CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Aired December 22, 2002 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 8:00 p.m. in Riyadh and 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad as well. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq.
We'll talk with two key United States senators about where the showdown is heading, as well as the impending change in the U.S. Senate leadership, but first a CNN news alert.
BLITZER: We're joined now by two leading members of the United States Senate. In Miami, the Florida Democrat, Bob Graham. He's the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee. And here in Washington, the incoming chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Republican Richard Lugar of Indiana.
Senators, always good to have both of you on the program.
And I want to discuss all of these issues -- Iraq, the war, the war on terrorism -- in just a few moments. But the big political news, Senator Lugar, this past week, the decision by the Senate Republican Leader, Trent Lott, to step down.
I want you to listen to what one of your colleagues, Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, said, trying to put this whole spectacular decision on the part of Senator Lott in some sort of context. Listen to what Senator Specter said.
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SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: This episode on Senator Lott's comments at the Thurmond birthday party should be a loud wake- up call, beyond Senator Lott, a wake-up call to the Republican caucus in the Senate and to the Republican Party that we really ought to be activists on civil rights.
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BLITZER: Senator Lugar, does the Republican Party have a problem when it comes to minorities' civil rights?
SEN. RICHARD LUGAR (R), INDIANA: No, but I agree with my colleague, Arlen Specter, that this gives a good opportunity with Bill Frist to do precisely what he's suggesting. Bill Frist is a man who's been active on the Foreign Relations Committee in Africa, has gone to Africa, has worked with people in the Sudan giving medical services, worldwide HIV-AIDS crisis.
He has addressed problems of medical care for all Americans, not just theoretically, in a hands-on way. Likewise, prescription drugs for the elderly. These are issues that are not either black or white, but they are issues that are compassionate.
BLITZER: So you think Senator Bill Frist, who will be the new Republican leader, the new majority leader in the U.S. Senate, will be able to fix this image problem that seems to have developed big-time as a result of the remarks that Senator Lott made at Strom Thurmond's birthday party?
LUGAR: Yes, he personifies not just the rhetoric about idealism but as a life that has been lived. There are actually hands-on examples of how he will make a difference. And I think it's a very exciting prospect.
BLITZER: And there's no doubt it's all a done deal? Tomorrow, Senator Frist will formally get that vote. He'll be the Republican leader?
LUGAR: Yes, at some point a conference call will be held, and all of this will affirm how enthusiastic we are about Bill Frist's leadership.
BLITZER: Senator Graham, I want -- you know, you've been watching all of this unfold, your colleague from Mississippi, Senator Trent Lott's demise, as you will, as the majority leader in the U.S. Senate.
But I want you to listen -- actually, I'll read what your governor, the governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, the brother of the president, said earlier in the week.
In the Miami Herald he was quoted as saying, "Something is going to have to change. This can't be the topic of conversation over the next week. It doesn't help to have this swirling controversy that Senator Lott, in spite of his enormous political skills, doesn't seem to be able to handle well. To have this get in the way is damaging to the Republican Party."
Is it your sense as an observer that Senator Lott was indirectly, at least, pushed by the White House to come around and make this decision? Because a lot of people can't imagine the president's brother having said what he said without getting some sort of green light from the White House.
SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA: I don't think that either Governor Bush or Secretary of State Powell would have said what they had done without prior clearance from the White House.
But to me, this is more than just a transitory, partisan political problem. It is a real question of whether we are going to have as a nation policies that will treat all Americans fairly.
And there are going to be a series of issues coming up in the Congress in the next few months that will test that. One of those is the president's commitment to the education program of "No child left behind," where there is very strong statements but have been very minimal amounts of resources thus far recommended to carry out those programs. That will be an example of whether there is a true commitment to an America that leaves no American behind or whether it's rhetoric.
BLITZER: Are you satisfied? Do you like Senator Frist? Will he change the direction of the Republican Party and work more cooperatively with Democrats as the Republican leader?
GRAHAM: I am encouraged that he will do that. One particular area that I have worked with Senator Frist is on health-care issues. And maybe his ascendancy will help represent a breakthrough on things like providing through Medicare a prescription drug benefit. I certainly hope so.
BLITZER: Senator Lugar, the White House says the president didn't push Senator Lott to come to this decision, although a lot of outsiders believe that, in effect, he did. Do you think the White House had a role in convincing Senator Lott to step down?
LUGAR: Yes. It started with the president making a very critical comment, a very timely comment.
BLITZER: In Philadelphia at that speech?
LUGAR: Exactly. That was a very big comment. It continued, I suspect, as you've reported, with Secretary Powell and Jeb Bush, and others, for that matter.
I think there is a commitment on the part of the White House to racial justice in this country, and no ambiguity. And it seemed to me very important that the president speak out as he did, and I think that played a role.
BLITZER: Senator Graham, there's a new poll that's just being released today, the CNN-Time magazine poll, and it asks the people out there, who is their choice for the Democratic nomination, and look at this. Registered Democrats, Hillary Rodham Clinton emerges with 30 percent, if she were to decide to run. Joe Lieberman and John Kerry at 13 percent. And everybody else way down below in the pack.
Is Senator Clinton that popular among registered Democrats that, if she were to run for the Democratic nomination in 2004, she would get it?
GRAHAM: Well, I believe that her strong performance in her initial term in the Senate has added to the reputation of a very effective person and a caring person that she had before she came to the Senate. So I'm not surprised that she has such a high level of support.
But the campaign is wide open. First, Senator Clinton has announced that she's not going to be a candidate in 2004. The other candidates are just beginning to establish their positions and their name-recognition. I think we have a strong field, with a lot of decisions to be made between now and when our nominee is selected.
BLITZER: What do you think about that, Senator Lugar, the popularity among registered Democrats of Senator Clinton, if she were to decide to actually back away from her earlier commitments not to run, but if she were to decide to run for president?
LUGAR: Well, it's been there all along, with Vice President Gore in the race. He used to get about 30, and she would get about 15, and the rest were in single digits. Now, with Gore removed, Senator Clinton is up to 30, and the rest are on down. But she has said she won't. So that elevates the others, then, to the 20s or the 10s. My guess is that she does not plan to run in 2004. I doubt whether she will.
BLITZER: All right. Senator Lugar, Senator Graham, please, both of you, stand by. We have to take a quick break.
When we come back, we'll shift to Iraq. A lot to cover with Senator Lugar and Senator Graham. They'll also be taking your phone calls, when we return.
But first, throughout this program, we'll have some holiday messages from U.S. troops serving in the Persian Gulf to their loved ones. Stay with us.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name's (inaudible) Adam Morgan (ph). I'm from Arcadia, Florida. I'd like to wish my mom and dad, Linda and Lawrence Morgan, a merry Christmas.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIERS: Bombs away!
UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIER: We are Alpha Company, 315 Infantry.
UNIDENTIFIED SOLDIERS: Happy holidays!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq. We're continuing our conversation with Democratic Senator Bob Graham of Florida and Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana.
Senator Lugar, the president gave an interview to U.S. News & World Report, the magazine, just out today and tomorrow. Among other things, he says this, and we'll put it up on the screen.
"Should we ever use the military, it will the the full force and might of the United States military, as well as others joining with us. And the idea will be to disarm Saddam Hussein. And obviously that would include, if he chooses not to disarm, it would include his removal. He would then be shown that removal would be necessary to disarm the country."
That seems like the president's game plan right now. Do you support it?
LUGAR: Yes, but that's been the game plan for some time, and things have gone on, unfortunately, predictably.
The report this week by Hans Blix, the holes that were found in it, not just by ourselves but by others, and explicitly in the press, and that's important because many people in Europe are already saying "Where's the beef?" That was the interview you had earlier on with the Iraqi this morning.
Now the process of either getting people out of Iraq who know where the goods are and testifying, or our intelligence, which will be supplementing the work of the inspectors, my own guess is the inspectors, without help, could wander around the place for four weeks and find absolutely nothing.
But still, we may find something. Saddam may decide to cough up something. But for the moment, he thinks his luck will hold out, and that's why the president's statement is very important.
BLITZER: Senator Graham, as far as you know, the Iraqis have not coughed up anything significant in this nearly 12,000-page document, which resulted in the Bush administration's claiming the Iraqis were in material breach of the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441.
Does this mean war is inevitable?
GRAHAM: I think there continues to be a substantial likelihood that we will go to war with Iraq this winter.
There's an issue that I think has gotten inadequate attention, and that is what our intelligence community has said is the likely scenario if we attack Iraq and if we are about to remove Saddam Hussein from his leadership position, and that is that there will be a wave of terrorist attacks against U.S. interests abroad and in the United States.
Some of those will be initiated by Iraq unilaterally. Others will be a combination of Iraq and international terrorists. Those international terrorists have a very substantial presence and capability inside the United States to carry out those terrorist attacks.
I think it is critically important that in the weeks and days left between now and when a war might start that we take every possible step within the United States, primarily through the FBI, to identify, arrest, deport, put under surveillance, those who might lead those terrorist attacks, and abroad, primarily in the Middle East, that we should be pounding at the headquarters and training camps of those international terrorist organizations so that they will be less capable of supporting financially, logistically and by the provision of freshly trained recruits, terrorists inside the United States.
BLITZER: Do you believe, Senator Graham, the United States government is doing enough abroad as well as at home?
GRAHAM: No, in my judgment, we are lethargic on both fronts. In the United States, the FBI is far behind in terms of understanding what the scale of the international terrorist operations are, who they are, what their capabilities are, the basis upon which we could then take action.
So, therefore, I think the particular focus for the next few weeks needs to be on dealing with the headquarters abroad. And to date we have had no efforts made against any terrorist groups other than al Qaeda. And al Qaeda itself, we are getting reports that they are reconstituting, that they are becoming more of an effective force than they were six months ago.
BLITZER: In the past, Senator Lugar, Senator Graham, as you well know, a very thoughtful U.S. senator, has said the U.S. must start targeting some of those terrorist bases even in countries like Lebanon and Syria where Hezbollah and other groups may be training.
Would you support that kind of military strategy?
LUGAR: Yes, I've supported what Senator Graham has suggested, as the chairman of our Intelligence Committee. I think he makes a good point, without judging how well the FBI is handling it here, the president probably now needs to begin to speak out to the American people, outlining how grave war is.
We're sliding -- not sliding, but heading toward January 27th, when the next report comes. If the report is unsatisfying then, this is likely to be the time in which all of the buildup that we see every day of military forces, which you've been reporting on, comes to play.
Now, at home we may suffer, as Senator Graham has suggested, some surprises, and we ought to try to mitigate that. But the public needs to be prepared. This is a very, very tough period, this month that we're entering into.
BLITZER: And how concerned, Senator Graham, should the American public be of the so-called scorched-earth policy that U.S. intelligence fears Saddam Hussein might engage in if there's a war, in fact going so far, they say, as to start killing his own people to blame the United States for those kinds of atrocities?
GRAHAM: Well, we are dealing with a homicidal megalomaniac who has the capacity to do things that are beyond belief.
I am particularly concerned with those actions that he might take which would be directed at the United States, our interests abroad. We'll have some hundred thousand plus military troops in the region by the end of January. We have substantial other interests in the region which are well within his range of attack.
And then through collaboration with the large number of recruited, trained and placed international terrorists inside our country, Saddam Hussein has the ability to engage in a significant series of terrorist attacks against our people here at home.
And before we get into this war, we ought to be taking every possible step to mitigate, to reduce, to disable that capability.
BLITZER: Senator Graham, very ominous thoughts. Thanks so much for joining us.
Senator Lugar, thanks to you, as well. We'll continue this conversation on another occasion.
Just ahead, since the Gulf War, Saudi Arabia has allowed the United States opportunities to use its bases. But is the longtime U.S. ally prepared to support a new U.S.-led war against Iraq? We'll hear directly from Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Saud al- Faisal, in an exclusive interview, when LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq.
While Saudi Arabia has long been a key Arab ally to the United States, the American military presence there has caused some serious tensions in the Middle East. It's just one of the many dynamics in fighting the war on terror.
BLITZER (voice-over): There may be a debate under way in world capitals about going to war against Iraq, but for a select group of U.S. and British pilots at the sprawling Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, that debate is effectively moot. For them, the war is well under way.
BRIG. GEN. DALE WATERS, 383 AIR EXPEDITIONARY WING: You know, they've been trying for 10 years to shoot down an airplane. I think we've been very lucky we haven't lost one. We keep a lot of great air crews up there doing the mission, and we have good intelligence. So I think we do it smart, but it's never zero risk.
BLITZER: Their war is a nearly daily occurrence. They patrol the so-called no-fly zone in southern Iraq, and they engage in a deadly give-and-take with Iraqi anti-aircraft fire, surface-to-air missiles and fighter aircraft.
WATERS: They're shooting real bullets. They're not shooting BB guns at us. There's real bullets. There's real missiles. We have to be ready in any event to deal with that kind of threat.
BLITZER: This is the first time you are hearing directly from these American pilots here in Saudi Arabia since the Gulf War. After a lengthy give-and-take with U.S. and Saudi officials, CNN finally received permission to visit the Prince Sultan base and talk directly with these men and women engaged in warfare. Getting that permission was not easy given the political sensitivities of recent years. The Saudi government has not been anxious to advertise its extensive military cooperation with the United States. They are aware of the fact that Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terror network went on the warpath against the Saudi royal family for allowing U.S. military forces to operate on what they regard as sacred Muslim soil.
But to anyone coming to this enormous facility, the quiet strategic cooperation quickly becomes evident.
All right. We're here at the Prince Sultan Air Base right in Saudi Arabia, obviously. It's home of the 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing.
Look at the cooperation, though. You'll see that Major General Said Alhaznawi (ph) -- he's the royal Saudi Air Force Base commander. He's in charge of this huge, sprawling air base. Brigadier General Dale C. Waters. He's the U.S. Air Wing commander. He's in charge of the U.S. personnel here.
It's a very sophisticated operation. It's a sprawling, huge air base. Their primary mission right now, at least from the U.S. side, to patrol the no-fly zone in southern Iraq.
Getting to this base from Riyadh began around 6:00 a.m. when we finished loading our cars with equipment and started the 90-minute drive south. We were accompanied by our escort from the Saudi ministry of information, Halid Musa (ph). Given the fact that the Saudis are the host country for the U.S. military operation, they had to approve our journey.
After filling our gas tanks, we beat Riyadh's rush hour traffic which, for a city of nearly 5 million people, can be awful. The drive through the desert went smoothly as we passed industrial areas and various oil facilities.
Oil exports have brought wealth to this country. That was underlined by the impressive infrastructure we witnessed along the way. Good highways and power grids, though there were some signs of the past, as well.
We finally reached the base where security, as you can imagine, is intense.
MAJ. PAUL MACIER, U.S. AIR FORCE: We put up a lot of (inaudible) wire and jersey barriers to make our compound secure. We obviously benefit from the Saudi security that goes around the perimeter of the base. We also run random patrols, including joint patrols with the Saudi security.
BLITZER: In the meantime, the pilots prepare for another day of cat-and-mouse warfare with the Iraqis.
(END VIDEOTAPE) BLITZER: And when we come back, a LATE EDITION exclusive. We'll hear directly from the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, Prince Saud al-Faisal. LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Pictures of our visit to Saudi Arabia. It's not unusual to see wild camels roaming in the Saudi desert.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq.
While I was in Saudi Arabia, I had a chance to speak with the country's foreign minister, Prince Saud Al-Faisal, in an exclusive interview. We talked about the possibility of a new U.S. war with Iraq, the state of U.S.-Saudi relations, and much more.
BLITZER: As you know, the Bush administration says the Iraqi government in their declaration, their weapons declaration, the Iraqi government has not complied, has not been honest. And that obviously sets the stage for the possibility of war.
What is the position of Saudi Arabia right now, as far as the Iraqi weapons declaration to the United Nations is concerned?
PRINCE SAUD AL-FAISAL, SAUDI ARABIA'S FOREIGN MINISTER: Well, fortunately, the president has also said that war is the last resort, that it is not by any means the only resort possible. And fortunately, the president has also relayed this to the Security Council to make a judgment on this issue.
We are not party, we have not received the report, so we cannot make a judgment on the report. But as the president has placed it in the hands of the United Nations, we are waiting very anxiously to hear the report of Mr. Blix and the decision of the Security Council on that.
BLITZER: Do you believe, based on what you know -- you've lived with Saddam Hussein for many, many years -- do you believe his government told the truth, all the truth in that report?
S. AL-FAISAL: We haven't seen the report. We hope they have. And indeed, the whole Arab country, all the Arab countries have pressed Iraq to come clean, to come with the truth and the whole truth and nothing but the truth in this respect. And we hope they have, because otherwise they are only threatening their people and their country, and this is something that we would like to avoid.
BLITZER: Do you trust Saddam Hussein?
S. AL-FAISAL: It's not a matter of trust. And as President Reagan said, sign and inspect.
BLITZER: And verify. S. AL-FAISAL: And verify. There is now the United Nations personnel in there who are to verify these things. So it's not a matter of trusting the word, it is a matter of trusting the judgment of the inspectors, really.
BLITZER: If the president of the United States in the end determines that the Iraqis are in violation of U.N. Resolution 1441, the Security Council resolution, can he count on your government, the government of Saudi Arabia, to be with the United States?
S. AL-FAISAL: Well, we hope that he would go through the United Nations machinery, which he has done so. I think this is a very wise decision. The president has been very wise in saying that war is the last resort and relaying the issue to the United Nations resolution.
Once you do that, you are following up the guidelines of the Security Council. And we hope that that will be so, because a consensus is very important.
War and peace is a decision that is ominous. Whatever the reasons, whether it is weapons of mass destruction or change of the regime, it is a momentous issue, that it is going to be, it will probably destroy the country of Iraq if war comes. So the decision should not be taken as a simple decision.
And after all, it is not a conflict between the United States and Iraq. It is about United Nations resolutions and about the government of Iraq's implementation of those resolutions.
BLITZER: So when you say a war would probably destroy Iraq, you don't believe those optimists in Washington who say they can do it relatively quickly, they can get the job done without a lot of bloodshed?
S. AL-FAISAL: Where have we heard that before? Where has there been that has been a war without bloodshed and without destructive...
BLITZER: Relatively speaking. They refer to the liberation of Kuwait, which was done 40 days of air war, four days of a ground war. Kuwait was liberated with a relatively modest number of casualties.
S. AL-FAISAL: And that was because of the unanimity in the international community and the joining of the battle of so many countries in the world that affected even the Iraqi soldiers who were fighting the war.
BLITZER: So you don't believe that they can repeat that?
S. AL-FAISAL: Who knows? Once you start war, it's in the hand of the gods of war.
BLITZER: There has been some confusion, in part because of some of your comments, including a recent interview you gave our CNN's Christiane Amanpour, about the exact position of your government as far as using U.S. bases against Iraq, if it comes down to another war. And I want you to have an opportunity to clarify precisely what your position is, military cooperation with the U.S., if it comes down to a war.
S. AL-FAISAL: Well, I've learned since then not to say the obvious. I was saying the obvious in that interview, and that is that every member of the United Nations is liable to cooperate with any decision based on Chapter VII in the United Nations Charter...
S. AL-FAISAL: ... and every member is obliged to cooperate in that. But that cooperation does not mean joining in the effort to fight, sending troops and so forth.
The cooperation with the United States goes on as it has always been. They are operating here at Prince Sultan's base, you've seen the operations. They're the things that were in the past. Operations between us and the United States continue to be so.
The president has, in his discussions with the Crown Prince, has said that he has not made a decision yet about going to war, and that before he takes that decision, he will consult with his friends and allies, especially the people of the region who will be, after all, the most effected. And that has not happened yet.
So the situation remains as it is, and we have not been informed that war is imminent.
BLITZER: So President Bush has assured Crown Prince Abdullah that before he makes a decision to go to war against Iraq, he will consult with the Crown Prince?
S. AL-FAISAL: Indeed. Not only the Crown Prince, but his friends in the region, the countries of the region.
BLITZER: As you know, when I was at the Prince Sultan Air Base, I saw U.S. pilots who, on an almost daily basis, fly from Prince Sultan Air Base to patrol the no-fly zone in southern Iraq, do what they do, they come back, they land at Prince Sultan Air Base.
Could you imagine a situation where the United States is at war with Iraq and that base won't be allowed to be used against Iraq?
S. AL-FAISAL: I cannot imagine a war waged on Iraq on a bilateral fashion, that the United States goes alone in that, because the situation now is in the United Nations.
If the United Nations Security Council comes with a decision to go to war and to conflict, even then we hope there will be an opportunity for the Arab world to see what they can do to resolve the dispute, resolve the issue without going to war.
War, as the president has said, should be a last resort. Every effort -- and there should be no stone unturned in finding a way to resolve it peacefully. Nobody should or ought to be looking forward to a war and conflict. Bullets (ph) kill.
BLITZER: Because you know the position of the Bush administration is that they have to go back to the Security Council if there is a breach, a material breach, of the U.N. resolution and have a meeting, but they don't necessarily, they say, need a second resolution.
S. AL-FAISAL: Well, from the statements of the Security Council members, whether it is United States, Great Britain, France, China or Russia, I don't think anybody will accept a breach without doing something about it. So that aspect of it, we have no worry about.
BLITZER: All right. Let's talk about -- I assume you don't want to talk about this, but I'll ask you the questions. If there's a war, will the U.S. be allowed to use bases in Saudi Arabia?
S. AL-FAISAL: It depends on the war. If it is a war that is through the United Nations, with consensus on it, we will have to decide on that based on the national interests of Saudi Arabia.
BLITZER: You'll make that decision later.
S. AL-FAISAL: Indeed.
BLITZER: The same for overflights over Saudi Arabia?
S. AL-FAISAL: Well, overflights -- this is something, if there is a decision by the United States, by the Security Council, you have to cooperate with the Security Council decision, whether you join in the conflict or not.
BLITZER: And the same issue, remember, the last time when the U.S. invaded Iraq to liberate Kuwait, they made that swing through the Saudi desert into Iraq, that "left hook," as they called it, General Barry McCaffrey, as you well remember. Would that be allowed this time?
S. AL-FAISAL: Well, during the liberation of Kuwait, it was not only a left hook, it was a straight punch and the right hook and everything, because everybody was convinced, and the United Nations had a decision on it, and there was a consensus on it.
BLITZER: We have to take a short break. More of my conversation with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal when LATE EDITION continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq. Now more of my exclusive interview with Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Prince Saud al-Faisal.
BLITZER: We know this week President Bush phoned Crown Prince Abdullah. What can you tell us about the nature of that conversation?
S. AL-FAISAL: As usual, it was a conversation between friends. As you know, they have tremendous admiration for each other, and very close relationship has been established between them during the Crawford meetings. And therefore the discussion was a thorough-going discussion of all the issues that are involved, but basically an expression of trust in each other's cooperation with the other.
BLITZER: Did the issue of Saudi cooperation with the U.S. in the war on terrorism and finding al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and dealing with those terror threats, was that part of the discussion?
S. AL-FAISAL: No, it was -- they mentioned the expression of appreciation for everything that was done, and both sides were glad of this level of cooperation in this regard.
We know the fight is still going on. We know we have to be as careful and as persistent and constant in our effort as we have been until now. But I think both sides were -- expressed their happiness with the cooperation that exists.
BLITZER: Do you -- what is your best idea, your best sense where Osama bin Laden is right now?
S. AL-FAISAL: Who knows? Probably somewhere between Afghanistan and Pakistan. I don't know if he's even alive, but if he is, I don't think he is far away from that area.
BLITZER: As you know, there have been many members of Congress, the U.S. Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives, Democrats and Republicans, who've raised questions about Saudi Arabia's commitment to fighting terrorism. They've been concerned 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis.
You've recently taken steps to deal with those issues, especially the Saudi charities, which some of them inadvertently have financed some of these terrorists.
How is that entire effort going, to deal with this issue of Saudi money winding up in the hands of terrorists?
S. AL-FAISAL: We have done everything. We have taken legal step. We have taken practical step. We have done everything we can to cooperate with the international effort, with the United States effort, with our own programs that have been started even before 9/11, because, as you know, we have been recipients of terrorist acts in this country. And the measures that we are taking to prevent financing of terrorism had been started even before 9/11.
But it has been expedited, it has been -- we have been thoroughly going through this. I have, in my file which I brought here, many steps that the country has taken with the financial institutions, locally, with the regulations from the outside.
I don't think that those people who are in the process of developing and working for preventing the financing to reach Osama bin Laden or the terrorists anywhere are dissatisfied with action that Saudi Arabia has taken so far.
BLITZER: And, basically, you could assure the American public right now that whatever you're doing is everything possible to help defeat this terror threat?
S. AL-FAISAL: I'm willing to give you the list that we have taken in order to, all the steps that Saudi Arabia has taken to fight this scourge, and they are -- this is a full list. You can have it and...
BLITZER: I'll take it and I'll read it. Thank you very much.
S. AL-FAISAL: And, if there is anything more -- I don't know whether there is any other country that has worked persistently and constantly on this issue than Saudi Arabia.
If there is anything lacking in that, please let us know what they are. And if there are people in Congress who question that, please come, look at the institutions that we have, look at the laws that we have established, and if there is anything lacking, and if there is anything that we can do more than we are doing, we are very happy to listen.
BLITZER: When I was last week in Qatar, I had a chance to meet with His Highness, the Emir, and with the foreign minister of Qatar, the day after the secretary of state, Colin Powell, issued that speech calling for Democratic reforms throughout the Middle East and the Arab world.
They praised Secretary Powell's speech and the U.S. initiative. I'm wondering what the government of Saudi Arabia thinks of that Powell plan?
S. AL-FAISAL: Well, the Powell plan had several issues in it. He tackled the economic issue, which is a praiseworthy effort in order to help the region in improving the economies of the region, and open society and even the issues dealing with democratization.
The secretary knows and everybody knows that the region is going through a transformation. We are in this country, whether in the economic sphere, the social or the political sphere, are going onto a tremendous move toward reform.
Reform, if it happens in these countries, and to be able to be successful, have to be indigenous. We appreciate the sense in the United States that they are willing to help in these issues, but I don't think that help could be help that is imposed on the countries of the region.
The governments of the region are going through the reforms according to their capabilities and according to the wishes of the people.
A friendly country like the United States can help in this venture, but I think it would behoove the United States to avoid what has been tried before during the British Empire, for instance, when there was the talk of the white man's burden to civilize the world. This, I don't think the United States is a country of that tenor that it would like to impose its will on countries.
BLITZER: But is that how the secretary of state and the U.S. is seen here?
S. AL-FAISAL: I don't think so. We have talked carefully with them. We have talked extensively with them. We think a friendly country can suggest, can urge, but certainly cannot take the place of the governments themselves and the reforms that they need according to the wishes of their people.
BLITZER: Unfortunately we have to leave it right there. Thank you very much for your hospitality these past few days that I've been in your country.
S. AL-FAISAL: It's a pleasure to see you, Mr. Blitzer, and I hope you'll do it again.
BLITZER: I hope I'll do it many times.
S. AL-FAISAL: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: And coming up, dangerous duty. Something you'll see nowhere else. We'll talk directly and exclusively with three U.S. pilots who help patrol Iraq's no-fly zone.
But first, more messages from U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Pfc. Piercy (ph). I'd like to send my love back home to my family in Washington (ph), Minnesota. Hi Mom, hi Josh, hi Nicky (ph). Have a happy, merry Christmas, and I love you all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, my name's Staff Sergeant Lenny Austin (ph). I'd like to say Merry Christmas to my wife and kids back home in Hinesville (ph), Georgia.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BLITZER: You're looking at U.S. fighter jets stationed at the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. From here, U.S. pilots leave to patrol Iraq's no-fly zone as well as other missions.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq.
While I was in Saudi Arabia this past week, I spoke with three U.S. fighter pilots who are stationed at the Prince Sultan Air Base. They talked about what it's like being on the front lines in the showdown with Iraq.
BLITZER: So your job is to take F-15s and patrol over the southern watch, the no-fly zone?
MAJ. PAUL MATIER, U.S. AIR FORCE: Yes, sir.
BLITZER: What's it like?
MATIER: It's exciting. We do a lot of training back home to prepare for this mission, and coming here is like going to the show for a minor league baseball player. It would be the same kind of analogy. This is is the show for us. This is a chance to take all that training and put into action.
BLITZER: So, all the training is the minor leagues. This is the major leagues?
BLITZER: Doesn't get much better than this.
MATIER: If we could do this in Hawaii, it would be better than this.
But other than that, this is the show.
BLITZER: This is what you've trained for and you're ready for?
MATIER: Yes, sir.
BLITZER: How dangerous is it? Because, obviously, we've all been watching over 10, 11 years. The U.S. has not lost any planes, but it can get hairy up there.
MATIER: It can. They're shooting real bullets. They're not shooting BB guns at us. There's real bullets. There's real missiles. We have to be ready in any event to deal with that kind of threat. There is an amount of danger.
We think we've mitigated those risks to the greatest extent possible through our training, through the force protection measures here at the base. And we feel confident we're prepared to do the job.
BLITZER: In the few times that you've been here, have you seen any change in the Iraqi posture of what they're doing?
MATIER: Yes, this is the first time I've been in a situation where the Iraqis are shooting at us. The last two times it was pre- 1998 and it was pre-Desert Fox. We were not being shot at.
Right now that we're here, this is the only place in the world where American forces are being shot at on a regular basis. BLITZER: And the U.S. is shooting right back, though?
MATIER: We -- for the amount that we're getting shot at here, I think our response is a pretty measured one overall. I mean, every day we're being shot at for the most part, and we have a very selective, very measured responses to each one of those events.
LT. COL. TROY DIXON, U.S. AIR FORCE: You're always ready for that one instance that really might test just how well-prepared you are. Here lately, things have maybe gotten a little bit more dicey, I guess. But we -- it's kind of hard to quantify, because for a lot of us, we've been doing it for so long. This is my -- gee, this is my third time, so I've a lot of time in the AOR.
There's a lot of things to focus on. The F-15s here. We tend to do the mission commander role. We get to run a lot DCA assets (ph), so our brains are pretty full while we're up there.
BLITZER: When you say it's a little bit more dicey right now, what does that mean?
DIXON: Well, it just means there's -- as opposed to years past, there's a lot more going on as far, as we're doing a lot more up there in the containers, so we have to -- whereas when I was first here probably back in '92 or '93, things were a little slower, just after the war. So, I'd just leave it at that.
BLITZER: So it's a little bit more intense right now?
CAPT. ROB NOVOTNY, U.S. AIR FORCE: We're fairly well-trained. We've been doing this for 12 years, and we're used to their games. We're used to their attempts to lure us in there, and we know pretty much well in advance what they're trying to do.
BLITZER: So they're trying to get you over to fly over an area where they think they have a good shot of shooting you down?
NOVOTNY: I would say, they're trying to get us in a position where some of their surface-to-air threats could become more of a factor.
BLITZER: But you knew that going into it?
NOVOTNY: Yes, we did.
BLITZER: So you just make a U-turn and go back?
NOVOTNY: Well, we avoided those areas. Absolutely. And it wasn't a big deal.
BLITZER: Were you scared?
BLITZER: Not at all?
NOVOTNY: Not at all.
BLITZER: A little bit?
NOVOTNY: Now, somebody's going to tell you that I'm lying.
But, no, I really wasn't. We feel that the Iraqi Air Force, although significant in number, lacks the training and the parts and the resources to really mount much of a threat against the United States Air Force and United States Navy.
BLITZER: So you do your job. How is morale here?
NOVOTNY: It's great. It's great. The Air Force and the Navy and the Army have all done an awesome job building our base up, giving it much of a morale resources. There's an ability to talk to home. We have a great library, great computer setup to e-mail and phone lines to call back home. It's good. The pool's a little cold right now.
BLITZER: Coming up in the next hour, are U.S. forces ready for a battle with Iraq? We'll get insight from three military experts. Plus, Saudi Arabia's former chief of intelligence on what the Saudi government knows about Osama bin Laden right now. We'll have an exclusive interview. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We'll survey the military landscape in the showdown with Iraq and the war on terror in just a few minutes, but first here's CNN's Renay San Miguel in Atlanta with a news alert.
BLITZER: While the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia brings certain political complications, there are also cultural challenges, particularly for the U.S. military women serving there.
BLITZER (voice-over): It's a little sliver of America in the middle of the Arabian peninsula. This is the U.S. section of the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. For the American military women serving here, life is no different than it is back home.
WATERS: We have women assigned to the wing, and they do their job just like the men. We don't have any particular problems.
BLITZER: But that's only when they're on base. When they're off base, all bets are off. That's because of the strict Saudi religious traditions that guide the way women must dress and behave in public.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If a woman go without a veil at all, it will be noticeable, and it will be -- people will feel offended. That's why here the government instruct the non-Muslim visitor to wear the minimum requirements of hijab, to cover the whole body except the face and the hands.
BLITZER: Here at the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, the war against Iraq, for all practical purposes, has already begun. U.S. pilots based here are dodging Iraqi fire on an almost daily basis.
Those F-15 and F-16 pilots often wouldn't be in the air over southern Iraq if it weren't for U.S. Air Force Captain Laura Lenderman. A graduate of Duke University and a nine-year Air Force pilot, she flies KC-135 tankers, which refuel war planes in mid-air, a most delicate and dangerous mission.
CAPT. LAURA LENDERMAN, U.S. AIR FORCE: We're ready. This is what we train to do, and we're here to do it.
BLITZER (voice-over): Here's the irony: Captain Lenderman can fly these sophisticated aircraft over Saudi Arabia, but off-base she's not allowed to drive a car or even sit in the front seat of a car.
That's why the American women serving at Prince Sultan, for all practical purposes, hardly ever leave the base.
(on camera): Have you had any special problems here because you're a woman in Saudi Arabia?
LENDERMAN: No, not really. I mean, we don't have to stay on base.
BLITZER (voice-over): They don't have to stay on base, but they do. We heard that repeatedly. The few who leave the base adhere to local restrictions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: If we do have people that go downtown, we wear the burqas and or the abyias (ph) and just try to respect their traditions.
BLITZER: A lawsuit filed by U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Martha McSally earlier this year forced the Pentagon to drop the requirement that women in the military serving in Saudi Arabia wear those traditional Muslim garments when they're off-base.
But it doesn't appear to have made a significant practical difference. For nearly all American women visiting or working in Saudi Arabia, it's hard to go against local restrictions, as my CNN producers, Linda Roth, Carrie Conner and Alex Quaid, quickly discovered. LINDA ROTH, CNN PRODUCER: Well, I feel we should respect the customs of the country that we're in. And I feel by respecting the customs that are here in this country I feel more comfortable when I'm dressed like everybody else that lives here.
CARRIE CONNER, CNN PRODUCER: In a way, it's almost like you feel that you kind of don't exist. No one's looking at you. And it's very different than in America where you find that people are looking at you to see what you're wearing or just to recognize you.
BLITZER: Regardless, the American women serving at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia have a job to do, and they do it.
BLITZER: And joining us now are three guests who have been on the front lines and have led in battle. In Little Rock, Arkansas, the former supreme allied commander of NATO, the retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark. In Tucson, Arizona, the retired Air Force Major General Don Shepperd. And here in Washington, the retired U.S. Army Brigadier General David Grange. All are CNN military analysts.
Generals, welcome back to LATE EDITION.
General Clark, let me begin with you. General Tommy Franks, the Central Command commander, the man putting the war plan together potentially against Iraq, briefed the president of the United States this week, supposedly on targets.
What does that say to you? How close is the U.S. military to going to war?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: I think it's one of the steps that you make and hopefully you make it before the night before. So we may be 30 days out, we may be more than that. I don't think we'll go to war within the next 30 days, unless something very unusual happens that's instigated by Iraq.
But this is clearly one of the warm-up steps that you've got to go through. It's the target nomination and approval process. And it's very much a responsibility of the president and the top civilian leaders to look at the targets that are planned and assess them for their political impact.
BLITZER: The Saudis, General Clark -- excuse me, the Iraqis, for a dozen years have been trying to shoot down a U.S. war plane patrolling the no-fly zones in the north and the south. If that were to happen, all bets would be off, is that your assessment?
CLARK: I think we'd certainly come back really hard against the Iraqis. But given where we are right now in the war of public opinion, both at home and abroad, I don't think that's sufficient to be the full trigger for the large operation.
BLITZER: General Shepperd, you were there, you were with me in the Persian Gulf over the past couple of weeks. You were at the As- Sayliyah military base in Qatar, the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia.
Based on what you saw, your eyewitness accounts, how close is the U.S. military to the possibility of war? Indeed, how ready are they?
MAJ. GEN. DONALD SHEPPERD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, clearly, Wolf, we're getting closer, but as General Clark said, several things have to play out before a war would break out.
Lots to play out diplomatically. I don't think you can do anything, unless our hand is forced, before the 27th of January, when Hans Blix is supposed to report back to the United Nations.
Secondly, you have to deploy more forces there to do the things that are being talked about, which is occupying Iraq and changing the regime.
The forces themselves, the kids if you will, the young men and women in the theater, they are ready when called upon, whether it's Army, Navy or Air Force, they're ready to go. But the forces aren't in place and diplomacy has not played out yet.
BLITZER: Let's talk about both of those bases for a moment, General Shepperd. The Prince Sultan Air Base, a huge complex. What surprised you the most when you were there?
SHEPPERD: I think there were really a couple, three things that really hit me. First of all, the base itself is an unbelievable facility. Out in the middle of nowhere, where it's easy to see people approaching, from the standpoint of security.
Security's never easy, but it's easier because of where it is.
The facilities on the base are unparalleled, from a combat standpoint. The leadership of the base, from the wing commander that we talked to all the way down to the noncommissioned officers, I was tremendously impressed. And then the morale and level of preparedness of the troops. All of those things really hit me hard. We're ready to go if called upon.
BLITZER: What about the As-Sayliyah base, it's an Army base, in Qatar? You were there, as well, when General Franks was having his war game, his exercise, Internal Look, a high-tech simulation. You saw that readiness level. What did it say to you?
SHEPPERD: Well, it was a new CENTCOM deployable headquarters that we saw, and basically it looks like it's deployable, but it doesn't look like it could be moved or is going to be moved any time real soon.
The facilities there -- again, the base itself, way out away from town, good security across the base. The facilities are first-class, and they're ready to be used with a caretaker force there right now if necessary, if General Franks decides to use that facility, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Let me bring in General Grange. There's a new CNN-Time magazine poll that asks this question: Would you favor or oppose the use of U.S. ground troops to remove Saddam Hussein from power? 55 percent say they would favor it, 37 percent oppose it.
Tell our viewers in the United States, indeed around the world, how bloody a ground war would be, especially the urban warfare that almost certainly would develop?
BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it's all going to depend, of course, on what courses of action the Iraqi military or special police take against our troops. I think a lot of the opponents will surrender, but there'll be some that'll die in place. They have no choice, because they have no future from their own people.
And if they pull it into built-up areas, they pulled it into, let's say, critical sites, like a river-crossing operation, it's tough to avoid casualties, and there will be, especially if we get pulled into the cities for that part of the fighting.
BLITZER: The U.S. military can't assume the worst-case scenario -- they have to assume the worst-case scenario going in.
GRANGE: That's right. And so, when you talk about the build-up of forces, though you may be able to take down the Saddam regime rapidly with a smaller force, you don't know what's going to change once the fight starts. You know, the enemy has a vote. And so, as these conditions appear on the battlefield, you have to have enough force to take care of the contingencies.
BLITZER: General Clark, we've heard from the U.S. intelligence community, sources telling us throughout the week that there's a scorched-earth policy that Saddam Hussein may have in mind if he's about to go down. He's going to take a lot of his own assets, a lot of his own people down and blame the U.S. military for that in the process, not only burning oil fields, as he did at the end of the Gulf War, Kuwaiti oil fields, but taking down various locations inside Iraq.
How does the U.S. military deal with that potential development?
CLARK: Well, two things, Wolf. First of all, it's not to be -- it's not unexpected. But I think it's good to put the information out now, because it lets people understand what may happen.
Now, planning for that, we would go in as rapidly as possible and try to overrun areas or seize critical facilities before they could be destroyed.
And remember, it's not just Saddam's word here, but it's a full chain of command that has to participate in these activities. And, as the orders get passed down and in the wake of the U.S. activities, and the Iraqi military understands there's really no hope for their success in this operation, I think you're going to see a breakdown in that chain of command, where, even if there is a scorched-earth order given, a lot of its actions won't be carried out.
BLITZER: Is there any way, General Clark, the U.S. psychological warfare, or in any sort of sophisticated way can find that coup d'etat potential there to avoid that kind of bloodshed?
CLARK: I think everything you're seeing now is part or has an impact on the Iraqi military, whether it's part intentionally of a psychological operations plan, or just makes good sense. The build-up of the forces, the diplomacy in the United Nations, the slow, inevitable movement toward war -- all of it undercuts the will of the Iraqi military to be able to resist and fight back.
BLITZER: General Shepperd, I want to bring you back on this whole issue of the no-fly zones, the U.S. pilots who are patrolling those no-fly zones. You and I, we spoke to several of them this past week.
Look at this information on this CNN-Time magazine poll: If Iraq shoots at U.S. planes in the no-fly zone, would you still support invading Iraq? Do not invade Iraq -- 47 percent would support invading Iraq if they shoot down a U.S. plane. 45 percent say, still don't invade Iraq.
It hasn't happened in 10 or more years, but how good are the Iraqis potentially at shooting down a U.S. plane, either with anti- aircraft fire or a surface-to-air missile or in direct air-to-air combat?
SHEPPERD: Well, direct air-to-air combat they're not very good at because of their status of training and their equipment and their status of spare parts.
On the other hand, we've made it look easy because we haven't lost any airplanes in 10 years. It's not easy, Wolf. The fact that we haven't lost airplanes is due to good tactics and good intelligence and some luck.
The Iraqis have also learned, just like we have learned as we fly over this area daily -- and the kids that are doing it, they have anti-aircraft fire exploding around them at their altitudes, they're dodging missiles -- this is no game, it's serious business.
BLITZER: All right, Generals, stand by. We have to take a quick break but we have a lot more to talk about.
We'll continue our conversation with Generals Clark, Shepherd and Grange. They'll also be taking your phone calls. Please call us now.
But first, here's another message from U.S. troops serving in the Persian Gulf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Jim Ostep (ph) from Prince Sultan Air Base. And I want to say hi to my kids, Kimberly and Matthew, in Pheonix, Arizona, and my mom and dad in Wendell (ph), Pennsylvania. Happy holidays.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like to say hello to my wife, Carol (ph), and my two daughters, Heather and Christina (ph).
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation with the former NATO supreme allied commander, retired General Wesley Clark, the retired U.S. Air Force Major Donald Shepperd, and the retired U.S. Army Brigadier General David Grange.
What you saw at the beginning was what they call "Boot Hill Cemetery" at the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia. I'll tell you later about what that's all about later in this program.
But, General Grange, we're talking about the possibility of the Iraqis going into the scorched-earth policy, what the U.S. might be able to do to prevent that. You have some thoughts.
GRANGE: Well, General Clark talked about some of the stuff we're preparing to do right now. But I really think this is a readiness issue that we have a long way to go.
Saddam will use information warfare against us, manipulating media, other means, to blame things on us, whether it be bioterrorist attack on his own people to contaminate an avenue of approach, let's say to Baghdad.
And I think we've done a very elementary effort to date in order to counter that, because information warfare, especially this time around, will make a big difference.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take a caller from Minnesota.
Go ahead, Minnesota.
CALLER: Leadership and command on the battlefield is obviously very important, but how well in sync are the allied forces with our military and its mission?
BLITZER: All right. Let me ask General Clark that question, because it's an important question. When we were at the Prince Sultan Air Base this past week, we saw some British forces, some French troops. They don't participate in the overflights in the no-fly zone, but they are there with the U.S. And, of course, the Saudis are there, as well.
How close of an alliance, militarily speaking, how much coordination will there be, can there be with non-U.S. forces?
CLARK: I think there'll be a lot of close coordination. I think the non-U.S. forces will be with us in terms of command and control communications. There's a lot of practice and ongoing training on that. But they won't, in all probability, be in on the decision-making process. That'll come down through U.S. channels and be given to the associated forces.
And you have to remember, most of the allied forces don't have the same capabilities that the U.S. forces do, either in air or in ground forces. So they're not quite up to snuff in terms of being able to stand up there with us shoulder-to-shoulder and share every task done by the United States.
BLITZER: General Shepperd, I don't know if you got this impression when you were at the Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, but I certainly did. It almost seemed to me as if there were four different worlds, if you will, out there.
There was the Saudi world -- of course the Saudi military's having their own operation under way -- the U.S. world, the British have their own little opportunities over there, and the French have a separate capability. And I didn't get a sense that they were all, militarily speaking, working all that closely together. But perhaps you emerged with a different impression.
SHEPPERD: Yes, I do have a little bit of a different impression there, Wolf. What we saw is not unusual. When you go into one of these operations, the forces have their own little encampments, they react -- it's a little piece of their own country in someone else's country and in someone else's operation.
There's an overall command, that's the United States command for the coalition. But each one of them is a little bit segregated in the way they do things, and they have to react to their own country's chain of command as well.
The job of coalition commanders is to bring all of these forces together, as General Clark said, considering their equipment and their training, before you task them for combat.
So I didn't see anything that was unusual. I saw what I'm used to seeing as I go around the world and watch exercises, individual pieces that are brought together in times of the exercise or in times of war. Normal stuff, Wolf.
BLITZER: Is that your sense, General Grange, when you go to these bases overseas and you see a few different countries operating there? But they seem to be on their own, although there's a little bit more coordination than meets the eye?
GRANGE: Yes. There's more coordination than meets the eye but there's a lot of seams and there's a lot of seams that the enemy can exploit because of the difference of, let's say, rules of engagement, differences in force protection standards.
And a shrewd commander has to have the ability to put the coalition forces from different countries to the right task and give them the right mission to perform in order to be successful. BLITZER: General Clark, you had that mission during the wars in Kosovo when you were the NATO Commander. How did you do it, and what advice do you have for General Franks who might have to do it the next time around?
CLARK: Well, you have to, as Dave Grange said, you've got to have a recognition for what the other allies' capabilities are, what their rules of engagements are. Then you've got to make them feel as much of part of the operation as possible. You want to make it one team, one fight, but people have different roles and responsibilities in this.
So you've got to give them a sense of participation, but at the same time not give them missions that are going to be overwhelming or that they could fail at.
So, for example, when we were going into the very heavily protected air defense over Belgrade, that was an American task. When it came time to go in after the Serb forces on the ground in Kosovo, then we had a lot of other nations participating in that because the air defense threat was not as great.
BLITZER: All right, Generals, stand by. We're going to take another quick break.
We have a lot more to talk about, including your phone calls. We're waiting for those. But before we go to the break, more of the greetings from U.S. troops serving in the Gulf.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, I'm Senior Airman Joseph J. Macias (ph). I want to say Happy Holidays to all my family back home in Cheyenne, Wyoming, here from Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My name is Janelle Jess, staff seargent in the United States Air Force from Charleston, South Carolina. And I want to say Happy Holidays to all of my family back home.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My call for the holiday season is for people to serve your nation by helping somebody in need, to join the -- become a soldier in the army of compassion.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush issuing a holiday challenge, as thousands of servicemen and women are spending this season in the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, and elsewhere around the world.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our discussion with the former NATO supreme allied commander, retired General Wesley Clark, the retired U.S. Air Force Major General Don Shepperd, and the retired U.S. Army Brigadier General David Grange, all of them CNN military analysts.
General Clark, let's get to the issue of training Iraqi opposition forces, whether Kurds in the north, Shi'ites in the south. How significant of a development could that be, how much of a help could they be if it comes down to a war?
CLARK: I think they could be of enormous help, Wolf, and I think it's very significant that we're doing this and that it's acknowledged.
You know, when you put your troops on the ground in a foreign country, especially in a country like Iraq, you're not going to be able to speak the language, you don't know exactly where the street addresses are, you don't know how the houses are built, you're going to need a lot of local help. And having some of these people trained and ready to go is going to give us an immediate group we can call on to give us the kind of language skills that every squad, every platoon's going to need on the ground.
BLITZER: General Grange, your background is in special operations, precisely this kind of a contingency, working with local forces, if you will, friendly forces, to help in some sort of ground operation if it comes down to that.
Is the U.S. doing enough right now to train these Iraqis sympathetic to the United States to help in battle?
GRANGE: I believe so. And I'm sure there's a lot more that we don't see or know about.
What's key about it is, one, to just have someone on the ground to report, once we start the operation, what these forces are doing. Two, kind of keep an eye on them, to see if any other developments occur that may not help for the reconstruction phase.
And the other is, when you call in on air strikes and you're using a lot of different type of weaponry, you want to make sure you know where people are on the ground, and this helps you do that.
BLITZER: Well, let's talk about that, General Shepperd, air strikes and having the kind of precise information you need to target. I was always under the impression that U-2 overflights or satellites or reconnaissance photography helps pinpoint the location, but human assets on the ground, how significant would they be?
SHEPPERD: Very, very significant, Wolf. What's become almost standard doctrine, if you will, for military operations is, you send the CIA teams in to establish relationships, next come the special forces, and then come the follow-on forces with air controllers.
You have to have the exact information, particularly for mobile targets and as the battle develops. U-2s can do a good job on fixed targets, but they can't do on the mobile situation out there. So people on the ground that know what's happening and where things are are absolutely key to successful air strikes.
BLITZER: Let's take another caller from Connecticut.
Go ahead, Connecticut.
CALLER: Yes, if we go to war with Iraq, and the Iraqi military use chemical or biological, I would like to know from the generals what they think the U.S. response would be.
BLITZER: General Clark, go ahead.
CLARK: Well, we'll be ready to protect ourselves from this, and we'll be looking for the signatures of any of these weapons systems as they set up, and we'll put top priority on taking those weapons out.
If we get struck by those, of course, we reserve the right to use any appropriate means in going back after them. But I -- we don't have chemical weapons for an offensive use, we certainly don't have biological weapons. And right now it doesn't seem feasible or necessary to use nuclear weapons.
So they always remain a possibility as a deterrent, but the actual effect is probably going to be minimal, because what we're going to do is use precision strike and our own very capable ground forces to go after the enemy.
BLITZER: General Shepperd, do you want to weigh in on that excellent question?
SHEPPERD: No, I absolutely agree. People are thinking that if they use chemicals or biologicals, it'll automatically mean nuclear strikes. It does not.
Chemical warfare is a stupid way to go to war. It's very localized, it hampers operations, you have to decontaminate. But we know how to fight in a chemical environment. And Saddam has to wonder what our reaction will be, but it won't be automatically resort to nuclear weapons, and our troops are trained.
BLITZER: General Grange, some members of Congress, the General Accounting Office, the watchdog of Congress, they've said that the equipment, the gear that the U.S. military has is not necessarily up to the task, if it does come down to a chemical attack.
GRANGE: Well, the equipment is much better than it was in the first war. A lot of improvements have been made.
There are shortages, though, you're right. Shortages have been reported. There's some problems with some of the alarm systems and that. But much better than I remember the first go-around. And I think that it's probably as good as or better than anything else in the world.
BLITZER: What about the Scuds, General Clark? There's been a lot of concern the Iraqis still might have a dozen, two dozen, three dozen, who knows how many Scuds. If they launch Scuds with a chemical agent or maybe even a biological agent in the warhead, then presumably the targets could be either Saudi Arabia or Israel, well within the range, as we all remember from the first Gulf War. What happens then?
CLARK: Well, first of all, we're going to put some forces in, I'm pretty confident, based on what you hear in the press, in the areas where the Scuds might be launched. And so we'll try to take them out before they can launch.
We've got defensive systems in Israel, we've got defensive systems in Saudi Arabia, we've got defensive systems in Kuwait. And these are much better Patriot systems and other systems than we had during the Gulf War. So we've got a reasonable chance of stopping them.
That having been said, there are no guarantees in this.
BLITZER: You and I, General Shepperd, when we were at the Prince Sultan Air Base, we saw those Patriot missile batteries that are deployed around there, presumably in case there are Scuds or any other threat from the air.
Are those new Patriots up to dealing with the task of shooting down Scud missiles?
SHEPPERD: Well, let's put it this way. The new Pac 3 Patriot is much better than the old one, particularly in the area of battle management and sorting. But there's no golden BB out there.
The fortunate thing is that we don't think Saddam has very many Scuds left. He could make it very messy, and we talked to people in Riyadh that had been under the Scud attacks during the Gulf War.
They are a serious terror concern from the standpoint of the populace, but they are not a very effective military weapon. Their accuracy is terrible. And we cannot become paralyzed because of fear of Scuds, but we have to deal with them, Wolf.
BLITZER: We only have a few seconds left. General Clark, I want to bring you back and show you the latest CNN-Time magazine poll on registered Democrats, their choice for candidates, should they decide to run for president.
You saw earlier Mrs. Clinton, Senator Clinton leads the pack right now with 30 percent, down to Lieberman at 13, with John Kerry, Gephardt, going down.
But look the at the next list in the second tier, we'll put it up on the screen. General Wesley Clark comes in with 3 percent, right there.
Three percent, General Clark, you haven't even thrown your hat into the ring, you're well ahead of Al Sharpton and Joe Biden.
What do you say about that, General Clark? CLARK: Well, I say, number one, I'm not a candidate. Number two, I haven't raised any political money. Number three, I'm not even a member of a party.
So I'm just a person out here commenting. I'm concerned like so many of us are about where we're going, and I'm happy to have a voice in this dialogue, and that's it.
BLITZER: All right. We're happy he's a CNN military analyst joining us. As usual, General Clark, always good to have you on the program.
General Shepperd, it was great traveling with you over the past couple of weeks in the Gulf.
General Grange, always a pleasure to have you, as well.
Whatever you decide to do, General Clark, we're with you, you know that.
CLARK: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Just ahead, Saudi Arabia says it's trying to do more to clamp down on terrorists, but has that added up to success? We'll talk about recent strains in U.S.-Saudi relations with that country's former intelligence chief, Prince Turki Al-Faisal, when LATE EDITION continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
When many Westerners think of Saudi Arabia, the desert comes to mind. But as I was reminded on my visit there this past week, it's easy to underestimate that country's vastness, as well as its beauty.
BLITZER: What are they building here?
(voice-over): Heading east, it doesn't take long to get out of the Saudi capital of Riyadh. The highway is smooth. The process is uncomplicated, though we were stopped briefly at a security checkpoint when a guard spotted our video camera.
Our Saudi Ministry of Information escort showed the appropriate paperwork, and we continued the drive down to what the Saudis often call "our small Grand Canyon."
This is the Saudi desert. It's spectacularly raw and spectacularly beautiful. It was depicted in the classic film, "Lawrence of Arabia." Take my word for it, it's much more impressive in person. It's peaceful here. There's a powerful quiet, interrupted occasionally by some wild camels. For the Saudis, the desert is in their Bedouin blood. They say they often escape the bigger cities to come here to relax and to think.
The war on terror and a possible war against Iraq seem so very far removed, even if they are both very close.
It doesn't take very long before we can see some green, a sure sign that we're getting close to our destination, the farm of our host, the former Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal.
But before we get to see Prince Turki, we head toward some of his prized possessions, 800 ostriches.
Makmed Balal (ph) came to Saudi Arabia from Kenya a dozen years ago to manage a big part of Prince Turki's farm, including the ostriches. He takes us to on a tour.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAKMED BALAL (ph): This is the chicks, those that we have got by natural breeding.
BLITZER: The little ones.
BALAL (ph): Yeah. And this is the father and this is the mother.
BLITZER (voice-over): But there's more. Balal (ph) is also in charge of the goats.
We continue on to Prince Turki's desert home, where he welcomes us with a traditional Arabic coffee and sweet tea. After some rest, we tour the residence and the grounds, including, as is the Bedouin custom, the mandatory tent in the backyard.
BLITZER: It's just a pleasure to be here.
PRINCE TURKI AL-FAISAL, FORMER INTELLIGENCE CHIEF, SAUDI ARABIA: I'm glad you like it.
BLITZER: You'll miss it when you're in London.
T. AL-FAISAL: Absolutely.
BLITZER (voice-over): The desert, as any outside visitor quickly discovers, is in their blood.
BLITZER: And when we return, my exclusive interview with Saudi Arabia's former intelligence chief, Prince Turki al-Faisal. LATE EDITION will be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
While in Saudi Arabia this past week, I spoke with that country's former chief of inteligence, Prince Turqi Al-Faisal, in an exclusive interview at his farm in the Saudi desert. We talked about the showdown with Iraq, Osama bin Laden, and the U.S.-Saudi relationship.
BLITZER: Your Highness, thanks for the hospitality, thanks for inviting me here to your beautiful farm.
T. AL-FAISAL: It's a pleasure to have you here with us.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit history before we talk about the present.
T. AL-FAISAL: All right.
BLITZER: Osama bin Laden. You actually met this man.
T. AL-FAISAL: I did meet him four or five times. This was in the '80s in Afghanistan, four of those times, and once in the kingdom. This was, if you remember, during the fight against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. And he was a contributor to the Mujahedeen of his own money and the resources that he had for mostly construction.
So he was in Pakistan most of the time, and when I used to go to Pakistan, he would attend some of the official functions that were held either by the Pakistanis or by the Saudi embassy.
BLITZER: What motivated him?
T. AL-FAISAL: To do that?
BLITZER: To become what he is?
T. AL-FAISAL: Well, I think when he started, he started off on a good footing, because he wanted to help the Mujahedeen.
BLITZER: Liberate Afghanistan from the Soviets.
T. AL-FAISAL: Everybody wanted to help the Afghan Mujahedeen at that time. And the kingdom and the United States had a joint program of support for the Mujahedeen.
BLITZER: Financial support, training.
T. AL-FAISAL: Financial, military, training, intelligence.
BLITZER: You ran that operation?
T. AL-FAISAL: I did, on the Saudi side. And this was done with the cooperation of Pakistan from 1979, when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, until 1989, when the Soviets withdrew. And he came at that time to provide the assistance that I was telling you about before, and at that time he was quite an amenable fellow.
BLITZER: Rich guy?
T. AL-FAISAL: Rich guy, wanted to contribute, doing good causes, helping the Mujahedeen, helping the effort that the U.S. and the kingdom was also supporting.
BLITZER: So what happened? What made him turn from being a good guy to being a very bad guy?
T. AL-FAISAL: I think two things happened. First off, he fell in with a bad crowd, particularly at the end of the Soviet occupation. This is between '88, '89, and then the following year, '90, when he established al Qaeda.
And this crowd was mostly from the Egyptian terrorist groups who came to Afghanistan for their own purposes, which were to recruit people to their ideology, which was a very extreme and very hostile and, almost I can say without any hesitation, very vicious ideology of "them and us."
BLITZER: The Egyptian Islamic Jihad?
T. AL-FAISAL: The Islamic Jihad. And these are people like Ayman Al-Zawahiri, who in the al Qaeda became...
BLITZER: His number two.
T. AL-FAISAL: ... bin Laden's number two. Now, this is the bad crowd that he fell into.
The second thing is, as sometimes happens with some of the people who give themselves to a cause, when that cause ended, he started seeking other causes. And not having found something commensurate to what he was doing with the Afghans, and with the bad crowd around him, I think he turned into a bad guy himself.
BLITZER: The eventual decision to target your kingdom, Saudi Arabia, supposedly because you were hosting U.S. military forces.
T. AL-FAISAL: That's one of the reasons. Another reason, I believe, is that he felt that he was a true Muslim and everybody else was not. And this crowd that came from Egypt gave him the literature and the interpretation of that philosophy in Islamic terms.
BLITZER: So they brainwashed him, is that what you're suggesting?
T. AL-FAISAL: I think he was ready to be brainwashed. I mean, it's not that he was put in a chair, strapped and then forced into it. No, he had inclinations toward that.
BLITZER: When was the last time you personally met with him? T. AL-FAISAL: Probably around the end of 1989, here in the kingdom.
BLITZER: And then there was the Gulf War.
T. AL-FAISAL: Then there was the Gulf War, yes.
BLITZER: And that's when he had a total break with you and everybody else in your government.
T. AL-FAISAL: Well, he went through two years between 1990 and 1992 where he was objecting to the presence of non-Islamic troops in the peninsula and proposing in 1990, before Desert Storm took place, that he could bring an army of his former colleagues, as he called them, the Mujahedeen who fought in Afghanistan, to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi forces.
Of course, his proposal at that time was turned down, because it was nonsense. And the kingdom went ahead with its cooperation with the United States and with the world community to evict the Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
BLITZER: He eventually committed, organized 9/11.
T. AL-FAISAL: Yes, he did.
BLITZER: Fifteen of those 19 hijackers were Saudis.
T. AL-FAISAL: Yes.
BLITZER: What happened there? How did that develop?
T. AL-FAISAL: I believe that was a particular effort on the part of bin Laden, because in al Qaeda, there are many nationalities, including Americans, and yet he specifically chose these 15.
As he described them in that famous videotape, in which he says, "These were people who didn't even know what they were up to," he didn't even inform them when they went on this mission that this was going to happen to them.
And he chose the Saudis in order to bring a schism between the United States and Saudi Arabia, because American people, when they see that 15 of these 19 hijackers are Saudis, what is their natural reaction going to be? It's going to be that this is Saudi Arabia's fault, these are Saudis who are doing this, and they're not going to say, no, this is the al Qaeda.
BLITZER: So this was a calculated move on his part?
T. AL-FAISAL: Absolutely.
BLITZER: Now, I've spoken to some Saudis, the other day I spoke to one, who doesn't believe, really, that 15 of those 19 were Saudis.
T. AL-FAISAL: Well, this is a state of denial, I think, that many people go through, and that's because of the enormity of the crime itself.
And Saudi Arabia, for all of its history, has been a nonviolent country, and we've had the best of relationships with the United States. We've had people who did all of their studies in the United States, thousands of Saudis studied there. We have many business connections with the United States.
We have many Americans who live in the kingdom, from the days of the oil companies. And none of these Americans have ever faced hate crimes in the kingdom. They have never been attacked by anybody in the kingdom. They've never suffered any harassment from Saudis, in the streets or in their homes or in their jobs, because there is this mutual friendship that Saudis have with Americans.
BLITZER: And, in effect, he's succeeded in poisoning that relationship.
T. AL-FAISAL: Absolutely. Absolutely. And this adds, in my view, to his criminality, that he went ahead and murdered all of these thousands of people in these acts, which he justifies through an insane interpretation of Islam.
BLITZER: How much of a threat is he right now?
T. AL-FAISAL: Well, I think the al Qaeda is still a threat. We've seen its works after the change of the Taliban government in Afghanistan. Everywhere. We've seen it in the attack on the French oil tanker in the Arabian Sea. We've seen it in the last attempt on the Israeli airlines in Kenya and the Israeli hotel in Kenya. And some people say even the matter in Bali is the work of al Qaeda.
al Qaeda gives an excuse to anybody to do such criminal acts and claim that it's al Qaeda. It has, if you like, for those of that inclination, criminal and homicidal and vicious inclinations, an excuse to do in that manner. And anybody now...
BLITZER: Is he still personally in charge right now?
T. AL-FAISAL: I believe he still is.
BLITZER: He can communicate with his people?
T. AL-FAISAL: I think he can.
BLITZER: How does he do that?
T. AL-FAISAL: He does that with wireless; he does that with satellite phones; he does that with couriers. And he is knowledgeable enough to make that use restricted enough not to be picked up by all these sensors that are running around and...
BLITZER: The National Security Agency of the United States can't listen in and find him?
T. AL-FAISAL: There are means of doing that, and he has come to know those means. BLITZER: The fact that they can't find him right now, where do you believe -- you believe he's alive, right?
T. AL-FAISAL: I believe he is alive. I believe he is in Afghanistan. And I don't know if you've been to Afghanistan.
T. AL-FAISAL: It's a very rugged country. You've seen the Colorado mountains?
T. AL-FAISAL: It's like that, and particularly on the border with Pakistan. Tremendous mountains and valleys and forests and caves and rivers and uncharted territory, where there are no roads, no communications.
BLITZER: So he's hiding there?
T. AL-FAISAL: He is hiding. My view, he is hiding...
BLITZER: Along the border with Pakistan?
T. AL-FAISAL: Yes. Near the border with Pakistan, yes.
BLITZER: So he's still alive, he's still out there, he's still a clear and present danger.
T. AL-FAISAL: Absolutely. Absolutely.
BLITZER: He's still got his friend, Mullah Mohammed Omar, with him too?
T. AL-FAISAL: I don't think they are together.
BLITZER: Where do you think Mullah Mohammed Omar is?
T. AL-FAISAL: He has his own hiding places. He is from the province of Kandahar, in Afghanistan, in southwest Afghanistan, and there too there are barren and mountainous regions where he can hide. And the Mullah Omar comes from a particular tribe within the Afghan society.
BLITZER: So he's still operating too?
T. AL-FAISAL: I don't know if he is operating, but he's still alive.
BLITZER: We have to take a quick break. We'll have more of my conversation with the former Saudi intelligence chief, Prince Turqi Al-Faisal, when LATE EDITION continues.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We return now to my exclusive interview with Saudi Arabia's former intelligence chief, Prince Turki Al-Faisal.
BLITZER: You spent 24 years as the chief of Saudi intelligence.
T. AL-FAISAL: Yes.
BLITZER: You know this subject well. You fought terrorism. What has to be done to win this war on terrorism?
T. AL-FAISAL: Well, definitely the way that it's been handled so far has been quite successful. We just read the reports of many plots foiled since September 11th, not just in the United States but worldwide.
BLITZER: Here in the kingdom?
T. AL-FAISAL: Even in the kingdom.
And the close cooperation that takes place between security agencies is all paramount. Information is the key to all of this. And this is what is happening now.
I think we have to put a closure on bin Laden as a world community. He has to be captured or eliminated in order to put an end to this almost now mystical aura that he has of being invincible, unfindable and unpunishable.
BLITZER: Easier said than done.
T. AL-FAISAL: Absolutely. But I think with the cooperation of the security agencies worldwide it can be done.
BLITZER: You've heard the accusations from some members of the U.S. Congress, the Senate, the House, that Saudi Arabia is not fully cooperating with U.S. law enforcement authorities, intelligence authorities in the war on terror.
T. AL-FAISAL: I hear that, and I am really distressed by that accusation, because the kingdom cooperates with your federal agencies. It cooperates with your CIA, with your FBI, with your secretary of the treasury in following the money trail.
And all that we hear from those people that we cooperate with, including the United States president, his vice president, et cetera, et cetera, is full praise for the kingdom's cooperation.
And I know that in your country perhaps the word of the president is not good enough sometimes, but it is really distressing for us because this is not how we operate.
We operate above-board. We don't hide things behind tables. We have no agenda to serve ourselves in this. We are fully committed to the fight against terrorism. And we wish that the American people would know that this fight is being conducted with the full cooperation between the United States and Saudi Arabia.
And, Wolf, the cooperation between the kingdom and the United States on the issue of terrorism preceded 9/11. I was 24 years head of Saudi intelligence. From the first day that I was appointed to the job until I left, we were working closely with the United States on terrorism. In those days, in the early '70s and then in the '80s, there were other terrorists at that time which we cooperated against.
BLITZER: Let me just wind up by asking this. I spent the day at the Prince Sultan Air Base, I saw the cooperation between the U.S. and the Saudi military, the pilots, the commanders.
Is it conceivable to you that Saudi Arabia won't cooperate militarily with the United States if President Bush orders a war against Iraq?
T. AL-FAISAL: If it is through the United Nations -- how can I put it -- under the aegis of the United Nations, as we have said many times, and as the United States has also committed itself through working the United Nations, of course we will cooperate fully. We consider that to be vital and important. There is nothing to keep us back from that.
BLITZER: And if it's a unilateral U.S.-British move, without necessarily a formal resolution from the U.N. Security Council?
T. AL-FAISAL: Look, Wolf, all your friends worldwide, your European friends, your Asian friends, your African friends, are telling you on every level, don't do it unilaterally. It is not just Saudi Arabia who does that. Your European allies like Germany, France, Italy. Name them, they're there. Your Asian allies. Whether it be in the ASEAN countries, or in Japan, or in South Korea, or in China. Russia, as a friend of the United States; African countries.
They're all telling the United States, don't go unilaterally, this is something for the world community to do. And it is better for the United States to be a member of that community, rather than to be outside it, doing its own bidding, and not getting any support anywhere.
So it is not just Saudi Arabia that is doing that.
BLITZER: Thank you.
T. AL-FAISAL: Thank you for coming to see me.
BLITZER: This footnote: One subject Prince Turki adamantly refused to discuss was the pending trillion-dollar lawsuit family members of the 9/11 victims have filed against various Saudi institutions and individuals. Prince Turki is one of them. Citing the litigation, he said his lawyers have advised him not to comment on the case. It's time now to say goodbye to our international viewers. Thanks very much for watching.
Coming up for our North American audience, the next hour of LATE EDITION. We'll have perspective on what U.S. intelligence is revealing about Iraq. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We'll get to all that new information that's being uncovered about Iraq and the war on terror in just a few minutes. But first, here's CNN's Renay San Miguel in Atlanta with a CNN news alert.
BLITZER: The Bush administration says it does have information that disputes Iraq's claims that it does not have weapons of mass destruction.
Joining us now with some insight are three special guests: California Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harmon. She's a member of House Intelligence Committee. Former CIA Director James Woolsey; and the former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst, Patrick Lang.
Good to have all of you back on LATE EDITION.
Congresswoman, I'll begin with you. What is the latest assessment? Will Saddam Hussein blink or will there be a war?
REP. JANE HARMON (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, we don't know that and we won't know that until he blinks or he doesn't blink.
I think that's the wrong question, Wolf, with all affection. I think the right question is are Americans becoming safer because of the actions we're taking? And my answer to that is, no.
We're focusing too much on Iraq and too little on the Middle East and too little on this shipment of Scuds to the Yemenis and too little on the South Korean elections. It's a very dangerous place, and we have to juggle more balls than we're juggling, and I'm disappointed.
BLITZER: Is she right?
JAMES WOOLSEY, FORMER CIA DIRECTOR: Well, she's right, I think, that we have to juggle all of those balls. I think that it's going to require a change of regime in Iraq and I don't think Saddam's going to change his spots. I think that we're going to be faced with that sometime later this winter and probably going to have to remove him.
But I think the congresswoman's absolutely right, that we have to focus very hard on all of these now. Nobody promised us a rose garden, and we've got several hot spots, all that we have to deal with.
BLITZER: You've spent years and years, Pat, studying Saddam Hussein. What's he going to do?
PATRICK LANG, FORMER DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY ANALYST: Well, he's not going to back away. He's a person who is so self-obsessed and fixated on his own destiny or whatever he thinks it should be called, you know, that he's just incapable of doing that. He's climbed up out of the gutter in the worst places in Iraq, killing his political allies and eliminating them left and right.
And he has nowhere to go. I mean, nobody wants him. And he's going to stand there and wait for us to run over them, just essentially like they did when they were in Kuwait. They stood there and waited for us to run over them, and we did.
BLITZER: So this notion that if his back is against the wall, he might seek exile in Libya or someplace else and end this peacefully, in your opinion that's out of the question?
LANG: I think that's quite fanciful from what I know about his character. Besides, who's going to take him? I mean, you take him, you give him asylum, you automatically make yourself a target for future U.S. attention, because everybody knows he's not going to behave himself when he's there.
BLITZER: Is that your assessment as well, Congresswoman?
HARMON: No. I think that the amount of lives lost in a potential war is so huge that I think the Europeans and some of the moderate Arab countries would give serious thought to that option. I'm not a scholar the way Pat is on this subject, but it would seem to me that there is, you know, some other option, that, you know, some pretty folks have disappeared and been given safe haven.
I also think a guy that would use his own blood to write the Koran in this huge mosque that he built recently may not want to see all that destroyed.
BLITZER: What do you think? I mean, Idi Amin was once a thug in Uganda. He got asylum in Saudi Arabia.
WOOLSEY: Well, my hopes are with the congresswoman. I'm afraid my head is with Pat on this one. I think that this man really is a megalomaniac, and he's an extraordinarily brutal killer. He has never given, I think, any evidence that he really would accept compromise solutions on anything. And nothing's impossible, and we can all hope that something happens like an exile, but I think it's unlikely.
LANG: You know, a lot of people don't like the analogy to Adolf Hitler with this guy, but I think in fact he's quite similar. The only -- the difference is that Hitler had the Wehrmacht, and this guy has the Iraqi army. But in their character, I don't think he's very different.
And the idea that he will personally accept a diminution in some way and just go away quietly, I find to be very hard to believe.
BLITZER: What about the notion that there's somebody in his military, somebody in his Revolutionary Guard who might take a bullet and kill him?
LANG: That's different. That's quite possible. You know, if they have any sense, one or a group of them will do that in order to spare the country the wreckage that will inevitably ensue from a war with the United States. Whether or not they have the courage to do that remains to be seen.
BLITZER: There have been a lot of attempts over the years, and he's always managed to survive.
HARMON: Right. Well, he's shrewd. He's a survivor. But I -- you know, I don't know that the guy is suicidal, and I just don't see him necessarily going down with all his flags flying, if he's even capable of that, given the enormous force that would be put against him.
BLITZER: For years and years and years, going back to the first Gulf War, the U.S. and its partners have tried to find that element within the Iraqi society that would get rid of him, but -- you tried, I assume, when you were the CIA director, but it's always been unsuccessful.
WOOLSEY: Well, coups don't work, really, against him, never have. Now, there is a possibility here at the last minute, as Pat says, something might.
But they haven't, because that's where he's strong. He's strong among the Tikritis, his own clan, who are the people who man his Special Republican Guards, special security organizations that are right around him. He's strong, to some extent, among the Sunni Arabs who are the 20-percent minority that are right in the center of the country, around and north of Baghdad.
So, where he's weak is among the Shia, who are 60 percent of the country in the south, whom he's been murdering for years, and the Kurds are another 20 percent, in the north, whom he's also been murdering for years.
So he's not weak, really, in his palace, which is where you'd want him to be weak for a coup. He's weak in the north and south.
BLITZER: And on the fundamental question, I'll ask you, Congresswoman, first. The fundamental question, one other way to avoid a war would be for Saddam Hussein to comply, to come clean and to release all of the information and to destroy all of his capabilities in the areas of weapons of mass destruction.
Do any of you think that that is possible?
HARMON: I would gauge that as totally impossible at this point.
However, I still see some scenarios in which he would substantially comply, our allies would work something out. I'm not a Pollyanna here. I voted for the resolution, the Iraq resolution, and I'm prepared to support the president's actions. But I am mindful that the world is still dangerous. We've never found Osama bin Laden. We're underfunding our homeland security effort home. We are taking our eye off the Middle East. South Korea and North Korea may get together in some way that's dangerous for us.
And this has to be about us. We're supposed to use American military force to protect American interests, and I worry that a lot of Americans are more at risk now than they were on 9/11.
BLITZER: And you could add Iran to that equation as well, what's happening there.
HARMON: I could, yes.
BLITZER: Do you think it's possible, given Saddam Hussein's makeup, that he might simply decide, you know what, we, the Iraqis, we lost in 1991, we're going to lose again, go ahead, take the documents, take the weapons, and we'll move on?
WOOLSEY: No, I don't think so, because I think his self- image gets in the way as well as the image he believes that the Iraqi people have of him and a lot of people in the Arab world, which is as a kind of modern-day Saladin, you know, defying the West.
And so long as he continues to play games with us and hold out and give us half-truths and to prevaricate, then he looks like he's resisting. If he really starts to give in completely so that he's our guy, in effect, that's the way they'll think of it, he'll go down.
BLITZER: Do you agree?
LANG: I think so, yes.
BLITZER: There's no way that when he sees that his days are numbered, he's going to say, "I give up?"
LANG: Nothing is absolutely impossible, but I think that that is, flies in the face of everything he's done all his life.
BLITZER: What about this other notion that's been spread over the past week or so, that he'll go down fighting, not only fighting for himself, but with a scorched-earth policy and take down a lot of Iraqi civilians and oil fields and sort of blow up the place in the process?
LANG: That's much more likely, that he will wreak a lot of destruction on Iraq, particularly on the Kurds and Shia, and will try to say that it's us, that he'll use chemical weapons and say that we used them and so on. So I think the chance of that is, I'm afraid, reasonably high.
BLITZER: Do you agree?
HARMON: I do. But that makes a point, too. I mean, you just had three generals on this show. War is messy, and if this is not an easy war, and it may not be an easy war, and there are mounting casualties -- I think the president's high popularity has to do with him. He's Reagan-like in the way he carries himself. But I don't think he'll have high popularity, or his war will have high popularity, if people perceive that needlessly lives were put at risk.
BLITZER: You mean like Vietnam?
HARMON: Yes, like Vietnam. I don't think this is Vietnam. I mean, again, I think we have thought our way through as a country to supporting a policy to get rid of a madman who is sitting on a lot of weapons of mass destruction.
That's a good thing to be doing. I'm for doing it. But I want to do it in a way that doesn't destabilize us with respect to the rest of the world and put us more at risk than we were before we started that war.
BLITZER: Pat, you were at the Pentagon at the end of the Gulf War when he was losing and he took down the Saudi oil fields, blew those up.
BLITZER: I mean, excuse me, the Kuwaiti oil fields. But it's one thing to blow up Kuwaiti oil fields, it's another thing to blow up Iraqi oil fields.
Do you believe he would go down with that sorched-earth policy?
LANG: Well, I think the idea that he would attack Iraq's oil assets is a plausible one, you know, as a course of action for him. Of course, we would go in and put the them out, put the fires out. It would take a while to do but we would do that.
The other things, I think, are not as plausible, because it's not that easy to start epidemics in any place, especially with the U.S. forces arriving on the scene to apply medical attention. And chemical weapons tend to be fairly spotty in their effects. You know, they're really battlefield weapons.
So of these three things, I think the oil field fires are the most plausible one.
BLITZER: Which could be pretty scary, as all of us remember, of course, from the Gulf War with the Kuwaiti oil fields. I think there's still environmental damage as a result of those huge oil fires.
We're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about. We'll also get to your phone calls for our guests. LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're talking about Iraq and the war on terrorism with California Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harmon, former CIA Director James Woolsey and former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst Patrick Lang.
Director Woolsey, the top Saudi scientist, if you will, was at a news conference earlier this morning in -- the top Iraqi scientist, excuse me, was at a news conference in Baghdad earlier this morning. He said that the U.S. is lying, the British are lying, they have nothing, the Iraqis have come clean, they've given everything out there. And he says if you have the evidence, if the U.S. and Britain have the evidence, prove it.
And then he goes on to say something very interesting. I want you to listen to what he adds. .
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AMIR AL-SAADI, IRAQI SCIENTIFIC ADVISER (through translator): We even don't mind that American intelligence itself comes with inspection teams to show them the places in which it alleges there is something.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Basically, he's saying, "Let the CIA go and accompany the U.N. weapons inspectors. If they've got something to prove, put it on the table."
WOOLSEY: Wolf, I don't know how you say chupzpah in the Iraqi dialect of Arabic, but he's sure got a lot of it.
Look the whole problem here is that the biological weapons and the material to manufacture the chemical weapons and the material to manufacture the biological weapons can be small and movable. We believe on the biological weapons, there's seven laboratories that are on trucks.
Biological weapons can be quite small, can be buried. The same for -- gas centrifuge, for example, that enriches uranium, can be about the size of a washing machine. All right.
So the idea that we're looking for some giant facilities that can't be moved is nonsense. We're not looking for a big nuclear reactor or something like that. So if it was there yesterday, when somebody got some intelligence, chances are it's not going to be there tomorrow.
BLITZER: But at some point, the U.S. is going to have to put its intelligence on the table if it hopes to get the support from the European allies and others.
WOOLSEY: Well, my judgment of that is that we know he has at least chemical and bacteriological weapons. We may not know exactly where they are. But once the real inspectors get in there, whom I would say might be the 82nd Airborne, the 101st Airborne, the Second Marines, they will show people the chemical and bacteriological weapons.
But it's a fool's game to believe that we can play hide and seek in the desert and even get a good tip about where something was last month or six months ago and for it to still be there. It's just not going to be there.
BLITZER: Congresswoman, so the whole inspection process that the U.N. has organized is a waste of time?
HARMON: No, I don't think it's a waste of time. I think the fact that Hans Blix is out there, even Hans Blix saying that the Iraqis weren't forthcoming, is extremely helpful to build international support.
But we are sharing intelligence. I gather from the press that we're going to share more of our intelligence, and we certainly have intelligence about what's going on in Iraq. This is something our government is very capable of monitoring.
In addition to that, I'm still hopeful that we will get some folks out of the country with their families and give them safe haven and find out what they know. I mean, Saddam Hussein, by himself, didn't drive every truck, Jim, as you know, and a lot of this involves some other folks. And I would think if they see the end coming, and they really see the resolve of the world, not just the U.S., against them -- and they all watch CNN too, by the way -- I think that they may find a way, finally, to come on over and help us.
BLITZER: Well, let me ask Pat Lang.
Is that realistic to assume? And a lot of the good information that the inspection teams received over the past decade did come from defectors. But is it realistic to...
LANG: Defectors or other people who are in the West for some reason.
BLITZER: But is it realistic to assume that the current inspection team is going to be able to take these guys and their families out of the country?
LANG: Well, I've been waiting for the opportunity to say something about this on television. I sure hope it's possible. But I -- as somebody who has been in Iraq quite a lot, I have a hard time imagining that in this police state, it's going to be possible to talk to Mohammed (inaudible) here and say, "Are you, in fact, a nuclear physicist?" And he says, "Yes." And you say, "Well, OK, I'm going to take your mother, your father, your two kids, and we're going to take you to the airport now and take you away."
I'm not sure how this is going to work from a practical and mechanical point of view. I think it's necessary.
But I think the larger issue about how we prove our point about Iraq's weapons program is through a large-scale, analytic effort which puts together a lot of evidence, some of which is circumstantial, to come up with an absolute probability that they're violating.
BLITZER: One of the pundits I spoke to recently -- not a pundit, an expert, supposedly -- in this area said the Iraqis would love the CIA to come public with their information because it gives them useful information to go after certain so-called sources and methods and the people who are hurting them.
WOOLSEY: Sure. Well, a lot of disclosure of intelligence can disclose sources and methods and there's nothing the Iraqis would like better. The Iraqis had penetrated UNSCOM, the inspectors, before, back in the '90s, and they almost certainly have penetrated these inspectors.
BLITZER: The current team?
WOOLSEY: There were over 200 inspections, Wolf, back in the '90s, under the previous inspection regime. About five of those were surprises.
And the reason was because David Kay and some of the other American inspectors took extraordinary steps to, say, talk on the telephones about going to a different place than they were really going and so on. In a few cases, they managed to surprise them. But most of the time, they didn't. And the reason they didn't was because the inspectors were penetrated by Iraqi intelligence.
BLITZER: Because of the electronic intercepts, the communications...
WOOLSEY: All sorts of ways. People, intercepts...
BLITZER: But you think they planted people in there?
WOOLSEY: I imagine people, intercepts, bribes, all kinds of possibilities. Who knows?
But the point is that the only way you're even going to have a chance of finding out where the material is, as distinct from roughly how much of it is there, how many warheads, but where it is, the only way you can do that, I think, is to get people in the program out of the country and get information that is very, very, very fresh. Then you would have a fighting chance, but even then only, I think, a fighting chance.
HARMON: Well, the president has mentioned this numbers of times in his public speeches, and I think it is critically important. And as the clock ticks to January 27th, which is now a drop-dead date -- I'm glad it's a few weeks off -- I'm hopeful that more pressure will be put on people in Iraq. Whether Saddam Hussein himself is capable or not of doing anything other than go down with his flags flying, some of his other folks may not like to be on a suicide mission.
LANG: Well, I hope that's true. You know, I really agree with what was said here about how taking people out of the country and talking to them is the best way to do this. My only problem is trying to figure out how this works. You know, Arab families are extended families. You know, how far out in the circle of cousins and things like this do you remove people if you're going to take family out? Because he'll kill everybody he can get his hands on, just to make an example.
BLITZER: Just to send a message.
HARMON: But that is the point anyway. If he's going to kill everybody, if he's going to have a scorched-earth policy, that may motivate some folks to save at least some of their immediate family and relatives through something like this. And, you know, I think Iraqis are just like we are, survivors...
BLITZER: They want to live too.
HARMON: ... proud of their country, with a great heritage that's now being trashed by this crazy person in charge.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Harmon, we've got to leave it right there. Thanks very much. Pat Lang, as usual, Director Woolsey, always a pleasure.
Time now for your letters to LATE EDITION about the furor surrounding Senator Trent Lott.
Jim from Amarillo, Texas, writes this: "Senator Lott has supported George W. Bush without wavering, but when Senator Lott needed the support of his party's leader, Mr. Bush ran scared. Did Senator Lott deserve better from his president?"
And regarding Iraq, X.L. from Fulton, Mississippi, says: "Why doesn't President Bush let the world know what makes him so sure that Iraq is lying?" We were just talking about that.
James from New Brunswick, Canada, asks: "Does Iran's nuclear weapons program serve as a deterrent to Iraq?" Good question.
We always welcome your comments. The e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org. If you'd like to receive my weekly e-mail previewing this program, go to cnn.com/lateedition, "lateedition" all one word, and sign up.
Coming up next, LATE EDITION's Final Round. We'll debate the big stories of the week on our Final Round. But first, Bruce Morton's essay on the U.S. South and the changing times.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Back in, say, the 1940s, the South was segregated by law and Democratic by tradition. Lincoln's birthday was not a holiday, and Lincoln's Republican Party could meet in a phone booth. That changed when the Democrats, with President Lyndon Johnson urging them on, passed the 1964 and 1965 civil rights bills, which ended legal segregation.
Johnson, no fool, said at the time passing the civil rights bills would cost the Democratic Party the South for a generation, and it did.
Republicans followed Barry Goldwater's advice and went South. Richard Nixon won with what was called a "Southern strategy" in 1968. Many Southern Democrats, like Strom Thurmond, switched parties, became Republicans.
Southerners still chaired a lot of important congressional committees. The region has always understood seniority. But they were Republican Southerners.
And resentment over the federal government's role in ending segregation was what caused this Republican surge.
It was a new day, but not the final day. Change continued. Industries from the North, from abroad that would never have opened plants in a segregated state opened them in the new desegregated South.
The phrase all of a sudden was the New South. Jimmy Carter, no segregationist, was hailed first as a Democratic New South governor and then a president.
The New South was conservative on social issues -- abortion, guns, school prayer -- but very few wanted to go back to segregation. Basically, the South had moved on.
Governors like George W. Bush in Texas courted black and Hispanic voters. Come to that, so did George Wallace and Strom Thurmond at the end of their careers. And Bush as president, of course, appointed blacks -- Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell -- to some of the most important jobs in his administration.
That's why Trent Lott's seeming admiration for the bad old days came as such a shock. He seemed like the Rip Van Winkle of the (inaudible).
States' rights in other areas is still an issue in the South. And the Supreme Court has recently ruled in favor of the states on questions like how much aid for the disabled the federal government can require. More such fights probably lie ahead for Senate Republicans who will be split on such questions.
And Bill Frist will discover the joys of trying to lead in a Senate where any one member can put a hold on -- block, that is -- any piece of legislation. Howard Baker, a former Republican leader, said it was like trying to push a wet noodle. Frist, a surgeon, may find himself nostalgic for those heart transplants he used to do.
I'm Bruce Morton. (END VIDEOTAPE)
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Time now for LATE EDITION Final Round. Joining me, Donna Brazile, the Democratic strategist, Ryan Lizza of the "New Republic," Jonah Goldberg of the "National Review Online," and Robert George of the "New York Post."
We begin with the fallout from the huge shakeup in the U.S. Senate. Mississippi Senator Trent Lott out as the Senate majority leader, forced to resign because of his praise of Strom Thurmond's 1948 segregationist presidential campaign.
Today, Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah said Lott had been treated badly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: What he'd said was wrong. He deserved the condemnation for that. But to infer from his comments that he wanted to go back to the days of segregation, gosh, give me a break. I don't think anybody in their right mind believes that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Robert, was there any way Trent Lott could have saved his position in the Senate?
ROBERT GEORGE, NEW YORK POST: If in the first or second day, when this -- it's not really a scandal -- when this uproar began, if he had come...
BLITZER: Originally there was no uproar, remember.
GEORGE: Right, right, exactly. If he had come out and said, you know, "Segregation is wrong, it's immoral, if I gave any indication that I thought there was anything OK with it," I think he could very well have survived.
Instead, he gave, first just had a kind of a one-off statement from his spokesman. Then a succession of mealey-mouthed apologies. And by that, each apology he ended up sounding more ignorant of the painful history of segregation. And then finally, when the White House came in and basically made the statement that he should have made, that was the beginning of the end.
BLITZER: It wasn't just the White House, it was the president of the United States who basically ended his Senate leadership.
If he had come out originally and said the right thing, you think he would have survived?
RYAN LIZZA, NEW REPUBLIC: Yes, I think so. I think the nail in the coffin was obviously Bush's statement. He had a week between the time he made these dumb remarks and the time the president condemned them.
And I think most people that were watching it realized that he just didn't get it. He didn't realize what was wrong with what he said.
And the other thing was that the media started looking into his background. We found out that he had made similar statements in the '80s. We found out that -- we were reminded that he had this relationship with the Council of Conservative Citizens, which is, you know, basically a white supremacist group in Mississippi.
And he was a goner as soon as Bush condemned him and decided not to support him.
BLITZER: The president basically, when he came out in Philadelphia and made that statement, basically ended Senator Lott's career as the majority leader.
DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: He did, and I thought that was a very bold move on the part of the president.
But, look, this is a president who campaigned as a different kind of Republican. This is a president who is trying, as we speak, to continue to build upon his victory in 2002. So they had to push him aside.
But I still believe the legacy of race in American politics is still here and we need to resolve it, otherwise it's going to continue to percolate from time to time.
BLITZER: When did the White House, in your opinion, Jonah, believe that they just had to do whatever was necessary to get rid of Trent Lott, despite his own kicking and screaming in the process?
JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: I mean, the time line gets a little confusing, at least in retrospect, for me at this point. But I think it was after the second apology.
I mean, everyone here has said the same exact thing about this. If Lott had not used language like "the discarded policies of the past," that is purely, morally neutral language. I mean, you can talk about the gold standard had that way.
You know, I don't embrace the discarded policies of the past, you know, that doesn't mean I'm not in favor of the gold standard, just it's discarded. And that was the same way he talked about segregation.
GOLDBERG: And so, each serial apology created a new bar -- set the bar higher for him to prove that he knew what he was talking about, and prove that he didn't get it. And once, I think -- I can't tell you what day it was, but once it became clear that this was no longer about Trent Lott, once it became clear that this was about the image of the Republican Party generally, they're like, "Enough. We don't need this guy."
And remember, my magazine National Review called for Trent Lott to step down in 1998. So he had no support on the right, no support among conservatives, generally. And I think that this was basically...
BLITZER: And you called on him to resign right after this one, as well...
GOLDBERG: Indeed we did.
BLITZER: ... as I read. All right, let's move on.
Tomorrow, Republicans will formally elect the man who will replace Lott as the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee. Frist, by the way, is the Senate's only physician.
Ryan, is Bill Frist the right man for the job?
LIZZA: Well, you know, he doesn't have very tough shoes to follow. I mean, anyone's going to look good in the wake of Trent Lott as leader.
But, you know, he's going to have three big problems. One is that he's going to be seen as a tool of the White House, very close to the president. And a lot of people on the Hill believe that the White House was responsible for installing him.
Second problem he's going to have is he's not going to have the loyalty of some of the old bulls in the Senate, some of the people that were still pushing for Lott at the end.
And the third problem is the Democrats are working very hard right now to define him as a sort of tool of this scandal-tainted hospital chain that his family fortune comes from.
So, you know, I think he's got a big challenge...
BLITZER: It's going to be hard, though, because Bill Frist is very well-liked in Washington.
GEORGE: Yes, actually two of the three things that Ryan just mentioned, I think, are in Frist's favor. You know, being seen as close to a president who's got, you know, 75 or 80 percent approval rating is not necessarily a bad thing. Somebody who can actually, in a sense, control some of the old guard in the Senate is also not necessarily a bad thing. I think we may actually, you know, get some, you know, real legislation coming through now.
BLITZER: What do you think about Bill Frist? BRAZILE: Well, I don't know him, but he'll be judged based on his independence from the White House. I agree with Ryan on that.
And also, this is a guy, when he came to Congress, he said he would serve only two terms and he wanted to focus on health care. We all know that we have a big health care crisis right now. And will he use some of his new clout and leadership in Washington, D.C., to do something about lowering the costs of prescription drugs, as well as a patients' bill of rights and health care access, et cetera?
So this is a great improvement over Lott, but not much more of an improvement above Senator Lott.
GOLDBERG: You know, I think the Democrats are actually fairly frightened of Bill Frist, because he brings a lot of gravitas, he doesn't bring the baggage. They're trying to label him with a lot of baggage, saying that he's racially insensitive based upon the most flimsy record conceivable.
And it's not just that he's close to the White House and that Bush is popular. He's close to the guy who got these guys the majority back. And so I do think that it would be more of a liability in another time and another context to be closely tied to the White House, but this White House right now has huge chits it can cash with the Senate Republicans.
GEORGE: And remember, he ran the National Senatorial Campaign Committee, and so he is also seen as one of the people who brought in the Republican majority. And so those eight freshmen are going to be very loyal to him, and that's a very good bloc to work with.
BLITZER: He managed to hold on to the majority, which was no easy task.
Many Democrats say the Lott controversy merely crystallizes a problem that the Republican Party in general has involving African- Americans. This week, former President Bill Clinton offered this assessment about the furor surrounding Senator Lott.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAMS J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: How can they suddenly jump on him when they're up there repressing -- trying to run black voters away from the polls and running on the Confederate flag in Georgia and South Carolina? I mean, look at their whole record. This is -- the others, how can they attack him? He just embarrassed them by saying in Washington what they do on the back roads.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is Bill Clinton right, Jonah Goldberg?
GOLDBERG: Well, it is obvious that this Lott thing cost Republicans -- did serious damage to the Republican image, and in some ways rightfully so. And the Republican Party's dealing with it, conservatives are dealing with it.
I think generally this is -- the Republicans and the conservatives have dealt with this in an admirable way, by throwing him overboard the way they did and being forthright. I think the Senate clubhouse mentality took a little too long.
But so -- but it still would be shocking to expect that Bill Clinton wouldn't take advantage of this sort of a situation. When someone causes damage to the party, that's what people like Bill Clinton do.
CLINTON: Donna, is it fair for Bill Clinton to say that the candidates, the Republican candidates in Georgia and South Carolina, ran on the Confederate flag? You know who the two candidates...
BRAZILE: Absolutely. He's referring to the gubernatorial candidate in Georgia, Sonny Perdue (ph), and of course what took place over there in South Carolina.
Both Democratic candidates took real courageous positions on the flag, saying that the Confederate flag no longer had a place, you know, on the state grounds. They paid a political price. The Democratic Party has paid a political price for standing up for civil rights and defending affirmative action across the South.
And I think that's what Bill Clinton, a son of the South, I should remind everyone that he is from Arkansas, he has spoken out eloquently on these issues of race, and he's tried to build a bridge from hope to the mainstream.
BLITZER: Did Lindsey Graham in South Carolina run on the Confederate flag?
BRAZILE: Lindsey Graham per se did not run on that issue, but that was an issue in undermining Democrats' ability to get out his message, and the Republicans' ability to galvanize his base and energize his base along the flag.
GEORGE: I will agree that Bill Clinton is a son of something, and probably of the South, yes, exactly.
But let's have a quick history lesson, though, of what happened in South Carolina. If you go back one election cycle, David Beasley (ph), who was the then Republican governor of South Carolina, he actually made initial efforts to try and take down the Confederate flag. The Democrat running against him actually worked on the resentment from the other side, and then he then went after the Confederate flag himself.
So I think people felt doublecrossed by -- was it Hodges (ph) who was the...?
BRAZILE: Hodges (ph). But Hodges (ph) used gambling. Gambling was another issue.
GEORGE: ... by Hodges (ph).
So, the point is that different politicians will use the Confederate flag image to their advantage down in the South.
LIZZA: The Democrats have done that, surely, but look, say what you will about Clinton, he has a knack for cutting to the heart of the issue. And the bottom line is that the reason that the base of the Republican Party is in the South is not because of Republicans' 30- year history of great support for civil rights in the South.
LIZZA: You know, we all know there's something called the "Southern strategy," and the Republican Party is what it is today because of a strategy that played on racial divisions.
GEORGE: Bill Clinton's 1992 attack on Sister Souljah in front of Jesse Jackson had nothing today with going after white votes?
LIZZA: Both sides play racial politics. I'm not saying they don't. But the bottom line is...
GOLDBERG: But the Republicans are allegedly racist when they play racial politics...
LIZZA: No, I did not say...
GOLDBERG: ... and the Democrats aren't. I mean, that is the position of the Democratic Party today, that if you're against affirmative action, you are necessarily racist. That is what Ted Kennedy is coming out and saying, that's what Hillary Clinton is coming and saying, and that's outrageous.
LIZZA: Well, they're wrong about that.
BLITZER: All right, let's move on. We have to take a quick break, but this conversation is only just beginning.
Just ahead, Time magazine's Person of the Year. Is it a good choice? Our panel will weigh in when our Final Round continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our Final Round.
Today Iraq accused the United States and Britain of lying about the weapons declaration it submitted to the U.N. The Bush administration says Iraq is in material breach of the U.N. resolution, calling for that country's disarmament of biological and chemical, nuclear weapons capabilities.
But earlier today, the Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska said the White House has yet to make a compelling case for war.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
U.S. SENATOR CHUCK HAGEL (R-NE): Well, I think the president, if he makes a decision to go to war with our allies, is going to have to present a very clear-cut case against Saddam Hussein and a very clear reason to initiate a military option. Because what we begin in Iraq will not end in Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Strong words from Senator Hagel, an outspoken, independent thinker on this issue.
Donna, should the administration be declaring Iraq in material breach even while the inspections continue?
BRAZILE: Well, they've been in material breach now, Wolf, for four years, I believe.
But at the same time, I think the administration is doing the right thing this weekend. They're sharing evidence and information with the U.N. inspectors. They're going to begin to, I guess, pick up their public case over the next couple of weeks with Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell on the phone talking to our allies.
But I still believe we have to show more evidence. And what we've seen thus far is 12,000 pages and they're not worth anything, the paper it's printed on. And once again, Saddam is playing his old game, but they have to go back out there and present the evidence.
BLITZER: I don't know, Jonah, if you were watching CNN earlier today when we broadcast live from Baghdad the news conference from the chief Iraqi scientist, General Amir al-Saadi, who said basically, you know, "We're telling the truth. You don't believe us, come over, bring over the CIA, put your stuff on the table, prove it."
GOLDBERG: Yes, well, look, it's funny that people still don't expect this pattern to come up. The pattern on how Bush handles these things is pretty clear by now. He waits for his chorus of critics to say, "Do X, do X, do X," and then he does X, and they all have to get in line because that's what he did.
That's what he did with homeland security. You had Lieberman out there screaming, "We need a Department of Homeland Security." The chorus got fever pitch. He said, "We're going to have a Department of Homeland Security." He did the same thing with going to the U.N. to get a resolution.
My guess is that what he's trying to do is, he's trying to get the world to say, "Show us the smoking gun," and then he's going to walk into a room and dump a smoking gun on the table, and say, "Aha." Because, look, he does have to show evidence. There's no way that he'll rally a nation to war without the evidence, and you have to assume he has it.
BLITZER: It's not only to get the Europeans on board, but to get the American public on board, he's got to show what he's got.
LIZZA: But you know what, I disagree. I think a lot of the people that I've talked to that know about this, as far as what intelligence we have, they're very skeptical -- I think if you had James Woolsey on, I bet he would say this -- they're very skeptical that we actually have some kind of location-specific, smoking-gun intelligence about where Saddam has weapons of mass destruction.
And I don't think that's what's going to lead to war. What's going to lead to war is something -- a much more technical breach with the new resolution.
LIZZA: In other words, inspectors being hassled, trying to get into some place and not being allowed in. I don't think we're going to have inspectors, you know, sitting there with the chemical weapons in a locked room and the Iraqis...
BLITZER: All right, wrap it up.
GEORGE: Yes, I think ultimately the White House is going to have to show some concrete evidence, a smoking gun.
But I think Jonah's right. I think they've got that, I do think they think they have that intelligence.
BLITZER: Time magazine today unveiled its Person of the Year. This year, three whistleblowers share the honor: Cynthia Cooper of WorldCom, Coleen Rowley of the FBI, Sherron Watkins of Enron.
Robert, good idea, good choice for Time magazine?
GEORGE: I think Time whistle blew it, actually.
Look, this was an interesting story when Coleen Rowley came forward with the FBI information and so forth -- Sherron Watkins. But it seems to me, very clearly, that the Man of the Year, Person of the Year, whatever you want to call it, is George W. Bush.
Yes, he got it a couple of years ago. But the fact is, both on the substance of the war on terror and taking the country toward Iraq and so forth, and also politically, I think it's very, very clear.
And it just seems to me kind of a waste of space to give it to the whistleblowers.
BRAZILE: Well, I support it. First of all, in the history of naming a Person of the Year we've only had five women. So to get three on one day is quite an accomplishment.
So I'm proud of that. And whistleblowers can be heroes, I mean...
GEORGE: Martha Stewart, then, if you're going to go that way.
BRAZILE: No, that's another category.
But clearly, they just demonstrated leadership and great courage in standing up and exposing, in many cases, huge problems within corporate America, as well as what, you know, took place 9/11.
BLITZER: The original goal of this Man of the Year, as it was always called, was the person who has had the most impact, for good or for bad, on the world. That's why Hitler once got the...
GOLDBERG: Hitler, Stalin got it. I think Stalin got it twice.
GEORGE: Khomeini got it.
BLIZER: Right, the Ayatollah Khomeini. Did Time magazine make the right choice this year?
GOLDBERG: No, I don't think they did, and I think Donna underscored one of the reasons. If this had been three white guys, it probably wouldn't have made as good a photo, wouldn't have made as good a cover.
I also think that the media loves whistleblowers more than the rest of the world does, because basically they keep the media in business.
But I think it's far more journalistically defensible than last year was, because that standard of whose changed the world more was not Rudy Giuliani. Rudy Giuliani was a hero and heroic for responding to changes in the world. But the guy who changed the world more was Osama bin Laden, who belongs in that list with Hitler and Stalin and Khomeini.
And this year's was, you know, it's a fun...
BLITZER: You could argue that Saddam Hussein might have won this year. He's had a tremendous impact on the way the whole world has wound up at the end of this year.
LIZZA: No, absolutely. But I think you could defend the choice on the criteria you set out. What was the big story this year? The big story of this year was the failure of public institutions -- the failure of the FBI, the failure of corporate America. And, you know, the other one that they should have included was the failure of the Catholic Church.
I think that was one of the most interesting, biggest stories of the year, and these were three people who sort of exposed those failures.
BLITZER: All right. Well, I'll read the articles now in Time magazine.
GEORGE: Emimen, should have been Eminem.
BLITZER: Good cover. It is a good cover. Eminem was in the list, by the way.
BRAZILE: He was on the list?
We have to take another quick break. The Lightning Round is just ahead. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Time now for our Lightning Round.
The 2004 presidential race won't be a rematch of Bush versus Gore. The former vice president says he's decided not to make another White House run. He said a rematch of the 2000 race would focus on the past rather than the future.
Would Al Gore have matched up well against President Bush a second time around? Jonah?
GOLDBERG: He would have won the nomination, and he would have lost in the general, but he will be back in 2008.
BLITZER: You were surprised.
BRAZILE: I was shocked at the timing. I wasn't as shocked about the decision. But he would have won the nomination, and I think it would have been a very close race. Gore would've started off with 166 electoral votes, Bush 170, 18 battleground states, and it would have been a close race again.
BLITZER: What do you think?
GEORGE: I was surprised that he decided to drop out. I thought he was going to go for it.
But I have to agree with Jonah and Donna. Well, I think he would have lost, but I think it would have been yet another nail-biter as well.
BLITZER: I was personally shocked. But go ahead.
LIZZA: Yes, I was shocked, too. I thought for sure he was going to run. I didn't have any doubt in my mind. But all of us were wrong, or at least I was.
But this idea that Bush is unbeatable is insane. We don't know what's going to happen in two years from now. We don't know what's going to happen with the war. We don't know what's going to happen with the economy.
GOLDBERG: It's not that Bush is unbeatable. It's that Gore is unwinnable. They're different things.
LIZZA: No, that's not it all.
BLITZER: And remind our viewers, because I know that Donna knows this off the top of her head. At this point, before the '92 presidential election, November of '92, where was Bill Clinton at this point?
BRAZILE: He was at the bottom of the heap.
BLITZER: He was at 1 percent, 2 percent?
BRAZILE: That's right, 3 percent. It's all name recognition.
BLITZER: And I believe at this point in '91, remember, at the beginning of '91, where were the job approval ratings for then President Bush?
GEORGE: In the 90s.
BLITZER: So you never know. Americans have a short attention span.
Let's move on. With Al Gore out of the race, a CNN-Time magazine poll shows Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton leading a field of potential Democratic candidates. She's the choice of 30 percent of registered Democrats. If the Bush family can have two Oval Office occupants, why not the Clintons?
Donna, is that possible, that Hillary Rodham Clinton will change her mind and decide to run?
BRAZILE: Well, I don't think so. I think she's prepared now to take over the Democratic Policy Institute on the Senate side. She'll help the party formulate its message and strategy for 2004. But perhaps Chelsea will be prepared to run in 2020.
GEORGE: She's setting herself up very well for a 2008 run. Could be a primary race between her and Al Gore. But she was one of the big people in terms of contributing money this cycle, so she's definitely getting her chits down.
BLITZER: Is it just name recognition among registered Democrats...
BRAZILE: That's all it is. That's all it is.
BLITZER: ... the fact that she gets 30 percent?
BLITZER: Or is there something more there? LIZZA: Yes, absolutely. I bet, if you asked -- if you put the name "Chelsea Clinton" in there, she would get 30 percent over the field that's out there right now, because nobody knows who Howard Dean and John Kerry and some of these other guys are. It's just name recognition.
Remember, in '98 -- we were talking about this before -- George W. Bush, the people, he had the highest number in the polls, and a lot of people were confusing him with his father.
BLITZER: Are Republicans quaking in their boots, worried about Hillary Rodham Clinton, or salivating?
GOLDBERG: I think more are salivating. I mean, I think Hillary -- I don't think it's all just name ID, although I think that's the primary thing. The Clintons just are very popular in the rank and file of the Democratic Party, and Hillary's very popular with them.
But the idea that -- I think she could sweep up in the primaries, and I think she would be a great opponent in the general election for a Republican. Feminist, you know.
And also you have the issue of Bill Clinton as the First Gentleman, which is always going to be fun.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to do this very quickly. With 2004 obviously way ahead, but 2002 right now coming to a close, who are your big winners and losers of this year?
LIZZA: Big winners: Karl Rove, who's built the most powerful White House in a long, long time, and Joe Lieberman on the Democratic side because he can now run for president.
Big losers are Paul O'Neill, who was summarily dismissed from the White House, completely unfair. And the other big loser is Terry McAuliffe, the awful chairman of the Democratic Party.
BLITZER: Go ahead.
GEORGE: George W. Bush, for reasons that I mentioned before, is probably the big winner. Obviously Rove was successful there. Don Rumsfeld looks very, very good.
Losers: most of the Democratics who -- the Democratic Party seems to have just basically completely lost its voice.
BRAZILE: The winners, I believe, are the Democratic candidates who will emerge now that Al Gore has decided not to run -- Kerry, Gephardt, Edwards, Daschle, et cetera.
Losers: Paul O'Neill and that (inaudible)
BLITZER: Very quickly.
GOLDBERG: Winners: Rove, he did everything he wanted to do, and J.R.R. Tolkien, who's emerging as the greatest novelist of the 20th century.
Losers: Canada, because everyone's paying attention to them, and their government suffers when people pay attention to it.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, our LATE EDITION Final Round.
BRAZILE: Happy holidays.
GEORGE (?): That was Jonah Goldberg. Please send letters to him.
BLITZER: Thank you. We have a lot of viewers in Canada too.
GEORGE: Not anymore.
BLITZER: That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, December 22nd.
Please be sure to join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.
I'll be here Monday through Friday, noon Eastern, for Showdown: Iraq; later in the day, 5:00 p.m. Eastern, for Wolf Blitzer Reports.
Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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