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Sons of Saddam Hussein Killed

Aired July 22, 2003 - 16:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala; on the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.

In the CROSSFIRE: a big fight in Iraq and a big payoff.

LT. GEN. RICARDO SANCHEZ, COMMANDER, COALITION GROUND FORCES: Four persons were killed during that operation and were removed from the building. And we have since confirmed that Uday and Qusay Hussein are among the dead.

ANNOUNCER: The military and political impact of today's raid targeting Saddam Hussein's sons. Will this be a big boost for President Bush? -- today on CROSSFIRE.


ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Robert Novak.



We, of course, are following today's extraordinary developments in Iraq. Less than an hour ago, the U.S. military confirmed, it has taken out two of Saddam Hussein's sons. Qusay and Uday Hussein were killed during a raid by American troops in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.

CNN's Rym Brahimi joins us live from Baghdad with the details -- Rym.


There was a raid in that northern city of Mosul around a house where the two sons of Saddam Hussein were suspected to be hiding. Now, the raid was conducted by soldiers by the 101st Airborne. Some 200 troops were there. The raid lasted four hours, four hours because there was fierce resistance on the part of Qusay and Uday Hussein, as well as, probably, the people who were guarding them.

In that battle, one U.S. soldier was killed -- was wounded -- pardon me -- one U.S. soldier wounded, that is. And there were other bodies that were pulled out, as well as those of Uday and Qusay Hussein. But let's just listen to Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez and how he put that.


SANCHEZ: Four persons were killed during that operation and were removed from the building. And we have since confirmed that Uday and Qusay Hussein are among the dead. The site is currently being exploited.


BRAHIMI: Now, they have -- they have also confirmed that Saddam Hussein was not at the site, but they didn't expect to find him there.

That said, it is a major, major turnaround for the U.S. forces here in Iraq. Now, what impact will that have? Lieutenant General Sanchez feels it will have a positive impact, because it will show the Iraqi people that the U.S. forces are, in effect, maybe winning the war or maybe taking the upper hand. They have been attacks on a daily basis, as you know. The immediate effect here seems to have been huge celebratory gunfire, just about an hour and a half ago, something that lasted one hour.

There was a lot of crackle of gunfire all around behind me here. You could even see tracer fire. It was going in all directions. Now, Lieutenant General Sanchez was cautious. He said it could well be a combination of fighting and celebratory gunfire -- Paul.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Rym Brahimi in Baghdad, thank you very much for that live report.

And before the United States military confirmed for us that Uday and Qusay Hussein were in fact dead, the U.S. official told CNN that such an announcement would brighten spirits in the Bush administration. The question is, what, in turn, will the Bush administration do to brighten the prospects of those heroic troops, who are still hot, tired, overstretched, and still being shot at over in Iraq?

In the CROSSFIRE: Florida Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros- Lehtinen and Florida Democratic Congressman Robert Wexler.


BEGALA: Thank you both for joining us.


BEGALA: Congressman Wexler, your colleague, Representative Dick Gephardt, former minority leader who is running for president, who seems to have the worst timing in the world, he chose this afternoon to make a speech on how terrible the administration policy is in Iraq.

And let me just read you a sentence from that speech. He said: "Foreign policy isn't a John Wayne movie, where we catch the bad guys, hoist a few cold ones, and then everything fades to black." I don't know. I guess liberals don't like John Wayne. That must be it. But isn't this -- isn't it a fact that, when you catch a couple of bad guys, it is good political news for the president?

REP. ROBERT WEXLER (D), FLORIDA: Well, Mr. Gephardt is right.

And nobody questions the capabilities of the American military. They have done a superb job in Iraq. The issue is the credibility of the president. The issue is whether the president of the United States brought this country to war on false pretenses. The issue is, why are 93 soldiers out of 100 soldiers in Iraq American? Why don't we have a bigger force?

Why isn't NATO involved? Why isn't the U.N. involved? Why is it costing American taxpayers $1 billion a week? Why are we losing almost a soldier a day? That's what's Mr. Gephardt's talking about. That's what got the American people worried.

NOVAK: You know, the interesting thing that you're saying -- and I will make a prediction. I very seldom predict anything.

BEGALA: That's right.

NOVAK: But Paul Begala is going to same the same thing as you said. That's my prediction. And that...

BEGALA: Because it's true. We speak the truth on this side of the table, Bob. I hope you do the same on yours.

NOVAK: When anything bad happens in Iraq -- and there are bad things that happen in a war -- people die -- it's the fault of George W. Bush. For anything that good happens, like capturing these two vile thugs and killing them, the president has nothing to do with that. It's only the troops. Do you think that is right?

WEXLER: Is it too much, Bob, to ask the president of the United States to have a plan after we win the war in Iraq...

NOVAK: Just answer my question. Answer -- answer...

WEXLER: ... so that we can reconstruct Iraq without losing our people on a daily basis?

NOVAK: Answer my question. If that's what you say, that, anything bad happens, the president didn't -- is responsible. Anything good happens, he is not responsible.

WEXLER: No. The president is commander in chief. He gets the successes and he gets the criticisms.

NOVAK: How about the successes, right?

WEXLER: We won an impressive military battle in Iraq. My hat is off to the president and to the military. We now have a disaster on the ground in Iraq. And why doesn't the president take responsibility for that? Why doesn't the president take responsibility for his own speeches?


BEGALA: Let's bring your colleague into this.

Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, first off, everybody is happy that the gates of hell have swung open now to welcome Uday and Qusay. These were, as Bob said, vile thugs. I'm glad they're dead. I'm sure they're in hell.

But the president of the United States is not in the 101st Airborne. Those are the men -- and sometimes women -- on the front lines who deserve the credit. The president does, however, owe those troops something. The troops are doing their job. The president owes them the support that they deserve. When we had peacekeepers in Kosovo under President Clinton, 10 percent of the troops were Americans and very few of them were getting shot at.

Now 90 percent of them are American. And President Bush, where is his plan to bring in some allies, so it's not just American boys and girls getting shot at?

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: Well, first of all, we have seen what the international community's response was when we went time and time again to the United Nations and we asked them to get involved.

We had so many resolutions saying, yes, Saddam is a terrible guy, yes, we do believe that he's developing weapons of mass destruction, but we're not going to help you in the war effort. And now you're asking us once again to go back to the United Nations. And I believe that the president is stepping into that direction. But I think it is fantasy land. Perhaps you'll enjoy a vacation in Disney World if you think that the international community is going to step up to the plate now and help us, any more than they were willing to do it before.

The United States is the superpower. We have the moral authority. We have the military might. And thank goodness we have a man of vision and of courage, like George W. Bush, who stepped up to the plate and said to our voluntarily armed forces, we have got to take this regime out. And we've done so. And it is going to take us a while to undue the damage that Saddam Hussein has done.

BEGALA: You said -- I'm sorry to cut you off, but I want to pick up on a point. I want to pick up on a point that you made.

You said, in the past, that the international community has not stepped up. But, as I mentioned in my question, in Kosovo and Bosnia, 90 percent of the troops were foreign. The reason why, I will submit to you, we can't get foreign troops to help us now is because this president has a credibility problem with the world. He went to the world and he said, Saddam tried to buy uranium.


ROS-LEHTINEN: No, this president. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

BEGALA: Let me list -- let me list his many false statements. He said he had aluminum tubes to make nuclear bombs. That was false.

ROS-LEHTINEN: No, no, no. He said there were ties to al Qaeda.


BEGALA: Oh, we don't have time to go through all the Bush falsehoods?

NOVAK: We really don't, Paul.

ROS-LEHTINEN: No, no, no, no, no, no. Let me -- let's talk about intelligence. First of all...

BEGALA: He's making stuff up right and left. That's why the world doesn't trust him.

ROS-LEHTINEN: I don't believe that Robert Wexler made the decision to support President Bush because of 15 or 16 words in a presidential speech. That's hogwash. Not a single member of Congress voted because of that one sentence in the speech. And you know that that's true. Also, also...


BEGALA: I was going through six other falsehoods before you interrupted me, Congresswoman.

ROS-LEHTINEN: Intelligence is a collection -- is a collection of factors. And we have had good intelligence. You're right.

President Clinton, for example, had a lot of intelligence and decided not to act when our USS Cole was attacked, when the Khobar Towers was attacked, when all of those things happened.

BEGALA: Four days of airstrikes on Baghdad. And where were you? You were impeaching him, Congresswoman.

ROS-LEHTINEN: And so he said he was going to wait for that perfect intelligence that never came.


NOVAK: Congressman Wexler wants to get in here.

WEXLER: My dear friend says a very important point. And it's true. Democrats like myself, we believed the CIA. We believed the Pentagon. We believed the State Department. We believed the president when he came before the country and he cited the imminency of Saddam Hussein and the different kinds of nuclear connections, terrorist connections, and the like.

And now we have an obligation to know whether the president cooked the books, because everything we're finding out now suggests the president may have misled us.



ROS-LEHTINEN: He did not mislead us.

NOVAK: Congressman, I just want to ask you one -- one question -- one question, just to find out where we are. Are you sorry that Saddam Hussein has been removed and...


NOVAK: You're not sorry?

WEXLER: I'm not sorry one bit.

NOVAK: You're glad that he's gone.

WEXLER: Oh, very glad that I'm gone -- that he's gone.


WEXLER: Me, too, maybe.


NOVAK: I have a little trouble connecting that.

WEXLER: No, because you have to follow it through. I'm very glad Saddam Hussein is gone, but I'm very unhappy that the president of the United States may have lied to the American people.

ROS-LEHTINEN: He did not lie.


ROS-LEHTINEN: You know that he did not lie. He never misled us.


ROS-LEHTINEN: That is unbelievable. That is unbelievable.

WEXLER: Can the president say anything in order to take us to war? Do the means justify whatever end?

NOVAK: I just want to ask you one thing.

ROS-LEHTINEN: How much intelligence does he need in order to say


BEGALA: Well, he needs more intelligence. We all know that. But that's a different topic for another night.

(LAUGHTER) ROS-LEHTINEN: No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. He had sources. He had information. He had all


NOVAK: I just have one question I want to get in. You said you're glad he's gone. Are you -- just, can I get a straight answer? Are you sorry that we attacked Iraq at the time we did?

WEXLER: I wished we had attacked Iraq based on the truth. That's what it needs to be done.

NOVAK: Are you sorry that we attacked...

WEXLER: No. The United States cannot act in a unilateral way.


NOVAK: Can you give me a yes or no answer on that?

WEXLER: Tell me Bob, what about tomorrow, when the president...


NOVAK: Can you give me an answer or not?

WEXLER: I am sorry, because the president's credibility...


NOVAK: You're sorry we attacked Iraq? OK.

WEXLER: The president -- in the manner in which we did, because the president's credibility is entirely shot throughout the world. What about tomorrow? What about when North Korea and Iran


ROS-LEHTINEN: Then what are we supposed to do with the United Nations? How are we going to get those international peacekeepers to come in, when they are all going to say, but we want impeccable intelligence? We want every I dotted and every T crossed, because, if not, we're not going to help you. How much information do you want in order to justify military action against a despotic regime?

BEGALA: Congresswoman, let me ask the question before you give the answer, OK? The question is not whether or not the president had enough intelligence. In fact, the CIA told him that what he was saying about connections to al Qaeda was not provable. It was not -- it was very dubious.

They told him that what he was saying about a 45-minute launch window for chemical and biological weapons was not reliable. He used it anyway. They knew that his claim about buying uranium in Africa was false. The president used it anyway. The Energy Department told him this aluminum tube story on nuclear weapons was false. Again and again, the president ignored the intelligence. And, in fact, he didn't even read the national intelligence estimate, Congresswoman. That's the problem. Don't blame the CIA. It's the president's fault.


ROS-LEHTINEN: It was the mosaic. When you look at the whole picture -- no, when you look at the whole picture, there was more than enough justification yesterday and today, even today, to say, we were right in taking military action against that regime.

BEGALA: OK. Was the president right to not read the national intelligence estimates, 90 pages? Was he right to ignore that?

ROS-LEHTINEN: He looked at all of the intelligence.

BEGALA: He did not read it. The White House says he didn't read it.


BEGALA: I'm going to try yes or no, like Bob did. Yes or no?

ROS-LEHTINEN: The CIA director has already said, I'll take the fall for it.

BEGALA: Shouldn't he have read the doggone document before sending men to die?


NOVAK: Congressman, just one thing.


NOVAK: You said that we're having a disaster on the ground in Iraq. I would like you to listen to what the former New York City police commissioner, Bernard Kerik, said on Sunday on CNN.

Let's just listen to him.


BERNARD KERIK, SR. POLICY ADVISER: The markets are open. The shops are open. The electricity is on more. The gas lines are lower. There's people all over this city and working and doing things today they weren't doing eight or nine weeks ago. And I think people have to realize that.


NOVAK: Do you deny -- this is a former New York City police commissioner who is on the ground there. Do you think he's just lying?


NOVAK: Then how can you say it's a disaster there?

WEXLER: Because we're losing one American a day. It's costing us $1 billion a week. And it's not necessary. If the president of the United States had built a coalition, if the president of the United States would stop acting in a brazen, unilateral way, we wouldn't put our men and women in this kind of



BEGALA: Is it worth $1 billion a week and one man a day?


BEGALA: A death today and $1 billion a week, is it worth it?


ROS-LEHTINEN: It is worth to the national security of the United States, to the stability of the region, for the support of all of our allies to get a despotic regime that does have the capability to get these weapons out of the picture. You bet it is. And these military men and women know it when they signed up.


NOVAK: Earlier today, the buzz on Capitol Hill worried that President Bush was in a freefall. Next, we'll ask our guests how today's breaking news from Iraq will change the atmosphere and the political calculations in Washington.





NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

We're talking about today's breaking story: the U.S. military raid in northern Iraq that killed Saddam Hussein's two sons.

In the CROSSFIRE: Democratic Congressman Robert Wexler of Florida and Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida.


BEGALA: Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, this week, the CNN/Gallup poll, for the first time since George Bush became president, the majority of Americans no longer believe he can be trusted as a leader. The majority of Americans answered no to the question, can you trust him as a leader? Do you think that the 101st Airborne killing these two Hussein sons is going to make people believe that Bush told the truth getting into the war?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, unlike the previous administration, this is not a president who goes by Gallup polls.

He made the correct decision then.


ROS-LEHTINEN: He stands by his decision today.


ROS-LEHTINEN: And those troops that you're talking about support the president in the use of force. They're there because they wanted to be.

BEGALA: Have you...

NOVAK: Congressman...

BEGALA: Go ahead. Sorry.

NOVAK: Congressman Wexler, I just wondered, if you sit back a minute and stopped that -- this is a good day for America. We got these two terrible guys, killed them. Maybe the people of Iraq will feel better. And you are coming on national television and whining and moaning about the president has done something wrong.


NOVAK: Do you know how bad the politics is on that?


WEXLER: Today is a great day for America, in that the American military has had yet another extraordinary victory.

But just because of the greatness of our military doesn't mean we should just take for granted that the president of the United States can fabricate the truth when taking us to war. There are bigger issues than just shooting and obtaining victory as to one person or another. The president of the United States is the leader of the free world. He has to have credibility.

What about tomorrow, if there's a bigger danger in North Korea or in Iran, and the president makes a statement about what our intelligence says and nobody in the world believes him? The president who cried wolf, that's what I'm worried about.


BEGALA: Congresswoman, in fact, the president has an aide by the name of Wolfowitz. He's the deputy defense secretary, one of the real intellectual architects of this war.

WEXLER: We didn't plan that. BEGALA: Six months ago, Paul Wolfowitz was telling the world, Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He might give them to terrorists. We need to go to war to stop them.

Last night, flying home from Iraq, Secretary Wolfowitz told the Associated Press -- and I'm quoting him here -- quote -- "I'm not concerned about WMDs," WMDs being weapons of mass destruction.

How on earth can the administration that led us into war alleging that there were weapons now say they're not concerned about the fact that they haven't found any?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, I think we still have a very extensive group on the ground. They are still searching for weapons of mass destruction.

We have evidence that might indicate that Saddam Hussein had shifted those to Syria or to some other hostile neighbors. There's still time to be checking. It's not over yet. And I think that we have a capable group there that's searching, that's going to find them. And the more evidence that we discover every day about the brutality of Saddam Hussein's regime -- we will find those weapons. And we are better off today, whether or not we find them or not.


NOVAK: Congressman Wexler, I just want to pin down something from our first segment. You said you are glad that Saddam Hussein is no longer in power. But you said you feel that the president should not have given the order to attack when he did.

You know very well -- you're a sophisticated congressman, a member of the International Relations Committee -- you know we would not have gotten the French to go along with this. You know we would not. So we would not have a -- we would not be attacking. And if you had your way then -- and be very careful on this -- Saddam Hussein and his two sons would still be in power, correct?

WEXLER: No, they wouldn't.

NOVAK: How would they get out?

WEXLER: They'd be out of power. And subsequent to the military victory, we would have a far greater coalition of forces to assist...

NOVAK: How would they get out? Explain it to me.

WEXLER: Because, ultimately, the case against Saddam Hussein should have been made differently. There were enough facts to justify, I believe, removing Saddam Hussein from power from having to then fabricate the truth. But the president, unfortunately, chose a different way.

NOVAK: But tell me how he would -- then we would still be attacking unilaterally, right? WEXLER: No, no. The issue, Bob, the issue is, subsequent to the victory, the military victory, how do we create a big enough coalition so America doesn't do this alone?

NOVAK: You've got a problem.

WEXLER: So it's just -- I don't have a problem.

NOVAK: You have a real problem.

WEXLER: Unfortunately, who has a problem is our men and women in Iraq now. And that's a terrible shame.

NOVAK: You've got a political problem, Robert.


BEGALA: As a member of the Congress and as someone who has to deal with very difficult and complicated issues, you have to make important decisions all the time. Does it trouble you, as a congresswoman, that our president sent men and women to fight and die without reading even the 90-page national intelligence estimate, which is the definitive document describing the threat?

Isn't it his job? We pay him $400,000 a year, give him a nice big house and a plane. Shouldn't he at least have to read 90 pages? Are you outraged?

ROS-LEHTINEN: No, I don't think that we -- I don't think that we should be glib about this. I think that we understand that the president of the United States...

BEGALA: I'm not being glib.

ROS-LEHTINEN: ... has all of these advisers. They give him the information.

BEGALA: So he doesn't -- he shouldn't read -- I want you on the record, because, one day, there will be a Democratic president -- soon, I hope. Presidents don't have to read 90 pages?

ROS-LEHTINEN: I don't know if he read it or not. I don't know. But now it's become: This is the most important paper. But what about this paper? And if he had read this paper. Well, he didn't read this paper.

BEGALA: I've worked in the White House. I know what the national intelligence estimate is.

ROS-LEHTINEN: And if he read this paper, then you'll say, well, he didn't read this paper. It's just a shell game.



BEGALA: That's stunning. That is stunning.


NOVAK: Robert Wexler, thank you very much.

Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, thank you.

It's time for our "Ask the Audience" question. Take out your voting devices right now and tell us: Will the U.S. ever get Saddam Hussein? Press one for, yes, U.S. forces will eventually get him, dead or alive. Press two for, no, you think good old Saddam can hang out forever, keep hiding out. We'll have the results after the break.

And in "Fireback," one of our viewers points out another case of absolutely brilliant timing by the geniuses running for the Democratic presidential nomination.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Time now for "Fireback."

But first, our audience question. We asked our studio audience, will the United States ever get Saddam Hussein? Two-thirds of the audience said yes. That is driven, you should know, by 89 percent of our Republicans in the house think yes. The Democrats are split about 50/50.

NOVAK: You know what this means? And I think you'll have to agree with me. The Republican Party has become the optimistic party. The Democratic Party is the party of gloom and doom.



BEGALA: No. No. I don't agree with that at all. It's that the Republican Party has become the pie-in-the-sky party.

Ann in Huntsville, Alabama writes in: "Paul, please explain to me the reason we went to war. If there were no WMD," weapons of mass destruction, "no connection to al Qaeda, no pending purchase of nuclear raw materials, and therefore no imminent threat, why on Earth are our soldiers in Iraq?

Ann, you should ask the president that question. It's a darn good one.

NOVAK: You don't have to ask the president. You can ask me: regime change, get rid of Saddam Hussein. That's why we're there. If you don't think that's important, we shouldn't be there.


BEGALA: Actually, that is a good point. I don't think it's worth it, but yes. NOVAK: Mike Simms of Denver, Colorado, writes: "I love the Democrats running around the country crying about how badly the war effort in Iraq is going on the day that two of Saddam's sons have been killed . Talk about bad timing. Hope you enjoy the minority status. It's going to be a long ride."


NOVAK: Simms -- Mike, you got that right.


BEGALA: You know what? You know, I wish -- I wish that our president, who's now gloating today because two bad guys are killed, would show up for one funeral of one American who has been killed. And he's never done it. And shame on George Bush.

NOVAK: You're always on message, Paul.

BEGALA: Shame on George Bush for never going to a funeral of one of our heroes.

NOVAK: Question.

BEGALA: Yes, sir? Yes, sir?

NOVAK: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, hi. I'm Nick (ph) from Phoenix, Arizona.

Can we be sure that the killing of his two sons is actually going to improve the situation or is it just like a P.R. victory?

NOVAK: You can't be sure of anything. But these people were so afraid of these two killers and thugs that we hope things will be better.

BEGALA: Yes, I agree with Bob. Who knows. We hope they get better. And no matter what, it's good that these folks -- that these two guys are gone. Thank God.

Yes, sir?

NOVAK: Question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm Miles (ph) from Franklin, Kentucky.

How will the killing of Saddam's two sons affect the approval rating of President Bush's foreign policy?

NOVAK: I guarantee it will go up. This is like taking your temperature every single day. It's kind of a silly thing to do. And it will go up and go down. Paul has a jubilation fit when it goes down. But it will go up and it will go down many times between now and November of 2004. BEGALA: That's true. And what will drive it is the reality on the ground. When we're losing a son or a daughter every single day of the week and $1 billion a week, that's too high a price for George Bush's misstatements.

NOVAK: See, he's on message. He's always on message.

BEGALA: From the left, I'm Paul Begala. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.


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