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World Reactions to Colin Powell’s U.N. Presentation

February 5, 2003 at 12:00 AM EDT


JIM LEHRER: And finally, reaction to the reaction and some overview thoughts from Zbigniew Brzezinski, professor of American foreign policy at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University. He was the national security advisor in the Carter administration.

And from two key United States Senators, Richard Lugar, republican of Indiana, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And Carl Levin of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on Senate Armed Services Committee. First gentlemen, in general terms beginning with you Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski what did you think personally Sec. Powell’s presentation?

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: I thought he made a very impressive presentation. I felt it was quite compelling. I also felt this was the first genuinely effective case the administration has made that Iraq presents a long term grave and gather threat and hopefully it lays the basis for more united international pressure on Iraq to comply or for coercion if it does not.

JIM LEHRER: Senator Lugar, your general impression.

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR: I thought Sec. Powell was compelling and persuasive. It seems to me the use of the intelligence information was conservative in the sense that there was no flamboyance; he clearly stated the facts and it’s a very simple case with regard to the 1441, namely Iraq was compelled as a last chance to be fully cooperative. Clearly they have not been and the question really now comes down the road on the consequences. There’s real debate about that.

JIM LEHRER: Sen. Levin, your view?

SEN. CARL LEVIN: There was a strong case that Sec. Powell made. And it’s clear there is a threat there just the way there is a significant threat of North Korea, which has weapons of mass destruction by its own proclamation and has thrown out the inspectors. The issue is how do we deal with the threat. It seems to be Sec. Brzezinski’s point is exactly correct–that it is vital that we deal with this threat as a world community and that we not go at it unilaterally. And the case made out today is a case which should hopefully unite the Security Council in a very strong determination to give the inspectors the information to share with the inspectors the information that we have not yet shared with them and to give them the U2s that they want so they can fly over Iraq if trucks are moving from one place to another. Iraq has vetoed that so far. We should not tolerate it. The U.N. shouldn’t tolerate it. We should lead the way towards strong inspections, which will unite the Security Council.

JIM LEHRER: Well, Dr. Brzezinski, on the unity question and convincing others issue, I didn’t hear any conversions afterwards, did you?

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Not yet, not yet but I think we have to give it a little bit of time. I think what Powell demonstrated very effectively is that Iraq is not complying with the U.N. resolution. I don’t think he demonstrated, nor did he really try to do so that Iraq represents an imminent threat. Nonetheless the problem that it poses is a problem that we’re going to face elsewhere; in fact as Carl Levin just said we’re facing it already in North Korea. If we can respond to it collectively, we’re setting effective precedence for dealing with such problems. If we don’t respond collectively, we’ll split the western world, we’ll act unilaterally and we’ll find it much more difficult to deal with similar problems elsewhere.

My sense is that Powell’s statement increases the pressure on Iraq to comply. If it does comply, we have to give it assurance that we’ll then not go to war anyway, or if it doesn’t comply, it increases a probability that the international community eventually will join us in collective action.

JIM LEHRER: Put France’s reaction today and China’s reaction and Germany’s reaction on top of that.

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Well, I think their reactions are to some extent the products of the preceding months in which we conveyed unintentionally but I also think regrettably to much of the world that we really were not interested in disarmament. We were interested for a variety of reasons, most of them unstated, in the removal of the regime and that we were rushing to war. I think that failed to produce for us what we much more successfully accomplished in 1991, in the earlier conflict with Iraq-namely a sense of solidarity. We didn’t benefit from the solidarity that developed after 9/11. I don’t think we played it well until rather recently.

JIM LEHRER: Sen. Lugar, how did you interpret the reaction of the other Security Council members today?

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR: Essentially they had written their statements before they heard Sec. Powell. They even then left themselves some room. They talked about the fact that they would have to weigh carefully the evidence that Sec. Powell had given. This was another reason for giving inspectors more time and for the proper authorities to weigh all of this and so forth.

I think they are under great pressure. The ten countries, the ten — new members of NATO plus Albania have weighed into the other day along with the eight European countries that weighed in the other day – and they understand the way things are headed. That’s very important in terms of solidarity of Europe and the United States. I respect Germany and France. I hope they will come along but nevertheless the rest of world understands that after 9/11 the United States was vulnerable in a new way. Sec. of State Powell stated that it’s not the same world; we are vulnerable here in America from the type of proliferation that occurs and so is every other state in Europe.

JIM LEHRER: What about the specific issue, Sen. Lugar, of whether or not the inspection process should continue, should be allowed to play itself out — that’s what France asked for; that’s what Germany asked for; that’s what China asked for?

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR: Well, it’s going to continue play. But I think Sec. Powell demonstrated today that the Iraqis play the game better. Namely, they have hidden everything. You can enforce the thing by tripling the number of inspectors as the French foreign minister suggested and still come out with zero. If in fact the Iraqis are effective in putting all of their chemical into dual use facilities and do something else one day and do weapons another, and put the biological into vans and hide the rest of it by bulldozing it, it’s going to be very difficult, however long you inspect.

Finally we have to come to the moment of truth. Is there going to be any cooperation as opposed to a cat and mouse game, and I think we’re coming to that point very rapidly. But Sec. Powell is pursuing diplomatically the unity that everyone on this panel seeks.

JIM LEHRER: Sen. Levin, where do you come down on the question of continuing inspections and what the nature should be and how long they should be allowed to go, et cetera?

SEN. CARL LEVIN: We should support those inspections. Instead, the vice president said at the beginning inspections were useless. Just this morning at the White House Condi Rice told us that inspections were doomed to failure. They are not doomed to failure.

They may fail but we ought to be supporting inspections. We ought to be giving the inspectors the information that we have not yet given them relative to a host of so called suspect sites. We still have much information to share with them and it seems to me most fundamentally what they need are the U2s — they have asked for them — these planes that can loiter over Iraq and can track vehicles on the ground that may be moving from one place to another with suspect material. That’s what has been missing in these surveillance’s so far. So we should be leading the way to keep the Security Council together because if we can move multilaterally, we’ll avoid major risks short term to the forces and long term to the world.

JIM LEHRER: What about Sen. Lugar’s point that the issue isn’t inspections, the issue is that Iraq is hiding from the inspectors things they are supposed to be revealing under mandate for 12 years now from the U.N. Security Council?

SEN. CARL LEVIN: Well, inspections have two purposes; one, if Iraq is forthcoming to then check out their admissions. They haven’t made any admissions. They denied they have the material. So the second purpose of inspections is then to go after these suspect sites. That’s why we’re presumably sharing intelligence with the inspectors is because we want them to go to check out suspect sites. Why else are we presumably in this process of having the inspector go where we believe there may be some evidence? It’s only for the purpose of catching Iraq. If we catch them and get them with the goods, then it seems to me we’ll clearly unite the world in military action, if necessary, to disarm Iraq.

That’s the way to unite the world through supporting the inspection process and giving the inspectors the U2′s introducing a resolution at a the U.N., which we’ve proposed now to Sec. Powell, which says that we are going to provide U2′s to the inspectors and if Iraq fires on the U2′s or interferes with them, that that will be an act of war against of United Nations. We shouldn’t let them veto the use of those U2′s.

JIM LEHRER: Dr. Brzezinski, on the inspection thing, are we in a position, we meaning the United States, whether we think it’s a good idea or not are we committed to going further with the specs in order to keep the unity together. Is it more and more of a political issue now than anything else?

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: Well, it’s clearly a political issue. But I think we are pointed that way as well. Let me read you just two sentences from what Powell said today. We wrote 1441 to give Iraq one last chance. Iraq is not so far taking that one last chance. That implies to me that after Blix has gone to Baghdad, after he has talked to the Iraqis, we will specify in some fashion collectively a bill of particulars demanding answers to specific issues, demanding information regarding concealment, perhaps providing ourselves more information regarding any ongoing weapons programs, because so far not much has come out on that that will then force Saddam Hussein or those around him to choose between war and peace.

He may choose to comply or those around him may choose to comply and will try to remove him, but we have to willing to indicate that if there’s compliance, there is no war. If he doesn’t comply in those circumstances, my estimate is that this process is going to galvanize more international support, which hadn’t been forthcoming till now in part because I don’t think we have played it correctly.

JIM LEHRER: Sen. Lugar, do you agree with that generally that if there was no change on Saddam Hussein and Iraq’s part, in other words if there is no cooperation of any kind that eventually even France and Germany, as well as the rest of international community, if it is played correctly have to come around?

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR: I believe it’s possible that France will do so. The German political situation is so complex they may have to abstain but I think the Security Council will in fact support the consequences, which in this case was military action, and I’m not a proponent of that occurring, but I would simply say the reason why we have any hope, whatever, of Saddam complying is that the United States has sent into harm’s way about 150,000 troops at this point. Absent that there would not be much interest on the part of Iraq in entertaining Hans Blix or any of the inspectors.

JIM LEHRER: What do you make of Dr. Brzezinski’s kind of scenario there that Blix and elBaradei go back this weekend and then they come back and they report I think on the 14th and then following that you heard what he said an indictment and then boom, here, now or never really this time Saddam Hussein. Do you buy that as a possibility?

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR: I think that’s very possible combined with intensely diplomatic work by our secretary of state and by others to try to bring about to forth this very important international consensus. The United Nations’ credibility is at stake. As all of us have pointed out, we need the United Nations again and again in the future. This is a critical moment for the U.N. quite apart from the situation with Saddam.

JIM LEHRER: Sen. Levin do you have a scenario?

SEN. CARL LEVIN: Yeah. I think what you just outlined and what Dr. Brzezinski outlined is the correct scenario to support the inspectors, to get their support to give them all the support they are asking for that they need and they will welcome more time. We ought to give it to them.

We’ve really just started to share information starting early January. That’s one month. Give them the resources they need. If they want more inspectors and need more, give them more inspectors, give them those U2’s that they’ve asked for; they’ll be a great help. They are specifically questioning that. We’ve acquiesced in the veto, which Saddam Hussein has cast so far against the use of U2′s; we should never tolerate him setting conditions on our inspections, and it seems to me if we really do this well, that we can lead the Security Council and if at the end military force is needed, then hopefully it will be the world community authorizing it so we don’t go it alone.

JIM LEHRER: Sen. Levin, Sen. Lugar, I know neither of you are pollsters but you are in the political system. How do you think what Sec. Powell did today will go down with those Americans who are skeptical? Sen. Lugar.

SEN. RICHARD LUGAR: I would guess that two thirds of Americans believe that Sec. Powell made a compelling case and the other third, believe he probably made a good case but at the same time they want to talk about the ramifications of war. What happens after the war, whether it be terrorism in the United States during or prior to the war, other issues sort of moving the yardsticks down the trail.

JIM LEHRER: What do you think, Sen. Levin?

SEN. CARL LEVIN: I think most will feel he made a compelling case but most want us to keep working through the United Nations supporting those inspections and trying to avoid going it alone.

JIM LEHRER: Dr. Brzezinski, ,you made a point earlier the imminent threat, the case also has to be made?

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI: It isn’t an imminent threat but it’s a very serious long term threat that has to be dealt with and particularly so because others are surfacing. We haven’t mentioned North Korea, but hat is in some respects a more imminent threat but we’re now engaged with Iraq and therefore how we deal with Iraq is going to be critical to any actual effectiveness in dealing also with problems like North Korea.

JIM LEHRER: Gentlemen, thank you very much.