CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interviews With Richard Myers, Queen Noor
Aired April 15, 2003 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, America's highest-ranking military officer. The president says victory in Iraq is certain, but not yet complete. What will it take to finish the job, and when? We'll ask the general.
And then her majesty, Queen Noor of Jordan, born in the USA and for almost 30 years living right next door to Iraq. What does she make of the way the United States is changing the shape of the Middle East?
We begin first with this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE and our special guest, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Richard Myers.
What's it like to run the show? I mean, you were vice chairman, right?
GEN. RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: You bet.
KING: But what's it like to run the show?
MYERS: Oh, I wouldn't say I run the show. I think it's a whole team of people that support, in this case, the secretary of defense, the president, the National Security Council. That's our job, is to offer our best military advice. General Franks is the one running the show. And in the direct chain of command, it's the secretary of defense and then the president, so...
KING: So what is the role of the chairman?
MYERS: I think -- well, we have several roles, some by statute, some by law and some by custom. But it's to support the unified commanders, people like General Franks, who have a mission to do, to make sure we support him in every way possible, whether it's resources, whether it's planning, whatever it is, and however we can support them. That's our job.
KING: Are you the selector of him? Did you choose Franks to lead this?
MYERS: Well, the way the secretary -- Secretary Rumsfeld works this is that he asked many people for their recommendations on personnel. I think in my case, when he chose me to be the chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, you'd have to ask him, but I think he asked a lot of people about their opinions of different people for the job. And the same thing would happen for General Franks. So we all contribute to that.
KING: Did Franks get high marks from you?
MYERS: Yes. He's -- forever. I mean, and particularly, the planning he's done for the Iraqi war plan. I think I've said many times, it's brilliant. I absolutely believe that. I still believe that. And I think even more brilliant was the execution.
KING: He was thrown a little at the beginning, right, when Turkey pulled out, sort of? Didn't that throw things?
MYERS: Well, he wasn't thrown. In fact, he made best of a situation that was not ideal, at least from the planning point of view. But he made good use of the 4th ID, even when it was in the eastern Mediterranean. Even though it hadn't come through northern Turkey, the fact that it was there, the fact that the Iraqi regime didn't know where it was going to go, perhaps the fact that the regime leadership thought that we wouldn't start a conflict until the 4th ID was in place, either in the north or in the south. I think General Franks handled that superbly, and it turned out right.
KING: How well do you get along with the secretary?
MYERS: Oh, very well. Very well.
KING: Is that essential, by the way?
MYERS: I think what's essential is that you be able to work with whomever your boss is. I mean, that's just how we're brought up in the military. And so we go work very hard and...
KING: ... read all these reports in the press that he can be difficult to deal with, and it's hard on the military, and that he has his own ideas, et cetera. Is that exaggerated?
MYERS: Listen, I think Secretary Rumsfeld's file is well known. It's not a secret to anybody. If I were an American taxpayer and I wanted a secretary who was going to husband the taxpayers' resources, who was going to press the state of the art, to try to take a 20th- century military and turn them into a 21st-century military, you couldn't find a better person to do that. And that's what Secretary Rumsfeld's been doing.
KING: You've attained the highest level of office that a military individual can attain. Are there times you miss the battle?
MYERS: Oh, sure. I think anybody in uniform worth their salt would have rather been...
MYERS: ... somewhere else. You bet. Sure. That's just how we are. I mean, I have a Navy aide de camp who was an F-18 Hornet pilot, and you could see the pain of not being able to be where the action is instead of hauling my pencils around. So it's not a good thing for him.
KING: And now to this conflict. Were there ever, early on, doubts?
MYERS: When you say -- how early do you want to...
KING: As early as you make it. Was there ever a time where General Richard Myers was worried?
MYERS: About the ultimate success, never. And I think I stated that on many, many occasions in public, as well. No, there was never a time that I was worried about the ultimate end in this and that the regime would be gone and that we will find weapons of mass destruction and deal with them appropriately. Never, never any doubt. There were worries, of course. I mean -- and there still is, to some degree, about the use of biological and chemical weapons, that the...
KING: Do you think that still might happen?
MYERS: Oh, I think the probability is low, but it's -- there's still a -- some probability that somebody, some madman or -- somewhere might use them. But again, very low probability. But there are always those worries. Lots of other worries, too, but never a doubt.
KING: What, General, surprised you the most?
MYERS: Gee, I don't know that we were -- you know, the plan that was laid out had many of what we call branches and sequels. So if this doesn't go just exactly right, then we've got to go down a different branch, work a different sequel to the plan. I think that, probably -- not a surprise, but I would have expected the Republican Guard to put up a better fight around Baghdad and...
KING: You expected more of a tussle there.
MYERS: Perhaps a little bit more of a tussle. And you know, we'll have to wait to find out why it didn't materialize. And that's just my vision. I don't know -- General Franks will probably have a different vision. But part of it's got to be due to the fighting spirit of our young men and women and the way they took that fight to the enemy. In fact, it's quite amazing, I think, that we have men and women that can fight as courageously as they did and are doing tonight and that also have the sensitivity to be sensitive to their surroundings and the people they're dealing with, and so forth.
KING: How do you explain that?
MYERS: Good training, good leadership in the field, good preparation for this event.
KING: Was this a war fought that not only thought about lesser casualties for your side but also the other side?
MYERS: Oh, absolutely. I mean, this -- the whole premise here, that this was not against the Iraqi people, this is against the Iraqi regime that's been oppressing the Iraqi people, and it's about weapons of mass destruction and the nexus between those weapons and terrorism -- that's what it was all about. So General Franks early on tried to construct a campaign that would bring as much violence to the real enemy and as little violence as possible against the Iraqi people. And I think he -- I think we achieved those aims.
KING: I think you said at a briefing today that you don't know the casualties on the other side and were not interested? Is that true or...
MYERS: No, I never said we're not interested. I said we don't know. Civilian casualties -- I'm not sure -- what I did say is I don't think we'll ever know for certain because there will be some casualties that the coalition forces caused. There'll be some that were caused by the Iraqi regime in trying to coerce their civilian population. There'll be some due to their own fire, and so forth. So I don't think we'll know. We'd probably be interested, but I don't think we'll ever know that.
KING: Do you plan to go to Iraq?
MYERS: You bet.
KING: Like, how soon?
MYERS: Well, I think the secretary may be planning a trip here sometime and...
MYERS: Don't know when, but I think that's...
KING: Fairly soon, though?
MYERS: Well, I think -- you'll have to talk to his people, but I think that's perhaps on the agenda and...
KING: You go with him?
MYERS: No, I'd probably follow. I'd probably follow.
KING: How did the British acquit themselves?
MYERS: Oh, extraordinarily well. They were in on this at the beginning, in the planning. And they've executed, I think, magnificently.
KING: It was always a coordinated plan?
KING: I mean, it wasn't they go their way on their own and...
MYERS: Oh, no. All very well coordinated. And I think we have a wonderful relationship and always have, as you know, and -- very well coordinated.
KING: Our friend, Yogi Berra, said it ain't over until it's over. When is it over?
MYERS: Yogi's got it right. It isn't over -- as he has so many things right. It is -- it is -- there's a lot more to do. And while the major combat may be over, and I think most people agree that the major combat is over, tonight, while we're sitting here, I'm sure there are people that are dodging bullets, that are worried about suicide bombers coming up to checkpoints. There's still more military work to do, more presence patrols, all that to try to regain the stability in the country. And then some real hard work begins, and that is to try to get the Iraqis to take charge of their affairs with our assistance.
KING: Was April 9th the day they -- was that VI day? Is there a VI day, a victory in Iraq day?
MYERS: There will be when the president of the United States says there is victory.
KING: He says it's when General Franks says it is.
MYERS: That's right. And I -- but in the end, the president will let us know when that is, I think. And we have -- you know, there'll be many small victories along the way. And so major combat action is over. It's still not a safe place. There's still a lot of stability that has to be gained throughout the country and a lot more to do.
KING: How about troops coming home?
MYERS: Well, you've seen that we have -- we're starting to bring some forces out now. We've brought two carrier battle groups out, or be out here today and tomorrow. Some Air Force assets are coming out, as well. And that flow will continue. And then General Franks is now thinking about the plan on when to bring some of the ground forces, perhaps those that went in earliest, out. But that is some time in the future, and it's up to General Franks, and he'll propose a plan to the secretary, who will make it happen.
KING: For the nature of battle, as the way battles are fought, were the amount of casualties on the -- on your side -- on the side of the Americans and the British pretty low, considering?
MYERS: Well, you know, it's always tough for me to ever say one casualty is low, OK?
KING: A parent watching tonight who lost a child didn't think it's low.
MYERS: Exactly right. And so I don't think I'm going to say it was low. I think the plan that was put together, the resources that our folks had, the training, the leadership -- we gave -- America gave our forces the best we could give them, so that our blood and treasure, when they went forward, had the advantage on their side.
KING: Eisenhower once wrote, you expect to lose some. It's the nature. MYERS: Sure.
KING: You know you're going to lose some.
MYERS: We know we're going to do that in war, yes.
KING: Isn't that the hardest thing about what you do?
MYERS: It is, and...
KING: Some of your boys and girls will not come back.
MYERS: That's right. And when we, you know, make these decisions that we make, that's the hardest part because you realize that that's likely going to happen. Of course -- and every day, you know, you just keep watching.
KING: And what overrides it for you? The ultimate goal overrides it?
MYERS: Well, I think -- yes. Absolutely. And you ask -- what overrides it is when you ask the men and women that have been fighting in Iraq why they're there, they know exactly why they're there. I mean, there is no doubt why they're there. They think this is going to make a better world for the Iraqi people, and they think it's going to have a big impact on terrorism, in the sense that terrorists won't be able to get their hands on weapons of mass destruction. They know why.
KING: Were you angry at retired officers who were critical?
MYERS: No. Not angry. Everybody's entitled to their opinion.
KING: What was your feeling?
MYERS: My feeling that there was some -- probably, what I got -- not angry, but most disturbed me was some of the reporting about the secretary of defense and his supposed influence on the plan and direction, and so forth. And it was just so absolutely wrong, just so way off the mark, that the record had to be set straight. And I tried to do that on a couple of occasions.
KING: Were you surprised that former military men would comment?
MYERS: No. Clearly, it's a free country, and they have every right to do that. And in some cases, I thought some of the comments were indeed off the mark. And we've always been open to anybody coming in and talking about any part of this they wanted to talk about, to discuss the plan...
KING: Any former officer could have contacted people at the Pentagon and come in and talked about the action?
MYERS: Senior officers...
KING: I mean, without going public in the media. MYERS: Well, and we had -- we had several sessions. The secretary hosted several sessions for former military...
KING: Oh, he did?
MYERS: Oh, yes. And I would brief them. Our operational people would brief them. Sometimes our intelligence people would brief them. His people off the office of secretary of defense staff would brief them and try to give them some sense of what was going on, what was planned, and so forth.
KING: In a minute, we'll talk about what happens after it's really over-over. And we'll take some calls, too. And it's only in America can you get to talk to the man running the show, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Richard Myers.
You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. Still to come, Queen Noor. Don't go away.
KING: We're back. We'll include some phone calls for General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. We'll also get in some questioning about what happens after the war. Georgia, hello.
CALLER: Yes, General Myers. What is the secret behind the United States probably having the best military in the history of the world?
KING: Is there a secret?
MYERS: Well, I think if there's a secret, it's a -- it's a -- people of the United States and a government, administration and a Congress that understands that national security is really, really important. And so we spend a considerable amount of the taxpayers' dollars to ensure we have a very good military. And it's made up of some very great Americans, as you've been seeing on TV these last three weeks now. And I think it's the support of the American people that probably makes us as good as we are.
KING: Loretta, Pennsylvania. Hello. Hello? Are you there? Nobody there.
All right, what concerns you the most about post-war Iraq?
MYERS: From a military standpoint, I think there's some pockets of resistance that we still need to deal with, that can be very deadly. And so we've got to work with those. We've got to work with the remnants of the Special Republican Guard, the Special Security Organization, mainly responsible for the defense of Baghdad. Those that weren't dealt with in the Baghdad fighting, we need to still find. We need to find a lot of the Ba'athist party members who are violent, as well. And so those are issues that we need to deal with.
We still have a lot of work to do in finding and securing weapons of mass destruction sites and making sure that those biological and chemical weapons don't fall in the hands of terrorists. That's still a possibility right now. Of all the things, that last one probably concerns me the most. That's the one that...
KING: It does?
MYERS: ... we've got to be very aggressive about.
KING: And what about the structure of -- it's not an occupation, is it.
KING: What is it?
MYERS: No. Well, it's -- what it is, is a war to change the regime, to find the WMD, and then it's a -- assistance to try to get the Iraqi people and their infrastructure, their ministries, their local governments back on their feet. And so it's a facilitation of the Iraqi people taking charge and devising a government that is -- that represents all the people in that country, that doesn't pick on the minorities in that country, that respects its neighbors and has no hostile intentions, those sorts of things. So we're a facilitator.
KING: Is that ASAP?
MYERS: It's -- yes. Absolutely. It's as soon as it can be done. And nobody can -- I don't think anybody can guess how long that might take. So we're going to be there until we meet certain events. But as President Bush said, we'll be there as long as we need to be, but not one day longer.
KING: What do you make of all this talk and -- the Syrian ambassador to the United States will be here tomorrow night -- about Syria and kind of inflaming things?
MYERS: Well, that's sort of outside the military lane. And I think what's been said is probably pretty well known, and I would just leave it at that. Clearly, though, when you think about trying to facilitate an Iraqi government standing up and taking control of their own affairs, certainly, outside influences is not going to be very helpful from anybody.
KING: When you were appointed, it was right around 9/11, right?
MYERS: Just after 9/11. Yes, sir.
KING: Were you at the Pentagon on 9/11?
MYERS: I was on Capitol Hill on 9/11. And my boss, General Shelton, was on his way to Europe. And we saw the events -- I was meeting with a senator, getting ready for confirmation hearings from this particular job when 9/11 happened. And when the second target was hit, we knew something was up, so we rushed back to the Pentagon. And as we were coming across the 14th Street Bridge here, we saw the Pentagon with this big column of black smoke rising and... KING: Do you remember what went through you?
MYERS: Oh, sure. I mean, it was like we were in the middle of some grade-B terror film. It was just awful. And you go up to the Pentagon, people are streaming out because they've been told to leave. My inclination was to go wherever we had command-and-control capability, the phones and so forth, to start working the issues. And the secretary and I linked up very quickly in what we call the National Military Command Center. The smell of smoke was thick in the air. It got thicker as we worked in there through the rest of the day, and then it got better towards the end.
KING: Did you think also worse things might be happening?
MYERS: Oh, absolutely. Yes. With these -- with these events, the first thing you think -- OK, what else? What next is going to happen? And that's what we were trying to figure out all day long. You know, Is this it? Is there more to come? Is it just the United States? Is it around the world? How do we protect the country?
KING: Springfield, Missouri, for General Myers. Hello.
CALLER: Yes. I was just wondering if the general had any idea with regard to statistics of the suicide bombers and snipers that we already know about. But these pockets of resistance, are they local Iraqis or are they foreigners?
MYERS: I think we're finding in the -- in a large portion of them, they're actually foreigners. They're some of the so-called jihadists that have infiltrated into Iraq to help. And in many, many cases -- and I don't have the breakout right now, and it will probably be some time before we do -- but that a lot of them are not Iraqis, but they've come there to -- for jihad and are fighting for that.
KING: Some other bases to go. We have about five minutes left. Embedded policy. Like it?
MYERS: So far. Yes. It was a policy that -- you know, we have tried many different policies to handle the media in wartime.
KING: Some failed.
KING: Well, according to the media.
MYERS: According to the media. And there are a lot of them in the bin that says "failure" on it, I think. But this was worth trying. And the secretary of defense was very aggressive in this regard. And I think, so was I, in trying to push this. I think it's been -- at least, from our point of view, the stories that have been told have been the good, the bad and the ugly. I think the good outweigh the other two categories. I think for most people in this country, it's been comforting to see, if their loved ones are engaged in this -- for most, I say, not all, but for most it's been comforting. KING: Would you say it was fair?
MYERS: Well, I certainly hope so.
KING: The media coverage that you saw?
MYERS: Fair. But I also say that everybody reported their snapshot of what they were seeing. And so there are these -- lots of -- hundreds of snapshots across the battlefield, and it took somebody else standing back a little bit to try to put those in context. And that's -- that was frustrating at times.
KING: Isn't that all an embedded reporter can see...
MYERS: Oh, sure.
KING: ... is what he's close to?
MYERS: That's right.
KING: Isn't that what war is? The soldier over here doesn't know what the soldier over there is doing.
MYERS: You're right. But it can be disorienting for the viewer when you see these little snapshots, and you think, Well, that's the world. But somebody else needs to help say, Well, wait a minute. That's -- all these little snapshots add up to this, in total, to put some texture, put some context around it. And I think it was done off and on. But that's no quarrel with the embedded media, I thought that worked very well.
KING: What's the situation in Afghanistan?
KING: The situation in Afghanistan is that, clearly, three quarters of that country is secure, is stable. We've got what we call these provincial reconstruction teams going out to bring total team concept to the various major cities, where we bring security, we bring non-governmental organizations, U.S. Aid people, and so forth, to try to help in these various locations.
There's still a part of the country on the Pakistani/Afghan border where Taliban remnants, al Qaeda remnants go back and forth. That part is still unstable. We're still working that very aggressively. But generally, the situation is secure. Displaced people are coming back into Afghanistan. The situation for the people of Afghanistan is probably an order of magnitude better than it was before we got involved.
KING: That's incredible, getting the POWs out.
MYERS: Very good news.
KING: How many personnel still missing?
MYERS: I think the U.S. has four personnel still missing. And of course, we're still searching for them. KING: So that's part of a search effort, right?
MYERS: You bet. General Franks has a cell, a personal recovery -- personnel recovery cell that it is devoted just to this issue. And of course, we're also looking for the Kuwaiti prisoners of war that have been held since the Gulf war back in '91.
KING: Were you surprised that those POWS were alive and fairly well off?
MYERS: Most of the indications that we had were that these people -- that we probably would find them alive.
KING: Oh, you did think you would?
MYERS: Yes, I -- at least -- I wanted to believe those intel reports I got. So those were the ones I believed. I thought we had a pretty good chance of finding them alive, just given on -- just given how the Iraqi regime, once they got in the hands of those that are responsible for enemy prisoners of war, once they got in those hands, we thought we'd have a pretty good chance of finding them alive.
KING: What has this been like for you?
MYERS: Well, it's been a fascinating last year and a half.
KING: I'll bet.
MYERS: People say, You sure picked the wrong time to become chairman. Well, first of all, I didn't pick the time. That's up to the secretary and the president. But I can't think of a more important time to serve. And it's been a very fast year and a half -- some successes, a lot more work to do.
KING: You serve at the pleasure of the secretary?
MYERS: Right. The secretary and the president, you bet. I'm recommended to the president and nominated by the president to the Senate. And they're two-year terms for both myself and for General Pace, the vice chairman. They're two-year terms. They can be renewed for additional terms up to six years, in each case, having to be confirmed by the Senate.
KING: Like to do the full six?
MYERS: That'll be up to the president and it'll be up to the secretary.
KING: Thank you, General.
MYERS: Thank you, Larry.
KING: General Richard Myers, United States Air Force, current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Fredricka Whitfield will have some news headlines. There'll be a word or two of important messages. And when we come back, Queen Noor of Jordan will join us. We thank the general. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back.
KING: Now, it's always a great pleasure to welcome her to this program. She is Her Majesty Queen Noor of Jordan, the widow of Jordan's King Hussein, and the author of the No. 1 book On "The New York Times" best seller list, "Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life."
We're here not here to talk about the book, but lots of other things involved with the occurrences in the world. But I must ask you, were you surprised at the immediate success of this work?
HER MAJESTY QUEEN NOOR OF JORDAN: I've been very gratified that people have responded to the message, or rather the perspectives I've tried to provide in it. It reflects, in this country and in the other countries, it's been published in, a seeking out of information and a broader understanding of the Arab and the Muslim world. And that was my attempt to make a modest contribution to that process.
NOOR: The response has been very gratifying, as I said. But I have been so preoccupied about the situation in the Middle East that I haven't been able to be quite as excited as many around me.
KING: Let's get into it. What's your overview of the first half hour of this show? Your overview of what happened?
NOOR: Well, the first half hour of the show is one in which I -- perhaps my perspective is complementary in the sense that my concern now and prior to the conflict, but particularly now and in the coming period will be a humanitarian one. My concern that we all have to focus on, as many have said, winning the peace and on ensuring that the future of Iraq and the future of the region is one that promises more stability, more hope and more opportunity for everyone in the region to live in freedom, to live in peace and to partner with the international community in promoting that peace.
KING: Are you concerned that the aftermath may not go easily?
NOOR: The enormous challenge, and I think this is recognized by most everyone in the world today, is the challenge that has begun now. It was not so much a military challenge, but as we've seen so clearly, high-tech military resources that were brought to bear in this conflict need to be matched by equally sophisticated humanitarian and security resources.
And we've seen that the security vacuum, which developed, which has developed in the aftermath of conflicts clearly since World War II, and many others, has been slow to be filled. And that has hindered the supply of humanitarian sources and has damaged for many in Iraq and the region perceptions about the goals of the intents of the United States in this -- during this period. It's terribly important that trust and confidence and a greater sense of partnership that reflects the well being of the Iraqi people and a future for them, and others in the region...
KING: Speaking in humanitarian terms, though, are you shocked at some of the abuses of the Saddam Hussein regime?
NOOR: We have been aware for a long period about the nature of the human rights record, if you will, of the regime. And I haven't read all the reports that...
KING: The details of the...
NOOR: But we were aware of the security apparatus and its methods of operation over a long period. My husband, King Hussein, worked very hard to try to -- you know, from the time -- from the '70s on to -- '79 when he made his first visit to Iraq after the revolution that had overthrown his family, decades before to try to steer the new government at that time, the government of President Saddam Hussein in a more democratic, open and constructive direction.
KING: What do you think your late husband would have said now?
NOOR: I think he would have focused on the importance of addressing the humanitarian needs, security needs, which as we all know are the key priorities right now. On the importance of providing mechanisms for enabling Iraqis as soon as possible to have a voice in and to determine their future. I think he...
KING: ... would have supported the war?
NOOR: That's a hypothetical point. I don't know if the conditions that led to this crisis would have existed had he and others in the region been able to sustain progress towards Arab/Israeli peace, for example, in the region. There's so many different factors that are at play today. And so much regression that has taken place in the last many years in the region that has fueled so much of the extremism and even the dialog that's taken place between the region.
KING: The deaths of your husband you and Rabin have set this back?
NOOR: I'm not saying that but I'm saying...
NOOR: ... that if the peace process had continued in the direction that it began in the mid-1990s, we would -- might have a very different region today. And it's a reason why it's absolutely vital and critical that that problem, that the Israeli/Palestinian dilemma and the suffering of the Palestinians from the longest military occupation in modern history, that that be addressed as soon as possible.
KING: How would you explain to people as to why that is now -- Iraq -- Israel wasn't involved, Palestinians weren't involved in this conflict. Why that's important to the stability of the whole area?
KING: Because there's never been peace there.
NOOR: Well, the region has known relative degrees of peace and pluralism and even democracy after World War II where most of the countries had constitutions based on European models and were moving in democratic directions until, again, the -- this is after World War I -- until the creation of the state of Israel, in significant part, fueled the coup d'etat and other pressures on many of those governments that -- and we're living with the instability that that caused to this day.
That problem is one that has on a daily basis -- for example, in our region, we're seeing to the west Palestinians dying and struggling on a daily basis, to the east Iraqi civilians have been struggling for their lives as well. All of these people are family members of all of us living in the region.
KING: Israelis get blown up, too.
NOOR: Absolutely right. The suffering on all sides needs to be understood. The reason why I wrote my book to try to provide historical, political, cultural and human perspectives on the Middle East, on the -- particularly the Arab/Israeli conflict, and my husband's struggles to promote peace, and a peaceful resolution of that conflict. Because I don't think the full extent of the suffering of the Palestinians has been understood.
Just as today it's terribly important that the media in this country, and the political decision makers take into account the full extent of the suffering that is taking place among the civilian population in Iraq. It has not been well reported.
KING: Not well reported.
NOOR: The coverage in the United States is radically different from the coverage of this conflict in Europe and the Middle East.
KING: What do you see there?
NOOR: People are seeing daily the impact on civilian lives. They're seeing the destruction of infrastructure. But more importantly, they're also seeing the deaths and the civilian casualties in hospitals that have no equipment, no water, no basic supplies. The breakdown of law and order. And the apparent, apparent indifference at the outset of ...
NOOR: ... at the aftermath of the major military conflict. The apparent indifference of coalition forces to the impact on civilian lives and infrastructure. That's fueled perceptions of -- and suspicion about what were the intentions of the coalition forces. And do they value Iraqi lives and Iraqi civilians.
KING: The general just said that they went out of their way...
NOOR: ... and their culture and their history to the same extent that they value American lives or others.
KING: The general just said they went out of their way in this war, unlike any other, to value the life of the Iraqi citizens. You disagree?
NOOR: No, what I am very, very disturbed about is whether in the immediate aftermath of the war and this prolonged period, because the security vacuum was not filled immediately, because humanitarian assistance has not reached the majority of people in need in the country, that that is having a terrible impact. And they, in fact, result in more casualties and has done more damage to infrastructure than the war itself caused.
KING: What about the looting? And the obvious...
NOOR: That's what I'm talking about. That is the -- that the looting is a very disturbing...
KING: Understandable, isn't it?
NOOR: The looting took place because there was a security vacuum that existed. And we've seen that take place after World War II. We've seen it take place in Afghanistan most recently, and various other conflicts. It should have been filled immediately. And it's why one of the lessons, I think, that needs to have been learned from this war is that with all the high-tech military resources that were focused on this war, there should have been matching security and humanitarian resources integrated into that approach. As there weren't at the time, we've seen so much destruction of public facilities, of history and heritage. It takes a few seconds, you know, to destroy what has taken thousands of years, or even hundreds of years, or decades to construct. The lives and livelihoods of these people depend upon it.
And the history, by the way, the museum, everyone is aware now of that tragedy, that's considered not only a collective history of the Arab and Muslim world, because Baghdad was a center for learning and for culture for thousands of years, but also that's part of world heritage. And that's a tragedy that can't be restored.
KING: But the coalition would say Baghdad brought this upon itself. It didn't happen in a vacuum.
NOOR: It happened in a security vacuum that was the result of the military conflict. And I'm not going to debate the -- or judge...
KING: You think they were surprised at the looting, maybe they didn't expect this to happen?
NOOR: They have been warned.
KING: They had been?
NOOR: Oh, yes. International organizations had warned them. Refugees International, which I work with, had paid special emphasis, placed special emphasis on this particular issue. Archaeologists and people here in the United States and elsewhere who have been working in Iraq were very conscious of the repository of civilization in the museum in Iraq, had specifically discussed these issues with the administration.
So what I'm focusing on simply is, this must be a lesson we learn for the future. There's no point in focusing backwards on what happened over the last week or so, but on how can we learn from it and ensure that it doesn't happen again.
KING: Our guest is Queen Noor. She's the author of "Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life." It's the No. 1 best seller in America. And we'll be back with more of Queen Noor.
By the way, tomorrow night we'll have an outstanding panel joining us, including Bob Woodward of "The Washington Post" and Robin Wright of "The L.A. Times." We'll also have the Syrian ambassador to the United States. Don't go away.
KING: We're back with Queen Noor. Her book, again, is "Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life." It's No. 1 on the "New York Times" best seller list. Do you fear an occupying force rather than the liberating new government made up of Iraqi concept?
NOOR: Certainly the success, the peace, the most effective result of what has taken place would be a feeling of liberation for the people of Iraq. That is going to come from their first feeling secure and safe, and then it's going to have to come from an accelerated, intense infusion now into the country of resources to help rebuild so much of the infrastructure that was just destroyed in the last week. It's going to cost more now the war, or winning the peace is going to cost more than it would have had all those buildings been protected.
KING: Isn't the coalition saying that, though, it's willing to do this and wants to get started quickly?
NOOR: It's going to have to. But it's going to be an enormous price. It's one of many reasons why many feel that the United Nations has an invaluable role to play here, that it not only is the most -- the swiftest, most comprehensive humanitarian support, if you will, responder in crises like this, it has experience with institution building, it has experience with peacekeeping and the long-term, if you will -- even in Afghanistan, it's been responsible for helping to get the election process going. And there are many who feel that...
KING: Secretary Powell and President Bush say the U.N. has a vital role. NOOR: Well, and they've also said U.S. soldiers, or U.S. forces are soldiers, not social workers. That's I believe a quote.
NOOR: And yet it's absolutely clear today, I think, that a great deal of social work needs to be done if Iraqi society is going to feel positive and enabled by what has taken place, and not just deprived, and at an enormous loss, because so much of the infrastructure they've depended on is now destroyed.
KING: Do you fear an extension to Syria?
NOOR: I -- to tell you the -- I'm not knowledgeable about what is planned there. I do know that what is absolutely essential for our region is not that people live in greater insecurity and dread of what the U.S. role might be, but rather that the United States is able and the international community to start rebuilding and restoring trust and confidence with the peoples and the governments of the region.
KING: To give a dumb simplistic, naive question. Why can't all these people get along?
NOOR: I think that they can and I think that there are a number of different issues that have fueled extremism and fueled frustration and discontent in the region. It's a dynamic -- it's been a vicious cycle, if you will, of outside interference and internal weakness and repressive systems of governments that have caused an explosive reaction among many in the region.
Some -- just one simple statistic: in the region that spends more per capita than any other region in the region in the world on military weapons and armaments and has one of the greatest repositories of valuable natural resources in it, at the same time 75 percent of the Arab world are living in poverty and becoming poorer as time goes on.
This gives you an example, perhaps, of the disequilibrium that exists and within the region we have to resolve these problems. People have to have a voice in the decision-making that affects their life. They also have to feel that a country like the United States and the international community is focusing on human security rather than on military operations. On education, on health, on the consultative processes in which people have a voice in their government.
KING: The president says that Palestinian state is essential. Is he not taking a balanced viewpoint?
NOOR: That is also an issue that's absolutely fundamental to security and peace in the region. And it is of critical importance that there be new momentum and that there be a framework that provides for a just -- a viable and independent Palestinian state for justice. My husband always said that peace can only come from justice. And once there is justice in the region, there will be peace in the region. And it's that simple. There is international law and international Security Council resolutions. There are many international legal frameworks that already exist, which applied would result in peace. And real security for everyone in the region.
KING: Are you pessimistic? You sound pessimistic.
NOOR: No, I am burdened, as so many are, by the enormous challenges in front of us. I am saddened and heart-broken at the loss of lives on all sides in this most recent conflict. But also the constant loss of life elsewhere in our region.
KING: On all sides?
NOOR: On all sides, absolutely. I -- The vicious cycle that has only intensified in this recent period needs to be broken. And that -- and the United States has a special role to play in that. And its future, the success of whatever policies that are undertaken, is going to depend to a great extent -- or rather just the nature of its relations with the Arab and Muslim world, is going to depend to a great extent on not only what happens day by day now in Iraq, in terms of reassuring people about the U.S. intentions in Iraq, but it's also going to depend upon their applying the same standards of international legitimacy to the Palestinian tragedy.
KING: You're an American who became a queen of another country. Do you consider yourself American?
NOOR: I consider myself a part of several worlds which I feel and see as one world. I see the common values, the common aspirations of the people that I grew up with, my family living here and friends, and my friends and family in the Arab and the Muslim world.
I see so much more that joins us. My book is an attempt to try to provide real authentic perspectives on our cultures, as well as on our history to help Americans and others understand how much more alike we are than different. And how it is not natural and logical that we should fear one another and suspect one another, but rather we should see one another as logical partners in resolving so many of the problems that face us today.
Especially terrorism and extremism, and so many of these destructive problems that have -- that hardliners on both sides have almost cultivated perceptions -- misperceptions of our two cultures, as if we are in a divide that is -- that is inherently logical. Which it is not. In fact...
NOOR: We cannot allow them to succeed in dividing us.
KING: Where were you on 9/11?
NOOR: I was paying tribute to my husband at his old school in England. And they had invited me for attribute to him. And I was unable to return back for four days because of the... KING: Remember your first reaction?
NOOR: Yes. I was at -- at first I didn't believe it. And it was coming in fragments of information that I had no visual imagery. And then I was -- once the scale of the horror became apparent, I was first devastated for all the lives that had been lost. So many of them representing all nationalities in our world.
And also, I prayed fervently that this action would not be connected in any way to the Arab and Muslim world because I knew that it didn't reflect any of the principles of our faith, or the values of our culture, and that -- as was the case, that it might be used by, again, those extremists on both sides to try to drive a wedge between our cultures, as it was. And we're still trying to recover from that.
KING: You were glad your husband in that aspect didn't live to see that?
NOOR: I was very thankful that he had not had to witness that. Every time an innocent person lost their life, he was heart-broken. He felt with every single human being in this world. And that's why he was able to bring people together, because his heart reached out and there was no one like him. And my book is an attempt to bring him alive in people's minds.
KING: I said Your Highness, it's Your Majesty.
NOOR: That's quite all right, sir.
KING: I don't know these things, you know. Little Jewish guy from Brooklyn. I don't know. Highness, majesty.
NOOR: That's not what it's about. We're friends.
KING: You're the queen.
NOOR: And you're the King.
KING: Thank you, my subject.
Queen Noor, Her Majesty, Queen Noor of Jordan.
Tomorrow night Bob Woodward leads the panel and the Syrian ambassador to the United States.
Fredricka Whitfield has the news headlines. And Aaron Brown's safely ensconced back in New York City, hosts "NEWSNIGHT." That's all next.
I'm Larry King. For our guests, thank you for joining us. And in Washington, good night.
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