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CNN CROSSFIRE

New Questions About Attacking Iraq; Is Torturing Terrorists Necessary?

Aired March 3, 2003 - 19:00   ET

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

ANNOUNCER: CROSSFIRE. On the left, James Carville and Paul Begala. On the right, Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson.
In the CROSSFIRE, new questions about attacking Iraq. If not from Turkey, where? If not with the U.N.'s blessing, when? And if Iraq's cooperating with weapons inspectors, why?

Plus, the capture of an alleged 9/11 ringleader.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARI FLEISCHER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: This is a very serious development and a blow to al Qaeda.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER: How far do we go to make him talk? Is torturing terrorists necessary?

Plus, we swap stories with the best lawyer in the one-lawyer town. Tonight on CROSSFIRE.

Live from the George Washington University, Paul Begala and Robert Novak.

PAUL BEGALA, CO-HOST: Hello, everybody. Welcome to CROSSFIRE. As more U.S. forces head for a possible war in Iraq, the war on terror is back in the news thanks to this weekend's arrest of an alleged top al Qaeda operative by officials in Pakistan. We will debate what should be done with him.

Also, former Arkansas governor and long-time U.S. Senator Dale Bumpers stops by to tell us how he went from being the best lawyer in a one-lawyer town to the best orator in the United States Senate.

But first, it's our chance to tell you a few stories of our own, the "CROSSFIRE Political Alert."

Iraq destroyed at least six Al Samoud 2 missiles today, along with 10 that they destroyed over the weekend. But an Iraqi official said the other 84 plus missiles may not be destroyed if a war looks likely.

Meanwhile, the Bush administration was surprised by the Turkish parliament's rejection of President Bush's request to base our troops there. Officials are hoping that a second vote could reverse the situation.

But the Turks are right, frankly, to doubt President Bush's credibility. See, they can see for themselves that Mr. Bush is thanking Pakistan now for catching that al Qaeda kingpin by bullying Pakistan into trying to vote for his very unpopular war at the U.N. If that's how Mr. Bush treats his allies, no wonder so few of them want to be allied with him.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Paul, I know you never get tired of bashing George W. Bush every night, but do you sometimes get (UNINTELLIGIBLE) fatigued always siding with other countries against your own country, the United States, even though you wear the flag on your lapel?

BEGALA: I get heart broken when our president fails so miserably. You know, I get heart broken. He's failed us here.

NOVAK: The captured al Qaeda terrorist leader is now undergoing questioning jointly by U.S. and Pakistani authorities, but time may be running out. The question is, how long it will be before Khalid Shaikh Mohammed loses his relevancy. It's important is to extract from him current information about terrorist plans directed against this country. But how to get Mohammed to talk? Remember, he's in an undisclosed location and his Pakistani interrogators may not have that many scruples about the judicious use of torture.

BEGALA: Well, we'll debate that later on in the show. We'll have a couple of experts come out, so I'll withhold my comments until then.

Even as the secretary of homeland security was putting his people on high alert last month, a 30-foot Cuban patrol boat with four heavily armed men landed on American shores, utterly undetected by the Coast Guard Secretary Ridge now leads.

Now, why has our president placed homeland security in the hands of Republican political hacks instead of professionals, by the way? Attorney General John Ashcroft, for example, is a career politician. He lost an election to a dead man. Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge is another career politician who was passed over by Mr. Bush for the vice presidency. And Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security Asa Hutchinson is yet another career politician and a graduate of the disgraceful Bob Jones University.

Apparently, Mr. Bush only turns to professionals when it's really important, like political consulting.

NOVAK: Paul, as I understand your definition of a political -- of a professional politician based on that is somebody who is elected to public office. Now in your administration, the Clinton administration, there were these members of the cabinet who by your definition were professional politicians -- Lloyd Bentsen, Les Aspin, William S. Cohen, Janet Reno, Bruce Babbitt, Mike Espy, Dan Glickman, Norman Mineta, Henry Cisneros, Federico Pena, Bill Richardson, Richard Riley, 12 of them, not to mention former Democratic National Chairman Ron Brown, and one of the great professional politicians of all time, Bill Daly.

BEGALA: And you know what, they did a hell of a job for our country. And these bozos let four armed Cubans land on our shores when they're trying to make a high terrorist alert. Our president has put homeland security in the hands of failed Republican hacks. Hire professionals, Mr. President.

NOVAK: So it's OK -- it's OK to have professional politicians at the Justice Department and the Pentagon...

BEGALA: Janet Reno was a career prosecutor.

NOVAK: Just a minute, let me finish my sentence, please. It's OK to put Democratic career politicians at the Pentagon and the Justice Department if they're Democrats but not if they're Republicans, is that right?

BEGALA: No, the difference is Janet Reno was a career prosecutor.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: John Ashcroft wasn't half the woman that Janet Reno was.

NOVAK: Another potential Democratic presidential candidate pondered whether to run, and he made his announcement, and surprise, surprise, the answer was no. Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut made the announcement today that he would not be the 10th candidate for the nomination. Why not? Surely Chris Dodd is at least more credible than Carol Moseley-Braun or Dennis Kucinich. He explained he could better spend the next two years on homeland security, the economy and judicial nominations. I guess that means harassing Tom Ridge, fighting tax cuts and obstructing President Bush's plans to reform judiciary. Some two years.

BEGALA: God, I hope so. that's all I can say. I love Senator Dodd. He would have brought a lot to the race. He brings a lot to the Senate and to the debate. And I'm glad that he's going to be fighting those fights.

Well, the Commerce Department reports today that consumer spending declined in January and that the manufacturing sector slowed in February. In all, two million Americans have lost their jobs under President Bush so far, not to mention three of them being the top three leaders of his economic team.

Meanwhile, the deficit now at $300 billion. It could swell to as much as $500 billion if we go to war in Iraq. Mr. Bush apparently is untroubled by this fiscal collapse. One of his aides tells the current issue of "TIME," magazine, quote, "even if it's $500 billion, so what?" Of course, even a $500 billion deficit number doesn't count the $3 trillion Mr. Bush is robbing from the Social Security trust fund.

You know, we should have known, every time George W. Bush gets in trouble, he borrows from a trust fund. It's been his whole life, you know.

NOVAK: Let me give you two economic facts of like, which you should know, even if you won't recognize them. Number one, there is absolutely no relationship between the deficit and unemployment. They don't go together. And number two, there is no Social Security fund, Virginia. There just isn't one.

BEGALA: Because Bush squandered it on his tax cuts.

NOVAK: There never has been one.

BEGALA: There has been one for 60 years.

NOVAK: Big political news from the Democrats from Hollywood. The spokesman for Dreamworks SKG announced that his employers have not yet decided on their choice for a president -- a candidate for president. Dreamworks is a movie studio, which believe it or not doesn't necessarily have to pick a candidate for president. But the Dreamworks partners, Steven Spielberg and Jeffrey Katzenberg, do. They just haven't decided who it is yet.

Surely the movie boys are looking for somebody who opposes traditional American values, loves big government and just adores the Democratic field of nine candidates, which now ranges from the left to the far left.

BEGALA: By the way, Dreamworks is the people that put out "Saving Private Ryan," a movie made by Steven Spielberg, there hasn't been a more patriotic movie made in the United States of America in the last 25 years. You want to smear them? You want to smear them? This is what the right does, folks. If you say something that they don't agree with, they say you're unpatriotic. Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg and David Geffen are great patriots and you shouldn't be attacking them personally like that.

NOVAK: Why should Dreamworks have its own candidate for president?

BEGALA: That's fine. They're American citizens. They're part of the process.

NOVAK: Part of a far left wing conspiracy.

The Bush administration says Turkey doesn't need to worry, even though it told the U.S. military, don't come here. But Saddam Hussein doesn't have that luxury. In a minute, we'll debate Iraq with two former congressmen.

Later, how forceful -- forceful -- I love that word, should interrogators get with the newly captured terrorist leader?

And then, an Arkansas lawyer who came to Washington, and believe it or not, did not get disbarred.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

President Bush's spokesman says that Turkey's refusal to let U.S. troops use that country's bases is -- quote -- "a surprise and a disappointment" -- unquote. There is speculation that the move could push back a possible U.S. attack on Iraq to late this month or even into April.

Two former Congressmen now stepping into the CROSSFIRE to debate this, Maine Democrat Tom Andrews, now national director of Win Without War.

With him, California Republican Bob Dornan. Gentlemen.

NOVAK: Mr. Andrews, I'd like you to listen, and please listen carefully, to what was said just yesterday by the most pro-peace -- arguably the most pro-peace candidate for president of the Democratic party, former Governor Howard Dean of Vermont. Let's listen to him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HOWARD DEAN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I -- you know, I think Saddam will do everything he can to avoid cooperation. He will only disarm if the United Nations is willing to continue to push him and I think they are doing that now. So I counsel patience.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: So what he is saying is that he has not disarmed and if he does not disarm, eventually force will have to be used. You don't make that position, do you? That he has not disarmed?

TOM ANDREWS, FMR. U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Well Bob, what you to expect? We're talking about Saddam Hussein here, OK? What do we expect him to say -- OK, look, I'm sorry. I was wrong, come on in. I'll disarm. I'll cooperate 100 percent. This is Saddam Hussein, Bob.

NOVAK: So you concede he is not disarmed, then?

ANDREWS: Well, listen, obviously we're in the process right now of destroying missiles. He has missiles to be destroyed.

So the point is, we've got a weapons inspections process that is designed to seek out and destroy weapons of mass destruction. That is being accomplished right now. And I think we should give that process a chance because it's containing him. It's disarming him. And it is keeping us from going in and making an extraordinary mistake by putting not only the people of Iraq in grave danger, but our own men and women in uniform in danger and inflaming an entire region.

And frankly, let me give you one other example why we shouldn't go in. I can't think of anything that would be better for Osama bin Laden than for us to go in and inflame that very volatile region of the world and give him a chance to recruit a whole new generation of suicide terrorists. It is a big mistake. We shouldn't do it. Let's let the inspections work. Let's seek out and destroy his weapons of mass destruction.

BEGALA: And, in fact, Congressman Dornan, here is one place where our President Bush, who overruled Vice President Cheney -- Vice President Cheney had the view that inspections can never work.

Our president overruled him, supported putting inspectors in and guess what? George W. Bush was right. The inspections are working so far. Here's the tally just so far. And it's only begun. Seventeen chemical warheads destroyed. So far, 16 Al Samoud missiles, 84 more to come. 380 illegally imported engines to be destroyed plus the fuel, plus the design software.

The inspections with working, aren't they?

BOB DORNAN, FMR. U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: What's supposed to go in the missiles? Anthrax, botulism, VX nerve gas, ricin, sarin -- this would be 1/1000 of 1 percent of what UNSCOM found.

When UNSCOM advises UNMOVIC, they tell them, We found lots of stuff in the beginning but then the games started -- the minders started to hound us and threaten us. We were totally unarmed and they were there with rifles cocked, safeties off. And finding that the whole process deteriorated till your former boss, Beezlebubba, pulled them out and used my B-1 aircraft, its debut in combat was Desert Fox. And he gave up on them and for four years he's become a master of deceit on top of his acid bats, cutting off ears of draft dodgers, cutting out tongues of military officers.

NOVAK: For the benefit of the young in the audience, you used to be known as B-1 Bob.

DORNAN: That's right.

And there's a reason. I saved the four test birds. Jimmy Carter went along with me and we had them built 100 under Reagan.

NOVAK: Congressman, I think we're making progress, believe it or not. I never dreamed we would, but we concede he has this -- not disarmed.

So the question is, is this process making progress? And I would like to submit as a witness John Negroponte, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., a professional foreign service officer; he has a career to think of and a reputation. Let's listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN NEGROPONTE, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: All that we're seeing here are some piecemeal concessions designed to give the impression of progress, but there has been no serious, substantive progress.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Do you disagree with that?

ANDREWS: Well, Hans Blix, who's the chief weapons inspector -- he disagrees with it. He told the United Nations, told the world, we are making significant progress on the ground in Iraq.

And you know some something, Bob? If we're not making enough progress, let's do everything we can to toughen those inspections. Let's look them in the eye and say, Look, if you don't want to give up your weapons of mass destruction, we're sorry, you're going give them up. If we discover them, we destroy them. If we get resistance, we counter that.

But you don't invade and occupy for 10 years, at a cost of what one Yale economist has projected at $1.3 trillion, in the middle of the most volatile region in the world, a step that he also says that many economists agree are going to throw us into one of the deepest recessions we have seen in many years.

Why do you take that risk, along with the risk of putting at risk our men and women in uniform and killing innocent Iraqi men and women and children if you don't have to do it?

DORNAN: Tom, I want went to a rally here Saturday, snowy day. There were only a couple of hundred people there. And it was worth my getting up early in the morning and going, because I met about ten Iraqis, half of them Iraqi-Americans, little children, holding signs, some of the pictures that I've not seen in magazines and the main speaker, perfectly fluent in English, was the nephew of the woman who asked Saddam Hussein, please, to release her husband. This was this guy's uncle.

And Saddam Hussein says, I promise you, he'll be back with you tomorrow. And he was in a body bag in 10 pieces with a bill for the ammunition that they shot him with. This guy is such a war criminal and I sometimes am cheering for Paul, but thinking, let me on the show because I took on Bush the father, I went on the floor with Tom Lantos and with the late, great Jerry Solomon of New York and I held up the magazine -- as Mort Zuckerman when you have him on some time -- "The Most Dangerous Man In The World, Saddam Hussein," June 4, 1990. He attacked a two-days shy of two months later.

I didn't want any of -- after the stark incident when 35 Americans were killed, two -- 17 on the "Cole" but 35 on the "Start" -- that was a Saddam Hussein mission. I don't know why we dealt with this guy.

NOVAK: Mr. Andrews, do you want to briefly respond?

ANDREWS: Well, just the fact -- you know, I've been talking to some Iraqis too. And if you listen to the Iraqi National Congress, those who are in exile, who are with us in trying to get Saddam Hussein and get him controlled -- you know, you ask them what they think what the United States is doing and one of the leaders of that organization, last week, described the United States organization as, in his words, the enemy of a democratic Iraq. Now this is before anything has even begun there as far as our...

DORNAN: Well, they don't want a military governor. But they want to come in and set up a government.

ANDREWS: This is the contentious...

(BELL RINGING)

BEGALA: There we go. Keep them away from it.

NOVAK: We got to take a break. Take a break.

In a minute we'll ask our guests what -- if it were up to the American people, would we go to war with Iraq?

Later, what's the fastest way to get information out of the al Qaeda ring leader?

And then, a former U.S. senator who is consistent in his opposition to war in Iraq.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Welcome back. Orders went out today to deploy 17,000 U.S. Army soldiers in the Persian Gulf region. The army's entire first Calvary division based at Fort Hood, Texas, would join the quarter million U.S. forces already in the region. We're talking about possibilities of full scale war with former Congressman Tom Andrews, Democrat of Maine. He's now national director of Win Without War, and former Congressman Bob Dornan, Republican of California.

BEGALA: Bob, one of the reasons I think so many Americans are worried about this war and so many people around the world don't want to go is there have been a lot of problems with credibility from this administration. Our president has repeatedly, for example, relied on a man whom you're aware, Hussein Kamel, Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, leader of the Iraq arms program who defected for a time.

And gave us a whole lot of information and then went home and his father-in-law killed him. Bad move. But while he was here, he gave us a whole lot of information. Gave us a whole lot of information. Well, our president told us that information proves that the dictator had chemical weapons, which is true. But what we just learned this week from "Newsweek" magazine which got a hold of the debriefings, is that he also told us it was destroyed back in 1995.

Why hasn't our president told us that?

Why do we have to learn it from "Newsweek"?

DORNAN: I don't believe that he believed it was all destroyed. The fact that this guy was such an idiot to go back and let his father-in-law kill him shows he wasn't the most stable of people. But the things that...

BEGALA: Good point. But shouldn't our president have told us what the CIA told him.

Why do we learn from "Newsweek?"

Should he level with us? DORNAN: Paul, look, the problem is I would stipulate all four of us hates war. Any rational person hates war. Bush isn't sitting in that White House not thinking about the body bags coming home with great young men. Clinton suffered greatly over the 19 Rangers that died, 18 on the 3rd of October and Matt Reersen (ph) three days later. I visited all their families.

I was at the medal of honor ceremony for the kids. Let me tell you, what trips to Walter Reed taught me was, that whoever thought up the term, the law of unintended consequences it pertains to war. I am shook over the aftermath. But, this guy is a monster, a mini-me Hitler. He will blow a city off the earth in a minute if he can get the hold of the means to do it.

NOVAK: Tom Andrews, I think we all realize that a government doesn't go to war a nation goes to war. And so I would like you to take a look at the CNN/"USA TODAY"/Gallup poll, taken last week, should U.S. troops to go to Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Take a look at it. Favor 59%, opposed 37%, that's a vastly larger support than President Bush Senior had in getting the U.S. troops out of Kuwait before that war started. That's pretty good support isn't it?

ANDREWS: Now, Bob, come on you don't really buy this. I mean, listen, this is the oldest trick in the book. You can have a general question like this that could mean anything and ask people and they give you what comes off the top of their head. But, ask them another question, ask them what they think about spending $1.3 trillion in destroying this economy. Ask them about going and not just a war, Bob, but an invasion and occupying for up to 10 years a sovereign Arab nation in the midst of one of the most distable and volatile regions in the world. Ask them how they feel about getting bogged down.

Well, I've seen some of the figures. Once you start telling Americans the story, -- the administration refuse today tell us story. They're not coming forward and telling us what the risks are, what the costs are, how many years we might be in, the possibility of us getting bogged down, because what Americans know that, they're opposed to this war. The more they learn about this invasion, the more they learn about this occupation, the less they support it.

DORNAN: Tom, you know what liberals want. They don't want a smoking gun, they want a smoking city. The Clinton people all say...

BEGALA: That's going to have to be last war, unfair and unfortunate as that is, I am sorry, they're telling us we're out of time.

Former Congressman, Bob Dornan from California...

DORNAN: You're not going to get a smoking city.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: Thank you, both, very much for joining us. The United States, of course is always stood for human rights. That raises now a very difficult question. Just how far should we go to get information out of the alleged mastermind of September 11 attacks?

And later, Southern country lawyer who came to the big city and made it pretty good. We'll look back at his roots.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back.

Somewhere in an undisclosed location CIA operatives have been questioning the alleged mastermind of the September 11 attacks. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was nabbed Saturday morning by authorities in Pakistan. Officials tell CNN he has been interrogated by quote, "all appropriate pressure," unquote. We will talk about what is appropriate for alleged terrorist. CNN security analyst Kelly McCann. With him, Tom Malinowski, the Washington advocacy director of Human Rights Watch.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Kelly, good to see you. Tom, good to see you.

NOVAK: Kelly, I'd like you to take a look at some of the weapons of torture that are used around the world. We'll put it up on the screen if we can. That is electric shock treatment used on Peruvian soldiers. And let's have the next picture, please.

That's another Peruvian soldier being given electric shock treatment. And then in Serbia, the Serbian's use the noose and that device on the left, which I don't know what it is, but it really looks vicious. You think we ought to use that that -- you're a pro-torture man. Do you think we ought to use that kind of equipment on Shaikh Mohammed?

KELLY MCCANN, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: I'm not a pro-torture man. I think that it would be inappropriate to use methodology like that because it has been discredited. Now, the true question of what you're asking me is, is the manipulation of environment or the circadian rhythms of somebody equal to torture. It is not the traditional torture of beating or confinement or restrictions by rope or hanging, but it is problematic in some circles. But I am not against sleep deprivation; I'm not against manipulating the environment.

BEGALA: Well, Tom let me ask you. I admire greatly what you do and what Human Rights Watch does. Do you really want to tell our audience that if you were able to get information that could prevent another 9/11, simply by depriving Shaikh Mohammed of sleep, that you wouldn't do it?

TOM MALINOWKSI, WASHINGTON ADVOCACY DIRECTOR, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: Look, there is a basic point here about torture. It is a wonderful way of getting false concessions out of innocent people. It is a terrible way of getting the truth out of guilty people. And we all want to get the truth out of this guy.

Now I'm glad to hear you say that you would reject this kind of nonsense, because that's terrible and it is not what we stand for as a country. Sleep deprivation, look, no one is against waking somebody up in the middle of the night; no one is against interrogating someone for the whole night. But if you deprive someone of sleep for three or four straight nights, like some of these governments around the world do, that is one of the worst thing you can do to the human body.

BEGALA: Our policy in the United States is -- it's called stress and duress. It is not days and days, it is messing up the rhythms, as Kelly said. Waking him up in the middle of the night, sometimes keeping him up 24 hours. All of us who have kids have been through that. I have to say, as a liberal and a human rights advocate, to me, our policy doesn't cross the line at all, and I don't think we ought to be worried that the American government is...

MALINOWKSI: If interrogating someone all night long is not -- that doesn't cross any line. But there are folks who talk about a lot more than that. As you know, there have been U.S. intelligence officials quoted all over the place saying, you know, well, we don't kick the bejesus out of these people...

NOVAK: How about sodium pentathol?

MALINOWSKI: Truth serum? Look, it sounds innocuous when you say truth serum, right? But think about what this really is. You're injecting people with chemicals to vaporize their brains.

NOVAK: What do you think, Kelly?

MCCANN: It doesn't work, by the way. Sodium pentathol does not make a person become the font of truth. All it does is reduces inhibitions, but that doesn't mean he's not lying with fewer inhibitions.

MALINOWSKI: And, also, this is what the Soviet Union did during battle days to dissidents. This is not something we want to be associated with.

NOVAK: And you would not use sodium pentathol?

MCCANN: No, I would use the manipulation of his environment.

NOVAK: Kelly, Representative Porter Goss, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, not a softy, a former CIA guy...

MCCANN: Sure.

NOVAK: Let's listen to what he said on ABC's "This Week" yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PORTER GOSS (R), FLORIDA: No, it's certainly not permissible. We play by the Marquis of Queensbury Rules. We always have. The hallmark of our country is decency, democracy, freedom and so forth. The other guys don't. They do hit below the belt.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: You agree with that?

MCCANN: In some circles. You got to remember though that the threat of being hit below the belt is sometimes as bad as that blow below the belt. Because once you've experienced the kind of pain, you know it.

So in other words, false flag operations. You tell a person that he's in a different country where there are no rules. That can sometimes be as powerful as actually putting him at risk in those countries.

BEGALA: Right. They call it rendering, right? Or false rendering? We tell this guy, theoretically, "Mr. Mohammed, we're going take you to a place where they don't play by the Marquis of Queensbury Rules the way Americans do."

Is that OK? Just a threat? Not actually turning him over to the torturers, but the threat.

MALINOWSKI: What concerns me is real rendering, which apparently is happening. And you know...

MCCANN: I would disagree.

MALINOWSKI: Well, it's not what administration officials tell you. We've sent -- the United States has sent suspects, detainees to countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, countries in the Middle East that we know torture people systematically.

MCCANN: Who have the right to also question them.

MALINOWSKI: Question them yes, but not tortured them. I mean, look, bigger picture here: The president of the United States -- you heard the State of the Union, right? He cataloged in moving detail the torture techniques that Saddam Hussein uses on his people and his presence.

And he said, I'll never forget this, "If this isn't evil, then evil has no meaning." And at the same time, how can we say that, and at the same time send people to the very countries where these...

BEGALA: But my question was about the threat, though. I think the threat is OK.

NOVAK: Kelly McCann, on December 26, the Human Rights Watch, Mr. Malinowski's organization, sent a letter to President Bush. Tough line. "Any U.S. government official who is directly involved or complicit in the torture or mistreatment of detainees, including any official, who knowingly acquiesces in the commission of such acts, would be subject to prosecution worldwide, a war criminal." What do you think of that? MCCANN: Well, again, nothing in this whole area of questioning detainees or these types of suspects is black and white. As I just said to Tom, can Egypt or Saudi Arabia claim a right to interrogate -- however they decide to do it -- one of the suspects? Absolutely.

And should we step in? Should the U.S. step in? Now if Human Rights Watch organization wants to step in, that's your issue. But should we step in...

NOVAK: What's your answer to the question?

MCCANN: I say that we should not step in. How they can, you know, actually conduct their interviews is their business.

MALINOWSKI: We do step in. Every single year the State Department puts out reports on all of these countries in which we condemn them for engaging in exactly these practices. How can we then turn over suspects? Remember, we're complicit in this; we turn over suspects to these countries. That's the mother of all mixed messages.

NOVAK: OK. That's the last word, too. Tom Malinowski, thank you very much. Kelly McCann, thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: One of our viewers thinks the al Qaeda mastermind ought to be tortured. We'll let him fire back in a little bit, even though his idea of torture seems a little screwy.

But next: one of the dozen former U.S. senators lobbying against a war in Iraq. You're watching CROSSFIRE on CNN, the most trusted name in news.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE, coming to you live from the George Washington University here in downtown Washington, D.C. You know, in his 24 years in the U.S. Senate, Dale Bumpers was known as one of the brightest, wittiest and best orators in the world's greatest deliberative body. So it's no surprise that his memoir, entitled "The Best Lawyer in a One-Lawyer Town," is being hailed by writers like Norman Mailer and politicians like Bill Clinton.

Last week, Senator Bumpers was one of a dozen former senators to warn that a war in Iraq "will dramatically increase the terrorist threat to Americans." Tonight, he is stepping into the CROSSFIRE. Please welcome former Senator and author Dale Bumpers.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Good to see you.

DALE BUMBERS, FMR. SENATOR, ARKANSAS: Good to see you.

NOVAK: Senator Bumpers, when you almost ran for president a number of years ago, I went to one of those cattle shows and you were arguably the most peacenick of all the Democratic candidates, and in the Democratic field, including Alan Cranston (ph). That was something. Can you imagine short of Haiti any time you would ever want to send U.S. troops to defend our national interests?

BUMPERS: Well, I sent myself in 1943, Robert.

NOVAK: Well I'm asking you as a -- I don't think you voted in the Senate then, did you?

BUMPERS: I was not in the Senate at the time. But there was no question in my mind about what I was doing in the Marine Corps.

NOVAK: Well since then, since World War II, has there ever been a time where you thought we should send troops?

BUMPERS: I thought we should have sent troops in Korea.

NOVAK: Since then?

BUMPERS: I don't know. Maybe Haiti.

NOVAK: I was afraid of that. OK.

BUMPERS: Did I hurt your feelings?

BEGALA: In your career in the Senate, which you write about in the book -- and I want to get to the book in the next segment -- but you advised five presidents as you served in the Senate. If President Bush were sitting here, instead of brother Novak -- I prefer Bob, I have to tell you, but he watches every night -- what would you tell our president about the war now in Iraq?

BUMPERS: I would tell him that he's being precipitous, No. 1. No. 2: He ought to be less bellicose and not quite so militant in all of his statements.

(APPLAUSE)

BUMPERS: The Iraqis over this past weekend said, if we're going to destroy, I don't know how many, perhaps, billions of dollars worth of missiles, in the process of bulldozing, sort of the pride of their arsenal, and they're doing that to try to avoid a war, and yet the president hasn't any more than started on it. The president said that's not going to be enough. I mean the president has essentially said to the Iraqis and to the world, we're going invade.

So what's the point in having the inspectors there? I mean Hans Blix is saying that, you know, that was remarkable that they allowed the missiles to be destroyed. But I can tell you, they're not going to continue to give up everything they've got when the president continues to say it doesn't really make much difference what you do. We're coming in.

NOVAK: Senator, in the letter that the former senators sent to the president last week, one of the things was -- I'll put it up on the board -- "The nation's almost-forgotten 'war on terrorism' has been seriously neglected because of the administration's preoccupation with Iraq and Saddam Hussein."

That has been a familiar Democratic theme. But when they capture the top -- a top al Qaeda operative, and he should be a load of information, aren't they showing they can walk and chew gum at the same time? That you -- that they can get ready for war with Saddam Hussein and fight the war on terrorism at the same time?

BUMPERS: Well, let me say this, Bob. I don't know of anybody that would be more gratified than I have been about the capture of that man. He's only one. But let me say along the same line that, Osama bin Laden, in the last tape that the CIA apparently captured, somebody got, in any event, in his last tape, he made a denigrating remark about Saddam.

It is no secret that he has never liked Saddam. And bear in mind, Iraq is essentially a secular society. And Osama bin Laden thinks that Saddam is a treasure because he's a good Muslim and he doesn't think that society can be a good Muslim...

NOVAK: That isn't quite the point you made. The point you made (UNINTELLIGIBLE) is you can't fight the war on terrorism and the war against Iraq at the same time.

BUMPERS: I think that you denigrate one if you take the other. I don't think there's any question that you can't fight a war in Iraq. And I think one of the reasons we're taking a tepid stand on North Korea is because we can't fight two wars at one time.

BEGALA: What does it do to our allies, when the very country that nabbed this guy -- you know we didn't catch him, the Pakistanis did.

BUMPERS: That's exactly right.

BEGALA: That same weekend, they had a rally, the largest in the history of their country, against our president's war in Iraq. We're putting Mr. Musharraf, the president of Pakistan, in a vice, aren't we?

BUMPERS: I think we're leaving him without any choice. I really -- I must say, I'm rather apocalyptic about this whole thing. I don't there's any question that if we start this war, and it certainly seems -- if I were going to give you odds right now, I'd say the odds are heavily that we are going into Iraq -- you don't put 150,000 to 200,000 troops over there and say, we were just kidding, you all come home.

NOVAK: OK. So we're going to take a break. We're going to get to a subject I know you'll enjoy. We're going to switch gears and ask you, Senator Bumpers, about your new book. Just how does the best lawyer in a one-lawyer town become governor of Arkansas and then U.S. senator and still keep his sense of humor?

Later, one of our viewers, fires back a suggestion about how Paul Begala and James Carville -- who's that -- can fight the budget deficit. (APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Former Arkansas Governor and U.S. Senator Dale Bumpers has just published a memoir called "The Best Lawyer in a One-Lawyer Town." And it spans his life from the depression era to the Clinton era. Let's ask him which was more depressing.

BEGALA: First, thank you for writing this book. It is extraordinary. It is wonderful. And then we read you one passage.

You cite a session you had with President Lyndon Johnson in Austin, I guess, at his ranch, right? Here is what you quote our President Johnson to you. "When I was majority leader, and later president, I spent all my time pulling every power string I could find to pull, trying to pass bills that helped people. That made their lives better and the country stronger. That's what the Democrats stand for."

"Republicans? Republicans just stand for two things: protecting the rich and investigation Democrats." That's true, though, isn't it? Johnson was right, wasn't he?

BUMPER: I thought that was one of the most prescient things I ever heard, and that was long before White Water.

BEGALA: Yes. He never heard of Ken Starr, but he anticipated it.

BUMPERS: Nothing ever changes, Paul.

NOVAK: Can I interrupt this Democratic picnic for just a minute? You know, Senator, inadvertently, you gave support in this book to one of my pet political themes, which you probably don't agree with. On page 256 you say, "As the years went by" -- this is when you were in the Senate -- "less and less information was new, fewer and fewer arguments were fresh, and the repetitiveness of the old arguments became tiresome."

"I was becoming almost as cynical as my constituents. I knew it was time to leave." Isn't that a great argument for term limits? I know very few senators or any who are as good in their third term as they are in their first term. Shouldn't we limit them to two terms?

BUMPERS: First of all, that statement is not designed to cover everybody in the United States Senate. But I must say, that's a pretty accurate statement. But it has nothing do with term limits, in my opinion. I think term limits is the worst idea I ever heard of.

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Amen.

NOVAK: I tried at least. BEGALA: Let me turn one more page, to page 257, actually, right next door to where Bob was reading. This struck me because you've got the courage to say something that is heretical today and it's music to my ears.

You say, "Partisanship has taken on an odious connotation, and it may indeed be shriller now than ever. But we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that we have two political parties so people will have choices. If everybody agreed on everything, it might be a tranquil society, but it surely would be a dole one, and certainly not certainly a good one."

BUMPERS: You know, Paul, that's the reason we have two parties, so people have a choice. And I've said many times, if we all agreed on everything, everybody would want to marry Betty and we would really be in a mess, wouldn't we, Bob?

NOVAK: Senator Bumpers, of the 22 senators of the old confederacy, when I got to Washington with the Associated Press, 45 years ago, 22 of them were Democrats, nine were Republicans. Now 13 are Republicans and nine are Democrats. And of the Democrats, I don't think there is a real liberal. Your last year in the Senate I had an interview with you and I wrote a column called "The Last Southern Liberal."

BUMPERS: And I thank you. It was a very flattering article, Bob.

NOVAK: And you said, I'll quote it, you said, today's Southern voters are "children of Democrats who are not swayed by the same things their mothers and fathers were. They certainly are susceptible to the Republican message." That's a good future for the Democratic Party in the South.

BUMPERS: Bob, I think that the reason everybody in the south -- you know, first of all, we were -- when Franklin Roosevelt was elected president, we had been living what we thought was still a conquered nation after the Civil War. And we felt that Franklin Roosevelt was the first person who ever really acknowledged that the South had peculiar problems.

And from that time on, that's the reason we had 22 Democratic senators from 11 confederate states, is because of the Civil War and because of what we thought was a heavy hand of the federal government all the time. Of course there was always that old story about the Yankees, and Yankees were synonymous with Republicans.

But that's all changed and memories have dimmed. And people, you know, they don't remember that. And so the message, the Republicans have actually had a golden opportunity to make their case and they've done it successfully. And the Democrats need desperately to get a message to counter that, and they need to get a message and stay on it. I mean we cannot be all over the lot.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) they're just not buying the new deal anymore in the South. Isn't that the truth?

BUMPERS: Well, that's true. They're not buying a new deal. But I'll tell you the message the Democrats ought to be -- that every time we get sort of within the grasp of the golden age, I mean within reach of the golden age, where everybody has health care, where everybody gets a good education -- you know I'm one of the million and a half people -- my brother went to Harvard, I went to Northwestern University. Two schools my father couldn't have even thought about affording.

A million and a half veterans came out of War World II on the GI bill and got that kind of an education. If that makes me a liberal, because I believe the government has a role to play in that, then I am a certified liberal, because I think that made the country stronger. I think certainly it made every one of those people stronger, and I think we ought to be doing it right now.

No child in this country ought to be deprived of an education for lack of money. No elderly person ought to have to make a choice between food and medicine. And they do it by the millions every day. And now...

(APPLAUSE)

BEGALA: Will you run for president? I'll chair a committee. Dale Bumpers for president, ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you very much.

BUMPERS: Thank you, Paul.

BEGALA: That was just terrific. The book again is Dale Bumpers, "The Best Lawyer in a One-Lawyer Town." I highly recommend it.

And next in our "Fireback" segment, one of our viewers has a question about our president's concept of democracy. Stay tuned.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Time for "Fireback," when the viewers fire back at us. Joshua Hosford of Newport Beach, California -- that would be nice in this weathers -- "Paul, I guess we're going after all. Case in point, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. It's amazing how someone can actually do two things at once. I'm chewing gum and talking on the phone while writing this note."

Joshua, you couldn't have said anything better. In fact, I've already said it.

BEGALA: Well, in fact, our allies got Mr. Mohammed along with us. We need allies. And Bush is so far angered every ally we have.

Dan Snyder of Baden, Pennsylvania writes, "Bush should torture the al Qaeda chief operations officer. Bush has been torturing Americans for two years. Why should this guy get preferential treatment?"

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: And I thought he was -- I thought he was busy running the Redskins. No? OK.

The next comment is from Frank Mastro of New York City. "Mr. Novak, I don't understand the problem. If the budget goes through as is, why don't Mr. Begala and Mr. Carville just donate the extra tax money they don't want?"

I say that to all the rich millionaire Democrats, like Carville and Begala, who don't want tax cuts. Pay it anyway.

BEGALA: I'll donate to the Democrats. They'll defeat Bush and everybody will get rich. That's a better strategy.

David Horn of Long Island, New York, writes, "How can Bush say he's for democracy? He had to sue to become our president, and he keeps trying to bribe other countries' democratic governments into his supporting his agenda. Where did he learn to govern, 1930's Chicago?"

(APPLAUSE)

NOVAK: OK. Question from the audience.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi. I'm Paul Avalar (ph) from Tempe, Arizona. I had a question also about Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. And now how are people going to argue that the U.S. can no longer both fight a war with Iraq and also fight terrorism, specifically al Qaeda?

NOVAK: That's a great question. It's an unanswerable point. He hasn't been able to answer it. And Tom Andrews (ph) wasn't able to answer it.

BEGALA: Look, we need allies to catch these guys. We got him because the Pakistanis got him. We didn't get him. We go to war in Iraq, 200,000 people start protesting in Pakistan, they put too much pressure on the government. It becomes impossible for those governments to cooperate with us like they're cooperating now. We go to war in Iraq, it would be the worst thing we can do...

NOVAK: You know the one thing the Democrats can't stand is good news. It is just something you cannot handle.

BEGALA: No. What I can't stand is a president who is going to screw up our war against terrorism when I thought that was his job. From the left, I'm Paul Begala. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

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