FTN – 8/4/02

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BOB SCHIEFFER, Chief Washington Correspondent: Today on Face the Nation: New violence in the Middle East and what to do about Saddam Hussein.

Yet another suicide bombing in Israel today left nine people dead, and a shooting in Jerusalem killed three more. All this as the administration debates what to do about Saddam Hussein. Are we on the road to war with Saddam, and what are the costs and risks?

We'll talk to two key senators: Democrat Carl Levin, chairman of the Armed Services Committee and Republican Chuck Hagel of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Then we'll get another perspective from Brent Scowcroft, who served as national security adviser to the first President Bush during the Persian Gulf War. He now advises the current president on foreign intelligence.

Gloria Borger will be here, and I'll have a final word on presidential vacations. But first, the prospects for war with Iraq, on Face the Nation.

And good morning again. Joining us now from Detroit, Senator Carl Levin; here in Washington, Senator Chuck Hagel.

In case you're just turning on the television set, the latest from Jerusalem: This morning a bomb ripped through a bus in northern Israel. Nine people killed in this attack. Three hours later, a Palestinian opened fire in the old city of Jerusalem in a gun battle there. Three people were dead. The group Hamas has again claimed responsibility. President Bush this morning condemned this latest attack.

Well, we want to talk about that this morning with our guests.

Let me just go to you, Senator Levin. Nothing seems to be working. People make announcements, we announce plans, but this violence continues to go on in the Middle East. And yet, at the same time, the administration seems to be focusing more on this preparing for war with Saddam Hussein.

Do you think there's a connection between what we're seeing this morning and Saddam Hussein?

SEN CARL LEVIN, D-MI: No, I don't think there's a major connection. I think there's a very vast difference, by the way, between the suicide bombers that we see attacking Israel and their civilians and the murder that exists in Baghdad. They're both murderers. Saddam is a mass murderer.

But the difference, I believe, is that Saddam is more interested in his own survival than these suicide bombers are obviously. And that's the key question which has to be resolved, I believe. There's a lot of issues, a lot of complex issues that need to be discussed relative to the issue of attacking Baghdad and Iraq. But the key question is whether or not Saddam is more interested in his own survival.

Does he love himself more than he hates us? And I think the answer is probably yes. And if that's true, then it would be unlikely that he would initiate an attack with a weapon of mass destruction, because it would be certain that he would be destroyed in response.

And it seems to me, that's the critical difference between Saddam and the suicide bombers.

GLORIA BORGER, U.S. News & World Report: Senator Hagel, you participated in these hearings this past week on Capitol Hill in which we were talking about the possibility of going to war with Iraq.

Do you believe that this administration has decided that it will go to war with Iraq sooner or later?

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL, R-NE: I don't believe that they have made final war preparations to go to war with Iraq. However, I do believe, as all responsible presidents and Department of Defense officials have to do, is prepare for contingencies, prepare for war options. We know Saddam Hussein is a threat. The real question here is, what is the urgency of that threat?

You led off the show this morning with the latest developments in the Middle East, in Israel. That is a huge problem. And I think Carl's point is right, it's most likely not directly linked to Saddam. But I don't think we can approach Iraq, the Middle East, Afghanistan, any of these hot spots in a vacuum. These are all regional-type issues that have effects on each other, and there will be consequences for actions or inactions. But as to the future of our relationship with Iraq, we must plan for these contingencies.

But the questions that we're asked today or this week before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee are the big one: What comes after Saddam Hussein? Would do we do this in a unilateral way with no allies? What would we want to gain? What would we hope to gain? What would be the reactions -- economic, political, diplomatic reactions to whatever action we would take? These are the dynamics. But we also must be careful that this doesn't lead us into paralysis.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let's just talk about some of these questions here, because what I find really interesting about all of this is these leaks that we're seeing come out of the Pentagon over the last couple of weeks, where clearly the uniformed military has some real doubts about how you go about taking out Saddam Hussein if a decision is made to do that, or in fact whether it is even wise.

Senator Levin, you had the secretary of defense before your committee this week. What do you think is going on there? Is this disagreement going on within the administration as serious as it appears to be, just from what we're getting from these leaks?

LEVIN: I think there is a serious difference, a significant difference and an important difference between the senior military leaders and some of the civilians in the Defense Department. Some of those civilians want to attack Iraq. They're not looking at the complexity. They're not looking at the aftermath. They're not looking at the fundamental question as to what Saddam's response would be to such an attack.

And there's no doubt that his response would be to use every weapon of mass destruction that he now has, which means that the result of an attack would be the very thing that we're trying to deter, which would be the use of a weapon of mass destruction. Because I think the Intelligence Committee is united on that; that if we initiate an attack against Saddam, that his response would be to use the very weapons that we are trying to deter him from using.

But I think there is a significant difference between the uniform military and civilians.

SCHIEFFER: Senator Hagel, where do you think he would use those weapons? Would he use it against an invading force? Would he use it against Israel?

HAGEL: Well, I think you have to assume that he would use them against both. One reason he would use them against Israel, as in 1991 when he fired Scud missiles into Israel, was to try to unite an Arab coalition behind him against the Israelis. It did not work. I think he would calculate all the various uses of what he does possess.

Part of the problem we have here is we don't know what the intelligence really shows. In the hearings we had this week, we had Ambassador Butler, others who are very knowledgeable and had probably the most recent exposure experience over there -- not sure either.

So, these are dynamics, as Carl has laid out, that we need to think through. That doesn't mean that should paralyze a decision we make, but these are very real and important questions we need to think through.

SCHIEFFER: What do you mean when you say you don't know -- we don't have good intelligence? What is it we don't know?

HAGEL: Well, first of all, we haven't been in there for four years.

We haven't had any U.N. inspectors in there for four years. Our intelligence is limited. We have to rely on second-, third-party intelligence from other nations, as well as our own intelligence.

How far along he is in developing a nuclear program, we don't know. Where are the possible sites for chemical, biological development, we don't know. These are the things that Carl's talking about that the military, the uniformed military are probing, because it's the guy on the ground. And this nonsense about some antiseptic air war is going to do it, that's folly.

The fact is that we're going to go in there. We need to go in there with all the might we can to finish the job and do it right. And that's going to require ground troops. And then you expose those ground troops to the possibility of chemical and biological weapons.

SCHIEFFER: How many ground troops?

HAGEL: I don't know what that is. Carl's committee has had a number of hearings on this. Some of the numbers that we heard are 250,000, 200,000. But as I said this week, if you think you're going to drop the 82nd Airborne in Baghdad and finish the job, I think you've been watching too many John Wayne movies.

BORGER: Well, you talk about a lack of intelligence. We don't know what's really know what is going on in Baghdad. This week the Iraqis invited the chief U.N. arms inspector back in. We have said this is a phony invitation. So has the United Nations.

Senator Levin, what do you do? Do you send in arms inspectors? Do you think that they will ever really get to the bottom of the question of what Saddam really has?

LEVIN: Well, I think you send them in, but you don't have any illusions as to whether they'll get to the bottom of what he has. Because I assume he would continue to attempt to hide those chemical and biological weapons and continue with a clandestine nuclear program if he can.

So, of course, if they can go in, you send them in, but that doesn't mean you're deterred from a course of action which you otherwise should take.

And planning is fine. We always ought to be ready. But the question is whether a decision should be made to attack, and that is a very complex question.

BORGER: Well, let me give you the flip side of the argument, which would be, why should we wait for Saddam Hussein to attack us first? Or to attack our allies first, to attack -- OK.

LEVIN: The reason is that we have deterred North Korea from attacking. They are a threat. We deterred the Soviet Union from any attack. They are a threat. In other words, the question is whether or not a containment policy with Saddam can work the way it has worked with North Korea and with other threatening countries.

So, there's is no doubt that he is a threat. The question is whether he would initiate an attack and whether or not he could be deterred.

And again, I think that he is not suicidal. He's more interested in his own survival, I believe, than anything else. And he would know that if he initiated an attack, he would be destroying himself, because our response and the world's response, I hope, would be massive.

HAGEL: Gloria, I think there's another answer to your question. If we would move in a preemptive way against Iraq, that would change a doctrine that this country has had as long as we've existed. And that would set in motion, or certainly could set in motion, a change in world military doctrine on a preemptive basis.

If you think the other guy has something that may in fact be a threat to you, a real threat, no matter how serious, and you then establish a new military doctrine, that preemption is now our doctrine. That then presents a whole new set of dynamics for a nation and for other nations -- for China, all nations.

Now, I'm not saying that isn't the right doctrine, but think this through a little bit. Because you could then use that excuse to go after North Korea, other nations.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let's -- let's take it one more step and that is what happens. Let's suppose we do do this, that the United States goes in, we topple Saddam Hussein. What happens after that, Senator Hagel? How long would the United States have to stay in Iraq? What does the intelligence saying about that? Is there somebody to take his place? Will we have to stay on the ground? What happens?

HAGEL: Well, that's the fundamental question I have been asking and, I think, others have been asking, what happens after Saddam? Could we further destabilize the Middle East? Absolutely we could.

There is no opposition group realistically in Iraq. There is no alternative right now. There is no answer to your question, quite honestly.

And many of the questions we asked the experts who came before our committee this week was that question. How long, at what cost? House-to-house fighting in Baghdad for American troops.

People were talking about a Marshall Plan. Well, let's remember, we still have troops in Japan. We still have troops in Germany. We have 38,000 troops in South Korea. So we need to think through this.

One other point I'd make on this, today is the 38th anniversary of the Tonkin Gulf incident. Two days later, 38 years ago, the Congress voted overwhelmingly to give the president complete power in Vietnam. We didn't ask any of these questions before we got into Vietnam. That's why this process is so important now.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let me -- just a final question to you, Senator Levin. Do you think at this point that we are going to go to war with Iraq?

LEVIN: I don't think that the president has made that final decision. I think the senior military leadership wants us to be much more cautious than some of the civilians in the Defense Department, so I do not believe that that final decision has been made.

A lot will depend on the events, as to whether the intelligence concludes that he will attack anyway, in which case, surely, there's justification if a conclusion is reached that he would initiate an attack. If he's connected to 9/11, I think the attack would then take place absent either of those factors.

I don't think the decision has been made by the president.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Well, I want thank both of you both very much.

Because I agree with you, Senator Hagel, these are not questions that were asked before we went into Vietnam. To put my own biases and position on the line, I haven't made up my mind what I think about this yet, but I'm going to keep asking these questions.

When we come back in a minute, we're going to talk with the former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft, in a second.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: With us now, General Brent Scowcroft, who was the White House national security adviser during the Persian Gulf War when this President Bush's father was president. He now serves as chairman of the president's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. I've known General Scowcroft all the way back to the Nixon administration, when he was Henry Kissinger's assistant.

General Scowcroft, let me just start with a question I asked Senator Levin. Do you think that this administration is heading toward a war with Iraq, and is that a wise thing to be doing?

BRENT SCOWCROFT, Former National Security Adviser: I think they're certainly considering it, there's no question about it. And I think the president has made clear that he considers Saddam a threat that has to be dealt with.

But I think now it's not a matter of either/or. It's a matter of setting your priorities and looking at the cost-benefit ratios.

There's no question Saddam is a problem. What his goal is, whether it's to dominate the Gulf, whether it's to dominate the oil resources, we don't know. But he's already launched two wars, and he spends all the resources he can in working on his military. So he's a problem.

But the president has announced that terrorism is our number-one focus. Now, Saddam's a problem, but he's not a problem because of terrorism.

BORGER: So do you think there is a terrorist link to Saddam?

SCOWCROFT: There may be some -- they have one thing in common, and that is an intense dislike of the United States is standing in their way.

SCHIEFFER: But when you say it's a priority, you're saying that Saddam Hussein is not part of the terrorist problem. And if we're going to fight the terrorists, that we should do that first and Saddam Hussein should be something we think about second. Am I understanding what you're saying?

SCOWCROFT: That's about what I'm saying. If you look -- let's suppose, for example, we're all ready and we launch an attack on Saddam Hussein tomorrow. It will be tough. It will not be a cakewalk. But can we take him out? Yes, we can take him out.

Now, what would the world or what would the region look like, if we did that right now? I think we could have an explosion in the Middle East.

King Abdullah of Jordan was just here again. He's obviously intensely concerned, because Jordan has a majority population of Palestinians. And to attack Iraq, while the Middle East is in the terror that it is right now, and America appears not to be dealing with something which, to every Muslim, is a real problem, but instead go over here, I think, could turn the whole region into a cauldron and, thus, destroy the war on terrorism.

SCHIEFFER: So what you're saying here this morning is that your advice to the president would be to stand back a little bit on Saddam Hussein and let's think about solving this problem with Al Qaida and getting -- finding these terrorists?

SCOWCROFT: I think so.

BORGER: So you're -- go ahead.

SCOWCROFT: Well, that and also the Middle East. If you can solve the Middle East, if we are seen to be bringing the parties back to the table and back to what we almost had in 2000, then the attitudes toward us and confidence on our leadership -- right now, there's almost a consensus in the world against our going into Iraq. That can't help but spill over into the war on terrorism.

BORGER: So you're saying that it would be counterproductive?

SCOWCROFT: At this moment.

BORGER: What would change then? I mean, when would it not be counterproductive? What if, for example, the administration proved a link between Saddam and 9/11?

SCOWCROFT: Oh, that would be one of the things that would make a difference. There are two -- several things that can make a difference. That would be one. Another would be if we can make progress on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. That would change attitudes dramatically.

A third, while we're focusing on that, would be to get the U.N. to insist on an inspection regime that is no notice, anytime, anywhere, so on. Saddam -- the administration says Saddam would never agree to it. But if he doesn't agree to it, that gives you the causis belli that we don't really have right now. So, you know, you can work both problems at once.

SCHIEFFER: But, General, how much of a threat do you believe that Saddam Hussein poses at this point? Do you think he has a nuclear weapon? Do you think he has chemical weapons? Do you think he has biological weapons? And would he use them?

SCOWCROFT: We know he has chemical weapons. He probably has biological devices and probably weaponized. He does not have nuclear weapons yet. It is most likely -- this is my guess -- it's most likely, though, a shortage of fissile material, which, if he has to manufacture it himself, is very hard to do without us detecting it. It takes big facilities. But there's a lot of fissile material around the world that he could steal, buy, whatever. But I don't think he's there yet.

But I think Senator Levin is right. This is not a man who will risk everything on the roll of a dice. If you go back and look at him during the Gulf War, he didn't do everything he could have done. He could, for example, have used chemicals -- planted chemical weapons in New York, for example, and said if you people do this, I'm going to release some nerve gas or something. He didn't do those.

BORGER: If we do go to war with Iraq, what should we do differently this time that we didn't do during the Gulf War?

SCOWCROFT: That's a hard question to answer because we would have different objectives.

BORGER: Take out Saddam, for example?

SCOWCROFT: Yes. The objective in the Gulf War was not to take out Saddam, it was to liberate Kuwait, and we did that. Liberate Kuwait and also prevent Saddam from being a threat to the region. He's still weaker than he was in 1990. He's trying to become a threat to the region again. I don't think he's there yet.

SCHIEFFER: OK. General, we have to stop it right there. Thank you so much.

SCOWCROFT: You're very welcome.

SCHIEFFER: Very enlightening this morning.

I'll be back with a final word in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SCHIEFFER: And finally today, with the president heading off to his Texas ranch for the rest of the month, his handlers delivered the obligatory message, "This is not a vacation, it is a working vacation because the president will be working."

All presidential staffers, no matter who is president, believe it is their constitutional responsibility to deliver that message and that the rest of us will actually believe it, which, of course, no one ever does.

I remember President Ford's aides explaining all this at the very moment the president was 200 yards away, skiing down Vale mountain. When we asked the president later if he had come to Colorado to work, he laughed and said, "I come out here to ski. I've always come out here to ski."

Usually the handlers, though, are just following presidential orders. There is a memo in the National Archives in which President Nixon gives detailed and explicit orders to aides to explain that he never played one round of golf during a trip to California, as he put it, and this is a direct quote, "to build up points that this should not be charged as a vacation."
Was he worried we would dock his pay?

And remember how Bill Clinton ran polls to gage voter reaction to his vacations? Is it better politics to go to the mountains or the beach? Now, there's an issue facing the nation.

Well, here is my take on all this. Everyone deserves a vacation, and my guess is most people don't begrudge any president, including this one, a little time off. And rest assured, the president will be working. Anyone who goes to central Texas in August has to work just to stay cool. I know, I grew up around there.

Well, that's it for us. We'll see you right here next week, rain or shine, on Face the Nation.
  • Bootie Cosgrove-Mather

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