CNN LARRY KING LIVE
How Much Longer Will the War Last?
Aired April 12, 2003 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Saddam Hussein's top scientist has surrendered to the coalition in Baghdad and he's expected to be a treasure trove of information.
Also in Baghdad today, Marines find suicide bomber vests stashed inside a school, and more looting and shooting and arson.
Meanwhile, coalition troops advance toward Saddam's ancestral homeland of Tikrit.
We'll have the latest on all that and more, including what happens to Iraq after the war with guests that will include James Dobbins, Bush administration special envoy to Afghanistan where he helped install the post-Taliban government.
We begin with CNN's Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour in Baghdad. What's happening there? Is this a mop-up operation now, Christiane?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTL. CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, there's a lot going on. There's all sorts of different things from surrenders to gunfights over here.
Today, General Amir al-Saudi did surrender. He was Saddam's Hussein top scientific advisor and, of course, he was the point man for the international weapons inspectors.
You saw him often talking at press conference, in meetings with Hans Blix and Dr. ElBaradei, and he today in the presence, at his request, of a German television crew, gave himself up to the U.S. forces and he was driven away in a U.S. military vehicle.
When asked, he said he didn't exactly know what his fate would be or how long he would be away, either incarcerated or under interrogation. He also repeated that Iraq didn't have, as he said, any weapons of mass destruction.
At the same time about as that was going on, here at the Palestine Hotel where a lot of Marines are based, there was just outside a major gun battle, or at least it seemed that way to us. It went on for several minutes.
The Marines unleashed their heavy machine guns and what it turned out was, according to the Marines, there were two people with machine guns on the other side of the river firing in this direction and the Marines simply unleashed a lot of their heavy machine guns, as I said, and eventually these two guns were silenced. We don't know whether the gunmen were killed or what happened but they did stop shooting.
Now, also there have been attempts by the Marines to restore some order and to try to get the local police to help them do that. We reported yesterday that they were going out trying to find the police force, the fire brigade, all sorts of civil administrators.
And today, one of the former police commanders, well still a police commander, came up to the Marines and they apparently started to have talks about how they could institute Iraqi police patrols on the streets to calm some of the looting, some of the disorder that's been going on over the last several days.
And then, late this evening there was word from a former Iraqi exile group that tomorrow morning, rather this morning our time, they're going to be convening a meeting, they said, of engineers, teachers, doctors, and police to try to come up with some kind of civil administration to fill the current vacuum and see if they can get this country basically up and running again -- Larry.
KING: Any reports -- Christiane, any reports on Iraqi casualties?
AMANPOUR: Well, today we went to some hospitals and, you know, a lot of the hospitals have been looted but there are a couple where they're still able to treat people and that have been treating people since the war began, and we found a lot of civilian casualties there.
And, when we asked the doctors what, you know, what they could tell us in terms of numbers, they told us that they had received, certainly at this one hospital, many more casualties than they did during the first Gulf war. They said that they had 500 civilian casualties, ranging from minor to major injuries, that they have conducted 170 major operations, and that's a lot, in three weeks of war.
They said they had about 60 people dead at that particular hospital and they said that they didn't really understand why but they had many more casualties this time and much more serious injuries than the Gulf war of 1991.
KING: And what about those suicide bomb vests? Can you enlighten us as to what that was all about?
AMANPOUR: Well, some of the embedded reporters were taken with the Marines to a school here in Baghdad where they were shown all these vests that were wrapped up in cellophane and there were some detonators and fuses that were connected to these vests and then around there were also other kinds of explosives.
And, while we can't be absolutely sure, because they were just there in cellophane, the implication is that these were going to be used by Saddam's militias or whoever to target American forces, and we have been told by American commanders that one of the chief concerns over these several weeks of the war, and indeed still now, are suicide bomb attacks.
When we first got to Baghdad on Wednesday, there was a suicide bomber who detonated explosives strapped to his own body and wounded four Marines at a checkpoint in Saddam City, and so this has been a concern.
KING: Thank you, as always, Christiane Amanpour on the scene, CNN's Chief International Correspondent.
Let's meet a panel of experts now. In Kuwait City is Paul Martin, Chief Correspondent and Editor-in-Chief of "World News and Features." He's been covering the Mid East beat for "The Washington Times."
In New York is Chris Hedges, "New York Times" columnist, and long-time war correspondent, author of "War is a Force That Gives us Meaning." He, by the way, was captured by the Iraqi Republican Guard and held prisoner for a week during the Shiite rebellion after the '91 Gulf War.
In Amman, Jordan, is Daoud Kuttab. Mr. Kuttab is founder and director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al-Quds University in Ramallah. He's founder and director of ammannet.net the first Internet radio station in the Arab world.
In Washington, is Hisham Melhem. He's the Washington Bureau Chief, "As-Safir" newspaper, war correspondent for Radio Monte Carlo. He also hosts a talk show on the satellite news station A-Arabiya.
And, in Baghdad, James Bays, the ITN Correspondent, we'll be checking in with him.
Paul, what kind of aftermath is this going to be like? What do you make of post war Iraq?
PAUL MARTIN, "WORLD NEWS AND FEATURES": Well, good evening, Larry, yes. I think this is the most crucial period. Winning a war is one thing, winning the peace obviously much more important and, if I may say so, the coalition forces have not made a very good start of it.
The allowing, permitting in effect looting to take place on this grand scale, even the museum has been ransacked with 170,000 items apparently destroyed, the history of that great country, as well as hospitals, water facilities. It hasn't been, it seems to me, as well planned as it should have been.
The war has been brilliantly executed. The overthrow of Saddam certainly will benefit the region in my view enormously but to win the peace they need to win hearts and minds and the images we're seeing now are not going to do that.
KING: Chris Hedges, what do you make of Secretary Rumsfeld's comments about stuff happening that these looting and the like are pent-up feelings and freedom is untidy he said. CHRIS HEDGES, "N.Y. TIMES" COLUMNIST: Well, I think that certainly freedom doesn't look like this. This isn't what Iraqis wanted, most Iraqis, this kind of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) universe that always comes when civil authority crumbles.
Yes, the war itself was executed swiftly but the problem is the ramifications of this throughout the region, as well as the fact that the Iraqis just don't know what's coming, and I don't know when that will spin out, how it will spin out.
Certainly, there are a lot of indications now that the Americans will keep a tight control on the oil fields. I remind you that while there was widespread looting, the one building in Baghdad that was protected was the oil ministry.
KING: Daoud, did the criticism in Amman, did that dim somewhat after the swiftness of this now apparent victory?
DAOUD KUTTAB, FOUNDER, AMMANNET.NET: Well, I think people are confused in Jordan and in much of the Arab countries because of the high expectations they had on some type of an Arab resistance or Iraqi resistance.
I think, you know, Pan-Arabism is still up and running but people are a bit confused about the situation, the future, and the future of the region. There is a lot of talk and fear and worry about what will happen to Syria, what will happen in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
There's still a lot of skepticism about whether Mr. Bush is really serious about the roadmap. We've seen the Tenet plan and Mitchell plan go down the drain, so people are a bit confused these days.
KING: Hisham are you hearing a lot of criticism of the United States coverage of this war, the news media, a lot of people calling it jingoistic, pro-war, is that what you're hearing?
HISHAM MELHEM, D.C. BUREAU CHIEF, "AS-SAFIR" NEWSPAPER: Well, definitely. This has been almost the universal view in the Arab world, especially the television's coverage of the war, the American flags, the expressions of sympathy, the focus only on the military side, the focus only on the military victories, not enough focus on the horrors of the war, what that war meant to the average Iraqis who have been living in a huge prison by Saddam Hussein, and yet there was very little sympathy at least in the early stages of the war.
And, there is a sense of (UNINTELLIGIBLE) here and jingoism, absolutely, and although I have to congratulate my colleagues in the print media in the United States, when you read dispatches from people who work for "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post," "L.A. Times," they've done a very, very valuable job.
So, but the American media, and particularly television's coverage was wanting and lacking unfortunately.
KING: I want to get our correspondents' reaction to that, but first I want to check in with James Bays of ITN, our correspondent in Baghdad.
Has the looting and the like diminished, James?
JAMES BAYS, ITN CORRESPONDENT: I think it has a little bit but it depends where you are in the city. Around the Palestine Hotel, this area, the Marines have been fanning out and things, I think, have been quieting down. We've seen more people on the street. We've seen commoners on the streets although I think actually people are buying and selling things that they've looted.
I have to say when you go a little bit further, it gets much more dangerous. Some of our colleagues went out earlier on today. They were luckily in an armored vehicle and that vehicle took 20 rounds of fire from AK-47. That was some of our ITN colleagues earlier on today in the city. The wheel was shot out but they managed to make it back here to the hotel.
KING: By the way, in our next segment we'll be taking calls for this panel. Paul Martin, what did you make of the comments that the print media was doing a more balanced job than the broadcast media in covering this war?
MARTIN: Well, I think I can agree with my colleagues there that certainly jingoism was evident in some of the foreign corresponding on television in particular. I didn't like -- didn't like the fact that certain embedded correspondents, for example, would talk about we and us being under fire, or our tank or our troops.
I think this has allowed correspondents to feel too close to and to be too involved in what's going on with the forces that they're actually accompanying. That's one criticism and the other generally was a kind of triumphalism as has been mentioned before and glossing over some of the civilian consequences, the tragedies that have taken place in this war.
On the other hand, I must say that some of the Arab coverage has been far worse, far less balanced, and they overemphasized by a long way the civilian aspects and been very cynical about the war aims and have not really given the coalition their due in overthrowing a vicious, nasty, repressive regime, and they've also attributed motives to the coalition which are highly speculative.
It isn't necessarily true that they're here only for the oil, and I think that Arab television has done a disservice in general to its viewers just as some American TV correspondents have done to theirs.
KING: Let's stay with this. Chris Hedges, what's your thoughts on media coverage?
HEDGES: Well, I think the media coverage got a lot better as soon as everybody was free to report independently, and up until now that's been impossible. The embedded reporters have been completely controlled, the movements and activities of reporters in Baghdad, of course, incredibly circumscribed by the Iraqi regime.
So, I think what you're seeing now is real reporting. Up until now, we haven't seen that. It has been -- it has been very jingoistic. It has been context less reporters on Bradley vehicles or, you know, moving with units through a country, not being able to put things in perspective, identifying too closely with a unit, totally reliant on the military, not only for logistics but for any kind of information.
So, I think now we're beginning to see the opening up of the independent press and movement by journalists, and so the reporting subsequently has gotten a lot better, but up until now I think it's been atrocious.
KING: Chris, if you're embedded with a group, aren't you inclined to say we?
HEDGES: Well, you shouldn't. I mean I have been embedded with groups and you shouldn't say we, shouldn't run around in a military uniform. You shouldn't adopt the cause. I think that that's always a danger when you spend time with an armed unit. I think groups or reporters should embedded but you need that independent component and that's what was lacking.
That said, I think we should also note that this conflict was much more dangerous than the first Persian Gulf War. I did not partake in the pool system and was an independent reporter, but I know great reporters and camera people who tried to go into southern Iraq on their own and just could not. It just was too dangerous.
So, I think a combination of the danger and a combination of the control made the reporting, at least up until now, mediocre at best and oftentimes nothing short of cheerleading.
KING: Daoud, you're the director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al-Quds University in Ramallah. What do you make of this controversy over media coverage?
KUTTAB: Well, I think -- I have a problem with what was said about the Arab media reporting. I think the traditional, classical government media probably might be accused of being subjective and not very balanced, but I think the news satellite stations, not only Al- Jazeera, but Abu Dhabi and Al-Arabiya and the (unintelligible), I think they did quite a good, balanced job.
I think on the whole television, Arab television, the satellite independent Arab television, did quite a good job and I would dare say that on the record they were much more balanced than the, you know, major American TV stations.
That said, there's a lot more that could have been done. They didn't have the advantage that the American reporters had of the information that embedded journalists had and the pictures that the embedded journalists had, but they showed things that, you know, other stations didn't. They had correspondents in Mosul and in Basra where nobody else had them.
They had, of course, Baghdad correspondents, and they also did something, of course, the casualty stories were only reported, mostly reported in the Arab TV stations, and internationally they did the antiwar movement, which was almost forgotten in the American media. So, I think they did a good job but you have to really differentiate between the government media and the independent media, which is a really new phenomenon now.
KING: Let's take a break and come back. We'll include viewer phone calls, lots more still to come, including Senator Jay Rockefeller, Ambassador James Dobbins. You're watching LARRY KING LIVE, don't go away.
KING: Before we take some calls, Hisham Melham in Washington, do you think the coverage will be as intense of the aftermath of the war as it has been of the war?
MELHAM: It would be more complex to report. I mean there may not be, you know, incredibly interesting stories or things that captured the imagination of people or give them a sense of great hope or despair, so the coverage, the nature of the coverage is going to be important.
Rebirth of a nation, if you want to call it that way, is going to be very complex. It's going to be very chaotic. It's going to be very bloody. I mean even in the best of times governing Iraq was difficult.
Now, after the country descended to hell, literally, when the capital, when Baghdad, the capital that was treasured by the Arabs for centuries is being sacked even though by its own people and the United States allowed this descent to hell to take place, it's going to take a long time to rebuild that country and the United States gets bogged down there and if you have intensified resistance later on, yes, you are going to see different coverage.
MELHAM: But, in the immediate aftermath of this hellish disaster, I don't know how long the American reporters are going to stay or how long the Arab reporters are going to stay.
But if I can say something, Larry, about the Arab coverage, I am part of the Arab media. I do not have high hopes about the new media in the Arab world, although the performance was a little bit better than before, but it was also below expectations.
I thought the Arab media did the right thing by focusing on the human side of the misery on the horrors of war, as they should. This is their city. They speak the language. They understand the cultural topography of the place and they have a sense for it and they should reflect in their reporting the sensibilities of the culture.
That's all fine and should be expected. However, the Arab media also misled the Arab world. They created a false sense that the resistance is going to be strong, that the regime is resilient. They did not say that the regime is led by hollow men. They did not -
KING: I got you.
MELHAM: They are not focusing on the military aspects of it. They created the impression that Saddam and that the Iraqi army will resist tremendously and they did not.
KING: Thank you, Hisham.
All right, this is just in. We'll get James Bays to comment. By the way, I want to publicly thank James Bays. He's done yeoman-like work around the clock and putting aside sleep to be with us.
We just learned that a United States Marine has been killed in a checkpoint incident in Baghdad. A U.S. Marine from the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force was shot and killed on Saturday by an individual carrying a Syrian identification card.
The Marine was guarding a checkpoint at a medical facility when two men posing as landscape workers approached the Marine. One man shot and killed him. Marines nearby shot and killed the Syrian man. The second attacker fled the scene, the name of the Marine, naturally being withheld pending notification of next of kin. A full investigation is underway. James, do you know anything about that?
BAYS: I know nothing about that, Larry, but that's what the Marines here most fear. I spent quite a bit of time last night talking to Marines. There are a lot sitting around the Palestine Hotel. Some of them came and ate with us last night. Some of them used a shower in one of the rooms in the Palestine Hotel that we have here or ITN because they hadn't had a shower for so long.
And, I was chatting to them afterwards about what they most feared and that's the checkpoint duty and one interesting point they all made is they fear not particularly the Iraqis but the other nationalities that have come here, the volunteers that Saddam had encouraged to come from across the Arab world. They are the ones they fear may become the suicide bombers.
KING: Let's take a call, St. Paul, Minnesota hello.
CALLER: Thank you for taking my call.
CALLER: Will we be seeing any humanitarian aid for the Iraqis coming out of Germany or France?
KING: Paul, do you know anything? Do you know if Germany or France plan to get involved with aid?
MARTIN: Well, there's no doubt that Germany and France have a great vested interest in trying to be seen to be doing things now after the war since they manifestly made what was a controversial decision to oppose it and now they want to be seen to be involved. The question is not whether they'll be sending aid. Undoubtedly they will. The question is to what extent General Jay Garner and his men will be encouraging the Germans and the French to be involved. I think they will be pleased to have their humanitarian aid. I think they'll be far less inclined to let the Germans and the French have any political say and this is the fallout. This is the implication of having been opposed to the coalition effort.
KING: Washington, D.C., hello.
CALLER: Yes, will the war be over and if Saddam's captured or found dead? My personal opinion I think that he's sitting somewhere.
KING: What's the question?
CALLER: Will the war be over...
CALLER: ...if we capture Saddam (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
KING: Chris, I guess better ask Chris. When is this war over?
HEDGES: Well, I worry that this war may just be beginning. Never forget that when the Israelis went into southern Lebanon in 1982, the Shiites who were dispossessed, oppressed, politically unorganized, greeted them as liberators. Two or three months later when they realized that the Israelis had come not as liberators but as occupiers they began to kill them until they eventually drove them out of southern Lebanon.
And, if we go into Iraq and think that we are going to set up a puppet government, control the oil fields in much the way, for instance, the French control oil fields in Africa taking countries like the Congo and turning it into strategic reserves for Elf (ph) Oil, I think especially knowing Iraq, knowing Iraq's history, and this is a country that is not Egypt.
It's a country that has a long tradition of violence within it, with contentious, ethnic groups. It does not have a unified national identity. I worry that this could be very bloody, very messy. It depends, of course, how the Bush administration decides that they are going to handle Iraq, but all the indications are, and certainly listening to Secretary (unintelligible) the other day with his rather detailed knowledge of the oil fields, if they handle it with an iron fist and try and control it and crush Iraqi aspirations, this could be real mess. This could be 1967 and we could be Israel.
KING: Montreal, hello.
CALLER: Hello. What about aid from the Arab countries, all the Arab neighbors that are close, why don't they help?
KING: Daoud, are the Arab neighbors going to help?
KUTTAB: Well, already Kuwait of course is helping and I think I know Jordan is sending a medical unit to Iraq, mobile kind of hospital. There will be money coming and there will be aid coming from the Arab countries, but again as was said by your reporter, or by Chris I think, the issue is the political involvement.
Will this mean that these countries would have a say in the new government, the new Iraqi government? That's what everybody wants to know, what kind of government it will be, who will run it, what kind of credibility the new Iraqi leaders will have with the Iraqi people? That's a really big question in the Arab world.
KING: Mobile, Alabama, hello.
CALLER: Hello. Today, the Iraqi scientist who surrendered...
CALLER: ...said Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction. Obviously, the United States does not agree. How will he be treated? Will he be imprisoned and interrogated or possibly even tortured?
KING: Do we know, Hisham?
MELHAM: I don't know. I mean so far he's correct. They did not find any weapons of mass destruction. I don't know whether there are any elements or materiel that could be used in the production of weapons of mass destruction but so far if that's the reason that led to the war, so far they did not find any.
KING: James Bays, do you hear anything about how he's going to be questioned and the like over there?
BAYS: Well, the ministers here of Saddam, most of them have not been found yet. They've completely disappeared. To be honest, I don't think there are many people looking for them. The Marines on this side of the river, the Army on the other side of the river, are just trying to fortify their positions and slowly pan out from those positions.
Obviously, if they find anyone in any of the buildings or the streets where they are, they will be arrested, but I don't think they've got enough men on the ground yet to start the full-scale hunt.
KING: Thank you all very much, Paul Martin, Chris Hedges, Daoud Kuttab, Hisham Melham, and James Bays.
When we come back, Senator Jay Rockefeller, Ambassador James Dobbins, Representative Aliana Ross-Litton (ph), and Representative Tom Lantos will join us. We'll also be hearing from Ryan Chilcote embedded with the 101st Airborne.
And then later in the half hour, His Excellency Dr. Mohammed Al- Sabbah, the Kuwaiti Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, all that's ahead.
Right now though we have the news headlines with Thomas Roberts and then a word or two and we'll be right back, here's Thomas. (NEWSBREAK)
KING: Let's meet another outstanding panel.
In Washington, Senator Jay Rockefeller, Democrat of West Virginia, Vice-Chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence, a member of Foreign Relations.
Also in Washington, Ambassador James Dobbins, Director of Rand's International Security and Defense Policy Center. He served as the Bush administration's special envoy for Afghanistan, served as the United States top troubleshooter in Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti, and Somalia.
In Miami, is Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and she is a Republican of Florida and Chairwoman of the International Relations Subcommittee on Middle East and Central Asia.
And, in Denver, is Congressman Tom Lantos, Democrat of California, Ranking Member of the International Relations Committee.
We'll start with Senator Rockefeller. Jessica Lynch, the prisoner of war, has just returned home. She is one of your constituents. Do you plan to go see her?
SEN. JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER IV, VICE-CHMN., SEN. INTEL. CMTE.: Only when she's ready, Larry. She needs time. She needs space. She needs to heal. She's been through a trauma which none of us can understand, and I want to go see her but I only want to go see her when she is completely and totally relaxed and ready to see me and other people and not before that.
KING: Have you heard from her family?
ROCKEFELLER: Oh, yes. I've talked with her parents several times and saw them off at Dulles Airport. They're wonderful. They're absolutely wonderful, the pride of West Virginia.
KING: Ambassador Dobbins, you've seen a lot of post-war conflict and what happens per se afterwards. What do you expect to happen here?
JAMES DOBBINS, RAND DIR. INTL. SEC. AND DEF. POLICY CTR.: Well, I think that the rioting and looting will tamp down over the next week and we'll move onto the next phase. It doesn't get any easier and the next stage is quite possibly going to be a lot of retributive violence of people getting even.
And, we may not lose a lot of sleep over Saddam Hussein and his lieutenants but there are hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of innocent Iraqis who are associated with the regime by virtue of their family ties or religion or ethnicity and their safety is in our hands and that's probably the next major challenge.
KING: And, Congresswoman Lehtinen do you expect the coalition to handle it well?
REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, CHWMN. MID. EAST ASIA SUBCMTE: Well, I think so. We just passed our supplemental appropriations bill which is going to give our men and women in the armed forces the resources, the financial resources they need to finish the job.
Now, the question will be what about the rebuilding of Iraq? Who will be there? Is it going to be the coalition of the willing, the coalition of the billing? What is the role of the U.N.? Will we use Afghanistan as the model? Will we create a new model in the rebuilding of democracy and infrastructure in Iraq? So, there are a lot of questions and the answers are still to unfold.
KING: Do you think, Congressman Lantos that the public will put up with a long stay of American troops in Iraq?
REP. TOM LANTOS, RANKING MEMBER, INTL. RELATIONS CMTE.: I don't think there is any question about it. You know I am so appalled at all the whining and complaining. We had a spectacularly successful military operation and we are now ready for the long-term rebuilding of Iraq, not just physically but transforming that society. It will take a long time. It will take a lot of effort but it will be the beginning of a new dawn for the whole Middle East.
KING: Senator Rockefeller, are you as confident as Congressman Lantos?
ROCKEFELLER: Well, with this exception, I think that the American people are - it's going to be - it's not in the American nature to put a lot of money into other places over a long period of time even though those places needed -- they need the money unless Americans see a reason that helps them and there's a very good reason that we'll help them and that is that America will become a more secure place. American families will live in more security as we do a really good job in Iraq, which I think is really important.
And, I don't think we should be setting time tables for, you know, how long we should be there. I don't think we should be there any longer than necessary but it's got to be stable. It's got to be done right and then it will help America be a more secure land as well as improving Iraq and to some extent will help us on the Arab street, not a whole lot but it will help us.
KING: Ambassador Dobbins, who leads Iraq next week?
DOBBINS: Well, the United States is clearly in charge and responsible for the foreseeable future. There will be a transition over time to Iraqis first, selected Iraqis, and ultimately elected Iraqis. That's probably a couple of years off, the latter transition.
But we also have to address the question of how we begin to share power with the rest of the world, with those who have the money and the troops and the experience and the expertise that we'll need to do this job well. KING: Congresswoman Lehtinen, are you confident that will go smoothly? Can you be confident about anything going smoothly in a war-torn country like this?
ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, I think we have a wonderful opportunity. First, we've shown our military power. We've shown the Iraqi people that we want them to lead the way, to pave the way to a new Iraqi era of freedom and democracy in their own style.
And, the United States has made it very clear that our mission has been to liberate not to conquer, that we're not a colonial, imperialistic power, and I think we've said it over and over again, and I think that we have seen the presence of the U.S. troops has been precisely that, not to rule over them but to let them set up their own structure and I think that will be very clear in the coming days and they're crucial days.
How do we set up the infrastructure and the governance so that it's up to the Iraqi people to elect their form of government? And, this could very well set the tone for what the future of the Middle East is going to be.
Maybe it's not going to be a Jeffersonian democracy. It's not going to be American sell. But it's certainly going to be a new type of governance for the Iraqi people and they're going to remember countries that were with them and countries that were not with them and this is going to be an important distinction. The U.S. was always with them and we're here with them at this critical juncture.
KING: Congressman Lantos, is it essential that the coalition find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
LANTOS: Well, first of all I believe that we shall and I am convinced that once we gain full control of the whole of Iraq there will be a systematic attempt, which I am convinced will be successful.
But may I just say we will need to internationalize this whole operation in a systematic manner. I am preparing legislation that would call on NATO to undertake the peacekeeping that will last for many years. There is no reason why the United States and our British allies should carry this load by ourselves.
NATO had a very important function as long as the Soviet Union was a threat. It is now in search of a goal. It is in search of a mission and this would be an enormously appropriate function for NATO to undertake.
KING: Ambassador Dobbins, what do you make of that idea?
DOBBINS: I think it's an excellent idea. I fully support it. I think that NATO is the only institution that we could with confidence turn the task of security and peacekeeping over to. It combines an acceptable degree of American leadership with broad participation. It's done it very successfully in the Balkans. I fully support seeking to involve it as heavily as possible in Iraq.
KING: Let's take some calls, Livermore, California, hello.
CALLER: Hi, Larry.
CALLER: I just wanted to know, not knowing the fate of Saddam Hussein and his sons and the recent video release from bin Laden's threat to the U.S. and Britain and then the ten suspects that attacked the USS Cole that escaped from prison in Yemen, now I hear they're going to - they might lower the level alert from orange to yellow as early as Tuesday, now in the wake of all these developments is this a little premature to be thinking about this?
KING: Senator Rockefeller?
ROCKEFELLER: I think lowering or raising of the alerts is the Justice Department function which depends upon what people are - what they call chatter, is that chatter being verified? Does it seem real? And, I'm not sure it depends upon Saddam Hussein or on bin Laden for that matter. You know I think it will probably stay where it is. If it goes down, that's fine. If it stays where it is, that's fine too.
I want to really endorse that idea of using NATO. I mean NATO can come in and do the security. Our military is not trained to do the security and we've seen examples of that. NATO is looking for a mission. They can come in. It's not us and it includes Turkey, which is Islamic, which is good, so I think there are a lot of advantages for them coming in and the United Nations as much as possible coming in after that for the humanitarian.
KING: Congresswoman Lehtinen, do you agree?
ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, I think that the U.S. attitude is anyone but the U.N. so if it's NATO or any other international body, you know, I think it really gets to us when we think that the French or the German and the Russians are going to come in and have a real stake in the rebuilding.
We welcome allied support and this is very important and those are key elements of any international organization including NATO, but I think that for the American taxpayer, the sound of having it be a U.N. operation after some of those were the ones who did not work with us on liberating the Iraqis is going to have a bad taste in their mouth and I think to have another organization, NATO, even if it's made up of the same partners, I think is going to sound a lot better to the U.S. taxpayers.
KING: Schenectady, New York, hello.
CALLER: Hi, hello.
CALLER: I'm wondering if anyone on your panel supports having embedded journalists when the inspection teams go in to look for weapons of mass destruction? And, also, all the pools around the palaces, will they be drained during that process of investigating to find out whether there's false floors or false ceilings from bunkers that lie underneath the pools to maybe find the weapons of mass destruction?
KING: Ambassador Dobbins, what do you think?
DOBBINS: Well, my guess is they won't have embedded journalists because they'll be doing some fairly highly classified material. I'm sure they'll search under the pools and anywhere else that the stuff might be hidden.
KING: Arlington, Virginia, hello.
CALLER: I want to know what will the American government do if the new government in Iraq is anti-American?
KING: Congressman Lantos.
LANTOS: Well, the new government in Iraq will not be anti- American because we will maintain a considerable degree of control over a protracted period of time. I think it's important to recognize that we are at the hinge of history. We have now defeated a vicious dictator who has tortured his people, who has threatened his neighbors, who has killed over a million people in wars he has started.
We will not get Jeffersonian democracy tomorrow morning but gradually there will be an Iraq evolving which will be more cognizant of the human rights of the Iraqi people. It will not threaten its people. It will not develop weapons of mass destruction and it will find that it is in its own interest to be friendly to the United States and to the West in general.
For the long run, we have every reason to be optimistic. I think it's critical that we don't get bogged down in the momentary crises which obviously in a war situation are always present. This war hasn't gone for four weeks yet. The Second World War took six years. Fifty-one million people died and I think it's important to develop some perspective.
It's been a spectacularly successful military operation and we are gearing up for a post military development of a Middle East country that will be totally reoriented as a friend of the United States.
KING: Let's check in with Ryan Chilcote, our CNN correspondent. Speaking of embedded, he's embedded with the United States Army's 101st Airborne Division. Members of the 101st were very busy with cleanup operations on Saturday, discovering a variety of things. We understand the remains of an unidentified United States soldier, what's the soldier, Ryan? RYAN CHILCOTE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Larry, a very busy day indeed. Soldiers from the 101st Airborne being led this morning to a shallow grave, if you could even call it that, by an Iraqi man where they found the remains of a U.S. serviceman.
They identified his remains, something that we're not going to do until that soldier's family has been notified out of respect for them. They then prayed over it and evacuated his remains from that area. They are now on their very long way home back to the United States.
And then, Larry, just less than an hour after that, again acting on a tip from an Iraqi who told them that they would find some 30 of these so-called Fedayeen paramilitary fighters inside a mosque.
They raided a mosque here in southern Baghdad, instead finding 15 men inside, all of whom said they had been there today, or yesterday now, simply to pray. But they also found an AK-47, a lot of military garb, a first-rate first aid station, and a lot of money and some Syrian passports.
The 101st now, of course, scratching their heads over exactly what took place inside of that mosque. Their job really here in Baghdad becoming as much like police work or detective work as it is any kind of military work - Larry.
KING: Thank you, Ryan Chilcote on the scene embedded with the 101st Airborne in southern Baghdad.
Congresswoman Lehtinen, do you like this idea of embedded reporters?
ROS-LEHTINEN: Well, I think it's been a wonderful idea in the sense that I think they have maintained their impartiality and at the same time they've given the viewers in America a real slice of life of what it's like to be a soldier or a member of the armed forces.
So many of us have not had that opportunity, so I know that there's a problem in terms of the media community about whether they've been partial or not, whether they've been too praising of our armed forces, but I think that it has been very helpful in the overall pro-democracy, pro-Iraqi people perspective.
And I think it gives us a sense of what their mission is and it is to liberate, not to be a colony that's going to take over their country, and it gives us a sense of the risk that our armed forces are taking on a daily life. So, I think it's been very beneficial for the Pentagon and for the American people. This is their tax dollars at work.
KING: Ambassador Dobbins, do you like the idea?
DOBBINS: I think it's given a sense of immediacy and much fuller coverage than one would have otherwise had.
KING: Jay, do you like it? ROCKEFELLER: Yes, I do. I think it speeds up war and speeds up human reactions and perceptions and distorts things also. For example, the looting became a much bigger story than it should have been and, you know, everything is based on fast movement. But on a net basis, yes, I think it's been very educational and important.
KING: Thank you all very much, Senator Jay Rockefeller, Ambassador James Dobbins, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, and Congressman Tom Lantos.
When we come back a special visit with His Excellency Dr. Mohammed Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. Don't go away.
KING: We now welcome, with pleasure, to LARRY KING LIVE, Dr. Mohammed Al-Sabah. He is Kuwaiti Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. Your Excellency, you're in Washington to meet with top U.S. officials on Monday. What's the purpose?
DR. MOHAMMED AL-SABAH, KUWAITI FOREIGN AFFAIRS MIN.: Well, I'm here to first of all to express Kuwait's appreciation for the work that the United States is doing in liberating the Iraqi people and also in helping us to find out POWs who are still lingering in Iraqi jail or even worse.
KING: Your Excellency, will Kuwait be involved in post-war Iraq?
AL-SABAH: Well, we have extended our support to our brothers in Iraq to rebuild their country and we are going to be ready to help in any way, shape, or form, that our brothers in Iraq see fit.
KING: What's your view of the disorder that took place and is taking place?
AL-SABAH: Well, I think we are concentrating now on a very small issue here. I think that the jubilation of the Iraqi people is the thing that one should concentrate on. You know the law and order is something that we have to - to get control over but it's jubilation, the sense of freedom that the Iraqis are experiencing for the first time in the last 30 years. It's something that should not miss your audience.
KING: Doctor, were you surprised at how quickly it went?
AL-SABAH: No, we have not. We have all along said that this regime is a disaster for the Iraqis and we have seen how the Iraqi people turn their back on their government and we were even surprised that it took 20 days for this regime to collapse.
KING: You do not feel anger then toward the people of Iraq?
AL-SABAH: Larry, today two Kuwaiti airplanes landed in Baghdad International Airport carrying loads, tons of medical aid, humanitarian assistance, and it's ironic that Kuwait, which is a desert country, now supplying a certain part of Iraq with the fresh water.
We are doing our best to help our Iraqi brothers. We have always maintained a very good relationship with the Iraqi people. It's the Saddam regime who has been a cancer, not only between the Iraqi people and Kuwait, but also has been cancerous within the Arab political body as well.
KING: How long, Your Excellency, do you expect the coalition to remain in Iraq?
AL-SABAH: Well, I think it's important to get the country - to finish the stabilization process and to form kind of an Iraqi administration and it's really up to the Iraqis to decide whether they want the foreign assistance or not. It's not up to me or anybody else.
KING: But who will be the Iraqis that make that decision?
AL-SABAH: Again, Larry, it's up to the Iraqis to decide whose going to be their representative and for themselves to charter their own future.
KING: Does Kuwait feel very secure now?
AL-SABAH: We are extremely grateful to our friends who helped us to rid this region from this nightmare. Absolutely, yes, we are much more confident now about our future than we have been 23 days ago.
KING: Back to the Kuwaiti prisoners, how many are there in Iraq?
AL-SABAH: We have 605. One out of every thousand Kuwaiti is unaccounted for, is either missing or a POW in Iraq, one out of every thousand. This is a horrendous proportion, Larry, and it's something that the whole world should now gear up to solve this humanitarian issue that has still been unresolved.
KING: You are offering rewards, are you not?
AL-SABAH: We are offering fortunes for people who can tell us about the fate of our people in Iraq.
KING: Are you pessimistic?
AL-SABAH: I'm sorry?
KING: Are you pessimistic about finding them?
KING: Knowing what kind of regime it was.
AL-SABAH: There is a God. We believe in God. We believe in miracles. But what we are really looking for is a closure for this issue, to know the fate of these people.
KING: How about the unresolved issue of money, reparations? Aren't you owed a great deal of money by that country?
AL-SABAH: Yes. Just like other countries, we have extended enormous sums of money over the years to the Saddam regime and this is - again, we were one of the strongest financial backers to the Iraqi regime along with Saudi Arabia and others, only to see him turn around and stab us in the back.
KING: American officials have been openly critical of Syria and to some extent Iran. Do you at all fear or think that this war could expand?
AL-SABAH: Well, Larry, this war was - this is legally sound and morally imperative. Its foundation in international law, this war was about enforcing international law, disarming Saddam by force, and also it is morally imperative because it freed people from tyranny.
So, in that sense I believe President Bush when he said this is about enforcing international law, so it is confined in Iraq and I think that it is going to be confined in Iraq.
KING: Do you think they'll have to find weapons of mass destruction?
AL-SABAH: I think that it is really going to take some time to resolve this issue.
KING: Do you plan a visit to Iraq?
AL-SABAH: Yes. I would be extremely delighted to go there and to greet the new Iraqi government once it is formed and elected by its own people.
KING: I would imagine that would be a historic official state visit, would it not?
AL-SABAH: Well, Larry, 20 - well, 13 years ago we had a very good relationship with Iraq.
KING: I know.
AL-SABAH: So, yes we'll be looking forward to extend our helping hand to the Iraqi - to all Iraqi people.
KING: Thank you. Thank you so much, Your Excellency, always good seeing you. Dr. Mohammed Al-Sabah the Kuwaiti Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.
Back again tomorrow night.
Dan Rather is going to be with us from Baghdad on Monday night.
Thomas Roberts is right around the corner with news headlines.
Then right after him, Anderson Cooper will host "NEWSNIGHT."
I'm Larry King. Thanks for joining us. Thomas is next. Goodnight.
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