The Web      Powered by
powered by Yahoo!


Return to Transcripts main page


What's the Political Effect of This Week's Brutal Deaths in Iraq?

Aired April 2, 2004 - 16:30   ET


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

In the CROSSFIRE, responding to the deaths and defiance in Iraq.

PAUL BREMER, U.S. ADMINISTRATOR IN Iraq: Their deaths will not go unpunished.

BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT, U.S. Army: And it will be overwhelming.

ANNOUNCER: How should the U.S. respond to the horror in Fallujah? And how long will it take to bring peace to Iraq?



ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Tucker Carlson.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Hello, everybody. Welcome to CROSSFIRE.

It has been eleven months since President Bush flew to the deck of an aircraft carrier, stood under a White House produced banner, declared "Mission Accomplished." Four hundred and sixty-four U.S. troops have died in Iraq since that day.

Tucker CARLSON, CO-HOST: And that total does not include the horrific deaths and mutilation of four civilian security contractors in Fallujah this week. What is going to be the fallout of all this killing? That's our debate.

We'll conduct it right after the best political briefing in television, our "CROSSFIRE Political Alert."

Well, there's terrible news for John Kerry today. America is actually doing pretty well.

A study released shows that job creation is growing faster than at any time in the past four years. The manufacturing sector is particularly strong. Smoking is the word of one economist.

There's not much debate about why this is happening. The Greenberg News Service, hardly a right-wing organ, put it today, quote, "The tax cuts Bush won last year have helped spur the economy to its fastest growth in two decades and at least six straight months of job gain."

Of course you never hear anything like this from the Kerry campaign, which is busy pretending that America is in the depths of a second Great Depression and therefore desperately in need of higher taxes and, of course, more trial lawyers. Don't buy it.

BEGALA: What we're in desperate need of is a pro-jobs economic policy. If people think that this economy is working right for them they need to go vote for Bush. If you think you can do better than eight million Americans out of work you need to work for Kerry.

CARLSON: I do think -- There are long-term -- There are long- term trends having to do mostly with free trade that cut against manufacturing jobs.

BEGALA: Having to do with a $5 trillion debt that Bush has racked up.

CARLSON: Actually, NO. Long before that under Clinton because of NAFTA and other trade agreements our manufacturing sector has shrunk. It may be a bad thing. It has nothing to do with this president's economic policies. It's brought us out of the recession.

BEGALA: Clinton was pro-free trade and he created jobs. Bush has still got the worst job performance, including the good news today, the worst job performance since Herbert Hoover.

CARLSON: Then why -- Then why is consumer confidence up?

BEGALA: Why is consumer confidence up? Why is unemployment up? It is today, up a tenth of a point.

Well, the Bush White House has blocked the commission investigating 9/11 from reviewing three fourths of the presidential records the commission sought from the Clinton administration.

President Clinton has asked for the release of every single item the commission thinks that it might need. But President Bush is withholding 75 percent of those documents from the commission.

White House spokes fibber Scott McClellan called many of those documents duplicative or unrelated. Others, he said, were withheld because they were, quote, "highly sensitive," unquote.

President Clinton's attorney, who has reviewed many of the 10,800 documents requested, said they have a direct bearing on al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and terrorism.

Meanwhile, the Bush stonewall of the 9/11 commission continues on other fronts, as well. President Bush will not testify under oath or in public, and he insists on testifying alongside Dick Cheney. No word yet on whether Mr. Bush will also bring his favorite feathered pillow or his cute little stuffed Yale bulldog Bowser.

CARLSON: You know what, Paul? You know what this is?

BEGALA: Be a man, Mr. President.

CARLSON: Not releasing those documents is an example of compassionate conservatism. Because those documents may shed light on why the Clinton administration turned down three opportunities to take Osama bin Laden into custody, citing international law. That's not conjecture.

BEGALA: Put them out. Put them out.

CARLSON: That's a fact. I tend to agree with you. Don't cover up for the...

BEGALA: Do you really believe that George Bush, who hates Bill Clinton more than the devil hates holy water? Do you really think he's trying to protect Clinton? I don't. I think he's got his own...

CARLSON: I actually...

BEGALA: Release the documents and testify on your own and under oath. Don't hide behind Dick Cheney.

CARLSON: I don't think they made enough of the turning down three chances to get Osama.

BEGALA: Be a man, Mr. President. Be a man.

CARLSON: Well, according to today's "New York Times," the investigation into whether the White House illegally leaked the name of a CIA officer last year has expanded, grown bigger.

The inquiry could now result in charges that have nothing to do with the leak itself. In other words, prosecutors have set out on what used to be called, in the 1990s, a fishing expedition.

Worse, prosecutors are using leaks right now to the press to discredit the White House before charges have even been filed against anyone.

Democrats used to loudly denounce tactics like these as fascism, immoral, unethical and partisan. Will they do the same now? In other words, are there any principled Democrats left in Washington? We will see. Paul, are you one of them?

BEGALA: First of all, I hate when prosecutors leak on either side.


BEGALA: But in fairness to "The New York Times," they didn't cite prosecutors. They cited government officials, many of whom have paraded before the grand jury. The important thing is the cover-up is often the crime, as well as the crime.

CARLSON: You're defending the fishing... BEGALA: I am defending it. If these Bush people are lying like they're lying about the war, if they're lying about this CIA agent who was protecting us from terrorists.

CARLSON: So there's no principle at all? There's no principle at all?

BEGALA: The principle is you shouldn't...

CARLSON: My enemies are getting in trouble, it's OK. No, it's true. What's the principle?

BEGALA: First of all I said I'm against any leaks from prosecutors. But I'm much more against leaking the name of a CIA agent, undercover, protecting us from terrorists.

CARLSON: I agree. I agree. I agree.

BEGALA: That's a felony. Whoever did it ought to go to jail and the Bushies shouldn't cover it up. That's what I care about most.

Well, although he campaigned on a promise to keep oil-rich OPEC nations to keep oil supplies plentiful, President Bush has not even dialed a phone to his buddies in Saudi Arabia as the Saudis rob us blind and as gas prices skyrocket.

Not that Mr. Bush is unfamiliar with the house of Saud. He's shown here holding hands in a male, macho not at all gay way with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah. Mr. Bush has hosted Abdullah at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, where he praised the leader of this woman hating, Israel hating kingdom, saying, quote, "He's a man who's got a farm, and he understands the land. And I really took great delight in being able to drive him around in a pickup truck and showing him the trees and my favorite spots. And we saw a wild turkey, which was good." A verbatim quote from our president.

Of course, Mr. Bush may have seen a turkey but Crown Prince Abdullah was looking at a pigeon.

CARLSON: Paul, it's literally for me...

BEGALA: Got to stand up to these punks.

CARLSON: I'm not pro-Saudi in the slightest, but for me it's literally a second job explaining economics to liberals. The fact that oil prices have risen has mostly to do with production, which is increasing in China and India, and lots of the less developed worlds.

This is good news. It's bad for us in the short term. It has nothing to do with George W. Bush or his friendship with some guy in a headdress. I mean, that's ridiculous.

BEGALA: OK. OPEC ratcheted down production. That will drive up prices even more.

CARLSON: But that's not the fundamental problem. BEGALA: But Bush should stand up to them, and instead he kisses their ring. He's just a suckup to the Saudi royal family.


BEGALA: I don't understand why. It's not in America's interest. He should stand up to those guys.

Speaking of the Middle East, what is next in Iraq? Coming up, how should the United States respond to the atrocities committed against Americans this week in Fallujah?

Stay with us.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

An Iraqi cleric today condemned the mutilation of four American security contractors who were killed this Wednesday in Fallujah. But the cleric did not criticize the murders themselves.

American officials are promising a, quote, "overwhelming response" in Fallujah. They also say there will be no pell-mell rush into the city.

In the CROSSFIRE CNN contributor Kelly McCann, a security and terrorism expert. And by the way his company supplies security for clients in Iraq. Along with retired Army Major Dana Dillon. He's now senior policy analyst with the Heritage Foundation.

Major Dillon, as you know on Wednesday four security contractors were killed in Fallujah. The U.S. military found out about the killings within about an hour after they occurred. For the next nine hours those bodies were desecrated in the streets of Fallujah and the military did nothing to stop the desecration.

Asked why, the military spokesman yesterday, Colonel Michael Walker, in Iraq, had this to say. About the most offensive thing I think I've heard this week. Quote, "Should we have sent in a tank so we could have gotten, with all due respect, four dead bodies back? What good would that have done?"

It seems to me if there was ever a cause worth dying for, it's preventing American bodies from being desecrated on television. Don't you think that's true?

MAJ. DANA DILLON, U.S. ARMY (RET.): Well -- obviously the spokesman was very callous in what he said. That was inappropriate. And unfortunately, that compacts the already inappropriate behavior of what happened in Fallujah.

But, rushing in may not have been the right thing. I think there is a Marine colonel on, or a Marine general also got interviewed and said that it could have been a trap involved. And that's correct. And that's often an insurgent -- let me finish. That's often an insurgent tactic, as you shoot somebody and then you just wait there for the rescue team to show up and then you ambush them.

So I think they were smart to wait.

CARLSON: Well, nobody doubts it's dangerous in Fallujah. Leaving aside the question whether we even want to live in a country that allows its citizens to be hacked apart with shovels.

My question is what message do you think it sends to the families of these men, who saw the mutilations on television, to the insurgents in Iraq, who can do this with impunity, and to American people, who now know their government doesn't care enough to prevent their bodies from being desecrated?

DILLON: That's all the more reason why we should be going into Fallujah and make -- doing a massive response to the city, to demonstrate to the city as a whole that we are doing something. But it has to be done very carefully. It has to be targeted at the people that have done things wrong. And not targeted at other people, not targeted at innocents. Because we don't want to become the people that they are, or they have demonstrated they are.

BEGALA: Well, Kelly, you are one of those contractors risking your life for American policy in Iraq. You took my friend Tucker over there for one of the braver pieces of journalism I've read in a long time.

What should we do in retaliation for the murder of these Americans and the mutilation of the bodies?

KELLY MCCANN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, there should be retaliation. And in fact the division commander has actually said, General Matus (ph), we'd be your best friend or your worst enemy. And I think they're going to taste a little bit about what it is to be their worst enemy.

The problem is it has to be ethical; it has to be focused. It has to be tightly controlled. I think what you'll probably see, Paul, is they're going to shut that city down. They're going to employ snipers, maybe enforce some kind of martial law so if you're on the street after 8 p.m. you're going to be subject to being killed.

But it won't be left unchecked. The problem is there are rules to war. And in fact, you can't be murderers. If you think about the situation right after that happened, there was a mob scene. Who to shoot? You can't shoot into the crowd. I mean you can't basically go into a fire sack where you basically come in and the entry is to another Mogadishu type event.

The fact is, they had an RPV or remotely powered vehicle up, they saw what they could. There had been no previous coordination. In fact, they didn't know who those people were initially and what they were doing.

So tactically on the ground what seems to be the case isn't the same thing assumptions are made when people watch TV. They think we just run like hell out there and get these guys. It doesn't work like that. You could end up with more dead.

CARLSON: It seems to me, though, Kelly to follow up on that, the Marines aren't the only people who didn't act. There were Iraqi national policemen, lots of them, within Fallujah. They did, of course, nothing except cower.

Here's a quote from one of them from the "Kansas City Star" today, Mohammed al-Essai (ph). He says, quote, "We had to stay away. What happened was between Americans and insurgents. If we got involved we would have been killed. Who's going to take care of my kids then?"

I guess my question is, what's the point of having an Iraqi national police force if they don't do anything except run away?

MCCANN: One would wonder.

CARLSON: Well, what do you think the point of it is?

MCCANN: I think that the point of it is that they can't control and have shown an unwillingness yet to control this kind of activity. I think that when they're deployed with their American counterparts, the international police monitors, they'll have to be made to do good policing. They'll have to be made to interject themselves into their community and to stand up with authority.

The fact is right now Iraqi people don't trust their police. They haven't had the serial (ph) relationship.

I don't trust them either. This seems broken.

BEGALA: Major Dillon, let me ask you this.


BEGALA: First off, I am not in a position to second-guess commanders in the field, and so when you guys, you and Kelly say there will be retribution, I take you at your word and I look forward to it.

But I am in a position to second-guess policymakers in Washington. I used to be one on domestic policy. I understand a little bit about how foreign policy is made.

Our vice president helped lead us into this war by making the following statement on "Meet the Press" on March 16 of last year. He told Tim Russert when Tim asked him about whether we would be -- face opposition after we liberated Iraq. He said, "No, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators."

He went on to say, "I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators. The read we get on the people of Iraq is there's no question but what they want to get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that."

Was he hopelessly naive or intentionally misleading us? DILLON: Well, I don't want to say the word hopelessly naive. But obviously he was not correct when he said that they were going to be greeted as liberators.

I think part of it had to do with the first Gulf War when, in fact, the people did rise up to greet the Americans, especially in the Shia populations in the south. And I think that left a preconception that would happen again.

And, in fact, they were put down so forcefully that they were afraid to rise up. And the same with the surrenders of the armies. The armies, all they wanted to do in the first Gulf War was surrender as soon as they possibly could.

BEGALA: But wouldn't it have been prudent for policymakers to say, "I hope we'll be treated as liberators, but hope is not a strategy. So we're going to go in there with a force that will pacify that country and then we won't have to worry about whether we hope that we're greeted as liberators."

Wasn't it an enormous mistake for the president and the vice president and the secretary of defense to just hope that we'd be greeted as liberators?

DILLON: Again, I think that they had reason to believe that they would be greeted as liberators.

Saddam Hussein obviously was unpopular. But again, some of these people -- many of these people are fighting against no longer is Saddam Hussein, has nothing to do with Saddam Hussein.

But at that time I believe that he made an estimate that was -- evidence was that that was correct. I -- obviously it didn't work out the way he had hoped it was. But I think it was based on information available to him. I think it was a good estimate.

CARLSON: Now, Kelly McCann, seems a pretty big deal when you kill civilian contractors, because they're the ones rebuilding Iraq by and large, not the U.S. military. They're the ones stringing the power lines, training the Iraqi national police, to the extent they can be trained, et cetera, et cetera.

Do you think this is going to make it less likely that contractors are going to want to work in Iraq, the killings on Wednesday?

MCCANN: You know, Tucker, you were there with me. You saw that there's a big diversity of the kinds of people that go into Iraq to do security. There are very high-end Special Operations experienced people and then there are other people kind of getting onto this gold rush.

There won't be a shortage of people to go to Iraq making that kind of money. There may be a shortage now, or there may be fewer people who will think twice, you know, that will say I don't know about that. We lost one in training the other day that, after this incident decided he didn't want to go.

But I think that the men that come from the Special Operations community, this is what they're about. This is the way they are. They have a protector personality. That's not going to dissuade any of us from going over.

CARLSON: But do you think the U.S. government has some interest in helping to protect them maybe a little more?

MCCANN: No. They've stated that they don't have any...

CARLSON: I'm fully aware they said you're on your own. Don't you think they -- in real life they do have a real interest in protecting them, because the country's going to fall apart without civilian contractors?

MCCANN: You're right. The reconstruction effort would stop if you pulled contractors out. In fact if you even regulate them more than is currently being regulated, you know, as far as what they have to have done before they go over there, it would slow down the process.

This is a mad rush to June. Let's not kid each other. That's what going on here.

BEGALA: June being when authority will be transferred to someone, God knows who. Allah knows who, whoever. Yahweh knows who exactly.

MCCANN: June. So that we can turn it over. There has to be evidence of reconstruction advancement. And because of that, it's creating some dangerous situations.

CARLSON: OK. We're going to take a quick break. We'll be back on this exact subject.

Next on "Rapid Fire," we ask our guests whether the United States is doing enough to protect security contracts. We just asked it. We'll ask it again.

And right after the break, Wolf Blitzer has the headlines, including how the U.S. government today revealed a new terror threat. This one targeting the U.S. this summer. We'll be right back.


WOLF BLITZER, ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

Coming up at the top of the hour, are terrorists eying American trains and buses right now? A warning about a possible summertime bombing campaign in the U.S.

And welcome to the USA. They don't need visas, but visitors from some very friendly countries will now be fingerprinted. We'll tell you why.

And it was a case that captivated the country. Now a baffling new development in that tale of a missing college student.

Those stories, much more only minutes away on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS." Now back to CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. It's now time for "Rapid Fire," where the questions are crisp and the answers even crisper, which means fast.

Our guests are retired Major Dana Dillon of the Heritage Foundation, along with CNN contributing security and terrorism expert and all-out tough guy Kelly McCann.

BEGALA: Major Dillion, when before the war, General Shinseki, Eric Shinseki the Army chief of staff at the time, testified before Congress it would take a couple of hundred thousand troops to occupy and pacify Iraq, Paul Wolfowitz, a pinhead professor who never served in the military, contradicted him and really insulted him.

Doesn't Mr. Wolfowitz owe General Shinseki an apology now?

DILLON: I don't know if he owes him an apology. Obviously, Wolfowitz -- Wolfowitz was correct in that so far it hasn't worked out the way he wanted. I think General Shinseki's method maybe could have worked, as well. But Wolfowitz's method is still working. I mean, people are killed but people would have been killed with Shinseki's method, as well. There just would have been more soldiers there.

CARLSON: Kelly, you pointed out that on June 30 the government, there's going to be a handover to someone. A year from then, June 30, say 2005, what troop level, strength level do you think we'll have in Iraq?

MCCANN: Depends on if it's taken over by some kind of a multinational force. And that's still in negotiation. Other forces are trying to be drawn in there for a variety of different reasons.

But I don't think until -- there's going to be an influx of more contractors. That means more momentum. That means more security is needed. I don't think that there will be less troops than you see right now.

BEGALA: Major Dillon, should we hand over authority to anybody in Iraq on June 30?

DILLON: Absolutely. I mean, some of the problems that were brought up before is that the Iraqi police don't feel any -- that doesn't belong to them, the problem of Fallujah doesn't belong to them. It belongs to the Americans. It was between the Americans and the people in Fallujah, which is not true, it is their problem.

And when we hand it over to the Iraqis, then it becomes the problem of those police officers, not our problem.

CARLSON: Kelly, if I were a contractor in Iraq stuck at a red light and I saw somebody even twitching in my direction I'd shoot him immediately. That would be my instinct. Do you think we're going to see more of that happen, contractors killing people?

MCCANN: You can't not, especially after one of these incidents. Let's just hope that the people that are over there and they do. They get in the right mindset. They get predeployment training. You get back familiar with your weapons. You get in the mindset.

But let's face it. An AK-47 round travels about 3,250 feet per second. From the time you see the muzzle until the time the bullet is through you is how fast, like that. The name of the game is quick.

BEGALA: Kelly McCann, brave man. Major Dillon, thank you very much, as well, the Heritage Foundation.

CARLSON: Good to see both of you. Thank you.

BEGALA: Important discussion on a difficult topic.

Just ahead on a little lighter note, our own version of "CROSSFIRE Jeopardy" for Tucker. Here's our first answer. He was the only bachelor president. Do you know the question? Stay tuned.


BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

Tomorrow CROSSFIRE's own Tucker Carlson will be taping a celebrity episode of "Jeopardy." His fellow contestants are former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan and "The Washington Post" famed reporter Bob Woodward. So we thought we'd better let Tucker get in a little practice on our show.

OK, Tucker, please respond in the form of a question.

The first answer, of course is he was America's only bachelor president.

CARLSON: Who is Dennis Kucinich?

BEGALA: There you go!

CARLSON: Oh, that's right; he hasn't won yet. Who is James Buchanan?

BEGALA: James Buchanan. I don't think he's any relation to our own Patrick Buchanan, but maybe. Excellent.

Answer No. 2, he's the only current of Congress who's also been elected to baseball's hall of fame.

CARLSON: Even I know that. That would be Senator Jim Bunning.

BEGALA: Not in the form of a question, though, Tucker. I have to do that.

CARLSON: That's exactly right. You're exactly right.

BEGALA: Excellent.

CARLSON: ... would have got that. Yes.

BEGALA: Harry Truman, Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill.

CARLSON: Oh, that's easy. What are the three best dressed men in political history? They all three -- what three men wore bow ties and ran the world?

BEGALA: There we go, excellent. We have photographs of those three great leaders. Tucker, you're going to clean their clock. Good luck. Have fun.

From the left, I am Paul Begala. That's it for CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: And from the right, I'm Tucker Carlson.

"WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" starts right after us. We'll be back Monday. Have a great weekend.


International Edition
CNN TV CNN International Headline News Transcripts Advertise With Us About Us
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.
Add RSS headlines.