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Soundoff: Interview With Max Boot, Amy Goodman

Aired January 20, 2003 - 12:43   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Across the country, indeed the world, the cry grows louder for a nonmilitary solution to Iraq. Is it possible? Sounding off today from New York, Amy Goodman -- she is host of Democracy Now on Pacifica Radio, and Max Boot with the Council on Foreign Relations. He is author of the book "The Savage Wars of Peace."
Thanks both of you -- to both of you for joining us. Max, is it possible to avoid a war with Iraq?

MAX BOOT, AUTHOR, "THE SAVAGE WARS OF PEACE": Wolf, it's possible, but very unlikely in my opinion. To avoid a war with Iraq, we would have to have voluntary disarmament by the Saddam Hussein regime, and everything that we know about Saddam, one of the most brutal and ruthless dictators in the world over the past 20 years is that he will never give up his weapons of mass destruction, no matter what the U.N. says. Therefore, I think it's extremely unlikely that he will go quietly...

BLITZER: Let me let Amy weigh in on that as well. Go ahead, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN, DEMOCRACY NOW: Sure it's possible. I mean, if Donald Rumsfeld was willing to shake Saddam's hand in 1983 and 1984 when he knew he was using chemical weapons, surely he can negotiate diplomatically with him now when he knows he's not.

BLITZER: You're referring to a mission that he undertook during the Reagan administration to Baghdad at a time when U.S.-Iraqi relations were clearly much better than they are now in the face of that Iraqi war with Iran. But go ahead, Max, why don't you respond.

GOODMAN: I think the operative point there though is that the U.S. at that time knew well that Saddam Hussein was using chemical weapons and yet, Donald Rumsfeld did not raise this issue in Baghdad. Instead, he shook Saddam Hussein's hand, and helped to normalize relations with Iraq...


BLITZER: Hold on one second. Let's let Max weigh in. My understanding was the Iraqis used chemical weapons, gas, against the Kurds later in the '80s, '88, I believe, not in '84.


BOOT: Can I get in a word edgewise, please? BLITZER: Yes. Go ahead, Max.

BOOT: That is correct, Wolf. Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons in a hideous campaign in 1987, 1988, especially around the area of Halabja (ph), which is one of the Kurdish villages in northern Iraq. But I am puzzled -- I am truly puzzled by the way the left harps on this time and again, as if we were somehow the reason why Saddam Hussein was in power in the 1980s, which is not at all the case. But even if we were, to some extent, supporting Saddam, which we were during his war with Iran, which was an even worse enemy in the 1980s, doesn't that create even more of a burden upon us today to make up for those policies of the past by removing this evil cancer upon the Middle East whom we once supported?

I think it is incumbent upon us to liberate the people of Iraq and to get rid of this evil dictator, and I believe that is ultimately what we are going to have to do, Wolf.

BLITZER: Amy, go ahead.

GOODMAN: Well, right now -- first of all, I would say back in '83 and '84, we are talking about a Saddam Hussein who is gassing the Iranians in the war there, and the U.N., State Department of the United States knew it well. But right now, what is the answer? If we're talking about our concern for Iraqi civilians, certainly the answer is not to bomb them, as the U.S. has continued to do on a regular basis, along with Britain, the two countries that have the most powerful oil companies who want to get into Iraq. That's what this is about.

BOOT: That is ridiculous.

GOODMAN: You should have no illusion about it being about anything else.

BOOT: That is an absurd charge. The oil companies have no interest in overthrowing Saddam Hussein, the Saudi royal family, or any other dictators in the Middle East. They are perfectly happy to cut deals with dictators. But oil companies would like to have sanctions lifted. They don't want to have the Saddam Hussein regime overthrown. And -- that is also a specious charge that we are, -- quote-unquote -- "bombing civilians." What U.S. warplanes are doing in enforcing the northern and southern no-fly zones is responding when Iraqi air defenses are illegally firing upon them, and they are targeting Iraqi radars. They are not targeting civilians. It is Saddam Hussein who kills civilians deliberately, it is not the United States military.

GOODMAN: I just spoke with four women who returned from Iraq who lost loved ones at the World Trade Center. They're with a group, Peaceful Tomorrows. They went to Iraq to build bridges with ordinary Iraqis. They went to the home of a family whose husband and father had died just a few weeks ago as a result of another U.S. bombing in the so called no-fly zone. That's not authorized by the United Nations but imposed by the United States and Britain. BOOT: Did these so-called peace activists of yours happen to visit with any Iraqis who had lost family members who had been raped, tortured or killed by Saddam Hussein's regime, of whom there are hundreds of thousands, perhaps?

GOODMAN: I want to make it very clear, there is no question that Saddam Hussein is brutal and that he's a dictator. There is also no question that Kim Jong Il in North Korea is a dictator, but the U.S. has decided to deal diplomatically with him. I think that they can come up with a way to deal diplomatically with Iraq. The difference is the U.S. wants to control the oil fields of Iraq.

BOOT: That is an absurd charge and the reason why we are dealing diplomatically with Kim Jong Il is because he already has nuclear weapons, and I would hope that we would act in the case of Iraq before Saddam Hussein acquires nuclear weapons, and I wish you would keep repeating this specious charge that this is a war about acquiring oil fields, when the fact of the matter is that any government of liberated post-war Iraq will control its own fields just as the government of liberated post-war Kuwait controls its own oil fields, and we have not gotten any kind of advantage in the oil fields from liberating Kuwait from Iraqi aggression.


BLITZER: Hold on one second. We have to wrap it up. I'm going to give both of you one last chance to wrap up your final thought. Amy, you first, very briefly, and then Max.

GOODMAN: I encourage you to read the "Wall Street Journal" and "The New York Times" where they lay out the blueprint of a post-Saddam Iraq. It is very clear the U.S. will control Iraq for at least 18 months, and the first thing they will do is quickly take control of the oil fields. This is about oil.

BOOT: If you will...

BLITZER: Max, go ahead.

BOOT: If you will finish reading those stories which you cite, you will see that Secretary of State Powell and other senior U.S. government officials have pledged that all oil revenues of Iraq will be used to liberate, to rebuild liberated Iraq. It will not be going for the benefit of the United States. In fact, this war is going to wind up costing us an awful lot of money, $50 to 60 billion at a lower estimate, so we're not going to make a profit on this war, if that is what you are implying. That's an absurd charge to make.

BLITZER: All right. Unfortunately -- Amy, we have to leave it right there because we are all out of time. I know both of you were very patient in waiting with us during all the news conferences that we covered this hour. I want to thank both of you and invite you back on another occasion. We will continue this discussion. Amy Goodman and Max Boot, thanks to both of you for joining us.


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