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CNN SHOWDOWN: IRAQ

Soundoff: Interview With Amy Goodman, Armstrong Williams

Aired January 24, 2003 - 12:40   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: As the U.N. deadline approaches, the debate obviously is heating up. Should the U.S. and its allies wait or launch an attack against Iraq quickly?
Joining us now with their views, here in Washington, the radio talk show host Armstrong Williams, and in New York, Amy Goodman. She is the host of "Democracy Now" on Pacifica Radio.

Thanks to both of you very much for joining us. Amy, I'll start with you. It looks like the administration is determined to go forward with or without the French and some of the other allies.

AMY GOODMAN, HOST, "DEMOCRACY NOW": Yes it does, and I would say what Bush is engaging in right now is a kind of Raelian politic. What I mean, you know the Clonaid folks who keep saying they have a cloned baby but never present the evidence? That's what Bush is doing right now. He keeps saying that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. The U.N. weapons inspectors haven't found them. He doesn't present the evidence. It's not convincing anyone. It's why two-thirds of the American people are opposed to war right now.

BLITZER: Armstrong, that is a very fair point and one of our viewers just e-mailed us with the same point. Verna (ph) from Maryland:

"The administration has not been very successful in convincing the American people and our allies abroad that we should go to war. If Bush doesn't deliver a credible reason during the State of the Union next Tuesday, this is a lost cause."

BLITZER: Go ahead, Armstrong.

ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: You know, as the administration has said, this has gone on for 12 years. We forget that in 1995, when Saddam Hussein's son was here on American soil, and he talked about the chemical and biological weapons and the nuclear weapons that his father was developing, and immediately Saddam Hussein's government kicked out the inspectors.

I mean, I understand that sometimes we can forget the chain of events that has led to this. This is not about finding some smoking gun. This is about Saddam Hussein disarming. He is not disarming. I think the president has a challenge before him in terms of his State of the Union. What they may have to do is reveal more intelligence, but if we follow the history of this over the last 12 years, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein is up to his same old tricks, building these weapons of mass destruction, trying to develop nuclear weapons, and what more proof do you need?

BLITZER: Amy, what kind of proof would you need in order to support the president in going to war against Saddam Hussein?

GOODMAN: We need proof. It's as simple as that, and the U.S. said, when the resolution was passed for the U.N. weapons inspectors to go to Iraq, that Iraq must give unfettered -- free and unfettered access to the inspectors. Iraq has done that. The weapons inspectors are going from site to site. The issue here is why the U.S. continues to move the goal posts. It's about one thing and one thing only. This is about oil, and the American people are not buying it.

BLITZER: All right. What about that, Armstrong?

WILLIAMS: You know, it's so sad. If you look at the French, the Germans, even the British, even some of our own citizens. I mean, we're buying into Saddam Hussein's propaganda law -- war. You would think that Bush was Saddam and Saddam was Bush. I mean, listen, the burden of proof is on Saddam Hussein, not on Bush -- the president of the United States. The bottom line is that this is just a lot of propaganda. Saddam Hussein never in the entire history of the last 12 years has given us every reason to trust, to believe anything he's ever had to say and do. So why should we trust him now?

BLITZER: Let's get our e-mail for Amy from Charles in North Carolina. He writes this:

"The U.S. protects the world, and what do we get in return but a stab in the back from the very United Nations that we provide the majority of support to? Not only should the U.S. disregard the U.N.'s anti-war position on Iraq, we should pull out all together."

Amy.

GOODMAN: I think that the countries and the U.N. Security Council, not to mention those outside of it, are deeply concerned about peace in the world right now. Why should the U.S. attack Iraq right now? North Korea, we keep going back to this, has thrown the weapons inspectors out, and the U.S. says diplomacy is the answer. Yet in Iraq, the situation is different. It is not about any kind of threat Saddam Hussein poses. I agree, the man is a dictator. Does he pose a threat to the United States right now? What he poses a threat to is U.S. control over the oil fields of Iraq, and that's why Bush is unrelenting.

BLITZER: All right. Armstrong, a lot of people out there do think that when all is said and done, it's all about oil, the fact Iraq has a lot of oil, and that's motivating the U.S., the French, the Russians, a lot of the countries out there. What do you say when you and your supporters suggest that it's all about oil?

WILLIAMS: Wolf, I go back to the last 12 years and this cat and mouse game with Saddam Hussein. I mean listen, the United States is not the only country that believes that Saddam Hussein is trying to develop weapons of mass destruction, even the Soviets and the Chinese believe this, and I eventually believe they will come around to our position.

But look, again, the question begs, is what reason do we have to trust Saddam Hussein? This did not start with President Bush. It will probably not end with President Bush, but Saddam Hussein has been consistent since he has dictatorial control over his regime. He cannot be trusted. He is a pathetic liar, and the world knows it, and we're buying into his propaganda game.

BLITZER: And we are going to have to leave it right there. Armstrong Williams -- unfortunately, Amy we're going to have to have both of you back. Amy Goodman and Armstrong Williams, thanks very much.

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