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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Interviews With Colin Powell, Trent Lott, Joseph Biden, Judith Miller

Aired October 9, 2002 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: a rare and timely one-on-one with Secretary of State Colin Powell. He's been in charge of rallying support for a tough new U.N. resolution on Iraq. Will it happen? Will there be war?
And then reaction and further insight from Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott, Republican of Mississippi, and Democrat Joe Biden of Delaware, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

And then bestselling germ warfare expert Judith Miller on Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda and chemical and biological arsenals.

It all starts with Secretary of State Colin Powell next on LARRY KING LIVE.

It's always a great pleasure to welcome him to this program, the secretary of state of the United States, Colin Powell.

Secretary Powell, we'll begin with your response to the assessment raised in the letter by the deputy CIA director stating that Baghdad now appears to be drawing a line short of conducting terrorist attacks. Is this now in opposition to what the president said the other night?

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, I don't know, Larry. I always take with a grain of salt anything that comes out of Baghdad. And we are always trying to make an assessment.

But, you know, what you have to do in this case is measure Saddam Hussein's intentions. And his intentions for many years have included developing weapons of mass destruction to threaten his neighbors and threaten the United States, if he thought that would serve his purposes. And we know that, over the years, he has supported terrorist organizations.

So it is not just what he might be doing at any moment in time, it's what his overall intentions have been for that long period of time.

And we are going to give him a challenge now, hopefully with a strong congressional resolution, with a strong U.N. resolution, to change his ways, change the behavior of that regime, or the regime will have to be changed. And we're hard at work on that, and I think the president's been doing a terrific job in making the case.

KING: Mr. Secretary, therefore is the CIA's assessment wrong or is the CIA just relating what they hear?

POWELL: It's an assessment, Larry, and it's always a function of the information they have available to them at any particular point in time. Assessments rise in likelihood of occurrence or not a likelihood of occurrence depending on information that comes in. So you always have to see an assessment like that as a snapshot at a point in time.

KING: A great general once told me, Chappy James (ph) -- I know you knew him well -- that no one hates war more than a warrior. You've been a warrior. Do you fear the possibility that if military action does occur it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and Iraq then uses its chemical weapons on a state like Israel?

POWELL: War should never be a self-fulfilling prophecy, it should always be a deliberate act by people acting rationally, hopefully. And in this case, as the president said the other night, we are trying to see war as a last resort. There is a way to avoid war, but it must include the disarmament of Saddam Hussein, taking away his weapons of mass destruction and the capability to produce them.

If that can be done through the international community rallying around the president's agenda, the international community coming together and supporting the resolutions that the U.N. has passed for many years and the new resolution I think will be put before the U.N., then we can solve this problem, hopefully without war.

But if it takes military action to solve this problem, then that's what we will do, either in concert with other nations under a U.N. mandate or, if necessary, the president is prepared to act with just like-minded nations without a U.N. mandate. But it's much better to do it with the international community coming together.

KING: Just to make this clear, Saddam Hussein -- and he might be watching for all we know; we are seen in Baghdad -- he has to do what that would prevent him facing military action? What does he have to do?

POWELL: He has to eliminate all of his weapons of mass destruction. And the only way we can be sure of that is to send inspectors in who have total access to any place in Iraq, to see whoever they have to see, any time they decide they have to go see that place or person, without any interference. And we'll see whether or not the Iraqi regime is prepared to cooperate on that basis.

And if they cooperate on that basis and they can assure the international community that they have been disarmed, that will take care of at least one of the many U.N. resolutions, and I think we will have a different situation that we will have to examine at that time.

KING: What's the timetable? When does he have to start doing this?

POWELL: Well, he should have been doing it over the years. He should have done it in 1991. I think it's important for us to act promptly now. That's why I hope the United States Congress will act promptly on its resolution, the resolution that President Bush helped draft with the Congress, because that will show that America is united behind this effort. And with that congressional resolution, then I think our efforts to get a U.N. resolution are strengthened. And I hope that this will all come about in the not-too-distant future, within a matter of days or perhaps a week or two.

KING: It has always been said that you were one opposed to us acting unilaterally. Do you still favor that position, that we don't do it without the U.N. and congressional approval?

POWELL: I think it is always best to rally friends to a cause that they should be rallied to, a cause that we all should believe in. And in this instance we can rally the international community.

The president did exactly just that on the 12th of September when he went before the United Nations and reminded them of their responsibilities, laid out the indictment against the Iraqi regime, and then said clearly what the Iraqi regime had to do. And then he made it also clear that there had to be consequences if Iraq did not comply this time.

It is always best to see if you can do it with like-minded nations and with the support of the international community.

But at the same time, if the United States is in danger, at risk, the president has the inherent right, as president of the United States, to do whatever is required to protect us.

That might sometimes require unilateral action. And it is not because we don't like multilateral action, but because it is necessary to act unilaterally. And that is not a new position. It has happened very often in the course of our history.

KING: Are you, frankly, Mr. Secretary, optimistic or pessimistic about the response of Iraq?

POWELL: I have stopped trying to handicap the Iraqi regime a long time ago. All I know is that I think the international community is coming together at this time to put down a strong demand.

There is no debate in New York among the Security Council members about the fact that Saddam Hussein has violated these resolutions. There is also no debate among my colleagues in the Security Council that we need to have a tough inspection regime that is any time, any place, anybody. The discussion is, how do you link consequences to their failure to act this time?

So it's not a matter of being optimistic or pessimistic, we'll just see what they do.

I do know that there is a new determination, a new understanding within the international community that we cannot turn away from it this time, we cannot look away and trust Saddam Hussein to do the right thing. He has to know that there will be consequences for violating whatever new resolution is put down. And this is not a matter of negotiation with him or measuring optimism or pessimism from day to day.

This is a realistic approach. It's a real approach. It's a way to solve a problem and see if we can do it without going to war. But there must be consequences for failure to comply. And if those consequences include going to war, then I hope the international community will understand the importance of us doing this as an international community.

KING: I want to take a break.

And when we come back we'll ask you, what is at stake for the United States? What is the fear of the United States happening in Iraq that causes us to possibly take this action?

We'll be right back with the secretary of state, and then we'll be hearing from Trent Lott, and then we'll be hearing from Joe Biden.

Secretary of State Powell, and more with him right after this. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Mr. Secretary, no state likes to start a war, so the obvious is what is the threat to this state, the United States, in starting it? What can he do to us?

POWELL: His conventional military capability -- tanks, planes, divisions -- nowhere near the capability they had 12 years ago at the time of the Gulf War. The Gulf War succeeded in bringing that conventional capability down to size.

What would concern us are the weapons of mass destruction, the very reason that such a conflict may be necessary.

We do know that he has stocks of biological weapons, chemical weapons. We don't believe he has a nuclear weapon but there's no doubt he has been working toward that end. And that's what we want to make sure does not happen, him to be in possession of a nuclear weapon.

So he could use these chemical and biological weapons against our forces going in, but more seriously he could use them against neighbors, or against his own people, as he has done in the past.

At the time of the Gulf War 12 years ago, we also attributed him with a capability to use chemical and biological weapons, and we took the risk at that time, protecting our troops as they went into battle, and he demonstrated that he would strike at his neighbors. He fired Scud missiles at Israel and at Saudi Arabia.

He caused casualties but those missiles did not contain chemical or biological agents. I don't know whether they would or would not this time.

But we have to make sure that if it comes to conflict we do everything we can to protect our friends in the region, and we also send out a clear deterrent message to the Iraqi regime about the inadvisability of using such weapons, and especially get that message down to the commanders and units that might be the ones ordered to use those weapons, and let them know they would be held to account for the consequences of such use.

KING: You were a commander. Would a commander listen to the threatening statements made by another nation?

POWELL: If that commander thought that he might face the consequences of not listening, if that individual thought he could be brought to justice for this kind of crime against humanity, and if that individual started to lose confidence in his leadership, recognizing that his leadership was about to be removed, then there may be a different calculation going through his mind and he might well be paying close attention to what we're saying.

KING: A few other things, Mr. Secretary: Israel supports the United States completely in this yet they face the most immediate danger. Is this a dichotomy?

POWELL: They do face a danger. I think Saddam Hussein and the weapons he's been developing are a danger to all the nations in the region, to include Israel.

And so that's why Israel has been a strong supporter of the need for the international community or for nations who are inclined to act together if not under the umbrella of the international community to deal with this threat.

KING: So much has been written about rifts, and we've dealt and discussed this before. Under what circumstances, Mr. Secretary, would a Cabinet member, yourself, resign? In other words, you're a good soldier and good soldiers have to support. Are there circumstances -- is there a circumstance under which you would say, "I can't live with what we're doing"?

POWELL: Larry, there's no point in getting into this kind of a discussion. We are knitted together as a Cabinet team, as a national security team on this issue, under the leadership of the president. He's given us clear guidance, he's given us clear instructions and he's given us a vision of what we have to accomplish.

And we know what we have to do. We have to be firm at this moment in history, we have to be united as a Cabinet, as a nation, and I think we are. And we also should be united as an international community, the United Nations coming together.

And it is all for the purpose of removing a threat to the region, a threat to the people of Iraq and a threat potentially to the United States, if we do not now disarm Iraq, one way or the other.

And so the question you pose, nice, hypothetical, rhetorical one, has no relevance at the moment.

KING: All right, we're going to let you go now. Any comment at all on the Belafonte statements critical of you?

POWELL: I think it's unfortunate that Harry used that characterization. I'm very proud to be serving my nation once again. I'm very proud to be serving this president.

If Harry had wanted to attack my politics, that was fine. If he wanted to attack a particular position I hold, that was fine. But to use a slave reference, I think, is unfortunate and is a throwback to another time and another place that I wish Harry had thought twice about using.

KING: As always we thank you very much. Good seeing you, Mr. Secretary.

POWELL: Take care, Larry.

KING: The secretary of state of the United States, Colin Powell.

When we come back we shall talk with the birthday boy, Senator Trent Lott, minority leader, Republican from Mississippi. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, Senator Trent Lott, the minority leader of the United States Senate, Republican of Mississippi.

Happy birthday. How old are you today?

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MINORITY LEADER: Well, I wasn't going to reveal that, Larry.

KING: Go ahead.

LOTT: I am 61, still a little younger, I hope, than Joe Biden, who will be on next.

(LAUGHTER)

LOTT: But feeling very young, actually.

KING: You feel younger than 61?

LOTT: Much more, much younger than that. I'd say, you know, maybe approaching 50.

(LAUGHTER)

KING: Any overall comment on what the secretary had to say?

LOTT: Well, as usual, Larry, he does a very thoughtful job and he's been providing key leadership on this issue and a lot of other issues. He's been talking to members of Congress and he -- importantly, listening to members to members of Congress. And he has been very aggressively working with the United Nations and with our allies around the world.

I thought he was right on target on all the points.

I do believe that the Senate will be prepared, hopefully within 24 hours to come to a final vote on a resolution giving the president the authority he needs in Iraq. And I do think it'll be broadly bipartisan.

It may take longer. There's some opposition to going forward with a vote on Thursday night. But there is a chance of that.

KING: And the size of the vote -- you're pretty good at counting heads -- will be what?

LOTT: Well, I haven't done a thorough whip count, but I suspect it'll be between 70 and 80 votes. We had a preliminary vote on an amendment, which doesn't necessarily reflect what the final vote would be, but that vote was 88 to 10 not to add that language to the bill. So I do think it's going to be broadly supported.

KING: And a whopping majority in the House, too?

LOTT: I think probably at least as high, maybe even more percentage wise in the House than in the Senate. But both of them will be substantial.

KING: Does it not give you pause, Senator Lott, any time you have to raise your hand that might send someone into peril?

LOTT: It does, Larry. And I think senators on both sides of the aisle take this very seriously. You can hear it in the remarks that they make on the floor of the Senate. And no matter whether you're for or against this provision for use of force for the president, you do have to think very carefully about what are all the ramifications and what does it mean any time that you have to use force.

But the president made a point the other night that was very important. This resolution doesn't mean that there's going to be war tomorrow morning; it doesn't mean there even has to be war. Maybe we can find a way to have genuine, legitimate inspections, find the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and destroy them. You hope for that, you work for that, you pray for that.

But if it is necessary for a force to have to be used, what is at stake is not only peace and security in the region, although the focus is Iraq, it also is about the danger it does pose to the United States itself and to our American people.

I do believe personally that this is a part of the overall war on terror. Saddam Hussein has the capability to provide very, very dangerous weapons to our enemies. And he has shown a willingness to do some really bad things in the past, and we have to assume he might do it again. And so, we have got to be prepared to act. We can't do like history has seen us do in the past like in the situation with Hitler and the run-up to World War II. We can't stand by and wait for the disaster occur. We've got to go out there and deal with it now.

KING: Secretary Powell did say he wants the congressional support, he wants U.N. support, but he also said if it had to come down to acting unilaterally and it comes to that, we would. Do you agree with that?

LOTT: I do. It's about commitment and it's about leadership. But I believe if you show commitment, as the president has, and leadership as he and Secretary Powell and the administration and a lot of members of Congress have done, then you'll see that there will be broad support both in the Congress with the American people, I believe in the United Nations and in the world.

If you don't show resolve, if you equivocate, if you don't go through with it this time to make sure that we get a result, then you won't have the support and the coalition you need. And so, I think that they are providing the leadership that's needed.

KING: "New York Times" poll, 67 percent of those surveyed support the United States taking military action. When asked if there were casualties, it drops down to 54 percent. That's still pretty high, 54 percent even with casualties, don't you think?

LOTT: It is still very high. It doesn't surprise me it dropped that much.

Look, American people are very compassionate people. We love peace. We love freedom. We don't want to see anybody's lives in endangered. We don't want to think about any of our sons or daughters in harm's way, you know, being a casualty.

But also we have to think about what happened at 9/11, what could happen based on history, precedents, the things we've seen from Saddam Hussein. And there is a horror beyond that, and that is more disasters right here at home. So I think the American people understand this is a problem we have to address.

KING: Secretary Powell said that he's out of predicting what the regime in Baghdad might do. Are you optimistic or pessimistic or toss a coin or what?

LOTT: I'm not optimistic. He has a long record of, you know, ignoring and refusing to go along with or dissembling or some way not doing what the United Nations has called on him to do with 16 different resolutions and with inspectors in the past. I don't feel optimistic.

But I'm always hopeful, Larry. I think when Iraq sees, when Saddam Hussein sees the commitment of this president of our country, of our leaders and of the coalition that will come together, he's going to have think about it.

I mean, the question is, is he a homicide bomber or is he somebody that would like to survive? Does he want to put his people through this or would he like to have some situation where Iraq and the people there could have a better life?

I don't know that he cares about that a whole lot, he hasn't shown it in the past. But you have to always hope that maybe the pressure will have the results you want.

KING: Let's say the resolutions passed Congress, passed the U.N., how quickly does he have to react? How quickly does he have to take the steps the secretary described to show you that he's in compliance?

LOTT: I don't think there can be, you know, much of a delay there. I think that you'd have to look at what the resolution called for in the United Nations. There would have to be a time to have inspectors get into Iraq and make sure that they had the ability to really go anywhere, any time, any place and actually, you know, see that it begins to work. But I don't think there's going to be much of a gap there between the United Nations acting and inspectors having to go in an unfettered way.

And then if they are not allowed to do that, or if they're not allowed to go in in a full manner to find these weapons and get them destroyed, then I think that action would take place.

I don't think it's going to take as long a run-up as it did with the Persian Gulf War. I think that things are being prepared now, things are under way or will soon be under way where we'd be in a strong position if action is necessary.

Again, though, I don't -- you know, I don't think we're talking about something in a day or two weeks. I don't think you should put a deadline on it except that you've got to see action very soon and they've got to understand that we're not going to tolerate more shenanigans as Saddam Hussein has carried out for 11 years -- actually for 20 years, but certainly for 11 years.

KING: Couple quick other things: Is debate on this in senatorial races fair?

LOTT: I think it's always important to talk about issues of national security and homeland security and about the meaning of the vote on the resolution in the Senate and what we're trying to do. I mean, how can you not comment on it if you're running for office this year with the way that it's been in all the media?

In fact, when I was home in late August, in my own state, and in Kentucky and other states, I would actually give speeches in which I talked about, in my state, you know, transportation, education, a lot of things, and actually would not mention Iraq. And when I asked for questions the first hand that went up, the first question was, "What about Iraq? What's going on?"

So candidates are going to have to debate this, they're going to have to talk about it, they're going to have to state their position. I don't think it'll necessarily be totally partisan. In a lot of races they probably both would have an agreement on this. In some races it will show a difference between the two and the people have a right to know that.

KING: Senator, always good seeing you. And again, happy birthday.

LOTT: Thank you very much, Larry. Great to be with you.

KING: Senator Trent Lott, minority leader of the United States Senate, Republican of Mississippi.

Tomorrow night we kind of shift gears, Madonna will be with us.

When we come back, Senator Joe Biden, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Democrat of Delaware. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We are going to wind up the show later with Judith Miller of the "New York Times," who's an expert on things like biological weaponry. She'll be with us at our studios here in New York.

Joining us now from the Radio-TV Gallery on Capitol Hill is Senator Joe Biden, Democrat of Delaware. He holds one of the key positions in the Senate, chairman of Foreign Relations.

What are your thoughts on what we've heard tonight from Secretary of State Powell and from Senator Lott?

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE), FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: Well, more as it relates to Senator Lott, but I'm thankful Secretary Powell was there. You know, if you remember where the president started off when Mr. Rumsfeld and Mr. Cheney back in the spring and the summer saying, "We will not go to the United Nations. We will not go to the Congress. There's no requirement to go to the Congress." And all the time you had Secretary Powell saying, "No, we should go to the United Nations. Yes, we should go to the Congress."

If you notice what he said at the very end of your interview, he said, and Iraq will be, quote, "a threat, potentially, to the United States." He puts it exactly like it is. And I think there wasn't anything that he said that I really disagreed with.

KING: Are you inclined, Senator, then to vote for this -- are you...

BIDEN: I will vote for who I want to vote for.

KING: You will vote for it?

BIDEN: Yes. No, I will, because the president's come a long, long, long way. And if you take the resolution -- I'm about to make a speech on the floor about this, Larry. If you take the resolution that has been amended significantly from the broad grant of authority he sought in the so-called draft resolution, and his very good speech, I thought, that he made the night before last, he set to rest several things. One, we are not going to move against Iraq alone. He said flat out, we will do it as a coalition. It may be a coalition of the willing, like we did in Bosnia. As you recall Larry, I was on your program many times arguing we should move in Kosovo. That wasn't with U.N. approval. That was with a coalition of the willing.

He further said it was not based on a doctrine of preemption. And it's not. This is a guy who invaded another country, waged a war and lost the war, sued for peace, as the conditions of peace and the conditions of him staying in power he agreed to inspections and giving up his weapons. He's not done that. So this is enforcement, not preemption.

And the president further indicated that he thought that he would come back to the American people, that -- if it was necessary to go to war, to tell them what was expected of them. That has not been discussed at all yet.

The case against Saddam has been made. But the day the president personally committed to me in front of a number of other members that if, in fact, we do end up -- and hopefully we won't -- having to go to war with others or alone against Saddam Hussein, he will come before the American people and tell them what he is asking, including a major commitment of American forces and American money to rebuild Iraq. I don't think the American people are focused on that yet. But the president committed that he would do that if the time comes to use force.

KING: Does it not give you pause, Senator, that your right hand going up in the air might send someone to die?

BIDEN: Absolutely. Absolutely positively.

And you know what I've concluded, Larry, because it's quite -- I'll be very blunt with you. I have not been very enamored with the way half this administration has gone about this effort without thoroughly going into what happens the day after Saddam is down. It matters, Larry.

The president said that, "What could be worse than Saddam?" Well, what could be worse than Saddam would be a major civil war in the region, Iran moving into southern Iraq, Iraqi Kurds at war with the Turks, the Middle East oil fields blown up, an energy crisis with oil at $65 a barrel. There could be a lot worse than that.

But the president -- I have not been enamored with the way in which -- this -- we've gotten to this point. But the president always ends up getting in the right position, which is that this should not be done without a coalition, number one. Out of our own interests, not because it's not warranted or not because we may not need to. He also indicated that he believed -- he, the president -- that he would -- we would have to rebuild -- help rebuild Iraq.

And so, he's moved a long way, and I have growing confidence that, by my putting my hand up in the air may be the best way to avoiding war, because if everybody understands, if the French and the Russians and the Chinese understand the resolve, I believe they will come up with a very strong resolution and we will not be left holding the bag.

KING: Your previous presidential candidate, Senator Gore -- Vice President Gore, made a strong policy speech in opposition. It is apparent that Senator Byrd and Senator Kennedy will vote against. James Zogby, the member of the Democratic National Committee, president of the Arab-American Institute, says, "The Democrats are in disarray. Our leaders have given Bush a free ride." Want to comment?

BIDEN: Well, sure I'd comment. This is not a matter of partisan politics, for God's sake. The last thing I'd want -- I think the American people would want is us voting on this on a partisan line. This is a vote of conscience.

And this is a very close vote. If you believe -- if I believe that the president of the United States was going to go the Rumsfeld route and go in all by himself and just go in there and not have the support of any other nations, I would vote no, because that would be a disaster for our interests.

But I don't believe that. I believe the president means what he says. I believe Powell is carrying the day. I believe we'll have the support of the rest of the world. And I believe that we will have a real prospect, as the president said, of him having to avoid even doing that. Because ultimately I believe if the world stands firm, Saddam loves power more than he loves his weapons.

KING: What do you believe, Senator Biden -- we've asked this of the others. Powell said he can't predict. Lott said he might be hopeful -- what's going to happen?

BIDEN: Well, I think what's likely to happen -- and this is a dangerous thing to predict -- I think it's likely that -- what's likely to happen is that the secretary of state will get a fairly strong resolution out of the Security Council.

If the administration allows it to have time to take effect, that is actual inspectors to get in there, then I think it's probable that Saddam will try to stiff it somehow. That will require us to have either a second resolution authorizing the use of force and/or in the interim a coalition of the willing, of the Brits and others to go in. And I believe that if we do, it will only be with others.

And I think there is a 48 percent chance we're there. I think there's a 52 percent chance we won't have to go to all if the world stands strong. But who knows?

KING: This will be, then, a toss it up in the air kind of winter.

BIDEN: Well, it will be in the sense that there are -- look, there are people who believe under no circumstances should we be going to war against Iraq. I'm not one of those people.

My view is if five years from now Saddam Hussein is in power, left unfettered with $5 billion to $7 billion a year to pursue his weapons, he will be a grave danger to us, in the sense that he will intimidate the area and we will be unwilling to go after him because he'll have tactical or theater nuclear weapons.

I do not believe, though, and I think it's a gross exaggeration to suggest that he's working with al Qaeda, that he had reason to believe -- know what was going on in 9/11, that he has transferred weapons of mass destruction and there's an imminent threat to the United States. I do not believe that at all.

But I do believe that, if left unfettered, we're going to face that prospect five years from now, and better to face it now when we have a chance to dissuade him and/or keep him from that than it is to wait.

KING: Thank you, Senator, as always.

BIDEN: Thank you very much.

KING: Senator Joseph Biden, we'll be calling on him again. Democrat of Delaware, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee.

Judith Miller, the "New York Times," one of the experts on chemicals and things biological, will join us next here in New York.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We now to LARRY KING LIVE welcome an old friend, Judith Miller of the "New York Times." Terrific writer and co-author of the No. 1 "New York Times" bestseller "Germs" -- there you see its cover -- "Biological Weapons and America's Secret War." Now out in trade paperback with a new afterward. She's just back from Afghanistan. Now afterward saying?

JUDITH MILLER, AUTHOR, "GERMS": It basically focuses on the anthrax attacks of October 2001.

KING: And the fear you had too. You got a letter, right?

MILLER: Right, my false anthrax letter.

KING: It was not anthrax.

MILLER: It was not anthrax.

KING: You just landed, back in the -- what were you doing in Afghanistan now?

MILLER: I had flown in with Secretary Thompson, who wanted to see for himself what the health needs of the Afghan people were. And he is an amazing man to travel with because he has enormous stamina. We covered a lot of ground. There's good news and bad news about Afghanistan.

KING: What's the maddest?

MILLER: I think the enormous needs of the people, and the extent to which they're counting on the United States to help them out.

KING: Joe Biden just said, If we go into Iraq we're going to spend a lot building up Iraq.

MILLER: Right.

KING: We're going to spend a lot helping the people of Afghanistan.

MILLER: I think that was, Larry, the original critique that people like Brent Scowcroft and Republicans made of the plans to go into Iraq, which was would it distract us, would it deflect us from the war against terror?

And I think our obligation to do something for the Afghan people whom we deserted once before and now who are depending so much on American support to kind of help them forge a cohesive power.

KING: We hear the term -- weapons of mass destruction, annihilation, chemical warfare. How many countries have such weapons, by the way? We make it seem like Iraq is the only one. We have them, right?

MILLER: We don't have biological weapons.

KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

MILLER: That's right. Richard Nixon, that unlikely peace maker, was the man who took a huge moral step and actually led the way to a treaty the following years. 1972 was the last year.

KING: How many countries have such weapons?

MILLER: Well there's a list that we call the "Dirty Dozen," and that's the countries that's the United States suspects of having biological and chemical weapons.

You know, it's very hard to know which countries actually have these weapons. And that's one of the reasons that they're so very difficult for the United States to plan against and to think about how to counter.

KING: What do you make of -- you watched the whole show tonight. What do you make of all this?

MILLER: Well I'm struck by the fact that there is still a difference in tone between Secretary Powell and the president.

KING: Still.

MILLER: Yes. I detect one. And it goes to the issue of whether or not you can really depend on Saddam Hussein to disarm. Secretary Powell emphasizes the fact that war is not inevitable. And he says that it's possible that Saddam Hussein -- if the world is strong and the Congress gives him -- the president the resolution he wants -- will actually let the inspectors in and that they will be able to go anywhere any time and see anybody.

But I don't think that's what the president's saying. I listened to the speech in Uzbekistan on my way into Afghanistan and what I heard the president say was that regime change is necessary because we can't depend on Saddam Hussein to disarm. So I think there's a slight difference in tone.

But I do think that the administration has definitely adopted the Powell line. The tone is much softer than it was before. The rhetoric is different.

KING: If he has delivery systems, how prepared are we?

MILLER: Well, what's a delivery system, Larry?

KING: I don't know. I don't know what I'm talking about.

MILLER: Did anybody think that a letter in the U.S. mail could be a delivery system for anthrax? Yet it turned out to be.

KING: Did anyone think someone would take a plane a kill themselves going into a building?

MILLER: Exactly. Here's what we believe -- what the intelligence experts believe Saddam Hussein has. They think that he has reconfigured his planes -- his crop dusters which he can import legally -- and that he also has unmanned drones which have been reconfigured to carry chemical and biological agents which he would use on his neighbors, even on his own people as he did before.

They fear that he does have some Scuds still hidden away, some rockets. And then there's biological weapons as a weapon of terror. That he would give it to somebody. That's one of the president's allegations.

KING: Give it to somebody who doesn't like us and can deliver it.

MILLER: And can deliver it here or in Saudi Arabia, Israel.

KING: You've written about leaders for a long time, covered things for a long time. Explain to us Saddam Hussein. I mean, he doesn't get up in the morning and comb his hair and say, I'm sick, right? I'm a whacko. What's his core?

MILLER: When I was writing my book in 1990 about him, I really came to believe that he was a desperately stupid, incredibly isolated, ego maniac and that made him very dangerous. He was also a serial killer. That has been clear for a long, long time.

KING: A serial killer? MILLER: A serial killer. Ever since that man has come to power in Iraq, he has used the powers of the state to kill his own people and people around him.

KING: When we see people rallying -- saw it yesterday. We love you Saddam, we'll do anything. What is that?

MILLER: That's completely staged. I worked in Iraq throughout the 1980s and I can tell you, Larry, it is without a doubt one of the most fearful places I have ever been.

KING: People live in fear?

MILLER: In constant fear. Because you know if you know that if you even criticize him at all, that your wife is likely to be raped, your children will be imprisoned.

KING: There's all the stories are true?

MILLER: All the stories are true. They're horrible. The world has ignored them for a long time.

KING: The Iraqis are very strong terrific people, aren't they?

MILLER: Yes.

KING: The ones I met in Washington seemed terrific.

MILLER: The Iraqi opposition are enormously impressive people who haven't gotten very much respect. No, you can't overthrow a dictatorship. Look at the Middle East. Everybody is always talking about the fragility of the Middle Eastern states. These guys have been around forever.

KING: If he's incredibly stupid, not world traveled, little knowledge of the West, are you then pessimistic about what's going to happen?

MILLER: I think he's very crafty and he's going to try and do what he's always done, which is if he believes that the only alternative letting the inspectors in is war and his destruction, then he'll let them in. But then I think the Bush administration's concern is that he'll begin to play the very same games that he's played all along. Hide and seek, concealment, the things that drive the inspectors crazy and eventually drove them out of Iraq.

KING: Judith Miller co-author of the No. 1 "New York Times" bestseller "Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War" now out in trade paperback. Great read. Back with more of Judith Miller.

Madonna tomorrow night. Now, there's a quiniela. Never mind. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're back with Judith Miller. Her book is now out in trade paperback. Just back from Afghanistan. Let's take a couple calls.

Truth or consequences, New Mexico, hello.

CALLER: Yes, hello, Larry.

I wanted to ask Miss Miller. She referred to a list of the dirty dozen list -- Other countries that had chemical or biological weapons. I was wondering if she would go into a little bit of detail now for us and list some of the other countries on the dirty dozen list.

KING: Who's on it?

MILLER: Well, there are some wonderful countries like North Korea, Iran, part of what President bush called the axis of evil. There are also countries that we suspect and have much less firm evidence of, like Cuba, China...

KING: Which suspect would surprise us?

MILLER: Well, I think that Libya might surprise us. Not because they wouldn't want it, but because one would wonder if they were really able to make these weapons.

But it turns out that biological weapons, unfortunately, are not all that difficult to make.

KING: No.

MILLER: That's part of the problem.

KING: Centreville, Virginia, hello.

CALLER: Hi. My name is Molly (ph) and I wanted to know -- I know she's been to Afghanistan. And I wanted to know if she would visit any of the orphanages in Afghanistan and if she did, what does she think and is there any way they can get help?

MILLER: Well, I think Afghanistan needs so much help. And we have already spent, our country, $500 million in Afghanistan, beginning to repair some of the damage. I was not able, in the short time that I was there, to go to hospitals.

I did see President Karzai and I went around the country. I saw our own military facility at Bagram, where a number of Afghan people have been treated. But the needs are enormous. It's going to take a long time to rebuild that country.

KING: Boston, hello.

CALLER: Good evening, Larry.

KING: Hi.

CALLER: Thomas from Boston.

KING: Hi. CALLER: Let me first say that I'm very privileged to be a U.S. citizen and very grateful to be an American.

KING: What's the question? Lucky, too. What's the...

CALLER: My question is, Larry, that I'm hearing a lot about biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction.

My question is, How is it that these threats can, you know, be so problem -- you know, be a problem to us so far away? Like, there's so many thousands of miles away.

KING: That's pondered. I asked Colin Powell that. I don't know if we got a direct answer. What is the threat to us?

MILLER: Well, that's the issue. I think the main threat to us, of Saddam Hussein's arsenal, is terrorism, that he would give what he has to somebody who can come here and use it against us.

KING: They could do that this morning?

MILLER: Exactly. He could do that. And we have to notice that he hasn't seemed to have done that in the past 10 years. Now, what he has done, is supported those who are suicide bombers inside Israel.

And he supports other terrorists. But as Senator Biden said, the link between al Qaeda, the people who blew us up on September 11, and Saddam Hussein, is really very circumstantial.

Yes, it does not persuade many in the Congress.

KING: What countries are his friends?

MILLER: He has no friends.

KING: None? Zip?

MILLER: He has no real friends. Even the neighbors...

KING: But on principle, some will stand with him, right?

MILLER: I wonder how many will actually stand with him. They are afraid of him. But my reading of the neighbors, the Middle Eastern neighbors, is that if they understand the United States and the United Nations is serious about finally getting its own resolutions enforced, he will be very lonely indeed.

KING: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, last call. Hello.

CALLER: Yes. Hi, Larry. Hi, Miss Miller.

MILLER: Hi.

CALLER: I think the goal of rebuilding these countries is noble, but I'm wondering how we are going to rebuild and police Afghanistan, rebuild and police Iraq, rebuild the infrastructure in this country like our bridges and our water systems...

KING: Yes, how do we do it all?

CALLER: ...plus, have a huge tax cut and not be into a huge deficit. I -- I -- that just troubles me when I see this awesome...

KING: Well asked.

MILLER: I think this is an excellent point. You know, do we know our limits?

Can we, if not walk and chew gum at the same time, can we fight the war on terrorism? Can we take care of Iraq? Can we rebuild Afghanistan? I think it is a huge order. And I think that's what troubles some people, making choices.

KING: We have only have a minute left. We have a minute left.

You wrote the other day that while endorsing regime change the, Bush administration is stumbling in efforts to get a cohesive opposition.

MILLER: Yes.

KILLER: Still stand by that or does it change?

MILLER: I think they have -- are making progress towards supporting the Iraqi National Congress, which has been the main umbrella group. It's got its tensions but, you know, the state department, for a long time, and the CIA did not like the members of the INC and they didn't work with them.

The time has come, I think, people who want regime change in Iraq to rally around a coherent group of people who have fought for a long, long time this regime.

KING: Are we going to go to war?

MILLER: I don't know. I really don't know. Obviously, as a journalist who's covered them, I hope not. But we won't know until we see what the United Nations does and what President Bush is prepared to do.

KING: Always good seeing you.

MILLER: Great to see you.

KING: Judith Miller. The book, No. 1 "New York Times" bestseller, is now in trade paperback.

"Germs: Biological Weapons and America's Secret War."

Caught a little cold in Afghanistan, it happens.

Tell you about tomorrow night next. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Tomorrow night, Madonna is our special guest.

Like the pioneers of old, Aaron Brown is headed west. So tonight's "NEWSNIGHT" will be hosted by my friend Anderson Cooper, and we might have some disturbing news to begin with -- Anderson.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com



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