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MEET THE PRESS Sunday, September 12, 2004
GUESTS: Colin Powell, Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, former Secretary of State during Clinton administration, Seymour Hersh, The New Yorker, author, "Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib," Bob Woodward, The Washington Post, author, "Plan of Attack"
MODERATOR/PANELIST: Tim Russert - NBC News
This is a rush transcript provided for the information and convenience of the press. Accuracy is not guaranteed. In case of doubt, please check with:
MEET THE PRESS - NBC NEWS
(Sundays: (202) 885-4200)
MR. TIM RUSSERT: Our issues this Sunday: the third anniversary of September 11th; the death toll, now more than 1,000 Americans in Iraq; and North Korea and Iran continue to build their nuclear programs. With us: President Bush's secretary of state, Colin Powell, and President Clinton's secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, on the foreign policy differences between George W. Bush and John F. Kerry. Fifty-one days to go. Then investigative reporter Seymour Hersh on the "Chain of Command: The Road From 9/11 to Abu Ghraib," and investigative reporter Bob Woodward on the plan of attack.
But first, the secretary of state, Colin Powell, is with us.
SEC'Y COLIN POWELL: Thank you, Tim. Good morning.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you the results of a poll by a group called Globe Scan and the University of Maryland. It said the following: "World opinion is overwhelmingly in favor of John Kerry to win the U.S. presidential election, according to a poll covering 35 countries. In 30 countries, many of them staunch allies of the U.S., the public favored Mr. Kerry over President Bush by a 2:1 margin. ... An average of 53 percent of respondents said that foreign policy under Mr. Bush had made them feel worse about the U.S. In Germany, 74 percent said they backed Mr. Kerry against only 10 percent for Mr. Bush. In France only 5 percent supported the president. In the U.K,"--Great Britain--"the margin was 47 percent" for Kerry, 16 for Bush.
Why is that?
SEC'Y POWELL: We have had difficulty with some of the European publics over our policy in Iraq. Many of their governments supported us; in fact, a large number of the European governments supported us. But the work is difficult, and people are waiting to see whether or not we're going to be successful. We are going to be successful. A terrible regime has been removed. We are dealing with this insurgency. It's a difficult insurgency to deal with, but a new course, just as we are getting ready to see in Afghanistan; there will be elections in Iraq. Iraq will be responsible for its own destiny, and I think when that happens, when we do get further into the reconstruction of Iraq, those attitudes will start to change.
MR. RUSSERT: Congressman Doug Bereuter, a Republican from Nebraska, is retiring. He wrote his constituents the following, Mr. Secretary: "I've reached the conclusion, retrospectively, now that the inadequate intelligence and faulty conclusions are being revealed, that all things being considered, it was a mistake to launch that military action [in Iraq]. ...[As a result of the war]"--in Iraq--"our country's reputation around the world has never been lower and our alliances are weakened."
That's a Republican. Are you troubled by that as the nation's chief diplomat?
SEC'Y POWELL: Of course. I'm troubled that we have to do a better job of conveying to the world what we have achieved in Afghanistan and in Iraq: two terrible regimes gone, 55 million people given the promise of freedom. The people who should be getting criticized right now are the insurgents and the terrorists and the old remnants of the Taliban and the old remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime who are trying to keep the Iraqi and Afghan people from getting to a better, brighter future. Those are the ones that should be getting the criticism, but we're getting the criticism right now.
But we're confident of what we're doing. We're confident in our strategy. We're confident that we've done the right thing in both Afghanistan and in Iraq, and this is not the time to get weak in the knees or faint about it, but to drive on and finish the work that we started.
MR. RUSSERT: Some organizations that try to look at these things objectively, one, The Royal Institute of International Affairs, wrote this: "Iraq will be lucky if it manages to avoid a breakup and civil war, and the country risk becoming the spark for a vortex of regional upheaval, concludes a report by Britain's highly regarded Royal Institute of International Affairs. In a bleak assessment of where Iraq stands nearly 18 months after the U.S.-led invasion to depose Saddam Hussein, the report focused on the internal forces dividing the country and the external pressures that could exacerbate the situation."
Could there be a civil war in Iraq?
SEC'Y POWELL: It's always a possibility, but I don't think it's going to happen. We have leaders in the interim government who represent every element of Iraqi society. We have Kurd, Shiias, Sunnis. They're all working together. What are they working together for? To end the insurgency, to build up Iraqi security forces so they can take care of their own security and to get ready for an election with the help of the coalition and the help of the U.N. These are dedicated men and women who get up every day in order to keep their country together, to work for a political outcome that reflects the will of the Iraqi people and they're being attacked by insurgents.
And so it is a difficult time. There's an insurgency that has to be put down, and when that insurgency is put down, what the people of the world will see are Iraqis in charge of their own destiny, moving toward an election that will provide for a representative form of government, the creation of a constitution and the ratification of a constitution, and it's going to be something they'll be able to be proud of.
And so this is a difficult time as this insurgency still rages and as we work to bring it under control, but it will be brought under control. It's not an impossible task. And when it has been brought under control, you'll find that the forces that keep Iraq together are stronger than the forces that pull it apart.
MR. RUSSERT: Well, the vice president said on this program we'd be greeted as liberators, and here we are 18 months later and you're saying an insurgency rages?
SEC'Y POWELL: There is an insurgency rage and we see it every day. There's no question about it, and it's an insurgency that has to be defeated because what does it represent? It represents the failed past. It represents individuals who have lost the dictatorial tyrannical authority they used to have over the people of Iraq. It's being fueled by terrorists who've come in to take advantage of that. And so it is a challenge, but we've faced challenges before. We've faced difficult times before, and this is the time to persevere and to stick with the strategy that we have and not to start taking such counsel of our fears or the fears of others.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me show and our viewers a map of Iraq. And here are some cities, Ramadi, Fallujah, Samarra, Baquba--all those areas are controlled by the insurgents, which led to this article, an interview with ranking officials and the U.S. government: "There is increasing concern in the administration over plans for the election [in Iraq], with some officials saying that if significant parts of the Sunni areas cannot be secured by January, it may be impossible to hold a nationwide balloting that would be seen as legitimate."
SEC'Y POWELL: Well, it's not time for the election yet, and your map, of course, didn't include the cities where the government is firmly in control and where people are working toward the election, but the cities you cited there are difficult areas in the Sunni triangle. In Samarra, there has been some progress recently. The new interim government is working with the authorities and other leaders in Samarra to bring it back under control. The rest will be dealt with. Our military commanders working with Iraqi military leaders and the Iraqi interim government have plans for each one of those areas to bring them back under government control in time for the election.
MR. RUSSERT: But how could you have a legitimate national election if you could not cast ballots in four major cities?
SEC'Y POWELL: Well, we want to be able to cast ballots in four major cities and that's why work is under way and there is a plan to deal with each one of these cities. Each city isn't simply a military task to be dealt with. It requires political effort, diplomatic effort, economic effort and, yes, military effort, just like you saw in Najaf over the last couple of weeks where a combination of military force squeezing the Mahdi militia and then using the Iraqi interim government leadership to talk to the people down there and the Ayatollah Sistani coming back in and doing some things which help bring the situation under control. And now the government is in control in Najaf and in Kufa and will start to extend that kind of control to other cities and those cities inside the Sunni triangle as well.
MR. RUSSERT: If, in January, the insurgency is still raging, might the elections be postponed?
SEC'Y POWELL: Nobody is planning to postpone the elections. Prime Minister Allawi has been quite clear about this. Of course, we have to bring that insurgency under control, but keep in mind most of the country would be in a satisfactory position for elections if they were held next month. So we have time to deal with the challenges that we face.
MR. RUSSERT: Yesterday, very painful memories of September 11, parents and grandparents remembering their loved ones. Henry Hyde, the chairman of the House International Relations Committee, said this on Thursday. "There is a direct connection between the war in Iraq and the bombing of September 11th. Our response to that bombing of September 11th was Iraq - and based on the best information available."
Is that true?
SEC'Y POWELL: I have no indication that there was a direct connection between the terrorists who perpetrated these crimes against us on the 11th of September, 2001, and the Iraqi regime. We know that there had been connections and there had been exchanges between al-Qaeda and the Saddam Hussein regime and those have been pursued and looked at, but I have seen nothing that makes a direct connection between Saddam Hussein and that awful regime and what happened on 9/11.
MR. RUSSERT: As you well know, the primary rationale given for the war was weapons of mass destruction. The deputy secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz, said this, that "...we settled on that issue because everyone could agree on it. ... There actually had been three fundamental concerns. One was WMD. Two was support for terrorism. The third was the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people. ... The third one by itself..."--the criminal treatment of the Iraqi people--"is a reason to help the Iraqis but not a reason to put American kids' lives at risk, certainly not on the scale we did."
In light of the fact there's no direct connection between Iraq and September 11, no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, is it worth 1,000 American lives and 7,000 wounded and injured simply because Saddam was a bad guy?
SEC'Y POWELL: Let me say, first of all, that we mourn the loss of every GI who has fallen in this conflict, not only in Iraq, but those who also fell in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the fight against terror. The president decided that action was appropriate in Iraq and he put together a coalition of many nations that joined in that judgment and joined in that fight. Because, one, Saddam Hussein has used weapons of mass destruction in the past. He had an intention. He had a capability. And all of the intelligence available to us and to the internal community led us to the conclusion that he had stockpiles and it was a reasonable conclusion at that time.
We have not found those stockpiles. We certainly have found the history of the use of such weapons and the intention and capability. There's no doubt in my mind that if he had ever been freed of international constraints and the pressure of the international community--if we all said, "Never mind" and walked away, he would have gone back to developing those weapons.
But there were the other factors as well. And the president's talked of them, just as Secretary Wolfowitz did, human rights violations, other things that he was doing and we also know that he was a state sponsor of terrorism--not a new designation, a designation that he's had for some time. And so all these things taken together, but leading with the concern about weapons of mass destruction and the nexus between weapons of mass destruction and terrorists that were now clear to us as a threat--as a result of 9/11, the president put all that together and, with the advice of his advisers, decided had to take it to the United Nations and we had to do something about it this time. And we did that and we got a unanimous resolution out of the United Nations, but some months later, when it was time to take action, in our judgment--in our judgment and the judgment of many of our friends, we took action, even as some of our Security Council colleagues and some of the nations of Europe did not wish to join us in that action.
MR. RUSSERT: If you knew today that Saddam did not have those weapons of mass destruction, would you still advocate an invasion?
SEC'Y POWELL: I would have to look at the total picture and we'd have to sit down and talk about his intention to have such weapons, the capability that was inherent. The only thing we have not found are actual stockpiles. We have found dual-use facilities. We know that he was keeping the intellectual base intact. We know that he had the intention. All of that is there.
What we didn't get right so far, and we'll wait to see what Mr. Dulfer finally does report, the actual existing stockpiles. That doesn't mean stockpiles could not have been produced out of the capability he had in a short period of time if nobody was watching and there were no constraints. The president chose not to take that risk and we all supported him in that judgment. Would it have been a different analysis that we went through and conclusion that we came to if we knew at that time that intention and capability but no active stockpiles? I don't know. We're going to have to--I can't replay that scene.
MR. RUSSERT: David Kay, the chief weapons inspector, testified before Congress a few weeks ago. And he asked a question, which I want to share with you and our audience and ask you to respond to it:
(Videotape, August 18, 2004):
MR. DAVID KAY (Former Chief Weapons Inspector in Iraq): Why was the secretary of state sent out to the CIA to personally vet the data that he was to take to the Security Council in New York and ultimately left to hang in the wind for data that was at least misleading and in some cases absolutely false, and known by parts of the intelligence community to be false?
MR. RUSSERT: What's the answer?
SEC'Y POWELL: The answer is that I did go to the CIA and spent several days and nights there. I'm not the intelligence officer of the United States, but I had to present the case, and so I went to see what the best information they had was and to see if it was vetted and substantiated. And the information I got, with respect to intention, with respect to capability, with respect to quite a bit about their programs, was pretty solid and it stood the test of time.
Where it did not stand the test of time was the actual existence of stockpiles and some of the judgments that were made about the nuclear weapons program. And in retrospect, we have discovered that some of the sourcing was weak. I don't think this was malicious on the part of anyone in the intelligence community. Some of the sources were weak. Some of the sources didn't hold up, they failed. And some parts of the intelligence community knew that some of these sources probably shouldn't have been listened to and their judgment was not brought into the equation at that time.
I'm disappointed. I'm not pleased with it and none of us are pleased with that, and that's one of the reasons we are going through such an examination of our intelligence community now, to make sure that that doesn't happen in the future.
But we have dedicated people in our intelligence community. They're trying to get the right answer. They are trying to get the best answer, and they have to penetrate veils of secrecy and people who are doing everything to keep the truth from you.
MR. RUSSERT: The president has said that he would "not tolerate North Korea becoming a nuclear weapons power." In fact, it probably has. North Korea, Iran, very serious threats and challenges to the United States, perhaps even an imminent threat. Why are we not focusing on those countries militarily, rather than going after Iraq, which we learned did not have weapons of mass destruction?
SEC'Y POWELL: There are many ways to focus on a country and in both of those countries--Iran and North Korea--we are focusing very intensely with diplomatic efforts. We are accused if we pick a military solution and then we're challenged if we pick a political diplomatic solution. Both of those situations, we have energized the international community.
In the case of Iran, when this administration came in and found the problem in Iran, we brought it to the attention of the world. We brought it to the attention of the Russians because they were getting ready to build a reactor at a place called Bushir. We brought it to the attention of the European Union, the IAEA. And for, you know, almost two years people were saying, "Well, maybe you're overreacting." And then suddenly, they discovered there were a lot of things going on in Iran not known to the IAEA, and now the world is exercised about it.
The IAEA will be meeting this coming week to examine it, and as you may have seen from some of the reporting, there is concern and there is a growing consensus that this has to be dealt with by the international community. So Iran is under pressure. It is under observation. It is making some bad choices, in my judgment, at this point, and the international community is responding.
With respect to North Korea, well, we came into office and the view was that nothing to worry about. North Korea has been contained by the agreed framework of 1994. But we discovered about two years after coming into office, that the North Koreans were working on a different kind of technology, highly enriched uranium, or enriched uranium, to develop a nuclear weapon. So the agreed framework might have constrained them in one area, but did not constrain them overall with respect to their programs.
So the United States called it the way it was, and took the intelligence where it led us. And what did we do? We got all of North Korea's neighbors involved in a six-party framework with the North Koreans to denuclearize the Peninsula. The North Koreans say they want to denuclearize the Peninsula. And so right now Korea's neighbors are working with us and are involved in tedious negotiations, as these negotiations tend to be, in order to denuclearize the Peninsula, and we still have confidence that this is the best way to go about it. A lot of reports about what North Korea is doing or is not doing and there's nothing that's conclusive with respect to the reports we see in our papers today.
MR. RUSSERT: Nuclear test?
SEC'Y POWELL: They haven't conducted a test to the best of our knowledge and belief and the activity reported today is not conclusive if they're getting ready to do one or not. If they were to do one, I think their neighbors would be, perhaps, more upset than the United States would be. But what we have to do is denuclearize the Korean Peninsula for sure in a verifiable way that leaves no question that the Peninsula has been denuclearized, and that's our goal.
MR. RUSSERT: North and South?
SEC'Y POWELL: North and South. And that is the stated objective of all of the six parties, to include the South Koreans and the North Koreans. That's the stated objective.
MR. RUSSERT: Vice President Cheney last week said something about the election--potential election of John Kerry. I want to roll his comments and come back and talk about them.
VICE PRES. DICK CHENEY: Because we made the wrong choice and the danger is that we'll get hit again, that we'll be hit in a way that'll be devastating from the standpoint of the United States and then we'll fall back into the pre-9/11 mind-set, if you will, that, in fact, these terrorist attacks are just criminal acts and that we're not really at war. I think that would be a terrible mistake for us.
MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe if John Kerry was elected and we were attacked by terrorists, he would simply treat it as a criminal act? Or would he deal with it in a robust way, an act of war?
SEC'Y POWELL: I can't tell you how he might respond to it. As commander in chief, I think he'd respond in a robust way. The vice president clarified those remarks later in the week. He wasn't casting any aspersions on Mr. Kerry by those remarks. What he was essentially saying is, "You know how this president has responded, how President Bush has responded to this kind of terrorist attack, and so you know where we're coming from and how we will deal with this kind of threat."
MR. RUSSERT: But you don't have any doubt that Senator Kerry, post-September 11, would deal with terrorism, as you said, in a--as a commander in chief, as an act of war.
SEC'Y POWELL: Well, there's no commander in chief, no president of the United States, who would not respond to terrorism. Now, how he would respond, and which strategies that individual would use--I can't predict the future.
MR. RUSSERT: You said that in Sudan we are witnessing genocide. In Bosnia, when we witnessed genocide, we sent in American troops. Is there a possibility we would send American troops as part of an international force into Sudan to stop this bloodshed?
SEC'Y POWELL: I don't see that as a possibility at this time. In fact, there's not a need to. I don't think it's the right solution, and no European troops are prepared to go in. The African Union has sent in a small number of troops, but they've indicated a willingness to send in a much larger number of troops, in the thousands. And so the strategy we're following now is to press the Sudanese very hard in the Security Council. And as you may have noticed, we're the only ones who have declared it as genocide. None of the other major nations of the world have done so. None of the international organizations have done so. We called it the way we believe it is, based on the work that we did.
And so we'll be pressing in the Security Council for a strong resolution, and in that resolution there will be support for an expanded African Union presence, in the form of monitors and protection forces for those monitors, so they can have a better understanding of what's happening throughout the Darfur region and contain and constrain the activities of these Janjaweed militias by just being in the area and watching what's going on. We hope the Sudanese government will respond.
It is our desire to work with the Sudanese government to complete the important work we have done in the North-South agreement, and to bring Darfur under control so that we can help the Sudanese people to a better life, to peace after so many years of war, north-south and east-west. And so our effort is not to destroy the Sudanese government or to cause them difficulty, but to help them to bring this situation under control so they can get on a path of peace and off this path of conflict.
MR. RUSSERT: Secretary of State Colin Powell, as always, we thank you for your views.
SEC'Y POWELL: Thank you, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: Coming next, the view from the Kerry campaign with the former secretary of state, Madeleine Albright. Then, investigative reporter Sy Hersh of The New Yorker and Bob Woodward of The Washington Post. They are all coming up right here on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. RUSSERT: The view on Iraq and the war on terror from the Kerry campaign with former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright after this brief station break.
MR. RUSSERT: Madam Secretary, welcome back to MEET THE PRESS.
MS. MADELEINE ALBRIGHT: Good to be with you, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: Let me take you back to August 9th. Many see this as a turning point in the campaign for John Kerry. He was asked this question. "The President last week challenged you to answer yes or no to the question of whether if knowing what you know now, you would still have voted to go to war? Are you going to take that challenge up?" And this is how Senator Kerry responded.
(Videotape, August 9, 2004):
SEN. JOHN KERRY, (D-MA): I'm ready for any challenge, and I'll answer it directly. Yes, I would have voted for the authority. I believe it is the right authority for a president to have, but I would have used that authority, as I have said throughout this campaign, effectively.
MR. RUSSERT: Knowing that Saddam Hussein does not have large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, Senator Kerry still said he would have voted to authorize war. Why?
MS. ALBRIGHT: Because what he said, as he explained right there, he wanted to give the authority to the president to get the international community together to put pressure on Saddam Hussein to live up to his obligations, accountability. And, in fact, as a result of that vote, President Bush was able to go to the United Nations and get support for getting the inspectors back in. What surprises me is how President Bush did not use that diplomatic victory in order to let the inspectors do their work and then go about trying to get international support for further action against Saddam Hussein. And that is what Senator Kerry voted for. He voted to give the authority--and let me just say this. When we were in office, we had people that voted for us to have authority, Senator McCain, for instance, and then was very critical in terms of the way that the war was being carried out. So giving authority, I think, is something that is appropriate. Giving a blank check is not, and Senator Kerry, in his floor statement, made very clear that he expected the president to go to the United Nations and rally international support.
MR. RUSSERT: But he said knowing what he knows now. So even though he knows there are no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, you still go to war?
MS. ALBRIGHT: Well, I think--no, you still give the president authority to carry it out in a different way, and that is what he was saying. He has said over and over again that he would have carried out this whole situation differently and that he thinks that there have been miscalculations by this administration all along the way.
MR. RUSSERT: Here's the confusion, I think, that exists in some Democrats' minds about Senator Kerry's position. This is what he said Wednesday about the cost of the war. Let's watch:
SEN. KERRY: I would not have made the wrong choices that are now forcing us to pay nearly the entire cost of this war; $200 billion that we're not investing in education and health care, job creation here at home; $200 billion for going it alone in Iraq. That's the wrong choice. That's the wrong direction and that's the wrong leadership for America.
MR. RUSSERT: Now last August on this program, six months into the war, I asked Senator Kerry about how much we should invest in Iraq and here's that exchange:
(Videotape, August 31, 2003):
MR. RUSSERT: Do you belive that we should reduce funding that we are now providing for the operation in Iraq?
SEN. KERRY: No. I think we should increase it.
MR. RUSSERT: Increase funding?
SEN. KERRY: Yes.
MR. RUSSERT: By how much?
SEN. KERRY: By whatever number of billions of dollars it takes to win. It is critical that the United States of America be successful in Iraq, Tim.
MR. RUSSERT: How do you reconcile that?
MS. ALBRIGHT: Well, I think the question is how the money is being spent, and what Senator Kerry has said over and over again, that the miscalculations by this administration for the postwar conflict has wasted money. And the other part of his statement on this has been--is why should we bear 90 percent of the cost? During the first Gulf War, it was the other countries that bore 95 percent of the costs, and now we're doing it alone. So I think the point here is that Senator Kerry wants Iraq to be done right, and that has been a very important point. But the way that things have been carried out, and the post- conflict situation has been such a disaster, that, in fact, the money has been wasted. Where has it gone? And I don't see a conflict between those two statements because it's talking about two different things.
MR. RUSSERT: He did say however, whatever number of billions of dollars that it takes to win. And the president is saying, "Well, it's costing $200 billion, maybe more to win." Senator Kerry seemed to be supportive last August, but not now.
MS. ALBRIGHT: He wants to win. We all want to win. And I have said that this is a war of choice, not of necessity, but getting it right is a necessity and not a choice. We all want to win and we all want to bring the troops home. But the point here is how is the money being spent? And day after day we are seeing that the reconstruction efforts aren't working, that we are further away from trying to get a solution. The insurgency is rising. And as Secretary Powell just made clear, it doesn't sound as though these elections are going to take place in January. So what Senator Kerry is saying is $200 billion spending, and we're not seeing the right results.
MR. RUSSERT: Secretary Powell said he expected the elections to take place in January?
MS. ALBRIGHT: Well, I think that he wasn't dead sure about it, and part of the issue here is that we have to work backwards. In order for those elections to take place, the United Nations, that has the mandate for really setting those up, has to feel secure. And the U.N. does not feel secure because it does not have a security force to protect it. And the U.S., I don't think, has done enough to try to rally international support to give that kind of support to the U.N. And so elections--it would be lovely if they took place in January, but I sure don't see it because the U.N. itself has said it would take about eight months to get those elections ready. And there are not eight months between now and January.
MR. RUSSERT: There's a growing divide between the perception the American people have of George Bush and John Kerry on critical issues. Here's Time magazine. "Who do you trust to do a better job of handling the situation in Iraq? Bush, 57; Kerry, 37. The war on terrorism: Bush, 58; Kerry, 35."
What is John Kerry's position on Iraq? What would he do right now as commander in chief?
MS. ALBRIGHT: He has said that what he would do is to try to make clear that we have to internationalize it. That he, in fact, would press to try to get the countries in the region to make sure that the borders are not so porous, get NATO more involved in it, try to, in fact, move forward on trying to get the Iraqis better trained, and turning it over to the Iraqis in a way that I think is much more effective than what this administration has done.
But his main point here is that we cannot do it alone and that we have to internationalize this and that our forces need to be equipped better and that, in fact, we have to be able to get the Iraqis properly trained and, in many ways, try to get others to pick up the burden.
MR. RUSSERT: When you say get others, internationalize, do you believe that if John Kerry was elected president, the French, the Germans, the Russians would send troops to Iraq?
MS. ALBRIGHT: I believe that there would be a lot better chance than what we have now, because as you showed in the earlier segment with Secretary Powell, the number of foreign countries that don't want anything to do with this is very large. And while I can say this now as a former secretary of state, there is no country now that is going to say they will go one way or another because it's not diplomatically appropriate. But the bottom line is that we have to change leadership because President Bush has squandered our credibility and our reputation, and I think that Senator Kerry has a much better chance of getting other countries in there because he would listen to what they have to say and create a coalition that I think would make clear that this was in everybody's interest and not just Americans acting as occupiers.
MR. RUSSERT: The Washington Post did a poll and they asked the following question: "Who will make the country safer and more secure? George Bush, 54; John Kerry, 35." The vice president of the United States said that no matter who is elected president, there will be another terrorist attack, but the difference is that John Kerry may not have learned anything from September 11 and would deal with it as a criminal act rather than an act of war.
MS. ALBRIGHT: Well, this is just a series of outrageous statements that Vice President Bush has been making and using scare tactics, and it is...
MR. RUSSERT: Vice President Cheney.
MS. ALBRIGHT: Vice President Cheney said that. And I think that that is a terrible way to go about a national security issue, and I have personally--I'm speaking personally now--I have never seen a national security issue as politicized as this one has been since Joe McCarthy, and we cannot go on like this with scare tactics.
There is no question that Senator Kerry would have reacted to an act of war in a military way. But we also have to understand that law enforcement plays a part in dealing with the terrorists. You have to use both tools and there is no question that the response to something like 9/11 would have been a military response.
MR. RUSSERT: You're comparing Dick Cheney to Joe McCarthy?
MS. ALBRIGHT: No, I'm not. I'm saying that this kind of activity, this politicalization of this issue is outrageous. He is vice president of the United States, and it is irresponsible to make those kinds of statements.
MR. RUSSERT: You heard the secretary of state say that when the Bush administration took over in 2001, they were told by your administration, the Clinton administration, in terms of North Korea, "There was nothing to worry about."
MS. ALBRIGHT: I have the highest respect for Secretary Powell and I found that statement, I have to say, somewhat surprising, because we were in the middle of very tough negotiations with the North Koreans. In fact, the reason we were involved in this is that we thought that North Korea was the most dangerous place to deal with. And we were working on limiting their missile technology and dealing with a whole host of issues and when we briefed Secretary Powell and Dr. Rice, we made clear that those negotiations needed to proceed. And I had every sense that Secretary Powell wanted to go on with that, so we never told them everything was all right.
MR. RUSSERT: But didn't North Korea develop a nuclear bomb on Bill Clinton's watch?
MS. ALBRIGHT: No, what they were doing, as it turns out, they were cheating. And the reason that you have arms control agreements is you don't make them with your friends, you make them with your enemies. And it's the process that is required to hold countries accountable. The worst part that has happened under the agreed framework, there was these fuel rods, and the nuclear program was frozen. Those fuel rods have now been reprocessed, as far as we know, and North Korea has a capability, which at one time might have been two potential nuclear weapons, up to six to eight now, we're not really clear. But in this period of time when there has not enough action been taken, I think that the threat from North Korea has increased.
MR. RUSSERT: And it is now an imminent threat?
MS. ALBRIGHT: Well, I think it's a very dangerous threat, and I also think they get the wrong message out of Iraq. You know, we invade countries that don't have nuclear weapons and we don't invade those that do. We didn't invade the Soviet Union and China, so why not build up nuclear weapons as quickly as possible?
MR. RUSSERT: Madam Secretary, we thank you for your views.
MS. ALBRIGHT: Thank you.
MR. RUSSERT: Next up, Seymour Hersh, author of the "Chain of Command," Bob Woodward, author of "Plan of Attack." They are next, right here on MEET THE PRESS.
MR. RUSSERT: And we are back.
Mr. Woodward, Mr. Hersh, welcome both.
Sy Hersh, your new book, "Chain of Command"--you say that senior military and national security officials in the Bush administration were warned by subordinates in 2002 and 2003 about prison abuse?
MR. SEYMOUR HERSH: Absolutely.
MR. RUSSERT: What do you base that on?
MR. HERSH: After I did a series of articles on this stuff for The New Yorker, people who worked inside the White House came to me and said, "Look, this is much more far-reaching than you think." We're talking about chain of command. Where did the impetus for mistreating prisoners begin? In the fall of 2002 we were getting nothing out of Guantanamo. There were 600 prisoners there. They'd been there since early in the year, being interrogated. Nothing was coming out of it.
A very senior guy in the CIA, who I can't name under the rules--and that's appropriate, I want him to be there; he's a good man--who new Arabic fluently, went down, came back, spent a few days there, talked to some of the people who were being detained there, came back and wrote a blistering report. I don't have the report. I can tell you that he told colleagues on the National Security Council, people who worked for Condoleezza Rice, that we're committing war crimes there, that the whole approach is wrong, that brutalizing people and terrorizing doesn't produce good intelligence.
MR. RUSSERT: When was this?
MR. HERSH: I'd say he went in August, September; the report was circulated September, October.
MR. RUSSERT: Of what year?
MR. HERSH: 2002. And there was a wonderful general, just retired from the Air Force, named John Gordon, who'd been a deputy director of the CIA. And he pushed it. He did the unthinkable in the Nixon White House, you know--in the Bush White House, because he pushed stuff that they didn't want to hear. He forced a series of meetings. To her credit, Miss Rice had a series of meetings about the issue. It was discussed. They brought in Rumsfeld: "I'll look at it. I'll take care of it." He detailed it to a 31-year-old aide and it disappeared. One of the things that everybody remembered is when the man from the CIA, the analyst, went down to Guantanamo; one of the first things he saw were 80-year- old men, men at least that old, he said, living in their own excrement in cells, chained. And this kind of behavior, this kind of treatment, was just unacceptable to a military man.
MR. RUSSERT: The Pentagon has responded to your book. This is the statement they issued on Friday night: "There are ongoing investigations and there will be more information disclosed, but thus far these investigations have determined that no responsible official of the Department of Defense approved any program that could conceivably have been intended to result in such abuses at seen at Abu Ghraib. Should Mr. Hersh's anonymous sources wish to come forward and offer evidence to the contrary, they are welcome to do so."
MR. HERSH: Look, we know--you know, all this talk about field manuals and letters and analyses of how to treat prisoners--the way it works in the military is the chain of command. If you have guys on top, whether he's running a platoon or a company or a division or is secretary of the Pentagon, head of the Pentagon or in the White House, if you set a policy that you're not going to mistreat prisoners, that you're going to do whatever you can to get intelligence--which we all know mistreating people and abusing them doesn't produce good information. The way you get good information is you establish rapport. This is basic.
If the men at top set the policy, boom!--right to the bottom it would go. And when you run a--any guy who's been an officer knows the way you behave, the standards you set, are the standards that are kept. And these guys made it clear that, "Go ahead, do what you want." And it was an open-door policy to abuse from the beginning to the end. We were abusing the people.
MR. RUSSERT: Who's these guys?
MR. HERSH: The people in the chain of command from the very top of the government on. There was no attempt...
MR. RUSSERT: The president?
MR. HERSH: I can tell you that at this meeting we had people from the vice president's office. We had the secretary of defense. Everybody was aware there was serious problems. It was brought forth by people inside--I'm talking about the meeting in 2002 in Condoleezza Rice's office. There were problems brought forth in the fall of 2002. Nobody took any official steps to do anything to change it, and that's the issue you have. You have a policy that was countenance at the top and all you had to do very early-- and any military man knows--is set a policy and make it clear you mean it.
MR. RUSSERT: You write in your book, and it echoes something that Bob Woodward wrote in his as well. First, let me quote from your book, Sy Hersh: "In May of 2004, at the height of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, a senior political Republican Party operative was given the reassuring word that Vice President Dick Cheney had taken charge, with his usual directness. The operative learned that Cheney had telephoned Donald Rumsfeld with a simple message: No resignations. We're going to hunker down and tough it out. Cheney's concern was not national security. This was a political call--a reminder that the White House would seize control of every crisis that could affect the re-election of George Bush."
And, Bob Woodward, you wrote in your book "Plan of Attack," talking about Colin Powell: "For Powell, several things were clear from the president's demeanor, his style and all that Powell had learned about Bush. The president was not going to toss anyone over the side...The president also made it clear that no one was to jump ship...They were a team. The larger message was clear: Circle the wagons."
MR. BOB WOODWARD: And this was on the issue of when they had not found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I think that none of that is surprising. It's a political process, and the mentality of "circle the wagons, no resignations" is: "Let's gut this out politically," because both the prison scandal, the failure to find weapons of mass destruction are massive political problems.
MR. RUSSERT: Now, looking back at what you reported in writing "Plan of Attack," do you believe the president has any second thoughts, doubts, about the war in Iraq?
MR. WOODWARD: No, I don't, and I asked him about it and he's been on the campaign trail and just said that he's absolutely assured that he did the right thing, though clearly the reasoning has changed substantially. What Sy has written about in The New Yorker and in his book all stems from 9/11, and I think you make this point that after 9/11 the political establishment, the military leaders, the intelligence leaders in this country, were spooked, rattled. The country was rattled and rightly so.
And from that--you know, remember, the day after 9/11 three years ago people were in a position of "When's the next attack coming?" There are people who have intelligence or plans and we might be able to break them, and the president signed orders telling the CIA, "The gloves are off." Now, three years later, we're looking back and we're asking quite legitimately: "Was this sensible? Was this necessary?" And one of the things I found is the senior people in the military are outraged about what's happened in the Iraqi prisons and in Guantanamo.
MR. RUSSERT: Sy Hersh, let me again cite from your book. "As of this writing in August 2004, the Bush Administration continues to wage a war in Iraq by means that ensure that it cannot win. The American investment of billions of high-tech satellites and electronic surveillance, the untold millions paid to informers, and the deployment of the most highly trained Special Forces unit have failed since the early days of the war to produce crucial intelligence about the insurgency."
MR. HERSH: Absolutely. The fact is that a year ago the insurgents were operating one-, two-, three- man cells. Now, they're much bigger. They're 10-and 15-men groups. We still do not penetrate it. We don't know when they're going to hit. We had seven Marines killed in a bomb attack the other day. We have no advance information, no advance intelligence, no ability to get inside the insurgency. We just don't know what's next.
And it's a failure of--you know, one of the problems fighting an insurgency is very hard anyway. Very few countries have beaten insurgencies, and I've very pessimistic about the prospects--unlike the secretary of state--about the prospects for the next few months anyway. I just don't see how we're going to establish some sort of a viable government that can get through an election.
MR. RUSSERT: Bob Woodward, when you talked to the president during the course of writing "Plan of Attack," you asked him about his presidency and how Iraq might affect it. And here is the exchange: "`And if this decision'"--going to war with Iraq--"`costs you the election?'" Woodward asked. "`The presidency - that's just the way it is,' Bush said. `Fully prepared to live with it.'"
He knew then the stakes would be high politically?
MR. WOODWARD: Certainly, and they should be. One of the common themes you find in talking to people in the White House and in the government here at all levels is, if you want to understand Bush, look at this decision. It defines him, and he knows that. What interests me, from the point of view of our business, the news media, is we have not found a way--we know how Bush operated. I mean, to his credit, he was willing to sit for three and a half hours and answer questions about how and why he made these decisions. We have not found a way to go to the political opponent, Senator Kerry, and say, "How would you deal with these things?" Not with sound bites, but in a long, detailed excavation of how John Kerry would be commander in chief. That's the missing piece in this political campaign.
MR. RUSSERT: And, Sy Hersh, let me ask you about that. In the polling, it shows a margin of about 20 points. People believe that George Bush is better equipped to handle Iraq than John Kerry. What has happened to the Kerry campaign that Iraq is not an issue that is breaking in his favor, when you have 1,000 Americans dead, 7,000 wounded and injured, no weapons of mass destruction? What happened?
MR. HERSH: Look, it's one man's opinion. He doesn't have a solution. This is--by the way, I would also say, this White House doesn't have an exit policy. None of us do. But what he's saying right now just doesn't meet the credibility test. He's going to go to foreign leaders and say, "Excuse us, would you mind changing the color of the corpses over there?" You know, are the French and Germans, because there's a new president, going to send their boys to die there? There's no way out right now of this war. We're looking at five more years, 10 more years of the war--of a guerrilla war that we probably will not win, like we didn't win in Vietnam.
MR. WOODWARD: But, you know, maybe, maybe not. Maybe things will get better. I mean, Bush essentially says, when you get into this question, how is history going to judge the Iraq War? And he makes the point, "Well, we don't know. We'll all be dead." And I think that's true. And things can go up, things can go down. The question is, and I want to go--because after 9/11, we're dealing so much with the emotions of that devastating attack. And so much action by the government and Bush flowed from that. And the emotions have to be set aside, difficult as that is, and the playing field needs to be leveled. And I go back to that thing, who would John Kerry--Who is he? Who might he be as commander in chief?
MR. RUSSERT: We're going to have to stop it there. Sy Hersh, your book comes out tomorrow. You'll be on "Dateline" tonight and the "Today" show tomorrow morning. The book, "Chain of Command." And Bob Woodward, "Plan of Attack," has been number one for a long time. Thank you both for sharing your views.
We'll be right back.
MR. RUSSERT: That's all for today. And next Sunday, we'll kick off our MEET THE PRESS Senate debate series with one of the most closely watched races this fall: South Dakota, an exclusive one-on-one debate between the Senate minority leader, Democrat Tom Daschle, and his opponent, former congressman, Republican John Thune. That's next Sunday, for the full hour, showdown in South Dakota.
If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.
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