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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Showdown Iraq: Sound-Off

Aired November 11, 2002 - 12:33   ET

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

CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: War is what the U.N. is hoping to avoid by insisting on weapons inspections. It's just waiting for Iraq's answer. "Sounding Off" today, Joe Conason, a national correspondent at "The New York Observer," and a daily columnist at Salon.com. And also in New York, Robert George, associate editorial page editor with "The New York Post."
Good afternoon to both of you.

Let me start with you, Joe. The Iraqi parliament is meeting right now, the national assembly, and the consensus seems to be that Iraq Is going to agree to this resolution, the terms, at least initially. Are the Iraqis to be trusted, do you think?

JOE CONASON, "NEW YORK OBSERVER": No, they're not to be trusted, which is why you send in inspectors, and why you threaten them with all kinds of consequences if they don't cooperate. I mean, I don't think anybody believes that Saddam Hussein is to be trusted in any way.

But I think many people around the world believe that better than war would be inspection and his surrender of whatever weapons of mass destruction or the preparations for making those weapons he might have. That has very little to do with trust. It has to do with making sure that there's an inspection regime that works, and that is rigorous and that is backed up with the threat of force if necessary.

LIN: Robert George?

ROBERT GEORGE, "NEW YORK POST": I think that's right. It's actually kind of amusing to hear that the Iraqi parliament is meeting to determine whether they're going to be following the U.N. resolution or not, since it's basically kind of a puppet regime over there anyway. Saddam is, in a sense, trying to delay a little bit more.

But Joe is absolutely right, which is why there are a number of conservatives who are a little bit concerned about the whole idea of going through the inspections process, because they feel that the Saddam hasn't followed any of the previous resolutions, and he'll do whatever he can to hide what stuff is there.

LIN: All right, Robert, I've got' mail for you. Joe, I've got them for you too, as well.

But let me start with you Robert. We're hearing from Ahmed in Malmo, Sweden, who writes, "I think that the United States is going to strike Iraq because of its own interests, and that Saddam is killing and putting people in jail doesn't mean anything to the United States."

In other words, the United States is intending on striking regardless of the resolution results.

GEORGE: I think I would say even now there's probably a 70-80 percent chance that there will be a war in February or whenever, but I think that's more because of the fact that Saddam has done everything he can to hide his weapons of mass destruction.

Now, obviously, the United States has specific interests in that region. But it also happens to be the fact that a Saddam Hussein that is putting together weapons of mass destruction is an instable character in that entire region, and it also destabilizes the entire world. It's a case where the U.S. interests overlaps that of the world's.

LIN: Joe, we've got an e-mail for you, Mark in Inkster, Michigan, and he writes, in Michigan writes, "How many 9/11's will it take for people to see what president bush is doing the right thing. If all of us stand by Bush, we will win and win ten fold." Pretty black and white to Mark.

CONASON: Yes, I'm afraid life is usually not that clear cut. I think it's the duty of every American to examine what the president is doing and decide whether they think what he's doing is right or not. I supported the war in Afghanistan wholeheartedly. I thought we needed to take out the Taliban and go after Al-Qaeda and I still believe that, and do I support what the president is doing on that score.

I'm more skeptical about war with Iraq, and I'm not sure war with Iraq is necessary to ensure our safety, so I think everybody has the right to question what the president is doing, and we wouldn't be living in America if we didn't.

LIN: I'm going to throw this out to both of you, starting with you, Joe, "Do you really that think that any U.N. resolution would change the 200-year-old Yankee imperialist notion that might makes right. Who are we to say that the head of any nation does not have a right to the weapons he deems necessary for the defense of his nation. "

GEORGE: It's not just -- you talk about might makes right. That is actually the -- that's what Saddam also believes, as well. You only have to go back 11 years to see that if he's pursuing certain weapons, it's not so much necessary for the defense of his nation, as it is to give him an edge in taking over Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, any number of other countries in that region.

CONASON: I'd like to add something to that. It's not just the United States that's decided that Saddam Hussein cannot be trusted with weapons of mass destruction. It is a worldwide decision now backed up by everybody, and the reason for it is that he has showed aggressive intentions towards his neighbors, his own actions towards his own people, which I would agree, the United States didn't take much interest in the time that they were happening, unfortunately.

But now the world is focused on the fact that this regime needs to be disarmed, and hopefully, Saddam Hussein will go along with that, will allow the inspectors to do their jobs, and we can avoid what would have to be a bloody and awful war, particularly for the people of Iraq.

LIN: On that note, Joe, thank you very much, salon.com, and Robert George, "New York Post," good to see you both.

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