February 27, 1998
Since Saddam Hussein's recent agreement with Annan, much scrutiny has been made concerning whether or not he will keep his end of the bargain. While we wait for the onset of the weapon inspections, Hussein's character remains to be a worry. Four congressional views are collected in a discussion of what should be done about Hussein and what will come of the Iraq agreement. Following a background report, Phil Ponce examines the agreement with members of congress and the senate.
JIM LEHRER: Congress and the Iraq deal. Kwame Holman begins.
KWAME HOLMAN: On Tuesday, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright went to Capitol Hill to talk about NATO expansion with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. On Wednesday, she was before a House Appropriations Subcommittee to outline her department's budget request for next year, and did the same before a Senate Subcommittee on Thursday. But what members of all three committees most wanted to talk about was the deal U.N. Secretary Kofi Annan struck last weekend with Saddam Hussein to allow weapons inspectors to return to work in Iraq. SEN. JESSE HELMS, Chairman, Foreign Relations Committee: (Tuesday) And we're in the disgraceful position of either going along with whatever deal Mr. Annan brought home, or being regarded as the bad guys who rejected peace and insisted on war.
KWAME HOLMAN: While most members of Congress don't consider the Iraq situation a partisan matter, in general, Republicans were most skeptical.
REP. HAROLD ROGERS, (R) Kentucky: (Wednesday) Well, I don't need to tell you, but time is of the essence here, and if Saddam's not going to live up to the agreement, we won't know it until the inspectors go back, and we can't send them back until the final clarifications are done. So time is running here.
SEN. BEN NIGHTHORSE CAMPBELL, (R) Colorado: (Yesterday) In fact, according to yesterday's Washington Post, the Iraqi government declared a national holiday and told the country Saddam Hussein has broken U. S. domination on the U.N. Weapons Inspection Commission. Now, I certainly admire your hard work, but, boy, when I read headlines like that, frankly, it makes me sick to my stomach.
KWAME HOLMAN: But Republicans weren't the only ones with doubts.
SEN. ERNEST HOLLINGS, (d) South Carolina: (Yesterday) You were given and you've been working around the clock and I admire you for what you've done, but what happens is that, in all candor, that agreement can't be enforced. You can't police another man's country. We thought we were doing a good job at UNSCOM. And I keep hearing about the integrity of UNSCOM. The outfit, itself has got integrity, but the agreement to be enforced has none whatever.
KWAME HOLMAN: On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott was the first to come to the floor and directly criticize the agreement with Saddam Hussein.
SEN. TRENT LOTT, Majority Leader: (Wednesday) The deal negotiated by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan with Iraq does not adequately address the threat posed by Saddam Hussein. After years of denying that Saddam Hussein had any right to determine the scope of inspections or the make-up of the inspection team, this agreement appears to codify his ability to do both. It is to quote one diplomat, "the beginning of the unraveling of the inspection process." The Secretary-General is calling the shots. The United States is not. Secretary Albright, earlier this week, objected to my characterization of this episode as "contracting out U.S. foreign policy." With all due respect, I stand by that comment because it appears that, in fact, is what has happened and is happening.
KWAME HOLMAN: When told of Senator Lott's remarks, Minority Leader Tom Daschle urged members to use restraint.
SEN. TOM DASCHLE, Minority Leader: (Wednesday) I don't know what purpose it serves by attacking one another at this point. I mean, if ever there was a time for us to present a unified front to Iraq, this ought to be it. So it seems to me that we've got to work through what questions there are and show some tolerance with regard to any characterization rhetorically. I mean, I agree with the specific language used, but the fact is we have an agreement; let's test the agreement. That's the issue. Let's stay focused on what matters here. And I think what matters is, do we have access to Iraq's sites in question? That's what matters. Let's stay focused on that. Let's not diverge from that and in so doing send all kinds of erroneous messages to Iraq about what kind of unity there is within the community.
KWAME HOLMAN: However, some members of Congress say it's time to consider another course of action against Iraq. On Monday, a Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee will hold a hearing entitled "Can Saddam Hussein Be Overthrown?".
JIM LEHRER: Phil Ponce takes it from there.
PHIL PONCE: We get four congressional views: Sen. Richard Shelby, a Republican of Alabama and chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee; Sen. Charles Robb, a Democrat from Virginia and member of the Armed Services, Foreign Relations, and Intelligence Committees; Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, a Democrat from Georgia and a member of the International Relations Committee; and Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, a Republican from California who's also a member of the House International Relations Committee. And, welcome all. Sen. Shelby, we just heard Majority Leader Trent Lott's statement from earlier in the week where he essentially said that the deal between Kofi Annan and Saddam Hussein amounted to appeasement. Senator, do you see it as appeasement?
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY, Chairman, Intelligence Committee: (New Orleans) I think Sen. Lott is close to the truth, but the real test will come when Saddam Hussein is tested. We know his history. We know what he's done for seven years, and perhaps longer than that. A lot of us, including Sen. Lott, are very dubious of agreement. If the agreement works out, that would be wonderful. But I'm very dubious of it working out. I hope and pray that it will, but I don't think it will.
PHIL PONCE: Congresswoman McKinney, are you dubious?
REP. CYNTHIA McKINNEY, (D) Georgia: (Atlanta) Well, I would take Richard Butler's words as a guide. What he said last night was he felt that UNSCOM was stronger as a result of this agreement, not weaker, that he felt stronger as a result of the agreement. I would just also like to say that at the top of your show you talked about the five to twelve billion dollars of surplus that Newt Gingrich was talking about. Well, are we going to squander the surplus that the President promised to save Social Security first on this military intervention? I think what we need to do is to come up with a cogent policy for the entire Middle East, including Iraq, and stop the war mongering.
PHIL PONCE: Congressman Rohrabacher, is this a good deal?
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER, (R) California: Well, it averted a crisis, but it was based on the fact that we have an incompetent policy in place, or a policy that makes no sense. And now that a crisis has been averted, I agree with Cynthia, we should set down a rational strategy, and a rational strategy for that part of the world means one that would eliminate Saddam Hussein from power because he'll just come back and do the same thing again four or five months from now.
PHIL PONCE: Sen. Robb, your reaction to the criticism of the deal as appeasement, as selling out, as caving in.
SEN. CHARLES ROBB, (D) Virginia: Well, I don't think it's appeasement or caving in at all. I was one who was cranking up the heat on Saddam Hussein and the United States and the international community. I was critical of some of our former alliance partners who didn't seem quite as willing to bear the same share of the burden as they did recently. But I think in this particular case I agree with Cynthia McKinney with respect to Richard Butler's comments. He feels he's stronger. We're in a position now where the international community is going to have no cause to say that we didn't go the final mile, and, indeed, we, in effect, said that if Kofi Annan comes back with exactly what Saddam Hussein had promised to do under the U.N. security resolutions, that the international community can live with that. If he violates that in any way, shape, or form, clearly overwhelming force is going to be visited upon him. He's a very dangerous man, and we cannot take anything at faith. We're going to keep the forces there. I visited the units that are deploying this week, this past week, and they're ready to go. There's no question in my mind that they can inflict very serious damage. Those that are already in the Gulf would probably get the first call obviously if they're called upon to do so.
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY: Jim, we've been down that road before, but I believe if you look at what happened this week objectively, you have to say this is the big first step on the rehabilitation of Saddam Hussein. And I think we've lost a lot this week in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf area as far as a lot of nations are concerned. The question is: Can we regain it?
PHIL PONCE: Congressman Rohrabacher, you were shaking your head during Sen. Robb's statement.
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER: This idea that we're going to come back and bomb him if he tweaks our nose again is ridiculous. He wasn't afraid this time. He's not afraid next time because he doesn't care how many Iraqi people die. This man is a gangster. He's a tyrant. He's killed more of his own people than the United States could dream of doing when we come back and bomb Iraq. We have to set down a policy on the ground that will eliminate Saddam Hussein from power, perhaps recognizing an alternative government, putting it in a no-fly zone. We've got t o have a comprehensive plan. This administration has been incompetent or shown cowardice in putting down a plan like this that would eliminate Saddam Hussein.
PHIL PONCE: Congresswoman McKinney.
REP. CYNTHIA McKINNEY: I believe one of the things that we need to do is to clean up our own backyard. We are in technical violation of the chemical weapons convention. This damages our credibility with our allies, our European allies, and our allies in the region. We have got to clean up our own backyard before we can begin to deal with someone else's.
PHIL PONCE: Sen. Robb, how about the argument that's also been made that the U.S. has, in effect, subcontracted foreign policy to the United Nations?
SEN. CHARLES ROBB: I think that's absurd. I know that it's been made, and I know that it's been made by some people who agree with me about the use of force and the likely possibility that we may have to use it again. But we have been subcontracted. Richard Butler is still in charge. Everything that the U.N. Security Council required is going to be done, and I think Saddam Hussein at this point is considerably weaker, not stronger. He looked at the force that were gathering in the Gulf to provide the necessary force in conjunction with some twenty-two or twenty-three allies, but it was mostly U.S. and with substantial help by our friends from Great Britain, who were going to apply that force, and he is the one on the basis of force and diplomacy but mainly force, somebody talked about diplomacy when I was down in the fleet. We're standing--I was standing on the deck of the newest and strongest aircraft carrier we have--the Senate said we're standing on the flight deck of diplomacy. That's the reason Saddam Hussein is now weaker. If we had gone in after he had agreed to everything that he was supposed to agree to, we would have been much weaker, and he would have been much stronger in the Gulf region.
PHIL PONCE: Sen. Shelby, your take on the question of the United States' relationship at the U.N. and who's calling the shots in terms of foreign policy.
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY: Well, it's obviously that we subordinated a lot of our foreign policy to the U.N.. I think most people in America see that that way, and it's true, but I think what we've got to wonder about, how long will it be before we test this agreement, an agreement that Saddam Hussein did not sign himself and probably has no intention of carrying out? But because of this agreement, he's going to be stronger in his area. He's going to be now getting the right to sell more and more of his oil. He's going to be getting money. His stature is going to go up in the Middle East, make no mistake about it.
PHIL PONCE: Congresswoman McKinney, is Saddam Hussein stronger?
REP. CYNTHIA McKINNEY: I would just say that if we subcontracted out our foreign policy, if we did it, we got it for free, because we haven't even paid our U.N. debt. We haven't paid our U.N. arrears. This was an entirely--a United Nations effort from the very beginning, from 1991. What is wrong with the United Nations driving this train on behalf of the United States, I might add?
PHIL PONCE: Congressman Rohrabacher.
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER: Well, most people don't know that this deal, which supposedly Saddam Hussein backed down, this deal enables Saddam Hussein to double his income from oil sales internationally. This is the first step towards removing the sanctions against Saddam Hussein that's been in place for very logical reasons. Saddam Hussein still has 650 POW's that are Kuwaiti citizens, for example. Saddam Hussein is an echo terrorist. Saddam Hussein has killed thousands of his own people that we've seen on television. He has a brutal regime. And now we can't even stand up to him in a situation like this to make him comply with agreements that he's signed in the past to have inspections for these weapons of mass destruction.
SEN. CHARLES ROBB: No question that Saddam Hussein is a very dangerous man, one of the most dangerous that any of us have faced in our lifetimes. At this point I agree entirely with Richard Shelby that we need to test this immediately. He needs to comply. We need to verify. We need to have a trigger. The United Nations needs to have a trigger so that if he does not fully comply with the agreement that he's signed and the rest of the members of the U.N. Security Council had agreed to at this point, they'll have no place to go in terms of criticizing the United States for fully backing up what he has agreed to do for his failure to back up what he agreed to do.
REP. CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Saddam Hussein may be a very dangerous man, and I believe he is, but let us not forget, he's our man and our creation.
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY: He's not our man. Wait a minute. I disagree with that, Congresswoman.
REP. CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Who provided--
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY: He's not--no. Wait a minute.
REP. CYNTHIA McKINNEY: --the weapons.
PHIL PONCE: Congresswoman McKinney, let's get Sen. Shelby's response. Sen. Shelby.
REP. CYNTHIA McKINNEY: And who also provided the--
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY: If she'll let me--
PHIL PONCE: Excuse me, Congresswoman--
REP. CYNTHIA McKINNEY: --chemical agents that he's got right now?
PHIL PONCE: Congresswoman. Sen. Shelby, please.
REP. CYNTHIA McKINNEY: It was the United States that did that.
PHIL PONCE: I'll get back to you, Congresswoman.
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY: What I'd like to do is say Saddam Hussein is not our man. I don't know anybody in America that would say he's our man. He's a murderer; he's everything that we don't want to be in America. But I think we had better get ready to test him because if history is any guide, he's going to test us. And we had better be ready.
PHIL PONCE: Congresswoman McKinney, a quick response to that.
REP. CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, I would just say that if we're talking about chemical weapons and what he's got, let us remember that it was a company in Rockville, Maryland, that sold him the e. coli, that sold him the anthrax, that sold him the botulism. Where did he get all of that store of chemicals from? He got it from the United States of America. We need to be more thoughtful in our foreign policy, and we need to have a little bit more vision.
PHIL PONCE: We'll have to take your word on that issue about the company in Maryland. We know nothing about that. But Sen. Robb, how do you respond to the concern that in just a matter of months this whole situation could happen again?
SEN. CHARLES ROBB: Well, we're going to have to be ready, and we can't let down our guard. We need to test now. We need to test thoroughly. We need to make certain that he is in full compliance. We need to have sufficient force, and we will leave sufficient force there to carry out whatever punitive actions might be necessary. And he needs to know that we have both the capability and the resolve to do just that. I believe that he got the message this time around. I think Mr. Primakov and others finally convinced him that we were serious about delivering the kind of force that would have severely weakened his ability to remain in power. There are a lot of other things that we can do if we deliver force this next time around. There are any number of actions to no-fly the entire country, if we have to, no-drive for military supply, support for some of the other folks, covert action. It ought to all be part of an orchestrated effort to make sure that we finish it up. And he knows that this time.
PHIL PONCE: Congressman Rohrabacher, you don't look very convinced.
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER: He got the message all right. He got the message that if he tweaks our nose and challenges us, he's going to be able to double his income from oil and the sanctions will start coming down. This idea of testing him right away is ridiculous! He can--okay, we test him next week. What about three months from now? What about four months from now? What about six months from now? Saddam Hussein is the problem. That is the problem. And until he is removed, until we have courage enough and tenacity enough to set down a long-term strategy for the removal of Saddam Hussein, we will be in this jeopardy. America will be in this jeopardy because our--like it or not--since the Gulf War--our destinies are tied to the Kuwaiti people. If he ever goes back into Kuwait, which he can, and retakes Kuwait, our status all over the world will be diminished, we will be unable ever again to affect decisions of thugs and gangsters all over the world.
PHIL PONCE: Sen. Shelby, do you agree with that?
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER: We should get rid of Saddam Hussein.
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY: I think that we need to get rid of him. We need to help his own people get rid of him because I believe we will be tested. And I'll just say a year. This will not last a year, I predict. In other words, he will not behave himself, and he will be out producing weapons of mass destruction, probably is tonight. What this is all about is proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and we were put to a test this week, and we didn't measure up. I hope that in the future we will measure u.
PHIL PONCE: Congresswoman McKinney, is Saddam Hussein the issue?
REP. CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, I think Saddam Hussein is the issue, but the United States' foreign policy is also a part of the issue. And I would just like to say that this is a very reckless discussion when you talk about eliminating a national leader. What we need to do is, if that's going to be the direction of our policy and if that's going to be the direction of our discussion, we need to begin to prepare for chickens to come home to roost.
PHIL PONCE: Sen. Robb.
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER: This guy is not a national leader. He is a dictator. He's never been elected by anyone, and he has killed more democrats and voters in his country than any other force. We should support--
PHIL PONCE: Congressman--
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER: --the democrats and the freedom lovers in his country.
PHIL PONCE: Sen. Robb, please.
SEN. CHARLES ROBB: I have indicated complete agreement with those who believe that Saddam Hussein is not a benefit to his country. His country will be better off without him, and the United States and the international community will be better off without him. I think that the actions that we are pursuing at this point are much more likely to lead to that result and much less likely to have the United States for a very long period of time bear a disproportionate burden of the continuation of the results of what would be unfortunately probably an inadequate response or one that we're unwilling to bear. If we were to go in and invade the--Hugh Shelton in conference the other day said that we would take about 300,000 U.S. troops in that arena--
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER: Nobody's advocating that, Senator! Nobody's advocating that.
SEN. CHARLES ROBB: You've got to be prepared to follow through--
REP. DANA ROHRABACHER: How about supporting those--
SEN. CHARLES ROBB: --and we need to lay the ground rules so that we're set. At this point we have a very good chance that the international community will be far more likely to be on our side if we do have to go in. And I am fully prepared--as I say--I want to trigger resolutions so that he knows that we're not going to have any more warnings, any more dialogue, any more talk, that we will simply respond and then we will follow up to make sure that we do everything that we can to reduce his chances of remaining in power.
REP. CYNTHIA McKINNEY: I would agree with Sen. Robb.
PHIL PONCE: And, unfortunately, my trigger has been pulled. We are out of time. Thank you all very much.