CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Wolfowitz Discusses Military Operations; Lott Talks About Anti- Terrorism Measures; Biden, Hagel on Length of U.S.-Taliban War
Aired December 9, 2001 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington; 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles; 7:00 p.m. in Jerusalem; and 9:30 p.m. in Kabul, Afghanistan. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this three-hour LATE EDITION.
We'll get to my interview with the U.S. deputy defense secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, shortly, but first, the latest developments in the war in Afghanistan.
BLITZER: And earlier today I spoke with the U.S. deputy secretary of defense, Paul Wolfowitz, about the next steps in the war against terrorism both in and outside of Afghanistan.
BLITZER: Secretary Wolfowitz, thank you very much for joining us on LATE EDITION.
PAUL WOLFOWITZ, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Good to be here.
BLITZER: The Taliban appears to be crushed in Afghanistan. What's the next mission, as far as the U.S. military is concerned, on the ground right now?
WOLFOWITZ: You know, every time I hear "appears to be," a little caution goes up. I mean, Kandahar still looks like a mess. There's still Taliban all over the country.
I think as an organized force they are crushed, I think that is a fair description. But there's a lot to be done.
And I think the most important thing for American people to understand is our objectives remain very largely to be done in future. We've got al Qaeda leadership we have to go after. We've got Taliban leadership we have to go after. We want to clear out all of the terrorists in Afghanistan, and that could take a while.
BLITZER: So what are the specific military targets, the danger points right now, where U.S. military personnel on the ground might be most at risk in this, what amounts to apparently, a cleaning-up operation. WOLFOWITZ: Well, cleaning-up operations, as you know, can be very dangerous. Enemies that are half defeated can be very dangerous, and they can take a long time to clear out.
I'd be speculating, but I think the greatest danger we face is going into mountain passes and caves, and even a small force can do a lot to a larger force if they're ambushed or if you catch them at wrong time.
So we're going pursue these people aggressively. We've got to be careful.
The other constant problem to look out for and anticipate is to remember that the reason things moved so fast is because alliances shifted so rapidly against the Taliban. That's a measure, I believe, of how hated they were in Afghanistan, and it's a demonstration, if anyone needed a demonstration, that this was not a war against Afghanistan, it was actually a war that helped to liberate the Afghan people from a terrible tyranny.
BLITZER: Well, just as these alliance shifted one way, does that mean they could shift back another way very quickly?
WOLFOWITZ: Well, they could certainly shift. I don't think they'd shift back to what they were before. I don't think the Taliban will be resurrected. But yes, they could shift, we could find fighting between forces that were allied to one another before.
We really need to be prepared for the unexpected because this is a huge country; it's the size of the state of Texas. It's got terrain like Montana or British Columbia, and multiple different ethnic groups speaking different languages. People should appreciate just how complicated it is. And we still only have a few thousand troops in that whole area.
BLITZER: A few thousand troops on the ground in Afghanistan, the Marines in the southern part being the bulk of that.
Are you anticipating sending in more ground forces in the coming days and weeks?
WOLFOWITZ: We may send in some, but one of the principles on which we've conducted the campaign up until now has been to try to keep the American presence as low-profile as possible.
There's a lot of history there about foreigners who come in and, however they come in, they very quickly become regarded as a foreign presence. That happened to the British in the 19th century; it happened to the Soviets in the last century. It's happened to the Arab terrorists more recently.
We want to make it clear that we're there to get rid of the terrorists, we're there to help the Afghan people establish their own way of governing themselves and help to reconstruct the country, but we are not there to provide a permanent military occupation. BLITZER: The spiritual leader of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar, appears to be missing right now. Do you, meaning the U.S. government, have a sense where he might be?
WOLFOWITZ: We have a sense where he might be, but I hope people understand, when we say that, that that means there's a certain probability that he's in the area that we get the most reports about him from. If we had any kind of pinpoint, precise information, he wouldn't be there any longer, we would have captured him or killed him.
So, we're always working on reports that have a vagueness to them, some of them are contradictory. They tend to focus, in his case, around the area of Kandahar; in the case of bin Laden, around the area of Jalalabad. But they are not very precise, and it is possible, therefore, that they could be, the majority of them, dead wrong.
BLITZER: But you believe right now that Mullah Omar is still around the Kandahar area.
WOLFOWITZ: I believe he is most likely around the Kandahar area, but if he turned up somewhere else, I wouldn't be totally surprised.
BLITZER: And this notion of giving him amnesty -- Hamid Karzai, the interim leader of Afghanistan suggested that earlier in the week, although that apparently went away -- that is totally unacceptable to the U.S. government?
WOLFOWITZ: We made it clear it was totally unacceptable. And I think he has fallen off that position, if he ever held it for very long.
BLITZER: Is he a war criminal?
WOLFOWITZ: I don't want to start messing up some legal proceeding by passing prejudgments as an American official.
But we have made it clear that we hold the Taliban responsible for having harbored the organization that was responsible for the September 11 attack. So I think that sounds like a pretty serious set of facts.
BLITZER: Is the fact that Mullah Omar may be at large someplace in the Kandahar area -- I assume he's not alone, he's got some forces, some soldiers, protecting him with him -- that would be, obviously, an easy target if it's a sizable number.
WOLFOWITZ: Well, that is his dilemma after all. I mean, there's a huge price on his head. If he travels alone, some enterprising Afghan is liable to say, I want to collect that reward and round him up.
If he travels with a large number of bodyguards to protect him against that possibility, as you say, he makes a somewhat easier target to spot. We don't have to just look for an individual, we can look for something that looks like a convoy or a security detail.
BLITZER: The same holds for Osama bin Laden, who you say may be around the Jalalabad area, around Tora Bora, right?
WOLFOWITZ: Same dilemma. These are men now with big prices on their head, $25 million in the case of bin Laden. And they're on the run, and I don't think they're going to be spending a lot of time thinking about how to conduct new terrorist acts.
BLITZER: What is your best information about how many troops Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda troops, he may have protecting him?
WOLFOWITZ: I think we'd be guessing pretty wildly, Wolf. I mean, there are still hundreds of al Qaeda people loose, but how many are actually with bin Laden, I don't think we have a very good idea.
BLITZER: Have you seen this videotape that the "Washington Post" reports about today, suggesting, in effect, a smoking gun, clear-cut evidence that Osama bin Laden was not only aware of the September 11 terrorist attacks, but was instrumental in plotting them?
WOLFOWITZ: You know, I don't know what it takes to convince some people. We had absolutely clear-cut evidence before that tape turned up.
In this case we, yes, he's admitted on video that -- in fact, bragged and boasted about it. But he's bragged and boasted in ways that made it absolutely clear that he was responsible, not on private videos but on public videos. We've had evidence that we've presented to every friendly government in the world that makes absolutely clear the al Qaeda organization was responsible.
I mean, I hope people might quit with these wild conspiracy theories that suggest that someone else -- and you know they get pretty wild around the world. At some point, we'll have his own very clear direct words, and the world can see them.
BLITZER: When -- are you going to be releasing that videotape, in other words?
WOLFOWITZ: Well, that's not my decision to make. The question of when we might release it is something that we've got to consider, in light of the question of how we got it.
BLITZER: And are you going to tell us how you did get this videotape?
WOLFOWITZ: I'm not sure we do that sort of thing.
BLITZER: Because of the sensitivity?
WOLFOWITZ: It involves sources and methods of -- we obviously, if there is other videos to be acquired by the same means, we don't want to interfere with our ability to do that.
BLITZER: Will this operation be deemed a failure if Osama bin Laden remains at large?
WOLFOWITZ: I don't believe so. Look, I think the measure of this operation is our ability to eliminate the terrorist networks, and not just al Qaeda, and not just in Afghanistan.
And that's why the president has emphasized it's going to take a very long time. We could catch bin Laden tomorrow, and we still have months and years of work to be done.
And I suppose it is at least theoretically possible that he could take plastic surgery, disguise himself as a woman, and hide somewhere in the mountains of Chechnya, and it might be a long time before we find him.
Our goal -- obviously we'd like to get him, we want to bring him to justice, but the most important thing is to defend this country and to end the ability of those networks, including his network, to mount attacks against us.
BLITZER: Do you suspect there are still sleeper al Qaeda cells out there at large, even here in the United States, that could be triggered in the coming days or weeks to undertake another terrorist operation?
WOLFOWITZ: Obviously, if we knew with precision that, yes, there's a sleeper cell, it would be gone.
So we're talking about what do we think we don't know. I think we don't know about all of the people who were there. We didn't know about the September 11 terrorists before they struck.
So I think the only reasonable assumption, given what we know about the extent of this operation, is to assume there must be still some people out there.
BLITZER: And there's been a lot of speculation about potential capabilities of weapons of mass destruction, a report this past week about a so-called dirty radiation bomb.
Do you believe that the al Qaeda network has this kind of capability?
WOLFOWITZ: I haven't yet seen the kind of evidence that makes me convinced they have it. It's one of the things we look for hardest. I mean, our highest priority, in terms of intelligence collection in Afghanistan, is any evidence that would point to weapons of mass destruction in the hands of al Qaeda terrorists.
And there are certainly indications that they've been exploring that kind of weaponry and would be interested in it. We haven't yet found the kind of firm link that would suggest this sort of dirty bomb is in their hands. They'd sure like to get it, there is no question about that.
BLITZER: I want to ask you a question about Hamid Karzai, the leader of the interim government that's going to be in place in Afghanistan. He says specifically about Mullah Omar, and he told this to the "Washington Post" on Friday, that Omar's fate is a question for Afghans; suggesting that maybe the Afghan people should decide Omar's fate, not the United States.
WOLFOWITZ: Well, we also think it is a question for Americans, and maybe we'll have to negotiate that with him.
I can understand. He's done enormous damage to Afghanistan and the Afghan people. He's also responsible for enormous damage to the United States. And when you have those kinds of issues between two countries, it's something you work out. I'm sure it will be worked out in a way that will bring justice to Mullah Omar one way or another.
BLITZER: The American who fought with the Taliban, John Walker, he is now in the custody of the United States. The Marines have him in southern Afghanistan. What should be his fate?
WOLFOWITZ: It certainly shouldn't be something that a U.S. official decides. It should be decided by an appropriate judicial procedure.
BLITZER: Is he cooperating with the United States now?
WOLFOWITZ: I don't know what his current status is. I know when he was first interviewed he told us quite a bit that was of some value. But I don't know his current status since he was moved to custody in Marines in Rhino.
BLITZER: His father says that he was just a misguided young kid who got himself into something he should never have gotten into.
I want you to listen to what Frank Lindh, his father, said earlier in the week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRANK LINDH, JOHN WALKER'S FATHER: I think he used bad judgment in going to Afghanistan. But he is not a traitor; he is a good boy. He did not do anything against the United States. He went there to help the Taliban -- not a good choice -- but he did go to help the Taliban at a time when the United States was not involved.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you say? You say he is providing some useful information, so that would seem to suggest he is coming around.
WOLFOWITZ: I wouldn't draw any conclusions. And I certainly wouldn't start to comment on his status when he is facing what could be a very serious judicial procedure of one kind or another.
BLITZER: The whole issue of friendly fire that came up this past week -- and three U.S. soldiers were killed, special operations forces. Have you undertaken any specific steps since then that could avert this kind of tragedy down the road? WOLFOWITZ: We are always working very hard. It's one of the enormous, constant dangers of people in that situation.
There are some very stunning reports that came in from the special forces operating with General Dostum in the earlier stages of this battle where they were calling in airstrikes 50 meters from where they were located. I mean, these men go into harm's way, into great danger. They know there is always a danger that the strikes that are supposed to help may end up hitting them.
So, there is enormous effort that goes into trying, in the military terminology, to deconflict and make sure that we're hitting not our people but the other people.
Now we're into a careful investigation to figure out whether it was the wrong coordinates or whether we missed coordinates we were supposed to hit and hit our own people. It is one of the tragedies, but one of the costs of doing business.
BLITZER: So the investigation continues?
WOLFOWITZ: It continues.
BLITZER: No conclusion yet?
WOLFOWITZ: No conclusion yet.
BLITZER: We have to take quick break, but there is much more of my interview with the deputy defense secretary, Paul Wolfowitz. Is Iraq the next U.S. target?
LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
And we return now to my conversation with the U.S. deputy defense secretary, Paul Wolfowitz.
BLITZER: A group of lawmakers -- senators, House members, Democrats, Republicans -- wrote to president this past week about Iraq, and let me read an excerpt of what they said.
"For as long as Saddam Hussein is in power in Baghdad, he will seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. We have not doubt that these deadly weapons are intended for use against the United States and its allies. Consequently, we believe that we must directly confront Saddam sooner rather than later."
BLITZER: Good advice from Senators, among others, Lott, Lieberman, McCain, Helms, Shelby, Henry Hyde?
WOLFOWITZ: I think the president's happy to take advice from any quarter, and he -- in fact, he likes hearing different opinions. It's been my experience working with him that he is a decision-maker who relishes making decisions, which means he relishes people presenting the different points of view to him.
And he's made it clear from the beginning, from his address to the joint session of Congress, that this is a very ambitious campaign which is going to take a long time, to deal with all the global terrorist networks, and to end state support for terrorism.
But the exact tactics, the order in which you do things is something that you have to debate and then decide, and he's made decisions all along, I'm sure he will keep doing it well.
BLITZER: As you know, now is, it marks three years almost exactly since the U.N. weapons inspectors were kicked out of Iraq. The United States and much of the rest of the international community wants those weapons inspectors to go back in.
But Tariq Aziz, the deputy prime minister of Iraq, says that's not going to happen. I want you to listen to what he said earlier in the week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TARIQ AZIZ, DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER OF IRAQ: They want to send inspectors, our flat answer is no, sorry. Why should we bring spies to Iraq, to spy on us, spy on our headquarters where we work, spy on our legitimate military activities in the country, because we are a sovereign nation?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: It sounds like he's defying the United States and saying, no weapons inspectors.
WOLFOWITZ: You know, Iraq has an obligation, it was a condition of the end of the 1991 Gulf War, and incorporated in U.N. resolutions, they have an obligation to get rid of all of those weapons of mass destruction and to open the country up to inspection to verify that they've gotten rid of them.
To the best of our knowledge, they not only haven't gotten rid of them, they've built more of them. And, as you say, they've kept the inspectors out for three years.
BLITZER: And you haven't done anything about it for three years.
WOLFOWITZ: The president has made it clear that one of our concerns is the particularly dangerous combination of state support for terrorism combined with states that develop weapons of mass destruction, and he's made it clear the inspectors have got to go back into Iraq.
BLITZER: And what happens if they don't?
WOLFOWITZ: I think his phrase was, "Wait and see."
BLITZER: That sounds very ominous, but is it a hollow threat?
WOLFOWITZ: I don't think people should take this president lightly in anything that he says, and I think he's made that pretty clear by now.
BLITZER: You know, there are some critics -- and I know that there's been many reports that you're among the hawks in the administration, pushing for the targeting of Iraq, but critics say there is no smoking-gun evidence linking Iraq to the al Qaeda September 11 terrorist attack.
WOLFOWITZ: Look, let's start with the basic issue, which you started with here and which the president has highlighted, which is, this is a country that invaded its neighbor, after it was driven out of Kuwait, it undertook an obligation and an obligation was imposed on it to get rid of weapons of mass destruction, to allow inspectors. Let's at least get those inspectors back in and get rid of that capability.
BLITZER: So, even if there's no direct evidence to September 11, there's enough reason to target Iraq, in and of itself, because it's not cooperating with the 1991 cease-fire agreement?
WOLFOWITZ: Look, you're getting ahead of me with words like "target." There is no question that, independent of September 11, there is a serious problem with Iraq having expelled the inspectors and continuing to develop weapons of mass destruction.
BLITZER: I want to put up on the screen a comment that was written by Vincent Cannistraro (ph), a former CIA counter-terrorism official, writing in the "New York Times" last Monday.
He says this: "The anti-Iraq war party, outside and inside the Bush administration, is resurrecting the argument that Saddam Hussein's presumed accumulation of weapons of mass destruction poses an imminent threat. It is a dubious proposition, supported by little validated intelligence. Indeed, Iraq may be one of the least appropriate targets for the anti-terrorism campaign."
And he goes on to say there's no evidence saying that the Iraqis are targeting Americans.
WOLFOWITZ: I think it's very clear -- let's not get into the question of September 11 -- it is clear that Iraq is developing noxious, dangerous weapons.
And it's -- I don't know what he means by "imminent threat." I think one of the things we learned from September 11 is it's not so easy to predict exactly where threats will come from. But we do know that nuclear and biological and chemical weapons can do damage far beyond what we saw on September 11. BLITZER: James Woolsey, the former CIA director, told me earlier in the week that he believes that there's some evidence that would link the Iraqis to the anthrax letters that were mailed here in the United States. Do you believe that?
WOLFOWITZ: Unfortunately, I think we just don't know much about who's been mailing those letters, and that is itself a matter of great concern.
BLITZER: I want to ask your sense of what's happening in Israel right now, because, as you well remember, in January of 1991, at the start of the Gulf War, you and Larry Eagleburger, who was then the deputy secretary of state, went over to Israel to keep the Israelis on the sidelines, even though Scud missiles were being launched from Iraq into Israel.
If that were to happen again, in a hypothetical situation, and the Iraqis were targeted, they launched Scuds at Israel, would you want the Israelis to remain on the sidelines once again?
WOLFOWITZ: Wolf, you know I'm not going to speculate about something that is speculation built on speculation. I don't know what we're going to do, and I don't know what Iraq might do.
I do know that Israel did show extraordinary restraint 10 years ago.
But what we said to the Israelis at the time was, you don't need to get involved in this war; we're doing the job. And I think we did the job. I think it was pretty impressive.
BLITZER: Although, as you well know -- we're not going to get into this right now -- a lot of people say the job was never completed.
WOLFOWITZ: Our job was completed. The man still -- I think if anyone had known that he would still be around 10 years from now, having expelled weapons inspectors, making the kind of threats he does, maybe we would have done some things differently.
But our job was to get him out of Kuwait. And I believe his capability to attack even Israel is much reduced from what it was 10 years ago.
BLITZER: Here in the United States a lot of nervous parents out there who have kids serving in the U.S. military, either already there or on the way to there; reservists who have been activated.
When do you believe they'll be allowed to step down during in the course of this operation?
WOLFOWITZ: I wish I could give great reassurance.
What I can say instead is there's enormous courage and determination from extraordinary men and women that serve this country in uniform. They are brave, they're dedicated, they are making huge sacrifices. I think the country owes them an enormous debt.
But as the president said, this going to be a long fight, it's not just in Afghanistan. And we're going to be putting stress on our forces for sometime to come.
BLITZER: Secretary Wolfowitz, thanks for joining us.
WOLFOWITZ: Thank you.
BLITZER: When we return, the Senate Republican leader, Trent Lott. We'll ask him about controversial measures to fight terrorism here in the United States, and whether President Bush's proposals to stimulate the U.S. economy can survive Congress.
LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
We're joined now by the top Republican in the U.S. Senate, the minority leader, Trent Lott of Mississippi.
Senator, always good to have you on LATE EDITION.
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: Good to be back. Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.
In this war in Afghanistan, how important is it to find, capture Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar?
LOTT: I think that's very important. I mean, they are the head of the snake and you need to find them and cut it off, because if you don't, they'll move to some other location, some other country, and they'll continue to contribute to terrorism around the world.
They're both very dangerous, and we've got to get them and their whole al Qaeda organization and put an end to it.
But let me say, this is -- I think the president said very clearly from the beginning, this is not just about bin Laden and al Qaeda and Afghanistan. This is about global terrorism. And we've got to think of it in broader terms than just this one problem. And we need to work with our allies all over the world in dealing with it.
BLITZER: And so far, forget about domestic economic issues, other issues on the agenda as far as the war is concerned, are the Democrats the Republicans, pretty much on board, in the U.S. Senate?
LOTT: I don't think I have ever seen the country, beyond the Congress, more unified on any issue than they are on this issue.
I mean, we were hit hard in a way that really hurt us. What happened with the Trade Twin Towers, and of course the Pentagon.
So, regardless of party, region, philosophy or anything else, the country is united and I believe that the Congress has been cooperative with the president in this effort as we should be.
BLITZER: Are you at all sympathetic to John Walker, the American, the 20-year-old, who fought with the Taliban, is now under the control, custody of U.S. Marines?
LOTT: No, I'm not sympathetic to him at all.
Now, I don't know all details of how he got there, what he was doing there, who he is working with, what he knew, did he participate in any way, was he a witness to the American agent that was killed there, or to his execution.
The fact is, he was with a pretty hardcore group. He was in that prison, and he was down in the cellar with other hardcore Taliban people. And he was flooded out. You know, they put water down in there, as I understand it, and he kind of floated up with the rest of them. It looks very bad.
Now, we need to know exactly you know how to get there what he was doing, and he is entitled to, you know, certain rights. But, I think he is going to have to be tried, and, we'll find out exactly what he knew what he did in that process.
BLITZER: Based on what you know right now you would say he committed treason?
LOTT: It looks to me like he did. We may be in the technical sense, in view of, you know, we don't have a declared declaration of war, maybe not. But it was at least treasonous that with knowledge that Americans were involved and what happened there, if he continued to participate and with these people and in the things that they were doing, that is pretty treacherous and treasonous in my opinion.
BLITZER: You were among those lawmakers who wrote a highly publicized letter to President Bush this week saying Iraq should be the next target, sooner rather than later. That's a precise phrase that you used.
What do you mean, sooner rather than later? Days? Weeks? When you do want the U.S. to target Iraq?
LOTT: Well, as I said earlier, and I think I have heard this stated on CNN, that this is about terrorism wherever it is. And there are a lot of countries around the world where terrorism has been existing or has been harbored. We are going to have to look at what the next phase will be.
I think it is important we don't to get ahead of ourselves. I think it's important that we do the job in Afghanistan and in that region, follow up with humanitarian, and the cooperation with their new government. But we've got other work to do. We have been advised to, you know, let revenge cool before we try to eat it. And so we better make sure we have the facts before we go to next step, whether it is Iraq or any place else.
But remember, the letter that I signed was a bipartisan letter. There were some very thoughtful people, including Senator Lieberman and Senator McCain. And Senator Helms has worked on this. We really were urging the administration to take advantage of an act we passed three years ago -- overwhelmingly bipartisan -- the Iraq Liberation Act in which we said here is the authority and the authorization of money to begin to help those in Iraq or outside of Iraq that would like to bring down Saddam Hussein and his tyrannical government and what are they doing to the people there.
Neither the Clinton administration and, so far, the Bush administration have been willing to take advantage of that. We should have learned a lesson from what we learned in Afghanistan.
Not too long ago people were saying oh, these Afghanis, the Northern Alliance, the rest of them, they referred to them as Gucci, you know, revolutionaries. Gucci is a jean (ph) -- and armchair generals. And we found out, well, they would fight.
And I think maybe that there are some forces outside of Iraq and inside Iraq that would like an opportunity to have some support to begin to move toward a different time in that country.
BLITZER: So, what you're saying is that the model that the U.S. has used in overthrowing the Taliban in Afghanistan, working with opposition forces, the Northern Alliance and others, could be used to overthrow Saddam Hussein in Iraq?
LOTT: Shouldn't we at least give it a chance? Shouldn't we be supportive of those that want freedom and opportunity and peace for the people of Iraq? I think we should try that -- and a lot of other things, too.
BLITZER: But you don't have any hard evidence directly linking the Iraqis to the September 11 attacks?
LOTT: I don't, but there may be evidence that I wouldn't be aware of. We do know that there is very strong evidence that one of the hijackers, Atta...
BLITZER: Mohammed Atta.
LOTT: ... met with some Iraqi officials I think more than once. Now, that is pretty interesting in and of itself.
BLITZER: And that is enough for you to raise your concerns?
LOTT: Yes, it is.
BLITZER: Let's talk a little bit about the military tribunals that the Bush administration wants to use to conduct trials in secret against suspected terrorists. Not only Democrats, some Democrats, but there are even some Republicans who have expressed some concern, want to take a closer look at this -- Bob Barr of Georgia, for example.
Jeff Sessions said this at the Judiciary Committee hearing, the Republican from Alabama, senator: "And just as history judged the ally power by how they conducted the Nuremberg trials, so history will judge America for how we conduct the trials of these terrorists. We do not want history to conclude that America, through these military commissions, rendered victors justice, but real justice."
LOTT: Well, I think that's a very thoughtful statement.
I think there's room to ask questions and make sure how this works and who it would apply to. And there are civil libertarians and libertarians that are concerned about it.
But I have confidence in this president and in John Ashcroft for this to be done in the right way -- not used against American citizens, but these are terrorists that have been involved in acts of war that are not U.S. citizens. And there are some people that infer that it's OK for our military men and women to be tried in this way, but not a terrorist that has participated in, you know, taking, you know, helpless, innocent lives.
So, I think this is a vehicle that can be considered. It can be used appropriately, and I believe that it will be. And that's the only way it will be done.
BLITZER: So you're not concerned, you don't think that Congress should write legislation specifically authorizing the parameters of how these military commissions should operate?
LOTT: I believe that they have the authority under existing law to do what they have done and what they are prepared to do.
BLITZER: So you disagree with Senator Leahy on that.
LOTT: I do disagree with Senator Leahy and with Bob Barr, by the way, very aggressively.
BLITZER: All right.
LOTT: I think this is a good, good idea of how to proceed.
BLITZER: It's been three months since the September 11, almost exactly three months, since the September 11 attacks. There was talk of an economic stimulus package to help revive the U.S. economy which was in trouble even before. Still no package.
The Democrats blame you -- not necessarily you personally -- but the Republicans for loading up this package with all sorts of tax breaks for big corporations that are just going to cost the U.S. taxpayer a lot of money.
LOTT: Well, here we go. You know, for two and a half months we did everything in a very bipartisan way.
But unfortunately the Senate is becoming a black hole of inactivity. When you look at what's not being done -- the education reform package, the president's, by the way, highest domestic priority, it passed the House of Representatives 198 days ago. It's been in the Senate and in the conference ever since. We still have no agreement.
Energy legislation, the stimulus package in particular. What happened in the Senate is they made it partisan, and we've told them in the Finance Committee, let's don't do that. That's not the way the Finance Committee works. Let's work together. They turned it into a spending package. Then when they got to the floor, they seemed to be surprised they couldn't move it.
The Senate has not acted, and now they're trying to say it's the Republicans fault.
But, look, let's stop that. The people want action. You know, the approval ratings of Congress have been very high because we've been working together trying to do the right thing for America.
BLITZER: Will there be a stimulus package before Christmas?
LOTT: I think there should be one before Christmas. I think the president should ask for it. I think that the leaders should demand it. I think we should give the negotiators a deadline and say, this is important for the economy and for the working Americans of this country and for those that have lost their jobs, to help them.
And we could do it next week. We absolutely should do it. Let's quit pointing fingers, let's get down to business.
BLITZER: So, bipartisanship on the domestic homefront, these kinds of issues, has it gone away?
LOTT: Well, it's in serious jeopardy, and in the Senate it certainly has been taking a beating. Although last week the Senate once again did the right thing, passed a defense appropriations bill that can provide for the needs of our military men and women, without it just becoming a big spending program for all kinds of programs where the justification had not been proved.
BLITZER: The president came in, as you pointed out, saying education was his top priority. He can't even get that through though.
LOTT: And the interesting thing to me is that the Republicans, House and Senate, and Senator Kennedy, are saying we're ready to get this done, and yet there are a few members of the Senate -- apparently Senator Daschle, Senator Harkin, Senator Clinton, Senator Jeffords -- who are saying, well, no we got to have even more money and by the way, some of these programs must be mandatory; that you provide the funding no matter what you have available.
And I think they've come to a point where they have an agreement. If we could end this next week and get an educational reform package done and get an economic stimulus package done and complete our work of defense appropriations, we could go home and say, in spite of it being tough, we've done the right thing for America and we've done it in a bipartisan way.
BLITZER: Let's see if that happens.
LOTT: I hope it does.
BLITZER: Senator Lott, thanks for joining us.
LOTT: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.
And just ahead, with the Taliban less of an obstacle, U.S. forces are intensifying the search for Osama bin Laden. Is the military campaign in Afghanistan nearly over? We'll ask two of Senator Lott's colleagues, Democrat Joe Biden, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and Republican Chuck Hagel, a key member.
LATE EDITION will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, CENTRAL COMMAND: And I don't think I would say that Mullah Omar has vanished. I think we have said all along, I think the president has said, that we'll either bring him to justice or bring justice to him.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: U.S. General Tommy Franks, the head of the Central Command, commenting on the search for the Taliban spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Joining us now to talk about the war effort abroad as well as here in the United States are two members of the U.S. Senate: in Wilmington, Delaware, the Democratic Senator Joe Biden. He is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. And here in Washington, Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel. He's also a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Senators, welcome to LATE EDITION.
Senator Biden, let me begin with you. A lot of debate whether it's better for the United States to capture, as opposed to kill, Osama bin Laden. But as of right now, he is still on the loose. What's your sense? Is the U.S. going to find this guy?
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELEWARE: I think we will find him, Wolf. I think we have to be patient. You and I talked about this right at the beginning of the war. And just as we have to be patient about taking down the Taliban, and it went faster than we thought, I think we have to be a little patient about this.
I know we all, you know, want this to happen quickly, but I think it will happen no matter what. If it takes another day, another week, a month, another five years, we are going to get this son of a gun.
My preference would be to kill him unless he is crawling out of a cave waving a white flag surrendering, in which case we would honor that. But I think that is best way to do it. And I think we will do it. I think we will find this guy.
BLITZER: Senator Hagel, what's your preference?
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: I think Joe said it exactly right. We will get him. And I think it would be in the best interests for all of us if this guy went down with this cause.
BLITZER: You want him to be a martyr in other words?
HAGEL: Well, I don't think you have anything to say about that. Whether you put him on trial, whether you kill him, whatever the outcome is, he is going to be glorified by that crowd. And there is not much you can do about that. But the fact is we will get him.
And I think the other pieces of this that need to be played out as administration is, is where do we go from here? And what are the consequences and the things that are happening now, in trying to put together a coalition government. The successes that we had in Bonn, Germany, last week, those are the next steps that we need to start thinking through.
BLITZER: Senator Biden, go ahead. I know you want to say something.
BIDEN: I agree they are the next steps. I fully agree with Chuck. But one of the reasons I keep focusing on Omar and also on bin Laden is, the world has to know we have the absolute total resolve, no matter what it takes, to find somebody who is responsible for such a heinous crime, it does not matter how long it takes. I would be satisfied if we got this guy in 15 years, but we must make it clear, that no matter what, no president, no government of the United States will rest until this man is dead.
BLITZER: Senator Biden, do you think that videotape that Paul Wolfowitz spoke about on this program, the vice president spoke about earlier on Meet the Press, the videotape that the U.S. now has of Osama bin Laden talking about the whole September 11 operation, the so-called smoking gun, in the most specific terms, should the administration make that tape public?
BIDEN: Well, I've not seen the tape. But I think it should be made public. Whether they should make it public or have venue in which it is public so it has more credibility in the eyes of people who want to have a positive view of this guy, remains to be seen. I have not seen the tape. But I do think one of the things that is happening, Wolf, is that it is seeping in throughout the world the nature of who bin Laden is, the nature of the people around him. And I think, as every day goes by, his cause, his case, his adherence diminish. And I think this tape would help further that cause.
BLITZER: What about you, Senator Hagel? Do you want the White House to release that tape?
HAGEL: Oh, I think it is in the interest of this country. And as Joe stated, it allows the world to see exactly what we are dealing with.
I said on your show weeks ago, Wolf, when we talked about some of these dynamics whether we should share information with our allies, with the world, make it public. Absolutely. The world needs to see this, and exactly for the reasons that Joe said and others, when we talk tribunals or anything else.
We need to understand here what we are up against, first, as a nation, and the world needs to understand that the threat, the borderless threat that these people present to mankind.
BLITZER: Senator Biden, Secretary Wolfowitz said that the situation in Afghanistan right now remains very chaotic. How long should U.S. military personnel remain in Afghanistan?
BIDEN: I think they should remain as long as it takes.
And I might add, I think Paul Wolfowitz -- I watched the whole segment -- was measured, reasoned, and there was not anything he said I disagree with. And I mean that sincerely.
One of the things that Paul has been pointing out for a long time is, the hard part now really begins.
Everybody talks about phase two, I'm forgetting Saddam and eliminating him in Iraq, but the problem is we have another couple phases in Afghanistan, not only getting al Qaeda wiped out and bin Laden and Omar, et cetera, but making sure this government is able to be sustained.
And this new government is a transition government, Wolf, and I believe they're going to need military force in place, preferably, preferably, not U.S. military force, the bulk of it. Now we have our German friends, our French friends, our Turkish friends, all willing to put troops on the ground.
And I think it's pretty important we get in Mazar, as well as in Kabul, the security force in place that allows food to flow to save people's lives, coming through Mazar and across the Friendship Bridge, and stability in the capital, allowing this new transition government, made up of people who were warring factions before, to have the certainty that they can begin to put in place rudimentary elements of government.
And I think the U.S. is going to have to lead that. We don't have to be the predominant force, by any stretch of imagination now.
BLITZER: Senator Hagel, do you trust Hamid Karzai, the interim leader who's nominally now in charge of Afghanistan?
HAGEL: Well, I think, like always in foreign relations, you play with the cards you're dealt. I think, of all the options that we had for leadership of this new 30-member coalition government to come together, he is probably the best, for many reasons.
I think he can and does represent an enlargement of many factions that can come together, eventually, to secure some sustainable government and represent all the issues and the groups in Afghanistan.
So overall, I think he was the best choice. It's never a 100 percent versus a zero percent kind of a choice here.
We're going to have to continue to be part of this, just as Joe said, and we need to do that and be wise in how we help and are part of that and assist, and not project any kind of an image that somehow we are imposing a government on anybody. We are not doing that.
BLITZER: All right. Senators, stand by. We have to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about.
Coming up, the second hour of LATE EDITION, more of our conversation with Senators Biden and Hagel. I'll ask them about Iraq. Should it be the next target?
Then, the White House counsel, Alberto Gonzales, defends new and very controversial efforts to locate and try terrorists here in the United States.
We'll also go live to Israel, where a VIP New York delegation is visiting, including the New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. We'll speak to him.
Plus our LATE EDITION roundtable.
It's all ahead in the next hour of LATE EDITION.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We'll continue our conversation with Senators Chuck Hagel and Joe Biden in just a moment. Later in the hour, we'll also speak with the New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani, live from Jerusalem.
But first, here is CNN's Catherine Callaway in Atlanta with a quick check of the latest developments.
BLITZER: And we'll continue our conversation now with Delaware Democratic Senator Joe Biden, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, and the Nebraska Republican, Senator Chuck Hagel, a key member of that very same committee. Senator Biden, that famous letter that some lawmakers sent up to the president this week, saying Iraq in effect should be the next target, sooner rather than later, were you asked to sign that letter?
BIDEN: No, I wasn't.
But as chairman of the committee, I think there's an institutional responsibility, if you want to ask the president something, to pick up the phone and call him.
I once remember Jim Eastland, the former chairman of another committee, saying, "Don't ever send a chairman a letter he doesn't want to receive."
I think my obligation and responsibility is to cooperate with the president.
But the thrust of the letter, I don't disagree with. I think that -- and I don't think you have to convince the president of that -- Osama bin Laden is the guy we're after now, but the truth of the matter is, the idea that you're going to have the fellow in charge of Iraq five years later still being in charge of Iraq and us having terrorism under control is not likely.
So it's just a matter of time, and how.
BLITZER: Senator Hagel, you were asked to sign that letter and decided not to.
HAGEL: Well, I wasn't asked to sign the letter. I was told about the letter. And I did not pursue it, because I'm not sure that's the most appropriate, thoughtful way to approach this.
The grasp of the obvious is obvious: Iraq's a bad player; Saddam Hussein, specifically, is a bad player. We are going to have to deal with him.
But I think we must be very careful here. It seems to me we don't want to do anything that would precipitate undoing the great successes we've had here...
HAGEL: ... and much of that as a result of a coalition that we have put together. We will deal with him.
Second, as far as I can tell, there is no alternative to Saddam Hussein. There's no opposition, there's no Northern Alliance-type organization there. I think we're kidding ourselves if we believe there is.
We don't want to set in motion unintended consequences that could have devastating effects here throughout the Muslim world, Arab world. I think it could reach as far down to the Strait of Malacca in Indonesia, where you have 200 million Muslims. So I think we have to be a little careful how we pursue this. And it's not a question of whether Saddam's a good guy or whether we leave him alone. He's not a good guy, we are going to deal with him, but it should be on our terms, our timetable and with the coalition.
BLITZER: Senator Biden, a lot of people have not necessarily paid much attention, in this whole aftermath of September 11, to Iran. Some commentators, though, have pointed out the Iranians are playing a pretty good role right now, as far as the U.S. is concerned. Others have said Iran is a more formidable terrorist threat to the United States than even Iraq.
What's your reading of where the Iranians stand right now?
BIDEN: Well, I think where they are is, they are split between their civil and religious leadership. You have Khamenei, who is the religious side of the equation, and Khatami, who is the civil side. And, quite frankly, they're at odds, and there is an internal struggle. Whether it's a literal struggle or not, there is a political struggle for power.
And just for example, Khamenei came out of prayers on Friday and said to all those assembled in his mosque that, you know, the United States was killing, this was a war against Islam. Yet you had Khatami saying, no, this is a war against Afghanistan, and even agreeing to get downed American pilots if they were downed in western Afghanistan.
So, there's a real split there. There's an opening, but it is too soon to tell.
Stated overall, Wolf, if Iran went totally "bad," quote unquote, that is, there was no chance of the modification of their present policies, they are, sum total, a worse danger, a more powerful nation, more capable of doing harm to us than Iraq is.
But they're not there yet. It's a question which way they turn, and I think that relates to this internal struggle going on between the religious leadership and the civil leadership.
BLITZER: Senator Hagel, let me ask about John Walker, the American Taliban fighter. You're a veteran of the Vietnam War, highly decorated.
Newsweek has a new poll that just came out today. Let me read to you the question, what should happen to John Walker? Should he be charged and tried? 41 percent said yes. Charged and tried only if there was evidence, 40 percent. Released, not charged, 3 percent. Don't know, 16 percent.
What's your take? What should happen to this American Taliban fighter?
HAGEL: Well, first of all, we have to be a little careful here. No question he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, with the wrong people. And why he was there, the motive behind that, we need to let that play out. We need to talk with him, as we are talking to him.
I'm not one who is going to immediately charge him with treason. And the fact is he was found fighting against Americans forces. What did he understand, what he didn't?
I think we have to be a little careful here. I would give him some margin of error. But the fact is he was where he was, and that is a -- that's a very disturbing factor. This guy is 20 years old. I don't think he's stupid. I think he's mature, informed.
And we'll let this play out. But I think we need a little more information.
BLITZER: Senator Biden, do you have any sympathy for this 20- year-old?
But I tell you what, I think Chuck stated it correctly. The measure for me will be how much he cooperates.
If faced with the fact and the knowledge what happened on 9-11 or faced with the fact and knowledge of what's going on because, theoretically, maybe he didn't know that, arguably, well, faced with that, if he doesn't fully cooperate and, in effect, diagram every cave he was ever in and every person he ever has worked with and fully, totally, 100 percent cooperate, then that goes, in my mind, it goes to his original motive and whether or not he was seeking to do damage to the interests of the United States.
And I just don't have enough facts to know that. And I think we should find that out first.
There are grounds upon which he could be tried, including seditious conspiracy and foreign murder of a United States citizen, as well as treason if -- if the facts lead in that direction, but I don't have enough information to know that.
BLITZER: Senator Biden, while I have you over here, let me ask you about these military tribunals, some of the controversial measures the attorney general, John Ashcroft, has undertaken to deal with suspected terrorist detainees, what some are calling profiling.
He was testifying on the Hill earlier in the week. I want you to listen specifically, a short soundbite, what he said in terms of his willingness to cooperate with the U.S. Congress.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ASHCROFT, ATTORNEY GENERAL: In some areas, however, I cannot and will not consult with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Sounds like, I mean, I guess, some have interpreted that as an almost defiant attorney general. BIDEN: I don't know who died and left him boss, as my grandfather used to say. There's a Constitution. We are an equal branch of government. He has to cooperate with us. He has no choice.
Look, I have more concern about the way in which John is beginning to phrase this debate, particularly the part where he talked about anybody, basically -- I'm paraphrasing -- anybody who questions these issues and was giving, you know, comfort to terrorists. I mean, I hope we don't go there. I hope we don't get in this place.
BLITZER: Well, let me interrupt you for a second, Senator Biden.
What he later clarified through a spokeswoman, saying that he only meant those who are misinterpreting, who are misleading the American public about what his intentions are, what these steps are, they are the ones who are giving aid and comfort to the...
BIDEN: Well, who are they? I mean, who are they? You know, this is the -- I mean, we shouldn't do this. We have a united country now. We shouldn't get into this -- this kind of diatribe. That's a little bit like you had me on your program a lot during the war in Kosovo, Wolf. And you remember there were Republicans -- not your other guests -- Republicans out there saying that, you know, this is -- we're going after innocent people and, you know, what we're going to do is get ourselves in trouble and we don't want to do that.
How about if I had said, "Anyone who at this moment questions are the utility of bombing is giving aid and comfort to Slobodan Milosevic"? That would be have been preposterous. It's preposterous to use that kind of terminology, period.
With regard to whether or not we have the authority to set up these tribunals, I teach constitutional law -- doesn't mean I'm an expert. I teach it, and I also have, for years, headed up that committee in the United States Congress.
And it's simple to me. One -- probably there is a constitutional authority to be able to try anyone involved with 9-11 in a military tribunal.
Now, that -- there used to be a famous conservative scholar named Philip Kerwin (ph) from the University of Chicago. And one day, sitting on my side porch preparing for a Supreme Court hearing, I said, "But that's constitutional, Professor." And he looked at me and said, "Joe, remember, everything that's constitutional is not necessarily wise."
If we use these courts, even if they're constitutional, which I think they probably are, and we don't get al Qaeda members who are caught in Spain returned to the United States for trial and they're let go in Spain, what have we gained?
And so, this is a real tough call. I think it's worth being discussed.
BLITZER: Let me ask Chuck -- Senator Hagel. You got 30 seconds. What's your sense?
HAGEL: Well, first of all, are we at war or are we not at war? I think we tend to drift from that question. Of course we're at war, or least most of us believe we are.
If that is the case, then we are going to have to adjust some of the dynamics, if not many and most of the dynamics, of law enforcement, of judicial procedure.
Is John Ashcroft within the boundaries of the Constitution? I think he is. Is he working within the powers the Congress has given him? I think he is. Could we sand off some of the rough edges in how he's doing it? Maybe so.
But I think Zell Miller, the Democratic senator from Georgia, said right when he said, let's quit knit-picking here and let's deal with reality.
Nobody has proposed taking civil liberties or rights away from anybody, but let's bring some thoughtful common sense to this.
BLITZER: We have to leave it right there.
Senator Hagel, Senator Biden, thanks to both of have for joining us.
BLITZER: As usual, a good discussion.
And just ahead, if Osama bin Laden and other al Qaeda members are eventually found, should they be brought to justice in the United States, and under what circumstances? We'll discuss that and other new anti-terrorism efforts with the White House council, Alberto Gonzales.
LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Critics of the White House claim people's constitutional rights are being sacrificed to the fight against terrorism.
Earlier today I spoke with the White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales about the debate over security versus civil liberties.
BLITZER: Mr. Gonzales, welcome to LATE EDITION. Good to have you on the program. Hopefully the first of many times that you will be on this program.
ALBERTO GONZALES, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Wolf, thank you for inviting me.
BLITZER: You know there's a lot of controversy surrounding several of the measures the attorney general, the Bush administration have proposed -- military tribunals, listening in on conversations between attorneys and their clients, rounding up all sorts of suspects.
The general question is this: Is it going too far, as far as trampling on constitutional rights?
GONZALES: It is not going too far in terms of trampling on constitutional rights, Wolf.
We are in an extraordinary time. And the president believes that in these times it is appropriate to look at every possible legal option to ensure that he is able to protect this country and the lives of American citizens.
I think a lot of the confusion, really, stems from the fact that people are not educated about the limits and scopes of some of the measures that the administration is considering. And I think that once we get out to the public and talk about the measures that we are considering implementing, I think people are a lot more comfortable about what we are doing if they understand the need for the things we are considering.
BLITZER: All right, well, this an opportunity for you to clear up some of these misperceptions.
GONZALES: It sure is.
BLITZER: Specifically, the military tribunals. These will involve non-U.S. citizens. No U.S. citizens will be tried in secret before these military tribunals, is that right?
Well, the ordinance specifically provides that it does not apply to U.S. citizens.
And the notion that we are going to have mass secret trials is just a wrong presumption. There is nothing in the order that requires that these proceedings occur in secret. There will be instances, when, for national security reasons, the president may feel it is appropriate that a proceeding or portions of a proceeding be secret. But the objective here is not to have mass secret trials.
BLITZER: But, you could have done that, had secret evidence in order not to compromise national security sources and methods, you could have done that without going to a full-scale military tribunal, couldn't you?
GONZALES: There is a provision under current law, CIPA, Classified Information Protection Act, which does provide a mechanism for introducing classified information in a civilian trial. It is extremely cumbersome, extremely burdensome. It doesn't always work well. As an example, in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, one of the bits of information that came out of that was the method of communication by bin Laden. And as a result of that publication of how he communicates, he stopped using that source of communication.
So, you're right. There is a procedure in place now, but it's not always very effective.
BLITZER: How many people presumably, the Taliban soldiers who have been picked up, who have been arrested, al Qaeda members who may or may not be brought to Guam or Samoa or board U.S. aircraft carrier at the Naval base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, how many of these individuals presumably could be tried with these military tribunals?
GONZALES: Well, it's hard to say, Wolf, because the order is drafted in a way that requires the personal involvement of the president of the United States. He will have to make a decision that it is in the best interests of United States that a person be subject to the jurisdiction of a military commission. So, the only person who can really answer that question is the president of the United States.
BLITZER: But all these various locations that I mentioned, are they under consideration for these military proceedings?
GONZALES: There are a variety of locations being considered for military proceedings. I don't think it's appropriate for me to comment as to the specific locations at this time.
BLITZER: Another very controversial measure that the administration has adopted is inviting, that is the word you used, some 5,000 individuals here on various visas, some illegal, some not so illegal, to come in and provide information about what they know about suspected terrorist operations.
The suggestion is that this goes too far in terms of, in effect, profiling, because almost all of them are of Middle Eastern ancestry.
GONZALES: There has been some accusation that this looks like racial profiling. The list was not based upon a person's race, it was based upon other factors and therefore, in my judgment, cannot be characterized as racial profiling.
BLITZER: Ethnic profiling?
GONZALES: Well, again, it was based upon -- the country of origin was the primary source of the list. You looked at age groups and country of origin in terms of making this list.
Let me make a point about this. These folks are guests of the United States. We expect of American citizens to cooperate with law enforcement authorities. If they know the information, we expect our citizens to come forward and be cooperative and help law enforcement authorities solve crimes.
It is not too much to expect of our guests to do the same. And that is all that is being done here. These are purely voluntary. These are conducted, I believe, in a person's home. Police officers come to the person's home and ask for their cooperation. If they choose not to cooperate, that is something they can decide to do.
But it is something that we expect of our guests, as we expect of our citizens.
BLITZER: As you well know, during the campaign last year, the president was widely applauded by Arab Americans, Muslim Americans for what he said during one of the debates. I want you to listen to what the president, then the candidate, said on October 11 of last year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is other forms of racial profiling that goes on in America. Arab Americans are racially profiled in what's called secret evidence. People are stopped. And we've got to do something about that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: It sounds, though, that that is what he is precisely doing right now. Based on some secret evidence, going around and inviting Arab-Americans to come in and cooperate.
GONZALES: Well, you have to remember these folks that are being asked questions are not targets of any investigation. We simply hope and believe that they may have information about other terrorist activities.
And the administration is very concerned, obviously, about everyone's civil liberties. But we are also concerned about protecting the citizens of this country, and we're working very hard to ensure that we achieve a proper balance during these times.
BLITZER: You were a highly respected judge in Texas, one of the reasons why the president asked you to come to Washington. You may eventually wind up on the Supreme Court, for all we know.
How concerned are you about the violation of the traditional attorney-client privilege when the attorney general says that some conversations between people picked up and their attorneys will, in fact, be recorded?
GONZALES: Well, we have to remember, what is a true baseline here? People assume that the baseline is that all communications between the attorney and the client are sacred.
But that's just not true. Prisoners do not have an absolute right to privacy. We screen mail, for example. We do monitor who they visit with.
So it's wrong to assume that there is an absolute right to privacy.
And, obviously, there are privileges that do come into play, but even the attorney-client privilege is not absolute. For example, if an attorney's made aware that a client is about to commit a crime, in most jurisdictions, the attorney has an obligation to violate that privilege in that case.
And so, the baseline is not that all communication between an attorney and client is absolutely privileged.
BLITZER: So you don't -- so that attorney-client privilege is not sacrosanct, as far as you're concerned?
GONZALES: As far as I'm concerned, you have to look at the circumstances to make a determination whether or not there's been an abuse of that privilege.
BLITZER: Some of the critics of the administration's policies, like the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Leahy, have suggested, why not get congressional authorization formally for these various steps that have been so controversial, instead of just doing it by executive order.
Listen to what Senator Leahy said earlier in the week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: We can be both tough on terrorists and true to the Constitution. It is not an either/or choice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He also went on to say, if you have congressional framework -- a congressional framework, congressional approval, a lot of the questions being asked would stop.
Why not invite Congress to go ahead and formally authorize these steps?
GONZALES: Because in any cases we do not believe that the congressional authorization is really necessary. It is an open question, in many areas, as to whether or not congressional authorization is necessary.
I understand from the hearings that some expressed perhaps some doubts that the administration can take these kinds of actions without congressional authorization.
And I would just remind the American people that there was no doubt in the minds of the eight justices in a unanimous decision in the Quirin case back in 1942 that the president of United States had the authority to do this. And that was reaffirmed four years later by the Supreme Court.
There was no doubt in the mind of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt that the president of the United States has the authority, on his own, as commander in chief, to take these kinds of actions.
BLITZER: So what you're saying is, if there was congressional authorization, that could diminish the authority of the president?
GONZALES: Well, obviously, we would have to look at that, but we view the source of the president's power as the Constitution and not statute.
BLITZER: Another issue came up during the congressional hearings, the Judiciary Committee hearings, was the whole notion of the impact of the gun control legislation, the instant background checks.
As you know, terrorists, suspected terrorists, have been briefed on where to go ahead at gun shows, for example, and buy weapons in the United States that they could presumably use against Americans.
But, as you know, the attorney general says that they're not going to allow the FBI, at least for the time being, to use these gun records, instant background checks, because of the existing law, in effect.
Senator Schumer was very outraged by this. Listen to what Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, a member of the Judiciary Committee, said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: When it comes to the area of even illegal immigrants getting guns and finding out if they did, this administration becomes weak as a wet noodle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The suggestion being that you're still being influenced by the NRA, the National Rifle Association, and other gun advocates, even when terrorists, suspected terrorists obtaining guns in the United States are concerned.
GONZALES: But it's my understanding, Wolf, that the law prohibits providing access to the FBI for these kinds of purposes. So I defer to the attorney general in this matter, in terms of making that sort of determination.
That is a policy decision by Congress. If Congress wants to change that policy, that's certainly within their prerogative to do so.
BLITZER: Would the White House welcome such a change in the law?
GONZALES: Obviously, the White House hasn't -- you know, we have a very detailed process of making an assessment of any kind of legislation, and so we would look at it, like we do in every case. And, you know, we probably would support it, but we'd have to look at it before I could commit to the administration to supporting that position.
BLITZER: Because, obviously, to the average person out there who wants to crack down on terrorists, and terrorists being able to go freely and buy guns, there seems to be a loophole in there which would help them, which would facilitate their going ahead and doing precisely that.
GONZALES: The administration's very interested in cracking down on terrorists. And, if there is a loophole here, we're obviously interested in working with Congress to ensure that that loophole is closed.
BLITZER: When the attorney general was criticizing some of those who have criticized him, he appeared on Larry King Live after his congressional testimony. Listen to what he said on Thursday night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASHCROFT: I mean to say that those who are fearmongers, who simply want to announce conclusions, who use scare tactics and are afraid of real discussion and don't provide a basis or an opportunity for the truth to be known, that their work is counterproductive. It helps the other side, and not America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: To which the "Washington Post" responded in an editorial on Friday: "His job is to defend dissent, not to use the moral authority of his office to discourage people from participating in one of the most fundamental obligations of citizenship."
GONZALES: I think what the attorney general was criticizing were those who express opinions and judgments without really knowing what the facts are; who criticize, for example, the use of the order without really understanding how the order is written and what the president intends, in terms of the use of the order. I think that's the source of the attorney general's frustration.
BLITZER: So, in other words, he's criticizing only those who are distorting, in effect, what he is saying.
GONZALES: I think what he's trying to do is to educate the American people, to inform them that they need to become more informed about what the true facts are, and that what people are saying may or may not be true in terms of being critical of administration policies.
BLITZER: You're the president's counsel. What do you think -- what does the president believe should be done with this American, John Walker, who was picked up as a fighter for the Taliban? As you know, he's under the control of the U.S. Marine Corps in southern Afghanistan right now.
GONZALES: We don't have all facts yet, Wolf. I think the folks at the Department of Defense and the Department of Justice are both trying to ascertain what the facts are and to make a decision as to where it is appropriate that this person be brought to justice.
BLITZER: Does the White House counsel's office weigh in specifically on the issue of treason, charges of treason if in fact they might eventually be brought against this young man? GONZALES: Well, this is a prosecutorial decision, and normally we don't weigh in on prosecutorial decisions. We defer to the Department of Justice in those kinds of cases.
In this case, because it does involve perhaps a violation of the law of war, the Department of Defense is involved. We may or may not be involved in that decision, I don't know.
BLITZER: I mentioned earlier you might wind up on the U.S. Supreme Court one of these days. How serious is that possibility? Have you ever given that some thought?
GONZALES: (OFF-MIKE) the president. No, I haven't. There has been some speculation about that. But I've said consistently that I'm not a candidate for the court nor I do intend to be a candidate for the court.
I've got a lot to focus on right now. The president is confronting one of the -- a unique challenge to this country. And my job is to serve as his lawyer, and that's where all of my focus is right now.
BLITZER: Judge Gonzales, thanks for joining us.
GONZALES: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Good luck to you.
GONZALES: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, despite President Bush's sky-high wartime approval ratings, Democrats are still challenging his domestic proposals. Are they overplaying their hand? We'll go 'round the table on that and more with Steve Roberts, Susan Page and Jonah Goldberg when LATE EDITION continues.
BLITZER: Still to come, we'll be talking with the New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani, live from Jerusalem, but time right now for our LATE EDITION roundtable.
Joining me: Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today"; Steve Roberts, contributing editor for "U.S. News and World Report"; and Jonah Goldberg, contributing editor for the "National Review."
Steve, let me begin with you. The war looks like it's getting close to being over. All signs are suggesting that. Once again, where all naysayers going into this war wrong, as they were going into the Persian Gulf War 11 years ago?
STEVE ROBERTS, "U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT": Yes, and that includes me, I think. I was more cautious than I think certainly is justified. I think we made some mistakes. We overestimated the Taliban and its resiliency. All this talk about how tenacious they're going to be, turns out we made a mistake there.
I think we underestimated the effectiveness of American air power. I think we were going back to the Persian Gulf. But as Jim Woolsey said on this program a week or so ago and others have pointed out, 10 years is a long time in the development of weaponry. And our ability to use air in a much more pinpoint, effective way has really developed over 10 years. And I think we underestimated the fighting capabilities of those tribal allies that we had.
ROBERTS: So, yes, those of us who were -- who said this war was going to be a quagmire were wrong.
BLITZER: You know, there's still plenty of naysayers right now saying, hold back on the Iraqis right now, even though Senator Lott and Senator Lieberman, others, wrote this letter to the president saying sooner rather than later.
JONAH GOLDBERG, "NATIONAL REVIEW": Right. And that is really the fun debate in Washington right now for -- well, for want of a more politic term, "war junkies," is what happens next and whether Iraq is the next target. And it seems to be that there's a consensus jelling that Iraq will be the next target.
The question is, how does the president show the leadership to get us there, and what kind of war will it be? Will it be an Afghanistan-style war, or will it be something more pinpricky and targeted along the lines of what the Clinton administration does?
And there, I think, one of the biggest points of significance is actually the power of air power that Steve was talking about, in the sense that if air power is quantumly better than -- to make it into an adverb, which I don't think it is -- if it's a real quantum improvement in air power in terms of accuracy and the ability to achieve aims, and it lowers the threshold price for going to war for the United States because it means less collateral damage, fewer civilians killed, fewer Americans in the line of fire. And, therefore, it changes the whole way we argue about going to war.
BLITZER: Susan, you know, as Tim Russert, my colleague, said earlier on his program, you're one of the best reporters in Washington right now...
BLITZER: ... so tell us, precisely, where does this debate over Iraq within the Bush administration stand right now?
SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Well, I think the administration is divided. There are those like Paul Wolfowitz who would target Iraq in the absence of any additional evidence that they were involved in September 11 because of concerns about their programs and their intentions. And there are those who think it's more -- that you can't do that, unless you've maintained a coalition that includes Turkey, other allies in the region, and that that will be hard to do.
You know, it's interesting to make the comparison with the fact that this war has gone well, for the moment, with the Persian Gulf War, which also was shorter than many predicted, because, in many ways, we're still fighting the Persian Gulf War. Saddam Hussein is still in power. He still has programs to develop weapons of mass destruction. We're still trying to figure out how to deal with those.
And that war, like this one, I think, is going to go on for years and years. Because this not a war against Taliban leadership in Afghanistan, it's a war against an international terrorist network that's going to be much more persistent than something that's going to be toppled in the next few weeks.
ROBERTS: You know, I do think that those who advocate going into Iraq do talk a lot about this more efficient air power. I think it's something those of us who are cautious about Iraq have to take seriously.
But I think you can overestimate the analogy, as well, because, look, we took 5,000 casualties, as a country, fighting Osama bin Laden. And I think the country has a lot of tolerance for difficulties in Afghanistan. Four casualties -- fortunately, they've been very low.
But you have to wonder whether the same would be true of Saddam. He hadn't done anything to us lately. And also, he's a much more effective fighting force with a much more highly trained army. I think the casualties would be much higher.
And, look, the other reason we didn't "finish this job," quote, unquote, 10 years ago, was because of the question of our Muslim allies in that region -- Saudi Arabia and others -- wouldn't support this kind of attack. They were willing to support rolling back the incursion into Kuwait, but nothing beyond that.
So a lot of the reasons why we didn't go in 10 years ago are still there, haven't gone away.
PAGE: Well, you know, Bush will face the dilemma that President Clinton faced against Osama bin Laden, which was -- if he tries to target Iraq, which is that there's not an international and national consensus that this is the right thing to do.
And some critics say now that President Clinton had an obligation to build that consensus years ago, perhaps after the 1998 embassy bombings in East Africa. But he didn't do that, and one of the arguments they make is that the nation and the world wasn't ready for it.
Well, that may be exactly the situation that President Bush faces once the war in Afghanistan is over and the question is, who's next. GOLDBERG: I totally agree with that, which is why I do think that the question is more about presidential leadership than it's about anything else. I mean, I think on the substance, you can make a very good case for going into Iraq in one way or the other. The idea that, you know, Saddam Hussein wouldn't use weapons of mass destruction, if he actually developed them, seems sort of dubious.
And my view is that the Republican guard -- Saddam Hussein, from what I've read, has sort of ignored building up his conventional army and put all his eggs in the mass destruction basket.
I think it's absolutely right that the country is sort of saying, well, there would be a lot of people who would reasonably say, well, wait a second, why are we going to war with Iraq, this was Osama bin Laden.
And then it becomes a question of presidential leadership, of being able to persuade the American people to say, hey, look, you know, we sort of took a nap for 10 years before and let Osama bin Laden build up the al Qaeda network and put this plan into action, and we can't take a nap again and we have to be proactive.
And that's a -- it'd be a good debate, it'd be an ugly debate, but it would be a worthwhile one.
BLITZER: And if he wants that debate to go forward, Steve, the new Newsweek poll asks how is he doing, his job approval rating. He's still at 82 percent among the American public. Only 12 percent disprove of the job that he's doing.
If he wants to rally the American public against Saddam Hussein, he has a good base from which to start.
ROBERTS: Absolutely right. But he also has a tough case to make.
You know, 10 years ago the consensus was there. Every country in the world, really, had a common interest in saying, hey, we are against someone who crosses an international border and destabilizes a neighboring country. There was no real dissent from that.
It is a harder case to make. The hardest thing a president ever, ever does is send troops into battle where they can get killed. It is the most difficult decision a president ever makes.
Jonah is right. You have to make the case. Now, he does start from a good base. He's got credibility. He's an effective war leader.
But there are these doubts that are there, that he would have to overcome. And he would have to be willing to pay a high price.
And, look, his father learned it's a common place observation, it is true -- his father learned that those polls have only one way to go when at you are at 82 percent, and that is down. His father learned that 10 years ago. BLITZER: Susan, we see that on the domestic political front, domestic economic issues, other domestic issues, the bipartisanship, the solid unity that's out there in terms of fighting the war seems to be crumbling.
Dick Cheney was on Meet the Press earlier, the vice president of the United States. Asked about economic stimulus package, he laid the blame directly at where he sees that problem is. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Tom Daschle, unfortunately, has decided, I think, in this case, to be more of an obstructionist. He has insisted that no bill can move forward unless two-thirds of the Senate Democrats support it. That's an artificially high barrier. What we need, last time I checked, to pass something through the Senate was 51 votes. But so far he has been unable to get anything through the U.S. Senate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAGE: You know, what I think we heard this morning from Dick Cheney and from Trent Lott here on this show is both sides are beginning to lay the groundwork to blame the other side for why the stimulus package didn't pass. I think both sides are now -- I think the prospect is real that the Senate will go home for Christmas and not have passed a stimulus package.
BLITZER: Although you heard Senator Lott say he hopes they will pass it.
PAGE: And it is still possible that they will. But I think it's increasingly possible that they won't. And the question is then, who gets blamed with the number of Americans -- 800,000 Americans have been laid off in recent months. Who gets the blame for failing to kind of address the concerns that they have?
BLITZER: And who loses more if they fail to reach an agreement soon -- the Democrats or the Republicans? Which party is more vulnerable?
GOLDBERG: I think it's, which branch of government is more vulnerable. I think it hurts the conservative Republicans, especially in the House, the most because they have most to lose.
George Bush is not up for reelection in 2002, so he is still going to remain the popular Republican president from the Republican Party. But for the congressional branches, it is an ugly fight.
And I don't know who loses more. It depends where this blame can land.
ROBERTS: Look, most Americans have no idea who Tom Daschle is, you know. We know, and people who watch this show know, but most Americans don't know. But they know who George Bush is. And they know when 800,000 Americans lost their jobs, which is over two months, almost 800,000, almost a million over three months. That's a lot of people. And what they know is that George Bush is the president.
Now, he has great poll numbers, fair enough, but those are largely a reflection of national unity and the good job he has done running the war. He's potentially vulnerable on the economic side, again, as his father learned.
You always get more credit as a president for good times than you deserve, and you get more blame for bad times than you deserve. And he has to be careful with this one.
And if there's no stimulus package, even though the stimulus package probably wouldn't have much effect on the economy one way or another politically, it is a potential...
PAGE: Two big problems -- as the economy goes bad and people's focus, attention focus on its, George Bush has two big problems: one, no surplus; an era of deficit spending until at least 2005. And number two, his economic team is much weaker than his foreign policy team. They aren't able to make the public case the way Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney and Collin Powell have been able to make the public case for the administration. Two big weaknesses that the administration may have to face early next year.
BLITZER: Jonah, I don't know if you listened to Meet the Press earlier today, but the vice president was on. And he said something I thought was pretty curious. He was asked about 2004, if he would like to be on the ticket again running with George W. Bush. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIM RUSSERT, HOST, "MEET THE PRESS": Would you like to be on ticket in 2004?
CHENEY: If the president wants me and everything else makes sense, sure.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I guess that he is pretty blunt about that.
A lot of speculation, given his heart problems, other issues. His health, I guess, the major issue, that that might not be another possibility, although he signaled clearly he would like to be on ticket.
GOLDBERG: It is, in my mind, a fairly cost-free admission. He has a perfect excuse not to be on ticket in 2004, considering the problems with his heart. And he's a team player, so, if it turns out that Bush and his advisers, and Karl Rove decide not to go with him, they're going to give him a face-saving way to get out of it. So, he's just being honest.
And when it's cost-free, why not be honest?
BLITZER: Honesty's the best policy in this kind of situation.
Speaking about honesty is the best policy, Gary Condit, the Democratic Congressman from California, was honest this week and said he wants to run for he reelection next year. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)
REP. GARY CONDIT (D), CALIFORNIA: I spent a long time public service. And it was very important to me to represent the Valley. They have allowed me to do that in this fashion. I'm going to continue to do it.
I'm going to just focus on my record.
(END VIDEO CLIPS)
ROBERTS: Well, he -- you know, we thought we'd seen the last of Gary Condit. Obviously we haven't. Might be the only person in America who harbors some gratitude for September 11. Got him off the front pages.
He's got a harder district than he did before. He's got some Republicans who see him as vulnerable, so he's going to have a tougher time than he did in the past.
But, you know, in terms of Cheney, if Cheney doesn't run, Republicans have a very good stable of potential substitutes. Giuliani, who's going to be on this program, could be very -- Don Rumsfeld, as secretary of defense, has been an excellent spokesman. Senator Hagel, who was on earlier, is developing a reputation. Republicans have a much stronger bench than the Democrats, looking ahead to 2004.
BLITZER: Never too early to look ahead to 2004, is it, Susan?
PAGE: Well it's always so much more fun to cover elections than government, so we're never against that.
BLITZER: And President Bush this week said that -- something he probably shouldn't have said that he doesn't necessarily love his mother Barbara Bush's cooking.
That's being very honest but perhaps a little bit too honest.
PAGE: Yes. And, well, you know, Laura Bush has said that she's not much of a cook either. So, you know, maybe kind of a trend there. He married someone just like his mother.
BLITZER: All right, we got to leave right there. Susan Page...
ROBERTS: I love my mother's cooking, I have to tell you.
BLITZER: I love my mother's cooking too. I've eaten it my whole life; I hope to eat it for many more years.
Susan Page, Steve Roberts, I want to say thanks to both of you. You've been great on the LATE EDITION roundtable. We loved having you. Unfortunately you're moving on.
Jonah Goldberg, you'll be back.
Thanks to all three of you.
We'll be back. And when we come back, we'll return with tensions in the Middle East boiling over. We'll speak with the mayor of New York, he's in Jerusalem, Rudy Giuliani. We'll also speak with Jerusalem's mayor Ahud Olmert. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. The mayors of New York and Jerusalem, Rudy Giuliani and Ehud Olmert, weigh in the war against terrorism. Also, tensions in the Middle East and the efforts to reach a peace deal between the Israelis and the Palestinians. We'll also get the Palestinian perspective.
But first, CNN's Bill Delaney demonstrates how American patriotism has spread to an unlikely place, the liberal university campus.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
The Middle East remains a tinderbox one week after deadly terrorist attacks in Jerusalem and Haifa. There was another suicide bombing in Israel last night.
This week, New York Governor George Pataki, New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and New York's soon-to-be Mayor Michael Bloomberg travelled to Israel in a show of solidarity against terrorism.
Joining us now from Jerusalem's David Citadel Hotel, the New York Mayor, Giuliani, of course, and the mayor of Jerusalem, his host, Ehud Olmert.
Mayors, thank you so much to both of you for joining us.
And, Mayor Giuliani, tell us why you went to Jerusalem right now. RUDOLPH GIULIANI, MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: Very simple, Governor Pataki and Mayor-Elect Bloomberg and I wanted to be here to show our support for the state of Israel, for the city of Jerusalem in particular, but for the state of Israel, because they are involved in exactly the same fight that we're involved in. And if we expect people to support us in our fight against terrorism, we have to support them.
The connection between New York City, in particular, and Jerusalem and Israel is very, very close, and we wanted them to know that we appreciate their support for us and we're there for them. We understand what they have to do, and support them in their effort to try to eradicate this terrible, terrible threat to innocent population and innocent people.
BLITZER: So are you suggesting, fundamentally, as Prime Minister Sharon has suggested, that there's really no difference between Osama bin Laden and Yasser Arafat?
GIULIANI: I don't know if I'd talk about individuals, I'd talk about terrorism. There's no difference between and among people who sponsor terrorism and who slaughter innocent populations, civilian populations.
Many of these terrorist groups actually trained together and are interconnected in numerous ways.
So, I don't know if I'd get all kind of worked up about personalities, I'd start looking at like the organizations and the groups. They are interconnected, they do train together, they have people that go back and forth in between these different organizations. So you'd be kind of foolish to sort of separate it, at least from point of view of the organizations.
BLITZER: But, Mayor Giuliani, are you among those who have effectively written off Yasser Arafat as a realistic peace partner with the Israelis?
GIULIANI: Well, I think his record to date has been pretty abysmal. I mean, he made a lot of commitments, hasn't kept any of them, he certainly has done little or nothing to stop the terrorism that's emanating from the Palestinian Authority. And he's so far not lived up to any single commitment that he's made, which is a pretty abysmal record.
BLITZER: What about that, Mayor Olmert? If you're taking a look at the overall situation right now, is there anything else that the Israelis can do Israelis to prevent these kind of suicide bombings? Because, as we know, Israel's been the target of these kind of bombings for a long time.
EHUD OLMERT, MAYOR OF JERUSALEM: Well, certainly, I think that there are certain things that we are doing. In fact, right now Prime Minister Sharon is holding a consultation in his home with a few of the senior ministers. He just showed up for a few minutes to congratulate the New York delegation, and he went immediately back to his home to continue the consultations.
There are certain things that can be done, but, strategically, my personal opinion is that, at the end of the day, we have to create a new reality without Yasser Arafat as the representative of the Palestinian Authority dealing with us.
OLMERT: Yasser Arafat did not fail. Yasser Arafat did not succeed. It is not a matter of success. Yasser Arafat didn't want to succeed, and he didn't want to fight terror. And he didn't really mean what he signed when he signed the Oslo Agreement. He is not a partner for peace.
So he can ease up a little bit of pressure or sometimes increases the pressure on the terrorist organizations. But he is very much spiritually, ideologically, part of it. And that's why I don't think that he can be a partner for peace negotiations.
BLITZER: So, so, you...
OLMERT: I don't suggest, Wolf, that anyone will eliminate Yasser Arafat. I just think that I wish there had been political process, a democratic process within the Palestinian community, that they would have dumped him out and choose someone that can seriously negotiate a peace process with us and not someone who is engaged almost continuously and repeatedly with terrorist actions of the worst possible kind.
BLITZER: Let me bring back Mayor Giuliani.
Mayor Giuliani, if you're taking a look at Yassar Arafat right now -- let me point out what our latest Newsweek poll says.
Can Arafat control extremist Palestinian groups? Among the American public, only 29 percent believe he can; 63 percent believe he cannot control Palestinian groups, extremist groups.
If he can't control them, why should he be blamed for these suicide bombings?
GIULIANI: Well, then why is he in charge? I mean, you can't have it both ways. If you are going to negotiate peace, peace means the end of terrorism, a cessation to terrorism. So, if he can't control them, then maybe he should step aside and then should negotiate with someone else.
So you really can't have it both ways. I mean, if he can't control terrorism from within his territory, then it makes no sense to be negotiating with him. After all, what your negotiating is a peaceful solution.
BLITZER: Well, but is...
GIULIANI: Let me finish, Wolf. If you are going to make concessions to him and your people are going to continue to be slaughtered, well, then it doesn't make sense to be making concessions to him any longer.
BLITZER: Mayor Olmert, is there an alternative to Yasser Arafat? There were elections on the West Bank of Gaza and he was elected. There were international observers there. The Palestinian people clearly believe he is their leader.
OLMERT: Come on, this was, I think, six, seven years ago that there were the last elections. I don't take it seriously. There was no free elections, there were no alternative.
Do you know of one candidate that stood against Yasser Arafat, Wolf? That there were free elections with international observers, this is ridiculous.
Look, there can be alternative to Arafat. And it was not written in the Bible to the best of my knowledge that only Yasser Arafat can make peace with Israel.
He doesn't want to make peace. He wants to continue terror. And as I think Mayor Giuliani correctly said, either he can control the extremist organizations or he is not a viable partner. If he is not a viable partner, we have to wait until there will be a viable partner.
We are not going to determine for the Palestinians who their leader will be. But we are not going to make peace with someone who wasn't want to make peace with us, and who is instead interested in carrying on terrorist activities and creating, you know, just an appearance of a peaceful attitude which is not the case.
I think that Yasser Arafat never ceased to be the head of a terrorist organization. His basic attitude is such. And I think he has to step down. And I hope that someone else will take over as the leader of the Palestinian community who is serious and that will be prepared to make concessions with Israel.
Who this guy will be, I don't know. And I'm not going to determine for them. But I think time has come for change-over with the Palestinian community.
BLITZER: What lessons, Mayor Giuliani, do you believe, that the American mayors can learn from Israel's experience in dealing with terrorism over these many years? Because, as you know, despite the enormous security precautions Israel has taken, Israel still suffers from these kinds of terrorist attacks.
GIULIANI: Well, I drew a lot on the lessons that I learned from having come to Israel back in 1996 when the bus bombings were taking place, and the other attacks, and other times that I have come here. I drew a lot of lessons from that having to deal with the attack on New York City on September 11.
The most important part is being able to go on with your life, being able to go forward with your life, and not have the terrorists destroy your ability to lead a free and independent life.
And every time I have come to Israel, I have been absolutely amazed by the strength and resiliency of the people of Israel. And it reminds me very, very much of the strength and resiliency of the people of New York City after being attacked on September 11, which I'm really in awe of.
BLITZER: Mayor Olmert, as far as the Bush administration is concerned a lot of talk that when the Prime Minister Sharon was here in Washington a week ago he effectively received a green light from the U.S. government, from the Bush administration, to go ahead and retaliate against Palestinian targets in Gaza and the West Bank, to which Saeb Erekat, someone you've known for many years, a Palestinian negotiator, had this to say on CNN earlier this week.
I want you to listen to what Mr. Erekat has to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAEB ERAKAT, CHIEF PALESTINIAN NEGOTIATOR: I hope that President Bush will stand up immediately and tell Sharon, "Enough is enough. You have no green light from me. And I want you back to the negotiating table, and I want the Zinni mission to succeed."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: That was a reference to the mission of General Anthony Zinni, the special U.S. envoy who's still trying to get these peace negotiations back on track.
Is there any prospect at all that these negotiations are going to get back on track any time soon?
OLMERT: I think that President Bush did precisely what Saeb Erekat had asked him to do. He said, "Enough is enough, Yasser Arafat. Stop terror. Stop your support for terrorists. Return back to the table of negotiations after you have stopped all the terrorist activities."
And General Zinni said the same thing as Yasser Arafat, enough is enough. The whole world really says to Yasser Arafat, enough is enough. Stop this terror. Stop send your suicidal attackers to kill innocent Israeli civilians in the hearts of their towns, in their buses, in their homes, in the streets. Stop the killing, stop the bloodshed, stop the terror, if you can.
If you can't, then maybe you are not the partner. If you don't want, then certainly you are not the partner, but stop it.
So I think Saeb Erekat is absolutely accurate in his expectations except that, unfortunately, he doesn't understand that they are to be blamed because they're conducting terror and they have to stop it right now. Stop it.
BLITZER: Mayor Giuliani, you're getting ready to step down as the mayor of New York City less than a month from now.
Briefly, while we have you, tell us a little bit what your immediate plans are going be after you step down as mayor of New York. GIULIANI: I think take a long rest might be a good thing to do...
GIULIANI: ... which for me will probably be a day or two.
Watch a few football games and get ready for spring training. I'm thinking about seeing if I can play right field for New York Yankees with my hero Paul O'Neill retiring.
BLITZER: If President Bush...
BLITZER: Go ahead, Mayor.
OLMERT: Yes, I just wanted to say to Rudy that my dream is to run with him in Central Park in New York, to make a jog of about six, seven, eight miles together in one early morning, you know, some day in the city of New York. And he says that he will get ready for the summer so that we'll run together, how about that.
BLITZER: We'll have TV cameras to record that video, if in fact that happens.
OLMERT: All right, that sounds great.
BLITZER: Mayor Giuliani, if President Bush were to call upon you for your service in his administration, would you say yes?
GIULIANI: Well, I think, you know, those are things you don't talk about publicly, and I'm a very, very big supporter of President Bush. I was, you know, before he got elected and worked very hard to try to get him elected.
And since September 11, I think, like the rest of America, I'm very, very -- even a bigger supporter of his. I think very, very quickly, President Bush responded to just about one of the worst crises that any American president has ever faced, and he's already demonstrated he's a great president.
BLITZER: OK, two mayors, the mayor of New York, the mayor of Jerusalem, thanks to both of you for joining us.
Good luck to you, Mayor Giuliani, in your private life. I'm sure you'll be back here on LATE EDITION...
GIULIANI: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: ... many times. Good luck to both of you, Mayor Olmert, Mayor Giuliani. Thank you very much.
And up next, the Palestinian perspective. We'll talk with the chief Palestinian representative here in the United States, Hassan Abdel Rahman, and James Zogby of the Arab American Institute. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Joining us now with a different perspective are two guests: in New York, the chief Palestinian representative here in the United States, Hassan Abdel Rahman, and here in Washington, James Zogby, the president of the Arab American Institute.
And, Mr. Rahman, let me begin with you. You heard both Mayor Giuliani and Mayor Olmert say that, effectively, they've apparently given up hope that Yasser Arafat can get the job done.
Can Yasser Arafat right now still control the situation, crack down on these terrorists and resume negotiations with the Israelis?
HASSAN ABDEL RAHMAN, PLO'S CHIEF U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: But before, allow me a brief comment.
First, you called Mr. Olmert the mayor of Jerusalem, while he is only the mayor of half of Jerusalem, because the other half was annexed illegally by Israel. It was never recognized by any country in the world, including the United States, and the population of East Jerusalem, which is 220,000 Palestinians, never elected him. So he is the mayor of West Jerusalem and not East Jerusalem.
The second comment that I would like to make, that there is one word I did not hear, and that is "occupation." Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories for over 35 years, which makes it the longest foreign military occupation in modern history.
Having said that, now I will turn to your question. Yasser Arafat cannot succeed on his own as long as the Palestinian territory are located by Israel, that the Palestinian people are under siege, that Israel continues its policy of assassination, demolishing of houses, systematic bombardment of Palestinian security infrastructure. It makes it extremely difficult for Yasser Arafat to succeed.
For Yasser Arafat to succeed in his efforts, he needs the cooperation of the Israelis, and that a modification in the behavior of Israel vis-a-vis the Palestinians. But, if...
BLITZER: Well, on that...
BLITZER: I was going to say, on that specific point about ending the occupation, most U.S. officials, most people around the world believe there was a very generous offer made from the previous Israeli government at Camp David last year to end the occupation and create an independent Palestinian state that would live alongside Israel, including East Jerusalem, that would be part of this new Palestinian state, an offer that Yasser Arafat rejected, an offer that would have ended the occupation.
RAHMAN: You see, you are repeating exactly the story that was told by the Israelis, but you did not listen to our story.
BLITZER: But that was also told by former President Bill Clinton.
RAHMAN: Yes, but you know President Clinton was supporting his wife's election in New York and he took that position. I don't want to get into that.
But if that was the generous offer that you are talking about, then why President Clinton made a different offer two months later? Because he knew that the first offer was inadequate, and that's why he made the second offer. And on the basis of second offer, we negotiated with the Israelis until January 28, seven days before Israel election.
What brought this turnabout, Wolf, is the provocative visit of Sharon to Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem on September 29, and the subsequent Israel's use of lethal weapon that killed 69 Palestinians in five days of demonstrations before one Israeli was injured.
BLITZER: All right.
RAHMAN: So we have to really set the record clear on this.
BLITZER: Let me bring Jim Zogby in. He's an American of Arab ancestry. He's got some strong views on this as well.
There's a Newsweek poll. We've been citing it today. One of the questions: "Who's to blame for the recent Middle East violence?" Israelis, 11 percent. Palestinians, 42 percent. Both equally, 23 percent. Neither or other, 4 percent. Don't know, 20 percent.
Clearly, by a four-to-one margin, most Americans are blaming the Palestinians, not the Israelis.
JAMES ZOGBY, ARAB AMERICAN INSTITUTE: Well, that's always the numbers we get. In fact, we've polled on that question now for about 10 years, and those are his...
BLITZER: And your brother's a very famous pollster.
ZOGBY: Right. And those are historically the numbers you get.
It means the Israeli narrative is better understood, and the Israeli narrative is better accepted. It defines -- it actually defines the way Americans talk about the issue. It is not an exact historical definition of blame, as much as it is this is the way the public perceives it.
And of course, look, you know, when you want to assess blame, the question is, where do you start? If you want to start with the suicide bombers, the terrorists who struck a few days ago, then the Palestinians started it. If you want to go back to Sharon's assassinating some Palestinian leaders, then the Israelis started it. Or else you can go a little further, or else you can go back to the beginning of the occupation, or you can go back to '48.
The question of, in other words, defining blame is where you start the historical narrative. The Israeli historical narrative, probably since the film the "Exodus" was shown here in America, and most people saw it, came away saying, the Israelis are the good guys and the Palestinians are the bad guys. That's pretty much how we've talked about it now all these many years.
BLITZER: So what happens now, Jim Zogby? There's a problem, there's a stalemate.
BLITZER: There's talk of eliminating Yasser Arafat right now, comparisons to Osama bin Laden.
BLITZER: You heard Mayor Giuliani, a very popular politician here in the United States.
ZOGBY: Right. And in fact he's wrong. And Giuliani has always been unfair to President Arafat, even during the days of the peace process, when Arafat was coming to the United States and was recognized in a much different way, Giuliani was rude and, in fact, very undiplomatic in how he dealt with him. New York politics largely, I think, to play there.
Eliminating Yasser Arafat would be, I think, a terrible tragedy, and the situation we're dealing with right now is in fact a terrible tragedy.
There is no way to eliminate the Palestinian Authority and to reoccupy the West Bank and Gaza without disastrous consequences. And the Palestinians have suffered enormously, all these many years. In fact, frankly, I don't think Israel ever really understood daily life for Palestinians or the trauma that's been imposed on them.
ZOGBY: I also don't think it's been understood here in the United States what it's like growing up with 50 percent unemployment; what it's like growing up where the single largest source of income as being a day laborer in the dirtiest and lowest-paid jobs in Israel; what it's like living under occupation, when your houses can be destroyed or new settlements can be built on your land and you have no right to stop it.
The sense of alienation and powerlessness, I think, is what's created all this.
And even what was called the most generous deal issued -- given by Prime Minister Barak, kept in place all those settlements on Palestinian land and kept in place Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank and Gaza and kept in place the fact that Palestinians would have no access freely to go in or out of their territory. His most generous offer gave Palestinians what South Africans rejected, bantustans (ph), and it's a tragedy we never recognize that.
BLITZER: Mr. Rahman, the whole nature of what the Palestinian Authority president, Yasser Arafat, is doing right now, he and his security forces are arresting some suspected terrorists.
What precisely is he doing, as far as those who belong to Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad? Tell our viewers what's happening on that front.
RAHMAN: Well, anyone who is violating the cease-fire is being arrested. Anyone who is violating the commitments that the authority is making is being arrested, is being punished.
The problem is that, you know, there's violence on the Palestinian side that is conducted by a fringe group, by very, very small Palestinian group.
On the other side, the killing of the Palestinians by the Israelis is done by the Israeli government and by the Israeli army. We put those who violate the cease-fire in prison, but nobody puts the Israeli generals and the Israeli politicians who order the killing of Palestinians or the settlers who kill Palestinians in prison.
And that is the problem. On the one hand, we are asked to do our job and no one is stopping the Israelis on the other hand.
BLITZER: Let me ask you this, though. The State Department and Bush administration flatly says that Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad are terrorist organizations which must be shut down. Is that the view of the Palestinian Authority?
RAHMAN: We believe that there are certain individuals who are involved in acts of violence and acts of terrorism, and we are willing to take action against them.
This is our view: We believe that those who commit act of violence or plan acts of violence or engaged in any support for acts of violence, you have to be tried. And we are willing to keep our commitment.
The problem is, as I said, Israeli violence goes unpunished. You have 1,000 Palestinians killed. I did not see enough coverage on any network, including the CNN, of the suffering of the Palestinians...
BLITZER: All right. Let me go bring back Jim...
RAHMAN: ... while the suffering of the Israelis is being covered very extensively.
BLITZER: Let me bring back Jim Zogby and talk about the freezing of assets of a large Muslim charity here in the United States, the Holy Land Foundation. As you know, the Bush administration shut it down, effectively, this week, saying it was providing money to Hamas and other groups on the West Bank and Gaza that were supporting terrorists.
Was that a justified action?
ZOGBY: Well, I think that there was quite a bit of hoopla about it. I mean, the president announcing it from the White House and creating, I think, much greater, much larger story about this than probably is warranted.
The fact is that the charges, as I understand them, that have finally been made against this group -- and there have been allegations for years, but never formal charges -- is not that they support Hamas directly, but that their charity goes to survivors of Hamas, either bombers who've been killed or...
BLITZER: Suicide bombers.
ZOGBY: ... or survivors, in one sort or another and that that is considered fungible assets that go to help underwrite some of activity.
Those are charges that should be addressed in legal proceedings. I know their group is preceding on that. And if, in fact, they are in violation of U.S. law, it will be a problem for them.
But I think that the larger issue that has to be addressed here is that American Muslims are asking how can they contribute and what can they can give to legitimately, and there's a lot of fear right now afoot, that they don't know -- this is the end of Ramadan coming up. People want to give to charities. It's their religious obligation to do so. And frankly, they don't know where they can go.
And I think it is incumbent upon the administration to help provide a clean bill of health for groups that they do deem legitimate, that are not in violation, so he we can get on with this.
But the case against the Holy Land Foundation is one that still will be addressed in legal proceedings.
BLITZER: All right. Jim Zogby, Ambassador Rahman, thank to both of you for joining us. Unfortunately, we have to leave it right there.
RAHMAN: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you.
We'll get to our military analysts in the search for Osama bin Laden shortly. They'll also be taking your phone calls and your questions, but first, let's go to CNN's Catherine Callaway with a quick check of all the latest developments.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Your courage during the defining hour of the 20th century gives this country the same steadiness of purpose. The same resolution to meet this the first great challenge of the 21st century.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: For president George Bush speaking on the 60th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Joining us now from Little Rock, Arkansas, the CNN military analyst, the former supreme allied commander, the NATO commander, General Wesley Clark, and in Montgomery, Alabama, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel John Warden.
Gentlemen, thanks for joining us.
Let me begin with you, General Clark, your assessment of where this war in Afghanistan stands right now.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I think we've done a really superb job of using air power with the special forces on the ground to really smash the Taliban resistance. The Taliban is finished, at least as an entity which could control Afghanistan.
Now we're in a much more difficult phase. We've got to use the people on the ground. The Afghan's have to take the lead in this. We've got to find Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar and that's going to be very difficult.
BLITZER: In that particular phase, Colonel Warden, air power in this cave-to-cave, house-to-house search for Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar is not necessarily going to do the job.
COL. JOHN WARDEN (RET.), AIR FORCE: I think we really need to think about where we are from a strategic standpoint. From a strategic standpoint, the Taliban is gone. al Qaeda in Afghanistan is no longer functions as a organization. And if we get into those caves, we got the Mullah Omar or if we get bin Laden himself, that -- that's useful, but it's not strategically necessary at this point. Bin Laden was a dangerous guy because of his organization, not so much because of bin Laden.
BLITZER: General Clark, why do you say the next phase, this current phase is going to be more difficult than the initial phase, the initial phase to destroy the Taliban rule -- leadership of Afghanistan. To give friendly forces control effectively of all the major cities, most of the country. That seems like a pretty formidable challenge. Why is the next challenge more difficult?
CLARK: Well, I don't want to do anything to suggest that it wasn't formal challenge. I think that our leadership did a great job of putting together an unconventional strategy using air power with minimal foot print on the ground to really target them precisely. But that's what air power can do. And since the operation in Kosovo, we've put so much more emphasis on being able to strike what we call mobile targets. That it's good to see the payoff here. But now we're focusing not on, on troop formations that are fixed in positions except around the caves maybe, but we're focusing on a network of people. They're people that are doing their best to hide. They can move in small groups. They can blend into the population. There are bases in some 50 countries in the world.
We know that, at least on an unclassified basis, we figure about two-thirds of the al Qaeda network is still alive. And even though this is not a conventional military organization, which can spring back, as long as those people are out there and unrepentant, they can reform and they still present a threat to the United States. So we have to have a different methodology now. We're going after individuals, not forces.
BLITZER: Colonel Warden, were you surprised at effectiveness of air power in this two-month war that's been under way, since the U.S. launched airstrikes on October 7?
WARDEN: Not really because it was really the -- a further development of the way that we planned and used air power in the Gulf War. And it has developed significantly more and we've seen some revolutionary things in the use of armed predators and other unmanned vehicles.
So I think that we really need to think about this not so much as just air power, but as the use of American extraordinary asymmetric advantages, technological advantages. And the longer that we continue thinking in that way and stay on that kind of an approach, the better off we're going to be.
BLITZER: Let's take a caller from Georgia. Go ahead, please.
CALLER: Yes. Thank you, Wolf. You have a great show.
General Clark, should we go into Iraq next, and if we do, should -- how many ground troops would be needed and what would be the overall cost? I know that's a tough question, but what do you think?
CLARK: Well, I think we certainly have to find a way to deal with Saddam Hussein and his acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. I'm not sure that that's the next target. It really depends on where the information trail leads us. We're going to have to exploit the information we've picked up in Afghanistan. We're going to have to continue to work there and take apart the network and then we're going to have to trace that network out.
In the meantime, we need to be building the basis for a case against Afghanistan. We need to go back to the United Nations. We need to say, again, that the members of the U.N. Security Council should be putting pressure on Iraq to comply with U.D. directives to open up those storage sites, let us see what's there.
And then, if Saddam doesn't do that, then not only the United States, but all the members of the United Nations should force a reckoning with them. It may not be military forces, it may not be thousands of troops, it may be something else. BLITZER: All right. Let's take another caller from Florida. Go ahead, please.
CALLER: Hi. This is Ray Ennis (ph) from Winterhaven (ph), Florida. Wolf and General and Colonel, good to speak to you.
My concern is, and it bothers me so much, maybe these tribal -- tribe people can forgive each other so much for the atrocities that the Taliban have put on their people. But -- and I think they should be put into a war court -- I'm sorry, like the Nuremberg trials and also, like we did in the Japanese war crimes tribunal.
BLITZER: Let me ask Colonel Warden, what do you think should be done to the Taliban leadership and the Taliban soldiers, rank and file, who are captured?
WARDEN: I think it's fairly easy from the rank and file standpoint, that these guys were soldiers. They were doing their job in one way or another and the sooner that you begin to forget kinds of things or at least have some degree of forgiveness, the faster that Afghanistan begins to put itself back together.
And for the Taliban leaders, you really need to have some fairly precise definition of what they may have done insofar as active support of al Qaeda and then al Qaeda's operations against the United States.
If all they did were things in Afghanistan, that, to me, is strictly an Afghanistan problem that they will resolve in the best way that they can.
BLITZER: General Clark, as you know, there's a new videotape. Paul Wolfowitz the deputy defense secretary, spoke about it on this program earlier, first reported in the "Washington Post" this morning. Vice president Cheney spoke about it. The chairman of the joint chiefs, General Myers, also spoke about this videotape in which Osama bin Laden is seen and heard talking about the September 11 attacks, suggesting that he was directly responsible for planning it, for plotting it, certainly for applauding it.
I want you to listen to what General Myers had to say earlier in the day about this videotape.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MYERS: Well, I'm almost afraid to go into that too much, but I will use a couple of words. He was relaxed. And let me just --- it was, obviously, from my view anyway, the few segments that I saw, he was conducting it like it was a private conversation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: General Clark, clearly, U.S. officials believe it's legitimate, authentic. What do you think the administration should do with this tape, which appears to be hard evidence, a smoking gun, directly linking Osama bin Laden to September 11? CLARK: Well, I hope this will be the opportunity for the administration to go to the United Nations and to establish a war crimes tribunal that will really be able to use this tape and other evidence to bring Osama bin Laden before justice, not only American justice, but international justice, because he really is a war criminal, just as the caller said, just as we brought the trials at the end of the second World War, or as we have Slobodan Milosevic in the Hague right now.
It'd be a wonderful thing to be able to present that evidence and let the whole world see exactly what Osama bin Laden planned and how he reacted to it and let everyone stand in judgment of him.
BLITZER: Let's take another caller from Toronto. Go ahead, please.
CALLER: Yes. First, I would like to say that I admire and respect the American military...
BLITZER: Excuse me, ma'am. Could you turn down your TV, because you're obviously confusing our audience.
CALLER: All right. I'm sorry.
General, first, I would like to say that I admire and respect your military and America. And my question is, how are you going to weed out the al Qaeda people and the Taliban from the rest of the Afghanistan people?
BLITZER: All right.
Colonel Warden, do you want to handle that?
WARDEN: Yes. I think, again here, that there are two sets of issues. The one are the strategic issues, the other the tactical issues.
The strategic issues are significantly solved now. Afghanistan no longer supporting terrorists. Al Qaeda in Afghanistan is broken. There may be guys alive, but they're sure not functioning as an organization that can lay together offensive operations.
So it's useful to get some of the rest of these guys, but I think that, from a strategic standpoint, we really need now to start thinking about the bigger picture, which may in fact involve Iraq.
BLITZER: General Clark, I know you've given a lot of thought to this 20-year-old American who was fighting and captured with the Taliban, John Walker. The Marines now have him under their control. Paul Wolfowitz said earlier today, Vice President Cheney said earlier today that he has provided some useful information to the U.S. military about the nature of the Taliban, other issues.
What do you think that -- what should be done with this guy?
CLARK: Well, he fought against -- he fought in support of forces that were hostile to the United States. He's still an American citizen. It's wartime. He's certainly indictable as a traitor. And then, having indicted him, then we would have to figure out exactly the right venue and, if he is giving useful information, if he's young, if he was misguided or whatever, there may be mitigating circumstances.
But the simple fact is, he fought, he sided against the American people and our government, he sided with people who killed thousands of Americans. That's wrong.
BLITZER: Colonel Warden, Senator Biden, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said earlier on this program that a lot will depend now on how cooperative John Walker is with the U.S. military and the U.S. government. Should that in fact be an important facto in determining his fate?
WARDEN: I would think so. It's not clear quite yet as to whether that he was deliberately fighting against American forces, or whether he was just sucked up in a set of events that changed rather dramatically when we started the attack on Afghanistan.
As General Clark said, however, there's very clearly indictable offenses there, which seems ought to be mitigated significantly if in fact that he did -- is giving us some useful information.
So I think that the thing will work out probably, some way or other, that he's indicted but probably not thrown in jail for the rest of his life.
BLITZER: General Clark, in all of your personal military experience, did you ever come across a case like this John Walker?
CLARK: No. But there were reports during the Vietnam War there were some Americans who had deserted and were seen fighting with the Vietcong or North Vietnamese. I never personally had any experience about it. I think those records are rumored, I've never seen the records myself, but it has happened, and I'm sure it happened in World War II as well.
And these people have to be dealt with in an appropriate fashion. And then, if there are mitigating circumstances, fine.
But, you know, the thing about John Walker is, it's like every parent's nightmare that a young person will be misguided and end up in circumstances like this, and I think everybody feels sympathy for the parents and some understanding for him, but the simple fact is, who he was with and what he was doing was simply wrong, and it needs to be dealt with in an appropriate fashion in this country.
BLITZER: All right, gentlemen, stand by, we're going to take a quick break. We still have a lot more to talk about, including a lot more phone calls and questions for our military analysts. LATE EDITION will be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our discussion, taking more of your phone calls for CNN military analysts Gen. Wesley Clark and the retired U.S. Air Force Col. John Warden.
Let's take another caller from Kentucky. Go ahead, please.
CALLER: Yes, Mr. Blitzer, and all your honored guests. May I just simply say that I am an Army veteran, and only wishes she had waited two more years to retire.
My question is, could you please explain to me the British stance against capital punishment for bin Laden, please?
BLITZER: All right. Well, let me bring in Gen. Clark on this. As you know, Gen. Clark, Britain and all the European Union, they have a rule, they have a law there that they will not extradite anyone to the United States, which has capital punishment, if that individual is eligible to be executed here in the United States.
Presumably, if you want to take this to a -- some sort of level, if Osama bin Laden were to get to Europe, or to Britain, on that soil, he couldn't be extradited to the United States unless the United States promised he wouldn't be executed.
Is that the case, as far as you know it?
CLARK: As far as I know it, it is. It's been a long-standing issue between the United States and its European allies, and it's just one of those areas in which political opinion on the one side of the Atlantic is different than it is on the other side.
I would say this, though, in defense of the Europeans. When they put someone in jail and they leave him there for a long time, it can be a very, very unpleasant experience there. Jails are very tough. They're very impersonal. And they don't have a lot of the amenities that some of the other prisoners in the United States have grown accustomed to. So, it can be pretty miserable over there for people who've been incarcerated for a long time.
BLITZER: Colonel Warden, there's been a lot of controversy about these military commissions. These military tribunals that the Bush administration, that President Bush wants to have in order to deal with these suspected terrorists, not U.S. citizens. Is this something that you think militarily should be engaged in?
WARDEN: I think actually in this particular case it works out well for a couple of reasons. That one, when you get right down to it that bin Laden and al Qaeda committed a crime against the United States. So I think we ought to assume responsibility and in this particular case especially, not try to turn it over to the United Nations.
Second thing is that the tribunals and the general court-martial system despite what some of the publicity says about it is a extraordinary fair process and one that rather surprisingly has in general a slightly lower conviction rate than do civilian courts or federal district courts in any event. So the military tribunal approach in the event, I suspect unlikely we actually end up taking bin Laden alive, is I think is probably exactly the right way to go about it.
BLITZER: You have a little different take, though, General Clark, correct me if I'm wrong. You still believe as I think you suggested on this program today that the international court in the Hague, the War Crimes Tribunal that's dealing with Milosevic of Yugoslavia. That might be in a more -- more of an appropriate venue for the leadership of some of these terrorist organizations?
CLARK: I think so, Wolf and for this reason, because although the attack was on U.S. soil, there were a number of people killed from other countries and the United States has been the strongest proponent for over half a century of international justice. We built the United Nations. We built the international court system. We've supported that system.
And now for us to suddenly say, well, we've got enough power, we're not going to use it, we're going to just bring them here and try them in our own country. And especially to say we may use a system that is not open for public observation. It risks undoing a lot of good that we've done around the world for half a century, really trying to open the process of justice. It's what we stand for.
Now, if I could, Wolf, just a word on these military tribunals. As I understood it, they are not a court-martial. It's not that they're going to receive the protection of military law. Military law is actually quite good and Colonel Warden is exactly right that when you go before a military court martial, you get a lot of protection if you're the defendant.
But it's my understanding that this is a military tribunal, but it's not under the uniform code of military justice. It's under rules yet to be crafted under circumstances that will apparently not provide all those safeguards for defendants and intentionally so in order to risk disclosing evidence and information that might some how aid other terrorists to operate against the United States.
And I think that we're just going to have to look at this very carefully. The more open we can make the system of justice, the more transparent, the more we can get by in from the international community, the greater help we're going to receive in smashing the rest of the al Qaeda network.
And even though their base area has been destroyed in Afghanistan, and even though that organization's now on the run, it's not finished and one thing in war that we know is.
When you start the fight, you got the finish the fight all the way through and take out the enemy leadership and all of its capabilities, otherwise they're liable to come back and get us.
So we'll need to finish this all the way and we need support of other nations to do it and that's the reason why I would be in favor of however we could internationalize this and make it more open and get more buy in. I think that's the key thing we need right here.
BLITZER: General Clark, always good to have you on the program.
Colonel Warden, thanks for joining us. We hope you'll be back. I'm assuming that you will.
Thanks to both of you once again for all of your help.
And just ahead, Bruce Morton's "Last Word."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): New York City's mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg spent $68,968,185.00 of his own money to get elected. That work's out to $92.60 per vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is American democracy subject to the highest bidder? Stay with us.
BLITZER: Time now for Bruce Morton's "Last Word" on war, money and politics.
MORTON (voice-over): You could argue that in Afghanistan the easy part is over. That is, high-tech U.S. power plus anti-Taliban guerrillas have won the conventional war, they control the cities and so on.
Now probably comes the harder part. Hunting guerrillas who know the ground well in a country full of caves. Difficult to know how that will go and while we wait to find out, let me change the subject for a minute and talk about a truly alarming development in the United States.
We've all made jokes about American politics for years, the best government money can buy and so on. Well, it's not funny. New York City's mayor-elect Michael Bloomberg spent $68,968,185.00 of his own money to get elected. That works out to $92.60 per vote.
It is a record of course more than the $63 million John Corzine, New Jersey's junior senator, spent on his election and he was running in a state, though a small one to be sure. It's almost as much as Ross Perot spent running for president in 1992, and way more than Steve Forbes running for president in 2000.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All you can do with money is get your message out.
(END VIDEO CLIP) MORTON: It is perfectly constitutional of course. Would we like it better if, instead of just having millionaires run, we had ordinary people who were deeply in hock to this corporation or that labor union or whatever? Probably not.
But isn't there some way to get money out of the system? Maybe not. You can have public financing, but taxpayers might object to having their tax dollars spent on TV ads, political consultants, and the like, and anyway there's nothing to stop a Perot, a Bloomberg from saying, as they did, no, I don't want public money, I'll stay outside the system and do it on my own, my way. The courts have said, that's their right.
So we are probably stuck with a system which ensures that a lot of our elected officials -- you can't say freely elected -- are rich people. That doesn't sound much like the America we read about in history books, but it's where we are.
Which reminds we, we've been honoring the veterans of the Pacific War this past week, and you know? Bloomberg's 9260 is about what my father made in a week back then. How times have changed.
I'm Bruce Morton.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Bruce.
And now some of your e-mails. Many viewers wrote to us about the U.S. roundup of potential suspects in the war on terrorism.
Jerry, for example, defends the government's action: "If so many civil liberties have been violated, where are the usual flurry of lawsuits? Perhaps it is because in fact laws have not been broken by the Justice Department."
Shifting now to new hopes for independence among Afghan women, Dave encourages them to celebrate the fall of the Taliban: "American women burn the bra, and now it is time for Afghan women to burn the veil."
Remember you can send your e-mail to LATE EDITION at cnn.com, you can also register to receive my e-mails at cnn.com/e-mail.
And time now for a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines here in the United States.
"TIME" magazine follows the last days of the Taliban with leader Mullah Mohammed Omar on the cover.
"Newsweek" has the American Taliban, the saga of John Walker, on the cover.
And on the cover of "U.S. News and World Report," Rum Punch: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tells people off, shuts people up, and says what he thinks, you got a problem with that? Good cover. That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, December 9. Please join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.
During the week I'll see you twice a day, 5:00 and 7:00 p.m. Eastern for two editions of Wolf Blitzer Reports.
Until then, thanks very much for watching.
Happy anniversary to my parents.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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