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Interview With Paul Bremer

Aired August 18, 2003 - 20:30   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: The U.S. has promised to bring peace and normalcy to Iraq in the face of fires, floods, blackouts and armed assaults. Over the last few days, saboteurs appear to have targeted Baghdad's water supply, electrical lines and a major oil pipeline. And a mortar assault killed six Iraqi detainees. Earlier today I spoke with residential envoy Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator for Iraq's reconstruction, and I started off by asking him who he thought might be behind these latest attacks.

PAUL BREMER, IRAQ'S CIVILIAN ADMINISTRATOR: All of these attacks are coming from people who are not happy with the liberation of Iraq. And I think that probably means they're people from the old regime, Baathist killers, Fedayeen Saddam killers, people from the Saddam intelligence agencies. These are people who basically don't like the looks of the new Iraq.

ZAHN: And what can the U.S. military do at this point to stop these kind of attacks?

BREMER: Well, we are taking a number of steps. One of them is to obviously put more protection on the key nodes, the places where attacks would have the major impact. We have made a major step to put more Iraqi security forces at play here. We have got an Iraqi civil defense force that we're calling into being that has -- going to have eight battalions working on site security and pipeline security, convoy security in the next month or so. We have got almost 40,000 Iraqi police now on duty. There were, by the way, none, when I arrived here. And all of these Iraqi forces will help us with the security, securing these Iraqi assets against these kinds of attacks.

ZAHN: Sir, you have said that you believe the motivation for the sabotage is coming from people who do not like the new Iraq, who would like to stop this fledgling economy. But how much of this do you think is about trying to get U.S. troops out of the country?

BREMER: Well, I think that these bitter-enders that we're faced with live in a fantasy world where they think that somehow the Baathists are going to come back, that the coalition is going to get cold feet and leave, and they're simply wrong. We're not going leave until the job done. They're not going chase us out of Iraq. They are not destined to succeed. We will over time and with the help of the Iraqi people, we will get our hands on them. We'll either put them in jail where they are -- for crimes they're committing against Iraqis or we'll kill them in the course of trying to catch them. So there is no doubt that these guys are fighting a war that they can't win.

ZAHN: Sir, when do you think the job will be done? When the American public hears reports from electricity experts who say it could take a full year to completely restore power in Iraq, they're just wondering what the timeline is that we're really looking at here.

BREMER: Well, let's take it one at a time. On restoring power, we expect to restore power to the pre-war level, and that's the maximum there is here, in the next six weeks, by the end of September. The problem on power is that Saddam did not produce enough. We have about 4,000 megawatts of power here and about 6,000 megawatts of demand. So it will take about a year to get to the 6,000 megawatt level. That's true. But we will be back at pre-war levels here in the next six to eight weeks.

When is the job done? It depends on how you define the job. The job of the coalition authority is over when there is an elected Iraqi government. That could happen in 2004. It is quite possible.

ZAHN: There continue to be questions here in America about whether it is worth the cost that the nation has to endure in terms of the number of servicemen and women we have lost. What would you like to tell the American public tonight about why it is worth it, particularly when you hear this constant stream of statistics about the number of men and women lost after combat operations were ended.

BREMER: Every single combat loss is obviously a personal tragedy for the serviceman or woman and their relatives. But the -- the actual losses so far are really not that high.

We are involved in a noble and wonderful mission here, one that is really fitting to the American people. We have liberated 25 million people from one of the most awful dictatorships of the last century. And we have now a real responsibility to help consolidate that victory, to help bring economic vitality back to this country, which has suffered so much under economic mismanagement for almost four decades.

ZAHN: Finally, there are reports that American soldiers are putting up pictures of Saddam dressed as Elvis Presley, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Rita Hayworth in and around Tikrit. Have you seen these pictures?

BREMER: No, I haven't. But I'm glad to see that a sense of humor is alive and well among the armed forces.

ZAHN: We keep on hearing reports of tightening the noose around Saddam Hussein. Can you characterize for us today where we are in finding him?

BREMER: Well, you know, people talk about tightening the noose, I like to see the neck before I can tell you how tight the noose is, and I don't know if the noose is around his neck yet. So all I can tell you is we're not sparing any effort to find him and root him out, and it will be be -- it will happen one day. We'll wake up and it will have happened.

ZAHN: Mr. Bremer, thank you very much for joining us today. We really appreciate your time.

BREMER: Nice to be with you again.


ZAHN: And one final note on the situation in Iraq, after our interview with L. Paul Bremer earlier today, another U.S. soldier died tonight. He was killed by an explosive device in Baghdad.


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