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CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER

Showdown: Iraq

Aired March 9, 2003 - 12:00   ET

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

WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 5:00 p.m. in London, and 8:00 p.m. in Baghdad. And wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this special LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq.
We'll get to my interview with the U.S. secretary of state, Colin Powell, in just a few minutes, but first, a CNN news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: A short while ago I spoke with the United States secretary of state, Colin Powell, about the proposed March 17th deadline for Iraq to disarm, the divided U.N. Security Council, and how the Bush administration plans to proceed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, thanks once again for joining us.

Critical moments right now, obviously, in a potential war with Iraq. What's the rush?

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't think there has been a rush. There has been 12 years of disobedience on the part of Saddam Hussein and Iraq, of the obligations that they have under the various U.N. resolutions. It has been six months since the president gave his speech, four months since Resolution 1441 was put down. How much more time should we wait for the kind of total compliance expected in Resolution 1441?

BLITZER: Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, says give them a few more months. You've got the country surrounded. They are doing intrusive inspections. They're destroying missiles. Why not let them have a few more months?

POWELL: Because Iraq continues to deceive, Iraq continues to find ways to divert the inspectors, providing them some level of passive cooperation and there are obviously some things that are going on, but what is causing these things to be going on on the part of the Iraqis? Is it the inspections process or is it just the presence of military force, and Iraq is trying to do as little as it can to remove that political pressure and that military pressure so they can go right back to the old ways.

Look at what Saddam Hussein said yesterday. He started placing demands on the United Nations. He wants the sanctions to end right away. He wants to be free again to continue with his original intent, and that is to develop weapons of mass destruction. I have not seen that strategic change of direction on the part of Iraq and on the part of Saddam Hussein.

Dr. Blix, while he did give a report that described some of the cooperation that he has experienced, and Dr. ElBaradei did the same thing, he also handed out a document, close to 200 pages long, that lists page after page of unanswered questions about the most deadly things one can imagine -- anthrax, botulinum toxin, mustard gas bombs, RPVs that are being developed that are just now turned up.

BLITZER: So are you saying that if you gave them a few more months, three, four, five months, even while you surrounded Iraq, even while the inspectors are there, during that period, there would be an imminent, potential threat to U.S. interests?

POWELL: I think that there is a threat to U.S. interests, there is a threat to stability in that part of the world, and with the post- 9/11 nexus between countries such as Iraq to develop weapons of mass destruction and terrorists who are trying to acquire them, I think the world just cannot sit back, and what he's really trying to do is to stretch this out until the troops can't stay there any longer, and they go home, and he has not fully complied at that point, and he is quite sure that the will of the international community will be broken at that point.

And so the international community came together on the 8th of November with 1441 and said he's guilty, he's got to now fix this, he's got to come into full, immediate, unconditional, not conditional, not later, and also active cooperation, not passive cooperation.

We still have not seen that. We must not be deceived by these limited steps that he's taken.

BLITZER: Well, Dr. Blix suggested that he has seen some active cooperation. I want you to listen to what he told the U.N. Security Council on Friday. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANS BLIX, CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: The destruction undertaken constitutes a substantial measure of disarmament, indeed, the first since the middle of the 1990s. We are not watching the breaking of toothpicks. Lethal weapons are being destroyed.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Almost 50 Al-Samoud 2 missiles, potentially with chemical, biological warheads. They could kill a lot of U.S. troops.

POWELL: They could kill a lot of people, and I'm glad that they are being destroyed. I just don't know how many there are, and we don't know where the infrastructure may be to produce more of them. And so, I don't view this as a definitive statement of Iraq's change of position with respect to giving up its weapons of mass destruction. And how did it come about that these weapons are being destroyed? Only grudgingly, only when the U.N. placed a demand, and only when Saddam Hussein realized that he had better start destroying these, because the Security Council was liable to be no longer deceived by his efforts, and there was the possibility of a war.

So this is grudging response; this isn't the kind of full, active, unconditional response that 1441 was looking for.

BLITZER: But France and Germany, Russia, some of your closest allies suggest even grudging response is better than war.

POWELL: Well, that is a point of view that they are entitled to. We believe that we have given him more than enough time, that it's time for the Council to make a decision this week, that he has blown his last chance. We simply have not seen that strategic change of direction or intent that 1441 and all the previous resolutions called for.

If he was serious, he wouldn't be placing demands on the U.N., as he did yesterday. He would be saying, "Here are all the people you want to interview, here are all the facilities that I have. Here are all the weapons that I have, here are all the documents that I have."

They are master documenters, as Dr. Blix noted on Friday. They have records. Where are these records? Why aren't they coming forward? Why are they only now suddenly discovering them -- discovering more R-400 bomb fragments and pieces to show to the inspectors? They're doing it grudgingly and they are doing it only to try to keep us from getting to the truth.

BLITZER: Is there something that the U.S. government knows that the governments of France and Germany, for example, don't know about what's going on inside Iraq right now?

POWELL: I can't answer that question, because I don't know how much more we may or may not know, or less than they do, but I do know that their intelligence services, France and Germany, I am quite sure of it, their intelligence services are fully aware of the simple fact that Iraq continues to have and develop weapons of mass destruction, but those intelligence services are shared with policy makers, I can't answer.

BLITZER: Speaking of intelligence, on the nuclear front, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, the chief nuclear inspector, says that some of the information you and the British government were providing was simply wrong, for example, forged documents suggesting that Niger was providing some sort of uranium to Iraq. Who forged those documents?

POWELL: Well, I have no idea, and if that issue is resolved, that issue is resolved. But we don't believe that all issues with respect to development of a nuclear weapon have been resolved. The issue of the centrifuges, and I know that Dr. ElBaradei has said he doesn't see any evidence that the centrifuges, the aluminum tubes were being used for centrifuges. But we still have an open question with respect to that, and we see more information from a European country this week that suggests that that is exactly what those tubes were intended to be used for. Our CIA believes strongly, and I think it's an open question.

They have deceived the IAEA previously with respect to their nuclear weapons program, and we have seen this week Iran has got the more aggressive nuclear development program than the IAEA thought it had, and surprised the IAEA when this information finally came to the attention of the IAEA, and they were able to verify it in Iran. So you have to be very careful before you close the book on the potential to develop a nuclear weapon.

BLITZER: They've deceived the IAEA in the '80s, when Dr. Blix was in charge. Are you raising some concerns about how good of an inspector he might be?

POWELL: No, I am raising concerns about how good the Iraqis are at deception, at diverting attention, as being very clever at breaking the will of the international community and on using that desire that all people have for peace.

Everybody wants peace, but sometimes, you know, you simply have to do what is right, and hopefully when you have done what is right, if it includes the use of military force, in the aftermath you can demonstrate to the world that you had done the right thing, and that you have provided a better life for the people of Iraq, and you have created a new nation that will live in peace with its neighbors, and we won't have to be worrying about issues like this.

Because there will be a new leadership in Iraq that is not committed to the development of weapons of mass destruction, and you will not have another 12-year sordid story of deception on the part of an Iraqi regime.

BLITZER: The March 17 proposal, the deadline the British have put forward, you support that; the French government says that's not a good idea. Listen to what Dominique de Villepin, the French foreign minister, says.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DOMINIQUE DE VILLEPIN, FRENCH FOREIGN MINISTER: We said very clearly, we said it in Paris with our Russian friend, that as permanent members, we won't accept this new resolution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is there any flexibility in that March 17 date?

POWELL: It is a date that is before the council now, and we have sponsored it with the British, and the Spanish have also signed on to it, and there it is -- it's in a resolution, and we have no plans to change that date.

BLITZER: Do you have the votes to get it passed? POWELL: Well, we don't know yet. We are working very hard over this weekend, as you might imagine, and we'll be working very hard over the next several days to talk to our friends in the Security Council, and I think we're making some progress with the elected 10 members, but as you know, the French have taken a strong position to oppose any resolution, although they haven't used the word "veto," they're certainly indicating that.

BLITZER: When will the vote take place?

POWELL: Sometime this week. I can't predict which day; I don't -- it won't be tomorrow, but sometime this week I think we'll push it to a vote. I think everybody needs a little more time to reflect on what they heard Friday. The modified resolution was introduced on Friday, so we have to give people time to reflect on it over the weekend and into the early part of the week.

BLITZER: As you're doing this final diplomacy, though, are you open to revising somewhat the language in that amended resolution, if necessary, to pick up the nine affirmative votes and not necessarily get a veto?

POWELL: Well, we think the language is quite good, but obviously, most nations only saw it for the first time on Friday afternoon, so we're open to hear responses from them, and if they have ideas that make sense, it's certainly possible to modify the language. We think the resolution is pretty good as it stands.

BLITZER: And possible to modify the date as well?

POWELL: I am not inclined toward a modification of the date, and nobody has so far suggested that to us, but I can't -- I can't tell you now what people might suggest over the next 48 hours.

BLITZER: The whole notion of if you don't get the resolution passed, what happens then? Will the president still be determined, if necessary, to go to war?

POWELL: The president has shown determination to disarm Iraq, and to disarm Saddam Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction, and if we get the vote, fine, then the international community is unified behind that effort.

If we don't get the vote, the president then will have to make a judgment as to whether or not we're prepared now to lead a coalition of the willing to disarm Saddam Hussein, to change the regime, because that seems to be the only way to get him to disarm, and I would not prejudge what the president might do, but I think the president has spoken rather clearly on this point for many, many months.

BLITZER: Some have suggested he's put himself in a box, given U.S. credibility around the world, he can't back down now.

POWELL: Well, the president can -- has all the options available to him until he picks one of those options, and then we'll move forward. And I've been in situations like this a number of times before in my career where public opinion was against you, where there were demonstrations against you, but if you did what was right, and it turned out to be the correct thing to do because you have made a region of the world a safer, better place, then you can be vindicated in the aftermath, and I think that's the situation we're facing right now.

BLITZER: We only have a few seconds left. How close is Iran to building a bomb?

POWELL: Well, this is a good issue. I mean, here we suddenly discover that Iran is much further along, with a far more robust nuclear weapons development program than anyone said it had, and now the IAEA has found that out -- we've provided them information, they have discovered it -- and it shows you how a determined nation that has the intent to develop a nuclear weapon can keep that development process secret from inspectors and outsiders, if they really are determined to do it, and we know that Saddam Hussein has not lost his intent.

BLITZER: Finally, Mr. Secretary, North Korea. The North Koreans say simply talk to North Korea, and you can resolve this nuclear tension. Why not establish a direct link?

POWELL: I think eventually we will be talking to North Korea, but we're not going to simply fall into what I believe is a bad practice of saying the only way you can talk to us is directly, when it affects other nations in the region. And this time, we need a solution that all nations have bought into.

We talked directly to North Korea when we signed the Agreed Framework in 1994, and it turned out that that just became something that was part (ph) as they went on to develop nuclear weapons through another technology. This time, we want a better solution.

We want a solution that involves all the countries in the region, and I hope North Korea understands that it is also in their interests to have all the nations in the region part of this dialogue, and within that broader dialogue, we'll be talking to the North Koreans.

BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for joining us. Good luck to you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Still to come, a debate between the former Pentagon official Richard Perle and the anti-war activist, former Congressman Tom Andrews.

But when we return, the United States and Britain want to give Iraq eight more days to fully disarm. Is it Saddam Hussein's last chance to avoid war? We'll talk with two top members of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee, Republican John Warner of Virginia, he's the chairman, and the ranking Democrat, Carl Levin of Michigan.

LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The world needs him to answer a single question: Has the Iraqi regime fully and unconditionally disarmed?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: President Bush stating his bottom line regarding the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq.

We're joined now by the leaders of the United States Senate Armed Services Committee. Here in Washington, the committee's chairman, the Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia and in Detroit, the panel's top Democrat, Senator Carl Levin of Michigan.

Senators, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

And, Mr. Chairman, let me begin with you. Secretary Powell seemed to suggest there really isn't much flexibility in this March 17th date. What's wrong with giving the inspectors what they say they want, some more time, even if it takes a few more months?

SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: Well, of course, we've been at it for 12 years, Wolf. We've not had a rush to war. The president doesn't want war. He has fully explored the diplomatic options, and now we have a very fine secretary of state diligently working right now to get the votes for a resolution.

It's terribly important that the U.N. remain in the minds of the people all over the world as an organization that will hold accountable rogue nations. We're faced with problems in North Korea, and this morning we find that Iran is on the brink.

BLITZER: But, Senator, if in order to get the French, the Germans, the Russians and the Chinese and get a real consensus on the Security Council, it takes another month or two or even three, what's wrong with that?

WARNER: You know, Wolf, members of Congress are not entrusted with negotiations, but clearly I listened, as you did, just a minute ago, I did not see the door slammed. He simply said that's the date. I see no reason to move it.

I think this morning I saw one report out of London that Great Britain might want to see whether or not you could add a little time to the 17th. But that's left for the secretaries of state and others to deal with. It may come about. I think in the next few days you'll see a battle in there between the 17th and the months that Blix lays down.

But it's a slippery slope and if we step on that one more time, I fear that we could be giving Saddam Hussein the option to work his way out of this and remain in power with those weapons.

BLITZER: All right. What about that, Senator Levin? Where do you stand on perhaps extending this deadline by a few months?

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: Well, I think we ought to make our case to the U.N. but then we ought to stick with the U.N. Basically it doesn't make a lot of sense to me, nor is it wise in my judgment, to invoke the U.N. in the first place, invoke its resolutions as the basis for our proceeding and then ignore the U.N. if they disagree with us.

So we should make the case. If we win the case, fine. Then the authority from the world community acting through the U.N. is there for us, and the risks are much less of military action in that case...

BLITZER: Senator Levin...

LEVIN: ... and the likelihood of success without military action is greater. But if we can't persuade the U.N., I don't think we should walk away from it.

BLITZER: Well, are you saying that if France were to use its veto and veto this resolution, then the U.S. just simply withdraw its troops and not go to war?

LEVIN: No, I think the military pressure's obviously been an important point and the U.N. wants that military pressure to remain. The questions is whether we initiate an attack with that military pressure, not whether or not military pressure remains there.

BLITZER: So you're willing to give France, for example Senator Levin, that kind of veto authority for the United States to make a decision whether it's in the U.S. best national security interests...

LEVIN: No.

BLITZER: ... to attack Saddam Hussein.

LEVIN: Not at all. I'm not willing to give anybody a veto over whether it's in our security interest to attack or initiate an attack on Saddam Hussein. If we are threatened, if there's an imminent threat or an immediate threat against us, we obviously will use military force. But there is no immediate or imminent threat against us.

So then the question is, is it wise for us without the U.N. authority to initiate that attack? And it seems to me that there the risks are huge. We will be isolated in the world. A likely terrorist response would be even fueled if we proceed without U.N. authority.

So, of course, we'd retain the right to proceed without U.N. authority at any time we want. We're not going to give anybody a veto. We don't need anybody's permission. The question is the wisdom of proceeding without U.N. authority where we have invoked the resolutions of the U.N. as the basis for an attack.

BLITZER: All right.

LEVIN: So, we should stick with the U.N. Security Council and not ignore its outcome.

BLITZER: All right. Let me bring back Senator Warner.

Senator Warner, he makes a fair point. It's a point similarly raised in an editorial in the New York Times earlier in the week. I'll put it up on the screen.

"The rupture is not just another bump in the road in the showdown with Iraq, it could lead to a serious, possibly fatal breakdown in the system of collective security which has been so instrumental to maintaining the peace since World War II."

WARNER: No one discounts the seriousness of these risks, especially our president. You know, this president is not driven by politics, not driven by polls.

He's driven by principles and values and his duty as he sees it under our Constitution to protect ourself. Carl Levin is setting us up for a veto situation of that presidential power if we fail to go along with whatever the U.N. may do in the next few weeks.

I'd like to remind my good friend, because we've served on this committee together for a quarter of a century, Bill Clinton bombed in Kosovo for 80 days and then sent American troops in. No U.N. action.

Bill Clinton bombed Iraq in '98, December, I remember well when the inspectors left. No U.N. action. So why all of a sudden say to this president, you cannot act unless the U.N. gives you the approval?

BLITZER: Senator Levin, that's a fair question.

LEVIN: I'm not saying he cannot act. I'm saying it is not wise, it is not in our interests, that we will unleash and fuel a terrorist response.

In Kosovo, it's very interesting, number one, the NATO was together when it came to Kosovo. Number two, the Charter of the United Nations says that regional organizations such as NATO are authorized to take actions in security of the region, and in the case of Kosovo we had the U.N., excuse me, we had the NATO organization totally and thoroughly behind us, and we were acting in support of a Muslim community.

Here it's the opposite. Here we don't have U.N. authority yet. We might get it. We don't have it yet, NATO is divided, and this would be an attack on a Muslim nation.

So the circumstances are very different.

WARNER: Could I say to my good friend, Carl, you know, it was hoped that NATO would come in this time, and guess what, it was France and Germany that put the marker down to block the help to Turkey.

BLITZER: And Belgium.

LEVIN: Now we have other problems, too, like Canada.

WARNER: Let me just make one point. I've been on planet Earth a little longer than most, and I remember in the late '30s, on the eve of World War II, Neville Chamberlain coming out and holding that piece of paper, you remember, he said "Peace in our time."

That's basically what France is doing now.

BLITZER: You're saying that this is appeasement?

WARNER: You cannot appease, we've proved it with Hitler in World War II, appeasement didn't work. Fortunately, Churchill had the strength to succeed Chamberlain and not let that happen.

This president, our president, hasn't blinked, hasn't flinched. He's listened very carefully to the dissent, all sides of this issue, and stayed the course.

LEVIN: Well, it's a good thing that we agree on that, that appeasement doesn't work. But here we have a U.N. Security Council that is determined to disarm Saddam, and it is not appeasement to have troops that are there to contain and restrain Saddam, and to have the world community putting huge pressure on Saddam, which we are, through inspections which the inspectors say are succeeding.

So it's a totally different situation to have him contained and to have him surrounded and to have inspectors going throughout in a very thorough way his country than what was existing in the 1930s.

BLITZER: All right. Senators, stand by. We're going to take a quick break.

We have a lot more to discuss with Senators Warner and Levin. LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, will return in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq. We're talking with the two top members of the United States Senate Armed Services Committee, the chairman, Republican John Warner of Virginia, and the ranking Democrat, Carl Levin of Michigan.

Senator Levin, you've suggested that the U.S. intelligence community is holding back vital information from the inspectors, information that could help them pinpoint Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capabilities.

What evidence do you have that the U.S. government isn't sharing that kind of information with the inspectors to help them do their job?

LEVIN: Well, what I've said is that we have a huge amount of information that we've said we have, relative to suspect sites, and that we've not shared all that information. And the basis of it is the letters, which I've shared with my colleagues, including Senator Warner, Senator Roberts, Senator Rockefeller, which show that there is this many suspect sites, but we've not come close to sharing all the information about all those sites.

Now, Tenet, the head of the CIA, has said, "Well, we have already now shared all of the actionable intelligence," but there is a conflict between what he says in public and what he's written me in those classified letters. We have asked him over and over again to clarify that discrepancy, and he has not done so.

BLITZER: All right. Senator Warner, what about that?

WARNER: Carl, I've brought with me this morning the letter that I received from him, and a copy was given to you on Friday. And you know that I've been with you, I think, in most of those conversations with Condoleezza Rice, with Tenet and with Tenet's team.

And you and I have worked together 25 years, but on this one we have a difference of view. I think America has, as this letter states, given all of the relevant information that we have regarding sites to Hans Blix. Now, whether he's had time to use it, that remains to be seen.

But, Carl, if Hans Blix was concerned as you, I'm sure he'd have made a mention of that...

LEVIN: He did.

WARNER: ... in his most recent report.

LEVIN: He did indeed.

WARNER: But not. Not...

LEVIN: He specifically said that he wants more intelligence from the United States. And I've shared with you, John, my answer to this letter, where I have asked...

WARNER: Yes and no.

LEVIN: ... I have asked Tenet to say, OK, what percentage of sites that you have said are suspect sites have we actually shared? He refuses to make public that percentage.

WARNER: But, Carl, you raise the presumption that we, the United States, are purposely contriving not to make the inspections work.

LEVIN: I'm stating a fact.

WARNER: That's a serious indictment...

LEVIN: No.

WARNER: ... and that is wrong, my friend.

LEVIN: I've stated a fact: that he has said in letters to me that I've shared with you, that a small percentage of the sites that we believe are suspect sites have been shared with the inspectors at the U.N. He's not been willing to make public what percentage we have, and I think he ought to. That is not something which would disclose sources or methods. There's nothing there which needs to be classified.

WARNER: Well, this says, "We have" -- and I'm reading -- "We have provided detailed information on all of the high-value and moderate-value sites."

Now, I just accept that representation.

BLITZER: Senator Levin, you want the last word?

LEVIN: Yes, there's a conflict between what he has said in public in that letter and what he has said in classified letters to me which I shared with Senator Warner, a conflict on that very important issue.

BLITZER: All right.

LEVIN: And he has also said -- Tenet has also acknowledged that there were some errors in his testimony. And it seems to me he ought to give us the percentage of the suspect sites which have been shared with the U.N. And Hans Blix specifically asked for more information about suspect sites from our intelligence community just a few days ago.

BLITZER: All right. Senators, let's take a phone call from Georgia.

Georgia, go ahead.

CALLER: Thank you very much, Wolf, a very informative and interesting program.

I'd like to ask your distinguished senators, Senators, if we go into Iraq and achieve a quick win, which I think we would, would that not energize the economy and the stock market, which have both been down a lot lately?

BLITZER: Senator Warner?

WARNER: Well, first, I would caution you on the words, "a quick" conclusion. All of us are looking at this, including the president, who is deeply moved and recognizes the seriousness of the situation -- I wouldn't make that prediction.

As to the outcome, I think, once the world sees that Saddam Hussein no longer has control over weapons of mass destruction, I think we'll breathe a great sigh of relief, and work with the Iraqi people to reestablish a government of their own choosing and to keep that nation together.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to ask Senators Warner and Levin to stand by, because we have to take another quick break. We'll continue our conversation with them, also take more of your phone calls. LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq.

We're continuing our discussion with the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John Warner of Virginia and the committee's top Democrat, Carl Levin of Michigan.

Senator Levin, the president had a news conference, as you well know, prime-time news conference, Thursday night. He said, for the U.S. everything seemed to change after 9/11. He then went on to make the case for the possibility of war. Listen to this brief excerpt.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: The price of doing nothing exceeds the price of taking action if we have to. We will do everything we can to minimize the loss of life.

The cost of the attacks on America on September the 11th were enormous. They were significant, and I am not willing to take that chance again.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: That argument resonates with a lot of Americans. Does it with you?

LEVIN: Sure. The cost of doing nothing is huge, and we should not do nothing. We should act. We should act against terrorism. We should act relative to Iraq in a way where we contain Iraq and deter Iraq.

But there's been no connection which has been made between Iraq and 9/11. And the suggestion that there's been some kind of a participation of Iraq in the events of 9/11, it seems to me, has not been substantiated.

So we have a lot of work to do to fight terrorism, and we ought to address the Iraqi threat in a way which does not fuel terrorism. And the point that I've been making is that if we get U.N. authority, that is one thing. It is very different to go after Iraq the way we did in 1991, where we had 28 nations, including Muslim nations, with us. It is very different.

Once we have asked the U.N. for authority, we've invoked their resolutions as the reasons for going in against Iraq. If we do not get the Security Council support for us to then go without that support -- that is the major difference.

BLITZER: Have you seen any evidence, Senator Warner, linking Iraq to 9/11?

WARNER: Not what you'd call a smoking gun, but clearly, Iraq has been a training ground for terrorists. And, you know, it's interesting, this whole doctrine of wait-and-see with Saddam Hussein and say we can contain him.

People don't realize that the structure of weapons has changed since the containment policies of the Cold War. Indeed, the containment policies prior to the most recent outbreak on the Korean Peninsula worked. You cannot contain weapons of mass destruction nor the training of those and filtering those weapons out into the international terrorism group. One half-ounce of an unopened envelope of anthrax kind of paralyzed the Senate.

BLITZER: Senator Levin, before I let you go, a quick reaction to this report in Time magazine suggesting Iran, not Iraq, Iran may be much closer to developing a nuclear bomb than previously thought.

LEVIN: It's a very, very disturbing, but not surprising, development. The same thing has been true of North Korea. We've got to deal with these issues, and we've got to deal with a world community rallying at our side. These are the great threats.

The one that Senator Warner just mentioned, for instance -- those envelopes that a terrorist could get, and we've got to have the world on our side. We've got to lead the world. We shouldn't be treating the U.N. as an obstacle, but as an opportunity to rally the world against terrorist threats and not take unilateral actions which could fuel the terrorist response against the United States.

Anti-Americanism is a threat to us. We were told that by the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, Admiral Jacoby. We have to got to act with the world and not divide ourselves against the world through either our rhetoric or unilateral actions.

BLITZER: Senator Warner, I'm going to give you the last word. How close is Iran to building a bomb?

WARNER: You know, I don't think any of us have the specifics, but the evidence is mounting. And we've invited the IAEA to go in, Carl, as you know.

And I share your views, Carl -- the importance of keeping a strong United Nations. Because it is that forum, I think, that can help deal with, not only the Korean Peninsula problem, eventually, but certainly Iran.

But they've got to stand tall here and stand firm in the next weeks in the face of the fact that Saddam Hussein has shown no real substantial cooperation in compliance with their own resolutions, most particularly 1441.

LEVIN: And it'll strengthen them if we stand with them.

BLITZER: Senators, unfortunately, we have to leave it there. Two influential members of the Senate, Senator John Warner, Senator Carl Levin, thanks to both of you for joining us.

LEVIN: Good being with you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much.

WARNER: Good being with you, Carl.

LEVIN: So long, John.

BLITZER: And up next, the White House says it has a strong case for war with Iraq, but the anti-war movement is by no means convinced. We'll debate the issue with the former U.S. assistant defense secretary, Richard Perle, and Win Without War founder, the former congressman, Tom Andrews.

LATE EDITION, Showdown: Iraq, will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. There are sharp divisions among U.N. Security Council members about going to war with Iraq and strong anti- war sentiment around the world.

Joining us now are two guests with very different points of view. Richard Perle served as the assistant U.S. defense secretary during the Reagan administration. Tom Andrews is the founder of the organization Win Without War. He's also a former Democratic congressman from Maine.

Gentlemen, welcome to LATE EDITION.

And Richard, let me begin with you. Why can't the U.S. wait a few more months, if necessary, to bring France, Germany, Russia, China potentially on board?

RICHARD PERLE, FORMER ASSISTANT U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: Because in those months the capability that we've now amassed in the region would deteriorate rapidly. We'd, as a practical matter, have to bring the forces home, and it would amount to a decision not to enforce the U.N. resolutions.

BLITZER: You mean to say the U.S. military doesn't have the flexibility to stand down, wait, maybe rotate troops if necessary?

PERLE: As a practical matter, we do not have, in my view, the capability to sustain months of waiting around while we hope that France, whose interests are quite different from ours, will change its mind.

The French are not going to change their mind. President Chirac has a good relationship with Saddam Hussein. He is actually called Saddam his friend. They have commercial and other relationships and it is foolish to believe that France is going to change its attitude and France will continue to have the ability to veto any United Nations resolution.

BLITZER: All right. Tom, what do you say about that?

TOM ANDREWS, FORMER U.S. CONGRESSMAN: Wolf, you don't go to war just because you're there. You go to war when it's absolutely necessary. And if we take a look at what's happening right now in that region, we've boxed Saddam Hussein in. He is contained. He is being disarmed.

We're at the very point when this weapons inspection process of seeking out and destroying weapons are at its most successful point. The weapons inspections -- weapons inspectors are telling us, "Give us the time to complete the job, we're doing the job. We are being successful."

Why not give them the job to say, I'm sorry, we're going to go in and we're going to invade and occupy Iraq even though it may not be necessary because we're there is simply unacceptable.

PERLE: I'm sorry. I didn't say it may not be necessary. I happen to believe it is absolutely necessary. There's a practical consideration about whether you can move forces back and forth and undertake a necessary action.

And I think it's quite wrong to say the inspectors are disarming Iraq. They're not disarming Iraq at all. Saddam has inventories of chemical and biological weapons that he's hidden, that he's not revealed to the inspectors. What the inspectors are doing is minor gestures and that's all it is. They're playing Saddam's game.

ANDREWS: Wolf, we've heard lots of allegations of what is there or wasn't -- or what is not there. What I'm trying to do is figure out, what are the facts? What are the things that we know?

Well, we know that, in the last few days, Saddam Hussein has been forced to destroy 40 Al-Samoud 2 weapons, missiles. We know that he has destroyed weapons, mustard gas. We know that he is now in the process of revealing documents, hitherto not provided, that will give us a chance to be able to find any of the stockpiles of weapons that were not revealed before.

And we know that we are going to go in and we're going to be inspecting with very sophisticated technology those disposal facilities in which he allegedly destroyed these materials. Now, that is highly significant. That is progress.

BLITZER: Yes, but let's let Richard respond.

PERLE: It's a good point. Saddam Hussein was required by the United Nations under its last resolution, 1441, to make a full, final and complete account of what happened to the weapons of mass destruction and the chemical weapons, the biological weapons, the existence of which was recorded and documented by the previous U.N. inspectors.

He didn't do that. He lied. He failed to provide any information that could be verified by the inspectors.

ANDREWS: But, Mr. Perle...

PERLE: Now you're telling me, five months later, that we should trust Saddam Hussein and that he is now going to tell us what he did with the things he denies he has. It's preposterous.

ANDREWS: No, no one is saying that we trust Saddam Hussein.

PERLE: But that's exactly what you're saying.

ANDREWS: And you don't -- no, but of course we're not. Of course we're not.

PERLE: You're saying -- but see...

ANDREWS: Listen. No, no, no, that's not implied at all. I'm being very clear. You don't trust Saddam Hussein. You look him right in the eye and you say we're going to take out any and all weapons of mass destruction. We're going to force you to dismantle them, and if you don't, we will dismantle them ourselves.

This is not a matter of trust, and it's very, very important for people to understand that we're not appeasing, we're not stepping back from Saddam Hussein, we're standing up to Saddam Hussein.

BLITZER: But...

ANDREWS: But you don't invade a country, sir, when it's on the basis of a lie or a deception.

BLITZER: All right. Hold your thought for one second, Richard. We're just getting started. This debate is just getting under way. We have a lot more to go through point by point by point.

Stand by. We're going to take a quick break.

Coming up in the next hour of LATE EDITION, more on our debate between Richard Perle and Tom Andrews. We'll also explore the prospect of chemical warfare. Are U.S. military personnel really prepared? Plus, the activist Bianca Jagger and the actor Ron Silver square off on the possibility of war.

All that, plus your phone calls. LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We'll continue our discussion with the former U.S. assistant defense secretary Richard Perle and Win Without War founder Tom Andrews shortly.

In the first hour of LATE EDITION, the secretary of state, Colin Powell, insisted President Bush has not yet made a final decision on whether to go to war against Iraq, but he also said time is quickly running out.

Joining us now from the White House with the latest, our White House correspondent, Dana Bash.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Let's check some other news that's going on. CNN's Fredricka Whitfield is in Atlanta with a quick CNN news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Is now the time to go to war with Iraq? We're talking with the former assistant U.S. defense secretary, Richard Perle, and Win Without War founder, the former congressman, Tom Andrews.

Richard, there's a lot of concern that there are so many unpredictables out there -- that the Iraqis could use chemical or biological warfare, terrorism could be unleashed, you don't know if there will be instability for a long time to come inside Iraq, the neighborhood could disintegrate, if you will -- is it worth it right now to do this effectively with Britain, Australia, some other allies, without getting the international coalition that existed in '91 together?

PERLE: We're not going to be able to get that coalition from 1991 together, so the question is, should we do this or should we not do it?

And while there are great uncertainties, as you indicate, there are no certainties if we fail to take this action, if we turn around and come home and leave Saddam in place, leave him to continue with his weapons of mass destruction, leave him to continue to brutalize the people of Iraq.

BLITZER: But can't he be contained with that -- he's encircled right now by a lot of U.S. troops, he's got inspectors with these intrusive inspections, they're actually destroying missiles.

Can't he be contained, at least in the short term?

PERLE: The concept of containment is a geographic concept. As long as he's in his own country, people argue that he is contained. But the fact is, he is working away, as he has been, at weapons of mass destruction. He has significant concealed inventories, and he can break out at any moment.

What is the future policy supposed to be? Are we to continue sanctions forever against Saddam Hussein?

BLITZER: All right, what about that, Tom?

ANDREWS: Well, first of all, Wolf, we do have the 1991 coalition. It is in place. It is working right now on the policy of disarming and containing Saddam Hussein, using the United Nations Security Council, and using this weapons inspection process that we know does work. So that's very, very important.

And the question is, do we keep this coalition together? Do we keep putting the pressure on Saddam Hussein? And do we use that coalition to find out whether claims that are being made by Mr. Perle, for example, are substantiated or not? We don't know that unless we go in, we inspect and we find the truth.

PERLE: I'm sorry. You keep repeating, Congressman, that the inspection process is working.

ANDREWS: Well, it is.

PERLE: Well, I don't see how you can say it's working since...

ANDREWS: Well, those missiles are being destroyed as we speak.

PERLE: That is not the inspection process.

ANDREWS: They're being destroyed.

PERLE: The anthrax, the botulism, the sarin, the VX, that is all hidden. You are clinging at straws. You are hoping that this...

ANDREWS: That's...

PERLE: Forgive me. You are hoping that the symbolic gesture of destroying a few missiles, which he's not even supposed to have, which he's not entitled to, which he denied having, that the destruction of a few missiles in order to protect and preserve the rest of his weapons of mass destruction suggests that this system is working? It is not working.

ANDREWS: Wolf, Wolf, a few missiles. We destroyed 95 percent of the weapons of mass destruction that Saddam Hussein had during the 1990s. That's more weapons of mass...

PERLE: What do you base that on?

ANDREWS: That's more weapons of mass destruction than we destroyed in the entire Gulf War. The fact of the matter is...

BLITZER: Well, let me just pick up there.

Do you dispute that?

PERLE: No, I'm asking what the evidence is.

BLITZER: What's the evidence of that?

ANDREWS: The evidence is independent reports, the United Nations inspections teams and every piece of tangible evidence that is on the record.

Now, there may be things that aren't on the record, information that you might have that we don't know, and we'd -- I'd love to see it...

PERLE: No, no. I'm, I'm...

ANDREWS: But as far as what we know, we know that enormous amounts -- for example...

BLITZER: Hold on a second. There was extensive destruction. After the son-in-law defected to Jordan, he came back, he provided a wealth of information.

PERLE: No, no. I'm pleased to accept, for purposes of this argument, that the 95 percent figure, which is a figure offered by the previous inspectors, is correct.

But the previous inspectors also identified large quantities of the weapons that remain hidden. So if you're going to accept the correctness of the previous inspectors, then you must acknowledge, surely, that the inspectors now have not found any of the things that the previous inspectors, in the same report you're referring to...

ANDREWS: Not true.

PERLE: ... said Saddam had.

ANDREWS: Not true, not true.

BLITZER: But Richard Butler, in his final report, Richard Butler, when he was the UNSCOM -- the chief weapons inspector, in that report that came out after '98, after the withdrawal in early '99, he did say there is a ton of stuff that's unaccounted for, and is still unaccounted for.

ANDREWS: That's exactly right, Wolf. And that's why it is so important that right now, we are going into those disposal facilities that Saddam Hussein has alleged are the facilities in which they destroyed the VX and the anthrax and other materials -- go in and inspect those facilities. Use sophisticated technology, which is available, and determine whether or not it's been destroyed. So that process is going on right now.

PERLE: Did Saddam, did Saddam document the destruction in the full, final and complete report that he delivered on December 7?

ANDREWS: You know, Saddam Hussein -- no, of course, he didn't. Why? Why? Because he's Saddam Hussein. And do we trust anything that he reports in a final report? No, we don't.

PERLE: Look, on the one hand...

ANDREWS: We verify. And that, Mr. Perle...

PERLE: But you cannot...

ANDREWS: ... is exactly what we're doing as we speak.

PERLE: That's, in fact, the point about these inspections. These inspections were intended to verify claims made by Iraq about the disposition of the weapons of mass destruction. But he lied about the disposition. He said he didn't have any of these weapons. There was no practical mission for the inspectors because there was nothing to verify. They are going -- they are going from one empty facility to another empty facility. You've seen the evidence from the secretary of state. Iraqis talking to one another about moving things before the inspectors arrive.

I think you are hopelessly naive if you believe that 100 inspectors on the ground in Iraq, that territory controlled entirely by Saddam Hussein are going to disarm them.

ANDREWS: Well, Mr. Perle, you, yourself, just a few minutes ago, accepted the 95 percent figure -- 95 percent destruction back in the 1990s.

Now, let's look at how those 95 percent of those weapons were destroyed. They weren't destroyed because Saddam Hussein came forward and said, "Gosh, I made a big mistake. Here they are. Verify them."

No. They did it by taking investigative techniques, looking at all the information available, finding reports that otherwise were not available and putting those together, finding them and destroying them.

That's their role. That's what we should allow them to continue to do. We shouldn't be going to war while this process is reaping the results that it is.

PERLE: The inspectors were thrown out in 1998 because Saddam Hussein wanted to relocate, wanted to hide his remaining weapons of mass destruction, which he has 'til this day and he will have available for his use if we allow him to continue in this manner.

ANDREWS: And why was that? It was not because of a failure of weapons inspections, Wolf. It was a failure of political will. And certainly if the results, the net results, of this confrontation is that the international community has the backbone and the stamina to stand up to Saddam Hussein, look him in the eye and require him to disarm, this will have been a success but we don't have to invade...

BLITZER: But the critics...

ANDREWS: ... and occupy.

BLITZER: Your critics suggest that by your speaking out the way you are, in effect what you're doing is sending a mixed message to Saddam Hussein and giving him some comfort in suspecting that if he plays out this game, he's going to be able to get his way.

ANDREWS: Absolutely not, Wolf. If you listen to what the majority of Americans are saying, they're saying that we want to have the full cooperation, support and coordination with the Security Council of the United Nations before we go in.

We want to be able to take out Saddam Hussein without unnecessarily -- that is, take out his weapons of mass destruction -- without unnecessarily putting our own men and women at risk.

BLITZER: Basically, Richard...

ANDREWS: That's what we're doing.

BLITZER: ... what the congressman is suggesting, the former congressman, is that he wants the same objective -- he has the same goal you have but he thinks it can be done through containment and inspections. You don't believe that.

PERLE: I'm quite sure that it's not possible. And while he talks about being tough with Saddam, the real message is that we're not prepared to take military action. That is the only thing Saddam Hussein understands and I think it's naive to think otherwise.

ANDREWS: We are prepared to take military action...

PERLE: We won't be prepared if we listen to you.

ANDREWS: ... but if it is necessary. And...

PERLE: It is necessary (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

ANDREWS: For example, Wolf, you know, if they have some weapons of mass destruction that they're not willing to destroy, we take them out on a surgical strike. But that's different than invading and occupying for five to 10 years an Arab country...

BLITZER: All right.

ANDREWS: ... in one of the most volatile...

PERLE: Forgive me.

ANDREWS: ... regions of the world.

PERLE: Forgive me. No one is talking about occupying Iraq for five to 10 years. Let's be a little more careful about the statements you make.

ANDREWS: The State Department...

PERLE: I'm sorry.

ANDREWS: The State Department official said two weeks ago that it could be five years.

PERLE: I'm sorry. There is no U.S. plan for anything like that...

ANDREWS: But we don't know the plan. We don't know the plan.

PERLE: ... and let me just suggest to you that your recipe would leave the people of Iraq subject to the continuing murder, rape and brutality of this vicious regime.

ANDREWS: Absolutely not. PERLE: I see no sensitivity in your argument to the plight of the Iraqi people, none whatsoever. And it's tragic, because Iraqis are (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

BLITZER: Go ahead and respond.

ANDREWS: We feel very strongly that Saddam Hussein has to be contained, disarmed and that the people of Iraq must be protected. You don't have to invade and occupy to protect innocent men, women and children. We have seen this time and again.

We're calling for...

PERLE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

ANDREWS: Please, if you will. Some of our members have stood up just two days ago and said "We'd like to have Saddam Hussein indicted as a war criminal." We're talking about placing human rights monitors throughout Iraq so that he can't continue to create the havoc inside of Iraq.

There are whole series of things, Wolf, that we can...

BLITZER: We're almost out of time. Richard, go ahead and respond to that.

PERLE: Well, I think it's just hopelessly impractical. I don't think this is a serious approach to the protection of the people of Iraq who have been murdered in substantial numbers by Saddam Hussein and who will continue to be murdered by him as long as he's in power.

BLITZER: All right. Tom, hold on a minute. You know, we are basically all out of time for this segment. But before you go, Richard, I want to give you a chance to respond.

There's an article in the New Yorker magazine by Seymour Hersh that's just coming out today in which he makes a serious accusation against you that you have a conflict of interest in this because you're involved in some business that deals with homeland security, you potentially could make some money if, in fact, there is this kind of climate that he accuses you of proposing.

Let me read a quote from the New Yorker article, the March 17th issue, just out now. "There is no question that Perle believes that removing Saddam from power is the right thing to do. At the same time, he has set up a company that may gain from a war."

PERLE: I don't believe that a company would gain from a war. On the contrary, I believe that the successful removal of Saddam Hussein, and I've said this over and over again, will diminish the threat of terrorism. And what he's talking about is investments in homeland defense, which I think are vital and are necessary.

Look, Sy Hersh is the closest thing American journalism has to a terrorist, frankly.

BLITZER: Well, on the basis of -- why do you say that? A terrorist?

PERLE: Because he's widely irresponsible. If you read the article, it's first of all, impossible to find any consistent theme in it. But the suggestion that my views are somehow related for the potential for investments in homeland defense is complete nonsense.

BLITZER: But I don't understand. Why do you accuse him of being a terrorist?

PERLE: Because he sets out to do damage and he will do it by whatever innuendo, whatever distortion he can -- look, he hasn't written a serious piece since Maylie (ph).

BLITZER: All right. We're going to leave it right there.

Richard Perle, thank you very much.

Tom Andrews, thanks for a good debate. I appreciate it very much to you, as well.

ANDREWS: Wolf, thank you.

BLITZER: Up next, the United States prepares for battle in the Persian Gulf, but can it count on the support of other nations in the region. We'll talk with Kuwait's ambassador to the U.S., Salem Al- Sabah.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

The United States has had solid and public backing from Arab nations. They had it, at least, during the 1991 Gulf War. But support in the region for a new war against Iraq is lukewarm at best.

Joining us now is Kuwait's ambassador to the United States, Salem Al-Sabah.

Mr. Ambassador, welcome back to LATE EDITION.

Your country of course supportive of the United States, hosting at least 100,000, if not more, U.S. troops in northern Kuwait right now.

We've heard in recent days they've started opening up the fence, breaking down some of the barriers, as if getting ready for U.S. troops to move in. Is that what's going on on the ground?

SALEM AL-SABAH, KUWAITI AMBASSADOR TO U.S.: That's all fairly accurate.

The fence -- you know, we have a 120-mile-long border between Iraq and Kuwait, and in the early '90s, we built a fence on our side of the border to stop infiltrators, Iraqi infiltrators, from coming in to our territory.

So, routinely, we maintain this fence. We take some parts down, we put some parts up. So what's happening now in Kuwait is a regular maintenance work on the fence.

And then again, I have to remind your viewers that this fence is on Kuwaiti territory, it's a Kuwaiti fence, and ultimately it's our decision if we take parts of it down or keep parts of it up.

BLITZER: So, you're denying that this is being potentially used as an opening for U.S. armor, tanks, APCs to go into southern Iraq?

AL-SABAH: I'm not denying, because, if any war happens, of course that's going to be the entry point of Iraq. But what I'm trying to say is that any work that's going on on the fence now is maintenance work, making ready for any potential war in Iraq.

BLITZER: If it comes down to a war, and U.S. troops move into southern Iraq from Kuwait, will Kuwaiti troops go along with them?

AL-SABAH: No, no. Kuwaiti troops are never going to leave Kuwaiti territory. Our troops are stationed on our border with Iraq, and they're going to remain there.

BLITZER: The whole notion of -- already reports coming out from southern Iraq that some U.S. troops in camouflage or in civilian clothes have gone on scouting missions in southern Iraq. Have you heard about those reports?

AL-SABAH: No, I have not heard about...

BLITZER: You haven't heard anything?

AL-SABAH: No.

BLITZER: You haven't seen any evidence along those lines?

AL-SABAH: No, no.

BLITZER: We are getting a lot of indications right now that these sandstorms in southern Iraq, in Kuwait, potentially could be a military hindrance for U.S. troops.

You're very familiar with Kuwait, obviously. How big a deal are these sandstorms, which could affect helicopters and other aircraft and tanks?

AL-SABAH: Well, for Kuwaitis they're not a big deal, because we're fairly used to them. But I can understand their negative effect on equipment and machinery in the region.

But these storms are fairly short. I mean, they sometimes are there for a day, maybe less than a day, maybe a bit more than a day. And then the weather clears up. So it's not a major phemonenon that would hinder any major military operation.

BLITZER: I've heard some U.S. military experts say they're more concerned about sand than they are the heat.

AL-SABAH: That's fairly true, because they're not used to that kind of climate. But as I mentioned before, it's a fairly fast phenomenon that comes and goes...

BLITZER: When do the sandstorms end?

AL-SABAH: Well, now we are in the season of sandstorms, but as I mentioned before, the sandstorms are not constant. They come in phases.

BLITZER: They're unpredictable?

AL-SABAH: They're unpredictable.

BLITZER: But at some point they -- in the summertime, as the weather gets warmer, they stop, right?

AL-SABAH: Right, right.

BLITZER: So that's something that they worry about right now, but they don't necessarily have to worry in the coming months?

AL-SABAH: Right.

BLITZER: Have you ever seen an Arab world as divided as it is right now? I refer specifically to this Islamic conference in Doha the other day. One of the Iraqi officials who was there called your minister of state for foreign affairs a monkey.

AL-SABAH: Right.

Well, I guess -- I mean, the use of profanities by the Iraqi chief of delegation in an international conference that's televised worldwide, I think it stands to show the caliber and the background of the people that are in control in Iraq, and it stands to show also that Iraq still harbors ill intentions toward Kuwait.

And you know, Iraq called us a traitor. My definition of a traitor is a person that stabs his friend in the back. Excuse me, isn't that what Iraq did to us in 1990? Didn't Iraq stab us in the back?

BLITZER: When they invaded Kuwait?

AL-SABAH: Right. And they're accusing us of being traitors?

BLITZER: How worried are you that Iraq could retaliate with chemical or biological warfare against Kuwait?

AL-SABAH: Well, we're very worried. I mean, it's a real threat. We have no illusions about his willingness and intent to use these weapons of mass destruction if he has the chance. And we are under no illusion that he still harbors ill intentions against us.

We are very worried that he might retaliate against us, but I'm very, very confident in the policies that my government has taken to safeguard Kuwait and the people of Kuwait.

BLITZER: Well, have people, the citizens of Kuwait, been provided gas masks and protective gear?

AL-SABAH: Right, gas masks are available. There's a lot of orientation going on in our media, and I think the Kuwait people are quite ready.

BLITZER: Is war inevitable?

AL-SABAH: Well, I hope not. You know, the window of opportunity is not closed yet.

I've heard a lot of people on your show talk about more time. I'd like to remind your viewers, Wolf, that the inspectors have already been there for thee months. People are talking about another three months. So in another three months we could still be sitting here talking about an extension of another three months.

BLITZER: Well, what would be wrong with that?

AL-SABAH: Well, I think, you know, people tend to forget that in 1991 Iraq had 45 days to disarm, according to Resolution 687. Twelve years later, he has still not disarmed.

And I'd like to remind your viewers also that from 1991 up to 1995 Iraq was adamantly saying that it does not have weapons of mass destruction. But in 1995, when we had the defector come out of Iraq, we found out that he has extensive programs of weapons of mass destruction.

So, there is always this concealment policy in Iraq. And I don't see how more time is going to bring him to the table and reveal what he has.

BLITZER: Mr. Ambassador, we have to leave it right there. Thanks very much, Salem Al-Sabah.

AL-SABAH: Thank you.

BLITZER: Good luck to you.

AL-SABAH: Thank you.

BLITZER: When we return, is war the only way to resolve the showdown with Iraq? We'll hear from two well-known figures on opposite sides of the issue, the human rights activist Bianca Jagger and the actor Ron Silver.

LATE EDITION will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIPS)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The case just hasn't been made enough. I think we need to take more time.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Saddam Hussein is a bad person toward the people, meaning that he does torture people and he does do bad things to the people. And for me, that's just enough to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIPS)

BLITZER: Different views on the case for war following President Bush's prime-time news conference.

Welcome back to LATE EDITION.

From Main Street to Hollywood, and indeed around the world, there's no shortage of strong sentiment about the possibility of war in Iraq. Joining us now are two well-known figures with very different perspectives. In London, the human rights activist Bianca Jagger. And in New York, the distinguished actor, Ron Silver.

Thanks to both of you for joining us. Welcome to LATE EDITION.

Bianca, let me begin with you. You've been to Iraq. You've seen the situation personally there. Why are you convinced that the international community should give Saddam Hussein more time to disarm? He hasn't done it in 12 years.

BIANCA JAGGER, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: I only can repeat what ElBaradei and Mr. Hans Blix, the two weapons inspector, have said. Mr. ElBaradei has said that Iraq is nuclear-free, and Mr. Hans Blix, since his last report, said that there is active cooperation, and he's even used the word "proactive cooperation," which is exactly the things I went to ask the government of Saddam Hussein when I was there.

I am only repeating what other governments such as France, China and Russia are saying, which is one of the reasons why President Bush and Prime Minister Blair are incapable, at the moment, to obtain the nine votes that they need to be able to pass new a new Security Council resolution. So, perhaps what I'm saying is what the rest of the world believed.

BLITZER: Ron, why do you think she's wrong?

RON SILVER, ACTOR: Well, I -- Bianca is a friend, and I respect her opinion both personally and professionally. I vehemently disagree with it, obviously.

I, too, would like to go to Baghdad, and after it's liberated, I hope I do get do get to go there.

She's wrong because, I think, along with Elie Wiesel, who said something to the effect it is a moral duty to intervene when evil has power and uses it. And this is very clearly a case of just that.

And what I'm surprised about, honestly, is that Bianca's work -- she's been in the forefront of humanitarian interventions throughout much of the '90s. And the humanitarian interventions called for there were outside a U.N. framework, was basically U.S. unilateralism, whether it was Bosnia or after the massacre in Srebenica, Bianca's been on the frontlines there. We were criticized for not doing anything about Cambodia or Rwanda. This was all outside the U.N. framework. And they said we are the indispensable nation. We are the only ones who have the power...

BLITZER: All right.

SILVER: ... to intervene and do something.

BLITZER: Let me ask Bianca to respond.

SILVER: Because there is an inconsistency there that I'm not quite sure is -- is Hussein a better guy is Milosevic, and that's why we're not...

BLITZER: What about that, Bianca?

JAGGER: OK, let me answer. And I say the same about Ron, who is a good friend, and I'm very sad to see that he is on the opposite side.

But I will say, no. I am completely consistently with what I do. I believe that the only time when we can call for intervention is when there is an ongoing genocide. I'm not in apologies to Saddam Hussein, and I have have asked and I have urged his government to open up the country and to allow parliamentary elections to take place.

Now, at the same time, we should do everything in our power to find a peaceful solution for the problem and the conflict in Iraq. In fact, I will add that in accordance to the U.N. charter, there are only two occasions in which a country can attack another country. One is if it is -- if it is acting in self-defense of when there is an imminent threat against its national security, which is not the case at the moment to the United States. Or when there is a clear mandate of a U.N. resolution that authorizes them to use...

BLITZER: All right.

JAGGER: ... force against that country, because you represent the threat to the peace of the world.

BLITZER: Ron, what is the imminent threat to the United States right now from Iraq?

SILVER: The imminent threat is that in a post-9/11 world, the rules that used to govern relationships between states have changed considerably. There are stateless actors in the world now. There are rogue states in the world.

Weapons of mass destruction in the hands of somebody like a Saddam Hussein or a Kim Jong Il, or possibly in Iran or Lebanon and Syria, and the matrix of terrorism and the stateless actors are too great a threat.

If the war is not fought now, it will be fought more catastrophically later on.

BLITZER: All right, that's a fair point. What about that, Bianca? The world has changed, Ron Silver, President Bush, others say, after 9/11. The U.S. can't afford to wait.

JAGGER: Well, one of the reasons why the world and people throughout the world are very concerned and are very much opposed to this war is because the policies of containment and deterrence, who have been so effectively used by the United States through many decades, are now being replaced by preemptive strike.

In fact, when President Bush announced that he now felt that he was entitled and authorized to use preemptive strike in complete, if you want to, disregarding completely the U.N. and the U.N. Charter, giving us the sense that he can say today that Iraq represents a threat to him, in the future or that Iran could do the same, or North Korea or any other country.

And the question that I asked of Ron is, when do we stop, and why will we turn our back to those policies that were the policies that were really effective with helping end the Cold War?

BLITZER: Ron, go ahead and respond, and then we're going to take a quick commercial break, but this debate is going to continue. Go ahead, Ron.

SILVER: OK, fine. Just two points. One, I would like to respond about using the U.N. as a moral conscience for the world. They've been woefully inadequate and irrelevant almost.

But in terms of the policies that worked vis-a-vis the Soviet Union, and Kennan's (ph) containment policy, that worked successfully, I might add, for 50 years until '89, '91, and it achieved what it was supposed to achieve.

Containment, deterrence, diplomacy, negotiation, does not work with terrorism, does not work with certain rogue states. It's a very, very different world. I don't think Osama bin Laden needed a pretext for 9/11.

It's an ideological foe that ...

JAGGER: But Osama bin Laden -- forgive me to say, there's nothing been proven that Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein are in any way connected until now.

SILVER: OK, I don't want to get into...

JAGGER: And that is one of the big problems of the Bush administration, that they've not been able to present any credible evidence.

SILVER: But, you know what, but Bianca, post-9/11, I think, we're more obligated to connect dots, especially when they're pretty apparent. And all I am saying is that he did not need a pretext for attacking us here in New York City. He was not upset about greenhouse emissions, and he decided to get back at the United States.

JAGGER: But Saddam Hussein is no bin Laden. Ron, there is no evidence, credible.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to take a quick break. Bianca Jagger, Bianca, stand by. Ron Silver, stand by, as well. We have a lot more to talk about including your phone calls.

Our debate between Bianca Jagger and Ron Silver will continue right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our debate between the actor Ron Silver and the human rights activist Bianca Jagger.

Ron, I want you to listen to these commercials, and Bianca, both of you, that have aired in recent days here in the United States. Martin Sheen putting one commercial out, the actor from "West Wing," a program that you're on as well, opposing any war. And then Senator Fred Thompson, the former senator from Tennessee, now a star in the U.S. program "Law and Order."

I want you to listen to these two ads that have come out in recent days. I want to talk about the issue of celebrities and politics. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARTIN SHEEN, ACTOR: Don't invade Iraq. Inspections work, war won't.

The virtual march on Washington will allow every American opposed to the war to stand up and be counted.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FRED THOMPSON, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Thank goodness we have a president with the courage to protect our country.

And when people ask what has Saddam done to us, I ask, what had the 9/11 hijackers done to us before 9/11?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What about the whole role of celebrities -- let me start with you, Ron Silver -- in trying to get -- you're obviously an activist, Bianca Jagger is an activist. Is this an appropriate forum for which your activism should be expressed?

SILVER: Well, look, the very nature of you asking us to be on obviously allows us to have a microphone and a platform that's not available to other people. But being civically engaged, I think, is good for anybody in our society.

BLITZER: I think you can agree with him on that point, Bianca, right?

JAGGER: I do indeed, even though I am not just a celebrity, I'm a human-right advocate for the last 20 years, and I think that probably one of the reason where I am here is because of that.

But I think freedom of expression is one of the most important issues, and one of the most important rights that American feel they have. And I think that, if they are actors, or if they are celebrities, and if they are politicians, they all have the right to speak out their mind.

BLITZER: Ron, I want you to listen to what Mohammed ElBaradei, the chief nuclear inspector, told the U.N. Security Council on Friday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MOHAMED ELBARADEI, DIRECTOR GENERAL, IAEA: I do not want to rush to a conclusion. I said, give me a few weeks, possibly two to three months, and then I'd be able to come to you as a credible conclusion that Iraq does not have a nuclear-weapon program.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He wants two or three months. What's wrong with that?

SILVER: Because they've had 12 years, and you don't need me. You've had Richard Perle on, you've had senators on.

He's had 12 years, and he has systematically, over 12 years -- Resolution 687 gave him 45 days from April '91 to totally disarm. It's been 16 resolutions, it's made the U.N. look feckless and irrelevant, and it has unraveled the containment, to the point where divisions in the international community, with France with its own interests -- and so, there is no rush.

I would say 12 years, and the war is not over. As you know, it was a negotiated cease-fire, and he's broken all the agreements. Legally, the United States can just continue hostilities, it doesn't really need another resolution, as far as I'm concerned.

And Bianca has referred to Article 51 in the U.N. Charter. Right now, the recalcitrant party is Saddam Hussein. He's broken the agreement. The United States is fully justified in going in to make it live up to its promises in '91.

BLITZER: Go ahead, Bianca.

JAGGER: Well, I want to say two things. I not only refer to Article 51, but I refer to Article 42, none of which, by the way, are met by the United States today. The other thing that I would like to say is that, if Mr. ElBaradei and even Mr. Hans Blix are saying that they need more time, why shouldn't we give it to them? Wouldn't that be better?

I mean, let's look at the history of the Middle East, and let's look at all the interventions and the invasions that have taken place. None of them have been successful until now. Did the United States invasions in Latin America ever became successful? No. Were they ever able to be able to impose democracy in all of those countries? I was born in Nicaragua, and I know that it was not the case.

So why not...

SILVER: May I respond...

JAGGER: ... take the time and avoid a war that would leave up to 500,000 casualties in Iraq, that would leave up to 1 million and 2 million people that will be displaced and refugee, and that will put in a dark conditions more than 5 million people, in accordance to a report that the United Nations put out in December that talked about the likely scenario if there was a war in Iraq?

BLITZER: All right. Go ahead, I'm going to let you have the last word, Ron, go ahead. Those numbers, obviously...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: Those numbers, there's no way anyone can predict how many casualties there is going to be, how many refugees there's going to be, because no one can predict exactly how this war, if there is a war, is going to play out.

But go ahead, Ron.

SILVER: Well, thank you for having said that. It saved me the time.

There's a premise here that's been underlying a lot of this conversation that I find very questionable, and that is that peace is always morally preferable to war.

Jacques Chirac has said war is always a failure. In France's case that may be true. Certainly in the Second World War it was morally justifiable. But that's the wrong question. It's the wrong premise. It's peace at what price, peace for how long, peace on whose terms?

And when Bianca says more time, more time, more time, if you look at the '30s, and the parallels are very, very good, because...

JAGGER: Bianca and millions of people throughout the world.

SILVER: Hold on. If you look at the '30s, Italy and Abyssinia, the Sudetenland, the Rhineland, the violation of the Baltic states, France and the U.K. -- they were stronger than Germany. By 1937, they could've avoided what by 1945 we found out was a tragic mistake on the part of the west. And I think we're in that situation...

BLITZER: I'm going to let -- all right.

SILVER: The only last word I would like to say is that people who have my position and go in, there's a tremendous burden, because in a war, contingencies can happen that could be horrible.

But I would say, Bianca, a lot of people that agree with your position also have a tremendous burden, because if you're wrong, if you're wrong and if he acquires weapons of mass destruction and he uses them, the cost is incalculable and history will not forgive you.

BLITZER: And on that point, Bianca, I'm going to have to wrap it up. But I want to -- I want you to know what Paul Kagame said in Washington this past week. He's the president of Rwanda. He was here. He spoke to CNN.

During the course of his comments, he said that "They, in Rwanda and Barundi, they waited for the U.N. Security Council to act and as a result of waiting for the U.N. Security Council, a million people, Hutus and Tutsis, were killed in Africa.

That's a powerful statement from an eyewitness to genocide. What do you say to someone like President Kagame of Rwanda?

JAGGER: I tell you what I say. The international community abandoned Bosnia for a long time. There was an ongoing genocide taking place there. Fortunately, the genocide is not taking place now. Saddam Hussein has been brutal against his people, but when he was committing those crimes, the international community did not come to the rescue of the Iraqis.

At the moment, he is complying with what the weapons inspectors are asking him to do and I think the least we can do is to give them time. We must avoid the loss of innocent life, and many innocent lives would be lost.

And we don't know that if there is a war that that will bring democracy to the people of Iraq. And that is the reason why I oppose this war and so many millions of people do, as well.

BLITZER: All right. We're going to have to leave it there, unfortunately. We could go on. Unfortunately, we're out of time.

Bianca Jagger, Ron Silver, thanks to both of you for joining us for a solid debate.

SILVER: Thank you.

BLITZER: And when we return, war with Iraq brings the possibility, of course, of a new wave of terror attacks. Are U.S. troops prepared? We'll ask Replican Congressman Chris Shays and former Deputy Assistant U.S. Army Secretary Amoretta Hoeber.

LATE EDITION will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. There's concern a war with Iraq could spark biological warfare against civilians and U.S. troops. There's also questions about preparedness for such attacks.

For some insight, we turn to two special guests. In New York, Republican Congressman Chris Shays of Connecticut. He's the chairman of the National Security Subcommittee in the U.S. House of Representatives. And here in Washington, Amoretta Hoeber. She's a former deputy assistant secretary of the U.S. Army.

Welcome to both of you.

Congressman Shays, no one in the House knows more about this issue than you do. Are you confident that U.S. troops now deployed to the Persian Gulf region are fully prepared for chemical and biological warfare?

REP. CHRIS SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: I'm confident they can be. I'm just not certain they will be. I mean, it's a question of equipment, logistics and training, and having the right equipment at the right place at the right time with the proper training.

And this has been not a highest priority for our command. And as a result, we haven't gotten the right equipment to the right place at the right time. And we're not training at the level we need to. It's -- they have improved it a great deal, but we have a bit of a ways to go.

BLITZER: But it sounds to me like you're saying that they're not completely ready right now. And if they're not ready, what business does the Defense Department have sending young men and women into harm's way without being prepared as best as possible?

SHAYS: Well, let me just say this to you. I've been told by the DOD that no -- none of our men and women will be sent into battle without the new JSLIST suit, without the proper training. And that's happening; they've sped it up a great deal.

And so this is a big issue. We should not send our troops until they're ready, and I believe we won't. I think we will wait until they're ready.

BLITZER: Well, let me bring Amoretta Hoeber in.

It sounds to me that there is potential criminal action if you're sending U.S. men and women in the military into a potential area where chemical or biological warfare is going to be used, and they're not given the best kind of equipment, the masks, the protective gear the U.S. has, that sounds criminal.

AMORETTA HOEBER, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF THE U.S. ARMY: Well, Wolf, I think they are being given the best. I think they're being given the best there is today. I think, in general, the congressman would agree with me. The new JSLIST suit is going to battle with the troops; each of them has two. The new masks are in pretty good shape.

Now, the answer is, we can always do better. These are all one generation beyond what we had in Desert Storm, and obviously, the next generation, 10 years from now, will be better...

BLITZER: All right. This discussion is only getting started. Stand by, Amoretta Hoeber. Congressman Shays, stand by as well.

It's time to say goodbye to our international viewers. Thanks very much for watching.

Coming up for our North American audience, more of this discussion with Amoretta Hoeber and Congressman Chris Shays. We'll also speak with generals, and we'll have the latest news on the showdown with Iraq. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION. We'll continue our discussion on biological and chemical warfare. How ready are U.S. troops? Plus, how the U.S. military campaign may play out in the event of war with Iraq. But first, a CNN news alert.

(NEWSBREAK)

BLITZER: Let's get back to our discussion on preparedness for biological and chemical warfare. Joining us once again, Connecticut Congressman Chris Shays and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army Amoretta Hoeber.

Let's get to specifics, Congressman Shays, right now. What's your worst-case, nightmare scenario?

SHAYS: Well, I mean, my worst-case nightmare would be we would send troops into battle that didn't have the proper training and didn't have the equipment.

But I have been assured by the command that while we had this fear a few months ago, that they're going to ensure that every one of our troops has at least two of the JSLIST suits, and they're going to train with it. Not all our troops have them yet, and they haven't trained.

The old garment, the protective battle-dress overgarment is simply too heavy and, frankly, it's not reliable, so they can't use that suit.

BLITZER: All right. What about that issue, the whole suit. It's very heavy. It's not reliable. It's not going to work, but that's what a lot of troops have been given.

HOEBER: No, they haven't. The old battle dress overgarment is now only a backup suit and it's kept in warehouses in case the war were to drag on for a long length of time and we would have to, you know, replace the things that they now have.

Every single individual who's gone into theater goes in with two of the new JSLIST suits.

BLITZER: So there's nobody that's not going to have that...

HOEBER: There's nobody that's...

BLITZER: ... top of the line...

HOEBER: That's right.

BLITZER: Is that what you're hearing, as well, Congressman?

SHAYS: Yes, and we're starting to hear from people out in the field that they're getting this equipment, but they all haven't trained with it yet and they need to train with it. You can't just have the equipment. You now have to train with it and how to store it.

BLITZER: How long does it take, Congressman, to train, to be able to store and to work with this kind of equipment?

SHAYS: Well, I don't know. I guess the more training you have, the better you're at it, you know, the better job you'll do. So I honestly don't know the answer to that question.

BLITZER: Well, let me -- maybe Amoretta knows.

HOEBER: No, I mean -- the Congressman's exactly right. The more training you have, the better. They are doing training and they have been doing training and there are something like the total of 850,000 JSLIST suits that have been around for several years and the troops have trained in them. But more training is always better.

BLITZER: Congressman, the more than 20,000 people who work at the Pentagon are being given these masks that we saw in recent days.

SHAYS: Yes.

BLITZER: Is that a good idea to hand out these masks, these gas masks to people at the Pentagon as opposed to other agencies of the U.S. government or for that matter the public at large?

SHAYS: Well, the answer is, some public may need it in some areas. I just can't judge whether everyone in the Pentagon needs it.

But you know what? Washington, D.C. is a target and I think a lot of people don't understand that around the country. We are at war and what we're talking about in Iraq is not war, it's a battle, a continuation of trying to drain the swamp of terrorism around the world.

BLITZER: What about that? Do you think it's a good idea, Amoretta, that people at the Pentagon were given these masks?

HOEBER: Absolutely. I mean, the Pentagon was, after all, attacked.

BLITZER: And so but what about other agencies of the U.S. government?

HOEBER: I believe there's a plan to give the masks to the other agencies, as well. Although I'm only familiar with the Pentagon.

BLITZER: Let's go through, Congressman Shays, some of the specific biological or chemical agents that could be used by the Iraqis or al Qaeda or others, for that matter, anthrax, for example.

Have all U.S. military personnel who have been deployed to that part of the world received the anthrax vaccine?

SHAYS: I think they will if they haven't. It's a -- you need four of these shots over about 18 months, so I would imagine they've already had the first pass at it.

The problem was we used up so many of these shots, the vaccines, that we had a shortage, but I think we've made a change there.

BLITZER: What about that? Are you convinced that the vaccine, though, does really work and doesn't cause negative side effects?

HOEBER: I don't believe we've ever had any real negative side effects from the anthrax shots.

SHAYS: Well, that's simply not true. We've had negative...

BLITZER: Well, on that issue, because -- go ahead, Congressman.

SHAYS: We've had negative side effects. The problem was we were having everyone throughout the entire military have these shots when we should have only had it for the people who were going into theater.

BLITZER: The whole issue of the anthrax side effect, some have suspected, and maybe you can help us on this, Amoretta, that the Gulf War Syndrome, as it came to be called, may have been complicated as a result of the anthrax vaccines that these individuals received.

HOEBER: No, I understand that that's one of the theories. I'm not a medical person, and so I don't understand the details of how that sort of thing would have reacted.

But to my knowledge, all the troops that have been sent forward have gotten all the appropriate vaccines.

BLITZER: Congressman Shays, are you convinced that Gulf War Syndrome that has plagued so many tens of thousands of U.S. troops who served during the first Gulf War a dozen years ago, that U.S. military personnel going into harm's way this time won't be plagued by a similar illness?

SHAYS: Well, I think they will be, but maybe not to the degree. And the important thing is, though, that when they get back they're not treated like they've made this up, but they're actually treated and given compensation.

Important that they have a good physical before they go, and that they have a good physical afterwards, and that we keep the records.

BLITZER: You know, it seems like the U.S. military let these people down the first time around.

HOEBER: I don't know. I am not familiar with the details of the whole Desert Storm Syndrome record-keeping and the medical examinations. As I said, I'm not a doctor.

But one of the things we didn't have in the Desert Storm time period was serious biological detection capabilities, and we do have systems today.

BLITZER: All right. On that point, are you reassured on that point, Congressman Shays?

SHAYS: Not entirely. That scenario, where we haven't made as good a progress as we've had, for instance, with the new JSLIST suits. Our detection ability isn't as good as it should be, and 12 years after the Gulf War it's very sad that I have to say that.

BLITZER: On that sober note, we're going to have to leave it. Congressman Chris Shays, as usual, thank you very much.

Amoretta Hoeber, thank you to you, as well.

And as the United States prepares for the possibility of war, Bruce Morton shares some thoughts about unfinished business right here on the home front.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Georgia Congressman John Lewis, a veteran of the civil rights movement, is leading some congressmen and senators on a tour of the movement's battlefields this weekend.

They're meeting some of the old freedom riders, Lewis himself was one, who integrated inter-city bus travel. They've seen a memorial to Rosa Parks, who started the Birmingham bus boycott. They've met in Brown's Chapel in Selma, where volunteers trying to register blacks to vote, met for many nights. And they're marching across the Edmund Pettis bridge, where police assaulted the original marchers, giving Lewis himself a fractured skull, roughly two generations ago.

The movement achieved much. It ended legal segregation. It won blacks the vote, which changed the politics of the South forever.

But it's worth pausing, as the United States seems poised for a war its president says would liberate Iraq, bring democracy and a Palestinian state to the Middle East, it's worth pausing to remember that the struggle for equality here at home isn't over.

For example, Mr. Bush's school bill is called "Leave No Child Behind," but a look at city and rural schools will convince you very quickly that a lot of kids are left behind. Here in Washington, they were discussing recently how to test second graders who can't read. That's a terrible question. All second graders should be reading, of course.

If every American kid got a terrific high school education, the Supreme Court wouldn't be worrying about whether race should be a factor in considering college admissions. We wouldn't be arguing about affirmative action, because we wouldn't need it.

If we'd really reached that freedom land the marchers used to sing about, Douglas Wilder of Virginia probably wouldn't be the only black elected governor of a state since reconstruction, the Senate might not be all white, the jails and death rows might not be as black as they are.

An equal start for every American, an equal chance at success? No. The legal walls of segregation did come tumbling down, but for equal opportunity America still has a long way to travel.

I always come back to some lines by Langston Hughes, a poet of the Harlem Renaissance, who wrote of America, "The land that never was, and yet must be, the land where every man is free."

I'm Bruce Morton.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thanks very much, Bruce.

Up next, a blueprint for battle. We'll discuss possible war plans with the former NATO supreme allied commander, retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, and the former senior operations planner during the first Gulf War, retired Army Lieutenant General Dan Christman. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: More than 200,000 U.S. forces are now in the Persian Gulf, poised for war with Iraq.

Joining us now with some insight into possible battle plans are two military experts. In Little Rock, Arkansas, the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, now CNN military analyst, Retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark. And here in Washington, Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant General Dan Christman. He was the senior military operations planner during the 1991 Persian Gulf war.

Gentlemen, or should I say generals, welcome to LATE EDITION. Thanks very much.

And let me begin with you, General Clark. Is the U.S. military completely ready right now?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET)., CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, we're certainly over there and capable of initiating operations. Are we as ready as we will be in a week, two weeks, three weeks? Probably not. One major uncertainty is Turkey. It would still be preferable to have a northern arm of the operation with some heavy forces. As far as we know, they're still waiting for Turkish approval.

And in the south, we're still unloading. We're waiting for the first calvary division to arrive. And the troops can always do more training.

So, yes, we're ready, but we're not as ready as we could be.

BLITZER: General Christman, it sounds like the diplomacy that is still going on is actually an added benefit for the U.S. military. Give them more time to get ready.

LT. GEN. DAN CHRISTMAN (RET)., U.S. ARMY: I think for the short term, that's the case, Wolf. In addition to what Wes mentioned, I think the 101st is critical here as well.

BLITZER: The 101st Airborne.

CHRISTMAN: Absolutely. The air assault division. Their attack helicopters, their troop transports need to be there if we are to have a viable Plan B.

BLITZER: So where are they right now?

CHRISTMAN: They're offloading in Kuwait, and I think they're within days of being complete there with the critical helicopter...

BLITZER: And when they offload, it still takes several days to test out the equipment to get everything ready.

CHRISTMAN: Put the blades on, do the in-theater training. But I think Wes is right. It's just a matter of days before the president will have all the assets that he thinks he needs to maintain that option.

BLITZER: So, what I hear you saying, General Clark, is you don't believe there will be a need, once a war starts if, in fact, there is a war, for the U.S. to continue moving in fresh forces, new equipment as the war unfolds?

CLARK: Well, I think the United States will continue to do that. I think everything that's in the deployment list and currently moving will go ahead and close in theater. And I think that's very appropriate, Wolf, because...

BLITZER: But, is that smart to do that in the middle of a war, when there could be serious risks?

CLARK: I think it's essential to do it, because the planning has been done based, not only on what it takes to defeat the Iraqs and get up to Baghdad, but also what may happen in Baghdad, and then afterwards to maintain security in the region.

The only risk is that we're going to end up with bits and pieces of, I think, 70 percent of the United States Army's maneuver forces committed somewhere. That leaves three divisions left to deal with North Korea.

Now, I know we don't consider North Korea a crisis. It is a concern. And if we were going to have to use military force, we'd have to extract some of those forces relatively soon to deal with the North Korean issue.

BLITZER: Well, are you concerned about that, General Christman, that the U.S. can't necessarily get the adequate forces in play if there is a two-front kind of contingency -- the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, on the one hand -- North Korea on the other?

CHRISTMAN: Yes, Wolf. I think the key here is flexibility -- is strategic flexibility. If we are to launch this, the last thing we should be doing is to get a firm time, and signal that to Saddam.

The key, at this point, is tactical surprise if this option is exercised.

BLITZER: Can that still be achieved -- tactical surprise? This is the worst-kept secret going out there, that the U.S. potentially is going to go to war any day now.

CHRISTMAN: Yes, we have clearly lost strategic surprise. But, tactically, I think, there is still the option, in terms of doing that, any time in this coming period.

BLITZER: So, even a day or two could make a difference...

CHRISTMAN: Sure.

BLITZER: ... as far as tactic? Is that -- do you agree with General Christman on that, General Clark?

CLARK: Sure, because it's not just the time of the attack. The essence of surprise is that you accomplish your objectives before the enemy can react to you. And so, even though he may know an attack is coming after President Bush's last speech -- let's say there is he an ultimatum -- he figures it's got to come in the next three days. They still don't know what the precise objectives are, the avenues of approach, the tactics we are going to use, the weapons we'll apply against each target. There are tremendous unknowns that will face the Iraqis, and they won't be prepared for the shock of being hit by the might of the U.S. armed forces.

BLITZER: Force protection, General Christman. There is 100,000 -- maybe more -- U.S. troops in a small area in northern Kuwait right now. Is that dangerous, to keep that many troops in one small area on the eve of a war?

CHRISTMAN: It certainly does pose a problem, but I would tell you, Wolf, the key in this instance, it seems to me, is to have boots on the ground early to take out those WMD sites and launching systems.

BLITZER: Ground forces? CHRISTMAN: Absolutely. Right. I think that is going to be one of the most important early-on efforts in this whole plan (ph)...

BLITZER: But that's such a dangerous mission; it could endanger a lot of U.S. Army and Marine Corps personnel.

CHRISTMAN: That's why it's important to have the right intelligence, and to protect that early on, as we're doing right now, and, when the president makes this call, to go in there as quickly as we can at those sites. I think that's the most important way that one provides force protection for the troops in theater.

BLITZER: General Clark, we've seen a stepped-up activity in the so-called no-fly zones, the northern and the southern no-fly zones, some suggesting this is simply trying to soften up the Iraqis on the eve of warfare. How do you see it?

CLARK: Well, I see it as a -- we're creeping into the war, bit by bit. This is part of the preparation of the battlefield. We've already been flying there. We've increased the intensity of it. We've broadened the range of targets we'll strike. And anything that's a military target now, it looks like we've got permission to strike it, and so we're going to make it progressively easier for our troops to move from Kuwait north, or from the northern no-fly zone south.

BLITZER: We've also getting reports, General Christman, that the Iraqis are building trenches around sophisticated areas, sensitive areas, Baghdad. Does the U.S. Army, for example, have the capability to deal with this kind of trench warfare, if they're going to be burning oil or whatever in these trenches?

CHRISTMAN: The best way to avoid obstacles -- and I'm a combat engineer by training -- but the best way to avoid them is to go around them, or to go over them. We do have the capability, with more modern equipment, to breach, if necessary, and to bridge, if necessary, but the best way to avoid them is to avoid them.

BLITZER: And the other source of concern for the Central Command, General Clark, that we've heard is that the Iraqis may be purchasing uniforms that look like U.S. Army uniforms, or British uniforms, handing them out to Iraqi troops, elite troops, who may, at least according to the Central Command, go out and commit atrocities and blame the U.S. and Britain for this. You've heard these reports?

CLARK: I have, and it is a matter of concern, and we'll have to maintain our own security. It means we'll be using challenge and passwords and so forth.

But that's not a decisive answer to the -- what the United States is going to do. That causes difficulty, certainly we don't want it to happen, we don't want to see innocent people hurt, but the people who do this are guilty of crimes, they will be tracked down, they will be taken care of.

BLITZER: How worried are you, General Christman, that, if the U.S. goes in, wins a decisive, relatively quick victory, but has to stay there to police the operation, to maintain security, that these troops will be victims, could be targets of terrorism, along the lines of the U.S. Marines in Beirut in 1983, which you well remember?

CHRISTMAN: Right. I think the best way to avoid that is to strategically plan for a very, very quick transition, consistent with the status on the ground, to local Iraqi control. That's the whole plan, and we'll do this in phases, so that our troops are not there, as the president says, any more than they have to be. That's the best way to avoid that.

BLITZER: But, General Clark, this could be a hugely dangerous mission after the war.

CLARK: You're right, it could be, Wolf. I mean, this is what so many people are worried about, and there are really three sets of problems.

Number one, we've got to get the weapons of mass destruction. We don't know where all of them are. We're going to have to confiscate documents, talk to people, develop intelligence, and go out and grab them.

Secondly, we've got the struggle inside Iraq for which group is going to dominate, Kurd, Shiah, is like Islamic fundamentalists, and, when they start jostling, they're going to also turn against us.

And third, al Qaeda's going to be in there, recruiting, flexing its muscles, and obviously we're going to be one of the targets of al Qaeda.

BLITZER: General Clark, thanks for joining us.

General Christman, thanks to you as well.

CHRISTMAN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, our "Final Round." Our panel will weigh in on the big stories of the week. LATE EDITION's "Final Round," right after a CNN news alert. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Welcome back. Time for our "Final Round." Joining me, Donna Brazile, the Democratic strategist, Peter Beinart of the "New Republic," Jonah Goldberg of the National Review Online and Robert George of the "New York Post."

The United States wants Iraq to fully disarm by March 17th or face war. But the chief U.N. weapons inspector, Dr. Hans Blix, says real disarmament is starting to happen and the inspectors need more time, perhaps a few more months.

Earlier today, I asked the secretary of state, Colin Powell, why the Bush administration is reluctant to go along with the inspectors' requests.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POWELL: It's been 12 years of disobedience on the part of Saddam Hussein and Iraq of the obligations that they have under the various U.N. resolutions. It has been almost six months since the president gave his speech, four months since Resolution 1441 was put down. How much more time should we wait?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. That's a fair question. Peter, how much more time should the Bush administration wait?

PETER BEINART, NEW REPUBLIC: Not too long, I think. The point is not how much Saddam Hussein is complying now. He may be complying more. The real question is, how much would Saddam Hussein comply if the gun of military force were not to his head? That's the real critical question.

We can't keep our forces on the verge of war for that long. And what we know from past experience is, the minute there wasn't a realistic threat of war, we'd go right back to where we were between 1998 and 2002 with no inspections whatsoever.

BLITZER: But Jonah, if the U.S. does wait, there may not be an upside -- there may not be a downside necessarily, but the upside is you might bring along France, Germany, Russia, which would be significant.

JONAH GOLDBERG, NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE: I think France, to coin a word, is "unbringalongable." France lobbied every chance it's had to undermine sanctions, to lift sanctions, to make an easier time for Saddam Hussein. The only reason they're in favor of sanctions now is because those troops are there.

I would love to see -- if France wants to go with inspections, let them put troops in there, hold the gun to Saddam's head, and if any attacks come to the United States, we get to have Paris as collateral.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: What about that?

ROBERT GEORGE, NEW YORK POST: Do we really want Paris?

(LAUGHTER)

I think Jonah is quite right. I mean, what's happened right now is, you know, Saddam Hussein is almost a side-show, even though Saddam is even trying to take advantage of the break in the West by saying that he wants sanctions lifted. He really thinks that he can play that game.

But what's happened right now, it's almost less as to whether Saddam Hussein gets voted off the island, it's really now which of the alliances gets humiliated. And it seems very clear that France and Germany really see this as their way to try and become, in a sense, the leaders of the West and push the U.S. to the side.

BLITZER: Do you see any downside to waiting a few more months?

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: You know, we've been fighting this war for 12 years, and so if it takes 12 more days to bring about a stronger alliance, a stronger coalition and stronger international support, then why not?

I see us right now -- and we all agree that Saddam must go, that we have to remove him from power. However, I think the United States going it alone will have great repercussions.

BLITZER: All right, let's move on. A rare prime-time news conference for President Bush this past week in which he addressed, of course, the showdown with Iraq. He reiterated his bottom line, Saddam Hussein must go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: There's a lot more at stake than just American security and the security of people close by Saddam Hussein. Freedom is at stake, as well, and I take that very seriously.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Donna, did the president reassure you?

BRAZILE: Well, I think the president reassured many of his supporters and many of the doubting Thomases out there, but did he reassure many American citizens who are quite skeptical of this war? No, I don't think he did.

BLITZER: Jonah, he got mixed reviews.

GOLDBERG: Yes, I have to admit, I didn't get much out of this press conference, but I don't think I was the intended audience and to a certain extent I'm not sure the American people were the biggest intended audience.

I think the intended audience were our, quote unquote, "allies" on the Security Council who wanted to know that Bush was serious and was going to stick to his guns, so to speak, and show that he was resolved to do this. And I also think the other message he was trying to send, that he was somber, very serious and not a cowboy, and I think that was successful.

BLITZER: How did he do?

GEORGE: I think he did so-so. I mean, I actually disagree with Jonah. I do think he was really targeting this toward the American audience, because unlike, say, his speech before AEI last week, he was focusing on this, on the security aspect, the post-9/11 environment of the United States.

However, I don't think -- there was an old saying back in the 1980s, "Let Reagan be Reagan." I don't think, in a sense, the people around him in the White House allowed him to be himself, because he came across as too scripted, a little bit too robotic, and the emotional commitment didn't seem to be there.

BLITZER: If anything, he was on message, he didn't deviate from his message at all, namely that after 9/11 the United States has changed.

BEINART: That's right. But, you know, what leaves me less and less reassured, even as someone who supports this war, is that you continually find out that the Bush administration is putting out pieces of information that are being contradicted and found to be not true.

This uranium story from Niger, now they've backed off that. The story about the aluminum tubes seems not to have been true, even though we're still peddling that.

You have to have trust in the administration if were going to go to war, and when they put out things they should have known are not true, it starts to raise questions.

BLITZER: That's a serious issue, the creditability of the U.S. intelligence community, the U.S. government is on the line when these questions are raised.

GOLDBERG: Well, this Niger, the uranium story is a weird story. I don't know in whose interest it is to forge these documents badly. You know...

BLITZER: Everybody now concedes the documents were forged.

GOLDBERG: Yes, and I don't get that story yet, and there's more that has to come out on that.

On the aluminum tubes thing, however, the United States has not backed off that issue.

BLITZER: Powell didn't completely back away from that today. He said there's a difference of opinion.

GEORGE: The flip side of that, too, is though in the Blix report we also find out that Saddam has developed these unmanned drones, which were also in violation of previous resolutions, and Blix should have been more forthcoming on that, as well.

GOLDBERG: Trust goes around for everybody here. The IAEA we're supposed to trust, yet they've missed nuclear programs several times in the past in Iraq. We're supposed to trust the U.N. and the French, and they've deceived us many times. We're supposed to trust Hans Blix, and he's left out in his public declaration all of these things in this cluster report that are incredibly damning about Saddam Hussein.

BRAZILE: But, Jonah, we're supposed to believe our government when they say they have convincing evidence that, you know...

BLITZER: When the president of the United States says something to the secretary of state, you assume you can go to the bank on it.

(CROSSTALK)

GEORGE: Which, again, is why this is no longer about the minutia, it's really more about conflicting visions right now.

BLITZER: Let's take a quick break. We have much more to discuss, including this, whether the United States is winning the war on terror.

The "Final Round" will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The new U.S. doctrine, relatively new at least, of preemptive strikes against other nations that it perceives to be a security threat is causing serious discomfort among allies.

Today, the prime minister of Canada, Jean Chretien, said the policy sets a bad precedent.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JEAN CHRETIEN, PRIME MINISTER OF CANADA: It might be considered a precedent for others to try to do the same thing. That is one of the concerns a lot of people has, you know. China might say, "We have a problem somewhere and, you know, we don't like the regime, and we're going to change the regime." That's why it's dangerous. You know, everybody will take that as a pretext.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What about that, Robert? Is what the prime minister says fair?

GEORGE: Yes, actually, it is. And I do think -- and this is obviously separate from the Iraq question -- because there are a lot of reasons why we should go into Iraq.

I do think, though, that the idea of preemption really needs to be more fully articulated, it needs to be more fully debated between the administration and Congress. Because another example, obviously, is, you know, Pakistan and India. One of them could decide that the other has become a threat and they want to launch a preemptive strike, and I think it is something we need to debate a lot more.

BLITZER: Jonah?

GOLDBERG: I think Chretien is totally off-base. First of all, Canada has basically not been a good ally of ours. They did send troops to Afghanistan, but in reality, in terms of politics, they've basically turned into a northern franchise of the U.N.

Second of all, what keeps -- in Chretien's example -- what keeps China from invading Taiwan is not the lack of a precedent. A lack of a precedent didn't keep them from taking care of Tibet. What keeps them from going into Taiwan is a promise of security from the United States because they respect American power. That is, in many ways, what kept Pakistan and India from going after each other, as well, I think.

And, what -- the problem with Canada is, they don't respect power, they don't understand power politics, and they want the world to turn into a debating society, and they can't.

BLITZER: Is that fair to our neighbor to the north, Canada? The fact that they don't support necessarily going to war against Iraq, does that make them a bad U.S. ally?

BRAZILE: Absolutely not. I think -- look, they came up with a deadline, and we all say we didn't like the 30th. And now, we're saying the 17th.

I think the prime minister is absolute correct, and I also think think Robert is right on this. We should have a full-scale national debate internally in this country on whether or not a superpower, and that's what we are, a role model, should be launching this type of new foreign policy at a time when we're trying to lead the world in another path.

BLITZER: He unveiled this doctrine about a year or so ago at West Point, the president, this doctrine of preemptive strikes, something that emerged after 9/11. A good doctrine?

BEINART: Well, I thinkthere are problems with the doctrine, but I think it is also worth remembering that this will not be the first time the United States has gone in and deposed a regime. I mean, I don't remember Chretien objecting when we in and deposed a regime in Haiti, for instance, or in Panama, or for that matter, even Afghanistan.

So, the idea that just because you go in and depose a regime, that per se sets a bad precedent for the world, I think that doesn't...

GEORGE: Afghanistan, though, was not preemption. The other -- and the other areas are specifically within our own sphere of influence.

(CROSSTALK)

GEORGE: You could call them extensions of the Monroe Doctrine.

BEINART: If we had gone in and overthrown the government of Rwanda, I don't think people would have said, well, my goodness, we're deposing a regime. I mean, the point is, there are cases where you do want to replace a regime.

(CROSSTALK)

GEORGE: But we didn't. But we didn't do that.

BLITZER: All right. Let's move on. There was rampant speculation this past week that two of Osama bin Laden's sons, possibly bin Laden himself, may have been captured in Pakistan. Those rumors, of course, turned out not to be true.

But U.S. officials believe the capture of al Qaeda's number-two man -- number-three man, actually, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, will eventually lead them to bin Laden, and there is debate about what methods should be used to get information.

Jonah, how far should the U.S. go to get information from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed?

GOLDBERG: I mean, I don't think we should be pulling his teeth out, but largely because I don't think that's effective, and I think effectiveness is the right word and the right criteria here.

Torture is not the best method, but sometimes torture is necessary or torture is useful. I don't think anybody would object to the use of torture if it prevented a second September 11th-type attack.

BLITZER: Any justification for torture under any circumstances?

BEINART: I think the problem is, you can never really know if torture will prevent another attack.

And I don't have a problem with us disorienting these guys, you know, keeping them in the dark, that kind of thing. What I think is really pernicious is when we hand them over to Egypt or Jordan or Saudi Arabia, precisely because we know those countries do torture people, and then we turn around and tell Saudi Arabia and Egypt we don't like their human-rights records, and we're fighting a war in Iraq because we want to promote human rights and democracy in the Middle East.

That's where I really think we start getting into trouble.

GOLDBERG: Terrorists aren't political prisoners. These aren't prisoners of conscience being tortured for what they say. These are worse than criminals who are being tortured to prevent from what they did and what they're going to do again if you don't.

(CROSSTALK)

BEINART: But when Egypt tortures people who are terrorists in Egypt, it's also wrong. Just because people are terrorists doesn't mean you can torture them.

GOLDBERG: Not everybody Egypt tortures are terrorists.

GEORGE: I mean, often they are legitimate freedom-fighters, and we should call them out on that.

But the thing is, if we are getting people who are clearly involved in, say, 9/11, or clearly involved in the Bali bombing and so forth, you should use whatever means are effective and necessary to elicit information out of them, to prevent them from doing it again and find out what else -- what other...

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: You've heard Alan Dershowitz, the Harvard Law professor, make the case, rare, rare, case that the president of the United States should authorize torture techniques on those rare occasions when there is what he calls a "ticking bomb." There was a terrorist incident, they capture a terrorist who says, "Well, there's another bomb that's about to go off, I'm not going to tell you where it is, but you're going to lose a lot of people." Under those rare circumstances, he says, the president should authorize torture.

BRAZILE: And I'm sure the president would authorize torture under those circumstances. I also believe there are more ways to skin a cat than pulling every hair from his head, in this case, from his body.

And I would hope that the United States is getting accurate information. Perhaps we should use psychological terror, torture, in order to get the information out of these guys.

BLITZER: So Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is not necessarily subject to duct tape, is that what you're saying?

BRAZILE: Well, I agree with Jay Leno, I think he should be subjected to our duct tape.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: We have to take a quick break. The Lightning Round just ahead. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Time now for our "Lightning Round."

The U.S. Supreme Court, this week, upheld California's "three strikes and you're out" law which calls for sentences of 25 years to life for a felon's third conviction, even if it's a misdemeanor.

The court ruled that the law does not represent cruel and unusual punishment. Is this a good law, Peter?

BEINART: No, it's a really stupid law. I mean, I could see three strikes and you're out for violent offenses, but when the third strike is stealing videos or golf clubs, it's...

BLITZER: Which in this case, it was.

BEINART: ...it's just ridiculous. And I think it's worth saying this was the Democratic Party political pandering, Gray Davis, which is why I'm very glad he's not running for president.

BLITZER: Well, let's speak to somebody from the Democratic Party. Pandering? BRAZILE: I totally agree with everything that Peter said. It's a terrible law and it should be amended to include only violent offenders. And insofar as Democrats are concerned, it was a time for Democrats to show our toughness on crime, but I think we went too far with that law.

BLITZER: Now, this guy is going to spend the rest of his life in jail because he stole some video tapes and some golf clubs?

GOLDBERG: Yes, look, I think the law could use some tinkering to fix cases like that. But the reality is, even if it's a bad law -- I think it's probably a good law with some bad applications -- it can still be constitutional, and the Supreme Court ruled the right way.

GEORGE: Yes, that's exactly right. As Robert Blake viewers learned years ago before he went bad, you know, "Don't do the crime if you can't do the time." I mean, these criminals knew that this law was in place, knew that it was harsh, and it's a shame. But, you know, you have to live with the consequences.

BLITZER: Let's move on. Starting tonight, a rematch of the 1996 presidential campaign. The former President Bill Clinton and the former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole begin a series of short debates on 60 Minutes.

Last night, "Saturday Night Live" had its own preview.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (as Bill Clinton): I'm just a private citizen who wants to support President Bush in any way I can. And the best advice I can give him right now is to go back to the United Nations, let the inspectors do their jobs, keep the pressure on and work with our allies in France, Germany and Russia.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (as Bob Dole): Bill, you ignorant slut.

(APPLAUSE)

Saddam Hussein is a boil that needs to be lanced and we're going to lance it. So why don't you and your little European pals just run along and have a garden party.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Is this a -- that's all funny, but is this a good idea for a former president of the United States to be doing these little debates with Bob Dole on "60 Minutes?"

BRAZILE: Well, first of all, I think it's a great opportunity for former President Bill Clinton to get his views out. I don't think it's enough time, but I also believe that this will be a well-watched program.

BLITZER: But isn't there an unseemliness to this?

BRAZILE: Of course, but then again, I mean, it's Clinton all the time anyway, so why not?

BLITZER: What about that?

GOLDBERG: I'm searching my soul for a reason to be scandalized by it, but I don't have such a high standard to hold Bill Clinton to in the first place. I think he's perfectly qualified to be a journalistic commentator, and it's a probably good ratings grabber.

BLITZER: What about it?

BEINART: Yes, I think that's right. I actually think conservatives, you know, expected Clinton would be this crazy ex- president who would be trying to upstage Bush and doing all these wild things. He hasn't. I mean, he's been perfectly subdued, and I think this is perfectly serious debate.

GEORGE: I don't know how subdued he's been. He's already criticized the Bush administration and Republicans in general, I think, more than any former president has.

BLITZER: Not more than Jimmy Carter.

GEORGE: Oh, I'm sorry. OK, you're right. OK, I take that back.

(LAUGHTER)

BEINART: More than Gerald Ford?

GEORGE: I take it back.

But, you know, it is unseemly. It will be obviously great for "60 Minutes'" ratings because conservatives will tune in just to scream and yell at him and fill the air with fulminations in the following weeks.

BRAZILE: Don't mess with Bill.

BLITZER: Bill Clinton and Bob Dole are going to be -- it's going to be a lively session, though.

GEORGE: Maybe. I mean, Bob Dole doesn't strike me as being particularly lively, even whether he has got Viagra or not.

BLITZER: Can you imagine any other president doing this? Former president?

BRAZILE: No. Ronald Reagan, of course, was a great commentator, but I can't imagine any other president doing this after they left the White House.

BLITZER: Will it be a success, do you think, a year from now? Will they still be doing their little debates on "60 Minutes?"

GOLDBERG: I think -- these guys are basically unfirable. And I think it's supposed to be a limited number, 10 of them, or something. It gives them an out if it goes badly. GOLDBERG: So my guess is they'll run its course and that will be the end of it.

GEORGE: Actually, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton would have been more interesting, I think.

BLITZER: All right, we're going to leave it right there. Thanks to our Final Rounders. Thank you very much.

And that's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, March 9. Coming up in just a few minutes at the top of the hour, "CNN SUNDAY" with the latest developments on Iraq and the hour's other top stories.

That's followed at 4:00 p.m. Eastern by "AMERICAN STORIES," live with CNN's Anderson Cooper.

At 5:00 p.m. Eastern, another edition of "CNN SUNDAY" with the very latest news.

Please be sure to join me next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.

I'll be here Monday through Friday twice a day, noon Eastern, for "SHOWDOWN: IRAQ," 5:00 p.m. Eastern for "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."

Until then, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

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