TRANSCRIPT: America, Iraq and the War on Terrorism, UCLA
ORDER TAPE FROM C-SPAN
SETH LEIBSOHN: I am Seth Leibsohn, and I am the Executive Director of Americans for Victory Over Terrorism. AVOT.org is our web site. I want to thank the students at UCLA who invited us here tonight, and I want to thank particularly the Bruin Republicans, and the Associated Students of UCLA. I also want to thank the media, C-SPAN and others, for covering this event. It’s a great testimony to the program you put on, I think it’s a testimony to the distinguished panel we have here tonight. And we thank C-SPAN for everything it does. It is a great contribution to democracy, as are our universities, open discussion, open debate, airing all sides.
We at Americans for Victory Over Terrorism do come here with an opinion, we have an opinion that war is actually a terrible thing, but often less terrible than its alternative. And tonight you will hear a perspective that is not often heard, we don’t think, on the university campuses. And I will be merely moderating this discussion. This is our third in the series of teach-ins. We were at Columbia University last month, where we set the Columbia standard, which is hopefully to be replaced tonight by the UCLA standard.
Each panelist will speak for about 10 minutes, and when they are done we will open up the microphones, which you see in both aisles, and take any and all questions that you may have. I ask that it is a question, and I guarantee you there will be an answer.
At this point I’ll just briefly run down our panelists, and the brief biographies, and we will begin in the order of their speaking.
Ambassador Paul Bremer, Jerry Bremer, is a distinguished member of the in fact, chairman of the National Council on Terrorism, National Commission on Terrorism, famously known for the Bremer Report. He is the former ambassador to the Netherlands under Ronald Reagan, and the former Ambassador for Counter-terrorism under Ronald Reagan.
Mr. James Woolsey, immediately to his right, has had a very distinguished career over the past 34 years in government, serving both Republican and Democratic administrations. Most recently he was the Director of the CIA under President Bill Clinton. Mr. Woolsey is currently the chairman of Freedom House, and I have to tell you yesterday’s Washington Post story gave Mr. Woolsey yet another, perhaps looking toward the future, credential, which was that he was mentioned as a possible high ranking official in the future to help run the transitional government in Iraq. So we are especially honored to have someone like him with us tonight.
Mr. William Bennett, who founded Americans for Victory Over Terrorism in the wake of 9-11, served as the chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities under President Ronald Reagan, and then as President Reagan’s Secretary of Education. He served President George Herbert Walker Bush as the director of the as President Bush’s Drug Czar, director of the National Office of Drug Control Policy. Each one of our people here was with Americans for Victory Over Terrorism from the get go, they are all founders of the organization, and it again is our honor to be here with you tonight. At this point I will turn the microphone over to Ambassador Bremer.
PAUL BREMER: Thank you, Seth.
Thank you all for coming tonight. My role tonight is to try to set the stage a little bit for the war on terrorism, and what we mean by victory. And what I want to try to leave you with is a couple of ideas. Why should you care about this war, what does it involve, and what can we do about it? I think to get at the question about why you should care, it’s important to talk about the nature of the terrorist threat we face today. It is dramatically different from the kind of threat which our country faced when modern terrorism came upon the world in the late ’60s, and the ’70s, and the ’80s. If you look back at those terrorist groups, they were largely trying to use terrorism as a tactic to get attention for their cause, they had the belief that their cause had a larger support among the public. So they used terrorism to get the press to come and pay attention to them. They would put out a statement, and then they hoped that the public would be mobilized to support them. They were wrong in this, but that was their idea. As a result of that, those terrorists tended to practice self-restraint in the number of people they killed, because they calculated, correctly I think, that if they killed too many people they would turn off support for their cause.
There was a dramatic shift in this kind of terrorism at the end of the 1980s, and throughout the ’90s, when we saw now terrorists using terrorism as a strategy, no longer as a tactic. They were acting now out of motivations like hatred, revenge, or of course most recently what we’ve seen, religious extremism. These terrorists no longer practice self-restraint. Their objective, in fact, was to kill as many people as possible. This was all brought home to us, I think, most dramatically by the attacks of 9-11, but that should not have been a surprise, as Seth pointed out, both Mr. Woolsey and I served on the National Commission on Terrorism, we reported to the president in June of 2000, so more than 15 months before the attack, that we should expect Pearl Harbor scale terrorism in the United States, we should expect biological terrorism in the United States, we recognized the problems of intelligence collection and law enforcement. We weren’t that brilliant, this was all there to be seen. The trend was very clear to anybody who studied it in the ’90s. We were heading into a period where terrorism was going to take a quantum leap beyond what we’d seen in the ’70s, and ’80s.
These people hate us for what we are. It’s very important to understand the nature of this threat. If you read Al-Qaeda’s fatwas, statements, interviews on the press going back to the early ’90s it’s very clear, they hate us not for the superficialities of our society, for our films, and our magazines, they hate us for the very fundamental elements of Western civilization, for the fact that we live in a society which separates religion from the state, a society in which, as you can see looking around you, women can go to college, and don’t have to wear veils. A society of universal suffrage, of free press, free trade, free unions, political parties, and democracy.
The people of Al-Qaeda have made absolutely clear over the last decade that this is what they hate, and they want to destroy it. In their statements they say very clearly that it is the duty of a good Muslim to convert or kill all non-Muslims. Now, this happens to be, in my view, a distortion of Islam, but that is what they believe, it is what they say, and on September 11th we all learned that we have to take it seriously. The root cause of this kind of terrorism, people talk about you have to deal with the root cause, the root cause of this kind of terrorism is nothing less than existence and nature of Western civilization. There is no deal to be made with these people, there is no compromise that is possible. Now, what makes it especially troubling is the possibility of terrorists like this getting their hands on weapons of mass destruction. You’ve read a lot about it in the press, chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear agents. And in the decade of the 1990s we saw a very troubling thing, which was that states which are involved in terrorism, including Iraq, have developed aggressive programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. Indeed, five of the seven states which the United States identifies as states supporting terrorists, five of those seven have programs in weapons of mass destruction, including Iraq. And therefore, the threat that is with us today and which I think is going to be a very important factor in your adult lives, and for a very long time, is the threat that terrorists groups with this motive to kill us in our thousands or millions, may get their hands on weapons of mass destruction which allow them to do that.
Let me just say a word about the war in Iraq. There’s been a lot of talk about how the war in Iraq is a distraction from the war on terrorism. That’s actually wrong. The war in Iraq is a vital part of the war on terrorism, and the reason is very simple. I mentioned already that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, Iraq has clear connections with Al-Qaeda. The intelligence is conclusive, these connections go back a decade. Top Al-Qaeda leaders are even today, so far as we know, still in Baghdad. We know form the camps that were overrun in Afghanistan that Iraqi intelligence officials helped Al-Qaeda develop and practice chemical and biological weapons. It is quite possible that when we get into the archives in Baghdad, after the war is over, we will find that these ties with Al-Qaeda are even deeper and richer than we already know. In any case, the clear issue is, this country cannot wait until terrorists have those kinds of weapons in their hands to act. We cannot wait for Saddam Hussein to decide whether he’s going to do that. So the war in Iraq is a vital part of the war on terrorism. And the war on Iraq, and here I will pass the baton to my colleague Jim Woolsey, the war in Iraq is also a vital part of dealing with the instabilities in the Middle East, that come out of all of these trends. And in particular, the effort to try to put more representative governments in place in countries like Iraq.
So I leave you with the thought that the question of terrorism is one which is going to be of vital importance to you, and to this country during your adult lives. It is not an issue that is going to go away soon, and it is an issue which, if it is mishandled, can become an existential threat to American security.
Thank you very much.
JAMES WOOLSEY: Thank you. I was quite honored when you all here at UCLA invited us to be with you this evening. But, to tell you the truth, since in the last 34 years I spent 22 of it as a Washington lawyer, and then I spent some time out at the CIA in the Clinton administration, I’m actually pretty well to be invited into any polite company for any purpose whatsoever.
A few words about this war we’re in, which I don’t really call a war against terrorism. I have adopted a formulation of my friend Elliot Cohen who teaches at Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies calls it World War IV. World War III having been the Cold War. And I think that more accurately characterizes the degree of commitment that we are going to have to be engaged in, and the scope of what we are going to be engaged in now for some years. This Fourth World War I think will last considerably longer than either World Wars I or II did for us, hopefully not the full four-plus decades of the Cold War.
Who is it with? Well, there are three major movements coming out of the Middle East who have been at war with us, from their point of view, for some years. The first is the Islamist Shia, the mullahs who occupy and operate the instruments of power of the State of Iran, and their proxies, such as Hezbollah. They have been, and I say Islamist to suggest a totalitarian movement, not the fine Muslim religion, and Shia, because this particular portion comes from the Shiite portion of Islam. But, the Islamist Shia who control the instruments of power of the Iranian state have been at war with us since at least 1979 when they seized our hostages, and in the early ’80s, in ‘83, when they blew up our embassy and our Marine barracks in Beirut, and they’ve conducted a number of terrorist attacks on us well into the 1990s.
The second group is so they’ve been at war with us for something close to a quarter of a century. The second group is the fascists, and these are the Ba’athists in Iraq and Syria, and I’m not using fascist as an expletive, these are fascist parties, they’re designed after the fascist parties of the 1930s, they’re anti-Semitic like the fascist parties. If you listen to Saddam’s speeches about his position in the Arab world he sounds very much like Hitler did in the 1930s talking about the thousand-year Reich. The Ba’athists are fascists, and they’ve been at war with us now for 12 years, and it continued after 1991. Saddam tried to kill former President Bush in 1993 with a bomb in Kuwait, they fired on the American and British aircraft enforcing the no-fly zones. They’ve had various liaison relationships with different terrorists groups over this period of time. The reason Saddam calls 1991 the mother of all battles is from his point of view it was just a battle in a long war, and he won, from his point of view, because he survived.
This is, incidentally, as far as I’m concerned, by the way, a reason why one doesn’t need to talk about preemption, or anything new, to talk about this war that we are now engaged in again in Iraq. It is a resuscitation of the 1991 war. Saddam signed a cease fire in 1991 that he’s clearly and solidly in violation of, by developing chemical and bacterial, and biological weapons, working on nuclear weapons, having some ballistic missiles of greater range than he’s permitted. So the cease fire has been violated, as recognized 17 times by the United Nations. And I think that this war, the war on television tonight, is a resumption, finally, by our side of a war which he never stopped fighting, dating from 1991.
The third group is the Islamist Sunni, the totalitarian groups masquerading as Muslims, who operate Al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorist organizations. They’ve been at war with us since some time in the mid-1990s, and carried out attacks on American facilities in Saudi Arabia in 1995, on the Cole, on the East African embassies, and of course September 11. So they’ve been at war with us for the better part of a decade. What’s new is that we finally noticed. What’s new is that after September 11th this country finally woke up. Why did it take us so long? It’s a complex set of reasons. This fine country, after it wins a large war, such as World War I, or the Cold War, likes to go on a beach party. You know, surf’s up, that’s the way we acted in the 1920s and into the ’30s, it’s the way we acted in the 1990s. We’d made the world safe, the Cold War is over, let’s party. In the decade that many of you grew up in, in the 1990s, was like the 1920s in many ways, and it came to an end in a somewhat different way than the 1920s. It came to an end September 11th, 2001.
We are engaged, I think, in this war with these three groupings for some time. One or the other may be defeated relatively quickly. I hope the Ba’athists in Iraq will be defeated quite quickly. It’s possible that the Islamist Shia in Iran will be defeated relatively quickly, because if the mullahs who control the instruments of power of the Iranian state have a brain cell working they will be able to look out there on the horizon and see that they’ve lost the students, they’ve lost the women, they’ve lost the brave reformers being tortured in prison, and one by one they are losing the grand ayatollahs, not only the brave Montazeri, who has been their enemy for some time, but Taheri, one of their very conservative supporters turned against them last summer. If they will be honest at all with themselves, they should feel very much like the inhabitants of the Kremlin around 1988, or Versailles around 1788. The storm isn’t overhead yet, but it’s out there gathering. So it is possible that in the aftermath of a successful military operation in Iraq or otherwise, we will see fundamental change come in Iran, and the great Iranian people have a government which is worthy of them, instead of this group of small cadre of clerical thugs who are operating the instruments of power of the state now.
But, even if those should succeed, we will have this, I fear, Islamist Sunni terror for a long time. And we have to realize that in order to fight this war successfully, we are going to have to make some major changes in the way we do things here at home. We are going to have to make some choices between security and liberty in ways that we didn’t have to make back in the ’80s and ’90s, when we assumed that security was something we did abroad, and liberty we had as much as we want here at home. We’re going to have to make some choices, and we can’t forget two things. We can’t forget that we have to be effective in what we do here, and I don’t know about you, but I get a little bit tired of going through airports and watching white haired grandmothers be frisked for their nail files. It strikes me there ought to be some things that we do with respect to security that could be smarter than some of the things we’re doing now. But, it’s absolutely vital that we not forget that we are not a race, we are not a religion, we are not even really a single culture, we are children of Madison’s Constitution and his Bill of Rights. That’s what we are, and we can’t forsake that, we can’t forget it. And we have to do everything possible to make that compatible with the effective steps we take on security, so we do not do some of the things that have been done in times of war and crisis in the past.
It’s important to realize that, at least in my judgment, the greatest infringement on civil liberties in the 20th Century by the federal government of the United States was the incarceration of the Japanese Americans, the Nisei, in concentration camps here in the West during World War II. Now, these were not German-style concentration camps, they were the concentration camps of the style the British used against the Bores in the Bore War, but they were concentration camps. And one very interesting fact about them is that the three men who were probably the most responsible were president then Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the then Attorney General of California running for governor in 1942, Earl Warren, and the justices on the Supreme Court who wrote the decision in Koreas against the United States that upheld the camps, Hugo Black. Now, Roosevelt, Warren, and Black, along with Martin Luther King, Jr., are probably three of the four greatest names in liberalism in 20th Century America. They’re not three men that you normally think of in the context of setting up concentration camps, but they did. And they did it because the country was scared, badly scared after Pearl Harbor in 1942. One reason we need to be effective in the steps we take against terrorism now is that we have to create a situation such that the country does not get scared, and good people like Roosevelt, and Warren, and Black don’t feel themselves driven to do some of the types of things that were done in 1942.
Now, in addition to making these tough decisions about liberty versus security, we are also going to have to take a hard look at the way our infrastructure operates, all of these networks that serve us so well are very resilient against random failures, and weather and the like, but many of them are designed, I’m talking about the Internet and the oil and gas pipelines, and the electricity grid, and food production and delivery, they’re all designed for openness and ease of access, and ease of maintenance, full utilization to spread overhead, without a thought being given to terrorism. And we are going to have to take some of the steps that were not taken before September 11, to make some of these others networks resilient in ways they’re not now. We have to fix the functional equivalent in the electricity grid, and the Internet, and the rest of the flimsy cockpit doors on September 11th that made it possible for those aircraft to be taken over and flown into buildings.
Let me close with a couple of words about the future of the Middle East, and where I think this war ultimately is going to have to lead us. Eighty-six years ago this spring Germany declared unrestricted submarine warfare on the United States and we entered World War I. The world at that time was a world of about 10, maybe 12 democracies, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Britain, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, maybe a couple of other countries in Northern Europe, that was it. It was a world of empires, of colonies, of kingdoms, of various types of dictatorships all over the world. And even those democracies were democracies for only the male halves of their population. That’s within the lifetime of many people still alive, 86 years ago. Today, according to Freedom House, which I am now chairman of the board of, there are 121 democracies in the world, well over 60 percent of the world’s governments, 89 of them free, and another 30 or so partly free, like, let’s say, Russia, but nonetheless, this move in the last eight decades from a handful of democracies to over 60 percent of the world’s governments being democracies is something the world has never seen the likes of before in human history, in terms of an expansion of human freedom. That did not happen accidentally.
It happened as a result primarily of these three world wars, two hot and one cold, and a number of things that were done in the interstices of those wars. Very few of those 121 countries that are now democracies were freed directly by American arms, Germany, Italy, Japan, Grenada, Panama, maybe one or two others. Most of the countries that became democracies, whether in Europe or in Latin America, or in sub-Saharan Africa, or in Asia, came about all sort of different ways, by the influence of our allies, by our own support for human rights. Sometimes we made some compromises, sometimes we made some very troubling compromises. For example, in World War II for nearly four years we were allied, actually, with history’s greatest murderer, Joseph Stalin, because we had a more immediate problem, Adolf Hitler. And along the way we’ve made some compromises with dictators and worked with them. Sometimes that’s been wise, and sometimes it’s been unwise. But overall, we have succeeded, and by we I mean not just us but us and our allies, because in each of those wars, with Wilson’s 14 points, with Roosevelt’s and Churchill’s Atlantic Charter, with the speeches in the Cold War of Harry Truman, and John Kennedy, and Ronald Reagan, we made it clear that these were not clashes of civilization, these were not clashes of cultures, these were not Americans versus Russians, these were wars of freedom against tyranny. And we won these wars, for example the Cold War, in no small measure, because we convinced the Andrei Sakharovs, and the Lech Walesas, and the solidarities that we were on their side. And we were, and they were on ours, that’s why we won.
We have to do the same thing now. We have to open ourselves to the decent and reasonable Muslims of the world, of which hundreds of millions want nothing more than decent lives for themselves and their families, and freedom. The majority of the world’s Muslims live in democracies, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Indian, the second largest Muslim population in the world, Turkey. There is a special problem in the Middle East. The Middle East outside Israel and Turkey, consists of two types of governments, pathological predators, and vulnerable autocracies. And when you combine that with weapons of mass destruction, and terrorist groups it’s not a pretty mix. It has led us to the current impasse. Part of that historically is our fault. We have the Middle East is a perfect example of Churchill’s dictum that the Americans always do the right thing, but unfortunately usually only after they’ve exhausted all other possibilities.
In the Middle East we have regarded the bulk of the countries, oil producing countries there, for many years as our filling station, not as places where there are people whom we must help move toward decent government. The worst example of this was in 1991 when we encouraged the Kurds and Shia to rebel in the ‘91 war, and then stood back and signed a cease fire and watched them get massacred. The world learned a lesson then, the Shia and the Kurds of Iraq learned a lesson then, which is that the Americans care about the oil of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, but not about the people of Iraq. We’re now, I believe, beginning to change that, but it is an impression that’s understandable, but that needs to be changed.
The Middle East presents substantial difficulties in moving toward democracy. This will not be easy, it will not be quick. There are cultural problems to be overcome, there are a number of steps that will be necessary. It will not all be done by force of arms. Much of it we hope will be done by influence of one kind or another, the way the Cold War was. And as we take these steps and move toward a world of decent government in the Middle East, and by the way, this is an issue of peace, as well, because democracies tend not to fight one another. They fight dictatorships, or dictatorships fight them, or dictatorships fight one another, but democracies don’t really make war on one another. So ultimately in the long run this is not only a matter of decency for the people of the Middle East, it’s a matter of peace.
As we move toward a new Middle East over the years, and I think decades to come that it will take, we will make a lot of people very nervous. And we will scare, for example, the Mubarak regime in Egypt, or the Saudi royal family, thinking about this idea that these Americans are spreading of democracy in this part of the world. They will say, you make us very nervous, and our response should be, good. We want you nervous. We want you to realize that now, for the fourth time in 100 years, this country and its allies are on the march, and that we are on the side of those whom you, the Mubaraks, the Saudi royal family, most fear. We are on the side of your own people.
WILLIAM BENNETT: Thank you, Jim.
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I’m William Bennett, I’m a student of foreign policy, I’m not a
I’m certainly not an expert in foreign policy. It has been my pleasure and honor to be with these distinguished colleagues at several other universities around the country. We plan to go to more, and we’re delighted to be here at UCLA. We scheduled this 16 years ago in anticipation of the Final Four weekend, in hopes that you could get us tickets, but never mind. That was another era at Westwood, and we won’t talk about that. But, you’ll be back, don’t worry about that, you’ll be back. But, I mention that, because it’s a great pleasure to be here, this is one of the major purposes for AVOT, Americans for Victory Over Terrorism, it’s an organization we formed immediately in the aftermath of 9-11, and it was, I guess, March of 2002, is that right, Seth, March of 2002 that we did it.
It may interest you to know why. I sense, and I asked Jim Woolsey and several other people, Paul Bremer to get together so we could talk about it. I had a sense that the ardor for this effort against terrorism was starting to grow dim, was diminishing in this country just six months after 9-11, and that I wondered whether we had the stuff to take this effort over the long run, over the long haul, over the 10, or 20, or 30 years that this World War IV, as it was referred to earlier, may take, because indeed I don’t know how long it will take, but it will take a long time. It will take many places, there will be many theaters of operation, but it will be a long struggle. We concluded a long twilight struggle some 20 years ago, or 15 years ago, and now it looks like we are embarked on another. But, it’s very important, and it’s essential that we do it.
Now, just about the same time, in April of 2002, I released a book called Why We Fight, and in that book I said, questions are being raised about America itself, and having been subjected to this incredible terrorist attack I said, there are now beginning to be more questions about America than about the terrorists. And I predicted that there would be more and more questions. And I said in this book, which came out almost exactly a year ago, before too long my guess is that in the international theater, and in the theater at home there may be as many questions about America and as much criticism of America as there is of the terrorists. Well, the critics read the book and dismissed it as bunk, that can’t happen, who would do that. Everyone feels sorry for America, a grieved America, an attacked America, no one is going to march in the streets against America. Well, good morning. Hello, we have seen how this has occurred. Not long after I wrote this Al Gore gave a speech in San Francisco in which he said that much of the world feared America more than it feared the terrorists, and you have heard much worse, and much louder since.
I decided that one of the major purposes of Americans for Victory Over Terrorism ought to be to come to college campuses to be sure that college students, and the communities that surround our colleges and universities were being given a point of view which they may or may not hear on campus. We don’t know whether professors at UCLA or any other campus give you the case that can be made, the case that’s being made tonight. But, in the spirit of the free marketplace of ideas we come here to do it. It is important for young people, for people who are studying, for people who come to the university, taxpayers pay the bill, to hear the arguments for something as critically important as this.
Now, how could it be that people could lose ardor and lose enthusiasm for such a serious and fundamental and critical fight? Well, because there’s a lot of self-doubt in America. There’s a lot of people who believe, have an immediate assumption that if something has gone wrong it is our fault. Immediately following 9-11, indeed on the very evening of 9-11 one of my alma maters had a teach-in, and a number of professors said, what did we do to provoke them to do this? The immediate assumption was that this was our fault and that we had done something wrong to provoke this. A couple of years later, last night, in a debate I had with a couple of people a few blocks from here the same issue came up, and the form was this, France doesn’t like what we’re doing, Germany doesn’t like what we’re doing, why are we doing it? Why is the assumption that France and Germany are right and we’re wrong? Is that a question that’s supportable by history, is that an answer, I should say, that’s supportable by history, or by recent history? One shouldn’t assume the answer either way, one should look at the facts, one should examine the issues.
I have to tell you, again, I’m not an expert on foreign policy, but I’ve been studying about this issue and reading about this issue, my field is ethics, my field is philosophy, I feel quite comfortable at the university, that’s where I started. I’ll digress briefly, one of the reasons I get into public policy, as I was telling my colleagues at dinner some time ago was that I was a professor of philosophy when Ronald Reagan was elected president of the United States, and they told him he had to have a chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities. And he said, what do I need to get for that. They said, you need a professor of the humanities. So they began a nationwide search to find a professor of the humanities who had voted for Ronald Reagan. There were three of us in America at the time, and I was the second choice. And so I got the job. But, so be it, that’s all right. That doesn’t matter. But, as someone who has taught philosophy, taught ethics, been involved in education, I am still having difficulty figuring out, perhaps you can help me figure out, why so many Americans who claim to be thoughtful and conscientious, and concerned with concerned with human beings, and human rights, and the fate of democracy and freedom in the world cannot bring themselves to support this war on terror in general, and this war in Iraq in particular. Explain that to me. I cannot understand for the life of me why, if we are to believe the New York Times, the largest demonstration in the history of England, in the history of England, Great Britain, occurred five weeks ago against United States involvement in Iraq.
Now, you study history here, you know all the things that Great Britain has been involved in. Would you think that the greatest moral outrage that the people of Great Britain have been witness to would be the United States effort in Iraq, but that brought more than a million people to the streets of London. I asked Jerry Bremer on the way over, I said, we have not seen the explosion in the Arab street that we anticipated, we’ve seen some and we can talk about this in the Q&A; period, but where we’ve really seen the explosion is in the Western street. Some of the Western streets of New York, and Washington, and San Francisco, and London, and certainly Paris, and other places.
Well, someone asked us last night on this panel discussion to which I just referred, why do so many people dislike us? I said, I don’t know, but I’m not prepared to assume from the beginning that it’s our fault, especially when I consider our motives and actions in this regard. You heard Ambassador Bremer lay out the case, and Director Woolsey has done the same thing on many occasions, the case made in the United Nations, 17 resolutions, all under the authority of Chapter 7, which authorizes the use of force to enforce the resolutions against Iraq. We have been passing these resolutions and waiting, and waiting, and waiting, and no action has been taken. Well, finally the United States and the coalition had the courage of the U.N.’s convictions, courage that the U.N. itself did not have. Did we have on that basis sufficient reason, and motivation and justification to go into Iraq? Absolutely. Did we have any other justification? Indeed, we did, it’s a dangerous world, it’s a particularly dangerous world since 9-11. The threshold for action has been lowered.
You could make a strong case that we had more notice of Saddam Hussein’s intent against us, and other freedom loving people, than we had of Osama bin Laden. In any case, we’re on notice. On 9-11 the unthinkable became thinkable. Then look at this man, who is in violation of all these resolutions. We know that he is developing weapons of mass destruction, we know as well, in this issue, in regard to which some people want to say it’s the East against the West, or it’s Christians against Muslims, it’s the new Crusades, all this baloney, we know that Saddam Hussein, remember this please, has killed more Muslims in modern history, maybe in all of history, than anyone. He is the greatest killer of Muslims. He has killed and gassed his own people. He is a murderous, pathological tyrant. And people go to the streets to keep us from removing his regime.
Ann Clywd, I think I’m pronouncing her name properly, the member of Parliament, on the left, far on the left, was opposed to the war, and opposed to Prime Minister Blair’s support of it, support of the United States, until she visited Iraq. She came back, she wrote an article about the plastic shredding machines into which human beings are placed while they’re alive in Iraq. Some are placed head first, and then the next are placed feet first, so it takes a little longer. And we are asked why and people wonder why the United States feels that, along with violations of human rights resolutions, the fear of terrorism, the links of Saddam Hussein to terrorists, why there isn’t moral justification for this.
When I was a student in college many years ago, I was attracted to the left. I was attracted to Students for Democratic Society. I remember the appeals that they made to us conscientious young college students. And I remember a lot of people were drawn to what they were saying, and they were drawn to what they were saying by a moral argument. The moral force of their arguments about certain things that were going on in the world. And at the heart of it was a revulsion against dictators. And next to that is a concern for the defense of human rights. Where is the left now? Is there a greater violator of human rights in that part of the world than Saddam Hussein? There may be some who are close, as our colleagues will explain, but he’s certainly a prime candidate.
I have to tell you, I believe this is one of the more justifiable incursions in foreign policy using military force that we have seen in some time. How many moral justifications do you need? Last night, in the midst of this debate, I asked the two folks on the other side, you may not like the United States, you may not like the use of military force, do you think no matter what turns out that there’s a chance that the situation will be worse in Iraq than it is now? And both of them said, no. It’s got to be better than it is.
So, where’s the lapse? Where’s the problem in the thinking? I don’t know, I don’t know what the problem in the thinking is, except maybe it comes from this. There is now one superpower. Before there were more than one superpower. Perhaps now we just have to endure the fact that the entire world looks with some amount of envy and disdain at the United States, too strong, not the entire world, we have allies. It is a coalition. There are 30 countries involved with us. There are some great allies in Europe, and important allies in Europe, Spain and Italy, and the Eastern Block countries, but maybe for many others it’s just the fact of our success, our strength, and, indeed, perhaps because we have done so much for so many for so long that makes it hard for people to accept us and regard us in the way that we would like to be regarded.
It is not the fact of military force that makes the United States that makes the United States so impressive, though the fact of military force can make the consequential difference, and as Professor Bernard Lewis has instructed all of us, Professor Emeritus from Princeton, this is not a part of the world where you want to practice anxious propitiation. This is a part of the world that respects force, firmness, resolve. As Osama bin Laden himself said, they prefer the strong horse to the weak horse. They thought we were the weak horse. Since Afghanistan and the last 12 days in Iraq, I don’t think they believe we’re the weak horse any longer.
But the military force is there not as an end in itself, but as a means. The heart and soul of the United States in this effort, I believe, I truly believe, I firmly believe is not to advance its own interests, but to use that military force to achieve something else. Last night in the debate at the very end, the person on the other side said, where in our founding documents do you find any justification for what we are doing in Iraq? And I said, in the Declaration of Independence, we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights. Now, that’s a matter of my belief. It’s a matter of many Americans’ belief. But one thing which we can take great encouragement, we have people in the world outside of the United States, even in Europe, who believe the same.
And a document well worth reading, go back and look at it, what, two months ago in the Wall Street Journal, is that about right, about two months ago, eight or nine members of European nations wrote a letter to the Wall Street Journal explaining why they stood with the United States. Mr. Aznar from Spain and Berlusconi from Italy, Vaclav Havel, and others all signed the letter. And it said, and I think this is pretty close to the actual language: We stand with the United States for a number of reasons, not least of which is were it not for American fortitude and self-sacrifice and generosity, this continent would have fallen victim to either Naziism or Communism.
Right now, it is the sheer fact of military force that seems to be the only thing that some people can see. But that military force is there as a means and not as an end, and it’s there as an instrument of better ends. Life will be better in Iraq for our presence. It has been better in so many cases for our presence. As Jim Woolsey reminds us, not always, we have abandoned, we have turned and run, more out of timidity than fear. We’ve left allies. We didn’t support the Hungarians in ‘56. We left these people in Iraq. We left the Cubans other times. There are things we’ve done about which we can feel no pride. But on the record, on the whole, the American achievement is unique and high.
Let me close with the words about America of a recently departed American statesman, a tribute to bipartisanship, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Democratic senator from New York, my home state. He was asked once why, as a Democrat, in the particular debate that was going on in the ’80s, he wasn’t critical of the United States, why he hadn’t been more critical in other context, why wasn’t he more critical in this one. And he said, am I supposed to be more critical? Why? He said, am I embarrassed to speak for a less than perfect democracy? Not one bit. Show me a better one, he said. Have we done some terrible things? Yes, we have. Have we committed some atrocities, indeed. Have we committed great sins, you bet. Compared to other countries, our achievement is still great and unique. And when we committed these sins and atrocities, how did our people find out about them? They found out about them from reading about them in the newspapers, and from watching them on television. No, I’m not embarrassed to speak for a less than perfect democracy. On balance, it’s the best set of human relations the world has yet seen. And that it still cares, not just for its own survival and its own defense in this horrible period of international terrorism, but that in the midst of that it can make the effort which is aimed not just at self-defense, but at the possibilities of freedom and liberty that Jim Woolsey was talking about. Well, more tribute to it, and more power to it.
Thank you very much.
SETH LEIBSOHN: Thank you, gentlemen.
Thank you, audience. We do have microphones in the aisles, if you want to line up behind them, we will take your questions. I do ask that you put your questions in the form of a question, and I guarantee we will put our answer in the form of an answer. And we’ll just go back and forth alternating between microphones, and we’ll start over here on my left. If you’ll go ahead and present your question to a specific panelist, or to any or all.
QUESTION: Thank you all for sharing your ideas. My question is to Mr. William Bennett. Your connection to this seems to be purely philosophical. A lot of people have a lot of interest which people might, for instance they might point a finger at Mr. Woolsey and say, well, he stands to benefit from this as advisor to the Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc., which had $680 million of Pentagon contracts, and so forth. Not to attack you, Mr. Woolsey, but just since your connection is strictly, it seems to be purely philosophical. My concern is, how do we know that as the rest of the followers of Leo Strauss, as you yourself are, the people like Perle, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, what they’ve been promoting militarily strikes me as somewhat incompetent.
So, my concern is, how do we know that this Straussian philosophy isn’t leading us into sort of a quagmire of games and whatnot. I think as you, yourself, discovered, Strauss taught different things to different people. He was a friend of Karl Schmidt, the Nazi jurist. There just seems to be so many unclear things about Leo Strauss’ philosophy that I would just like you to address that.
SETH LEIBSOHN: Thank you.
WILLIAM BENNETT: Sure. Me first, and then I think Jim Woolsey ought to be able to say something. I don’t know who is doing your homework for you, I’m not a Straussian. I’ve met people who are Straussians. I went all through graduate school getting Ph.D.s thinking that Strauss was the last name of a Levi. I had no idea who he was. I was doing Aristotle and Kierkegaard and Plato. That was my work. In fact, Jim Woolsey can well defend himself better than I can.
One of the really extraordinary things about this group of people is, you know, college students should know that there are a lot of people running around with reputations and achievements who, to come to a college campus, students get on the phone and scrape up a bunch of money, get $5,000, $10,000, $15,000 for a fee. These men have come every time I have asked them to come. They come for free. We pay their expenses. And I bought them a $30 dinner at Palomino. High rollers we are. And that’s it. And they come across country, and they’re taking red eyes back. And there aren’t a whole lot of people, not in abundance, not in oversupply who would do that.
And the reason they do it is, they care about these issues, as you can tell from what they said, and they care about coming to places like this and talking to young people. Look, it’s not a terrible thing in the world to wonder about people’s motives. But don’t go through life assuming that everybody’s motives are base and low, and that they’re all ulterior. And that the only reason anybody does anything is for some kind of narrow notion of self-advancement.
I’ll tell you one thing about Washington. I know
I know honorable men and women in Washington. I know honorable men and women on both sides of the aisle. They’re not in oversupply. We’ve got two of them here. And there are others. Are there knaves, are there fools, are there scoundrels? You bet. You’ve seen them live on television. And you’ve seen them in the highest offices of the land. But there are some honorable people Don’t assume the worst, especially of good men like this.
JAMES WOOLSEY: I’ll go with Bill’s answer.
SETH LEIBSOHN: Okay. Over on the right.
QUESTION: Hello, I’m sorry. I’m just a student here at UCLA.
WILLIAM BENNETT: You’re not just a student, you’re why the whole thing is here. You’re the reason why the institution was created, you’re not just a student.
WILLIAM BENNETT: You are the university.
WILLIAM BENNETT: You bet.
QUESTION: I just have it’s a conceptual question. I mean, traditionally you think that people on the left would actually be with us because we have the sanction of international law on our side, basically when Saddam Hussein violated the terms of the armistice by hiding weapons and kicking out weapons inspectors. We have total legal sanction to do this. And yet there’s people around the world, they want to turn a blind eye right now to international law. I mean, can you explain this weird scenario with them supporting international laws for all these years now, and turning a blind eye to it right now?
SETH LEIBSOHN: Thank you. Panelists choice, Mr. Woolsey? Mr. Bremer?
JAMES WOOLSEY: I think it is quite clear, as I alluded to in my remarks, that Saddam under international law is in violation of a cease fire agreement. The U.N. inspectors determined in 1998 that he had hundreds of tons of chemical weapons, and thousands of liters of biological weapons. And the only way you could not believe that he retained those is if you believed him when he said, oh, that biological weapons program, well, we destroyed all that, but we can’t remember where, or when, or by whom. You know, if you could believe that, if Mr. Chirac or Mr. Schroeder believes that, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn I’d be delighted to sell them.
And the United Nations, on 17 occasions, in different ways, in those 12 years, explicitly held him in violation of the cease-fire agreement. So, I don’t think one needs the Bush administration’s doctrine enunciated last September or so for preemption in order to move against a country that’s violated a cease-fire. I think it’s perfectly straightforward.
And I think that the reason that a number of people have blinked at that, and said that it doesn’t matter, or ignored it is that basically appeasement is popular. What is going on with the movement, essentially, particularly in Europe and to some extent here, to protect Saddam’s regime is effectively appeasement of the threat that Chamberlain and Daladier and Baldwin practiced in the 1930s in Britain and France against Germany. It’s always popular. And you know it was massively popular in Britain at the time. Churchill was a curmudgeon, off at the fringes of politics with a handful of supporters. It’s very popular to kick the can down the road, and promise people that something is going to work out, and that they don’t have to make hard choices.
So, if you want to know, you know, why people are blinking at the realities of the international legal justification, which I think is quite clear for this war, I think that’s why.
SETH LEIBSOHN: Mr. Bremer, did you want to add something?
PAUL BREMER: I believe there’s actually another explanation as well, which goes back to something Dr. Bennett said. If you look at what happened at the end of the Cold War, and in the first Gulf War and during the ’90s, the American experience was that power was still important. In fact, we found we had to use power in various places, the Balkans, Kosovo, the Gulf War. The European experience was quite different. The Europeans had spent the 1970s and ’80s building a single currency, and a single market, and concluded at the end of the Cold War that with the Soviet threat gone, power, in fact, military power was no longer as important. In fact, the French Foreign Minister gave a very important speech a week ago tomorrow in London, in which he said, our experience at the end of the war was that the law was now, international law, was the preeminent arbitrator of international affairs, and force had to take a second chair.
So, there is a very significant important difference, particularly between the French and the American view of what happened at the end of the Cold War, and what is the appropriate use of force, quite apart from the question of whether the international law sanctions or doesn’t sanction the use of law, it is a conceptual approach to international relations which is at the heart of the difference we have now with the French.
JAMES WOOLSEY: Mr. Chirac and Mr. Schroeder believe essentially that the world is a lesser included case of Europe. And that if Europe can be operated according to the rule of law because after three World Wars it’s now almost all democratic, the rest of the world must behave the same way. I think that’s the inarticulated assumption of their judgments.
SETH LEIBSOHN: Thank you. We have a lot of questions and we’d like to get to as many as possible. So, if I can ask them to be as brief as possible, and we’ll keep our answers as brief as possible.
QUESTION: First of all, thanks for coming. I really enjoyed it. You know, going here, one of the things that I hear most of all is that the so-called war on terror, it’s very nebulous, it’s very open-ended. And I sort of feel like, you know, it’s easy my mom always says, it’s easy to be critical from the cheap seats. And I just hear a lot of people saying that it would be different, it wouldn’t be such an open-ended war if Gore was president. And I just want to get your thoughts on what would the Gore administration be doing if
WILLIAM BENNETT: I’m afraid that’s you, Jim.
JAMES WOOLSEY: Let me try that. Being the only Democrat on the panel, and someone who has known Al Gore for many years, since the early ’80s, and in many ways I think highly of him. I don’t think his conduct of this war, in spite of the speech that Bill alluded to, would have been substantially different in most important respects than President Bush’s has been. Gore made his reputation as a member of the House and in the Senate in part because of his strong stance on national security issues. He supported the MX in 1983, and helped the Reagan administration save the missile program and, indirectly, thereby safe the modernization program for the Pershings and ground launch cruise missiles in Europe. He supported the 1991 war, and he supported President Bush, a number of Democrats did not.
Generally speaking, he had a very strong interest in arms control. But I don’t think he would at all, I can’t speak for him, but I don’t think he would at all believe that arms control was the way to deal with someone like Saddam Hussein. I mean, in a sense, we’re dealing with Saddam with arms control. It’s called the 82nd Airborne, 101st Airborne, the First Marines.
But I can’t speak for him, but I honestly don’t believe that he would be very far from the general stance and general approach that President Bush has taken on the war.
WILLIAM BENNETT: The question for me, I’m not sure I’m disagreeing, although I think that the speech he gave in San Francisco probably eliminated him even if he had decided to run, I think it would have come back to haunt him. But my question is, if Gore were president, and he were making the same decisions, would we see the same kind of reaction at home and even abroad that we’re seeing? I don’t think so. I don’t think so. As I read those signs, as I read a lot of these demonstrations, it’s there’s a deep strain of anti-conservative, anti-Republican, anti-Bush in it. And it’s not just appeasement, there’s something else going on, at least that’s my psychological analysis.
SETH LEIBSOHN: Thank you. Yes, sir.
QUESTION: I have a question for Mr. Bennett also. Just really quickly, I find it shocking, I’m going to have to look into my sources, that you say you’re not a Straussian, because I have an original transcript of a debate you were in where it actually was revealed that Strauss’ teaching of citizen virtues was actually a sham, and that these other Straussians were saying that he always lied about it and told them that they should do whatever they needed to do. And you were defending citizen virtues.
Now, what I do know I’m going to look into that but what I do know is that Wolfowitz, Perle, Rumsfeld are enthusiastic Straussians, followers of Leo Strauss, whose two main teachers were Karl Schmidt and Martin Heidegger, two leading members of the Nazi Party. And just one thing, that to get and look into Strauss, his interpretation of Plato, for a philosophical question, is Thrasymachus. His interpretation was the Thrasymachian notion of justice was superior to Socratic notion of justice.
Now, Mr. Bennett
SETH LEIBSOHN: Wrap it up with a question, please.
WILLIAM BENNETT: He’s going somewhere I know.
JAMES WOOLSEY: He’s digging himself in such a hole.
WILLIAM BENNETT: Go ahead, keep going.
QUESTION: What I’m wondering is, aligning yourself with this philosophy, this Straussian outlook of a Thrasymachian notion of justice, that might is right, how can you also say that you’re defending the Declaration of Independence, which was the Socratic notion of justice?
WILLIAM BENNETT: Son of a gun. Well, let me tell you, I’ve been in lots of places where, you know, I’ve said certain things and people have come up to me and have said, among other things, the following: You know, you’re a Baptist. Son of a gun, I didn’t realize what a Mormon you were. You’re a free liver. I never read Strauss in my life, I haven’t met him.
But let’s talk about Thrasymachus because now you’re talking about something I know. Let’s not talk about these secondary sources, let’s talk about the real philosophy. Thrasymachus, in the Republic, if Strauss defends Thrasymachus, I think Strauss is wrong. Now, if he studied under Heidegger, I don’t think that makes him a Nazi. I studied Heidegger, lots of people studied Heidegger. There are people who have studied wonderful people who weren’t Nazis who became very bad people. There are people who studied bad people who have become very good people.
But, I’ll tell you, if there is a defense of Thrasymachus in the Republic, I’m certainly not with that view. For the purposes of the audience that have forgotten their Republic, Thrasymachus argues that justice is the interest of the stronger, and Socrates takes fundamental issue with this, and turns Thrasymachus inside out.
But I’ve got to tell you, on your initial premise, which is Strauss defends citizen virtue, I defend citizen virtue, therefore I’m a Straussian. You’ve got to go back to logic class. I mean
JAMES WOOLSEY: Isn’t that called the illicit inversion of an A proposition?
WILLIAM BENNETT: Illicit inversion of an A proposition. Mr. Woolsey, you have won $100,000.
Anyway, look, I’m not trying to make fun of you. I’m not look, these guys read Strauss, fine. They read all sorts of people, he’s a very bright man. Take up the issue with them, but I don’t see what it has to do with the arguments that we’re putting forward here.
QUESTION: Because Paul Wolfowitz is an enthusiastic Straussian. So, you’re aligning yourself, once again, with a philosophy you don’t even know. Now you’re saying you have never read Strauss. This is the ideology behind the war.
SETH LEIBSOHN: Can I interrupt you?
QUESTION: It’s a might is right argument.
WILLIAM BENNETT: We’ve got a big surprise guest for you here, the executive director of AVOT is
SETH LEIBSOHN: The real Straussian will stand up. You’ve got it, I studied under a student of Leo Strauss’. I’m not too embarrassed to admit it. And your facts are just simply wrong, he was not an enemy of the Declaration of Independence. In fact, in his seminal work, Natural Right in History, he put a copy of the Declaration of Independence as the cover. He was not a friend of Heidegger’s, in fact, he argued against him.
Question, case closed. Can we move on? On the left.
QUESTION: Can you answer the paradox that I put forth?
SETH LEIBSOHN: Sir, that’s it, you had your shot. You missed it. Your premise is
WILLIAM BENNETT: That’s it, you had your question.
SETH LEIBSOHN: Your premises were wrong. We’re moving on.
WILLIAM BENNETT: Correspond with us, we’ll write you back. This guy will do Strauss all day and all night with you.
SETH LEIBSOHN: Sir, on the left, go ahead.
QUESTION: Yes, sir. My question is, after 9-11 we heard a lot about the Jihad that was declared on America.
WILLIAM BENNETT: Right.
QUESTION: And we have especially heard a lot about, maybe not necessarily only the sophistication of Al-Qaeda, but their dedication to killing Americans within America. We have just heard so much, and now we have different level high alerts, and orange alerts, and these things, which I want to believe that these are all valid. I just have a very simple question, why hasn’t there been any attack, even a little bombing on a bus, or a sniper shooting, or anything, since 9-11 in America? And I’m not saying that to say that there’s not the threat. It just really confuses me. If there is this massive movement, these training camps, and everything else, why haven’t we seen more.
SETH LEIBSOHN: Mr. Bremer, you want to take this?
PAUL BREMER: It’s a good question. First of all, there have been attacks. I think we’re in the middle of the third phase of the war on Al-Qaeda. The first phase was the Afghan military phase, where we did severe damage to the infrastructure, and foot soldiers of Al-Qaeda disbursed the leadership, and from roughly September through the end of the year 2001 Al-Qaeda really was on the run.
During the next eight months, from January through September of 2002, we saw Al-Qaeda, in fact, begin to reconstitute. There were attacks, 12 Germans were killed in Tunisia, eleven French engineers were killed in Karachi. We have a few American military killed by Al-Qaeda. What we have seen since September is the reconstitution of Al-Qaeda’s operational command and control. Major attacks in Bali, in Mombasa, and on the French tanker Lindbergh off the coast of Yemen. If you look at Al-Qaeda’s record over the last ten years, they have attacked or tried to attack American targets on average once a year. But the periodicity has run from nine to 17 months. We are now at about 18 months from September 11th. I take no comfort in the fact that we have had no attacks. We know there are hundreds of Al-Qaeda operatives still in this country, let along plotting overseas, and we now have these connections with Iraq.
So, I don’t mean to leave you to spoil your night’s sleep, but just because we haven’t had attacks in the United States doesn’t mean we won’t.
WILLIAM BENNETT: Great question.
SETH LEIBSOHN: On the right.
QUESTION: I’m a Catholic nun who has been a human rights advocate for a number of years, and it has taken me to a lot of places in the world, and I’ve investigated internal armed conflicts, and met assassins and presidents who posed as democrats, and just a whole lot of interesting people and places. I’ve also worked in arms control, and was field director for an organization in Washington, D.C., that had a stable of arms control treaty negotiators. All their work is down the tubes as of this administration.
When you say that Gore would have supported the current situation, I strongly doubt that Gore would have abrogated the ABM Treaty.
SETH LEIBSOHN: Can I ask you to just ask a question?
QUESTION: I am about to do that.
SETH LEIBSOHN: Thank you, because we have a lot of people who have
QUESTION: I realize that, and my question is, why did this administration use fraudulent information to convince the Congress and the American people that this war was legitimate? El Baradei and several other very credible people have indicated that the Niger connection is fraudulent. Why did the United States have to use that and embarrass the Secretary of State, the people of the United States, before the world community?
SETH LEIBSOHN: Okay, thank you. Mr. Woolsey, do you want take that?
JAMES WOOLSEY: Yes, I’ll try it.
First of all, I think you’re probably right about Al Gore and the ABM Treaty. I doubt that he would have withdrawn from it, but that wasn’t what we were talking about. We were talking about over here, the war on terror.
QUESTION: I was.
JAMES WOOLSEY: Well, what your response just dealt with was an earlier question. The earlier question dealt with the war on terrorism, not the ABM Treaty.
As far as the information about the uranium from Niger, I don’t know the answer to that. I don’t think that the
QUESTION: The Niger connection was atomic bomb creation.
JAMES WOOLSEY: No, it was, as I recall, it was importation allegedly into Iraq of yellow cake uranium.
QUESTION: That’s right.
JAMES WOOLSEY: Now, I don’t know the answer to the question of why that was used. It was wrong and it’s wrong. I have never thought that the Iraqi nuclear program, since it was destroyed in the Gulf War is the centerpiece of Saddam’s violations. The centerpiece of his violations, which virtually all reasonable people agree on, is the maintenance of substantial chemical and bacteriological weapons. That’s what the inspectors found. It’s what the inspectors found. If you believe he destroyed them the way he said he destroyed them, then, again, like Chirac and Schroeder, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I’d be glad to sell you.
QUESTION: No, we don’t know that, Mr. Woolsey.
JAMES WOOLSEY: We know it as well as one ever knows anything in international affairs.
QUESTION: I would love to see the proof. I want to see the proof.
JAMES WOOLSEY: That’s what the inspectors said. All you have to do is look at the inspector’s report of 1998.
PAUL BREMER: You’ll see the proof.
JAMES WOOLSEY: I think when the inspectors get to Northern Iraq, I think you will probably see something.
PAUL BREMER: Can I just make an additional point. The case that was made by the Secretary of State passed very briefly over the question of yellow cake from Niger. I just want the audience to understand that was a minor point. Whether it’s true or not is essentially irrelevant to the case that Colin Powell made, which had to do, as Jim Woolsey
QUESTION: But there’s a list.
PAUL BREMER: Excuse me, may I finish had to do with what Jim Woolsey said, which was the decade long record, proven by the United Nations itself, that he was continuing his programs in biological and chemical weapons.
QUESTION: Which we gave him.
PAUL BREMER: Even the French and Russians agreed that he had violated those resolutions. Even the Syrians, who also support terrorism, voted for the resolution that said he had violated those elements of previous resolutions. There was never any question about that.
QUESTION: Credible people I know in both Washington and New York don’t see the proof.
SETH LEIBSOHN: Fair enough. We’ll move on.
WILLIAM BENNETT: Thank you.
SETH LEIBSOHN: To the left.
QUESTION: Is it just me, but my legs started getting tired. Mr. Woolsey, do you think it was the right thing to take over the Shah of Iran because Al Haig said that was the biggest mistake, and what do you think we should do with North Korea? And, last, can I have your autograph after this?
JAMES WOOLSEY: The last one is easy. The first one was, were we right to do what about the Shah of Iran?
QUESTION: Take over the Shah of Iran.
JAMES WOOLSEY: To support the Shah as we did?
JAMES WOOLSEY: You mean, were we right to back the Shah back in the ’50s against Mossadeq.
QUESTION: In the ’70s during the revolution. You know, America’s Jimmy Carter tried to take over
JAMES WOOLSEY: To essentially undermine the Shah, were we correct to undermine him in ‘79. And the other one was on North Korea?
WILLIAM BENNETT: What do we do?
JAMES WOOLSEY: What do we do? I think that the way the United States dealt with Iran back during the Shah’s era in retrospect was very short-sighted. We did not spend enough time and effort staying in touch with opposition figures enough to understand even what was going on in Iran. It was a relatively dark and poor performance, I think, by the intelligence community. And we blinked at the Shah’s excesses, I think, because in part we thought that what might come was going to be worse, and we did not give the Iranian people the impression, because it was not really our policy, that we were standing up for them. I think that was one of the compromises with dictators, unlike the compromise in working with Stalin in World War II, which was essential. I think the support for the Shah was clumsy and poorly done, and fundamentally probably unwise.
But, the way that President Carter moved to encourage change was a classic way of weakening slightly a dictator or autocrat in such a way as to produce a revolution. The Shah began to try to make some modest reforms, hesitantly, and that put him in the same sort of situation as Louis XVI convening the Estates General. You have to, if you’re going to make substantial changes, it has to be done, I think, quite decisively, not the way he did.
North Korea, I would simply say that the situation is extraordinarily delicate because the North Korean government seems to be of the view that it can blackmail the United States into concessions and get away with moving into the production of nuclear weapons by reprocessing the plutonium at Yongbyon. It hasn’t fully started doing that yet, but if it does, it will have several bombs a month worth of plutonium being produced once it gets up and fully running. I don’t think we can permit that to happen.
I believe that the heart of the matter in trying to keep it from happening is to try to persuade the Government of China, to some extent Russia and South Korea, but most importantly China, which is North Korea’s principal benefactor in terms of aid and food and fuel and funds, to move decisively with us in blocking North Korea from becoming a real nuclear power in Northeast Asia. I don’t think that’s in China’s long-term interest to have North Korea become a nuclear power. And I think we have to exert every possible effort to get China to work with us on this one.
WILLIAM BENNETT: Thank you.
SETH LEIBSOHN: Thank you.
QUESTION: Hi. First off, I’d like to thank you guys for coming out today, it really means a lot, and it’s important in times of war for us to have dialogue and have discussion, because that’s like the most important thing. But, my comment and question is directed towards Mr. Woolsey. You, when you went up there and you spoke, you spoke of how with the exception of Israel, and with the exception of Turkey, the rest of the countries in the Middle East were under dictators and harsh repressive regimes. As a person whose parents are from Iran, and someone who considers herself an Iranian American, I agree with this. And I feel that democracy is a necessity in the Middle East. But my question is, don’t you think that the government, I’m not going to say America, because you kept saying we, as Americans, as an American I don’t think it’s we, I think it’s the government making those decisions, but don’t you think that the government were the people who put in the Saddams and put in the bin Ladens, and the Khomeinis, and put in the people who did this stuff?
I think that’s what it is. And we try to and we were the ones that supported Iraq. We were the ones that gave Saddam weapons against to use against the Iranians for eight years. We were the ones that gave Iraq weapons to kill its own Kurdish minority. We were the ones that gave Afghanistan, that gave the Taliban the weapons in order to suppress the expansion of the Soviet Union. So, we have to acknowledge that before we can try to sugar-coat things and say, we want to go in and the reason for war is to help the people of Iraq. Because I really don’t think that we want to help the people of Iraq. That’s not what we’re trying to do.
WILLIAM BENNETT: Thank you.
SETH LEIBSOHN: We got the question.
JAMES WOOLSEY: Let me take the two central ones that you talked about, the support for Iraq in the 1980s, and the support for the Afghan Mujahadeen against the Soviets. Yes, it’s true. We did. We certainly didn’t put in Saddam, the Ba’athists did that on their own. But we did back him in some limited ways in the 1980s in the war against Iran. He represented himself to be, and the Reagan administration at the time felt that he was, essentially, the lesser of two evils. And what was weighing on American minds very heavily then was the Iranian revolution of 1979, and particularly the seizure of the American hostages, which absolutely enraged this country. And I think enrages a lot of people here still, and is a rather major barrier to an understanding to the American and Iranian people, which is something I would very much like to see take place.
But, yes, we backed Saddam in limited ways, mainly with intelligence information against Iran during the ’80s war between the two. But that shouldn’t mean that when we come to our senses we can’t take a different tact. Whether it was wise or unwise to back him, I think it was unwise, that doesn’t mean that we are forever locked into the proposition that we have to back Saddam Hussein. I mean, we shouldn’t be like the you know, it was said of the Bourbons in France that they never learned anything, nor forgot anything. And we don’t have to be like that. We can learn, you know.
And, as far as Afghanistan goes, that was a wise decision, in my judgment, we had to break the power of the Soviet Union. They had moved decisively into Afghanistan, and staged a terrible and murderous coup, and were killing the Afghan people in huge numbers. Yes, we backed the Mujahadeen, and some of the people to whom funds went included some of the fundamentalists, like Hekmatyur, and indirectly bin Laden. That was very much like our backing the Soviet Union in World War II, we needed them at the time, we needed them because there was a greater threat. The greater threat in World War II was Hitler, the greater threat at the time in Southwest Asia was the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. And the heroism of the Mujahadeen, assisted by the CIA and some other countries, was one of the major factors in breaking the power of the Soviet Union, and turning the tide in the Cold War.
I don’t think we should apologize for that at all, just because some of the Mujahadeen went on and became Taliban and the like. People don’t always stay on your side once you help them. And the fact that we later had to move against the Taliban is parallel to the situation that after World War II we turned against the Soviet Union, it took us four decades to bring them down, but eventually we got it done.
WILLIAM BENNETT: Foreign policy is complicated, and history is complicated. It would be an odd thing, indeed, wouldn’t it, for us to turn to Tony Blair and say, we can’t side with a bunch of Red Coats.
Your question is a very good question, and the point about Iran, of course, is also very important. You started talking about democracy and the prospects for democracy, I think my colleagues would agree there’s an awful lot of pro-American sentiment in Iran, not in the government, but among the people, which is a very, very good thing. I would argue from a moral perspective having once done some things to strengthen Saddam it’s more incumbent upon us to undo his strength, because we have seen how he has used that strength. We should feel badly about having strengthened him. Not that we made a mistake at the time, we probably took the right side, maybe, maybe not. But, having strengthened him, and now seeing what he has wrought with that strength, it is particularly incumbent upon us to do something, I believe.
SETH LEIBSOHN: Yes, sir, over here.
QUESTION: I have a two-part question for Mr. Woolsey about our PR problem in the Muslim world. You began your history in 1979 about the friction between Islam and West, from their perspective wouldn’t they remember the fact that in 1953 your agency, under Kermit Roosevelt, installed the Shah’s rather brutal and repressive regime. Wouldn’t other Muslims, for example, remember the installation of the 30-year military dictatorship in Indonesia, orchestrated by the United States, or for example President Eisenhower landing troops in Lebanon to support the Christians against the Muslims? So and if we do have a problem with our credibility in terms of human rights and democracy, which of these three things would you approve of us doing? Stopping aid to Turkey until they stop repressing the Kurds and the right to their language, stopping trade with Algeria until they recognize the results of the election that they suspended because the Islamists were going to win and/or stopping aid to Israel until they abide by the U.N. resolutions about Palestine?
JAMES WOOLSEY: First of all, with respect to the election in Algeria, to my mind it is not only wrong, it is destructive and absolutely idiotic to regard democracy as one vote once, that’s bin Laden’s definition of democracy precisely, one vote once, and then he and god rule. And then insofar as that is your notion of democracy, and you are alleging that it’s undemocratic to keep the Islamists from coming to power in Algeria, because they might do so by election, nonsense. Hitler came to power in Germany by election, he got a third of the votes in Germany, and was appointed quite constitutionally as chancellor.
One has to work for institutions that not only have one vote once, but have a series of votes over the years, and guarantee individual liberties, that’s democracy, not one vote once. As far as Israel is concerned, the relevant resolution is essentially one which encourages Israel and the Palestinians to trade land for peace, and there are two parts to it, 242 I think it is. One is that Israel withdraw from lands, not all lands, but lands occupied in ‘67, and secondly that all the countries and interests in the region turn toward peace. Now, it is not a resolution at all like the resolutions that have dealt with Iraq. It does not call on Israel, unilaterally, to do anything. It is
QUESTION: How many resolutions is Israel in violation of? How many?
JAMES WOOLSEY: I don’t believe Israel is in violation of these U.N. resolutions insofar as the Palestinians are continually involved in terrorist attacks against them.
SETH LEIBSOHN: Jim, and certainly not under Chapter 7, correct, which is binding by military —
QUESTION: It is not a Chapter 7 resolution.
SETH LEIBSOHN: Sir, you’re shaking your head, but this is an important point. None of those under Chapter 7 of the U.N. charter, and it’s a very important point.
QUESTION: That wasn’t the question, it was a PR question, how many are they in violation of, and how many have we nonetheless supported their actions on?
JAMES WOOLSEY: They are not in violation of U.N. resolutions which call on them unilaterally to take steps. They are called upon the engage in negotiations, and should you allege otherwise you don’t know anything about those resolutions.
Now, as far as stopping aid to Turkey is concerned, Turkey is far from a perfect democracy, but it has made some steps in recent years to alleviate the situation with the way they’ve treated the Kurds. They have in the last few months begun to crack down to some degree on various aspects of language and the like. I wish they would not. I think we have a lot more influence with the new Turkish government, if we continue to work closely with them. They are a democracy. They don’t always agree with us, but they are so much better a government in the Middle East, and much more of a democracy than any of the other states in that region except for Israel, their fellow democracy, that I think we should continue to work closely with them. And I think part of that should continue to be aid.
QUESTION: You just said, first of all, when she asked you the question, that it’s very important that we appear to be seen as if that’s what we were doing. You didn’t say it was important that we do it. That was my first point.
JAMES WOOLSEY: I was talking about reality. The impression
QUESTION: You said it was very important that we seem to be supporting, you didn’t say it’s very important that we do, but you ended it let me just finish, but you ended it by saying how important it was with a government that has that much history to show our respect. We show our respect after we level it to the ground?
JAMES WOOLSEY: Well, first of all it’s absolute nonsense to say that we are leveling the Iraqi nation to the ground.
QUESTION: Are you there?
JAMES WOOLSEY: We are leveling, hopefully, the Saddam Hussein regime. And in so far as you support that regime QUESTION: No, I don’t support
JAMES WOOLSEY: That incredible, terrorist regime.
QUESTION: Excuse me, can I ask my question.
JAMES WOOLSEY: Well, I thought you did. First of all, you misrepresented what I said, I was talking about substance, the impression is something we can deal with as the substance is dealt with correctly.
QUESTION: You said seem.
JAMES WOOLSEY: The reality is the important thing.
QUESTION: That’s right, you said seem, you didn’t say reality.
SETH LEIBSOHN: Okay. We’ll read the record and
JAMES WOOLSEY: What’s your question?
QUESTION: My question is, do you think we’d be at war if we had not had 9-11? And my question is this because we have had sanctions for 12 years, maybe it was 10 before 9-11, this is the obvious question. We have known about Saddam, he threw the inspectors out before 9-11, he used chemical weapons against the Iranians, he’s been putting people in the shredder for years. No one likes the guy. Why were we not so gung ho before our soil, and before we had reason and an excuse to go to the Middle East? I’m sure you have an answer. But, my question is, if that
SETH LEIBSOHN: That was several questions. Can we end with that, so we can move on?
QUESTION: I think he can handle several questions.
WILLIAM BENNETT: We have several people, too.
SETH LEIBSOHN: Mr. Bremer, go ahead.
PAUL BREMER: Jim and I I’m going to answer that question. I think it is the case that 9-11 changed the way Americans think about security in a very fundamental way. It was the first time since the Civil War that violence had happened on our shores, the first time since 1812.
QUESTION: Pearl Harbor.
PAUL BREMER: Can I answer the question?
QUESTION: But, that’s inaccurate.
PAUL BREMER: The first time Pearl Harbor also had a dramatic affect on America. Until Pearl Harbor we were bound by neutrality laws, and were being kept out of a war which we eventually were bombed into. The same dramatic thing happened with 9-11. It brought home, I think, to most Americans something that they had not realized.
QUESTION: Which is?
PAUL BREMER: That there are very bad people prepared to kill us in our tens of thousands, or hundreds of thousands, and that it can pose an existential threat to American society. It brought home to most Americans, I think in a way, apparently not to you, but to most people, the fact that we face a new threat in this century, and the nexus of evil is between terrorists like those who conducted those attacks on 9-11, and people like Saddam Hussein who have weapons of mass destruction. That’s what brought about the change. And I think it is correct to say that 9-11 kind of woke everybody up, it was a wake up call, and I’m glad we answered it.
WILLIAM BENNETT: Can I say something, because I noticed peace signs. Peace is important, it is a great value. War is a terrible thing, but war is not the worst of things. Bombing is a terrible thing, but bombing is not the worst of things either. We had a very interesting irony recently in world history. Afghanistan, this phrase is not original to me, it’s original to Christopher Hitchens, usually a man of the left, Afghanistan is a case of a country that was bombed out of the stone age. Before the American bombers came, that was the stone age, and people were subject to the worst kind of brutality, and tyranny. The bombs set the conditions for freedom, once the conditions were set, the Americans stopped the bombs.
QUESTION: I hope my question gets to the heart of how we conduct the war on terrorism, so let me get to it. In the war on terrorism are we dealing with a rational enemy, if we turn our back on Israel, if we remove our troops from Saudi Arabia, if we forsake our allies that the terrorists decide that they do not agree with, will we see a decrease in the animosity felt towards our country? Is there an arm to the war on terrorism that should, in some respects, appease the terrorist’s demands, or even take notice of them, or try to work towards that end, or is it entirely a military conflict?
SETH LEIBSOHN: Mr. Bremer?
PAUL BREMER: Let’s be clear what we’re talking about. If we’re talking about the Al-Qaeda terrorists, as I said in my introductory comments, there is no compromise, there is no appeasement, there is nothing we can do, other than go out of existence, that will satisfy them. They make that very clear in everything they’ve said and written for the last decade. You can read it. They don’t hide it. I can read some quotes if you insist.
QUESTION: No, I agree with you.
PAUL BREMER: So that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take steps, for example, reasonable steps to try to alleviate the Israeli-Palestinian problem. That’s important. But, even if Israel and Palestine were living in peace, even if the American troops were not in Saudi Arabia, even if all of those things happened, as long as Al-Qaeda sticks with this extremist vision of Islam there is no deal to be made with them. It’s as simple as that. It’s as simple and difficult as that.
QUESTION: Good evening, gentlemen. I’d like to give Mr. Woolsey’s larynx a rest, and ask I guess all three of you, recently in the past week I’ve been watching a lot of news, between CNN and the Arab network Al-Jazeera, and what I’ve been seeing as far as the Iraqi people, they have looked at this war exactly as we look on 9-11. And I have to say this, honestly, that the Iraqis they actually have a lot of courage, the people in Baghdad are saying, we’re staying here and we’re fighting. And I’ve seen as far as a 70 year old man, a civilian, strapping AK-47s onto him. And personally I think that this will lead to further bloodshed as we approach closer and closer to Baghdad, and towards the end of the war. All three of you have talked about freedom and democracy, and I think it would be more important to answer this question, how would you react to those civilians who are looking at America as not the liberators, but rather the oppressors in this case, more so than Saddam. In this case they’ve actually said, as far as, we don’t care about their democracy. I think it’s important that you answer their comments.
WILLIAM BENNETT: Well, I’ll speak briefly. The returns are not in. It takes a while. Obviously what you want to do is do the things that Jim Woolsey and Paul Bremer mentioned earlier, you want to create the realities that show there is respect for the people, and that you want to restore them to the opportunity for democracy and freedom and self-government. And some people will be more hard to persuade than others. And of course there are some people hunkering down. They’ve been taught all their lives that we’re the enemy, that Saddam is their friend. Last time, you know, we abandoned a number of people who embraced us, left them in a lurch, and they were slaughtered and killed. So they would be cautious.
If you were sitting in a country and a bunch of people came in, with uniforms and this kind of weaponry, I think you’d probably pause. But, I have to say, I don’t think people are reacting, from the reports I’ve seen, even in journals such as the New York Times, that you can draw and equivalence between the Iraqi people’s reaction to U.S. forces and the American people’s reaction to Osama bin Laden. I did not see any Americans offering flowers to anybody who was representing Osama bin Laden or thought to be in any way sympathetic. I also did not see the kind of support and welcome that we have received from an awful lot of people who have asked us for help and assistance. But, we are so early, we are so early in this thing. But let’s be clear about this. We don’t do this for us, we don’t do this so they will love us. We don’t do this so we can get the oil.
One of the proofs, it seems to me, about this is that one of the incessant questions that we have in the United States about an effort like this is, should we do it, can we do it, and how soon can we get the hell out of there, you know, what’s our exit strategy. That doesn’t sound like a very imperialistic notion to me. And I understand the differences and variety of reactions for all of the reasons, and others, that one can cite. But, I want to come back to what I said in the opening thing, two very strong critics to the war of the war last night, Senator Gary Hart, and a man named Stephan Richter, who edits a German magazine, and they conceded that it was bound to be better, a lot better than it is now. That’s a pretty good argument to begin with.
JAMES WOOLSEY: Well, there’s the added point, which is that Saddam has 20,000-some Fedayeen, most of whom are Tikriti, quite a few of whom are from his own clan. Within Iraq this is looked at, accurately I think, as a Tikriti dictatorship. These are his thugs, and these are people who know that they may well not last long in an Iraq that is not dominated by Tikriti thugs. He has them out amongst the Shia in the South, and by shooting people in the back, and by killing women who wave to American troops and all the rest he has to some extent down in the South been able to intimidate them into not welcoming the United States. But, I think we’ll see in the Kurds in the North, and increasingly in the South, as the Americans and British and allies move in, positive reactions once people are sure of two things: (a), we’re going to win; and, (b) Saddam’s thugs aren’t around any more. You should not take at face value what people say and do when they have guns at their backs, and the Iraqi people have guns at their backs.
JAMES WOOLSEY: They have guns at their backs from Saddam’s Fedayeen, and if you don’t believe that or understand it, you don’t understand the first thing about what’s going on in Iraq.
QUESTION: My question is for Mr. Bremer. Because I haven’t seen much in the media, could you please elaborate on the conclusive evidence that links the Iraqi terrorist I mean, the Al-Qaeda terrorist network with the Iraqi regime?
PAUL BREMER: Intelligence shows a pattern of contacts between Iraq’s intelligence agents and high level representatives of Al-Qaeda going back more than a decade, regular contacts in the Middle East and elsewhere. Secondly, when we overran the Al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan we found evidence in written documents, which has been collaborated also by prisoners of war, that Iraqi intelligence agents helped Al-Qaeda in its search for and experiments with chemical weapons, and it seems like also probably with biological weapons. Thirdly, we know that a senior member of Al-Qaeda named Zakawi went to Baghdad initially to have an operation, and this was about a year and a half ago, and as far as I know, at least when the war broke out, was still resident in Baghdad. This is not a town where strangers are not known to the government. So they knew he was there. And finally, the Ansar al-Islam camp in the Northeastern part of Iraq, which we destroyed over the weekend. We are finding evidence, as well, there of contacts, direct contacts with Al-Qaeda, and there are indications that there may also have been contacts with members of the Iraqi intelligence in that group’s development of the poison Ricin, which as you may remember has also shown up in London and Paris. That’s the evidence.
JAMES WOOLSEY: Two quick points that are highly relevant, this is an excellent question. First of all, back in the ’70s and ’80s people got used to looking for state sponsorship of terrorism, paying for it, directing it. Hezbollah to some extent is sponsored by Iran. Al-Qaeda is too rich to be sponsored by anybody. In the two states where they have been present, both poor states, Sudan and Afghanistan, if anything you had terrorist sponsored states, not state sponsored terrorism. So the way to think of Al-Qaeda is more or less as an independent power, sort of a virtual state. And their relationship with Iraqi intelligence is probably more like that of a sister Mafia family. They hate each other, they kill each other from time to time, but they’re certainly capable of cooperating here and there against us, and I think they have and do. Second, the evidence for Iraqi involvement in anything connected with September 11th, I think there are some interesting shreds, but it is far less clear to us at this point than the relationship overall over the course of the last decade, as Jerry pointed out.
SETH LEIBSOHN: Okay. Quickly, we have to move on.
QUESTION: Yes, I myself support the troops, the president, and this war.
But, in coming to debate with a lot of left-wing radicals they claim that human rights are violated all over the world, and over 20 countries in this world are committing those human rights, how can we pick and choose one in Iraq. And I was just wondering if you guys could explain that, come up with the refutation for that?
WILLIAM BENNETT: Yes, he’s a violator of human rights, and I think that given the extent and depth of the violation that that gives virtually anybody some justification for action or intervention. But, in addition to that, as you just heard, he aids and abets terrorists, he houses them, he’s hospitable to them. Abu Nidal lived there, didn’t he, for a long time?
SETH LEIBSOHN: He died there.
WILLIAM BENNETT: Died there, lived there and died there. He is a mass murderer, apart from being a violator of human rights, he’s gassed his own people, he’s invaded other countries, he’s tried to assassinate a President of the United States. He supports and rewards terrorism in other countries, with checks for $25,000. He has weapons of mass destruction. What’s he getting them for? What’s this ricin for, what’s the botulinum toxin for? What is this stuff for? An international chemistry competition? One has to just say, let’s see, there’s this guy and he’s murdered all these people, and he’s developing all this stuff, I wonder if this is a bad thing. Well, as kids would say, duh, yes, it’s a bad thing, and it seems to me that’s sufficient cause. Now, does this mean that we’re going to go merrily around the world to every place that violates human rights? No. It also doesn’t mean the opposite, which is that we shouldn’t pay attention. I think we should have done something in the Balkans, I supported President Clinton when he did that.
I think the situation here is a lot worse. I think this character is a lot worse than Milosevic, and by the way, you didn’t hear all this criticism about Clinton, he bypassed the U.N., and so on. And I think we shouldn’t have looked the other way with Rwanda. It’s not a strategic ally in any important sense, but that was a slaughter, a slaughter of people, a slaughter of Christians in the South, and it should not have happened. Nothing should ever happen on that scale. If that means some people are going to say, who do you think you are, the world’s policeman? From time to time the world needs one, from time to time the world needs one. To those who are given much, much is expected. Does it require you to act in all these cases? No, but we’re not asleep, we’re not morally asleep. I think this is a very special nation. And I think when we hear those cries we ought to at least pay attention, and sometimes act.
SETH LEIBSOHN: Sir, because of the hour, I’m sorry, this will be the last question, but I will allow each panelist to take a final moment to sum up, if they would like to after your question.
QUESTION: A quick question for Mr. Woolsey, as the director of the CIA in the 1990s, and without revealing any CIA secrets, there have been four major Al-Qaeda attacks that I can think of against U.S. interests before 9-11, do you think that we had the power at the time to nip that in the bud, had we put special forces against Al-Qaeda, and are there any groups today that we need to act against that we haven’t yet?
JAMES WOOLSEY: I was director from February of ‘93 to early January of ‘95, and the first Al-Qaeda attack I think that we all agree on occurred was probably the attack on the reserve facility in Riyadh that killed several Americans, later in ‘95. So although there has been subsequently some suggestion that Al-Qaeda was involved in training, or perhaps even operating the missiles that shot down the American helicopters in Mogadishu in ‘93, generally speaking, the Al-Qaeda formation, bringing in Egyptian Islamic Jihad, declaring the jihad against the crusaders and the Jews, and turning away, as they call it, and turning away from the focus on the near enemy, the Mubarak regime in Egypt, the Saudi royal family, and so forth, all that tended to occur in ‘95 and after. So I’ve seen this as you have, as an observer from the outside.
I believe that the twin answer, basically, is that just talking about my successors, Mr. Deutsche and Mr. Tenet, I think they moved about as quickly on understanding Al-Qaeda and putting it, particularly Tenet, on the front of the country’s agenda, about as well as one can. It was not perfect, and they missed some things. The CIA missed, for example, the two terrorists in Malaysia in the meeting before 9-11, that should have gone on the watch list, and might have been able to have been kept out of the United States. But, generally speaking, American intelligence was at least paying attention, and focusing on those issues for somewhat the same reason that the commission I was on and that Jerry chaired did in 2000. The problem that we really had was a failure of security for the country as a whole. It was the flimsy cockpit doors, and on, and on. And we were asleep in much the same way we were asleep in December of 1941, and for very much the same reasons. The intelligence community is far from free from criticism. But, on the whole at least several years before 9-11 they were focusing very, very hard, and doing their best under the circumstances that they had to concentrate the country’s intelligence attention, and the attention of the executive branch as a whole on Al-Qaeda in particular, and terrorism in general.
SETH LEIBSOHN: Thank you very much.
Mr. Bremer, did you have a final thought you might want to add?
PAUL BREMER: Yes, three short sentences. I hope you go away from this understanding three things. Number one, the threat is very real, and ongoing. Secondly, the stakes are very high, the stakes are great in getting this war right, the war on terrorism. And thirdly, the choices are clear, they’re difficult, but they’re clear. And it’s going to take, I think, probably most of your lifetimes for us to bring about the kinds of things we’ve talked about here tonight, dealing with this new kind of radical Islam, or these various kinds of radical Islam, because as Jim rightly points out, there’s both Shiite and Sunni Islam, and bringing about a fundamental reordering of the political structures of countries in the Middle East, these are going to be lifetime challenges. And I hope very many of you will find it somewhere in your future to join public service, which is a great calling, and help our country with these great challenges.
WILLIAM BENNETT: Thank you.
Two thoughts. One, a couple of term paper thoughts, or senior thesis thoughts, or whatever. Consider this, just the interconnection of things, the connection of terrorism and Iraq. Osama bin Laden was very plain, wasn’t he, very clear in saying that the infidels had desecrated sacred land by having all the U.S. military in Saudi Arabia. Why did we have so much U.S. military in Saudi Arabia? To protect Saudi Arabia from Saddam Hussein, and Kuwait. That’s one of the reasons isn’t it. Pretty interesting connection. Think about that.
Second, nobody said it tonight, but it’s often said, I just want to leave you with it. We’ve had a lot of talk about bombs, death, and war, and so on, and these are facts of life. The ’90s might have been the great bubble, or part of the ’90s, we’re now restored to history. The story of history, you’re studying it, is a lot of inhumanity and misery. And so responsible people have to make responsible judgments, which sometimes means engaging even in a calculus about blood and death, mortality, and fatality, and how many people you can bear to lose. Walter Russell Mead of the Council of Foreign Relations, no conservative, he wrote a piece not long ago in which he pointed out the costs of containment. He made a very interesting argument by the numbers. Some 17,000 to 20,000 civilians were killed in Iraq during the Gulf War, 17,000 to 20,000 total, that’s the number he cited. Every month in Iraq since Saddam has been in power 5,000 children die of starvation, not because they’re poor, but because of his policies, because the belong to the wrong groups, the wrong faith, the wrong tribes, the wrong peoples. Do the calculus, if you believe in human life, and human rights, then sometimes you use that force in order that other force, worse force can be displaced and removed.
Thank you all very much for coming.
SETH LEIBSOHN: I want to thank the panelists, Mr. Bremer, Mr. Woolsey, Mr. Bennett. Students at UCLA thank you for inviting us, listening to us, talking with us, and even arguing respectfully with us. You have set the UCLA standard. Thank you again.
(End of event.)