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Do Ordinary American Citizens Support War with Iraq?

Aired October 1, 2002 - 12:46   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: A war with Iraq would likely mean a Gulf War-style deployment of U.S. troops, but do ordinary American citizens support that? Let's ask our guest. Mark Bernier is a radio talk show host in Daytona, Florida, and syndicated columnist Julianne Malveaux. She's here in Washington.
Mark, it looks like some Republicans, Lugar, for one, Hagel for another, may not necessarily be fully in line with the president when it comes to Iraq. Is that a source of concern to you?

MARK BERNIER, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: A little bit. I'd like to see more of a unified front. I saw the photograph of Senator Lugar with the Russian armament. There's a concern there that they're not getting rid of all of their weapons. But I think, by and large, they're going to come behind the president pretty quickly. It's interesting, more Democrats support the president than many people originally thought.

Senator Lugar is well respected for his years with intelligence, but I think he's going to see, in the end, that the president's on solid ground.

BLITZER: Most of the Democrats, Julianne, support the president as well, though there are plenty of critics. Is this debate within the Democratic Party something that you support?

JULIANNE MALVEAUX, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: It's very important to have the debate. They support the president, because in times of war, people have a tendency to do so. But if you look at what Senator Feinstein has said, Senator Kennedy and of course Senator Biden, they don't want to give President Bush unfettered control. They want to make sure that the process works with the United Nations. There has been progress now with the United Nations. They also want to make sure that there's significant report back. I think Ari Fleischer was talking about the whereases in the press conference there. Those whereases are very important. And I think president doesn't want to have his hands tied, but in a Democracy, he must have his hands tied.

BLITZER: Mark, are you at all concerned about this debate over whether there should be one Security Council Resolution at the U.N., or two? It sounds sort of arcane to a lot of people who haven't studied it closely, but there is substantive difference.

BERNIER: Yes, I think that this is all a side show. I think the real issue is, that the president and his staff have studied very closely what's in front of us. The problem I have, if we don't send a solid message, and that's what Ari Fleischer said a few minutes ago, a solid message to Saddam Hussein that, wait a minute, there are no deals here, you let everybody come in, you let us go into the mosques, you let us go into the houses of worship and check out to see if there are any weapons. We have to have a solid commitment that that's going to happen.

This isn't a negotiable point. This isn't four years ago, when President Clinton, on the heels of an impeachment vote, was saying, you know, we need to do something, and everybody got behind him. I don't understand why this isn't the same thing now that we had four years ago, and everybody is always behind him.

MALVEAUX: The reason why you don't have that is because this is political. The timing of this is political. Saddam Hussein has been crazy from day one. Nothing has changed. He's had weapons of mass destruction from day one. Nothing has changed. The timing of this is highly suspect, so that's why you don't see the overwhelming support. And the other thing that's happening here is that people are manipulating our fears from September 11th, 2001 and trying to project them into the future. People are asking legitimate questions.

BERNIER: And those manipulations begin with Senator Kennedy. Would you even consider this, the fact that Saddam Hussein, if he has a weapon of mass destruction, if he could give to the Al Qaeda than he would do it? The enemy of our enemy is our friend?

MALVEAUX: I'm not sure about that, Mark. I'm not sure about that at all. I think we're leaping to conclusions, not jumping, but leaping, because of the timing and because people are already frightened.

If these were issues that Mr. Bush were so concerned about, frankly, why didn't he raise them two years ago? Because that was not the mood of the country.

BERNIER: Because, Julianne,he hasn't been in office two years ago. And quite frankly, they've been studying this. All this information has been out there. President Clinton said that Saddam Hussein was the most dangerous ran man in the Middle East. The fact of the matter is, this is a calculated risk this country cannot afford to take. We were ambushed once over a year ago. We can't have this happen again.

MALVEAUX: We do not have $200 billion to go over to Iraq. I think it's a mistake.

BLITZER: Mark and Julianne, I want to get to some e-mail. We've got a lot of e-mail pouring in to my Web page, For you, Julianne, from Carl in South Carolina, he's asking this: "America, not Germany, France or Britain, is the target of Iraq and the terrorist groups they support. These countries have no incentive to take Saddam out. The U.S. must act immediately to defend itself. No one else is going to do it for us."

What's wrong where Carl's thinking? MALVEAUX: It's not clear that we are a target of Iraq. It's clear to me that Saddam certainly has not complied with U.N. resolutions. But it's also clear that there's movement now on those U.N. resolutions. What's wrong with allowing the process to go through? Dianne Feinstein says that if they don't comply within 30 days, she'll support. Give up the 30 days. What's wrong with that?

BLITZER: Here's an e-mail for Mark from Harriet in Michigan: "If Saddam Hussein is removed, there are dozens of other places in the world that harbor terrorists and have weapons of mass destruction. How far will the U.S. take its new policy of preemptive strikes?"

BERNIER: Well, it will take these situations one at a time. But quite frankly, Saddam Hussein is different from all the others. We had the discussion about North Korea. There's always some concern about Russia and China. But this guy is the Adolf Hitler of the 21st century. You can't compare him to anybody else that's out there. You have to cut this thing off at the head, and you have to start with this guy.

MALVEAUX: I think you're overstating, you're way overstating it, Mark. No one denies that Saddam Hussein is dangerous, but Adolf Hitler?

BERNIER: Yes, he is. He gases his own people.

MALVEAUX: This is the kind of manipulation that is being used to basically gin people up to feel like they have to go to war now. No, we don't have to go to war now, not when we have diplomatic and other alternatives.

BERNIER: Did you forget about Salman Pak, south of Baghdad, they had a training center set up to be able to fly missions against this country? That plane is still there. Even Iraq admits that they've got this place set up. Salman Pak, that was not mentioned at the United Nations speech by the president, and I wish he had said it.

BLITZER: All right, Let's have one final e-mail for you, Julianne, from Edwin. "The administration has gone to the U.N. They presented the facts of Saddam's horrendous track record. And they've laid out alternatives to war. That has gotten us nowhere. The debate has gone on long enough. It's time to act."

MALVEAUX: The debate has gone on about three weeks. It's not time to act yet. We have Democratic senators who want to cooperate with the president. They simply don't want to give him unfettered ability to have preemptive strikes. I think that we have more debate to do both in the Senate and in the United Nations, and I expect that debate to continue before we do anything.

BLITZER: Julianne Malveaux and Mark Brenier, thanks to both of you. And that debate is getting going right here on CNN. Appreciate both of you joining us.


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