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Interviews With Robin Cook, Bob Woodward, John Major

Aired March 18, 2003 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, CNN HOST: Tonight, Saddam Hussein rejects President Bush's ultimatum. Are we hours away from war in Iraq? We'll ask legendary journalist Bob Woodward. His extraordinary White House access lead to "Bush at War," the best-seller that seems more timely than ever.
Then exclusive in his first U.S. interview, Robin Cook leader of Britain's House of Commons until he resigned yesterday in a shocking protest to Prime Minister Tony Blair's support for the U.S. use of force in Iraq.

And then also exclusive, former British Prime Minister John Major. He led Britain into the Gulf War coalition 12 years ago. What's different today and why didn't the coalition remove Saddam back then?

All next on LARRY KING LIVE.

First casualty of the war, Seattle and Oakland were supposed to open the baseball season in Japan this year, that has been canceled. Seattle-Oakland series canceled.

We begin with Bob Woodward, assistant managing editor of "The Washington Post." Best selling author, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. His most recent "New York Times" best-seller the appropriately titled "Bush at War."

Is this now, Bob, are we talking inevitability now?

BOB WOODWARD, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, obviously, nothing's inevitable, but this is as close as it can be, given the force level, given the obvious determination that the president has on this and his assessment. I mean, last night he made it very clear. He was quite tightly wound, it seemed to me. And made it very, very clear that he was going to go.

Since I talk to him last summer, it was pretty clear to me that he was going to solve the Saddam Hussein problem one way or another for sure.

KING: Is he the kind of man as you know from talking to him, who would have self doubt?

WOODWARD: No. I think he won't allow himself to have that. And he hates people who hand wring. I mean he just with talks with disgust and disdain about people who revisit their important decisions. He thinks you need to make an assessment, get a consensus and go ahead.

So I suspect there is no doubt in this and, of course, that's one of the propelling rockets of the situation we're in.

KING: In your best-selling book "Shadow you quote from a letter that George Herbert Walker Bush wrote to his children from Camp David on New Year's Eve prior to the January 15 launch of the Gulf War. I'll give you a quote from it.

President Bush No. 1, "My mind goes back to history. How many lives might have been saved if appeasement had given in away to force earlier in the late '30s, or earliest '40s? How many Jews might have been spared the gas chambers or how many Polish patriots might be alive today? I look at today's crisis as good versus evil. It is that clear."

Is the son doing the same?

WOODWARD: Well, it struck me that everyone focuses on this President Bush as being the one who saw or sees things good versus evil, and here is his father 12 years ago on the verge of a war with Saddam Hussein, writing the letter to the five children including the now president George W. Bush and laying out and just saying it is that clear. It's good versus evil. If there is any continuity between the Bushes, it is on this issue, I think.

KING: Twelve years ago good did not take evil out. Good defeated him, but left him in power. Was that in retrospect, an error?

WOODWARD: Well it looks like one now, but given the situation the first President Bush and his team and the coalition we're in, remember, they had a U.N. resolution authorizing force to get Saddam out of Kuwait.

The resolution was limited to that. There is no way the U.S. practically or unilaterally could then say, oh, well, we're going to take it the next step and march to Baghdad. So interestingly enough, having that U.N. backing limited what the first President Bush could do.

KING: How do you see the timing of this, Robert? The Pentagon is now officially named it Iraqi Freedom, the time's up tomorrow night. We all know the 48 hours ends then. Do you see it soon after? Waiting a little while? What do you prognosticate?

WOODWARD: Well, I certainly don't know and I think that's one of the big secrets and maybe they haven't precisely decided. But I would expect it would be very soon. It may even be now that that the ultimatum has been rejected it might even be sooner rather than later.

The big question in all of this is -- President Bush and the intelligence people have asserted Saddam has chemical and biological weapons. In the first Gulf War, Saddam did not use them. If he uses them now, yes, it would prove that he was lying which everyone pretty much already has concluded.

But the use of those weapons could be absolutely devastating and it might even alter the course of a war plan, particularly if the weapons were used in the initial U.S.-British attack.

KING: What is the dynamics inside the administration? Is this Cheney and Rumsfeld versus Powell or is that over with?

WOODWARD: Well I think it's now got to be over with. Powell is the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the top military man, 35 years in the army, knows that we have 2 -- 300,000 of our men and women over there. He's been there, he's seen battle and there's no conceivable way he would turn his back on those men and women. He might have done it differently. Obviously, he laid down some -- delaying fire in all of this and urged bush to go to the U.N. and Bush did.

The interesting thing in retrospect may be Powell with all of his diplomatic skill got every member of the Security Council to agree to that resolution famous 1441 in November and that may not have been a good thing. Even though they all had the same language, it clearly meant different things to different people and sometimes you just -- you don't want agreement if in fact there really is basic fundamental disagreement.

KING: We're going to ask Bob Woodward to stay put. We're going to talk in a moment with Robin Cook, the cabinet minister who resigned. This is an exclusive to this program.

And then also exclusive we'll talk with John Major, the former British prime minister who led the conservative party government from 1990 to '97 and was a strong ally, of course, during the first Gulf War.

And then we'll bring Bob Woodward back with more questions and some phone calls.

When we come back, Robin Cook. Don't go away.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When evil men plot chemical, biological and nuclear terror, a policy of appeasement could bring destruction of a kind never before seen on this earth. Terrorists and terror states do not reveal these threats with fair notice, in formal declarations. And responding to such enemies only after they have struck first is not self-defense it is suicide. The security of the world requires disarming Saddam Hussein now.


KING: We now welcome a return visit. It's been a long time since he was with us. Robin Cook, who resigned Monday as one of Tony Blair senior Cabinet ministers was the government's leader in the House of Commons. He's coming to us from London. In a little while, John Major, the former prime minister, will be on. Robin, was this a hard decision for you to make to quit on your leader?

ROBIN COOK, FMR. U.K. FOREIGN SECRETARY: It's one of the toughest decisions I've made in my life, Larry. I mean I've been on the front bench of the Labor Party for 20 years now. So it's a big change. And of course it's got a lot of competing loyalties, loyalty to your colleagues in the Cabinet and certainly deep loyalty to my party.

I also, Larry, respect Tony Blair. As I said when I resigned, I think he's been the most successful labor leader in my lifetime. I want to go on being a leader. I want him to go on being successful. And he will have my support. But I couldn't agree with him on this point or principle.

KING: And because that point was so strong, you felt compelled to leave?

COOK: I felt that we were wrong at the present time to go into military action right now. And I wanted us to be against that and vote against that. And you don't come to that, of course, with any integrity unless you leave the government. That's why I did it.

Two things bother me, Larry. First of all, war should be a last resort. We shouldn't rush into it. And I find myself asking, you know, would it really have been so difficult to have given the inspectors that little bit longer to see if they could have made the progress that Hans Blix talked about? On one hand, Blix said they could do the job in a few months. Is it right not even to give him a few extra weeks?

And I think the other thing that weighs me very heavily, Larry, as somebody who was a former foreign secretary, I am dismayed that we've seen that great coalition we had a year ago around the world stronger, more wider than I could ever have imagined as a foreign secretary against international terrorism -- we let that disintegrate. We're now in a position where we're embarking on military action without agreement of NATO, without agreement of the countries of the region, without agreement in the Security Council. And I think actually it might have been perhaps wiser to have shown a bit more skill in handling Iraq, which could have left us that bit stronger in handling international terrorism, which is the real threat to both our countries.

KING: Despite the fact that more people in Britain share your view than the opposing view, the measure passed pretty convincingly in parliament, 396 to 217. And the vote approving the use of any means necessary: 412 to 149. How do you explain that?

COOK: Well, there's quite a big rebellion among the labor ranks. People said the last vote we had in this was the biggest government rebellion since the days of Gladstone over a century ago. And it was even bigger tonight.

But I understand, Larry, that many people who may have their doubts, may have their concerns, they don't want to divide our party. They don't want to be seen not supporting our troops at this very difficult time for out troops. And I respect that we've got to come to our own individual decision.

Now that the vote has been taken, I hope that the war will be over quickly. I hope it will be successful. And I hope all our troops, both the American and British, will be coming back.

KING: How badly damaged is Prime Minister Blair?

COOK: I don't think that his own standing state is damaged in that there is nobody that can credibly challenge him for the leadership of the Labor Party. And the great bulk of even those who voted against him voted with me tonight in the point of principle. They were not against Tony Blair. We want to support him and see him through.

I think there will have to be a period after the conflict is over in which we are going to have to repair the wounds in the divisions within our party. And I know Tony is aware of that. I've discussed that with him, and I know he'll want to do that.

And I think also, Larry, on the wider international scene I think there's a job for all of us who have been in international affairs to also try and make sure we heal some of the divisions that have opened up over the past few weeks. It's very important that the United States and Europe have a close alliance and work together in order to particularly beat international terrorism and also meet our other objectives. We've got to get back together.

KING: Did Mr. Blair try to change your mind?

COOK: We had a very friendly conversation, and we worked together for well over a decade closely together. And we've got a lot of respect for each other. But I was quite clear that I had made up my mind and I wasn't going to pretend that he could talk me out of it. And he treated that with respect.

And we parted with a lot of mutual appreciation for what we've done together and our commitment that we weren't going to let this become acrimonious. I haven't quit out of any sense of business. I quit because I don't think it wise for us to be going to war without international agreement, and I'm not sure it's wise for us to be going to war without the majority of support among our own people here in Britain.

KING: How many troops does Britain have geared to go?

COOK: Well, the last figure I saw was like up to a maximum of some 40,000. But we've got (UNINTELLIGIBLE), roughly about a third of the British Army. So it's a big contribution, and I'm absolutely sure that they'll equip themselves with the professionalism and the courage that you would expect of British troops. They will do what they're asked to do.

KING: Why is Mr. Bush held in such poor favor in Great Britain? COOK: Well, I want to be very diplomatic as I handle this, Larry. And I don't know that it's necessarily so much Mr. Bush, but possibly some other members of his administration have not been as tactful, diplomatic -- if I can put it carefully like that -- as they might have been. And they perhaps undermine also Mr. Bush's own international diplomacy.

I have a lot of respect for Colin Powell. And I think, actually, Colin Powell was one of those who actually contributed to building that coalition against terrorism that we had last year. I think it's perhaps unfortunate the sense that the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) has been driven by the military preparations, not by the diplomatic negotiations (UNINTELLIGIBLE) progress and inspectors. That's undermined a lot of international support.

KING: Are you referring to Secretary Rumsfeld?

COOK: I wouldn't like to particularize. I think perhaps (UNINTELLIGIBLE), but it's not for me to name names.


KING: What do you think, Robin, this war is going to be like? How long is it going to take? What is it going to entail?

COOK: I hope it's quick. And, look, I mean there is no doubt about it. Saddam Hussein's forces are demoralized. They're also rather badly equipped. They've had no new weapons system for a decade due to the policy of containment. And the total size of the military force is less than half the size of the last Gulf War.

Of course, Larry, that also I think points to one of the contradictions of our position. We can't, on the one hand, plan for and expect a quick war because Saddam is weak, and then say to the whole of the world he's such an enormous threat we've got to take preemptive action. That doesn't really stack up.

KING: Do you think it will be quick?

COOK: I hope so. I hope so. But as Jack Straw previously said, if you get involved in a military venture, if you start a war, that nobody assume that you can necessarily predict what will happen next. Let's just hope that it does work out quickly, that it does work out successfully, and with as few casualties as is possible on both sides, but particularly for our own troops out there.

KING: What are you going to do Robin...

COOK: I have one other part.

KING: Yes, go ahead.

COOK: What am I going to do?

KING: You wanted to add one point. COOK: Yes, but I think possibly what I'm going to do in a sense is leap into it, Larry. I'm very keen to make sure that we do develop the very close relationship that America and Britain have always had.

You were asking earlier about our views to the Bush administration. I think it's very important to say that there's no doubt here in Britain that we have a great friendship, great affection, and very common interests with the American people. And we want to make sure that those fundamentals of our relationship remain strong. And there's a job to be made, bridge building. And I'll certainly want to continue to do that, among other things, Larry.

KING: Thank you, Robin. As always, good seeing you.

COOK: Thank you, Larry. Good talking to you.

KING: Robin Cook, who resigned Monday as one of Blair's senior Cabinet ministers.

When we come back with former Prime Minister John Major joins us. And later Bob Woodward returns. Don't go away.


TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: This is not the time to faulter. This is the time to House, not just this government or indeed this prime minister but for this House to give a lead. To show we will stand up for what we know to be right. To show that we will confront the tyrany, and dictatorships, and terrorist who put our way of life at risk. To show at the moment of decision that we have the courage to do the right thing. I beg to move the motion.



KING: He's in Bangkok, Thailand, on business, the former British Prime Minister John Major. Always good to see him.

Mr. Prime minister, how do you assess your former political opponent, Mr. Blair?

JOHN MAJOR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Well, I think he's been very robust in his support of the United States. I think he's been very robust in support of the action against Saddam Hussein. I think that's entirely right. He's given America the support I would have expected from the British prime minister. It's caused him some domestic pain within his own party, but he's remained true to that particular cause and he has my full support in that ask the full support of the opposition of the conservative party.

KING: Did Robin Cook, say anything to cause you to think differently?

MAJOR: No, he didn't. I think Robin said pretty much what I would have expected him to say. There's a strain in the Labor Party that has always been in favor of ever more diplomacy rather than action, and I'm not surprised of some difficulties now. This is a particularly difficult episode for many of them and I'm not surprised at the scale of the rebellion.

KING: What has kept Saddam Hussein going? I mean, 12 years in power, he's still in power 12 years later after you defeated him 12 years ago.

What -- what goes on with him?

MAJOR: Well, he an astonishing man -- an astonishingly corrupt and evil man. Who upon has to realize not just what he's done within his own country, using chemical weapons, murdering hundreds literally of thousands of (UNINTELLIGIBLE). But he used those weapons on some of his neighbors most obviously Kuwait, as well from time to time. And he operates a regime that is almost totally corrupt. They have literally hundreds of thousands of secret police.

It is a very tight group around Saddam Hussein and a very large number of people have suffered desperately. So he's very much in control using his military forces and the Republican Guard. But he's a force for instability across the whole of the Middle East and has managed quite successfully during the last few months to pit NATO against itself, the European Union against itself and the Transatlantic Alliance against itself and of course, to sew divisions within the United Nation.

KING: And why, Mr. prime minister, you had such equanimity 12 years ago, why did that not happen now?

MAJOR: Well, it's a wholly different mission, isn't it? Last time Saddam Hussein had invaded Kuwait. He had actually committed the evil act for which the world wished to see retribution and George Bush, the then President Bush, produced a quite remarkable international coalition. It was an astonishing piece of diplomacy, but he was acting to the back of something that had happened.

On this occasion George W. Bush is acting to prevent something happening, and that self-evidently is a great deal more differently to persuade people to come in. There are always those who say perhaps we had wait a little longer. Perhaps he won't do what we fear he will do. But the danger with that is we know he has chemical weapons. We know he has biological weapons. We know he is on the way to producing a nuclear weapon, but we don't know quite how close he is to it.

If we waited until he had that weapon, then it would be a much more dangerous situation and much more difficult to deal with. So dealing with something preemptively which is what President Bush and Prime Minister Blair are seeking to do is much more difficult to dissuade people to support than dealing with an invasion of a neighboring country which was the circumstance 12 years ago.

KING: In hindsight, retrospect, should you have gone in and taken him out 12 years ago?

MAJOR: Well, I don't think, frankly, that we could. There were many Monday morning quarterbacks, who now say why didn't you do it? But in reality at the time I mentioned that remarkable Coalition that George Bush had gathered at the time. He gathered that Coalition for a specific purpose, and the specific purpose enshrined in the United Nations resolution was to evict Iraq from Kuwait. It was emphatically not to go into Baghdad and drag Saddam Hussein out by the heels. And if we had gone beyond that United Nations mandate, several things would have happened.

Firstly that remarkable coalition would have broken up especially the elements of the Coalition. And secondly, America and Britain would have gone to war to uphold international law and would have ended breaking international law. And, thirdly, perhaps, if they had gone on, they would have fed the fears that many people had then and repeat ad nauseam today that it's an imperialist war, that America wanted to control Iraq, that America wants Iraq's oil.

All nonsense. The people believed in it just as they produce it now. And if President Bush hadn't stopped when he did, and I think he was absolutely right to stop when he did, that if he hadn't no one again would ever have trusted an American prime minister -- an American president and a British prime minister. So he had no choice. He was right in stopping when he did.

KING: We'll take a break. When we come back we'll ask the former British Prime Minister John Major where he thinks things will go now.

As we go to break let's watch some British troops in training for the upcoming battle. We'll be right back.






MOHAMMED ALDOURI, IRAQI AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: This war will be a crime against humanity. It is illegal, immoral and unjustifiable. It will cause huge casualties, great destruction and endless suffering. This war, in short, is tantamount to genocide.


KING: That was Mohammed Aldouri the Iraqi ambassador to the U.N. What do you make, Mr. Prime Minister about that strong a statement?

MAJOR: Well, I think it's pretty much what you would expect Iraq to be saying. So I think there will be very many wild statements of that sort and I think trying to mobilize as much support as they possibly can for an undefensible position and I think we'd better be prepared for them now. But I think people will understand. If people -- if people in Iraq talk about genocide, then they might look very carefully at literally hundreds of thousands of Shiite tribesmen who have been murdered by Saddam Hussein's regime in the last decade or so.

KING: All right. What's it going to be like, Mr. Prime Minister? Do you expect it soon after the 48-hour time limit is up? What do you expect to happen?

MAJOR: I would expect it would -- it would be fairly soon. I would expect it would begin with an air onslaught against anti- aircraft -- anti-aircraft control towers, command and control centers, the palaces, other military targets and fixed -- FIXED asset targets.

I would also expect the ground war probably to start more speedily than it did on the previous occasion.

But I don't actually think that's the concern we should be focusing on. The position we find ourselves in is that Saddam Hussein is cornered and a cornered beast is potentially a very dangerous beast and I think we need to contemplate what he might do, not necessarily what he will, but what he might do.

He might, on this occasion, decide to use his chemical weapons. He might mine the Iraqi oil fields. He might try and widen the conflict by seeking to attack either Israel or Saudi Arabia with missiles. All of those are possibilities and I don't think we could overlook any of them, nor indeed could be we overlook the possibility of an internal insurrection the moment it's clear to people within Iraq that the Saddam Hussein regime is rocky. All of those things possible and they will add to the cocktail of difficulties that will face America and Britain after this war within Iraq.

KING: Is after the war effect more problemsome than the war itself to you?

MAJOR: I think it almost certainly does, yes. Winning the war militarily with America's quite extraordinarily dominance in military over almost with any other country. Winning the war, I think, will be the easy part. Winning the peace, I think, will be a good deal more difficult.

If you consider what is going to be the position inside Iraq at the end of this conflict, almost certainly there's going to be a great need for humanitarian help. There will be a shortage of food, shortage of water, shortage of medicine. You may have something approximated to armed insurrection or civil war, perhaps on the ground. You will have certainly have great enmity between the Shiias and the Sunnis, possibly even difficulties with the Kurds in the north of the country.

So there are going to be very real difficulties in bringing that country together. And very real difficulties, too, in showing the rest of the world that many of the -- many of the things that have been said about America and Britain over the last few days and their motives are just wrong. That will need to be demonstrated clearly, swiftly and decisively as well.

KING: Does that mean, Mr. Prime Minister, that coalition troops are going to be there a long time?

MAJOR: Well, I don't think it will be a quick in and out at all. I mean, Iraq is not a natural democracy and I think the troops that arrive there as liberators may well find themselves staying there for some time as peacekeepers.

We've seen something like that elsewhere. I personally would be quite surprised if we didn't have a similar set of difficulties within Iraq afterwards. And it is, of course, going to be extraordinarily difficult, very complex and very difficult diplomatically to find a substitute -- a fresh government after the war.

Saddam Hussein will have gone. He'll be dead or he'll be fled or he'll be in captivity awaiting trial for war crimes. The whole of his government will have gone. The Republican Guard will have gone. Many of the top echelon of the Iraqi army will have gone. All of the figures of authority will have gone and it will then be necessary to determine how Iraq is governed and who governs Iraq and that is going to be very complex because a large part, particularly of the Arab World, will be looking very carefully to see how that is handled.

KING: What do you make of France's position in this? Today Mr. Blair berated them as being profoundly dangerous, that they seem to be changing a little. Their ambassador to the United States said today if the war starts and if Hussein uses chemical or biological weapons, it would change the situation completely for the French president and the French government. What's your comment?

MAJOR: Yes, I heard -- well, I heard the Ambassador Levitte say that. I know him of old. I'm sure that that is -- that is the case.

I profoundly disagree with the stance that France has taken. I think the fact that they and Germany have taken this stance has made it much more difficult to get the diplomatic agreement in the United Nations that I think everyone wished to see. But diplomatically to reach an agreement, it -- frankly, it takes two to tango. And some people haven't turned up with the dance cards and weren't prepared -- prepared to enter the dance at all. So I think that was very disruptive but I hope we can put that behind us.

Politicians may seek to exploit the difficulties that have occurred between France, Germany the United States and Britain. But I think in the months ahead, statesmen will seek to end those difficulties and encourage France and Germany and other countries that have perhaps not wholly behind America and Britain now to realize that they must help and cooperate in dealing with the problems that arise after this conflict. I very much hope they will.

KING: We know how well you know and knew the father. How do you assess the son? How do you assess this president?

MAJOR: Well, I did and do know the father very well. I don't think the -- I don't think the acorn has fallen too far from the tree. If you consider the way President George W. Bush reacted immediately after September the 11th, he didn't rush to precipitate action. He didn't make wild statements. He didn't follow wild policy. He considered it very carefully before he decided how to act -- how to act and that is very much the way that his father would have acted at the time.

The circumstances, of course, are very different from 1990. The problem now is infinitely more complex and in many ways more dangerous, particularly diplomatically, than it was then. Because one problem that has occurred recent years -- and it hasn't just occurred during the passage of this American administration or, indeed, this British administration -- is a widening gap of perception between much of the Arab world and much of the rest of the world.

Now I think that is very dangerous. And I think we have to address that. How we deal with Iraq after the war is one aspect of it. The road map for a peace process in Palestine and the Middle East is clearly going to be a very -- another very important element of it. And I don't think it would be wise to let that gap drift and widen and I'm sure it will be the objective of President George W. Bush and the British prime minister and others to try and address those problems before they drift so far apart that addressing them becomes far more difficult.

KING: Does it at all disturb you that you are part of the thinking that is starting a war? I don't think the United States has ever started a war.


It's a very different proposition from anything that we have seen before. But we live in a very different world from any we've seen before. We now have proliferation of weapons to regimes that have shown themselves to be prepared to use them in a way that we haven't seen so much in the past.

In the post-war period there was, in a curious way, a sort of grizzly security with the Cold War. The Soviet Union, the United States had huge weapons of mass destruction, but everyone knew that they couldn't be used. The theory of deterrents held true.

You now have smaller, unstable states with psychologically unstable rulers who have some of those weapons as well and the danger of them using those weapons is something the world simply cannot ignore and that is a fresh circumstance. We've never seen anything like it before and that is why we find ourselves in a position where America and Britain and her allies -- and there are more allies than many people liked to say at the moment -- that decided they must take preemptive action before a particularly unstable ruler does decide to use those weapons.

KING: How goes life with you?

MAJOR: I'm enjoying post-political life very much. I have -- I have a range of interests. I spend a lot of my time in the United States, maybe 10, 12 weeks a year, perhaps in the United States. I travel very widely around the world.

I have the opportunity of doing so, of meeting the people who run governments around the world. It gives me an insight, perhaps, that in some ways is better than one had as prime minister. As prime minister people often tell you and the president will find this, too, they tell you what they think you wish to hear when you're no longer in politics and you travel a private citizen, then you find out a little more accurately precisely what people think and what they fear.

KING: Well, you're looking....

MAJOR: That is -- that is very well worth listening to.

KING: You're looking quite well and thank you for spending this time with us.

MAJOR: I've enjoyed it, Larry. Nice to speak to you again.

KING: The former prime minister, John Major.

When we come back, Bob Woodward returns. Don't go away.


KING: Pulitzer Prize winner Bob Woodward returns. We expect to call on Mr. Woodward frequently.

I guess there in Robin Cook and John Major, we had the classic differences of how two people can look at the same situation, right, Bob?

WOODWARD: That indeed is the case. Robin Cook, you have to salute any resignation on principle because it's so rare. It just doesn't happen that often.

KING: Yes.

WOODWARD: His feeling in conclusion that weapons inspections if they were to continue weeks or even months longer would have been desirable, I think just -- in a practical sense it is not quite right.

The whole weapons inspection system, they had an assignment that they couldn't complete, not enough inspectors. Not enough cooperation in the '90s after the Gulf War. It literally took years to find that tons of chemical and biological agents that they had.

KING: Bob, this just in from our Kelli Arena, Justice Department correspondent. I'd like you to comment. Dozens of Iraqis in at least five United States cities thought to be sympathetic to Saddam Hussein's regime will be detained because war is imminent.

The government sources told CNN the individuals could pose a danger to Americans or U.S. interest, sources said, but the sources would not be more specific about the nature of the danger. These Iraqis have been under surveillance until now and the Justice Department is heading the detention effort.

What do you make of that?

WOODWARD: Well, that any -- hopefully it's not a round-up because of national origin. Hopefully it is specific information about those specific individuals that would cause them to be arrested and detained and obviously the courts should hold the government to the highest standard on this.

But there are all kinds of Iraqi nationals in this country and -- you have to be uncomfortable as a citizen if there is any effort to say, ah, an Iraqi national, therefore they are under suspicion. That's not the system we have. The system we have means you have to have specific evidence about specific individuals.

KING: Do you see any difference in the Bush you interviewed for your book, the best selling book you've ever written "Bush at War," the Bush then, the Bush now?

WOODWARD: No. There is that determination. He talks about calcium in the backbone, that the president has that obligation in working with the team. The president can't waiver. It's pretty obvious he is has assigned himself that role in this matter.

The interesting thing is -- and there will be many articles and books written on this, kind of how did we get here? And one of the interesting things is to go back to last summer and see that when Colin Powell had this dinner with President Bush because Powell felt he needed to layout the case for insisting or maximizing the effort to build an international coalition and an alliance if we were going to go to war with Iraq.

Powell said if you focus on Iraq you're going to take the oxygen out of everything that's going on diplomatically and in foreign affairs. And if you look at the last six months, the focus on Iraq is not only taken the oxygen out of diplomacy, but it has taken the oxygen out of almost everything else in this country.

KING: Well said. Let's get a call for Bob Woodward. Hamilton Ontario. Hello?

CALLER: Hi, Larry. How are you.


KING: Hamilton, Ontario are you there?

CALLER: Yes, I'm here.

KING: Go ahead. What's your question?

CALLER: Two parts, actually. The first one, if the U.S. insisted they had satellite imagery to show where the weapons were located why did they not forward this on to inspectors and, you know, track it if the Iraqis tried to move it?

KING: Very good question.

CALLER: Secondly, what's going to happen after the war is done if these weapons are not found?

KING: Two good questions.

WOODWARD: Well, first of all, I think the U.S. government and the intelligence agencies are in a bit of a catch 22 situation on this. They, as we know, have not been able to produce a smoking gun where they actually proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that this box or this container or this building has chemical or biological weapons.

People I've talked to insist that we are absolutely sure because things have been moved, put in special containers and hidden and given special attention, that these are these kind of weapons. In some cases people in the government say that the intelligence has not been produced publicly because there was a strong feeling we were going to have a war and in the initial phases of the war you have to go get that material and neutralize it and make sure it's not used. And to give the intelligence publicly would tell the Iraqis, gee, we know where you are hiding these things.

KING: Let me get a break and come back with our remaining moments with Bob Woodward. We always love having him with us. The assistant managing editor of "The Washington Post." His most recent book, "Bush at War." Don't go away.


KING: This just in, Bob, police arrested three men Tuesday after they found two homemade bombs in an apartment west of London. A spokesman for the Sussex Police said the men who were taken into custody under Britain's anti-terrorism law are all of European origin.

Are we going to start to hear a lot of things like this?

WOODWARD: Well, you don't know exactly what it means. It's quite likely the law enforcement agency are spring-loaded and I suspect there are going to be a lot of arrests and a lot going on.

KING: OK, I know you don't like to crystal ball things, but just prognosticate a little for us? What's going on happen and when?

WOODWARD: Well, I suspect it will be any time and I think it will be a war. You were talking with former Prime Minister Major of Britain who was there during the Gulf War with the first President Bush.

And one of the interesting things in the meetings that the first President Bush had with his war cabinet, when he had that 500,000 troops over in the Middle East around Iraq, he realized we have to have a war.

And we've reached this point where we now are committed, the political system has not only given us President Bush, but the Congress which voted about three to one to endorse military action in Iraq. So that's where we're headed.

KING: And does it look like -- nothing's easy. An easier war? Will this be over quickly? Do you think?

WOODWARD: The military people think it will. Obviously, we have a great military advantage. We have an intelligence advantage, the CIA's been reinvigorated. They have their paramilitary teams which can operate the intelligence agencies are working better together.

They know the target Iraq, very well. That's the presumption, but you know, there's -- there's the X factor in all of this and you kind of have to go back and ask the question what is the most important characteristic a president can have? And it probably is courage. And courage often entails walking the road alone and Bush may be right on this. He may be wrong, but he's walking the road alone to a certain extent.

KING: One quick call. We only have about two minutes left. London, hello.

CALLER: Hello. I have a question for Mr. Woodward. It's been reported in the British press and it's on the Internet, too, that your American administration, Richard Pearl, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Lewis Libby formulated an attack on Iraq, an expansion of military American power all across the world before 9/11.

This was in 1999 when they formulated something called the Project for the New American Century. Do you find this worrying and what are your thoughts about it if you know about it?

KING: We have one minute, Bob.

WOODWARD: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) this is true. It was floating around. There's almost a paper circus in Washington. It reflected their strongly-held views.

That's not the reason we're where we are now. We're where we are now because of 9/11 and the trauma and the sense -- the president, the administration and I think to a certain extent the whole country have that we have that we can't let there be repeats of 9/11 or we have to maximize our effort to stop even the potential of such an attack.

KING: That was seriously considered?

WOODWARD: Well, it was one of those -- they weren't in government at the time and it is as I say that you can find papers. Obviously some of these people have strong positions and some of them have important government positions and their views have been well recorded in articles and in my book.

KING: Thanks, Bob. That book, by the way is "Bush at War." Always good to see you. We'll be calling on you again. Always thank you for your compliance.

WOODWARD: Thank you. KING: Bob Woodward, the assistant managing editor of "The Washington Post." We'll be back and tell you about tomorrow night right after this.


KING: Tomorrow night a group of outstanding legislators will be with us, among them Senator John McCain of Arizona.


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