Skip to main content /TRANSCRIPTS




Aired August 27, 2002 - 17:00:00   ET



DICK CHENEY, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: Our goal would be an Iraq that has territorial integrity, a government that is democratic and pluralistic (AUDIO GAP) where the human rights of every ethnic and religious group are recognized and protected.

In that troubled land.

JONATHAN MANN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): United States Vice President Dick Cheney argues for war with Iraq. Is he entering the debate, or essentially ending it?


Hello and welcome.

Sometimes historians have a better view of things than journalists do. Monday may have been proof.

United States Vice President Dick Cheney gave a speech that frankly we here at INSIGHT hardly took notice of at the time. When the history of this era is written, it may get a lot more attention.

Cheney, one of the most respected members in the Bush administration and one of the hawks on Iraq laid out a case for war against Baghdad. A case that in the weeks to come the United States is going to be making with its allies and opinion leaders around the world.

Still, the White House insists President Bush, as commander-in-chief, is keeping all of his options open.

On our program today, Dick Cheney, his boss, and Baghdad.

First, though, a look at the headlines this hour.

The United States and Saudi Arabia are trying to highlight the strength of their relationship amid growing speculation it's strained by the September 11th attacks and Iraq.

President George Bush and Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan met at Mr. Bush's ranch in Texas. A White House spokesman said the two talked about the Middle East crisis, the war on terrorism, and Iraq.


ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECT.: On the topic of Iraq, the president stressed that he has made no decisions, that he will continue to engage in consultation with Saudi Arabia and other nations about steps in the Middle East, steps in Iraq, and the president made very clear again that he believes Saddam Hussein is a menace to world peace, a menace to regional peace, and that the world and the region will be safer and better off without Saddam Hussein.


MANN: Saudi Arabia has repeatedly stated that its opposition to military action against Iraq.

In Spain's Basque region, police clashed with protesters as authorities closed the offices of a Basque nationalist party, Batasuna. A judge has banned the party for three years because of alleged links to the violent separatist group ETA. Protests have erupted across the Basque country in the wake of the ban.

Israeli troops have reportedly arrested at least three members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Palestinian sources say those arrested in Ramallah include the head of the PFLP's political bureau and the radical group's spokesman.

Elsewhere in the West Bank city, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and his cabinet are discussing security talks held with the Israelis Monday night. During that meeting, Israel vowed to uphold its promise to ease restrictions in Gaza and Bethlehem. Under the loosened restrictions, Palestinians are to be granted more access to Israel, particularly teachers preparing for the new school year.

Delegates to the Earth Summit say more needs to be done to bring new technology to poor farmers. At Tuesday's meeting in Johannesburg, representatives spoke against the subsidies European nations give their farmers, saying those subsidies make it harder for farmers in developing nations to compete in the world market.

And while some negotiators worked to set a timetable for implementing the summit's goals, the United States resisted that kind of timetable, saying that countries that receive aid should first reduce corruption.

The vice president of the United States is more widely traveled in the Middle East than the president. And has defense secretary in the first Bush administration, Dick Cheney has already been at war there.

Cheney is widely considered a man the president listens to, and the country listens to him closely as a result.

Cheney says Iraq is about to get nuclear weapons, and the United States will not let that happen. Here's an excerpt from his speech Monday.


CHENEY: Containment is not possible when dictators obtain weapons of mass destruction and are prepared to share them with terrorists who intend to inflict catastrophic casualties on the United States.

The case of Saddam Hussein, a sworn enemy of our country, requires a candid appraisal of the facts. After his defeat in the Gulf War in 1991, Saddam agreed to UN Security Council resolution 687, to cease all development of weapons of mass destruction.

He agreed to end his nuclear weapons program. He agreed to destroy his chemical and his biological weapons. He further agreed to admit UN inspection teams into his country to insure that he was in fact complying with his terms.

In the past decade, Saddam has systematically broken each of these agreements. The Iraqi regime has in fact been very busy enhancing its capabilities in the field of chemical and biological agents, and they continue to pursue the nuclear program they began so many years ago.

These are not weapons for the purpose of defending Iraq. These are offensive weapons for the purpose of inflicting death on a massive scale, developed so that Saddam can hold the threat over the head of anyone he chooses, in his own region or beyond.

We now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Among other sources, we've gotten this from first-hand testimony from defectors, including Saddam's own son-in-law, who was subsequently murdered at Saddam's direction.

Many of us are convinced that Saddam Hussein will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon. Just how soon we cannot really gauge. Intelligence is an uncertain business, even in the best of circumstances. This is especially the case when you are dealing with a totalitarian regime that has made a science out of deceiving the international community.

One must keep in mind the history of UN inspection teams in Iraq. Even as they were conducting the most intrusive system of arms control in history, the inspectors missed a great deal. Before being barred from the country, the inspectors found and destroyed thousands of chemical weapons and hundreds of tons of mustard gas and other nerve agents. Yet Saddam Hussein has sought to frustrate and deceive them at every turn.

Saddam has perfected the game of cheat-and-retreat and is very skilled in the art of denial and deception. A return of inspectors would provide no assurance whatsoever of his compliance with the UN resolutions. On the contrary, there's a great danger that it would provide false comfort that Saddam was somehow back in his box.

Meanwhile, he would continue to plot. Nothing in the last dozen years has stopped him. Not his solemn agreements, not the discoveries of inspectors, not the revelations by defectors, not criticism or ostracism by the international community and not four days of bombing by the United States in 1998.

What he wants is time, and more time, to husband his resources, to invest in his ongoing chemical and biological weapons program, and to gain possession of nuclear weapons.

Should all his ambitions be realized, the implications would be enormous for the Middle East, for the United States, and for the peace of the world. The whole range of weapons of mass destruction would rest in the hands of a dictator who has already shown his willingness to use such weapons and has done so, both in his war with Iran and against his own people.

Armed with an arsenal of these weapons of terror and seated atop 10 percent of the world's oil reserves, Saddam Hussein could then be expected to seek domination of the entire Middle East, take control of a great portion of the world's energy supplies, directly threaten America's friends throughout the region and subject the United States, or any other nation, to nuclear blackmail.

Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us, and there is no doubt that his aggressive regional ambitions will lead him into future confrontations with his neighbors, confrontations that will involve both the weapons he has today and the ones he will continue to develop with his oil wealth.

The elected leaders of this country have a responsibility to consider all of the available options, and we are doing so. What we must not do in the face of a mortal threat is to give in to wishful thinking or willful blindness. We will not simply look away, hope for the best, and leave the matter for some future administration to resolve.

As President Bush has said, time is not on our side. Deliverable weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terror network or a murderous dictator, or the two working together, constitutes as grave a threat as can be imagined. The risks of inaction are far greater than the risks of action.

Now and in the future, the United States will work closely with the global coalition to deny terrorists and their state sponsors the materials, technology and expertise to make and deliver weapons of mass destruction. We will develop and deploy affective missiles and defenses to protect America and her allies from sudden attack. And the entire world must know that we will take whatever action is necessary to defend our freedom and our security.

If the United States could have preempted 9-11, we would have, no question. Should we be able to prevent another much more devastating attack, we will, no question. This nation will not live at the mercy of terrorists or terror regimes.


CHENEY: I am familiar with the arguments against taking action in the case of Saddam Hussein. Some concede that Saddam Hussein is evil, power hungry and a menace, but that until he crosses the threshold of actually possessing nuclear weapons we should rule out any preemptive action. That logic seems to be to be deeply flawed.

The argument comes down to this: yes, Saddam is as dangerous as we say he is; we just need to let him get stronger before we do anything about it. Yet if we did wait until that moment, Saddam would simply be emboldened, and it would become even harder for us to gather friends and allies to oppose him.

Another argument holds that opposing Saddam Hussein would cause even greater troubles in that part of the world, and interfere with the larger war against terror. I believe the opposite is true. Regime change in Iraq would bring about a number of benefits in the region. When the gravest of threats are eliminated, the freedom-loving peoples of the region will have a chance to promote the values that can bring lasting peace.

The reality is that these times bring not only dangers but also opportunities. In the Middle East, where so many have known only poverty and oppression, terror and tyranny, we look to the day when people can live in freedom and dignity, and the young can grow up free of the conditions that breed despair, hatred and violence.

With our help, a liberated Iraq can be a great nation once again. Iraq is rich in natural resources and human talent, and has unlimited potential for a peaceful, prosperous future. Our goal would be an Iraq that has territorial integrity, a government that is democratic and pluralistic, a nation where the human rights of every ethnic and religious group are recognized and protected.


MANN: Dick Cheney.

Does it sound like the administration has made up its mind? Does it matter what anyone else thinks?

A conversation about the decision and the diplomacy. Stay with us.



MANN (voice-over): The United States doesn't have the coalition it had the last time it went to wear against Iraq in 1991. It doesn't have a new explicit mandate from the United Nations Security Council. Dick Cheney says it doesn't need one.


(on camera): Welcome back.

Right now, if the United States went to war against Iraq, it would be almost alone. The German chancellor, for example, is opposed to the idea, and said so again on Tuesday. The French foreign minister said Tuesday the Security Council has to help decide. Does that have any part in the administration's thinking? Should it?

A short time ago we got in touch with Richard Holbrooke, a former United States ambassador to the United Nations, to talk about Dick Cheney's speech.


RICHARD HOLBROOKE, FMR. U.S. AMB. TO UN: I think the administration has long since made up its mind that regime change is its goal. I think that's the right goal.

And I thought Vice President Cheney's speech yesterday was a big step towards laying out the rationale. It was a good speech.

What troubles me is two things. They've laid out an objective, which I support, but they have made almost no effort to muster international support, and now they're talking about the fact that they don't need to go to Congress for approval.

I disagree with them on both points, and it puts people who support their objective in an awkward position, to see them going about it without due consideration for the interests and concerns of our most important allies around the world, from Turkey to Great Britain to Saudi Arabia. We need to talk to them more and we need to build up their support, and one of the key ways to do this, of course, is through the Security Council of the United Nations.

MANN: I want to ask you about that, but let me back up a little bit, to something you said, about building support: wouldn't evidence build support? And, to your mind, is there enough evidence of the central accusation that the vice president made, the most worrying one, that Iraq is close to having nuclear weapons?

HOLBROOKE: Well, he didn't explain exactly what he meant, but I think three years without UN inspectors have given Saddam a chance to do things that he might not have otherwise been able to do.

Let's face it, Saddam is a very bad man, the worst leader in the world today. And one has to assume that he has used these three years for maximum affect.

And I agree with Cheney when he says if we delay, he will continue to do these things and be even more dangerous. It seems to be that's an incontrovertible argument.

So my concern is that the administration hasn't been successful in building up the coalition because they're bypassing and undermining the United Nations, because they're not trying to work with the Congress adequately.

MANN: It comes down, at the level of the United Nations, I suppose, to two issues: the inspectors and the Security Council. Wouldn't any step through the UN mean that inspectors have to go back in? Iraq is ready to talk about that. The vice president says that would be a waste of time.

HOLBROOKE: Let me be clear. In my article in this morning's "Washington Post," I call for the United States to -- what I said is that the road to Baghdad leads to the UN Security Council.

By that I mean that just as in 1991, the United States has to build a coalition, this time with an airtight Security Council resolution, which demands no notice anytime anywhere inspections on weapons of mass destruction.

The odds are very small Saddam Hussein will agree to that, and -- but it is the route to go. Now, if the French or the Russians or some other country tries to water this down, we should stand firm.

If we get the resolution, we're going to have set a very high bar. If he doesn't comply, the basis for action will have been laid by this resolution. And if he -- if we can't get the resolution, we'll have shown the world that we've made a best faith effort. So I think it's a no- brainer to go after this resolution.

The irony here, Jonathan, is that Bush I, President Bush, Sr., did just this in 1991, very effectively, with Amb. Tom Pickering at the UN, Sect. of State Baker. They called all over the world. They worked the phones. President Bush, Sr. did it himself, with his famous dialing for diplomacy. And it worked.

So my puzzlement is why isn't this administration doing the same thing? It's the right course. We need to get the rest of the world's support here. We can't go it alone.

MANN: Part of what's being said is that in fact there's no new mandate needed from the United Nations, that the resolutions still stand, they speak for themselves, and that Iraq is in violation.

HOLBROOKE: A clever international lawyer could argue that. He might, or she might, even have a basis for that argument. But in political and practical terms, it won't fly. And as recently as two days ago, former Sect. of State James Baker said just that in his article in the "New York Times," that while there may be a legal basis for action based on past resolutions, it isn't going to be politically or practically possible. And on this particular point, Sect. Baker and I are in full agreement.

MANN: What happens -- and you mentioned this, in passing -- but what happens if the United States and its allies seek a mandate from the United Nations for (AUDIO GAP) the kind of action you've laid out, fail to get it from the Security Council?

You say that it would be a good faith effort. But on the other hand, it will also have been a rejection by the world community and its most esteemed international institution of what the United States is planning.

HOLBROOKE: Listen, it is always possible that you won't get what you want, but how could anybody argue that it's better not to try than to try?

Besides, Jonathan, I really believe that we will get what we want. The new Bush-Putin relationship, building very much on President Clinton's relationship with Boris Yeltsin, has given us a lot of support from Russia. The last time around, the Russians, the Chinese, and the French did go along with us, so I think that we'll get what we want out of the UN

But to your central point, suppose we don't succeed. It's much, much better to have made the effort and let somebody like the Russians be seen as the thwarters. And then you can proceed on a much stronger basis.

That's what happened in Bosnia, where we actually did use force without a UN resolution, but we made the UN effort first, and it helped us. And then in the end, the Russians did come along.


MANN: Former U.S. Amb. Richard Holbrooke, talking about the Security Council in all of this.

Baghdad doesn't have a vote on the Security Council, but it does at the very least have something to say. That part of the story is ahead.

Stay with us.



MANN (voice-over): United States officials say there's been no decision, but there's plenty of groundwork.

Analysts say the United States military is preparing for the possibility of an attack on Iraq should the time come. In the latest sign, the Pentagon said this week it may double the amount of time some 14,000 reservists are required to serve, from o year of active duty to two.

If it does, it would be the first time that's happened since the Vietnam War.


(on camera): Welcome back.

The United States has been in a constant state of virtual war with Iraq since Vice President Dick Cheney was defense secretary.

On Tuesday, United States and British aircraft once again bombed Iraqi radar sites in the northern and southern no-fly zones. The attacks have become routine, along with Iraqi accusations of United States aggression and calls for Arab support.

But in a change, those calls are now gaining some support.

CNN's James Martone is in Baghdad.


JAMES MARTONE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Saddam Hussein's response to the latest United States calls for a preemptive strike came on national television.

"The threats target not only Iraq, but the whole Arab nation as well," the television quoted Saddam as saying in meetings with Qatar's visiting foreign minister, continuing "Any solution should be based on international legitimacy."

Iraq has been working toward a diplomatic solution to its stand off with the United States, even before the latest United States calls to take action against Saddam Hussein's regime.

Iraq's vice president is off to Syria and Lebanon on a regional tour aimed at pulling together Arab support against a United States attack. Mr. Taha Yassine Ramadan told reporters there his visit, quote, "was to define a joint position in the face of challenges."

And Iraq's Foreign Min. Naji Sabri is off to China and then Russia for consultations with those two nations, both permanent members of the Security Council and able to veto any would-be attempt of the United States to get United Nations backing for an attacking on Baghdad.

Such diplomacy appears to be paying off. Even Qatar, whose country houses United States military bases that are reportedly being upgraded, says it would be opposed to any strike on Iraq. The country's foreign minister says an attack would, quote, "be a tragedy for the region."

And Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak says that although some Arab countries have reservations about the Iraqi regime, strikes against it would be disastrous.

HOSNI MUBARAK, EGYPTIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I said to the United States administration, if you harm the Iraqi people while the Palestinians are still suffering, it would only fuel the anger of the Arabs. No leader in the Arab world would be able to stop people expressing anger at such a move.

MARTONE (on camera): While the 22-member Arab League says it opposes any strikes on Iraq, it does say Iraq should comply with UN resolutions regarding its weapons facilities.

Iraq meanwhile tries to hold the support, while not saying publicly whether or not it will ever allow weapons inspections to resume.

James Martone, CNN, Baghdad.


MANN: The central issue for Dick Cheney is time. The central shortage of time revolves around nuclear weapons.

A short time ago, we caught up with James Martone in Baghdad to ask him about that accusation.


MARTONE: Baghdad maintains that its nuclear capabilities are depleted. They say that they destroyed those. They say that these attempts from Washington, from outside countries, to further keep sanctions in place.

Now the question of their nuclear abilities varies, depends on who you speak to. Certainly as I said, inside they say they don't have any. Different various outside countries, Arab countries, have said even if they did have nuclear capability, well so does Israel, for example, so why should Iraq divulge.

But the feeling is, here, certainly, if you speak to Iraqi officials, they'll tell you that it's depleted. The question remains uncertain, however, because UN weapons inspectors -- they at least say they have not substantial -- enough evidence to actually verify that there are no nuclear weapons.

MANN: From your reporting, it's clear that Iraq is preparing diplomatically for a conflict that may be ahead. Is Iraq preparing militarily? Are there any signs that the armed forces are getting ready?

MARTONE: I can tell you, based on what we are hearing from diplomats who have been here permanently, they say that there is a perhaps reinforcement around cities. They say that they've noticed news of increased military, perhaps, around cities. They say that it's perhaps also related to fears that there could be inside problems.

But anything on a major scale, we have not seen, and we're not hearing that there is any sort of massive military preparedness for this, in light of the United States -- recent United States threats to attack -- Jonathan.


MANN: James Martone.

That's all for this edition of INSIGHT. I'm Jonathan Mann.





Back to the top