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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
COUNTDOWN TO HANDOVER: "The American Pulse"
Aired June 25, 2004 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JONATHAN MANN, HOST: In a matter of days, Iraq regains its sovereignty. The United States begins to close a chapter filled with pride and also pain. But for people in the U.S. and the rest of the world, what America has done to Iraq will still be up for debate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If this Iraq is the showcase which the Americans in the nation-building process want to export to us, we don't want this showcase. This is not what we want or we dream of.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MANN: Earlier this week, CNN went to the United Arab Emirates to hear from people there and London to hear from Europeans.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The United States can conduct three or four wars against anybody in the world and win. But win the peace is a different story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MANN: Now, ahead of the handover, we take "The American Pulse."
Hello and welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world, I'm Jonathan Mann. We're going to spend an hour to talk about Iraq and hear from Americans about the war that the U.S. led there, about the occupation that it is conducting, and about the state that it hopes will emerge. We have an audience here joining us and panelists who have joined us as well. Let's start right away by going to -- why don't we talk to you, Armstrong Williams, newspaper columnist and broadcaster.
If the United States knew then what it knows now about the cost of the war, about the hostility of many Iraqis, and about the results that we've seen so far, would this country still have been willing to wage this war in the first place?
ARMSTRONG WILLIAMS, POLITICAL TALK SHOW HOST: Actually, I think we should have gone sooner. In 1992, we realized that these Islamic fundamentalists were gathering. They did not make their -- they made their intentions known. Remember the World Trade Center. Remember Beirut. Remember the Achille Lauro. Remember what happened to our embassies in Africa? And we did nothing. American people had no appetite for war. But this is the Fourth World War. World War I, World War II, the Cold War and this war on terrorism, something we've never seen before. It wasn't until September 11 when they took the war to our land, killed innocent civilians, and the United States and the rest of the world realized just how serious this threat was. Bush had no choice but to show leadership and to act.
MANN: Everyone here wants to speak to that. Why don't we go to Julianne Malveaux, economist and author.
JULIANNE MALVEAUX, CO-AUTHOR, "UNFINISHED BUSINESS": Thank you so much. Armstrong is absolutely wrong. He's right about the war on terrorism, but he's wrong about it being located in Iraq. The dots have not yet been connected between Osama bin Laden, who we hold wholly responsible for what happened at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and Saddam Hussein.
Don't get me wrong, Saddam is not a good guy. None of us want to invite him to a cocktail party or ride up the elevator with him, but there are 30-some despots in the world. We can't go after every one of them. Our borders are being threatened because of what happened out of Afghanistan, and we still are no further in figuring out what's going on there.
Instead, because we have destabilized Iraq, we're at greater risk now than we have ever been. We have added people to al Qaeda. We have basically been aiding and abetting bin Laden indirectly because of our actions in Iraq. And 52 percent of our troops have bad morale, according to a recent study by the Institute for Policy Studies.
We spent $151 billion. Do you know what we could buy with that? And we have protected Halliburton that has $20 million to $30 million at stake here, monies they billed our government for meals that they did not serve. It's absurd. No, if we have the knowledge and a president with integrity, we would not have gone to war.
MANN: You covered a lot of ground. Why don't we go to another one of our panelists. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, imam, activist, and you lead the Masjid al-Farah in New York. Was going to Iraq a mistake?
IMAM FEISAL ABDUL RAUF, "WHAT'S RIGHT WITH ISLAM": I think the way we did it has resulted in a lot of tension in the world. It's resulted in United States being less popular around the world. It has increased the risk of terrorism to the United States interests and the mainland. The need to address Islamic militancy, as mentioned, is extremely important.
However, the way the strategy, the tactics that we did it, it was -- I think, could have been done much better. And much better ROI, the economic impact of the war, and the impact upon our own security I think, raises some very important questions as to what we should have done.
MANN: We're going to hear now from Deborah Perry Piscione, who is an author and the president of the Choose to Lead Women's Foundation. Same question. Was it a mistake to start out with?
DEBORAH PERRY PISCIONE, CO-AUTHOR, "UNFINISHED BUSINESS": No, not at all. I have to concur with Armstrong. I actually was working in our State Department during the time back in 1992, and we were watching the spread of Islamic fundamentalism take place in the central Asian republics and also down in northern Africa.
And what happens in our foreign policy is we moved from policies of containment, where you're in a situation where you were fighting a nation state, to an entity that we really couldn't control. And we didn't know how to wrap our hands around it.
This is a problem that we should have tackled much, much earlier. We wouldn't have been in this situation today. And I have to say that there's not a perfect road map. Nobody knew exactly what the right steps were to take. I mean, this is a formula.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I disagree.
PISCIONE: And with any transition from a totalitarian dictatorship to one that is going to become democratic and a market economy, there's a transition here. It's never going to be a perfect formula, where people just peacefully abide and move in the direction that we think necessarily is not -- we're not trying to implore our morals or our situation here. But what we want to do is provide people with fundamental, basic human rights. And that's the bottom line.
MANN: Clearly -- before you go on, clearly, panel here is divided. And in fact, if we look at the country as a whole, the country is divided. There's a new CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll that's out. And I think we're showing it now on your screen. If you can see, 54 percent of those polled think that the U.S. made a mistake sending troops to Iraq. No was 44 percent of those polled.
Look at the numbers back earlier this month, though, and they've flipped completely, as recently as two or three weeks ago, a majority of Americans -- a clear majority of Americans thought that the war was a good idea. Now it has turned the other way. Intriguing to see that.
Let me come back to something that we are hearing here, and we've heard it particularly from you, Armstrong Williams. This idea that the United States went to war in Iraq to fight terrorism. As if Iraq was a terrorist state and the United States was defending itself against terrorism in going to war there. Julianne Malveaux, is that why the U.S. went to war? Were there terrorists in Baghdad?
MALVEAUX: That's not true there were terrorists in Baghdad. I think we went to war to make a point. Mr. Bush said there were weapons of mass destruction. There were no weapons of mass destruction. We haven't been able to find them.
MANN: None of us are sure if our mikes are working here. Let me give her -- give her your mike. MALVEAUX: Let's see, is this mike better? OK. A little bit better. But in any case, we said went to war for terrorism. But we announced weapons of mass destruction, and imminent -- we said that there was an imminent threat. There was no imminent threat. Even if we needed to go, as the imam here has said, did we have to go on February, the way we did? We're just going to demand that someone get out of their country in 48 hours.
I think we could have done it very, very differently, if we had to do it. And I'm not conceding we had to do it. I think we have to go after al Qaeda in Afghanistan, where it's based. And we haven't done that yet. We have not found the person who's in charge of that or begun to close down some of those cells.
WILLIAMS: You know, what we have to understand, it is easy to play Monday morning quarterback. Americans got to the point at the September 11, we had to draw the line in the sand. What will it take for us to realize that these people are serious? They hate our values. And they want to destroy our way of life.
Does it mean that your kids need to be blown up in a school house? Does your loved one need to die in the World Trade Center? Bush was in a very tough position. Yes, mistakes were made. But mistakes were made to protect innocent lives on this soil and the soils around the world.
And remember this, no matter what you may think about the American policy and this president, there has not been a terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11. So give the president some credit. Somebody is doing something right. And therefore, he should be given credit.
MALVEAUX: Armstrong, do one thing for me, if you would. I would really appreciate if you could do this. Can you connect for me Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein? I need to see the connection. The 9/11 Commission couldn't do it. They've said they had false information. Colin Powell and others have apologized. So if you know more than Colin Powell, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, please make that connection for me.
WILLIAMS: The vice president of the United States has always said from the beginning, without apologies, that there was a connection between Iraq and terrorism. He's never backed from that. The president as recently as this week has made the same statement. That 9/11 Commission has said there has been evidence that showed that, within the Iraqi military and its generals and its leaders, there is a connection between al Qaeda and 9/11 and Iraq and the people in Iraq. Listen, this is not a perfect world...
MANN: While you two are talking, forgive me for interrupting. You can see the poll up on our screen right now. Was Saddam Hussein involved in 9/11? This is a "USA Today"/Gallup poll. Fifty one percent of the United States doesn't believe that there was an active link between Iraq and al Qaeda. And yet 44 percent of the country does. Are they being misled? Is there simply not enough evidence to decide? PISCIONE: They are absolutely being misled in the sense that I think we are going to find, as time progresses, we were going to learn so much more. First of all, as far as the American public is concerned, the reason why these numbers are so skewed is because the media and the information that is put out there is so skewed. So Americans are really only learning one side.
They're very rarely hearing about the good that is being done in Iraq, the differences that we are making for people on the ground, whether it's education, getting children vaccinated, getting women enfranchised and vote and in work, or putting that country back together economically. There's no doubt they've got security concerns that they need to address right now.
And we may later find out that Saddam Hussein was the greatest deceit in military history, that he led us all to believe that there were weapons of mass destruction. So he could keep his direct enemies at bay, Israel and Iran, and be able to fend them off because he was decimated after 1992.
MANN: The entire panel has more thoughts on this. But I want to go to our audience. Sir, I saw you clapping very vigorously. Can you tell me who you are and what your thoughts are.
QUESTION: Yes, my name is Charles (UNINTELLIGIBLE). I'm the Seventh District commander of the Veterans of Foreign War. I have a question for the lady in purple over there. Have you ever been in combat? Have you ever wore the uniform? If you haven't, you're batting way out of left field.
MALVEAUX: Sir, with all due respect, and I do respect your service and the service of so many men in the room, I have not been in combat. I have not worn the uniform because women did not have that many opportunities to do that when I was a teenager.
But let me say this. I am an American citizen. I support my troops, but I do not support this war. And I have that right. I would not do anything or say anything to denigrate your tremendous service, but, sir, I would again ask you, with all due respect, to not denigrate my rights as a citizen. I have a right to an opinion on this issue.
MANN: Fair enough. Imam, you have been very quiet. I want to ask you a related question, which is, once this country set out in Afghanistan and in Iraq to do the work of war, did Muslim Americans start reconsidering their place in society? Have they been forced to rethink their role in America?
RAUF: Well, the position of American Muslims is a very difficult one and has been particularly difficult post-9/11 because we are now in a position where we are a community that is developing its American legs. Much of the American Muslim community is immigrant, about 40 percent are not. And we feel that since 9/11, with the patriot act, there are many -- some of our civil rights have been somewhat attenuated. But I'd like to make comment on some of the comments that have been made before. The American public, I believe, knows just as well that there were very strong links between America and Saddam Hussein going back many, many years. The American public also knows there were links between the CIA and Osama bin Laden for many years, during the Afghan War.
So just to use the statement that there were links is not particularly helpful. The real question, I think, which the American public wants to know, is, was there a link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11? That was the real question. But the real issue that has to be done right now is how do we solve it?
And if you want -- we need to address the needs of Muslim world. We need to address the needs for women's rights, for democracy, for literacy. All that is nice. But remember, there's a great American proverb. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and good intentions, as necessary as they are, are insufficient. We have to make sure our strategies are correct.
And there are many people, Armstrong, even before the war was begun, who debated that the way the war was prosecuted, the way the war was argued, was not leading -- would not lead to the kinds of results that we want to achieve.
WILLIAMS: The thing is, here's what concerns me. When we saw the images from Abu Ghraib and those prisoners and what was happening there, the American people spoke out vehemently against that because that does not represent our value system.
But yet in the Muslim world we can have what happened to Danny Pearl, what happened with this beheading that's going on in the Muslim world, and it's rare. It's not all of a sudden just not -- the Muslims are speaking out against this. Why can't we have the same reaction, the same anger in the Muslim world that we have here in the United States, this kind of barbaric behavior.
RAUF: I have to respond to this one. After 9/11, myself, every imam and cleric denounced 9/11. It was denounced by the Organization of Islamic Conference. There was a fatwa issued...
WILLIAMS: But what about the Arab world, across the world.
RAUF: All across the Arab world...
WILLIAMS: Oh come on, they did not. Oh come on. Who are you kidding.
RAUF: In my book, I point to fatwa that was written by some of the most important Islamic jurists in the Muslim world, when the U.S. Muslim chaplain, before the war in Afghanistan began, the U.S. Muslim chaplain asked for a fatwa, saying if it was OK for Muslims in the U.S. armed forces to participate in the hostilities against Afghanistan.
This fatwa was issued by some of the most well-known clerics in the Muslim world. And he said, yes, they can do that. 9/11 is wrong. It's outside of the box Islamically, and Muslims who were in the U.S. armed forces have a right to go and fight in Afghanistan. Was this story hailed all over the U.S. media? No, no.
MANN: Gentlemen, I'm going to break in. You'll forgive me. I'm going to break in.
RAUF: That's the question I want to know. That's the question that Muslims want to know.
MANN: This particular debate, like a lot of them, will. Continue. Let me ask everyone who's clapping their hands now to think about doing something else. A quick unscientific poll here. How many of the people here think that the war and the occupation in Iraq are -- were justified. I don't know if you can see the hands going up and the hands that are not going up. An intriguing sample.
We're going to take a break, but before we do, after we've heard from some of these people, we have also been, in preparation for this program, talking to other people around the country. I traveled around the country in the last few weeks. We're going to start out by -- where I started out, just a few miles from here. Listen to what the people there had to say, and stay around because our conversation here will continue in a moment.
MANN (voice-over): In the American south, people honor their soldiers. And on Memorial Day, when Americans remember their wars, Roswell, Georgia, was mindful of the Americans fighting in Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't have any sons or daughters in the war, but it just breaks my heart every time I hear that another soldier has died. But then I stop and ask of myself the question, somebody's got to protect our freedom.
MANN: A theme we heard consistently from young and old at a rally in the largely conservative community.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just the right thing to do, to take out terrorism before they take out us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not sure what it was about, but, you know, when they crash planes into our -- when they used our planes to crash into us, I guess they brought whatever the issues were to us. And, you know, I just had to leave the bigger picture in God's hands.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's why we can live like this and have beautiful days like this, because of what they're doing over there. And I thank each and every one of them every chance I get.
MANN: Welcome back. Before the break, we heard a little bit from the people around us here and some of the people that we met on our travels. We're going to take a moment now to continue on to my next stop, which was New York City.
MANN: (voice-over) It's not hard to find a hot dog in Manhattan. If you go to where the World Trade Center used to stand, you'll run into tourists and office workers who also have opinions about Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe some bumps along the way. But I think it's a pretty good chance it will eventually work out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It will be hard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Troubles at first.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It will be hard, but they can take care of it after a while.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Once they taste freedom, they're going to just love it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They're going to want more.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They're going to want more of it. They are. That's what I believe.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But it's never been done there before.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They've got to get inspired.
MANN: The Sworbrick (ph) family was visiting from Texas. People we spoke to who actually live and work in New York didn't all see things the same way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How do we dictate what's right and what's wrong? Their whole culture, their whole way of living is different. So how do we dictate what's right and wrong for those people?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it will be tough to make that sort of a bastion of democracy in the Middle East. I think it's a long way to get from where they are now to possibly -- to get there. I don't know if it will ever get there.
MANN: Welcome back. Will Iraq succeed? Deborah Perry Piscione.
PISCIONE: Iraq has a long road ahead of them. There is no doubt. But the U.S. government is absolutely providing the proper tools and resources to give them the economic and the success they're going to need. And in addition to the U.S. government, what just happened here in Sea Island, in Georgia, you see that a lot of countries are stepping up to the plate that currently were not in support of the situation on the transition to Iraq who are now being incredibly supportive. They're going to have all the support of the international community, and I think, with what we're providing, not only on the security side, but to give them the chance to have economic success will only allow Iraq to look like some of the more moderate countries throughout the Arab world, such as Qatar and United Arab Emirates, places like that.
MANN: You're raising a crucial point. What will success actually mean in Iraq? Does it mean Iraq becomes a Western style democracy? Does Iraq have to become a prosperous country? Does it have to become some kind of Switzerland of the Middle East in order to feel that the lives that were put at stake were worthy?
RAUF: Well, let me say this, everyone in the Muslim world wants what we have in America. This is why there were interminable lines in the U.S. embassies and embassies of Western countries to go to live. Everyone wants life, liberty, pursuit of happiness. Because 1000 years ago, Islamic tradition established five fundamental human rights as (UNINTELLIGIBLE) of Islamic law, Sharia law. The right to life, the right to freedom of religion, the right to property, the right to family, and the right to mental well-being, which is the pursuit of happiness.
However, if the United States is going to succeed in Iraq, it has to do the following. First, it has to have a comprehensive and coherent plan of how it's going to engage towards the Arab and Muslim world. It has to also declare it's going to establish an Islamic democratic republic or state in Iraq. It also needs to normalize its relationships with all of its neighbors.
You cannot have a successful Iraq when you're threatening powerful constituencies and its neighbors. It has to Islamize or Arabize the security forces in Iraq and reduce the face of America in Iraq. These are among the things that have to be done. If it does that, then it stands a very good chance of success.
MANN: I'm going to jump in and ask another question, though. For Americans, what do Americans owe the people of Iraq? Do they owe them billions of tax dollars for decades? Do they owe them their sons and daughters going to Iraq to put themselves in harm's way to try to make that country stable? Armstrong Williams.
MALVEAUX: John, you know what, we tore it up, we tore it up and we've got to fix it. And it's not a question of what we owe. The question is really how we begin to put this together again with world cooperation. What the United States is going to have to do is become a better world citizen.
We cannot be the 700-pound gorilla that's always going to be in charge. We have paid enormously, $151 billion already, 1000 American lives, and almost 10,000 Iraqi lives, and I don't know how many wounded. So we've paid a hefty price. But if we have paid that price, we want to honor that price, then I think we have to make this a world effort.
And I want to respectfully disagree with my colleague here. She talks about us putting Iraq together economically. Unemployment there went from 30 percent to 60 percent. If anybody's getting over economically in Iraq, it's the United States and some of our companies like Halliburton and others that are simply stealing there, using this as an economic development opportunity for them. We should not offer our sons and daughters for that. That's for sure.
WILLIAMS: At least for Iraq, listen, it has taken thousands of years. We're trying to do in a couple of years what they have not been able to do in thousands of years. At least they should have the opportunity to govern themselves, experience freedom, and build their own government. And I think the best thing the United States can do is what it has done. And the sooner we get out of there, remove our troops from there, and give them the opportunity to govern themselves and set up their own security force, the better off they will be.
MANN: OK. There's a woman here, in fact, who's wearing a T- shirt that says "Bring the Troops Home." Can you tell me who you are and what organization you're with, if any, or if you're just a concerned voter?
QUESTION: My name is Diane Mathowitz (ph). And I'm with the International Action Center. And we have opposed the war from the beginning. And that is because the reasons given by the Bush administration have no reality to them. They flow out of a Plan for a New American Century. So we are for calling the troops home now, all of them.
MANN: Will there be chaos in Iraq, though, if she does what she's suggesting? If the United States did what you're suggesting?
WILLIAMS: Oh, no, there's chaos now. Look at what happened in Iraq just within the last 24 hours. It's going to be that way. Remember what happened to us in our experiment with democracy, when we broke away from the British throne and we had our own self government. It took us a long time.
There was a lot of strife, there was a lot of killing. And that's sad, but that is a part of the price you pay when you're rebuilding a new nation. I mean, let's not forget the mass graves that were there before. They can't do any worse. The sky is the limit for them. They can only go forward. But in the process, many lives will be lost. There will be a lot of things that we will question. But in the end, they will get to their goal, and that goal is true democracy.
MALVEAUX: It's easy to say, many lives will be lost. But I think it's callous. I think it's absolutely callous. And it suggests that...
WILLIAMS It's not callous. It's a fact. It's a way of life. They're dying now.
MALVEAUX: Would you please let me finish, Armstrong Williams, if you don't mind. If you don't mind.
WILLIAMS: They're dying now.
MALVEAUX: You are callous and cold-hearted about our troops just like this president has taken our troops and used them as pawns.
WILLIAMS: Why are you so bitter?
MALVEAUX: I'm not bitter. I am angry.
WILLIAMS: Why are you so angry, at who?
MALVEAUX: I am angry about $151 billion being squandered. I'm angry about 1000 American troops dying. I'm angry about 9000 Iraqi people...
WILLIAMS: Money is squandered all the time in this country. It's for a good cause. It's for a good cause.
MALVEAUX: Nine thousand Iraqi people, who we refuse to even count, 9000 Iraqi people died. And I'm angry about the fact this was all a trick bag, that the weapons of mass destruction were never there. The weapons were never there Armstrong Williams.
WILLIAMS: Look at the mass graves.
MALVEAUX: The weapons were never there. This has been a trick bag. We have been manipulated into a situation where we must rebuild. We almost have no choices. We cannot take 138,000 troops away without destabilizing. For you to say people are going to die, people are going to die. No, I'm not angry. In fact, I'm so sad for you and sad for our country, for the way we have allowed ourselves to be used because of one man's ambition, because when we said terrorism, he started to substitute Saddam Hussein for Osama bin Laden, and we've never gotten it straight.
WILLIAMS: You said...
MANN: I'm going to move away from the table. Forgive me for interrupting. I'm going to move away from the table now.
MALVEAUX: ... pity for Bush and pity for you, my brother. Pity for Bush, and pity for you.
WILLIAMS: ... has also said the president has done the right thing. Former President Bill Clinton said he wished he had gone in sooner because he understands the threat...
MANN: On that note, there's a gentleman here who has been waiting quietly to make a point. Who are you, and what's your organization?
QUESTION: I'm Michael Katz (ph), I'm with Emory University. My question is for Armstrong. He was just mentioning that the Iraqis have not been able to do in 1000 years what we're going to do in a year or two or what have you. I'm wondering if he can point to the American historical record where we've intervened in Third World countries and have succeeded in putting through democratic regimes that are for the people of those countries and not for U.S. agribusiness or any other business? Can you point to an historical record?
MANN: Armstrong Williams, my producer tells me you have to keep your answers short.
WILLIAMS: I think the Marshall Plan worked very well in Europe, and we rebuilt. Yes. It's a plan. It's an example. It's an example where we have -- where it gives us hope. Absolutely. You've got to start somewhere. It worked before. It may not have worked in Third World countries, but we have a blueprint that it can work. Let's not stop so at least try to bring about progress in that country.
MANN: On that note, "The American Pulse" will continue in a moment.
(INTERRUPTED BY BREAKING NEWS)
MANN: Welcome back. Earlier this week, we brought you panels from London and Dubai to hear what Europeans and Arabs have been saying about Iraq, the occupation and the war. We're also talking to people here at CNN Center in Atlanta. And I've been traveling across the country.
Another one of the places we went to, well, call it an evening in Middle America.
MANN (voice-over): A summer evening in a quiet corner of the American Midwest, where baseball is literally the only game in town. It's a long way from the decision makers in Washington and the people in Iraq. A long way from the countries that disagree with U.S. policy there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, there's a lot of people against us, but there's a lot of people who don't see everything that the United States already does, I mean the support we already do. And they're not seeing that either. So I don't think we get the respect that we should already.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My opinion on that is that whenever they needed us to help them, we were there for them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All the time. And then they look down at us for it. You know, they (UNINTELLIGIBLE) degrade, some of them do.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They get mad because we interfere. And they're asking for our help, and then they get down on it.
MANN: The bleachers in Wind Lake, Wisconsin didn't give us a scientific sample of opinion, just a small group of parents with busy lives, active kids and a lot of concerns in common. Even so, not everyone agreed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we look very greedy. We want it all.
MANN: Welcome back. Our panel has changed, and our question has changed. Do Americans see the world differently now because of Iraq? Does the world see the United States differently?
We're joined now by Max Cleland, a decorated veteran, former U.S. senator. Now, we should say, part of the group of people campaigning for John Kerry's presidential campaign.
Has the world changed for the United States? Has the United States changed for the world, do you think?
MAX CLELAND, A DECORATED VETERAN, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: First of all, let me just say that I bring a little perspective to this that not only is special for me, but for the 3 1/2 million that served in Vietnam for ten years in our own guerrilla war, fighting suicide bombers, sniper attacks, beheadings and other kind of terrorist and guerrilla attacks.
And so I realize, when I was in Vietnam, that I was on the wrong side of history there. So I am very leery here about what's going on. I think we have another Vietnam on our hands. I think the president has created that.
And I look at General Zinni, who is a fellow Vietnam veteran. And in his latest book, "Battle Ready," he talks about the lead-up to the war. He says, "In the lead-up to the Iraq war and its later conduct, I saw at a minimum true dereliction, negligence and irresponsibility. At worst, lying, incompetence, and corruption."
MANN: I'm going to cut you off. I don't mean to stop you from these prepared remarks. But the question is still...
CLELAND: They're not my prepared remarks.
CLELAND: They're the remarks of a man who served in Vietnam, who is a four-star general, the Centcom commander that dealt with Iraq, Iran and the Middle East. And now he is saying that, in terms of the lead-up to this war he is terribly disillusioned and disgusted, as am I.
I think we have a disaster on our hands. I think we are less prepared really to fight the guerrilla war we need to fight against Osama bin Laden and the fanatical Islamic terrorists than we were three years ago before we invaded Iraq.
MANN: I'm going to stop you right there because we're also joined on our panel by Ron Young who was an Apache pilot in Iraq, taken prisoner and freed by the Marines there. He's now a CNN contributor. What's your sense? Is he right?
RON YOUNG, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, FORMER POW: Well, my sense is actually that the world does view us very differently. You know, I have a unique perspective because I have actually been kept and held by the Iraqi people. And I've actually had an Iraqi break down in front of me and seven -- or six others that I was held with and burst into tears and basically said he was glad that we were there. And he knew why we were there.
MANN: One of your captors was thanking you for fighting against him?
YOUNG: Absolutely. He was thanking us for coming over there.
And I owe my life to three guys that were very sympathetic to our cause. They're Muslim. They're Iraqis. They're not all bad. And half of them are on the side of our troops.
And our troops, the guys that I have spoken with -- I mean, by no means can I poll everyone in the military -- but they feel like the Iraqi people are actually on their side and willing to fight with them for this.
MANN: I want to go to another one of our panelists who couldn't be with us here today. But James Zogby, president of the Arab- American Institute joins us from Washington D.C. And if you've been hearing this, do you think the Iraqis are to a man grateful? That's an extraordinary vignette we just heard about.
JAMES ZOGBY, PRESIDENT, ARAB-AMERICAN INSTITUTE: Yes, in polling that we've done there, we're finding the situation quite different. Yes, they're happy Saddam is gone. More than two-thirds, actually, want us gone.
Expectations are very high, maybe too high, that they can govern themselves. I mean, they're giving extraordinarily high grades to this new government that will take over. But they did the same thing with the interim governing council only to be disappointed when reality set in.
But, no, I think that increasingly what we're finding in the polling that we've done from early on to where we are today, is that they really want us out and view this as an occupation. Happy Saddam is gone, but want us gone too.
I do a weekly live call-in show on one of the Arab satellites and get calls from Iraq. And the tone of anger, what's changed over the last couple years, is real significant. Some may want us, but the preponderance of the opinions seem to be against us right now.
MANN: James Zogby. I'm going to go to another member of the panel now. And that's Congress Mac Collins who's a six-term Republican in the House of Representative, currently running for U.S. Senate.
And I want to pick up on something that James Zogby just said. Do Americans lose sight of the fact that sometimes even a good thing is unwelcomed if it comes from outside? It's kind of like getting advice from your in-laws. Even when they're right, you're not that grateful.
REP. MAC COLLINS (R), GEORGIA: Well I think a lot of the American people are forming the opinion around the media that they're actually able to see and view and hear.
But I was in Iraq Thanksgiving Day going through the mess hall there in the palace were the CPA was located. That's the Coalition Provisional Authority.
Three Iraqis ladies sitting at a table. One young one, jumps up and says, "Congressman, Congressman" -- because the word was spread that I was there as a member of Congress. "Please don't leave us. We need you all. We need you here. We don't want to go back to the way we were."
You know, and I think that's the feeling of the majority of people in Iraq today. That they're now ready for their government. They have an interim government that they have confidence in, and they want that government to take control.
And we'll be there for a period of time, as a backup. But I think they have a good selection of people who will serve in the new interim government preparing themselves for the elections come first of the year. Eight of those people were educated in the United States, and nine in the U.K. They have a feel of freedom, and they are wanting to implement that freedom there in Iraq.
MANN: Max Cleland, does the world -- does Iraq need American leadership? Despite what you've said.
CLELAND: I think it needs American leadership, but not necessarily an American occupation. That is a different thing. American leadership has put together successes in World War I, World War II, Korea, and certainly Desert Storm in 1991. That's leadership. That's leadership of allies.
This administration wanted to go in like the Lone Ranger and dictate everything. That's why we're taking 90 percent of the casualties there. We have almost 1,000 young men killed there. And we have to ask the question, is it worth it now? No wonder the majority of the American people are now turning against the war.
That's my concern, is for the young men like this young man coming home. What are they going to think when this American public turns its back on this involvement because it did not have a strategic plan to win, and they did not have a strategic plan to get out.
Therefore, we have a quagmire just like Vietnam, and it's turning into that. And I am just absolutely sick in my stomach to see these young men coming back that are maimed and disabled for the rest of their lives. MANN: I want to go to the another member of the audience. Can you tell me who you are? Are you here as a visitor or with an organization? And my question to you is this: if this were to happen again, do you think the people of the United States would follow the government? Do you think the world would follow the United States in a war that was justified the way this one was and that has turned out the way this one has?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Habia Majid (ph). I'm a practicing Muslim here in the city. I do belong to an organization. But today I'm here just as a citizen.
I pray we do not. We have to understand something as Americans. We say we want to be self-governing. We want our freedoms. We want our liberties.
We have to learn and understand other people's culture and understand it from reality and not what we see. Muslim women do not need to be liberated by the American government. There's already a set of laws in scripture. There's already a set of laws called the Sharia.
All we need to do is exercise those laws that are already there. And I pray we don't. We have to stop trying to be the police people of the world.
MANN: I want to thank you for your opinion.
Let's go back to James Zogby. This woman is suggesting there could be enough progress in places like Iraq without U.S. intervention. Is the bottom line the United States should stay out of places like that no matter how dangerous they might be to U.S. interests, no matter how repressive they may be to their own people?
ZOGBY: Well, the answer is repressive to their own people, true. I'm not sure the case has been shown it was dangerous to U.S. interests. That's still out there to be proven.
I think the problem with this war was that we not only didn't understand Iraq and the Iraqi people, evidence the mess we're in right now, but we also let ideology and hype rule when good planning and reality should have taken hold.
That's where this war is like Vietnam. I mean, we had the civilian ideologues in the Pentagon designing it and asking the military to carry it out. When the military balked or when former and current State Department leadership said, wait a minute. We've got to plan differently. They were ridiculed and dismissed.
And now sort of catching up to us. We're now realizing we went into a war not knowing what we're getting into. That we weren't told the costs, the consequences, the terms of commitment.
Remember May 1, "Mission Accomplished"? I'm afraid that 6/30, June 30, the handoff, will ultimately be remembered in the same way, as hype and ideology, trying to rule over reality, but reality rearing its head and coming back and kicking us in the butt. When we realize that we didn't hand off anything...
MANN: ... Chief Warrant Officer Ron Young. You were there. Did it feel like Vietnam? Which is shorthand, I take it, for a failed war for the wrong reasons? Did it feel like that to you?
YOUNG: You have to remember I was there a long time ago. I mean I was there last year. And I actually left Iraq before we declared victory over in Iraq. So I'm speaking from kind of a different perspective.
But I do poll the troops, and I talk to a lot of the guys that are still over there. And they said the violence, they feel, is overstated because when they go out on patrols, I mean, yes, they're getting hit every now and then, but it isn't quite to the degree. You're seeing every single one of them on TV.
You're not seeing the 150,000 guys who are moving around Iraq with no problem whatsoever. You're seeing the six that do get hit.
MANN: Max Cleland, any thoughts?
CLELAND: Yes. Yes, I think, in this discussion today, we've lost complete sight of the fact of who's the enemy. What's the problem? It was Osama bin Laden and his terrorist academy that attacked the United States on September the 11.
I not only served for six years on the Armed Services Committee, but I was on the 9/11 Commission for a whole year. Over the last seven years, I've been looking at this situation closely and intensely. It is painfully obvious it was Osama bin Laden, not Saddam Hussein, who planned the attack.
And as Richard Clarke, who was a terrorism adviser for four presidents, three of which were Republican, has said, invading Iraq after 9/11 was like invading Mexico after Pearl Harbor. It was a complete nonsequential. And that's why we're in such trouble today.
MANN: We're going to go to break. But before we do, I'm going to ask for another show of hands about the theme that we've been pursuing in the course of this latest moment in the conversation. Does the world need U.S. leadership? Raise your hand if you think the world needs America to lead.
"The American Pulse" will continue in a moment.
MANN (voice-over): Venice beach is everyone's postcard picture of California. A place for fun, surfers and skaters. As it turns out, even skaters have some thoughts about Iraq and the prospect of a safer world. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the world will probably either be the same or more dangerous because I think that it's lowered people's opinions of Americans in general. And I think that they'll retaliate against us if it turns out badly.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't know if it makes Americans more safe but I think that it makes Iraq more safe, whether they acknowledge that or not.
MANN: The surfers we found walking back from the water didn't pretend to be experts on the planet's future.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I would say, just from the way that it's been going, that I think it's going to continue to get worse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think the war -- I hate to bring religion into it. I think the world's going to get worse, and it's going to continue getting worse until something changes.
MANN: Did the war change anything? A young woman from Chicago had this to say.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Terrorism has been going on for years, before I was born. You know what I mean? And it's not going to stop now that America's there. It's going to make it worse.
MANN: Welcome back. Congressman Mac Collins, did the war in Iraq make the United States, did it make the world safer?
COLLINS: The war in Iraq is going to make the world safer when it's completed and victory is at hand. It has made this country safer because it has changed a lot of the policy within this country, sharing of information between agencies who are responsible for our security, for our information and for our warnings.
It's going to make the world safer because we have end the regime of Saddam Hussein. We've moved Osama bin Laden to the mountains of Afghanistan or Pakistan. We're not sure just where he's located, but he's out of sight.
And we have gathered the majority of the al Qaeda and other terrorists within the region of the Middle East. They're not here as well, as much as they used to be. They needed to recruit them and get them back there. That's important. Don't lose oversight to that.
And I hate to hear my colleague compare Iraq to Vietnam. Vietnam was a war that was fought by the White House and the Congress. This is a war that's being funded by the Congress, directed by the commander-in-chief through the proper channels to handle this war and carry out this war. That includes the Department of Defense, the State Department and National Security Agency.
MANN: Senator Cleland, we'll give you a quick right to response. CLELAND: Well, I don't think there's any question but what the war in Iraq has made this country less safe because it has alienated the Arab world, especially what the torture that was authorized by this administration to take place in those prisons, has embarrassed us around the world.
It has alienated the Arab world and has created more recruits for Osama bin Laden and his terrorist cavalry. Al Qaeda is morphing around the world. It is not a lesser power. It is a greater power. We've lost several young men today in Iraq and Afghanistan. We lost 100 people yesterday in Iraq. We're in deep trouble.
MANN: Let me break away from you two gentlemen to tell you what the American people are thinking on this very question. There's a new CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll that asked Americans, has the war with Iraq made the U.S. safer? You're seeing it on your screens now.
This is an incredible turnaround because 55 percent of Americans now believe that the U.S. is not safer from terrorism because of war. Look back in December. An almost identical majority thought that the world -- or rather the United States was safer.
So the answer was yes, it's safer. It's now no, not safer. James Zogby in Washington, you have a thought about this poll?
ZOGBY: I do. I think the American people get it right, as they often do, after they've had an opportunity to reflect. We are today more divided as a country. We are today less safe. We are today held in less regard, our image is in tatters and our relationships have been shredded around the world. That makes us less safe. Look at where we were after 9/11.
You asked the question before, Jonathan, about leadership. Should we lead? But to lead, you have to listen. To lead, you have to have people following you, and you have to respect them, and we didn't, and so we are today less secure, and I think that there is a danger and I think a certain tragedy in all of that. We could have done so mush with the capital that we had, the credibility that we had, and the leadership that the world needs from us. Instead, what we did was we let ideology trump, and we went into a war that we didn't need to go into, and frankly, it left chaos and mess. And I think we have less safe today, and we have lass leadership in the world now.
Our favorable ratings in the Arab world today in countries, even those that are very close to us, are down in the single digits. That's not a good position to be in.
MANN: I'm going to break away from James Zogby to go back to the audience here. And there's a young man here who I believe has returned from service in Iraq. Do I have that right? Can you tell us who you are, where you were fighting, and what your thoughts are about whether your duty, your sacrifice made the world safer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My name is Sergeant Armstrong. I'm from 101st. I'm (UNINTELLIGIBLE) 326 engineer, which was injured last year.
What I want to say is that, the Americans don't realize that what we did over there was give hope. We have a little hope here in the United States, and they would have been oppressed for decades, so as long I wear this uniform, as long as my other sisters and brothers wear the uniform, we're going to always stand to help other countries out.
MANN: I'm curious to know, and I put this question to anyone. I'll put it to someone in the audience here, whether -- if this happened again, would the United States have the stomach? Would it have the courage? Would it have the trust in its leaders to go to war again, because WMD wasn't there, because the welcome that some people expected, was not really prevalent, but there has been enormous good done for so many Iraqis nonetheless. Do you have any thoughts on this? Would the United States be ready to go through this one more time knowing what it does now?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I suspect not. I think that most people in the United States, when they look at this situation, say why did we go into this war? What were the reasons for it? Was it justified? If all the answers to those questions are no, then I think it raises a substantial question to the ordinary American citizen as to whether they can trust their government in the future in similar circumstances.
MANN: Well, I want to put that question to Mac Collins, because this war was waged in a particular environment, an idea where preemptive war might be a new strategy for the United States, and that regime change, when necessary, would be the job of the United States if the U.S. was forced to take that job. Do you have any thoughts about whether preemptive war looks quite so appropriate next time after this experience in Iraq?
COLLINS: Well, I think the war was preempted by 22 years of terrorism against the United States in different parts of the world, beginning with Iranian hostage crisis in 1979, leading up until the attack we had in New York and Washington in 2001. And then we had someone who then, based on the support of the American people, answered that call, and took the war back to them rather than having it continue here. That's something we have never been accustomed to.
Let me say this, too, about this opinion poll of 51 percent versus 30-something percent now. You know, if you'd have -- the whole time the war was going on and CNN and other networks were airing the day-to-day operation by the minute over there, the polls were very high in support of what was happening.
Now that, based on the same coverage, and I think it's a coverage that doesn't show fully what's going on, no wonder they've had several months to absorb that type of media coverage. And sure, it's dropped.
What will happen now, once we make this turnover -- the turnover is going to be successful, and it will take some time. There will still be some assaults. There will still be some terrorist attacks. But once they take over their government, they handle it in their fashion that will be a different opinion and observed differently than the way we handled it, then you're going to see those polls begin to rise again. But we never want to take our guard down and be attacked again like we were in 2001 in New York and Washington, and that plane that went down in Pennsylvania.
MANN: Max Cleland, let's go there. I'm going to switch positions here. Please, go ahead, senator.
CLELAND: Yes, well, we're going after the wrong enemy. I mean, it wasn't Iraq that attacked us; it was Saddam Hussein. And what has happened here, we bogged our forces down in the desert and taken them away from Korea, that has three to eight nuclear weapons. They do have weapons of mass destruction in Korea. We've compromised our national security for this misbegotten effort in the desert, and we're not focusing really on securing Afghanistan, which we also broke, and now we own it. And we're not focusing on al Qaeda around the world in 60 different countries. We've got the cream of American military might with wonderful soldiers like this and this here bogged down in the desert. Now, what good are they doing?
MANN: There's some other voices we want to hear from. Forgive me.
ED BUCKNER, COUNCIL FOR SECULAR HUMANISM: I'm Ed Buckner from the Council for Secular Humanism and a big admirer of Max Cleland's. I agree with him. My biggest concern, one of my biggest concerns, and one of the things that I think we're creating there, doing to create more terrorists, is given the poor record of this administration for supporting religious liberty and secularism here in the United States, I am not at all convinced that we're going to be able to convince Iraq to have a society where everyone has religious freedom. And if they don't, we're going to have more terrorists, not less.
MANN: I'm going to take the microphone back now and remind everyone that, in fact, for the first time in a long time, there is religious freedom in Iraq. Some of the majority Sunni population, which had been repressed, is now free to worship in its own way, a point that I'm sure you'd agree on. There has been significant change.
But, James Zogby, I think you have a thought you wanted to add.
ZOGBY: I just wanted to react to the congressman's comments about 9/11. He says twice that it goes back to the roots of 9/11. I can only quote Ronald Reagan when he said, "There you go again." We have to be very careful not to do that. The footprints of terrorism do not go back to Iraq. He was a dastardly man. He did terrible, terrible things to his people. We aided and abetted all of those things that he did. The Iraqi people needed relief, but frankly, they're not getting relief right now.
The footprint, if they go anywhere, go back to Iran. We have to be very careful here. Why did we do this one, not Iran? It was a strategic judgment of the one we could win. But we won it, and what did we win? And I'm not sure we won anything, and I'm not sure the Iraqi people have won anything.
Look, I care about what American lives cost, and I care about what our young people are doing, and I have relatives who are fighting in this war in American uniform. But I want, when we risk our young boys and girls' lives, I want them to be risked in a cause that really makes sense for us, makes sense for the world, has the support of the world and the appreciation of the world and the people that we're fighting for. I don't think that that's true in Iraq, and I think that we're at grave peril right now in how isolated we've become in much of the rest of the world.
MANN: James Zogby, I'm going to thank you. I'm going to thank members of our panel and the audience as we go.
Raise your hands if you think the United States is safer today because of the war and the war and the occupation of Iraq. It's not scientific, but it's a brief glimpse of the American pulse. I'm Jonathan Mann. Thanks for joining us.
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