Return to Transcripts main page
Piers Morgan Live
The Great Middle East Debate
Aired March 28, 2011 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Tonight, President Obama faces the biggest test of his presidency.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In this particular country, Libya, at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospects of violence on a horrific scale.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Airstrikes in Libya, political warfare at home. Did his speech change anything?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: We can make a difference. I believe that this movement of change cannot be turned back. And that we must stand alongside those who believe in the same core principles that have guided us through many storms.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: Tonight, has the president sold the American people on this mission? Are we any closer of getting rid of Gadhafi? As revolution spreads to the Arab world, is this country's role in the Middle East changing?
This is the great Middle East debate. A special edition of PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.
Good evening. President Obama laying out his case a little while ago for the mission in Libya. But the really tough question tonight, does Operation Odyssey Dawn signal a major change in America's foreign policy in that region?
Tonight the great Middle East debate for some of the top minds in this country, from both sides of the aisle. Senator Lindsey Graham, Donald Trump, Rudy Giuliani, former U.N. ambassador Bill Richardson, Congressman Anthony Wiener, former State Department's spokesman P.J. Crowley, former Libyan ambassador, Ali Suleiman Aujali, General Richard Myers, President's Bush's Joint Chiefs chairman.
But we begin tonight with CNN's Nic Robertson live from Tripoli.
Nic, what's been the reaction there? Did anyone see the speech where you are?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No one will have seen it on state television and there's been no comment on state television about it. They have chosen to broadcast a number of other things, reruns of political analysts putting forward the government's position.
But plenty of people you can be sure will have watched it on channels like CNN. They watch the international news organizations here, particularly anyone in the opposition because they don't trust the state media here because they don't get the full picture.
But it's the middle of the night here so we really don't have reaction from anyone at the moment. Certainly, though, you can count on the fact that Gadhafi will feel that he's dodged the bullet for the moment because the mission is not going to be broadened, as President Obama said, for a regime change, putting boots on the ground, and he'll feel that he's got a little bit of breathing room where he might have been guessing, Piers.
MORGAN: I mean the key thing, it seems to me, Nic, is we're still not really sure -- I don't think -- what this mission is, because there is a confusion between a position that says we don't want regime change, but we do want Gadhafi gone, isn't there?
ROBERTSON: Well, the way it's read here is that this is the international coalition, the crusader army, as Gadhafi puts it, coming in on the side of the opposition to rebuild the sort of colonial footprint here, divide the country, steal the oil.
That's the message here, so that's what the Gadhafi regime is fighting against, fighting against the rebels, doesn't know how to fight against the coalition, looking for an opening, perhaps looking for a bit of diplomacy. If they are, they aren't making it very public.
Perhaps this opens up the space and time for some diplomacy. But as you say it's not clear, this is a very opaque government here, it's also trying to read the international community. But for sure, Gadhafi's plan is to hang on as long as he can. And I think, as I said, he will feel that he has more hanging time left -- Piers.
MORGAN: And Nic, finally, I mean the most significant development in the speech seemed possibly to be the admission by President Obama that America would now be actively helping these rebels and presumably arming them in the process.
What did you make of that development in this story?
ROBERTSON: If that's the way this is going to take shape over the coming weeks and months, it's clearly going to be a very protracted affair, because the opposition really isn't in a place to face of against Gadhafi's army, even if you neutralize the army, their heavy weapons, their superiority, and advantage on the battlefield, what would seem today in Sirte, Gadhafi's hometown, is civilians with weapons. Gadhafi has armed the tribes loyal to him so you now have a situation where more people have more weapons on Gadhafi's side and will use them against the rebels. If it's the point where it tips and escalates into a deeper, wider civil war where even Gadhafi can't predict what's going to happen.
So I think he's going to read it, if the international community, the United States and others are going to arm the rebels, then he's going to have to keep the pressure up on the rebels and he's going to have to arm the population that will support him to keep them back and hold them back, and even try and bring back some of the key territory. Those oil installations that the rebels have just taken over the last few days -- Piers.
MORGAN: Nic Robertson, thank you very much, indeed.
I want to turn to reaction to President Obama's speech in this country. The president spoke for 27 minutes tonight. Did he make his case?
Senator Lindsey Graham is one of the top Republicans on the Armed Services Committee. He says the president should have acted sooner in Libya.
Senator, what did you make of the speech?
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Parts of it are very good. I liked the way he explained to the American people how our national security interest required us to act in Libya at this moment in the way we chose to act. We should have done it about three weeks ago, this thing would have been over.
But I thought he did a good job talking about the signal we would send if Gadhafi murdered his way back into power, that we are a values base people and standing by these young people in Libya will serve us well in the future.
But the line that really sort of broke my heart was that regime change by force would be a mistake.
The goal of this country is to replace Gadhafi. If you look at the balance sheet of what it cost this nation with Gadhafi versus what it cost without him, it is in our interest to get rid of him and the opposition needs continued military support, not a ground invasion by the U.S. or any other Western power, but air support, all the way to Tripoli, very few people want to die for Gadhafi, so if we'll continue the model we have in place -- following the rebels, knocking out tanks and artillery -- they will win.
If we back off, this thing is going to go for a long time and a lot of people will die unnecessarily.
MORGAN: And Senator, when you've criticized President Obama for taking too long, he made quite a good point in the speech that he took 31 days to help build this coalition whereas somewhere like Bosnia it took a year. GRAHAM: Well -- well, at the point that the opposition forces had Gadhafi on the ropes and we did not impose a no-fly zone at the time where it would matter the most. But you know we made mistakes in Iraq, and to my fellow Republican friends, nobody complained about the cost in Iraq or Afghanistan on our watch.
So I'm really tired of hearing people talking about it cost too much. Let me tell you about what it will cost this country if Gadhafi comes back into power -- instability forever, incredible oil price spikes. Our allies, France and Italy, depend on Libyan oil. Young people throughout the Arab world thinking that we let them down at a time we could help them. So the balance sheet of keeping him versus letting him go is not even close.
MORGAN: But Senator, you do talk about the economic part of all of this and it's very laudable. But the reality of those, we don't know much about these rebels, do we? I mean I --
MORGAN: If I may just finish.
MORGAN: I'm told that these rebels, for example, may be housing significant numbers of al Qaeda members, for example. I mean is that the kind of rebel army that we should be supporting?
GRAHAM: Here's what I do know. These people who are fighting Gadhafi I don't believe are taking to the streets and risking their lives to replace Gadhafi with al Qaeda. There are al Qaeda elements. But we need to pour it on, we need to stay behind the opposition forces, give them the military support just like we're doing now.
But when this is over and Gadhafi leaves, it would be a huge mistake not to help the Libyan people. They've been enslaved for 40 years. And if there are al Qaeda elements in that country, we will help the Libyan people take care of them.
It is my belief that these young Arabs in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, now Syria do not want to replace these regimes with more oppressive regimes. They are not going to the streets in Egypt to have al Qaeda to take over. I don't buy that for one minute.
MORGAN: But isn't that exactly what people were saying in Iran before they were indeed taken over by extremists?
GRAHAM: Well, here's what happened in Iran. When the Shah fell, we didn't do anything in the few months before the ayatollahs came back.
You know what? When we replaced Saddam, we made a mistake but we're getting it right finally in Iraq and Afghanistan. If we will help the Libyan people at a time when they need us the most which is now militarily, and when he leaves Gadhafi, we will help economically and diplomatically and help build a civil society. It will pay great dividends.
This is a generational struggle. History is being made in the Arab world. Don't let it pass. Help these people. They need our help and they will remember us finely if we stay with them. It is in our national security interests to get Gadhafi out of there and to help the good people of Libya, and I think the good people of Libya will win the day with our help.
MORGAN: Senator Graham, thank you very much indeed.
GRAHAM: Thank you.
MORGAN: A Defense official tells CNN today that the U.S. military has already cut back it's day-to-day presence in Libya. The president said tonight that as of Wednesday, NATO will take over responsibility of protecting Libyan civilians. So has military action turned the tide?
Joining me now is General Richard Myers, from chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for President George W. Bush.
General Myers, from a military perspective, is it satisfactory and clear enough for the military leaders that you have the president saying we don't want regime change, but we do want Gadhafi gone?
GEN. RICHARD MYERS, FORMER JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Well, you know, I think so far so good. I think we're putting all our bets on the opposition, and as Senator Graham said, they seem to be pretty -- they've made some gains here recently. And so I mean that's -- I think we can live with that. I think the U.S. military can live with that.
I think we've heard that from the current military leaders. And I think NATO is in a position to run the coalition, drive the coalition and make that happen.
MORGAN: I mean one of the key things here, and I've just asked that question of the senator, is do we really know who these rebels are? I mean, you know, there are varying reports of al Qaeda presence there, that some of their number actually fought in Iraq against Americans.
I mean are these the kind of people that we can trust to be the stable future government of this country that we presumably believe they can be?
MYERS: I think, Piers, we're going to learn a lot more as -- tomorrow, the next day, there's going to be a get-together in London, I think, to talk to some of the opposition leadership.
You know that was one of the big issues in Iraq. There are many who thought -- and I won't count myself among who thought that the opposition, once Saddam Hussein's regime was gone, the opposition would take over and run Iraq. Well, that didn't happen. And here we are, you know, eight years later still trying to get --- support a government that's struggling to govern that country appropriately. So I don't think we -- I don't think we know enough yet to say that. I think that's -- those are all questions up in the air. And they're hopefully what happens -- I believe it's London here in the next couple of days will help clarify that.
MORGAN: If we assume the president is right when we he says this is a humanitarian exercise, then what happens if these rebels begin to turn their guns on pro-Gadhafi supporters who are civilians?
MYERS: Well, that's the -- you know, that's always the question. I think the president did a good job of talking about our national security interests and interest of the world community and helping the opposition against Gadhafi. I thought that was well done.
But it all has to go according to the script and takes great discipline not to let these sort of efforts escalate. Afghanistan would be a great point. President Bush wanted to go into Afghanistan, capture or kill al Qaeda, overthrow the Taliban, and we were going to get out.
We're going to say -- we're not going to do it like the last administration, we're going to get out of here. But in fact we're still there because once you stir it up and once people are in need, then missions tend to escalate. So it will be -- it'll be interesting to see how the opposition does and do we have the discipline to stick to what the president said we're going to do.
MORGAN: General Myers, thank you.
The world set up and took notice when members of Moammar Gadhafi's own regime turned against him. One of them joins me now.
Ali Suleiman Aujali is a former Libyan ambassador to the United States. He resigned last month in the wake of a Libyan uprising. He attended President Obama's speech tonight.
What do you think of the speech tonight?
ALI SULEIMAN AUJALI, FORMER LIBYAN AMBASSADOR TO THE U.S.: I think it's a great speech. The president was very clear, very determined, and defend his decision in a very nice way. And I think he convinced everybody in the homeland, I think also the American people.
MORGAN: But what happens, for argument's sake, if Colonel Gadhafi manages to hang on and remains in power? Where does that leave everybody?
AUJALI: Well, I don't think so there is any chance for Gadhafi to stay in power. Gadhafi has been rejected by his people, the Libyan people, they experienced Gadhafi for the last 42 years. And they decided and they determined that they have to get rid of him and the coalition did a very good job helping the Libyan people to march to save and to skew the -- still under Gadhafi's bombing.
And I think this is the sort of opportunity for the Libyan people to dream that they can have a democratic country, they can have their own future, they can have through their own people.
The decision of the Americans to stand by the Libyans, this is a great thing to happen in our history. The Americans, they proved to the world that they are not only intervene if there is American interests only, but they intervene when the American interests and security is facing a challenge and they intervene also when the human life are in dangers.
Then this is a historical decision and I think that the -- the public have been -- and show us also the American people their support the action took by -- that has been taken by the president.
We really appreciate what America did for the Libyan people. The Libyan people, they are suffering for the last 42 years. They deserve a better government, they deserve to live their life. They deserve to have a democratic country to be a proud (ph) of it. I've been serving this regime but believe me, I'm not being proud of serving this regime for the -- for the last 30, 40 years.
MORGAN: But Ambassador --
AUJALI: But there was no choice.
MORGAN: Ambassador, let me interrupt you there. I mean in Egypt, for example, the president was very keen to say we do not get involve in internal revolutions like this. It's down to the people of Egypt and what they want.
Here in Libya, he's decided to go a different way and engage in military action to help what is effectively a similar kind of revolution. It's people who want to get rid of a dictatorial leader. And you see uprisings now in places like Syria or Yemen.
There seems to be a bit of hypocrisy here, isn't it, in the way that the American administration is dealing with this.
AUJALI: No, Piers. You know in Egypt and Tunisia, the two president, they never used that kind of force and they never strike their own people by aircraft and sophisticated weapons.
The army, they stand at least neutral until a certain time and then they side with the people. But from the beginning Gadhafi started shooting his own people. He's using every weapon under his disposal. Then this is a human -- a new human issue. Protecting the Libyan civilian, it is the responsibility of the international community in the first place.
When there's people there, they're helpless to defend themselves, what do you think the international community, just wait and look at them until another massacre happens in Libya?
I think that's what has been done is a great thing. The coalition they did a great job, and I think you have to be proud of this country and proud of the international community who decided in 31 days, as the president said, that to -- to stand by the Libyan people.
MORGAN: Ambassador Aujali, thank you very much.
AUJALI: Thank you, Piers.
MORGAN: When we come back, I'll ask former and perhaps future presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani why he says President Obama's policy in Libya has cost lives.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: It's true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. Given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what's right.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)
MORGAN: That was the president tonight acknowledging the cost of intervention in Libya. But should he have acted sooner?
Joining me now is Rudy Giuliani, a former and some may say future presidential candidate.
Rudy, has this country been at war in the last 10 days?
RUDY GIULIANI (R), 2008 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Of course it has, yes. Sure we've been at war. We've been bombing -- we've been bombing targets, what, 1,000 targets? We've killed military assets by -- indirection we've killed civilians, we've attacked the country. We've been asked by one faction in the country to come in. Another faction in the country doesn't want us there.
So yes, we're at war, and yes, we're in the middle of a civil war. And the president's speech tonight has made things even murkier than they were before. I mean the whole purpose of this was to clarify our mission. Our mission is just internally contradictory.
The president says our mission is to protect the people of Libya. Well, how do you protect the people of Libya and not be for regime change in Libya? Isn't the danger to the people of Libya Gadhafi? So how do you reach the goal of protect the people of Libya and leave Gadhafi where he is so he can murder more Libyans.
MORGAN: That's a good question, it seems to me, is what is the endgame? I mean if Gadhafi manages to hold on -- this guy has ruthlessly held power for 42 years. Many argue he's no more dangerous now that he was 10 years, 20 years. He's always been dangerous.
MORGAN: But it suited America not to take him out before for reasons probably connected to oil and global economy, and other factors. GIULIANI: Right.
MORGAN: But right now, we're in a position where if Gadhafi hangs on, and America has not gone in with its full might, where does that leave everybody?
GIULIANI: It leaves -- it leaves America, it leaves the Middle East, it leaves the world in a very -- in a very terrible situation. It leaves the people of Libya even more in danger than they were before. And that's why I say the president's speech is illogical.
I mean if you were grading this on a Greek logic exam, you'd give him an F. I mean the speech contradicts itself. It says limited action, we're not going to go any further than just protecting the people of Libya. We're not going to be for regime change. But you can't protect the people of Libya without regime change.
Why are we there in the first place? Because Gadhafi was slaughtering his people.
GIULIANI: How can you leave him there?
MORGAN: Let me play devil's advocate. Let's take the president's position. You've got a big mess in Iraq. You've got a big mess in Afghanistan. You've already vowed, when you get elected, I'm going to get us out of these messes. And then you have this huge uprising in the Middle East. And Egypt goes relatively well, Mubarak stands down after 18 or so days. Gadhafi doesn't and it looks like he's about to commit atrocities.
MORGAN: If you're president, what do you do there? I mean there is - there is a good argument I would have thought for the White House to have done almost exactly what they have done, which is not go all guns blazing, not commit America to a huge war again.
GIULIANI: Well, actually what happened with President Obama, is he isn't thinking like president, he seems like a presidential candidate. His previous comments as a presidential candidate are constricting his decision-making as a president.
Actually what the president should have done is to make a decision that you would think in a post-Vietnam era would be almost obvious. You either go in or you don't go in. And if you go in, you go in with a clear goal, we don't have one yet. And you go in to achieve that clear goal.
The president of the United States, as Eliot Spitzer said before, the president of the United States did not define a clear goal. He didn't tell us what success is. He can't because he's contradicted himself.
You know what success is? Success is removing Gadhafi. He just doesn't want to say that. And we're going to slip into it. And is it better for America to slip into it or is it better for the president of the United States 10 days ago to have stood up as a leader and say, this is what's needed, this is what we're going to do with France, this is what we're going to do with the U.N. and this is our goal? And I think America is respected when it acts that way.
MORGAN: Would you be happy as American president to have seen in the way that we did very unusually the French taking the lead followed by the British, and the Americans, you know, sending most of the forces in terms of all these, you know, missiles being fired, but not wanting to have the credit for doing that?
GIULIANI: I don't quite understand that. I think this is America as follower rather than America as a leader. I think the reality is this idea that he's afraid that we're intervening too much in the Middle East and it looks bad.
Well, who asked him to intervene in the Middle East? The Arab League. If they're so darned upset about us being in the Middle East, why would they ask him to intervene?
MORGAN: What happens if -- as we're seeing now in Syria, for example, you're seeing the leadership there killing large numbers of people, ever increasing numbers of people. It's the same kind of argument. You know there is a humanitarian situation in Syria, there's likely to be one in Yemen, both probably more dangerous places as far as the security of America than Libya.
GIULIANI: When you read the speech tonight, there's no limiting principle. He'll try to do it, but we should be in Syria if we are in Libya. If you accept the president's premises.
MORGAN: If you're consistent.
GIULIANI: Yes. I mean Assad is just as bad if not currently worse than Gadhafi. Gadhafi was terrible in the past, Gadhafi stopped supporting terrorism, now he's doing terrible things. Assad basically had the prime minister of Lebanon murdered. He murdered his own people. He's killing his own people. His father was a person who slaughtered people.
It is more in our national interest to see a regime change in Syria than this is in Libya, in America's interest and in Israel's interest. The supreme regime change would be of the supreme commanders in Iran. That's really where our national interest is located.
MORGAN: And that is surely --
GIULIANI: And the president -- and the president is not in favor of regime change in Iran, but he's in favor of regime change in Libya. He wants to talk to Iran.
MORGAN: And yet -- I mean any real expert in this region will tell you that Iran is probably a much more present and clear threat to America's security than Libya. GIULIANI: I've never understood why the United States government does not clearly say we're in favor of regime change in Iran. The whole region is infected by the Mullahs, by Ahmadinejad. It lies at the core of so many of our problems. That's a place where regime change is absolutely necessary.
The president is sneaking up on all this, but it would be much better to have a policy in advance. There's no question the events in Egypt, the events that we now see in Libya caught the president by surprise. To say that he has a policy, even like a -- like an Obama doctrine is really just fawning on Obama.
There's no doctrine in this. Here's the doctrine. If France wants us to do it, if the U.N. wants us to do it, if the Arab League wants us to do it, then we'll do it. That's the Obama doctrine.
MORGAN: Well, it's an unusual doctrine. And time will tell.
Rudy Giuliani, thank you very much.
Coming up, President Obama arguing his case tonight for the mission in Libya. Did he accomplish his own mission? Did he convince the American people?
MORGAN: President Obama said it loud and clear tonight, Libya and the world would be better off without Gadhafi, so are we any closer to getting rid of him?
To answer that, I want to bring in P.J. Crowley, former assistant Secretary of State for Public of Affairs who resigned earlier this month.
P.J. Crowley, did he sell it to you?
P.J. CROWLEY, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Yes, he did. I mean the president's policy is to assist in the removal of Moammar Gadhafi. The issue is not with the policy, the issue is the mechanism.
We're acting in a limited manner to level the playing field so the Libyan people themselves and the opposition that has formed, they'll do that job. It's not for the United States to impose that from the outside.
MORGAN: I mean you're a former Air Force colonel. You worked with NATO in Kosovo. Do you think that the way this coalition has now been constructed is likely to be an effective one?
CROWLEY: I mean Kosovo is a very good example of where we did a bombing for 79 days. It created conditions that eventually led to the ouster of Milosevic but it was ultimately, you know, the people of Serbia who did that, you know, not the United States. We're using military action decisively but ultimately the removal of Gadhafi will be one that's, through a variety of tools, economic and political, while applying the military pressure that we're currently applying.
MORGAN: It's an unusual state of affairs for America and, indeed, NATO to get involve in preventing a humanitarian disaster before it's even started to happen. Are you absolutely confident that what everyone assumes was going to happen in Benghazi is what was going to happen?
CROWLEY: Well, if you look at Egypt, the fundamental decision -- why Egypt worked the way it was is because the Egyptian military, from the outset, said very clearly, we are not going to turn our weapons on our own people.
Gadhafi chose a different path., through a combination of armor and aviation, he was in fact turning his weapons on his own people. And that's what separates Gadhafi from other leaders in the region.
MORGAN: Presumably, given that's what's happening in Syria and Yemen, you would want to go in there as well, would you?
CROWLEY: Understand the predicates to military action. We got a very strong statement in the GCC and Arab League and a very strong resolution from the U.N. Security Council. So any action that we take will be unique to that particular country. We don't treat Egypt the same way that we treat Libya or treat Yemen. All of those have unique circumstances.
If a crisis emerges in Syria, we'll do the same kind of consultation that we have done in this case in Libya, and take appropriate action based on the circumstances that exist in Syria at the time.
MORGAN: But you've got hundreds of people being killed in Syria. At what point does that constitute a crisis?
MORGAN: There's unrest and tragically in unrest. Civilians are getting killed. But the civilians are also standing up and making clear that they want change. It's not the United States to dictate these solutions. We cannot dictate the pace and scope of what's happening.
But we have the opportunity to influence. What we're doing in Libya is just making sure that there is, in fact, preserved a civilian population that's protected and an opposition that presents a viable alternative to Gadhafi.
MORGAN: There are many Americans struggling at the moment thanks to the global economic meltdown who will say we've, in their view, squandered billions on Iraq and Afghanistan. We're squandering, in their view, possibly more billions here. At what point does America stop meddling in Middle Eastern affairs and look after it's own backyard?
CROWLEY: In fact, as Secretary Clinton and Secretary Gates said yesterday, the Middle East is, in fact, of vital interest to the United States. So we're not meddling. We're shaping the world in order to support our national interests and the interests of our friends and allies around the world.
But as the president said in the speech tonight, Iraq is a very good alternative view. Almost a trillion -- somewhere between 750 and a trillion dollars spent on Iraq, very significant achievements, but at a cost that cannot be replicated in Libya or anywhere else.
We're applying the military pressure judiciously, but it will be a combination of military pressure, economic pressure and political pressure that ultimately will see Gadhafi leave. We don't when, but it will take a little more time. We think this is something that can be done effectively and at a reasonable and sustainable cost.
MORGAN: Mr. Crowley, I've got to ask you, you resigned over your comments that the way Wikileaks suspect Bradley Manning had been treated in prison had been ridiculous, counter-productive and stupid on the part of the Department of Defense. Do you stand by those comments?
MORGAN: So do you feel that you were treated unfairly?
CROWLEY: I felt that under the circumstances, given the way that the issue emerged, it was my best step to resign. That said, I stand by the words and I do hope that, you know, we can take appropriate action so that the prosecution can go forward. My concern was that the actions in the brig, the restrictive actions against Bradley Manning undermine the credibility of what I think is a very appropriate prosecution.
MORGAN: It seemed a bit perverse to some that the Obama administration, that likes to stand for transparency and truthfulness -- and when you were quite obviously transparent and truthful, you got fired.
CROWLEY: I said what I said and I stand by my words. But beyond that, I felt it was the appropriate thing to resign at the time.
MORGAN: P.J. Crowley, thank you.
CROWLEY: OK, Piers.
MORGAN: Next, I want to bring in some of the best political minds in the country for the great Middle East debate. Will President Obama's policies succeed in Libya? And what will it mean for the rest of the Arab world?
MORGAN: Did President Obama act at the right time? What is the end game in Libya? And how does the rest of the Arab world see America's actions?
Here for the great Middle East debate is Bill Richardson, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Bill Clinton, and former governor of New Mexico, Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York, and Donald Trump, who is live on the phone.
Let me start with you Donald Trump. What was your reaction to President Obama's speech tonight?
DONALD TRUMP, "THE APPRENTICE": Well, I think he's trying hard. He's under a lot of stress. It's not an easy situation. I do really want to know who these people we're fighting for, who they are. They call them the rebels like they're these wonderful guys.
But I hear they are aligned with Iran. I hear they may be aligned with al Qaeda. To be honest, wouldn't that be really very, very sad if we're bombing all of these tanks, killing all of these people, one way or the other, and Iran ends up take over Libya?
MORGAN: When you hear President Obama say that he wants to get rid of Gadhafi, but he doesn't want regime change, does that make sense to you?
TRUMP: It makes no sense whatsoever. I think he's a little afraid of Congress, frankly, He doesn't want to go in too strongly, because they'll say that that he broke his constitutional law and he's got himself some problems.
So I think he's trying to take sort of a neutral turn. And what he said just makes absolutely no sense. And at this point, if you don't get rid of Gadhafi, it's a major, major black eye for this country.
But you also have to ask the other question, who is paying for this? You have Saudi Arabia, the Arab League, the richest nations in the world, saying go in and get them. We don't like them. Go in and get them. And why aren't they paying for this?
MORGAN: That's a very good point. Governor Richardson, let me ask you. As a matter of principle, is it sensible that America gets involved in what is clearly a civil war in Libya?
BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW MEXICO: Well, I felt that the president was very presidential tonight. He explained the purpose, to avert a humanitarian disaster, to protect civilian lives. He even added another humanitarian initiative, and that is a refugee crisis going to Tunisia and Egypt.
Look, this is a very difficult situation. But he also stated that NATO is going to be taking over. It's a limited military operation. This involves our allies, NATO, our most important alliance. The North Africa -- Libya is important, one, to our allies, to NATO, to France, to Italy. It's important to North Africa, to the Arab countries, to the Arab League.
It's important in our oil supply. Look at gas prices in the United States spiking because of the Libyan crisis. So I believe that in a difficult situation -- and probably looking back, Piers, the president's people should have called more members of congress.
But this is not a War Powers situation. This is a limited military operation that presidential authority can have and take and should take to protect America's interests, and he did it.
So I was very satisfied with his speech tonight. Again, consultation with Congress in the days ahead is going to be very important. But he explained the objective. And he explained what he wants to do. And, look, the air strikes have succeeded. Air defenses of Libya have been almost destroyed.
The rebels are gaining momentum. Look, they're probably not perfect revolutionary characters. But they're sure as heck a lot better than Gadhafi staying. We don't want Gadhafi to have a weapons of mass destruction program, like he had before. We don't want him to continue the carnage he's had.
So I applaud the president tonight.
MORGAN: Anthony Weiner, do you agree with that assessment?
REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: Yes, look, I think the sign that the president's probably on the right path is his critics are criticizing him in the same interview for going too far and not going far enough and fast enough.
The fact is foreign policy doesn't lend us a lot of black and white lines here. It also has a lot of gray scenarios. And let us remember the coalition that got put together was put together by the Obama administration. When the Arab League stepped forward and said something they hardly ever say, which is we want force to protect fellow Arabs from an Arab dictator --
MORGAN: Donald Trump had a good point. If the Saudis and others are keen for America to step in and get rid of Gadhafi, why aren't they helping to pay for it?
WEINER: That's exactly the point the president made about not being willing to get stuck in. You know, the fact is --
MORGAN: If I could just put you up, we are stuck in. This is like this great myth of what's going on here. When you drop bombs on people, you're at war, aren't you?
WEINER: I guess you don't remember the Kosovo engagement of 1999.
MORGAN: I remember it well.
WEINER: The fact is the same exact arguments were made by members of Congress. And the Republicans almost universally voted no on that too for the same reasons. And the fact is it turned out to box in Milosevic and set the foundation for countries to do the right thing.
The idea that we have to be -- that we can go it alone and do everything 100 percent, and that's the only scenario available to a commander in chief is wrong. And one of the reasons why his opponents are so flummoxed by this is that he did strike a right line.
He defined a goal, defined a way we're going to do it. Let me say one other thing. We're a great and powerful country. What is the value of being a great and powerful country if we're not going to step in against tyrants who are slaughtering their people? And that's the point the president made tonight.
MORGAN: Donald Trump, how powerful is America being if it is basically allowing the French and the British to lead this, seems to want to play second fiddle, doesn't really want to get its head wet in this region? What is your take on the strength of America here?
TRUMP: It's interesting when we're talking about stepping in, when in fact you have other countries that are making Libya look like nice guys. Look at what's going on the streets of other countries right now as we speak. The other thing we were talking about, the governor mentioned the oil supply, that the chain of the oil supply is going to be broken.
We don't get oil from Libya. China does. So we are protecting China's oil supply? Haven't we done enough for China? They have taken our jobs, they have done so much else to really hurt this country. And we now go in and protect China's oil supply. China is the biggest purchaser of oil, by far, than Libya.
We purchase nothing from Libya. Why isn't China involved? The other thing, if you were going to do this attack, if you had to do it, it should have been done sooner, because now it's just very late.
Now, our power is so great that we're going to end up winning. But who are we winning for? I go back to the original question. Are we winning for people that are friendly with Iran or al Qaeda?
MORGAN: Governor Richardson, let me come back to you. I was in Israel last week interviewing Prime Minister Netanyahu. And if you're Israel, you're feeling pretty vulnerable at the moment. But you're probably feeling a lot more vulnerable about what's going on in Syria than you are in Libya. And you might be slightly mystified that your great ally America has basically decided look, we're not going to get involved in Syria, but we are going to get involved in Libya.
And of course, the coincidence, as it may be, is that Libya has vast oil reserves and Syria doesn't.
RICHARDSON: Look, Piers, if I'm Israel today, I am concerned. The neighborhood is not very friendly. And our commitment to Israel should remain unshaken. And we have to look at ways probably to strengthen the military relationship with Israel.
But at the same time, I don't think the Syrian situation is similar to what is happening in Libya, the carnage that is taking place there. I think there's still some hope, although limited, that the Syrian leadership will be much more moderate than Gadhafi has, and deal with this issue more effectively.
But I will take issue with Mr. Trump, who I respect. Look, the decline in Libyan oil supply has affected gasoline prices in the United States. And what happens is OPEC -- and Libya is a member of OPEC -- when that supply declines, that affects oil prices. What we need to get oil prices to happen, in terms of OPEC, is by increasing that capacity.
It is possible that oil prices in the United States will go down. So you can't dismiss Libya's connection with American gasoline prices. So, again, not a perfect situation, but I think the president took the right steps, and he explained it very succinctly.
MORGAN: We're going to take a short break. I can see Anthony Weiner shaking his head vigorously during the last three minutes. When we come back, I'll find out why.
MORGAN: I'm joined again by my panel, Governor Bill Richardson, Republican Anthony Weiner and Donald Trump. Let me start with you, Anthony Weiner. I can see you shaking your head furiously at what Donald Trump was saying. Why were you doing that?
WEINER: Well, I was shaking my head at you as well. Look, the question is -- in back to back questions -- at once, it was how come we're not getting more support from the rest of the countries, meaning the Arab states. Then it was like how come we don't feel confident enough that we're letting England and France take the lead.
The fact is part of being a coalition like NATO, part of being a country like the United States, is that you have to put together coalitions so that you're not doing all the heavy lifting.
And just it's sheer folly to believe that the international oil supply is not a fungible thing. That's why I was shaking my head at what Mr. Trump was saying. The fact is if you think it doesn't impact U.S. economy, it does.
But that's not why the president said we were going in. He said because we're a country that doesn't sit by and let people be slaughtered. I'm glad we're not.
Does that mean we have to go completely in? You know, listening to some of the president's critics, it reminds me of the old joke. You know, the food here is terrible and the portions are small. They seem to be conflicted between criticizing him for not doing enough and criticizing him for not doing enough, which means to me he's probably doing the right thing.
MORGAN: Donald Trump, you apparently don't know what you're talking about.
TRUMP: Look, Libya has two to three percent of the world's oil. OPEC is sitting back and laughing at us, because they sit down and set the price of oil. There is so much oil at sea -- ships are floating at sea, they don't know what to do with it. Oil is artificially set, not by Libya, but by the people sitting around -- the 12 men sitting around the table saying the stupid American leadership is not doing anything to us; we will drain them, and we will drain them now.
So don't tell me about Libya. The fact is that OPEC is setting phony prices for oil. And we do nothing about it. Our leadership does nothing about it. And they could, because if it wasn't for us, OPEC wouldn't exist.
MORGAN: Governor Richardson, the intriguing thing about Gadhafi is that, of course, until recently, we were back on friendly terms with this murderous dictator, weren't we?
RICHARDSON: Yes. And here I'm going to say something, the Bush administration did the right thing. What they did was they negotiated the end of Gadhafi's weapons of mass destruction program. Probably he still has some hidden there. But we did do that. He did partially compensate the Lockerbie people, not fully as he should have.
But there was progress. They took the right decision at the time. However, he still is a murderous leader. He is somebody that deserves the scorn of the international community, should be tried for war crimes.
I will agree with Donald Trump. OPEC does take those steps. But I think the message is something he said, that America needs to shift to new sources of energy, clean sources, renewable, solar, wind, natural gas. We need to reduce our dependency on OPEC, fossil fuels. In that message, I do agree with you.
MORGAN: Anthony Weiner, the president was very keen today to say we've learned lessons from Iraq. We won't be committing ground troops. That's all very well to say that, but what happens if Gadhafi manages not just to hang on, but hang on quite strongly and is going nowhere, and begins attacking his people again, to exact bloody revenge? At what point does America feel compelled to send in ground troops, on the same humanitarian pretext they launch air strikes.
WEINER: First, we're allowing NATO to take the lead. We're a part of a larger coalition. We're not owning this entire project. And we'll see how it goes.
Look, I don't think that any president can say with metaphysical certitude what's going to happen, particularly in that part of the world today. But he is taking the steps that I think are right.
Look, I would agree -- I ultimately believe we did perhaps wait to long. But part of the reason we did is because we were putting together this coalition to make it more likely for us to succeed. In the meantime, all of my Republican friends who are criticizing the president for acting without consulting Congress -- and I believe he should have -- last week, we were defunding NPR, rather than having a real debate about the future of the Middle East.
But if you're asking, can the -- should the president have offered us some assurance that is goes no further than this ever and we probably won't have to take further? We probably will. That's how the region is. But I think he laid out a defining philosophy here that I think most Americans agree with, which is we don't want to watch a massacre when we can help prevent it.
MORGAN: But actually, the key point is most Americans don't agree with it. I mean, Donald Trump, most of the polls suggest the Americans -- the average American would actually probably prefer that America doesn't now spend billions and billions more dollars on this kind of mission, and actually got the economy in America back on track. As a businessman, what do you think?
TRUMP: Well, I think that's right, but I also say that NATO is us. If you look at NATO, without us there is no such thing as NATO. We're the power. We're the money behind NATO. And NATO is not a fairly distributed place or thing. We are NATO.
So when NATO goes in, that's us going in. And I get back to the original premise. The Arab League wants us to fight their battles. Why aren't they paying us for it?
MORGAN: Anthony Weiner, you're still shaking your head.
WEINER: It's just, as a matter of fact, wrong. We are not the sum and substance of NATO. NATO is our most powerful and important coalition.
MORGAN: Ninety percent of all the air strikes in the first few days were the American missiles.
WEINER: Which was exactly the design. The design was -- he was wrong about NATO. You're asking a different question. Did we begin using the capabilities we have that other countries did not have, to go ahead and do the things that we could to help out with this mission? Look, if you believe -- and perhaps Mr. Trump and perhaps you do -- believe the idea that there are only two scenarios available to us: go entirely in with all the troops we possibly can, occupy the country, and essentially do the Iraq thing all over again, or are there more nuanced, incremental things we can do to be helpful as part of an international coalition?
The fact is, we did not agree to go in until the Arab League said we want it; we want to support it in the United Nations. We did Bush One rather than Bush Two.
MORGAN: If the Arab League now say we need you in Syria, do we go?
WEINER: I don't know. I happen to think the situation in Syria is very serious. But all of these things --
MORGAN: You have a murderous dictator slaughtering his people. If the Arab League is your criteria for why should Americas --
WEINER: I'm not president yet, although I think I have as much chance as Donald Trump does. MORGAN: He's polling better than you.
WEINER: Put me in one of your polls. By the way, to say how the American people feel before the speech -- if the American people don't support this after this speech, I will be very surprised. In fact, I'm sure they are going to in large numbers, because the president did something he should have done a while ago, which is --
TRUMP: -- polled like Anthony's polling, I would drop out immediately.
WEINER: You'll be dropping out soon enough, Donald. We both know it.
MORGAN: Donald, will you be dropping out soon enough? Donald, will you be dropping out --
RUMP: No, I just saw polls today that showed me doing very well. When Anthony makes a statement like that, it's too bad for him. I do look at his polls. Frankly, I look at his polls in New York, running for mayor, he does very poorly. So I wish him a lot of luck.
WEINER: I'm the front runner, big guy. I'm not sure if you're even going to be around at the end.
TRUMP: A lot of people are leaving the city if you end up winning.
MORGAN: Gentlemen, tragically, I have to leave it there, just when things were hotting up nicely. Governor Richardson, Anthony Weiner, Donald Trump, thank you all very much.
And I'll be right back after this short break.
MORGAN: And we'll be back tomorrow night with a live Twitter special with the founders of Twitter, a live audience and some tweeting celebrities. But for now, my colleague Anderson Cooper with "AC 360."