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Showdown: Iraq

Aired October 5, 2002 - 12:02   ET


SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MAJORITY LEADER: I think it is fair to say that left untended, there is no doubt that, at some point in the future, Iraq could have the capacity to develop and to use weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Recognizing the threat, but still challenging the president, as the U.S. debates war and inspections in Iraq.

Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta. And this is our first Saturday edition of SHOWDOWN: IRAQ. We've got live coverage of these continuing developments involving Iraq. CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is in Kennebunkport, Maine, where President Bush is pushing Congress for a resolution. Jane Arraf has her finger on the pulse in Baghdad, and Martin Savidge is with troops at a U.S. air base in Qatar.

And we begin in Kennebunkport, where President Bush has been meeting with advisers and refining his message on Iraq. He is scheduled to address the nation, Monday night, and our White House correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is in Kennebunkport. And, Suzanne, I imagine the president is working on his speech.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right. He's working on a number of things. As you mentioned before, he is going to spend the weekend here, at Kennebunkport, the family estate. Earlier today, he was in New Hampshire for a fund-raiser, as well as campaigning for Republican Senatorial candidate John Sununu. We are told he raised half a million dollars, but as you know, the president, also, will be working on that speech. He's going to deliver it, prime time, on Monday evening. We are told it's about 20 minutes or so. He's going to be outlining his case against Saddam Hussein. Earlier today, we got a preview.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is a country, which 11 years ago, promised the world they would have no weapons of mass destruction. And yet, for 11 years, they have lied and deceived the world community. This is a country run by one of the most brutal dictators in modern history. Monday night, I will make the case to the country on TV. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MALVEAUX: Now, White House aides are telling us, don't expect any type of smoking gun or dramatically new information or evidence against Saddam Hussein. Don't expect a new policy initiative, but rather, the president is going to outline the case talking about Saddam, how he has tortured and raped and used gas against his own people. Also, the role of the United Nation., It's important to get that resolution passed before those inspectors go back inside of Iraq. And, of course, very important is that he's going to be putting a bit of pressure on members of Congress. There's going to be a vote, both at the House and the Senate, next week, to get that tough resolution authorizing him to use military force against Saddam Hussein. He expects that he will be getting that in the weeks to come -- Fred.

WHITFIELD: In fact, isn't this really the purpose of the president's planned speech, to try and sway those Congressional leaders who really are not on board and those members of the American public who do not support a U.S. military action -- Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: That's certainly part of it. I mean, it's a public relations campaign that this administration has been building, as you can imagine, over the weeks. The language really changing, some of it conciliatory, in a way, when you look at it. No longer talking about a regime change or preemptive action, but rather, talking about disarmament, talking about, yes, this is going to be the last resort if we use military force, trying to get those lawmakers to sign on board, as many as possible, and that resolution also getting the American people involved in this potential war effort. But the president clearly sending some strong signals that, yes, he wants that kind of support, and he wants it quickly.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks very much, Suzanne Malveaux from Kennebunkport.

President Bush is looking for that strong show of support from Congress to help strengthen his hand on Iraq. In the coming week, both the House and the Senate will focus on a resolution demanding that Iraq disarm or face an attack by U.S. military action. The issue already a stirring passionate debate on both sides of the aisle.


SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: Is there a word in this resolution, and I hold myself responsible for the words in this resolution, is there any word, is there any sentence, is there any paragraph that exceeds the authority given to the President of the United States in the Constitution which you love and defend so dearly?

SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D), WEST VIRGINIA: Absolutely. Absolutely. This whole piece of -- this great expenditure of paper is nothing more than a blank check given to the President of the United States to use the forces of this country, the military forces, in whatever way he determines, whenever he determines and where he determines.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WHITFIELD: The resolution would give Mr. Bush broad authority to use force against Iraq. It encourages him to work with the United Nations, but does not require it. Let's get the view from inside Iraq, right now, with CNN Baghdad Bureau Chief Jane Arraf. She's joins us live from the Iraqi capital. What's the feeling there, Jane?

JANE ARRAF, CNN BAGHDAD BUREAU CHIEF: Fredricka, there's kind of a sinking feeling, here, that this crisis is moving closer to war. The Iraqi government is sending some of its envoys, President Saddam Hussein's envoys, out into the region to try to avert any military attack. Foreign Minister Naji Sabri Bahrain, for instance, a key U.S. ally. There's a major U.S. base there, but try to convince Bahrain not to get on board with any planned invasion. To take people's minds off all of this tension, the Iraqi government is focusing on something else.

And this referendum that it's holding, in the middle of October, to endorse the presidency of Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi president wasn't really elected, but seven years ago the Iraqi leadership says everyone came out to vote, and they decided 99.9 percent that he should be their president.

They're doing the same thing again. We dropped by a high school where school students were given a new uniform. They're going to be wearing t-shirts with a picture of the president on the front, a slogan indicating that Saddam Hussein and Iraq are indivisible and, just for us, they also chanted a few slogans. The main one being, with our blood and our souls, we will sacrifice...


... government wants to get across, and the message that we're going to be hearing more and more of as we get closer to this referendum on October 15 -- Fredricka.

WHITFIELD: And, Jane, is this really a PR move designed to gain...


... says you have full support or the U.N. is giving full support to tougher inspections. If Saddam does not give a green light to unfettered access, is this another way of saying that, perhaps, the U.N. is, also, giving a green light to the U.S. to use military action?

DAVID ALBRIGHT, FMR. UNSCOM INSPECTOR: I think, in effect, that's probably what would happen. I mean if -- Iraq has to cooperate. It has to comply with the resolutions. If it just says, no, right away, to any new resolutions, then they're really saying they're not going to comply. And I think that, in effect, would say to the United States and Britain that they probably should go ahead with a military attack.

WHITFIELD: All right. Is it your hope that, perhaps, Saddam will be cooperating with the U.N., that there would not be a war that would be involving the U.S.?

ALBRIGHT: Certainly, I would much prefer that Iraq would give up its weapons of mass destruction, accept the intrusive inspections with the new rules, and that we can avoid war. I mean, the trouble with war is you really don't know what's going to happen. And in any case, the Iraqi people are going to suffer. And it could spill over to other parts of the region. And then, there could just be unintended consequences. So I think we should do everything we can to avoid a war.

WHITFIELD: Well, this is what some experts are saying. That Iraq has a capability of building weapons, chemical weapons, somewhere within the next five years and that, perhaps, within months might be able to have everything it needs in order to have nuclear weapons. Does that sound like a reasonable assessment to you?

ALBRIGHT: In terms of the chemical and biological weapons, Iraq has those, now. How many, how could they deliver them? I mean, these are their big questions about that.

WHITFIELD: But still needed, apparently, is uranium and plutonium.

ALBRIGHT: Well, on the nuclear weapons, there's some things that are not known. I mean, inspectors haven't been in there a long time. Intelligence agencies usually do a poor job at understanding clandestine, small nuclear facilities. And so you do have to worry that he's made more progress. But most assessments that are out there are that Iraq is not too close to nuclear weapons, in the sense that a threat is not imminent. And there is time for the inspection process to work.

But can't wait forever. Iraq appears to be seeking nuclear weapons and if it gets five, 10 nuclear weapons, it could really change the whole Middle East. It would make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, to attack him, if he really was so egregious in his violations that it was necessary. So I do think there's a clock ticking, and that, right now, is the time to deal with Iraq.

WHITFIELD: In the 1990s, Saddam expressed some apprehension, fear that, perhaps, the inspectors would dupe him and the country by allowing these inspections. Do you feel that, given that his mindset may not have changed or has no reason to change, why would he, indeed, give a green light to unfettered access? He's already said, you can come in, but the palace is off limits.

ALBRIGHT: Well, it's very critical that everything happen correctly, so Saddam understands that it's ether compliance in giving up his weapons of mass destruction or he's committing suicide. And I think that that's the message that has to be carefully given to him.

And I do think that, on the nuclear side, the Iraqis did comply and did cooperate at different times, remarkably so. I mean, when I was there, in 1996, I went because the Iraqis were talking. And I talked to the head of the nuclear weapons program, a guy named Jaffar (ph). I talked to people who built the enrichment plants, developed the enrichment plants, were solving the problems in the 80s. So I could talk to anyone I wanted, and they were remarkably open, and they remained open for quite a while. I think that changed.

And they've never, actually, been very open on biological and chemical weapons. But Iraq does know that, in some cases, cooperation's to its benefit, and it will do that., and I think that if given the proper message by a united Security Council that's determined to have strengthened inspections and to enforce its way, I think Iraq may cave.

WHITFIELD: If there is, indeed, a tougher U.N. resolution, how long do you expect it would be put into action. If, say, it were next week, would it be a matter of days off, or months?

ALBRIGHT: Well, in the new resolution, Iraq has to file what's called a declaration explaining what it's done. And they're given 30 days to do that, after the resolution passes. And once you see that resolution, you can get a very clear indication of Iraq's willingness to comply. I mean, there's been so many declarations by Iraq.

And I've read -- I think I've read them all on the nuclear side. And it started from something that's 10 pages long to something that grew into 2,000 pages long, filled with detail. And so if you look at the declaration, you can make an initial assessment, then the inspectors can go in within a few days and start asking Iraqi questions about the declaration, getting more information, testing their ability to allow unfettered access to sites. So I think that once a resolution passes, this whole issue can be solved or, at least, this whole issue can be understood of whether Iraq will comply, within two months.

WHITFIELD: All right. David Albright, thank you very much for joining us. Appreciate it.

ALBRIGHT: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Now, on to the military options and the cost of war. Coming up, analysis from a retired general in our "Guns & Ammo" segment. We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: War is costly. If the United States engages in force against Iraq, the monetary cost could go into the billions every month that war is carried out. Outlining the military picture, CNN military analyst and retired General Wesley Clark joins us. He is live from New York.

Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: Well, almost everyone agrees that, if indeed there is a war, it's a matter of month, perhaps even years, certainly not days. Is there a way in which to put a monetary calculation on how much it would cost the U.S.?

CLARK: Well, it's very difficult to get an accurate calculation of this. But we know the costs of the ordinates. We know the cost of the transportation over there. We can make some estimates of the cost of the sustainment. And so the highest cost - there'll be an initial outlay of getting the troops deployed. That runs in the six to 10 billion dollar category, I've been told. And the cost per month...


CLARK: ... of fighting. No, it's just a flat cost...


CLARK: ... for deployment and then, the cost for the fighting which is anywhere between six and seven or eight billion dollars a month of ammunition and fuel and consumables. And then, assuming the fighting is over, then you've got a occupation cost for the number of troops that are there. You have to make some assumptions about how many troops would be involved, and all of that is filled with assumptions that we don't have answers to, yet. At least, not in the public domain.


CLARK: But you can say, it's going to be expensive.

WHITFIELD: Yes, to say the very least. At the same time, you certainly can't put a price tag value on what it would cost in American lives because, obviously, when you have war, there are likely to be casualties, and that is how some people want to calculate whether, indeed, it's beneficial at all to have war.

CLARK: Well, I think everybody realizes, and especially people in uniform, that war should be and has to be the last resort. If you can solve your problems any other way, please don't fight about them. But it's notoriously difficult to try to predict casualties in military operations. It's even more difficult than estimating the dollar cost of the operations. And before the Gulf War, we heard figures as high as 20,000, but of course, we didn't have anywhere near that many casualties.

And the last few operations the United States has run have been remarkably casualty-free, not only for ourselves, but even in terms of the casualties we've inflicted on our adversaries and the accidental and unfortunate deaths of the innocent civilians who were in the areas. So I'm sure that our military's going to everything they can in this operation to do a fast, effective operation that results in minimum casualties.

WHITFIELD: All right, let's talk about the benefits or perhaps, consequences of a war that is one carried out via air versus ground.

CLARK: Well, I think if you go in from the air, and we have to go in first from the air. No matter what the other options are, you have to control the skies. And we're going to go in with high technology. We've practiced this for years. We've run similar operations in Iraq, in Kosovo and Afghanistan. We know what we're doing. And we have every reason to be confident and with the right preparation and planning, we have very high expectations of success.

So I would anticipate that we'll put in several hundred, maybe more than a thousand, pieces of ordinates, explosives, the first night. And we'll achieve air dominance within a day, two days, three days. We'll be able to do anything we want in the skies over Iraq. But that won't solve the problem of the weapons of mass destruction sites on the ground. Somebody's going to have to go in there, on the ground, find those sites, check them out, and gain control of the material, the technology, the papers and the people who are involved with it. And that's going to mean you're going to have ground troops in there, regardless.

WHITFIELD: You got to have a combination.

CLARK: Absolutely.

WHITFIELD: So can the U.S. go into this, confidently, if it turns out that, as President Bush said, we end up going it alone, if there really are no other allied nations who are willing to go to war, go to task with the U.S.?

CLARK: I think that our military planners must have looked at this in great detail and, obviously, the military always prefers to go in with allies, with as much support and as much flexibility and redundancy as possible. Nevertheless, it's clear that with our forces in the Persian Gulf, in Kuwait, in Qatar, perhaps coming from the north in Turkey, there's adequate air space, there's adequate air basing, and there's adequate room on the ground to get forces in and do the job. The more allies, the more support we have, the better.

And we will have allies, even if we don't get a U.N. Security Council resolution, it's highly probable that we'll have Saudi Arabia with us, that we'll have Turkey with us. We've got Kuwait with us. We've got Cutter with us. We'll probably have several European countries, in addition to Britain, with us. Because we have made the effort to go to the United Nations, and we have brought international attention to this problem. And so it's really a different circumstance than it was, let's say, when the debate began in August, when some people really considered going into the operation without having taken the issue to the U.N. We've done that. We've already made that decision. And I think it's been a productive and correct decision.

WHITFIELD: All right. General Wesley Clark, always good to see you. Thank you very much for joining us from New York.

CLARK: Thank you very much.

WHITFIELD: Well, if the many developments, alone, about Iraq has your head spinning, we'll break it down for you, in a moment. Then, Sound Off. Iraq. The debate on war or waiting. Should the U.S. strike against Saddam Hussein or give diplomacy a chance?


WHITFIELD: Well, just before our debate, let's recap the week in showdown with Iraq. The key events -- Iraq agrees to allow U.N. weapons inspectors to return, but the palace is off limits. The U.S. House backs President Bush's plan. The U.S. Senate begins debate on the issue of U.S. military force. And the United Nations gives broad support for a tougher resolution on Iraq before inspectors return.

Still the persisting question, should the U.S. take cues from the U.N. or go it alone and invade Iraq. This is at the heart of the national debate and the one we're about to have. David Silverstein is with the Foundation For Defense of Democracies. He favors an invasion. Mark Perry is a Middle East analyst, who says it's time for the inspectors to do their job first. And they're with us now from Washington.

Good to see both of you. All right, David, let me begin with you. Are you still averse to waiting for direction from the U.N. before the U.S. would go it alone?

DAVID SILVERSTEIN, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: Well, I have to be honest with you. I don't think that the United States should ever seed any of its sovereignty or any of its initiative to the United Nations. If unilateral action is what it takes to take care of Saddam Hussein and end that terrible evil regime, then I think that's exactly what we need to do.

WHITFIELD: But why not if the U.S. is among the nations prepping other countries to -- who are U.N. countries to abide by U.N. rules, why shouldn't the U.S. do the same? Why not show respect for the U.N. as a...

SILVERSTEIN: Look, it would be terrific -- you know it would be terrific if the United Nations was able to do its job and do it well. But the bottom line is that Saddam Hussein has been evading U.N. sanction for over a decade. And the reality really is that if we don't take action sometime soon with the U.N., without the U.N., with coalition members, without coalition members, then Saddam Hussein is going to have nuclear weapons. He's going to be able to weaponize long-range missiles. He is going to be able to destroy not just people within his own country, with whom he's been at war for the last 30 years, but people within the entire region and most importantly, he's going to endanger our troops in the region.

WHITFIELD: So Mark, let me bring you in on this. Why should diplomacy be trusted this go around when at least as most recent as the past four years, Saddam has been one to destruct, has not allowed the weapons inspectors to do their job?

MARK PERRY, AUTHOR, "A FIRE IN ZION": We haven't allowed diplomacy to work since the last Bush Administration. When we worked on diplomacy in the last Bush Administration, it did work. If we work with the U.N. now, it will work. If Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons today, we'd be irresponsible not to go get them and go get them just as soon as we can. The fact that we've been to the U.N., the fact that this president is working so hard to build a coalition shows he doesn't have those weapons of mass destruction.

We ought to give a chance for diplomacy to work. The American people want diplomacy to work. It's not my son or daughter who's going to go into Iraq. It's somebody else's. I think that we ought to give every chance for the diplomats to do their job.

SILVERSTEIN: You know, I've got to interrupt right there because the bottom line is that if you read this morning's paper alone, you will know that the CIA is reporting that Saddam will be able to weaponize long range missiles within the decade or shorter. The British Intelligence Service, MI6, reporting not that long, but rather two years. So all he's waiting for is a little fissile material.

According to the CIA, he has entirely reconstituted his weapons of mass destruction capability, save nuclear and he is heading for that very goal. So we cannot wait. We cannot afford to let the U.N. dither anymore.

WHITFIELD: Well, David, how do you respond to those who say how convenient for the CIA report to come out when the Senate has yet to -- and the full House has yet to vote on the matter. The Senate continues its debate this week and those are questioning the timing of such a report to be released.

SILVERSTEIN: Sure, it's a great question. The bottom line is that the Senate is going to get onboard whether they want to or not. The House is already there, both parties in the House in fact. And both parties in the Senate are already speaking strongly in support. It just happens to be one lone group of Democrats in the Senate. They will be onboard. The United Nations will be onboard. The coalition and western nations will be onboard. It's just a matter of time.

WHITFIELD: Mark, do you worry that mixed messages are being sent when earlier in the week, the U.N. said, "OK, we're ready to go in right away" and then pulled back for moment and said, "Well, wait a minute, we don't want our inspectors to be there." And they get mixed messages that we're now going to have the rules changed. So perhaps we all need to wait a moment.

PERRY: Well, I'm certainly not opposed to the president of the United States going to the U.N. and making these resolutions tougher. The fact that Saddam Hussein would say, "Everywhere but my palace," is -- raises suspicions. But I think that we can raise the bar. I think we can put pressure on. But we're not going to put pressure on without our multinational, international coalition. We're not going to be able to put the effective pressure on Saddam Hussein that we need without having our Arab allies behind us.

If we can wait and work very hard, I think we can make a very good case. But right now, the case hasn't been made. If we go in now, without absolute proof of weapons of mass destruction, we will be drawing a divide between us, our European allies, and our Arab allies and it's simply not worth...



WHITFIELD: Well, David...


WHITFIELD: David, let me interrupt you. Outside of the latest CIA report, how are convinced? Why are you so convinced that the threat is eminent?

SILVERSTEIN: Well, I have a tough time understanding how anybody cannot see that Saddam Hussein has been at war with his own people for the last 30 years. We all know that he's used poison gas against the Kurds. He's killed thousands and thousands of Shi'as in the south and everybody lives in an absolute state of fear in that...

WHITFIELD: But the argument is why should the U.S. go it alone, to go police a nation...

SILVERSTEIN: Well, because the bottom line...

WHITFIELD: ... and bypass the U.N. body.

SILVERSTEIN: The bottom line is that we are not going it alone. We will do it with the British at a minimum. But at a maximum, we should prepare to do it alone precisely because we are the only superpower left in the world. We're the only one with regional interests and with regional capabilities that allow us to do that sort of thing.

And quite frankly, I don't want to see our initiative to any other country in the region or perhaps in Eurasia, to allow them to take the initiative. It's ours. We are the ones who set policy in the Middle East quite rightly because we are the ones that protect those nations. We are the ones that protect the oil lines that feed the entire world's economy. We are the ones who have the ability and ultimately, the responsibility.

WHITFIELD: Well, Mark, how much does it concern you or perhaps bring relief that there is division within the Democratic Party in the Senate? And we're talking about Tom Daschle who says, "Hold a second, just wait a minute, let's give diplomacy a chance," at the same time, recognizing the threat. And then you have, former vice presidential candidate, Senator Lieberman, who says, "Let's go. Let's go to war. I back the president."

PERRY: I'm concerned about divisions in the Democratic Party. I'm concerned about divisions in the Republican Party. Senator Hagel seems to be hesitating in calling for international coalition. I back that. I think he made a very good statement this week. And I'm concerned divisions in the United States. We don't want this to be Tonkin Gulf Resolution. We don't want this to be 1965. We want the 77, 80, 90 percent of the American people to be behind an action when and if we go.

But right now, they're not there and they're not going to be there without a multinational coalition. They're not going to be there if we start dictating. They're not going to be there unless the president consults with the U.N. and pushes the U.N. to shape the tough resolution. And that's what he has to do.

SILVERSTEIN: You know we have to ask ourselves -- are the American people really involved in this? Are they interested in supporting any action in Iraq? And poll after poll says exactly that. Poll after poll agrees that Saddam Hussein is an evil person who needs to be removed. Poll after poll...

WHITFIELD: David, let me ask...


WHITFIELD: David, real quick, let me just interject real quick and ask you David, real quick, if the U.S.'s idea is going in to help stabilize the country, is it your concern that by trying to stabilize Iraq perhaps it might destabilize Iraq and destabilize the region?

SILVERSTEIN: I'm less concerned about instability post-Iraq than I am about getting rid of Saddam Hussein. I think that's an evil person, we can all agree, needs to be removed.

As for post-war Iraq, that's something that a coalition and perhaps the regional neighbors can work on. But right now, let's keep our eye on the prize. We need to remove Saddam Hussein before he bombs another country, invades it and loots it entirely.

WHITFIELD: All right. Mark Perry and David Silverstein, thank you very much, gentlemen, for joining us. I appreciate it.

SILVERSTEIN: Thank you, my pleasure.

PERRY: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Well, we all know his name, but how much do Americans really know about Saddam Hussein and his country? Coming up, Hussein one-on-one with a writer who's created a method everyone might be able to digest to help understand Iraq and its people. It's the complex "Idiot's Guide" coming up next.


WHITFIELD: As the drum beats of a possible war with Iraq grow louder, more attention is focused on that country's president, Saddam Hussein. Who he is and what makes him tick? One man who knows a lot about the Iraqi leader and the country of Iraq is Joseph Tragert. He is the author of "Idiot's Guide to Understanding Iraq" and he joins us now from Boston to talk more about Saddam Hussein and the political workings in Iraq.

Good to see you.


WHITFIELD: OK, well, we're going to try and dissect this country, particularly along tribal lines because initially, that really is a fairly complicated issue. The Sunnis happen to be the minority in the Iraq, but the majority in the Muslim world, correct?

TRAGERT: That's right.

WHITFIELD: Why is that important to know and know exactly where Saddam Hussein lies in all of this? He is a Sunnis, right?

TRAGERT: Yes, Saddam is Sunni and most of the Muslim world are Sunnis. The other majority -- the other large grouping is the Shi'a. Iran is almost a 100 percent Shi'a Islam. And Iraq has a very large majority of the people as Shi'a, so the Sunnis in Iraq are a minority overall yet they maintain all the power, politically and militarily. All the army officers tend to be Sunnis. The Republican Guard is mostly Sunni soldiers not Shi'a soldiers, where the rest of the army are Shi'a. There are, of course, are the Kurds in the north and some other minority groups.

So what's important is that Saddam's power base in Iraq is really centered on the smaller, minority of wealthier, upper class, power- holding Sunni Muslims where the vast majority of people, the Shi'as, are essentially disenfranchised and are not a power base for him at all.

WHITFIELD: So in your opinion, it's important to know this, particularly, because if we talk about the toppling of Saddam Hussein, would it be in the best interest that another Sunni leader would then take the place of Saddam Hussein, to keep that country stable, to keep that region stable or would you see that perhaps, you know, a Shi'ite should be leading? Or does it even matter whether it should be another tribal member or leader?

TRAGERT: Yes, I think it's very important that it would be another Sunni leader to replace Saddam. And the reason is that the other countries around him, with the exception of Iran, are all Sunni led -- Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, you know, Syria. And they are probably not happy at all about the notion of a Shi'a dominated country that's within their borders.

One of the historical values, if you will, of Iraq has always been as a bulwark against the Persian Shi'as that are in Iran. Iraq is of course Arab, so there was this notion of Arab versus Persian and now also Sunni versus Shi'a. So it would make sense that most of the neighbors of Iraq want to see another Sunni led government because they do not want a dominate a Shi'a government.

WHITFIELD: And you say that that would be Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Syria.

TRAGERT: Right...

WHITFIELD: And so...

TRAGERT: ... just sort of the countries around them, yes.

WHITFIELD: ... their level of cooperation is very important when and if U.S. intelligence are to be involved helping to create a transitional government if that -- if it comes to such... TRAGERT: Right.

WHITFIELD: ... after Saddam Hussein.

TRAGERT: That's right.

WHITFIELD: All right. Well, let's talk about a few e-mails that we received, questions for you since you've got the "Idiot's Guide to Iraq" and everyone wants to try and understand this very complex region.

The first one coming from Karen of Michigan -- "Who was in power in Iraq before Saddam and how did Saddam come into power?"

TRAGERT: OK, the person who was in power before Saddam was another member of the Ba'ath Party. His name was al Bakr. In fact, he was a relative of Saddam, came from the same clan and tribal group that Saddam is from, the al Kadab (ph) clan, which is a member of the Tekrit Tribe (ph), which is a region just north of Baghdad. So this was a relative of Saddam's who was in charge.

In 1979, Saddam basically staged an internal coup and took over. Al Bakr was older and he was in somewhat of failing health. And Saddam was running most of the day-to-day operations internally in the country. He had been in charge of the security forces. He was in charge of a lot of economic development. So when the government was allocating oil dollars to various public works projects or schools or hospitals, it was Saddam's smiling face who typically was the one everybody saw as they cut the ribbons and opened the new building.

So he had some internal popularity, believe it or not, within the country. He basically felt it was time for him to step in because one of al Bakr's last requests was that he wanted to have an open election amongst the leadership in the Ba'ath Party to pick who would succeed him. And Saddam obviously wasn't going to risk not being picked, so he staged the coup.

What he did was he went in and he called a meeting of all the main leaders in the Ba'ath Party, brought them all into a room and had a TV camera there. And he publicly said that there had been a coup attempt and there were plotters in our midst. And he began to single out all these people publicly and accuse them of being plotters and had them led away on TV. And they were all executed. It very quickly established Saddam as the person in authority who moved a great number of his potential rivals and set up a notion of that, you know, don't mess with this guy because you could be killed.

WHITFIELD: OK, thank you for that very quick little history on that. All right, here's another e-mail coming. This time from Peter of Norton, Massachusetts. "Will the Arab world unite if one of them is attacked?" And of course, we were talking about that with the various tribes, and the Shi'ites versus the Sunnis. But I'll go ahead and let you answer that one.

TRAGERT: Well, you know, I'd say it all depends.


TRAGERT: The Arab world united when Iraq attacked Kuwait, for example, and participated in the assault on Iraq. Would the Arab world unite if the U.S. unilaterally attacked Iraq, I don't know. I think that that's probably risk that -- we couldn't count on that support.

So there's a lot of talk amongst Arab leaders in and of the Arab population in that region about, you know, Arab unity. It's been a goal of the political leadership of many of the parties for literally decades, from Nasser, you know, forward and even before him. It's never really amounted to much politically. It's never amounted to much even militarily except I think when you see what happened in the coalition when the U.S. and the western forces helped prop up that alliance and then, they all went in together.

WHITFIELD: OK, Joseph Tragert, thank you very much.


WHITFIELD: The book is "The Idiot's Guide To Understanding Iraq." Thank you very much, appreciate it.


WHITFIELD: A world view of the war debate coming up. We're wired on Iraq next.


WHITFIELD: Taking a look now at world sentiment about war with Iraq. In Australia, protesters turned out in force to show their opposition to any involvement their country may have in the war campaign. Church leaders organized the rally in Adelaide.

And in Italy, a massive show of opposition into a military strike against Iraq. In Milan, students carried placards that read, "Not in my name." Another protest taking place in Rome.

CNN's Daniel Sieberg, sorry, joins us now and he shows us how to use technology to stay on top of the international headlines in -- concerning the showdown with Iraq.

DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN TECHNOLOGY CORRESPONDENT: Right, absolutely, very good. As you pointed out, some of these other incidents and protests that were happening around the world, certainly illustrate that there is a difference of opinion about what could be happening potentially with any U.S. plans and the ongoing debate over Iraq is of course making headlines in the U.S.

But let's take a look at some Web sites that may be of interest to people who would like to read about what the international press is saying about any possible military action in the region. First, we're going to look at This is just one of many sites that links to English language versions of international newspapers and magazines and other publications. They break it down by region and then country. So if you scroll down to say Saudi Arabia, then you pick a list of publications of that particular region. We've got it pulling up right now. Of course, once you get to the newspaper or magazine Web site, then, you have to look around for Iraq's stories, which will be mixed in with other news going on.

And another approach is to visit a site like, which is the online version of "World Press Review." This is one stop shopping for articles from a host of international publications. All you do is search for Iraq and the site pulls up recent articles or excerpts from articles on Iraq from publications all over the world. You click on "Arab Press Reaction to U.S. Plans to Attack Iraq," for example, and you can read what newspapers have to say from places like Algiers and Tunascas. It even tells you a bit about that publication here in parentheses, such as whether it's independent or government owned. That's an important point. It'll tell you sort of the origin and the structure of the article.

That's a lot of interesting stuff from here, but of course, bear in mind, this is far from being comprehensive. There are other sites out there on the Web you can go to to find this international opinion on the Web. So of course, the World Wide Web International, just by name, so...

WHITFIELD: No kidding.

SIEBERG: ... lots of news out there.

WHITFIELD: And in addition to of course, getting kind of the -- kind of the public sentiment around the world, most are getting a quick geography and history lesson...

SIEBERG: Absolutely.

WHITFIELD: ... through these various sites as well.

SIEBERG: Definitely, geography, history, political analysis. There's all sorts of different sites, but these are just a couple of quick ones for people if they're interested in an international perspective of what's going on in the news.

WHITFIELD: All right, thanks a lot Daniel.

SIEBERG: All right.

WHITFIELD: We appreciate it, good to see you.

SIEBERG: All right.

WHITFIELD: All right, well, what is the public sentiment about a possible war in the U.S. -- here in the U.S. The folks at Gallup are keeping track of the opinion polls on Iraq and editor-in-chief, Frank Newport, brings us the results of their latest polls.

FRANK NEWPORT, THE GALLUP POLL: Indeed, we hear a lot from experts, incumbents, and politicians. It's always important to bring the perspective of the American public back into play when we're talking about something major like possible military action in Iraq.

Let me review what we have as we look at all of the different polling that's been done, particularly over the last month. First of all, support for the basic comsat (ph) of military action to change the regime in Iraq or remove Saddam Hussein from power is there. It's not a huge majority, but you can the numbers -- 53, 58, 57 percent asked that basic question say, "yes" fairly consistently over the last month.

Now, let's look at that in some kind of historical perspective. That's not as a high as we've seen, not as low as we've seen for possible military action. Look in the middle here, if you would. After the attacks of September 11, 88 percent of Americans said they favored military action to go after terrorists, much higher numbers there. However, back in the Gulf War, in the fall of 1990, the number was only 37 percent even though we already had American troops in Saudi Arabia preparatory to possible military action. Just 37 percent of Americans said they supported the concept at that time in the fall. Now, of course, as I just showed you, we're up to 57 percent.

There are a lot of contingencies involved in the possibility of military action and pollsters have been busy trying to measure them, in other words, a lot of different scenarios could occur, a lot of things could happen looking forward. We've measured them and we basically find that support for military action will go up or it will go down depending on the types of scenarios that unfold. If Congress for some reason does not vote to support for the president, support is down. The same thing for United Nations, if it was not to support or the allies were not to support the U.S. in its efforts, support from the public would go down.

Types of action make a difference as well. If it's limited, support goes up. Lots of ground troops, support goes down. Unanticipated consequences, we don't know yet what might happen there.

I would say, in summary, that support goes anywhere from the 30's to in the 70's percentage range depending on what we tell them in our polling questions. And that means depending on what happens down the line, we'll see support probably change from day-to-day or from week- to-week as far as the American public is concerned.

There is a question about why the American public generally favors action in Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power. The data are very clear, have been for over a decade. Look at this, Saddam Hussein's unfavorable rating, 96 percent, the highest negative in Gallup Poll history. The country of Iraq has an 88 percent unfavorable. And most importantly, when we ask Americans, they tell us, 77 percent, that they believe if not stopped, Iraq will, in fact, use weapons of mass destruction at some point in the future. That's probably the most important reason or the argument that the public has bought into at this point for supporting the idea of military action.

Finally, some people have raised the possibility of what's been called a WAG the Dog theory that the administration is emphasizing that Iraq, at this point -- trying to detract people from looking at other issues, leading into the November 5 congressional elections. Now, we've asked about it and find the public doesn't accept that argument. The latest poll we could find, "Newsweek," last weekend asked that same basic question. And we found a 55 percent -- the majority of Americans say, no, they do not buy into that hypothesis. About 37 said -- a lot of Democrats here say they do.

That's a round up of American public opinion about the potential for military action in Iraq. I'm Frank Newport.

WHITFIELD: And this programming note, tune in later today for more on Iraq. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle joins "NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS." That's at 5:30 Eastern Time, 2:30 Pacific.

And when we come back, an excerpt from the CIA's brand new report on Iraq's weapons program and details on how you can check it for yourself. Also, remember to e-mail us with your questions and comments at We'll try to get some answers for you in the weeks to come. SHOWDOWN: IRAQ continues in a moment.


WHITFIELD: Our final thoughts this hour come from the CIA's new report on Iraq and its weapons arsenal. The report released this month states, quote: "Since inspections ended in 1998, Iraq has maintained its chemical weapons effort, energize its missiles program and invested more heavily in biological weapons." The report goes on to say, quote: "Most analysts assess Iraq is reconstructing its nuclear weapons program."

And it's a report the Senate will no doubt be consulting as it continues next week to debate President Bush's stand on war with Iraq. Also, the president addresses the nation on Monday evening, and CNN will be carrying that live for you.

That is SHOWDOWN: IRAQ for this Saturday. A check of the top stories straight ahead, then an encore presentation of today's "SATURDAY EDITION."


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