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Showdown: Iraq: Should U.S. Invade Iraq?

Aired October 10, 2002 - 12:33   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Our pulse snapshot focuses on the increasing talk of war with Iraq. The latest CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll shows most Americans support sending ground troops there if necessary. Just over half say they worry that might include a friend or family member, but 47 percent say they're not concerned about relatives winding up in combat.
Some experts say it's not a matter if the U.S. will invade Iraq, but when. Joining me now to debate the issue, from Dallas, Texas, Roland Martin -- he's editor of, and he's also news editor of "Savoy" magazine -- and in Washington D.C., here, the nationally syndicated radio talk show host Janet Parshall. Thank you to you both for joining us.

Roland, Were you surprised that the Senate majority leader Tom Daschle today effectively gave President Bush a clean bill of health, and essentially said go ahead and support this resolution that will authorize the use of force?

ROLAND MARTIN, EDITOR, BLACKAMERICA.COM: Wolf, I wasn't surprised, because he clearly understands the momentum has shifted back to the Bush administration, and he is simply trying to get on that wagon. Also, with Richard Gephardt also appearing with the president, that was a critical issue as well. But, you know, at the same time, a lot of people on, my Web site, they're not too happy about this, they're not happy about all the talk of war. They're more concerned about the economy, and they're more concerned about their pocketbooks, and they fear what this may mean to contribute $9 billion a month for war against Iraq.

You know, Janet, on that same point, we have an e-mail from Kenneth in Livingston, Texas, who makes a similar point: "Bush has three objectives for his war on Iraq: divert attention from domestic problems, gain control of Congress and secure control of Iraq's oil. Bush's policies are more dangerous to this low, fixed-income retiree than Saddam Hussein, and most Democrats are, unfortunately, buying into them because they are afraid of being called unpatriotic."

Strong words from Kenneth in Texas.

JANET PARSHALL, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: They are, indeed, strong words. But the reality is, Kenneth isn't going to care too much about his 401(k) if a biological weapon is dropped in his neighborhood. Polling nationally is number one, the American public is concerned about national security. We don't really care how safe our 401(k) is if we're not safe in our own neighborhood. And that's why Tom Daschle has decided that the politically dispute thing to do is almost verbatim what the president said, including with the phrase "with one voice."

Wolf, we knew all along this would be the end outcome on this. Nobody takes this decision lightly. I spent the entire day yesterday on Capitol Hill. There isn't a member who isn't doing a lot of personal soul-searching. Nobody wants to send the sons and daughters of America into harm's way.

But as the president said, this resolution does not mean war is inevitable; it simply is a necessary statement of strength to a butcher in Baghdad: If you don't change, there will be consequences.

BLITZER: I want you to respond that Roland, but listen to this e-mail which is similar to what we heard from Janet. Warren in Berryville Arkansas e-mails us with this: "Saddam has openly voiced his hatred for America. We know that his troops have fired on us over 700 times. We also know that he is presently building a vast array of weapons. Do we want to wait until there are a few thousand dead somewhere before we act?"

What do you say to Warren?

MARTIN: Well, first of all, we have to keep in mind, we were in bed with Saddam Hussein and we're trying to get back in bed with Iran.

The greater issue is this, we have a war against terrorism. Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda, they have threatened America. They attacked the World Trade Center. That should be our number-one focus. Saddam Hussein has not threatened America. Yes, we know he's a threat in the Middle East. I compare it to the 1980s when Gadhafi was making a number of threats against the United States. That's a different case.

But again, the war on terrorism should be our primary focus.

Now what's interesting is President Bush, as a candidate Bush, criticized President Clinton for extending our military sources across the country in so many hotspots. Now he's doing the same thing by trying to attack Iraq, but also fight the war on terrorism in Afghanistan.

BLITZER: Janet, your shaking your head.

PARSHALL: I am, indeed. First of all, you had a very important conversation a few moments ago with James Woolsey, who said that there now, in fact, is the open agreement of the fact Iraq has had contact with Al Qaeda doing some training, as James Woolsey just said.

But number two, I think Roland needs to be very, very judicious about pointing a finger of mischief at President Bush. Remember, in 1998, it was Bill Clinton who said the policy now is regime change. Democrats stepped forward, moved for a resolution. And don't forget also, the Khobar Towers, Clinton's watch. Remember also Osama bin Laden was being handed to us on a silver platter when he was in Sudan, and quite frankly, President Clinton said, I don't know what to do with him, so don't give him to me. MARTIN: Janet, I choose not to engage in partisan politics. What I'm saying is, candidate Bush criticized the military resources being extended in a number of places in the world. That's the issue. The question is, can we fight a war on terrorism, at the same time, spending $9 billion a month fighting a war against Iraq? It's two different issues. This is not a question of who gets the blame. It's a matter of our resources being extended across the world.

PARSHALL: Roland, I agree, it's not the blame game. This is a matter of life and death, and quite frankly, it is not a partisan issue. As we saw earlier in the poll numbers here on CNN, we know that both Democrats and Republicans will align by a vast majority in both the House and Senate in support of the president. The reality is, candidates can say one thing, Roland, guess what, September 11 changed everyone, including the president of the United States in this country. Wars are expensive, not just financially but in the cost of human life as well.

Sadly, what's happening right now is on Capitol Hill and the kitchen tables all across America, we are counting the costs.

BLITZER: Roland, a lot of people are saying the Democrats, at least some of the Democrats opposing the president this time around are being hypocritical, because in 1998 they did support a resolution supported by Bill Clinton who was in the White House, that called for even more -- called for regime change against Iraq. Now they seem to be walking away. What do you say to that kind of criticism?

MARTIN: They're correct. And again, that's the problem when we engage in partisan politics, we're not making decisions based upon what's in the best interest of America, we're making decisions what's in the best interests of our parties. My concern has to deal with individuals who I go to church with, who I live with, who may be coming home in bodybags because we're trying to move forward, fighting a war against Iraq.

Again, that's the greater issue. This should not be a partisan discussion.

BLITZER: Let me read one more e-mail to you, Janet, before I let both of you go: "If we attack Iraq and Iraq attacks Israel with chemical or biological weapons, Israel has said that they will strike back with nuclear weapons. Are we willing to risk accepting the human disaster that could occur?"


PARSHALL: Israel has the same exact right of self-defense as we do. The whole reason that we're even having this discussion as a culture and as a country is because while September 11 was a tragedy, it was absolutely, definable, a quintessential act of war. If Israel is fired upon, I see no reason why that democracy, why our best friend in that part of the world doesn't have the right to turn around and defend herself to the best of her ability.

BLITZER: We're going to leave it right there. Janet Parshall, thanks for joining us. Roland Martin, thanks to you as well. Appreciate both of you on this program.

MARTIN: Thank you, wolf.


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