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America's New War: Christopher Dodd Discusses Military, Diplomatic Agendas

Aired September 29, 2001 - 17:30   ET


AL HUNT, CO-HOST: I'm Al Hunt. And Robert Novak and I will question a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: He is Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut.

Senator Dodd, there has been debate in conservative and Republican ranks and, indeed, within the Bush administration itself whether this terrorist crisis should be taken as an opportunity to attack Iraq and get rid of Saddam Hussein once and for all, whether or not Iraq can be directly tied to the attacks of September 11. What's your opinion on that?

CHRISTOPHER DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, if they can be tied to them, then there's no question, then obvious then they're going to have to be a target -- a military target, as well as the Taliban or Osama bin Laden, or whoever else may have been a part of it.

If they're not; if you don't have the proof to do it, then you run the risk of breaking up a coalition which the administration has got to have if they're going to succeed in going after those who are responsible.

So I would be -- I think Colin Powell is on the right track here, and I'd be hesitant about suggesting that we ought to just go after Saddam Hussein because this is an opportunity in which we could get away with it. Without having the proof that he's involved in this in some way, I think you run the risk of taking moderate Arab states and forcing them to either be neutral or to take an opposing view to the United States at a time when we're going to absolutely need them if we're going to succeed.

If you're going to succeed in this military efforts, and a diplomatic effort against these people, then you've got to have those moderate Arab states working with you. If you lose them, then the job becomes that much more difficult.

NOVAK: Senator, if you can find a tie between Iraq and the terrorist attacks, would you think that use of an American expeditionary force, of ground forces in Iraq would be advisable?

DODD: Well, I wouldn't rule it out. I mean, I don't want to suggest -- I'm not going to pretend I'm deeply involved at this juncture with the military planning. But certainly if you're going take military action, then you can't exclude various aspects of it. And if ground forces are necessary, then certainly I would support that.

NOVAK: Senator, there's a lot of things bubbling up around Washington over the weekend about the use of anti-Taliban Afghan fighters in Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban regime. But a lot of Americans really are kind of expecting a big-bang attack by the United States, a violent attack on Afghanistan. What's your opinion on that? If we can do this -- if the United States can do this by using anti- Taliban Afghans, is that better than using American forces?

DODD: Well, we've been down that road. Certainly, we ought to explore the possibility of having some people help us, including the anti-Taliban forces. But I would almost prefer to see U.S. forces rather than relying exclusively on elements inside Afghanistan.

We've been down that road in the past. In fact, the Taliban itself is an organization which we helped finance and train when we supported those forces when we were trying to -- successfully ousted the Soviet Union from Afghanistan. So I don't have any objection to us using, being involved with those people, but I wouldn't want to rely on them exclusively.

HUNT: Senator, let me ask you about -- there was a CNN report this morning of an internal White House document that says clearly one of our objectives is to topple the Taliban. Now, it's hard to envision a more horrific regime than the Taliban, but is there any danger that ensuing chaos, for instance, could imperil Pakistan, which has nuclear weapons?

DODD: It could. I mean, I think we ought to be very sensitive to it. First if all we ought to express our gratitude to Pakistan. General Musharraf was not democratically elected, it was a coup that put him in power. But he has been very supportive of the United States during the last few weeks, and that's going to be a very critical element in the ultimate success of this effort to go after those responsible for the attack on September 11.

So I would be careful about over-reaching at this point. I think the administration is handling this very, very well. They're proceeding with a great degree of caution. They're not overreacting. I know there's some disappointment in some quarters. But I admire the way they're handling this so far.

And therefore I think to rush in and have a big hit against the Taliban, which may or may not get those responsible, may not be successful in even toppling the Taliban, may cause those forces in Pakistan to be more successful and place that regime in jeopardy there by making our job that much harder.

HUNT: Are you saying, then, that our objective should not be to topple the Taliban -- that that should not be because of some of the problems that would cause? And what kind of government could you envision in Afghanistan, and what should the U.S. do to effect any? DODD: We ought to go back -- the mission we have in the short term is to go after those who are responsible for the attack on September 11, and to go after those who may be responsible for harboring them, training them and so forth...

HUNT: Which includes the Taliban.

DODD: As a result of that, then that may be the effort.

We're still in the effort of trying to get the Taliban to turn over Osama bin Laden, to shut down the camps inside Afghanistan, to turn over the network -- al Qaeda -- that is responsible, many believe, for the September 11 attack and other such hits.

It seems to me that we ought to exhaust the efforts there. If those don't prove successful, then obviously you broaden your scope and the Taliban becomes a target as well. I wouldn't exclude that, just not now.

HUNT: Do you think that objective should be to kill Osama bin Laden?

DODD: Well, whether it's to kill him or to capture him, to bring him to the bar of justice, however you do it. However you can -- whatever means you have to take in order to put him out of business. And if it means killing him, that's the only way it can be done, then certainly I would support that result.

NOVAK: Senator Dodd, last week at this very table one of your senior colleagues on the Foreign Relations Committee, former chairman Senator Jesse Helms said that Secretary of State Powell was wasting his time in trying to bring China and Russia into the coalition against terrorism. Do you consider China and Russia reliable allies against terrorism?

DODD: Well, I would disagree with my colleague and friend from North Carolina's assessment, it's a waste of time. In fact, it's already proven to be a valuable expenditure of the president's time. We're already seeing President Putin do some things that indicate a willingness to be supportive, including the forward placement of some military hardware of ours in Central Asia.

So I don't think it's a waste of time at all. We're going to need as much cooperation as we can get.

If the president's correct, and I believe he is, that these networks exist in as many of 60 or 70 different countries -- these terrorist networks -- it is going to take a tremendous amount of cooperation internationally to go after them. And you're not going to be able to succeed in doing that if we don't have the cooperation of the Russians and, I believe, the Chinese as well.

So I don't think it's waste of time at all. I think the president is doing exactly the right thing, I think Secretary of State Powell is, to try and develop those relationships and build that network that will allow us to not only identify, but then prosecute either militarily or -- militarily to see to it that we can bring an end to this kind of activity.

NOVAK: Senator, in this time of crisis and bipartisan cooperation, national bringing together, President Bush has said he would like had full foreign policy team on board, including his nominee for Secretary of State for Hemisphere Affairs Otto Reich. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, under Democratic leadership, refuses even to hold a hearing; and there are reports that the reason is that you, as chairman of the Hemisphere Subcommittee, have absolutely refused too permit a hearing on Ambassador Reich. Is that true?

DODD: Well, first of all -- I have my objections to Otto Reich, and I don't think he's the right person at this time. Again, we're trying to build relationships all over the world to help us; and the most immediate problem we have -- and that is, of course, this battle against those who engaged and caused that tremendous loss of life on September 11 -- a continuing effort against terrorism.

Otto Reich is not going to be warmly accepted, to put it mildly, in this hemisphere if he's chosen as the assistant secretary. I'm not the only person who has problems with Otto Reich, and it's not because of his views on the Iran Contra. I don't think Otto Reich is the right person right now for that job. And so my hope is that the administration will come up with an alternative choice.

NOVAK: But they are not coming up with an alternative, and you won't even give him a hearing?

DODD: We'll we're going to see -- let's see how things go in the next few days.

NOVAK: No hearing?

DODD: Well, at this point here we may see another candidate emerge.

NOVAK: That's your -- if...

DODD: It isn't just me. I'm saying to you, Robert, that I'm not the only person -- nor is it just a Democratic opposition to Otto Reich. There are others who feel just as strongly as I do.

NOVAK: Senator, you have been quoted as saying that you are a -- you want caution in having a stimulus package for this economy at a time when people are losing their jobs, thousands upon thousands of people, many industries in very bad shape, stores an restaurants empty. But do you agree with Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan that we need more data -- economic data -- before we act?

DODD: Well, this much -- I think clearly we need to do some things to help out people who are being -- losing their jobs. We have 3 million people now in this hotel, restaurant business that have lost their jobs in the last couple of weeks. A stimulant package, including a capital gains tax cut, I think would be a mistake. I think we need to do some other things. But the data is coming in. I think there is a danger. The chairman of the Federal Reserve is suggesting that we just not charge forward here without knowing a bit more. And so I don't disagree with his expression of caution that we need not just do everything all at once. This is going to be an ongoing process. It's not all going to be done in the next couple of weeks or couple of months.

The world has changed as we know it as a result of what happened on September 11, and we're going to have to respond to this, not just with one-time spending or stimulus packages. It's going to take, I think, a variety of measures over an extended period of time. And so I think the Federal Reserve chairman's suggestion that Congress not lunge with some quick suggestions that may devour substantial portions of our budget is a wise note.

HUNT: Senator, you had the same reservations when the Congress bailed out the airline industry. You said, let's look carefully. There are now other industries lining up, including this insurance industry, which is important in your home state. Is Congress going to bail out a number of industries, including insurance as part of this...

DODD: No, not at all. And my problem with the airline, all these industries, you can make a case. You know, I have small businesses in Connecticut that are going out of business, losing 75-80 percent of their business as a result of what's happened over the last two weeks. So at some point here you're going to have to draw a line.

HUNT: Does insurance need any help?

DODD: Well, insurance is going to be important, I think, to do some things here, to build up reserves or have the government come in, because otherwise you will not find anyone willing to back up these companies in the face of such actions we saw on September 11. And so the insurance piece becomes necessary if you're going to restore confidence in the marketplace.

NOVAK: Don't you think if Connecticut says insurance is important, then Pennsylvania is going to say steel is important and it's going to be a...

DODD: Well, you're going to have to wait until those and what your response is. Clearly it was important to inject some resources into the airline industry. We need to get people flying again. You have big occupancy rates in hotels. At one place I think as low as 10 percent, 20 percent on average in the country; 3 million people losing their jobs.

We ought to be doing something to provide assistance to these low-income workers -- health care, for instance, to sustain them until the economy gets moving again. And you need to look at different aspects of the economy to determine whether or not some assistance there is necessary to try and get the larger sense of confidence improved in the country. I think insurance could be part of that.

HUNT: Let me ask you one more question before we take a break: The president has nominated Tom Ridge to head the Homeland Security Agency. He would be an adviser to the president. Do you think the Congress should insist that this be a statutory agency, confirmable by the Senate, with a statutory budget?

DODD: I do. I mean, I don't know if we can do it right or not. But if you're going to have somebody sitting at the Cabinet table there, responsible for coordinating the Pentagon, the CIA, the Justice Department, it seems to me then that's a position that has that much authority, then they ought to be confirmed by the United States Senate and there out to be a budget so that we have some of the power of the purse -- that co-equal branch of government has some ability to have some say about how this office and operation is going to work.

NOVAK: OK, we're going to have to a break. And when we come back we'll have "The Big Question" for Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut.


HUNT: Now "The Big Question" for Senator Chris Dodd.

Senator, the president last week said we were fighting this war for freedom, tolerance and pluralism. Does that mean that the United States should pressure allies like Saudi Arabia to start practicing some freedom, tolerance and pluralism?

DODD: I think we should. And one of the things we're going to have to do is understand Islam and the Muslim faith more. We haven't been engaged enough with it. And this is not in any way to justify, obviously, the savage attack on September 11, but we need to understand why there is a sense of these people feeling so disenfranchised, globally -- these desperate people living in these countries. Too often nations that we support, we prop up, in my view. And so I think we need no think about that in the long term, and if we're going try to rebuild some relationships in that part of the world. We've neglected it for far too long.

NOVAK: Senator Dodd, earlier you mentioned the improved relationship after September 11 with President Putin of Russia. There seems to be, in the administration, less anger about the way the Russian government has treated the Chechen insurrection. Do you tend to believe now that -- along with some people in the administration that there was some justification in calling the Chechen rebels terrorists?

DODD: Well, again, this -- when you get to this part of the world it gets complicated, to put it mildly. And I think we need Russia on our side during this effort. Without them I think it's going to be very, very difficult.

And so the rebels in Chechnya, I think there's -- run the risk if we become too closely associated with them we could find very much the same sort of result you saw in Afghanistan. We become to enamored. If it's against Russia, then we automatically accept the idea they must be good; these must be Jeffersonian democrats in Chechnya. I think there's very little evidence of that. And we ought to start thinking about the larger picture, the more important issues facing the United States. I think that -- building that close relationship with Russia makes sense.

NOVAK: Senator Christopher Dodd, thank you very much.

DODD: Thank you.

NOVAK: Al Hunt and I will be back with a comment after these messages.


HUNT: Bob, you know there is division in Republican, or conservative, circles in this whole question of how we wage this war and do we take on Iraq. But I think, as Chris Dodd showed today, that most congressional Democrats, if not all, are really firmly in the Colin Powell camp, the more cautious camp.

NOVAK: He made it pretty clear, Al, that he's against attacking Iraq, absent a real clear connection with the events of September 11. But he didn't want indigenous forces in Afghanistan to do the work. He was for a military operation in Afghanistan, even if it would be possible for other forces -- for anti-Taliban forces to do the job.

HUNT: Yes. And I also think that Senator Dodd, like the administration, is grappling with what can a post-Taliban Afghanistan look like? That is -- as bad as the Taliban is, there's all kinds of peril about the post-Taliban regime there.

On the homefront I think he's right, though. There's going to be tremendous pressure to make Tom Ridge a confirmable post as head of homeland security with a statutory budget, not just a presidential adviser.

NOVAK: Al, Chris Dodd is a charming and engaging senator, but I think he showed, in our conversation, there are limits to bipartisanship. He still wants to get rid of Otto Reich as the president's nominee for assistant secretary of state, he still is opposed to cuts in the capital gains tax, and he still wants to have the tax cuts for the lowest income people. So this is a democracy, and we have differences of opinion.

HUNT: We do.

NOVAK: I'm Robert Novak.

HUNT: And I'm Al Hunt.

NOVAK: CNN's coverage of "America's New War" continues.

HUNT: Thanks for joining us.




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