real serious discussion about whether to invade Iraq going on inside this White House?
ROBIN WRIGHT, The Los Angeles Times: Well, I think actually you've begun to see the coming together of different forces within the administration. And it came together during the talks with the Iraqi opposition the previous week, when the six major groups came into town.
And the message was twofold: One, the administration saying, look, we are on the same page now. It was very deliberate that they brought together people from the White House, the National Security Council, the State Department and the Pentagon to sit down with these also divided opposition groups to say, "Look, we are on the same page. It's now time for you to be on the same page."
And I think that what we're beginning to see is the debate framed not so much in terms of what is done militarily, which is where it's been focused really for several months now, and to begin looking at the political and diplomatic questions, which, in many ways, are far harder than the military questions, because it has to do with what comes next.
And only when you begin answering that question, do you begin to bring allies on board, because that's what they're most nervous about. No one challenges whether the United States can do it. It's really what happens afterwards. And I think, particularly in the aftermath of what happened in Afghanistan, there's a lot of nervousness about American follow-through.
BORGER: So you're saying the administration realizes it has a political problem domestically in this country right now.
WRIGHT: Domestically, and I think overseas as well, and that it's begun to address both.
BERKE: I think that's absolutely true, with Canada, Mexico, Germany saying we're not going to join you in this, I think that's...
BORGER: Germany calling it an "adventure," right?
BERKE: Yes, it's a real trouble for the administration, a real concern.
And so we have -- but we also have domestic questions, with the Gallup Poll the other day saying the country is divided about whether we should invade Iraq, when in November, after 9/11, there was an overwhelming support for an invasion.
So I think the administration has a lot of PR to do with our allies and internally to get people rallied behind the president.
BORGER: Has the administration started to work out its PR strategy?
WRIGHT: Well, I think that you're going to begin to see, over the next few weeks, a number of very specific moves. For example, the first week of September, the United States is going to host a meeting of not just the six opposition groups, but a growing number of other Iraqi exiles, military defectors and some of the non-government organizations of former judges and lawyers and professionals who are living outside of Iraq, bringing them together in London to talk about what's next and the democratic principles.
Then the opposition group is going to have a major international conference, again funded, backed by the United States, to try to talk through, again, the issue of what's next. What role can we play politically, not just in providing perhaps, you know, Kurdish troops in the north or Shi'ite dissidents in southern Iraq, but actually play a role in creating the next step.
BORGER: So they want these people to be spokesmen for opposition and go out there and speak in America about Iraqi opposition?
WRIGHT: Well, in fact, this week, the State Department is going to host a group of Iraqis brought from North America, Europe and the Arab world to teach them how to write op-ed pieces, how to appear on talk shows, how to get out there and write speeche, so that it's not just the United States who is out there calling for Saddam Hussein's removal, it's increasingly Iraqis talking about changing a regime.
BERKE: Gloria, I think you're already seeing the beginning of a PR offensive from the president himself. We saw him at his ranch the other day coming out and saying, wait, whoa, let's wait a minute, I'm a very patient man. He said "patient, patient, patient" again and again, because he wanted to drive home the point that we're not going to rush into war, we're thinking about what we're doing, which is quite a contrast to what his statements were before about the evil Saddam Hussein and we're going to go after him.
BORGER: Well, speaking of frenzy, this administration has also said that it's us in the press and particularly your own paper, Rick, the New York Times, that has overplayed the differences within this administration publicly about the question of whether to invade Iraq. What's your take on that?
BERKE: I think we're reflecting the churning that's actually going on inside the administration. We're talking about an invasion, and this is no small potatoes here. And I think it's only natural that we're going to want to hear all sides.
And as I said before, the debate is healthy. When people like Scowcroft come out and prominent Republican allies of the administration come out and say, "Wait a minute here, let's think about this, let's talk about that," I think that's significant.
WRIGHT: And I think you've also begun to see people ask that important question: Is Iraq part of the war on terrorism, or is it another agenda? Is it a holdover from the war a long time ago? And I think that's what you see many of the top former administration officials, be they Democrats or Republicans, begin to ask.
BERKE: Absolutely. I think what the problem is for the administration, or the challenge for the administration, is to provide a clear rationale for why we should invade and maybe to connect it to 9/11. You can just imagine they're scouring the intelligence reports to look for some connection with Iraq and 9/11.
BORGER: Well, both Senators Specter and Graham said earlier that the administration has to release at least some of its intelligence about Iraq to start making the case. How do you do that? How do you selectively release intelligence?
WRIGHT: Well, that's very difficult, because the real danger is, once you release some intelligence, you hint at the ways and means you got it.
And then you endanger the very people who may have provided it. And, if they are still inside Iraq -- and we have very limited resources inside Iraq, that's has been true for decades -- then you endanger the future sources of information.
So not until you're really prepared to lose those resources do you begin releasing information.
BERKE: And I think one thing that's very clear for this administration, usually when we're going to war, the public rallies around the president, but I think this week in California, we started seeing protesters show up around at the president's events.
And who knows? There were probably a lot of Democrats at those events, but it does underscore how there's not this unanimity in the country anymore that we should invade, and there's real debate going on that the president and the administration has to address.
WRIGHT: And I think one of the reasons you begin to see the president talking about patience is in part because he doesn't want to see Iraq become an election issue.
BORGER: I think we're going to have to leave it at that. Thank you both very much. I'm sure we'll have you back to talk about this some more.
And we'll be back with a final word in a moment.
BORGER: That's our broadcast for today. Thanks for watching. And we'll be back next week with another edition of Face the Nation.