PREPARING THE PUBLIC
February 9, 1998
Iraq's refusal to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors has prompted the Clinton Administration to seek a possible military solution to the crisis. Our regional commentators give local perspectives on the possibility of a U.S. military strike against Iraq.
A RealAudio version of this segment is available.
February 4, 1998
Secretary of State Madeleine Albright tries to marshal support for a possible attack on Iraq.
January 30, 1998
The U.S. tries rallying support for military action against Iraq.
January 14, 1998
Iraq's U.N. Ambassador, Nizar Hamdoon, defends his country's actions.
January 13, 1998
Amb. Butler discusses the latest disagreement with Iraq.
December 18, 1997
Amb. Butler discusses Iraq's continued defiance of U.N. inspections.
December 1, 1997
Margaret Warner leads a discussion on the proposals to ease the impact of international sanctions on Iraq.
November 25, 1997
Is Saddam Hussein illegally hiding weapons throughout Iraq?
What's the best way to deal with Iraq?
November 20, 1997
U.N. Ambassador Richardson on the possible resolution of the Iraq crisis.
November 17, 1997
Arab perspectives on the Iraqi crisis.
November 14, 1997
Sandy Berger the National Security Adviser, discusses the Iraqi crisis.
November 13, 1997
Newsmaker interview with Deputy PM Aziz who defends his country's expulsion of U.N. weapons inspectors.
November 12, 1997
U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson discusses the Security Council's vote to impose stricter sanctions on Iraq.
November 11, 1997
Four foreign policy experts debate how best to deal with Saddam Hussein.
November 10, 1997
Defense Sec. Cohen discusses the situation with Iraq.
November 6, 1997
The chief U.N. arms inspector discusses Saddam's latest moves.
November 3, 1997
U.N. Ambassador Richardson discusses tensions between the U.S. and Iraq.
October 9, 1997
Sec. Cohen issues a stern warning to Saddam Hussein.
Online Forum: 1996:
The plight of the Kurds in Northern Iraq.
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MARGARET WARNER: Now, five NewsHour regulars: Lee Cullum of The Dallas Morning News; Mike Barnicle of The Boston Globe; Bob Kittle of the San Diego Union Tribune; Patrick McGuigan of the Daily Oklahoman; and Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Constitution. Bob Kittle, do you think the administration has prepared the American public for military action against Iraq?
Mr. Kittle: "We're not really clear, the American people are not, in terms of what our objectives really are here."
ROBERT KITTLE: I think the administration has made a respectable start, and the press conference on Friday with the strong assist from Tony Blair helped lay out the rationale for this. But, frankly, there's a lot more that needs to be done. We're not really clear, the American people are not, in terms of what our objectives really are here. And our objectives are fairly limited. They are to contain Saddam Hussein's aggression, and that's a very good policy. But I don't think most Americans even in a community such as San Diego, which has an awful lot of personnel on the front line in the Persian Gulf, I don't think the American people appreciate why we simply don't go in and, you know, take Saddam out. The reality of course is that that requires an invasion force, an occupation force, with potentially many casualties among Americans. So it's not an option that we ought to be pursuing. But I think the President needs to do more and Madeleine Albright helped today but needs to do more and Madeleine Albright helped today, but needs to do far more to explain exactly what our objectives are and how we intend to achieve them.
MARGARET WARNER: Pat McGuigan, what kind of a job do you think the administration has done in preparing the public, both the need for this and the objectives, and what it will entail?
PATRICK McGUIGAN: Well, I think it helps when someone like Madeleine Albright is talking about it, rather than the President, at least with me, because I respect her motivations, and I frankly have some concerns about some of the President's motivations in making this such a key issue now when it's frankly been going on for quite a while, Saddam's defiance of the U.N. inspectors. We also have to understand and we have to be candid about this, and Mr. Blair helped I think a little bit the other day on this. We are pretty much alone if we take this action. Now we keep saying we're doing it in the name of the United Nations, the potential action that the President and his people are outlined. But the truth is we're doing it in the name of the United States and Great Britain and a handful of others, because the United Nations has not expressed a willingness to back force and this continued reliance on diplomacy--while it makes for nice expressions of peaceful intention--may not be sending the right message. I believe we either ought to pretty much continue as we are, or as was indicated by Bob and some others, possibly go for it--seek to discredit, weaken, undermine Saddam Hussein through really aggressive action, or just continue doing the best we can with the current policy. Anything in-between I think is a formula for disappointment on the part of our people.
MARGARET WARNER: Cynthia, I want to get back to what we should be doing there, but I'm also interested in your thoughts about to what degree has the administration made the case for even the need to do anything militarily? I mean, do you think the public has really been brought into this sufficiently to understand why we may be getting very close to doing this?
Ms. Tucker: "So I believe that the American people have a very cursory knowledge, at least, of the need for some limited action against Iraq."
CYNTHIA TUCKER: Margaret, I don't think the American public would be taken aback by any means by a limited military strike on Iraq. We've been hearing about it for months now. Most Americans were fully prepared to accept the proposition that Saddam Hussein is a very bad actor, and news accounts about his possibly having stockpiles of biological weapons have been running for months. So I believe that the American people have a very cursory knowledge, at least, of the need for some limited action against Iraq. And I don't think that they would be taken aback by limited military action. After all, we've done it before in 1993 and 1996. I don't think the Clinton administration, as some of my colleagues have already pointed out, has done an effective job first of all of preparing the American people for a more substantive military action if, in fact, that is necessary, but, more to the point, I don't think the Clinton administration has prepared the American people for the fact that we might have to go after Saddam Hussein again and again and again. They don't understand why, in fact, if this guy is such a bad actor, we don't just go in and take him out once and for all.
MARGARET WARNER: Mike Barnicle, where do you weigh in on this, how well the administration has prepared the public for what's coming.
MIKE BARNICLE: Well--
MARGARET WARNER: What's likely to come.
MIKE BARNICLE: Well, actually, Margaret, I think Saddam Hussein has done an incredibly great job of preparing the American public for what is likely to happen. I think there's an air of inevitability in this country with regard to our policy in Iraq that we will, indeed, end up bombing Iraq. I also think that if you walk around and listen to people, there is, as usual, a large area of ignorance about Iraq. This is not bombing Cambodia. This is not bombing some primitive society. This is a middle class country with some fairly noble people, I would expect, within that society. But we live today in a country where I think many many people under the age of 40 think any military contact whatsoever with Iraq or with any other country is tantamount to a Nintendo 64 Game on TV. It's antiseptic; it's quick; it's over with very few casualties. The most important thing a President of the United States can do is put people in harm's way. It's more important than balancing any budget because he's balancing our security interests with the lives of young Americans. And that is the part that I don't think enough people in this country have thought about.
MARGARET WARNER: Lee Cullum, do you think the Americans are prepared to see people in harm's way? Americans or Iraqis?
LEE CULLUM: Margaret, I think that they are willing to have a strike against Saddam Hussein and after all they have understood the problems of Saddam since 1990 and 1991. I don't think they are necessarily aware that this strike is imminent. I think the public has been so distracted by the President's other problems and so caught up in that story that they don't realize how close they probably are to bombing Iraq. I would suggest that the President have a national televised address to the nation and explain what the objectives are. As I understand it, the objectives are to reduce the arsenal in Iraq to the extent possible, make it as difficult as possible to reconstitute those weapons and at least give Saddam Hussein to understand that we mean what we say. I think you should explain that Saddam will very likely still be there when this is over. It's not a permanent solution to the problem, but because there is no permanent solution doesn't mean that you don't plug away at it.
MARGARET WARNER: Pat McGuigan, let's go back to this--to a point you made earlier and you and Bob Kittle seem to have a difference on this--do you think the goal should be to get rid of Saddam's arsenal, or to get rid of Saddam?
PATRICK McGUIGAN: Well, I think Mike made a good point when he noted that the people of Iraq, you know, they're human beings; they're not cardboard cutouts or something, and therefore, a case can be made for sustaining where we are, a policy of deterrence, of containment, if you will, or, on the other hand, for bringing this finally to an end, charting a way that we get to an ending where this man is no longer there not only to rattle the cage in the region and cause problems for the United States and its friends, but, more importantly, for the people of Iraq to continue to oppress and destroy the people of that country. I think you can make the case for either of those two. I'm not sure you can make the case for another two or three or four years of this sort of up and down. Let's either go with containment as a policy, or let's go with getting Saddam's ability to oppress these people out of the way.
MARGARET WARNER: Bob Kittle, what about that point?
ROBERT KITTLE: Well, I think the problem is that what it would take to get Saddam out of power, that is, to go all of the way. The American people would love nothing more than to have Saddam out of the way; however, the hard reality is that to do that means you simply can't use air strikes. We saw in the Persian Gulf War--we've seen in many air strikes since--that air strikes alone, even a very robust and sustained aerial bombardment, will not bomb Saddam into submission and certainly will not force him from power, so the alternative them militarily is to invade Iraq and to occupy Iraq with hundreds of thousands of American troops and in the process to sustain considerable casualties among American service personnel. And the American people I don't think are at all ready for that. I don't think they would support that. I think the American people will support a much more limited policy of containing Saddam's aggression, but I simply don't think the American people are yet ready for the kind of military commitment, very serious military commitment that it would take to remove Saddam from power.
MARGARET WARNER: Pat McGuigan, quick reply on that point. Do you think the American public is ready to support the use of ground troops to get rid of Saddam Hussein?
PATRICK McGUIGAN: Probably not. I think the President would have to be very persuasive in making the case. I think a case can be made for it because the alternative to a clearly stated policy of containment, or what we've just been discussing is this in-between thing where there's no resolution, and meanwhile, he continues to move the material around from one so-called palace to the next, and continues to build an ability to go after countries like Israel and, for that matter, to go after Kuwait again.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Cynthia, where do you come down on this question of what the goal should be?
CYNTHIA TUCKER: Well, Margaret, I don't think that not only are the American people not prepared to see ground action--the kind of ground action that it would take to even think about realistically getting rid of Saddam Hussein; there's another very good reason that President Bush didn't order the troops into Baghdad in 1991. And that is all the experts on this subject think that the situation could be just as bad if Saddam Hussein is eliminated. Iraq could fall apart; you could have all kinds of irrational factions at work, and things could be--Israel could still be in jeopardy; Kuwait could still be in jeopardy; and things would be just as bad, if not worse. So I think this is a very, very complicated matter, and all that we can do at the moment is try to collect excellent intelligence that tells us where these stockpiles might be, and try to find them and get rid of them. But, no, I don't think it is a good idea at this point to dedicate ourselves to military action to get rid of Saddam.
MARGARET WARNER: Mike.
Mr. Barnicle: "The realistic goal probably is to get the Iranians to kill him (Saddam)."
MIKE BARNICLE: Well, I think the op-ed page goal is, you know, to contain Saddam and reduce his ability to wage war with anthrax on his neighbors. The realistic goal probably is to get the Iranians to kill him.
MARGARET WARNER: Explain.
MIKE BARNICLE: Well, I mean, you have a country in play right alongside Iraq. I mean, there's great potential there for warfare between the two of them. They've gone through war before. In this country we talk about limited warfare as if it's a 13-week TV sitcom on ABC. Limited war sounds terrific for us sitting here. It's not very terrific if you happen to be in it for a limited period of time, an hour, a day or a year, so it's in our best interests to get another country, a potential ally, I would think, Iran, oddly enough, to do something about their neighbor.
MARGARET WARNER: So you're saying, in other words, you could have a U.S. attack which weakens Saddam Hussein's aggressive military capability, but it's kind of a bank shot because it invites Iran to come in and take him out?
MIKE BARNICLE: Yes. I mean, as I understand it under present law, as our law is currently written, it is possible for us to legally kill every person in Iraq and not target Saddam Hussein for assassination. Well, that's kind of bizarre, so why don't we turn the tables and do with Iran what Germany, France, and everyone else in the world asks us to do with a wink of the eye? You go do it and we'll nod approvingly behind closed doors. Let's do that with Iran.
MARGARET WARNER: Lee.
Ms. Cullum: "We have to realize that we simply cannot send our top diplomats to half the world--threatening threats for two or three weeks--and then not follow through on those threats...."
LEE CULLUM: Well, Margaret, I think that's a very interesting idea. I don't really anticipate further conflict between Iran and Iraq anytime soon, though I may be wrong about that, though I certainly think Mike's proposal is an attractive one--if somebody would rid us of Saddam Hussein, it would be a good idea. But probably we are in for a longer haul than that. We have to realize that we simply cannot send our top diplomats to half the world--threatening threats for two or three weeks--and then not follow through on those threats--we would never be believed again, and Saddam Hussein is not a subtle man. So we really have no choice now, but to follow through with these strikes if there is no diplomatic solution, or at least a diplomatic reprieve. That, of course, is fervently to be hoped for.
MARGARET WARNER: Mike, just back to you quickly, if the bank shot idea doesn't work, do you think the public--going back to something Pat McGuigan and others said earlier--will accept just kind of an ongoing "we strike Saddam every couple of years" sort of a containment policy but nothing is resolved anytime in the near future?
MIKE BARNICLE: No. I think there's going to have to be resolution of this within the short term. I would think--I mean, just--America's need can feel it bouncing impatiently every time Saddam Hussein comes on the TV screen and clearly huge numbers of Americans don't understand why we didn't wack him out seven years ago, and so I don't think we can go for limited air strikes every 90 days.
MARGARET WARNER: All right, thanks very much, all five of you.