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Attack in Iraq

Aired April 27, 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: Nighttime explosions light up the skies over Iraq. Is it the beginning of the end of the insurgency?



ANNOUNCER: Live from the George Washington University, James Carville and Tucker Carlson.



Within the past few hours, there's been heavy shelling in Fallujah, Iraq. The war on terrorism continues.

JAMES CARVILLE, CO-HOST: As always, our thoughts are with the United States coalition forces. We will debate the quickly of leadership they deserve right after the best political briefing in television.

CARLSON: This all started with -- we are going to suspend the "Political Briefing" for right now.

This started, the fighting in Fallujah, on March 31, when -- not by an attack on American soldiers, by four Blackwater contractors whose bodies were desecrated in the town. And I have to say, not to make this a political issue, I'm happy, though, that there is finally some vigorous response to that. It's unacceptable to allow American bodies to be desecrated anywhere.

CARVILLE: I guess I don't have a political thing. I'm just -- I want to talk to Jamie McIntyre and find out exactly what's going on, on the ground, if we have started to move the Marines in yet or are we just shelling or what's happening here.

Obviously, from what I've been able to hear in my earpiece leading up to this, there's some pretty serious shelling going on. But I'm curious as to see exactly what our strategy is or what the commanders on the ground plan on doing.


CARLSON: Well, the strategy apparently for the last week has been to try and get the militants within Fallujah to give up their weapons, or give up all their weapons but small-arms.

CARVILLE: I understand. I understand.

CARLSON: Keep their AK-47s, but turn over RPGs and everything else.

But we have I think Jamie McIntyre standing live at the Pentagon to tell us what exactly did happen today in Fallujah.

Jamie, you there?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, what happened today, Tucker, according to the Pentagon is that the anti- U.S. insurgents in Fallujah once again violated the cease-fire. This has been a cease-fire where the emphasis has been all on the fire and none on the cease.

According to the Marines, the Marines in a defensive position in Fallujah were fired on. They called in what's called close air support, these AC-130 gunships with their .105-millimeter cannons. And they took out those positions where they believed that U.S. -- anti-U.S. insurgents were holed up, again, illustrating that, although the United States, over the last several days, has been trying to negotiate with intermediaries in Fallujah to try to come to some sort of more peaceful settlement there, there isn't any sign that the anti- U.S. forces are show anything good faith at all.

They're not turning over those heavy weapons that you mentioned. They're not abiding by the cease-fire. And time is running out. The U.S. has extended several times their plans to mount a major offensive operation, essentially having the Marines go in street by street, house by house, and taking out anyone who threatens them.

And that still remains the probable ultimate goal here if they're not able to do anything by more peaceful means. They had hoped today to start joint U.S. and Iraqi patrols in Fallujah. That was postponed again because of the level of hostility that they're facing. So at the Pentagon today, they said it was worth a try to try to again negotiate some sort of less than full offensive end to this.

But at this point, it looks like the hostilities are still ongoing. You saw the piece we had on just a few minutes ago on CNN showing some of the pool footage of the Marines in combat. I mean, if that was a cease-fire, I'd hate to see what war looked like -- Tucker.

CARVILLE: Jamie, the reporting that I've heard said that we had three battalions of Marines surrounding Fallujah. Is that correct?

MCINTYRE: That's roughly right. It's about 2,000, roughly, Marines around the city.

CARVILLE: That doesn't -- do you think that we're planning -- at some point, I mean, the cease-fire and we're shelling, do you think -- I don't know if you'd call it an invasion, but where we actually have military action where we try to take the city or we'll have some kind of a urban fighting going to here in the foreseeable future or just continue with what seems to me is a siege right now?

MCINTYRE: Well, you may think that that's a small number of U.S. forces. However, they're very capable and have a lot of firepower backing them up.

They're also not facing, they believe, a large number of enemy forces within the city. But it's the worst nightmare for the U.S. military and that is urban combat, house to house sometimes, where the insurgents have the advantage because they know all of the hiding places. It's on their turf. But the U.S. is convinced that they can essentially go in and slowly, but surely take them out.

One easy way to identify an enemy combatant in this situation is if they have a gun or they're shooting at you. And essentially anyone who has a gun and shoots at the U.S. military as they begin to move in will come under fire.


CARVILLE: Do you have any sense that whatever this -- whatever this is, when we start move people in there, do you have a sense this is imminent, that this is coming in the next 24 hours or the next three or four days? Or what's your sense of this?

MCINTYRE: Well, I have a sense that it's going to happen.

What's imminent is a decision to give up on the negotiation process. That's pretty much imminent. They're going to have to decide one way or another if that's working. And then the inevitable follow-on to that will be a military offensive, one that the U.S. was hinting at, threatening, said that was within days at the end of last week.

It's been postponed again. But, inevitably, the U.S. is going to have to take action there. And the U.S. military believes that that really is the center of gravity of the resistance movement in Iraq.

CARLSON: Now, Jamie, finally, do we know who the Marines are fighting? Are these foreign jihadists? Are they former regime loyalists? Is this a Shiite militia? Who are they?

MCINTYRE: Well, yes and no, or no and yes.

They have a general idea of who they believe they're fighting. They don't know specifically who they're fighting. And, of course, when they are negotiating, they're not negotiating directly with any of these insurgents. But they do believe it's all of those categories. They think it's foreign fighters. They think it's some of the people connected to Zarqawi. And they also believe it's the Baathist resistance and some of the Iraqi intelligence service who may have planned this kind of resistance campaign from the very beginning. And they think they're all basically together in Fallujah. And that presents really the best opportunity to turn the tide in this war against the insurgency, according to at least the hopeful scenarios advanced by the U.S. military.

CARLSON: All right, Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, thanks very much.

Well, America has obviously hit a rough patch in Iraq. What next?

To debate that, we are joined by Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel and from the state of Florida, Republican Mark Foley. Welcome.


NOVAK: Congressman Foley, I want to show you something that Senator Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, had to say. And then I want to try to get you to comment on this. We don't have it? OK.

What he said was -- I happen to have it in front of me.

REP. MARK FOLEY (R), FLORIDA: We still have a comment.



CARLSON: That's the spirit.

CARVILLE: "Every ground squirrel in this country knows that it's going to be $50 to $57 billion in additional money required to sustain us in Iraq for this year." Given what's happened, maybe that's even low.

Why doesn't the administration just tell us what their best estimate of what this thing is going to cost, so the American people -- we keep -- we are told we're at war. They refuse to tell us how much this war is going to cost. Why not just get everything out there now, so we can know?

FOLEY: We are at war. We are going to spend what it takes to defend the troops. And we're not going to just keep throwing out numbers to satisfy numerical equations.

CARVILLE: To not satisfy anything, if somebody's saying how much is this war? Tell us how much it's going to cost the American taxpayers. You say, we'll spend whatever it is. They won't give us an estimate. What is it? Senator Hagel, a combat veteran, is saying ground squirrels know it's $50 to $75 billion. Well, if the ground squirrels know, why don't the administration tell the American people?

FOLEY: I think we're going to calculate what's necessary. The Congress will back up our troops.

But I think here to speculate and throw out 50, 70, you've had two figures yourself tonight in your own show.


CARVILLE: We know what we've spent so far.

FOLEY: Right. And we've calculated those


CARVILLE: What have we spent


CARLSON: I'm sorry. I'm going to end the endless interrogation here.


CARLSON: Congressman, let me just ask you a question. You know, you can see from the pictures there is a war going on. But it's also a political issue.

I want to read to you the smartest thing I've read this week about the politics of Iraq. It comes from Walter Russell Mead, who is a fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.


CARLSON: He says: "The nightmare for John Kerry is that all of his criticisms become moot, except the woulda, shoulda, coulda criticism about the war. In this sense, voters are going to say themselves, what's the difference? If I vote for Kerry, I'll get a war in Iraq and somebody who doesn't believe in the war, but is going to have to fight it anyway. If I vote for Bush, I get a war in Iraq fought by someone who believes in the war."

The third option is, of course, if you're against the war, why not vote for Nader, who is going to pull our troops out? So why would you vote for Kerry if you're a liberal? Why wouldn't you vote for Ralph Nader? He's got a real solution.

EMANUEL: Well, because -- well, actually, I disagree, because George Bush has got us in a situation. And it's George Bush who got us in this situation in this capacity, where we didn't have the international support and we lost our legitimacy on weapons of mass destruction. We lost our legitimacy that we were going to be greeted as liberators.

We lost a lot of our legitimacy and credibility when we also said we had international support and as we realize, we haven't. What John Kerry could do with a clean break is go to the international community, engage not just allies in Europe who should be with us and have been with us in every other engagement and aren't in this one, India, Pakistan, the other members of the Arab community who have allied with the United States, and get them involved.


CARLSON: I so interested to hear that, because actually, that's a pipe dream. Europe doesn't have the troops. The Turks can't come in because of the Kurds. The Paks won't do it because of internal politics. Who are you talking about?


CARLSON: Who specifically is going to commit troops to Iraq?


EMANUEL: Well, first of all, India and Pakistan would be a big resource here. India specifically would be a big resource and we tried to get them in. And because we mishandled it


CARLSON: You believe India would commit thousands of troops to Iraq?

EMANUEL: At one point, we were talking about 15,000.

CARLSON: And you think that's plausible now?

EMANUEL: Right. It was plausible before we messed up our politics with them, yes.

And, No. 2, I also think, like in the first Gulf War, where Syria committed troops, Egypt committed troops, we could have done it. And Jordan committed troops. Jordan, actually, in the first Gulf War, wasn't there, but those two countries were. We can get them involved. And in fact they've been wanting to be helpful here.

I think to tell you the truth, we have not handled our -- if you think this is the best it gets in handling our foreign affairs, then I got a bridge over Tigris you can buy.


FOLEY: We went to the U.N. We've asked...

EMANUEL: I want to say one other -- I want to say one other thing on the financing. I want to say one other thing on the financing, because this is important because everyone says we're going to stay. We ain't moving.

Well, let's put our money where our mouth is. Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz, when asked in the Senate how much we had spent of the $87 billion, spent down on the military, he said, I have no idea. That was his answer. And my view is, they said, well, it will take us time because we don't know the last three months. Well, give us the burn rate up until that point and we'll project what the three months is, because between no answer and an exact answer is

(CROSSTALK) CARLSON: Get real. How is he supposed to know a precise number?


CARLSON: Come on. But, I mean, please. That's not his job.



CARLSON: That's not what he does. He's not the guy in charge of the numbers. You know that.

EMANUEL: Well, Doug can come up and answer. And when he was in front of the Budget Committee, which I served on, I happen to have wrote a letter to Chairman Nussle and said, for hearings, before they ask for $50 billion, let's find out what happened to the $87 billion. It happens to be the taxpayer money.

CARVILLE: Congressman Foley, go ahead. You have 45 seconds. Go.

FOLEY: No, I just said, the U.N. -- we went to the U.N. for support. You expect our allies to come now? Honduras is leaving. Spain is leaving. People are pulling up stakes. We have got to defend and protect those men and women on the field.


FOLEY: And now we're sitting here having check balancing exercise.


EMANUEL: First of all, the president of the United States was at the State of the Union, rattled off a series of countries and says, we have international support. And they're leaving because we have not legitimized the war to their own population. And working hard to legitimize it to get the troops.


CARVILLE: All right, I want to show you something. I love the argument that the No. 2 person in the Pentagon is not supposed to know what things cost. That's not his job. He just spends it.


EMANUEL: Get me a No. 2 that does know his job and does know his numbers, then.

CARVILLE: Last May 1 was the now famous carrier Abraham Lincoln, the president saying mission accomplished. There he is on the deck.

All right, given the fact that this is -- let's just call it a year. We're close enough to call it a year. How would you grade how we've done in Iraq the last year, like an A, B, C, D? Just give it a letter grade of how the United States, how it's going.

FOLEY: I give our fighting forces an A.



FOLEY: They're fighting to defend this country.


CARVILLE: Give it our political leadership. We don't grade -- I will give our fighting forces an A, but we're not voting for our fighting forces. Give our political leadership in terms of planning for this war, planning for this occupation, how have we done in terms of bringing democracy to Iraq. How have we done? Give this administration, our political leadership, an overall grade for the last year in Iraq.

FOLEY: This president said it was going to be tough. We knew going in it was going to be tough. We have people coming form around the world trying to make Iraq a quagmire.


FOLEY: We have people attacking Syria today.

Let me finish, Jim.



FOLEY: We have people attacking Syria. We have threats against Jordan. We have people, terrorists, bombing Spain. This is not going to be easy.


CARVILLE: Congressman, Dick Cheney said we'd be greeted with roses. I mean, come on.


CARLSON: I'd love to hear this line yet again.


CARLSON: ... a commercial break to take and unfortunately we're going to have to take it.

When we come back, we'll ask our guests why one of the most liberal papers in this country is going after John Kerry on Iraq.

We'll be right back.



CARVILLE: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

We're talking about the insurgency in Iraq with former Republican Congressman Mark Foley and my dear friend, but general pain in the behind, Democratic Congressman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois.

CARLSON: Congressman Emanuel, my problem with John Kerry is that he's always wrong -- he has essentially the same policy for the future of Iraq that Bush does -- but that he doesn't understand the burden of American power.

I want to read you a quote from Ivo Daalder from the Brookings Institution, hardly a right-wing organization. Here's what he says: "Kerry will find, if he doesn't know it know, that in order to get anything done, whether it is through the U.N. or through NATO, that the U.S. is going to have to lead, using power, using coercion."

We're the strongest country in the world. If we don't lead, things won't get done. Kerry doesn't understand that, does he?

EMANUEL: No, well, first of all, I would actually use the argument that George Bush doesn't understand and sometimes you're going to have to -- lead requires talking, listening and persuading, two out of three things he hasn't tried yet in this war with our allies.



CARLSON: He went to the U.N. three times. What are you talking about? Do you remember that?


EMANUEL: Second of all -- second of all, like in Kosovo, we decided we weren't going to go to the U.N., but we worked our allies. The French, let me tell you, when they were with us in Bosnia, Kosovo, and the first Gulf War, the French were always the French. They were a pain.

But we got them there because we listened and we made an argument and persuaded them and brought them along. And that -- and I don't want to use the French here as the standard, but we can do that in a number of cases.


EMANUEL: Let me say this. I go up to that quote. Coercion also includes persuasion, something that has not been tried here.

(CROSSTALK) EMANUEL: ... the president of the United States -- the bigger point here on this war, now that we're involved in this, as President Bush said in the 2000 election, I will not commit American troops without an exit strategy. And I will tell you


CARLSON: ... completely different


EMANUEL: And all I can find on that exit strategy to Iraq is that I'm sure that the exit strategy


CARLSON: Should we have had an exit strategy in Afghanistan? Is that what you're saying? We shouldn't have committed troops to Afghanistan without an exit strategy? Come on. That's a silly standard.


EMANUEL: I think that as long as we're going to commit American troops, we should have a little notion of a standard. I'll give you a good hour here to use up to time to explain to these people what exactly the three-point plan is on the exit strategy.

FOLEY: We have a plan.


FOLEY: We are transitioning to a democracy in Iraq.

EMANUEL: That's a 40-year project.


FOLEY: No question.


EMANUEL: That's your exit strategy, 40 years?

CARVILLE: Congressman Foley, you say, you say -- the president said there is a plan in Iraq. And you believe this plan is working, don't you?

FOLEY: I believe this plan will work.

CARVILLE: It's working?

FOLEY: It takes time.

(CROSSTALK) CARVILLE: OK. But you think -- you think we ought to -- that President Bush said he has not made one mistake, there's not one regret he has. You think that they made the right choice on this occupation? Do you think General Shinseki was right when he said we need 250,000 people to make this successful or do you think President Bush and Don Rumsfeld were right when they tried to do it with 125,000?

FOLEY: Well, I think we need more troops and I think we need fresh troops. Our men and women are in harm's way. This is a difficult combat battle. We are going to win. We are going to liberate.


CARVILLE: How many more troops do we need?

FOLEY: I don't know a number. I'm not going to try and guesstimate.


FOLEY: We'll give them what they need.

CARVILLE: If they need 250,000, would you be for a draft to get that many there?

FOLEY: We will not have a draft.


CARLSON: Congressman Emanuel, I'd be interested in knowing, since you just pushed Congressman Foley to explain the Bush exit strategy from Iraq, what is John Kerry's exit strategy from Iraq?

EMANUEL: Well, A, bring in our allies around the world.


CARLSON: What if they won't come?


EMANUEL: Second of all, make the government -- the most important thing you can do for an exit strategy is, unlike what we're doing after June 30, is make the government that is in place seen by the Iraqis as legitimate. And right now, our biggest problem


CARLSON: That's the exit strategy?


CARLSON: Do a good job, do a better job than Bush?


CARLSON: That's a joke. I mean, come on, really.


CARLSON: No new ideas.


EMANUEL: Well, no disrespect to your experience at the Council on Foreign Relations.

CARLSON: Yes. It's all right.


But the legitimacy of a government in the eyes of the Iraqi people is key to turning it over. And turning it over is key to finding the exit door.


CARLSON: Not one person disagrees with


EMANUEL: And the problem is, though, is the council we got there right now is seen as nothing but a puppet. The one we're setting up for June 30 is seen as nothing but a puppet. And so that is locking


CARLSON: Tell me specifically. Who should sit on the council?


EMANUEL: You're going to need elections in Iraq. And that is going to be -- the Iraqi people are going to vote for it.


CARLSON: So you need elections before setting up a new council.

EMANUEL: You are going to need elections.

And it's becoming clear to everybody that you're going to -- and, second of all, as John Kerry proposed three weeks ago, the U.N. should legitimize the political process. And then George Bush following him said, I'm all for what the U.N. just said and dealt with and said that our council was illegitimate and we need a new strategy for how we're going to get to June 30. And George Bush followed John Kerry on legitimizing the role of the U.N. on the political process.


CARLSON: So they have the same plan, is what you're saying. Bush and Kerry have the same plan.

EMANUEL: No. George Bush endorsed John Kerry's plan. And that's what I'm saying.


CARLSON: But you're still mad at Bush for some reason.

EMANUEL: That's right, because he's late to the game


CARLSON: OK. OK. All right. OK.


EMANUEL: He went to war without a plan.


CARVILLE: I guess it's like Bush endorses Kerry's plan and that makes Tucker very happy. And I am so glad that Tucker assumes the mantle that allows John Kerry


CARLSON: There is no criticism beyond partisanship.


CARVILLE: Congressman, let me go back to something here on this note. If -- if the generals in the military come to the Congress of the United States and says we need 200,000 people, we need to increase the troop strength of the armed forces by 100,000 people, I take it you would be for giving them a blank check.

FOLEY: I would give them what they need. And I don't think they're going to need 200,000.

CARVILLE: If they say -- are you giving them what they say they need or what you think they need? What you're saying, as I understand it, the position of this administration is, the military says they need this, we're going to give it to them.

FOLEY: That's correct.

CARVILLE: Why didn't they give General Shinseki the 250,000 troops he asked for in the beginning?

FOLEY: We're giving them what they're asking for now. We thought we could accomplish it with those types of planning and those numbers of people.

CARVILLE: But they were wrong.

FOLEY: We were wrong. CARVILLE: OK.



CARLSON: Congressman Emanuel, less than two weeks ago, President Bush


FOLEY: But you have to base it on who is coming back into this country. These are insurgents from outside of Iraq. These aren't Iraqi people that are fighting us.


CARVILLE: We could have never guessed that that would happen?


CARLSON: But I want to talk about the future here for a second.


EMANUEL: This is an important question. If the armed forces say that we need not 135,000 that are there now, we're going to need to plus it up to 175,000 or we're going to need X dollars, the Congress will debate it. And, A, it will be a good day for the Congress to debate it. And, B, they're going to get what they need. And it is going to be bipartisan


CARLSON: Let me just ask you this question, because I don't know the answer to it, unlike most questions we ask here.

Two weeks ago, President Bush -- a little less than -- announced a historic shift in America's policy toward Israel, essentially saying, yes, there is no right of return for the Palestinians and Israel gets to keep huge portions of the West Bank. Wherever you fall on this, it's a pretty big deal. John Kerry had almost nothing to say about this. And I wonder why. What is John Kerry's position about that? Do you know/

EMANUEL: Well, as far as I understand, he endorsed it. I have a view. And I'll speak for myself. I'm not here to speak for John Kerry.

Which is, A, the strategy of a Gaza first was first enunciated by Labor 20 years ago and the Likud government got to it 20 years late.


EMANUEL: Second, any notion of settlements on the West Bank which was even discussed at Camp David was part of a process. The United States did it unilaterally without a process. Second, on the right of return, that was also in a peace process in a conversation. And, in my view, those are legitimate conclusions.

In fact, President Bush came out for a Palestinian state without any negotiations. My view is, these are all good things. They are going to be the ends of a discussion. We need to exert, your word, and my view, leadership, so you have a dialogue, because Israel can't do this unilaterally and make it legitimate in the eyes of the Palestinians. And it's essential, as well as the military there in Israel believes it.


CARVILLE: We have got to pay for the show.



CARLSON: Well, thank you very much, Congressman Mark Foley and Congressman Rahm Emanuel from Chicago. Thank you.


CARLSON: Coming up next, we'll weigh in on whether the violence in Iraq will be the deciding factor in November's presidential election.

We'll be right back.



CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

We're debating Iraq in the wake of heavy fighting in Fallujah today.

James, I know Democrats think they can win by criticizing Bush's strategy in Iraq, but at a certain point, Kerry needs to come up with own vision.


CARLSON: "The San Francisco Chronicle," probably the most liberal paper in America, attacked Kerry just the other day for having no alternative vision than Bush. I think it's a fair criticism.

CARVILLE: You're right. Democrats can't attack Bush's strategy in Iraq, because Bush has no strategy in Iraq.


CARVILLE: So it's pretty hard to


CARVILLE: There's an absence of something.

From the left, I'm James Carville. That's it from CROSSFIRE.

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

Join us again tomorrow for yet more CROSSFIRE. Have a great night.



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