I thought President Bush said in his speech that, "Either you're for us or
against us....anyone who harbors terrorists, or fosters their activity," and he
meant terrorists in general. Doesn't Saddam qualify?
We've got to be looking at priorities here. Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden
have one thing in common, and that is they both hate the United States.
Otherwise, they have very little in common.
As a matter of fact, my guess is, if it weren't for the United States, Osama
bin Laden would turn on Saddam Hussein. Why? Because Saddam Hussein is the head
of a Ba'athist party -- a secular, socialist party. He is anathema to the kind
of world that Osama bin Laden wants to reinstall So he's part of the problem;
he's not part of the solution. That doesn't mean they can't cooperate, and
might not cooperate. But what I'm saying is we need to get our priorities
straight, and we've got them straight right now. We're going after number one
Iraq could turn out to be number two, but there are a lot of other candidates.
Hezbollah, for example, is a global terrorist network, which has attacked the
United States and U.S. interests before. How about that? ...We need to be
skillful about this. We need to use scalpels, not sledgehammers.
In your op-ed piece that you wrote on October 16, you said that coalition
this time is more important than the coalition in the Gulf War. Why is
Well, the Gulf War was primarily a military operation. We had to have certain
members of the coalition -- the Saudis, for example, because we could not have
mounted the effort without bases in Saudi Arabia. So it was important. But it
was not vital.
We cannot win this war without the coalition. Why? Because fundamentally, for
our side, this is a war of intelligence. We have to get inside the terrorist
organizations. We need friendly intelligence services who have assets in that
region that we don't have, and can't develop, other than over years. We need to
get inside their communications. We need help doing that. The Germans, for
example, have shown how important that is.
In what sense?
They revealed the background of a whole lot of the September 11 terrorists who
were holed up in Germany -- some of them for years. ...
We need to get after their money. There are thousands of avenues for the
laundering of money into the terrorist organization. It takes cooperation to do
And lastly, we have to penetrate the terrorist networks. We're not very good at
that, especially in that part of the world. Therefore, we need help. And if we
don't get that help, if we try to act, or are forced to act unilaterally, we're
not going to win.
Is the Iraqi National Congress a viable alternative to Saddam?
I don't know whether it's a viable alternative. But it's certainly not a viable
means to get there.
To overthrow him?
Yes. It is weak, disparate, riven with disputes -- probably unattractive to
almost anyone inside or out.
You know that they have been developing information, defectors and others,
who say that Saddam may, in fact, have been involved in the events of September
11, or imply that. Do you think it's credible?
I don't know whether it's credible or not. I have not seen any such evidence. I
doubt it. Osama bin Laden, first of all, has not had to rely on other
organizations up to now, as far as we know. I don't know what the evidence is.
It would be interesting to see it. But to me, we ought to look at where our
interests lie, and prioritize those interests.
Jim Woolsey says that his attempted assassination of George Bush was enough
to justify going after Saddam.
Then we should have gone after him in 1994.
We sent a cruise missile there and it blew up a building.
It blew up an empty building at two o'clock in the morning. Right. Is that what
we want to do now? We can blow up another building. Nobody has said what "going
after Saddam" really means. What does it mean? Five hundred thousand troops
again, based in a Saudi Arabia that would not accept them now? What does "going
after Saddam" mean?
We are told, however, by a Mr. Hamza -- who used to be a nuclear scientist
in Iraq -- that if we don't do something very quickly, in a couple of years,
we're going to wind up having to deal with somebody who has weapons of mass
destruction, who has had no inspections now for three years, and [who] has
motivation and the means to come after us.
That's quite possible.
So how long do we wait?
But that ought to be distinguished from global terrorism. That is something we
can deal with, because that is a state actor. That is not state-supported
terrorism. That is a state actor. He's already working on missiles. If he
develops nuclear weapons to go with them, and then uses them to blackmail, I'd
take him out, clearly. But that's a different war, in a sense, than what we're
But if it's shown that if Mr. Atta, for instance, who went to Prague met
with this Iraqi agent...
He probably did, yes.
And let's say they did give him some anthrax spores...
That's a reach. Maybe, it's possible. But that's the assumption that the spores
came from Iraq, or it came from bin Laden or whatever. Yes, if that can be
demonstrated, that's an entirely different thing.
Back to Iraq, though, 10 years ago. You wrote in your book that it was an
impulsive ad-lib that George Bush, Sr. called on the people of Iraq to rise up
against Saddam. And that's why we had to deal with the question of rebellion,
and whether or not to help in that regard.
It wasn't why we had to deal with rebellion. But look, President Bush, Sr., is
accused of inciting the people to revolt. The question he got is, is Saddam
Hussein is the target? And what he really said is, "Who governs Iraq is a
problem for the Iraqi people, not a problem for the Untied States to determine.
Our problem is Iraqi aggression in Kuwait."
You don't regret not having, in a sense, gone after Saddam...
Well, we did go after Saddam, in the sense of bombing...
We were looking for him.
Oh, and it would have been delightful if we had gotten him. ... It would have
been delightful if his army had overthrown him, yes. It was a wish that wasn't
But during the period of the war, we targeted command and control
headquarters. We used our best intelligence to find their commander in chief,
I don't know about finding their commander in chief. We certainly targeted
every command and control headquarters.
We even wound up killing people by accident, because we thought there was a
military facility, and there were civilians in it. Remember the bunker under
There was a military facility underneath the people.
Underneath where the people were?
So, inadvertently, we killed them.
Inadvertently. We didn't know that he had put people in there. And he put
people in there just for that reason.
If I'm sitting out there listening, watching this, why was it OK to go after
him at a certain point, and then not after another?
Because that was a part of a conflict which we were fighting, which we were
commissioned to fight by the U.N. -- in a sense, which we knew how to fight. We
knew exactly what we needed. We knew how to do it. And we knew how to get out
afterwards. That would be exchanging that conflict for an entirely new
conflict, the outcome of which we had no concept.
We go in... We could have gone to Baghdad. We could have occupied Iraq. There
we are, in control of a hostile country. What do we do with it?
Yes, but there's a different question. ...
No, it isn't.
Wasn't there an uprising in the north? Wasn't there an uprising in the
Didn't we see their military killing people?
And we didn't intervene.
Of course not.
Not from the air.
Of course not.
We didn't cut off their gasoline supplies.
First of all, one of our objectives was not to have Iraq split up into
constituent ... parts. It's a fundamental interest of the United States to keep
a balance in that area, in Iraq. ...
So part of the reason to not go after his army at that point was to make
sure there was a unified country, whether or not it was ruled by Saddam?
Well, partly. But suppose we went in and intervened, and the Kurds declare
independence, and the Shiites declare independence. Then do we go to war
against them to keep a unified Iraq?
But why would we care at that point?
We could care a lot.
I thought we had two interests. One was to evict the Iraqi Army from Kuwait.
But the other really was to get Saddam out of power.
No, it wasn't.
Well, either covertly or overtly.
No. No, it wasn't. That was never... You can't find that anywhere as an
objective, either in the U.N. mandate for what we did, or in our declarations,
that our goal was to get rid of Saddam Hussein.
I guess the question that's been raised to us by exiled Iraqis, is that
America had the opportunity and didn't take it. And not that it's our
responsibility, they say, to do that, but we were clearly in charge.
Let me pursue that a little. First of all, their view of the situation at the
end of the war is ... well, it's not mine. Secondly, had we gone in and
occupied Iraq, first of all, the coalition would have split up immediately. As
it was, our Arab allies with troops on the ground did not let those troops go
into Iraq. They stopped at the border.
Of Kuwait, yes. The coalition would have collapsed. We would have been in
occupation of an Arab land, hostile Arab land. Look at the mood in that part of
the world about the United States now.
We have troops in Saudi Arabia. Why are they there?
They're there defensively. They're there to ensure that Saddam does not, once
again, become a threat to the region. Right now, he's not. Right now, he has
not been able to rebuild his forces to the level that he had them in 1990.
Maybe he will. We are severely handicapped because we can no longer inspect,
absolutely. And that's a problem. But what I'm saying is, it is not a problem
of the same character. It's a problem which right now should be differentiated
from the Osama bin Laden problem.
But one of the grievances that Osama bin Laden raises is the presence of
U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, and that that has resonance in parts of the
Islamic world; and that that is creating, if you will, anti-American feeling.
So why do we keep them there, if we could put them all in Kuwait, and we can
put them someplace else?
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had them all in Iraq holding down Iraq? What
would the mood be then?
But you know what I'm saying. Why keep them in Saudi Arabia, if that is an
irritant to the Islamic world in general?
Because it is important to have them there to control Iraq. What you're
assuming that Iraq would not be a problem, and that we would escape unscathed
from the attitudes in the Middle East had we done something entirely different.
You may be right, because history never reveals its alternatives. But I am
comfortable with the decisions we made at that time, and the reasons that we
made them. And I can suggest that we would be much worse off right now had we
taken a different course.
home + introduction + interviews + analyses + saddam's life + readings & links
frontline + pbs online + wgbh
web site copyright 1995-2014
WGBH educational foundation.
photo copyright ©2001 reuters newmedia/corbis images