|A CONTINUING FIGHT|
August 17, 1999
MARGARET WARNER: And as we reported earlier, there were new bombing raids today. Iraq's News Agency said 19 civilians were killed. For more, we turn to Kathy Kelly, who helps coordinate Voices in the Wilderness, the private anti- sanctions group featured in the tape we just saw. She travels frequently to Iraq. Retired Air Force General Richard Hawley-- until last month, he was commander ac the air combat command, which trains and organizes the Air Force. And Ambassador Robert Pelletreau, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs during the Clinton administration's first term. He's now a lawyer in private practice.
Ambassador Pelletreau, is this bombing campaign becoming counterproductive? Are too many civilians being killed?
ROBERT PELLETREAU, Former State Department Official: Nobody knows how long this bombing campaign is going to go on because nobody knows how long Saddam Hussein and his regime are going to continue to be challenging planes flying in the no-fly zone. I don 't think it's becoming counterproductive, because the purpose is to continue to contain a regime that is continuing to repress its own people, continuing to defy the United Nations, and continuing to pose a threat to its neighbors.
MARGARET WARNER: Are the civilian casualties then, in your view, just an unfortunate but necessary consequence?
ROBERT PELLETREAU: Every time you see a picture of a civilian casualty or children suffering because they haven't been able to get enough food, that is a tragic situation. That is not the situation that the United States or the United Nations ever wanted to produce. But we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the cause of those tragic incidents, the cause of` the underlying conflict that is the continuing intransigence of the Iraqi government.
|Civilian causalities escalate|
MARGARET WARNER: Kathy Kelly, do you believe that the Iraqi government bears at least some responsibility for this?
KATHY KELLY, Voices in the Wilderness: With regard to the no-fly zones, I think that the Iraqi government deserves to be mystified. I mean, why would it be that United States would be flying bombing raids over the North and the South of the country in order to protect the Iraqi people and then bomb the Iraqi people? And it seems to me if the no-fly zones didn't exist, then there wouldn't any cause for provocation, and the Iraqi government wouldn't be focusing its radar on American planes.
MARGARET WARNER: What about that, Ambassador?
ROBERT PELLETREAU: Well, the no-fly zones were put in place because of threats which the Iraqi government posed both to its own people and to its neighbors. If those zones were removed, it would in a sense be an invitation to the Iraqi government to again resume its aggressive activities.
MARGARET WARNER: General Hawley, your view of these no-fly zones and of the impact of this bombing campaign.
GEN. RICHARD HAWLEY (RET.), U.S. Air Force: Well, the no-fly zones have the great merit of providing internationally sanctioned military presence in the region that we can use to contain Saddam's aggression. We have to keep in mind he invaded his neighbor, Kuwait, in 1990, and from that all this has flowed. But is a policy that is very expensive in a number of ways. First, it does tend to enhance Saddam Hussein's individual stature in the region, because standing up to the world's greatest superpower. It also puts some stress on friendly governments in the region, particularly Saudi Arabia, because they are hosting many of these forces and dissident elements within Saudi Arabia tend to view that as caving in to western influence. Then, of course, there's the impact on U.S. forces, because this year after year requirement to sustain this effort puts great strain on the forces and is one of the major contributors to at least the Air Force's difficulty in retaining its air crew members today. And then, of course, there's the monetary cost. Last year this effort cost us about $2 billion. It will probably cost about the same this year. That is coming at the expense of other much-need programs in the Department of Defense.
|The continued cost|
MARGARET WARNER: So, Ambassador, another critique from a different perspective, which is that the costs are too high in another way.
ROBERT PELLETREAU: But the costs are not as high as mobilizing a major force to beat back an Iraqi aggression once it has occurred. They're nowhere near as high as the cost of the initial mobilization in 1990 or the additional mobilizations we had to conduct a couple of years later, and then a third time when Iraq again began to challenge its neighbor. So, yes, there is a substantial cost. But an American military presence, an American military vilagence, and an active and assertive no-fly zone are all part of a larger picture containment that is frankly required as long as we've got this rogue regime in place.
MARGARET WARNER: Kathy Kelly, respond to a point that Ambassador Pelletreau made earlier, well, both Ambassador Pelletreau and General Hawley, that without these -fly zones, Saddam Hussein would be free to resume repressing both the Shiites in the South and the Kurds in the North. Do you question whether that's the case? What's your view of that?
KATHY KELLY: Well, again, I feel that it's important for us to have been to Iraq many times to listen to what we hear Iraqi people say to us, and we hear again and again from Iraqi people that they're afraid of invasions from their neighbors, you know. Turkey has invaded Iraq numerous times and set up occupation camps three times the size of the territory of Kuwait. And I think there's also legitimate fear that people express to us a civil war if the current government were to go out of existence and there were a terrible power vacuum. And I think that it's also clear that if you look at the countries that are among the top ten consumers of U.S. weapons, we're looking at Iraq's immediate neighbors among them and so I think that it's fair to try to understand how Iraqi people might feel particularly vulnerable, not so much with regard to what might become to them by their own government, but by what's constantly being done to them by some of the most powerful countries in the world, the U.S., and the U.K.
MARGARET WARNER: So are you saying then that the people - that the Kurds and the Shiites in these two regions that your group has seen don't express any fear of Baghdad or of the Iraqi regime.
|A war on two fronts|
KATHY KELLY: Well, I would want to say that we're coming from the country that has been constantly waging a war on two fronts. And I don't know that people feel so very secure telling us exactly what their fears are. But I can say that I have not myself heard that.
MARGARET WARNER: General Hawley, picking up on a thread from a couple of you earlier, does the no-fly zone become - it starts out to protect people on the ground, but then does it become a situation which in a way the countries enforcing the no-fly zone have to become involved in protecting themselves more, in other words, projecting their position in the air, which is why we had this tit for tat between the Iraqis on the ground and the U.S. and British flights.
GEN. RICHARD HAWLEY (RET.): Well, the difficulty of course is that we are enforcing a United Nations sanction against Iraq. And so as we enforced the no-fly zones and Iraq refuses to comply with all of the conditions of the U.N. mandates that follow the Gulf War in 1991, our offices have to protect themselves. And when they are continually being fired on by Iraqi antiaircraft positions, then they have to retaliate, and that's just natural to protect our own forces. Failure to do that would be irresponsible. So the difficulty is how to come up with a policy that allows us to contain Iraq without the requirement to expose our forces daily to these threats from Iraqi defenses and still achieve the objective of containing Iraqi aggression. Iraq has been an aggressor several times in the past two decades, and certainly has demonstrated its willingness to pursue the development and use of weapons of mass destruction, nuclear, chemical, and biological. And that is a real threat to its neighbors and to international peace and security in the region.
MARGARET WARNER: So what is your suggestion? How would you - what would you change?
GEN. RICHARD HAWLEY (RET.): Well, as we have advanced our capabilities to respond quickly to aggression in any part of the world, one alternative might be to rely more heavily on our ability to project power rapidly from long distances. The growing capabilities of our bomber forces that were recently demonstrated in Kosovo, and of course the ongoing capabilities of our naval carrier battle groups -
MARGARET WARNER: I'm sorry -
GEN. RICHARD HAWLEY (RET.): -- a great capability to respond on short notice to Iraqi actions.
MARGARET WARNER: So are you saying, in other words, stop with the no-fly zones and just wait until Saddam Hussein does something?
|A change in policy?|
RICHARD HAWLEY (RET.): Well, it certainly would be an option to reduce
our force presence in the region and rely more on our long-range power
projection capability and our unmatched capability to deploy forces quickly
when needed in response to crisis, whether it be in Iraq or anyplace else.
MARGARET WARNER: Kathy Kelly, what would your group advocate - to end this stalemate that both the U.N. and Iraq and the West seem to find themselves in?
KATHY KELLY: Well, we would certainly advocate that we pursue peace-making policies, that we recognize that we've been waging a war on two fronts against Iraqi people, and that the warfare of economic sanctions has been a discriminate form of warfare. It discriminates directly against the most vulnerable people in Iraq, the elderly, the sick, the poor, and then so tragically, the children. And we believe that if we were to end these economic sanctions and let Iraq live, then not immediately, not like a vending machine transition, eventually the Iraqi people would be able to move perhaps toward more democratic governing structures and that we would find that there's tremendous friendship to be built between the Iraqi people and the U.S. people.
MARGARET WARNER: What about that, Ambassador, that maybe a different policy would actually be more effective, both the sanctions and the bombing front?
ROBERT PELLETREAU: Nothing that we have seen Saddam Hussein's conduct leaves us to believe that he would do anything except, if the sanctions were removed, rebuild his army, recommence his weapons of mass destruction programs, and before long, once again, be an immediate threat to his neighbors. He has shown time and time again that he is - the welfare of the Iraqi people is relatively low on his priorities. I would agree, however, that the oil-for-food program is something that should be continued, that should be expanded if necessary to allow the purchase of sufficient food and medicines to relieve the suffering of the Iraqi people.
MARGARET WARNER: Would you agree with the point, both that someone in the taped piece said and also Kathy Kelly has said that the current policy does perversely have the impact of actually strengthening Saddam in some way within his own country?
ROBERT PELLETREAU: I don't really agree with that. I've heard that argument made over six or seven years. Iraqis are thoroughly intimidated. This is a very repressive regime. And as our other speakers have stated, Iraqis will not easily and openly speak to anyone who comes to the country because they know that somebody is watching them, and Big Brother has the ears and eyes and will retaliate.
MARGARET WARNER: All right. Well, thank you, Ambassador, Kathy Kelly, and General Hawley, thank you all three very much.