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Pentagon Report Criticizes Iraq Plan; Interview With Senator Trent Lott

Aired September 3, 2003 - 20:17   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Sources at the Pentagon tell CNN that a classified review says military planners didn't have enough time to prepare for Iraq's reconstruction. It is part of an ongoing review of the lessons learned in Iraq.
Joining me from Washington tonight is retired U.S. Army General George Joulwan, the former supreme allied commander of NATO. He has warned that more troops will be needed to get the job done in Iraq.

Thank you very much for joining us.

FORMER GEN. GEORGE JOULWAN, U.S. ARMY: Pleasure to be here.

ZAHN: I want to start off with this report that CNN broke the news of a little bit earlier this evening. Apparently, Pentagon sources have confirmed -- or Pentagon reporters -- that a classified draft military review of lessons from Iraq says that there simply wasn't enough preparation for what happened once the war wound down. How can that be?

JOULWAN: Well, I think it's obvious, as we see on the ground today, that there's a lot of issues still unresolved.

In the military culture, we are very good at winning the war. We're not that good at how to win the peace. And this is not just, Paula, this administration. In my experience, it goes back at least 20 years to Lebanon, to Somalia, to Haiti, to the Balkans, to Afghanistan, and now Iraq. We really have to spend the time in planning to win the stabilization phase that we're in now, as well as the war fight. And we have not done so.

ZAHN: Do you see this as the first admission of a grave oversight here?

JOULWAN: In my experience, Paula, this has been -- every one of those contingencies I talked about mention the same thing.

We have got to find a way to integrate the civil-military planning, because civilian agencies, U.N. agencies, are involved in the stabilization phase that we need to incorporate in the planning. We have not done that. And we need to do it as a sense of urgency. I think that's every bit as important in transformation of our military as how to do the war fight. And we have to not be timid about it. We have to get on with how do we do this winning the peace or stabilization phase, as we see now in Iraq. ZAHN: This report also notes insufficient resources devoted to finding weapons of mass destruction. Wasn't that the major reason why the United States went to war?

JOULWAN: Absolutely.

I think they relied on intelligence reports. You have to remember, in these after-action, lesson-learned that we're coming out now, they stress the negative. And this was one of the issues. We thought that the Iraqi army would do certain things. They didn't do it. We thought we had very good intelligence of where weapons of mass destruction were located. They were found not to be there. That happens.

I think, again, in the preparation stage, you have to be very clear of your intelligence and the validity of that intelligence before you send troops, before you make statements that were made by this administration in particular.

ZAHN: You made it very clear, you could start these searches. Things could be moved. but what about the very narrow part of this report that says there just simply weren't enough resources devoted to finding these weapons of mass destruction? That's a difference issue, isn't it?

JOULWAN: It is a different issue. And we're trying too correct that. I believe there are 1,200 to 2,000 in there now. But, again, the planning, the sort of detailed planning, wasn't done.

But let me back up a little bit by saying, when I was the supreme allied commander of NATO, we viewed Iraq as very dangerous and Saddam Hussein, in particular, as a very dangerous individual, that we felt he had weapons of mass destruction. He had used them in the past. So I want to make it clear that Saddam Hussein did have weapons, did use them in the past. And there was every indication that they would be there again. The intelligence pointed to that. However, it turned out to be not that accurate.

ZAHN: If you were the commander of U.S. troops in Iraq right now, would you be asking for reinforcements?

JOULWAN: Let me qualify it by saying yes, but not U.S. reinforcements.

I think we need to broaden the base here and include the international community, particularly NATO nations that have served with us for 50 years, to include them in the mix of forces that we have in Iraq. I think going to the U.N. for a U.N. resolution and a mandate is essential here. That's the Bosnian model that we did it, NATO command-and-control or a U.S.-led coalition. But NATO, I think, can be very helpful here.

And in Bosnia, when NATO ran that operation, 36 nations, many Muslim nations, Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, so I think there's a way here to broaden the military base and also get some political, diplomatic and economic support as well. ZAHN: General George Joulwan, thank you very much for your insights tonight.

JOULWAN: Thank you.

ZAHN: Appreciate your dropping by.

Even before Congress reconvened this week, lawmakers were urging the White House to say how much the occupation of Iraq might eventually cost.

Senator Trent Lott of Mississippi has called on President Bush to address the American people and outline what will be required.

I spoke with the senator a short time ago. And I started off by asking him if the American people should insist the president give them more information.


SEN. TRENT LOTT (R), MISSISSIPPI: The president has to remind the people, I think, over and over again of exactly what we're doing in a situation like Iraq.

The circumstances there are changing, and not always in the way we'd like for them to, obviously. We're trying to help that country get back up on its feet and give some security and hopefully even a republic in that country. And the president needs to be forthcoming about the plan, remind us why we're there, what we're trying to achieve. He has got to talk, I think, candidly about the commitment that is required and the money that is involved.

ZAHN: When you say you want the president to be more forthcoming, are you in any way suggesting that he or his administration has misled the American public in any way?

LOTT: Not at all.

I think he just needs to reaffirm why we're there, explain what our goals are now, what we're trying to achieve. Hopefully, there will be something to talk about with regard to United Nations involvement or NATO involvement. We need to get others to help us as we move into this new phase in Iraq to share more of the policing and trying to bring some order out of that situation there.

ZAHN: Senator, you made it very clear how fluid the situation is in Iraq. How would you characterize your level of satisfaction with the Bush administration post-war plan in Iraq?

LOTT: I'm not critical of it. I think that circumstance have changed in ways that they couldn't have anticipated. Any time you have got situation a like this, you have got to have a plan. But you have got to be prepared to make changes as you go forward, as the circumstances demand.

We're not happy. The American people are not happy. I know the president is not happy with what we see still going on there. You have got American men and women whose lives are on the line. People are dying. People are being blown up. This is a very tough part of the world. And we want it to be better. We have got to be prepared to make the commitment to do that. The president has got to show the direction.

And I do think, though, that right now, without being critical of the past, the president is going to have to address a number of the questions that are looming out there now that people need to hear from him again.

ZAHN: And, Senator, you say you're going to press the president to be very honest with the American public about what this could ultimately cost financially, the Pentagon estimating, at the current rate things are costing, that bill could come to close to $4 billion a month. What does that mean to the American taxpayer down the road?

LOTT: That's a lot of money.

And we should think about that very carefully. We should ask questions about what's it going for, how can we get others to participate in this effort, the United Nations members, NATO members, individual members, to help, not only with the costs, but also bringing in the type of mix of troops that we need.

ZAHN: As you head back into session this week, you no longer have the leadership position you held a year ago. What does that mean to you, to go back into this enormous workload you have and not have the amount of direct control you had a year ago?

LOTT: It does give me time to do some things that I really do care about, work on legislation that I'm interested in.

I'm very interested in the energy area. I hope to be a conferee. And we should know within a day or so if I'm going to be a conferee to try to get a national energy policy. It also gives me a certain degree of freedom to speak up some time, even with a slight hint of criticism, where maybe I didn't feel I could have in a leadership position.

ZAHN: But, Senator, you made it just sound like you don't miss your old job at all. Is that true? You don't pine away for it in any form?


LOTT: I really believe the good lord gives you opportunities to do things in your life sometimes that you didn't anticipate. I also believe in doing whatever you do with a great deal of vigor and enjoy it.

And I'm happy about the job I have as a senator for Mississippi and the subcommittee and a committee chairman. I'm going to make the best of it, Paula. And, hopefully, I'll make a difference.

ZAHN: Well, we could all learn from your politically correct answer there.


ZAHN: Senator Trent Lott, thank you for your time, as always.

LOTT: Thank you, Paula.

ZAHN: Good to see you again.


ZAHN: And, after we taped that interview, we got word that President Bush intends a very aggressive campaign-style drive to win public support for his Iraq policy. An aide tells CNN tonight that President Bush told a meeting of Republican congressional leaders about his plans.


Senator Trent Lott>

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