Is there a meeting or an incident that comes to mind where you remember the
decision was made that we're not gonna go to Baghdad?
...Well, there was never a decision made that we're not going to Baghdad. That
was just never really on the table, the concept of going to Baghdad. First of
all, we weren't authorized to do that under the U.N. Security Council
resolutions. We were authorized to eject Iraq from Kuwait unconditionally.
The president did, at some point, have to confront the question of when to end
the war. I remember a meeting in the Oval Office. I can't pinpoint the date for
you, where we were on the phone, all of his advisors were there. We were on the
phone with General Schwarzkopf in the theater. We were killing, at this time,
literally thousands of Iraqis who were fleeing Kuwait up the Highway of Death.
The president was advised by all of his political and military advisors that it
was time that we'd accomplished our war aims. We'd accomplished our political
aims. It was time to end the war. And that's what he did. It was the right
decision at the time.
But weren't we encouraging the Kurds and the Shia to rise up during the war
against Saddam? And didn't he stand by while the Republican Guards slaughtered
No, I don't think that's a fair characterization. We made some mistakes. One
mistake we made: did we say we would be fine if the Iraqi people themselves
turned out that government? Yes, we said that. ... We did not undertake it as a
covert action program. We in fact specifically declined to do that. The
president and maybe some other spokesman said it would be wonderful if we got a
new government in there. But it wasn't encouraging them in a sense that I think
you're using the term. So, I don't think that's a fair characterization.
We saw the rebellion going on.
Yeah, we did see their rebellion. And I was about to go back to my prior
comment. Did we make some mistakes? Yeah. We made two mistakes, I think, that
we have to acknowledge and own up to. We let Saddam fly his helicopters in the
aftermath of the surrender. He said he needed them to re-position his forces,
or to provide relief to people. He actually used them to put down those
rebellions. That was a mistake on our part.
The second mistake we made, was not requiring him to come to Safwan himself.
You mean, to the surrender?
To the surrender tent there, on the ground, and acknowledge that he'd been
beaten and signed the surrender documents. That would've been probably
something we should've done.
But all these 20/20 hindsight wizards who say, "You left the job unfinished.
You should have gotten Saddam," they don't understand that for one thing, that
the only way to have done that would've been to occupy that big Arab country,
in contradiction of everything we'd promised the rest of the world, and with
the adverse consequences that I mentioned to you earlier.
Is it true that the Saudis were very nervous about removing Saddam or
allowing any of the opposition groups to take over?
No. No, that's not true, and quite the reverse is true. Quite the reverse is
The Saudis wanted to go further?
That's correct. Well, they and some of our other Arab allies were interested in
seeing a much more aggressive posture on the part of the United States in terms
of supporting Kurds in the north and the Shia in the south. That's all I'll say
Well, we've talked to the Kurds in the north and the Shia in the south. And
they say yes, the Saudis wanted something to change. But what they didn't want
was democracy on their border. They didn't want a parliamentary democracy in
I don't think that's a fair characterization. I think they were a lot more
fearful of a Saddam Hussein on their border than they would be of some
democracy on their border.
Frankly, since the end of the war, you've seen the beginnings of a spread of
democratic tendencies in the region. You see it in Qatar. You see it in
Bahrain. ... They're right there on the border of Saudi Arabia. ...
You know that the debate is going on about whether or not to actually take
Saddam out this time.
Well, for one, I was supportive -- and said so the very day of this attack, or
maybe the day after -- of repealing the executive order that prohibits the
United States alone among all the other countries in the world, from conducting
political assassinations. There may be times when it's very important to do
something like that.
Let's assume that's done. But getting rid of Saddam? We weren't able to do
that during the war.
We weren't, no. Actually, it's not as if we didn't try. He was the
commander-in-chief of the Iraqi armed forces. And it would've been quite legal
for us as a matter of combat and war, to take him out. It's simply that we
couldn't accomplish [it.]
So you think it would be a good idea to try to do that now?
Well, I'm not saying that. I'm not up there now. All I'm saying to you is I
support the idea that we're eliminating this executive order. ... But I think
we need to utilize all the tools that are available to us in the war against
Even though the Saudis and the Egyptians and others have said, "Be careful,
United States, don't attack another Arab state?" They meant Iraq.
Well, that's a different question than the one you asked me.
Well, that's going to require a military action.
Now if you ask me should we attack Iraq, my answer to that would be, well first
of all, let's see what the evidence shows, for instance, with respect to
anthrax. We don't know yet. We don't have the evidence yet that's a direct
link. We may get to the point where we need to do that in the war on
In an interview, Jim Woolsey, former head of the CIA, said--
Jim Woolsey is not a policy-maker.
No. But he said that there was incontrovertible evidence in 1993 that Saddam
tried to kill your former boss, President Bush.
There's no doubt about that.
That's enough justification right there. They say that he's a terrorist.
That he's an assassin. And his apparatus is "Let's go in and get him."
... There may be enough evidence. But we need to approach these things in a way
that will permit us to accomplish the goals we seek. What do you mean when you
say attack Iraq? Throw some more bombs down on them? We've been doing that
consistently since the end of the Gulf War. Fire some tomahawk missiles in? Or
really go in there with ground forces and everything else, and get the job
done? That's a major undertaking that we need to think about.
Even though we know that Iraq is on our list of states that sponsor terrorism,
we need to think it through carefully. We need to first conclude the action
we've undertaken in Afghanistan, with respect to the Taliban and Osama bin
Laden, and then take the war on terrorism to its next stage. If that means
going to Iraq, then maybe we do that. ...
Has there ever been a discussion about keeping Saddam in power, allowing him
to stay in power, weakened, hobbled, but at least we wouldn't have to put up
with chaos in Iraq, or danger of the Iranians intervening and any further
danger to the Gulf? You know, we like it this way. He's can't do very
Well, I don't recall a specific discussion to that effect. But I do know that
we were not anxious to see a Lebanization of Iraq in the aftermath of the Gulf
War. I think that was one policy consideration we had.
The Iraqi opposition people tell us that the United States has not backed,
if you will, the imposition of democracy in Iraq, because Saudi Arabia and
other allies don't want to see a democratic secular regime.
I wouldn't buy that for a minute. There's never been democracy in Iraq. Are
they talking about restoring democracy in Iraq? They've never had democracy.
They reflect back to 1957.
The Iraqi opposition has been totally fragmented for a long, long time. They
fight as much with each other, unfortunately, as they do with Saddam. There was
never any really strong Iraqi opposition strong enough to have a reasonable
chance of overthrowing that government.
Or of controlling the country after he was overthrown?
Absolutely of controlling the country after he was overthrown. If Saddam had
been overthrown in the uprisings that followed the Gulf War, I think you would
probably have ended up-- it's just my own person view-- you probably would've
ended up with a Kurdish north and a Shiite south, and a Sunni center.
The way it was under the Ottoman empire -- as separate provinces?
That's probably what would happen. ...
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