Monday, October 13, 2003
The following is a transcribed excerpt from FOX News Sunday, Oct. 12, 2003.
TONY SNOW, FOX NEWS: One year after the Senate (search) authorized the use of force against Iraq, some politicians are beginning to second-guess the war and criticize its aftermath.
Joining us now from Charleston, West Virginia, one man who voted in favor of the resolution, the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Senator Jay Rockefeller (search).
Senator Rockefeller, first, I want to get your impression about how things are going in Iraq. The administration, this week, putting on a PR offensive, saying that the reporting quite often is skewed, and things are going better than expected, or better than at least being reported.
You've heard the news today. What is your characterization to date of the operations inside Iraq?
JAY ROCKEFELLER, U.S. SENATOR, D-WV: What I keep having to remind myself is that we went to war in Iraq based upon an imminent threat which was being caused by weapons of mass destruction. The intelligence community told us they were there. The Bush (search) administration told us they were there. There was an imminent threat, and we went to war.
We did not go to war to bring democracy and prosperity and peace to Iraq. That was not part of the arrangement. That was not part of the vote. It was all about weapons of mass destruction and the imminent threat of America getting attacked.
And what's ironic is that, in spite of the incredible job that our soldiers and Guard and the Reserve have done, we really are in more peril today than we were at the end of the formal part of the war, which was carried out very effectively.
What we have not done is prosecuted the postwar era with any skill at all.
SNOW: No skill at all.
Let's see. You've got services pretty much back to where they were. We're told that there are 6,000 elected councils. You just got a report that Iraqi security forces intercepted somebody trying to blow up the situation. We're told that in the north and the south things are going pretty great guns. Folks are pro-American, and basically the key problems are within the Sunni triangle.
Do you think there's been no progress at all, truly?
ROCKEFELLER: Tony, I'm not suggesting there hasn't been any progress. I've been to Iraq. I've been up north to Kirkuk, for example, where we have some of our special operation people who are out fighting insurgents and killing them all during the course of the night and then work at a school to try to clean it up or a hospital the next day.
There's a good deal of that going on. There's no question about that.
Same thing in Afghanistan, they're trying.
But the problem is when you go to war, when you attack a country, the question is how stable is it? How long are you going to have keep the troops there? How many troops do you need? What is the cost to the American people? Are other countries helping you? And that's where I say we haven't made that much progress.
You know, it's interesting, the case was made by the president that there was an Al Qaida threat in Iraq at the time that we went to war. Well, there really wasn't.
SNOW: Well, Senator, let me just...
ROCKEFELLER: He was wrong about that.
SNOW: Let's talk about a whole series of things, and I'll get to the Al Qaida threat. You mentioned several times in...
ROCKEFELLER: Yeah, but can I just finish my point, that I think the threat of terrorism and Al Qaida and terrorists from across the world is much greater today than it was when we went to war?
SNOW: OK, I want to get to that. But you've laid down a number of factual predicates, and I want to examine them.
Number one, you mentioned twice in your initial answer that the administration talked about an imminent threat. I want you to listen to what the president said in the State of the Union address in 2002 about imminent threat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words and all recriminations would come too late.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SNOW: Senator, I misspoke. That was this year's State of the Union address. But the president never argued there was an imminent threat.
ROCKEFELLER: Tony, if you listen to that as an average American person would, you and -- at least myself included, that is talking about the danger of an immediate attack. And, in fact, the intelligence committee, the one thing they did not say was that there was -- we were in danger of being attacked in this country.
SNOW: But, Senator...
ROCKEFELLER: They did not say that there was...
SNOW: I'm sorry, I just -- I don't -- we've done a lot of research on this. And the president never said -- and we've been looking for it because you and a lot of your colleagues have said that he's proposed -- he talked about imminent threat. And he never did. As a matter of fact, the key argument -- was it not? -- that you can't wait for it to become an imminent threat because then it's too late.
ROCKEFELLER: No, the argument, Tony, was based upon -- I was there, and I heard the speech very close, and he was talking about weapons of mass destruction, biological, chemical and nuclear. And that was more or less signed off on by the intelligence committee, which raises a whole other set of questions.
And the whole problem was that there was a danger of attack. If the word imminent threat wasn't used, that was the predicate; that was the feeling that was given to the American people and to the Congress, whose vote the president clearly was trying to argue or to convince during the course of that State of the Union message.
SNOW: All right, Senator, let me read to you a quote from another speech you attended. As a matter of fact, you gave it a year and two days ago.
You said this: "There's been some debate over how imminent a threat Iraq poses. I do believe that Iraq poses an imminent threat." That's what you said.
"But I also believe that after September 11th, the question is increasingly outdated. It is in the nature of these weapons and the way they are targeted against civilian populations, the documented capability and demonstrated intent may be the only warning we get. To insist on further evidence could put some of our fellow Americans at risk. Can we afford to take that chance? We cannot."
What made you change your mind?
ROCKEFELLER: That's correct. And that is what I felt at the time that I cast that vote, based upon the intelligence community's analysis of the situation, particularly weapons of mass destruction, and what the president said in his speech.
But the situation turns out not to have been quite like either the intelligence community or the president indicated, and that would be a vote that I would probably not make today, based upon the revelations that there don't appear, at least at this point, to be any weapons of mass destruction. I've heard David Kay a number of times now. He has not indicated that. He's talking about, you know, perhaps they were all burned up or gotten rid of.
SNOW: OK, let me read another quote from that speech. You talk about Saddam Hussein. You say...
ROCKEFELLER: Which speech? My speech?
SNOW: This is your speech from October 10th, 2002.
SNOW: You said, "But this isn't just a future threat. Saddam's existing biological and chemical weapons capabilities pose a very real threat to America now. Saddam has used chemical weapons before. He is working to develop delivery systems like missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles that could bring these deadly weapons against U.S. forces and U.S. facilities in the Middle East."
And that indeed is what David Kay reported to Congress last week, is it not?
ROCKEFELLER: No, it is not.
David Kay did not report that degree of possibility at all to the Congress. And he actually was very clear in his public statements, for example, his Intelligence Committee statements, he was very clear about that. He was not certain about it. He said we have a lot more work to do. It's going to take another six to nine months to find out if they had these weapons of mass destruction or not.
I just go back to -- I understand, Tony, that you're giving me what I said when I made that vote, because when I made that vote, I wanted to, you know, give the president the authorization to go to the United Nations. I fully felt that he would be able to get help from the United Nations. And it turned out that he didn't really make that much of an effort and hasn't since.
SNOW: Whoa, whoa, whoa.
ROCKEFELLER: He has another chance...
SNOW: What do you mean, he hasn't made an effort? I mean, this was a president -- you got United Nations Resolution 1441. The resolution that you adopted in the United States Congress mentions 11 different United Nations resolutions, and also mentions the fact that the United Nations had not made good on them, and supported the president in using force.
You also said that the threat of force had made it possible at least for the U.N. to act, and you said the U.N. would not have acted in the absence of such a threat.
What makes you think the United Nations has been helpful on this?
ROCKEFELLER: I'm not saying the United Nations has been helpful, but what I am saying is I think the United Nations could have been helpful and would have been helpful, just as George Bush's -- President Bush's father got a tremendous coalition behind him, because the president didn't go to the United Nations in a way which said -- he said, "You know, you're for evil or you're for good, you're with us or you're against us."
And I'm sorry. I mean, this is -- we've got to start talking like this, Tony. We can quote speeches to each other. I voted for that resolution. I wanted to support what the president was doing. I wanted to support what he was doing, in terms of the United Nations. And the intelligence community said that there was a weapons-of-mass- destruction threat. They also said that there was -- they also indicated that if we attacked Iraq the chances of Iraq attacking the United States would be about 75 percent, and that,if we didn't attack Iraq the chances would be very minimal.
SNOW: Senator, wait a minute.
SNOW: You've just told me something I've never heard before, which is the chances of Iraq attacking the United States; maybe Americans in the region, maybe its neighbors, but I've never heard -- you thought that there was a threat that Saddam Hussein would launch attacks on American soil?
ROCKEFELLER: No, I don't -- the intelligence community -- and, Tony, we can argue on this all you want, and I'll be happy to see you do it...
SNOW: No, I'm trying to get clarification on it, Senator.
ROCKEFELLER: ... but the intelligence community never said, although they did say that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, including a nuclear prospect, which does not at this point turn out to appear to be correct -- but they never said that Iraq was a danger -- in danger of attacking the United States of America. That was the psychological pressure that the president was putting on the Congress and on the American people just before we came to our vote on that subject.
SNOW: Senator, let me ask you about the doctrine of preemption. You said we need to revisit it. Do you not think it is a good idea, at least philosophically, to try to hit terrorist states before they hit us, or terrorist groups?
ROCKEFELLER: Tony, I think that depends on, you know, how much American money you want to spend, in how many places in the world, as opposed to this country.
We don't have the $87 billion that the president needs now. We're probably going to have to borrow it, and we'll probably end up giving it to him, but the American people are going to be very resentful about that. And the doctrine of preemption is, you know -- Al Qaida is in 80 countries. There's all kinds of terrorist organizations, and now he's talking about going into Cuba -- or not going into Cuba, but looking at how can we transition Cuba to democracy.
There has never really been an Arab democratic state. The British tried after World War I in Iraq and failed. The British tried after World War II in Iraq and failed.
So far we have failed. We're making an effort. Yes, we have a council. Yes, we have a few elected representatives.
But I stipulate, so to speak, that Iraq is as dangerous or more dangerous to our hard-fighting troops and Guard and Reserve people today than it was when we went in originally, and met relatively little resistance.
Now, you talked about the $87 billion. It looks as if the proposal before the Senate will be identical to what the president has asked.
SNOW: It will not have loan guarantees, but strictly a grant for civilian reconstruction, and $66 billion in addition for military operations.
Will you vote for that bill?
ROCKEFELLER: I probably will end up doing it, but I may want to put some attachments onto that, and amendments onto that.
My colleague, Senator Byrd, has said that we shouldn't appropriate the $20 billion, which is for the reconstruction of Iraq, as opposed to the $66 billion, which is for the military operation, which I think all people will agree on, until we see what their plans are.
The problem is that nobody has really made plans. And, Tony, that is just indisputable.
President Bush's father said one of the reasons -- and a very interesting approach, he said, you know, "I got my coalition, I didn't want to go after Saddam Hussein, that was not part of the mandate, and frankly," he said, "I was very worried about how -- the problems that would come up in trying to manage Iraq after trying to do something like removing Saddam Hussein."
And we did not learn that lesson.
SNOW: So do you believe, therefore, it was a mistake this time to go after Saddam Hussein?
ROCKEFELLER: That doesn't matter. The point is that we're there. We've got to make the best of the situation. We've got to give David Kay the six to nine months to figure out whether or not there are weapons of mass destruction, and whether we can find them.
You know, it's interesting that the theory now, one of David Kay's theories, which he stated publicly, is that perhaps a lot of, or most of, the weapons of mass destruction were destroyed after the war with Iran-Iraq. And then, you know, then there was the period of inspections in the north and south over-fly zone, and a lot of bombing done on suspected sites. And then 1998, the inspectors were kicked out, and we really haven't had that much intelligence inside of Iraq since 1998, up until the beginning of the war.
So I'm not going to say whether it was a mistake or not. I'm saying we're there now, we've got an enormous problem, we don't have the country under control, we're attracting terrorists from all over the world to come there and to do damage to not only our brave soldiers, but also to Iraqi soldiers and to the Iraqi people.
SNOW: OK, all right. Senator Jay Rockefeller, thanks for joining us this morning.
ROCKEFELLER: Thank you, Tony.