On CNN's 'Late Edition' With Wolf Blitzer
(complete program) June 27, 2004
Complete list of guests:
In just a few minutes, we'll have my special conversation with the U.S. secretary of state, Colin Powell.
And later this hour, CNN's Christiane Amanpour. She has a special interview with the new Iraqi prime minister, Iyad Allawi.
All that coming up. First, though, let's go to CNN headquarters in Atlanta for a quick check of the hour's top stories.
BLITZER: Let's go to the NATO summit in Turkey, where a post- handover Iraq is certainly topic number-one on the agenda. CNN's Frank Buckley is live in Istanbul. He is joining us with details -- Frank.
FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, President Bush, now here in Istanbul after meetings earlier in Ankara with Turkish officials. A Bush administration official is now confident that NATO will, in fact, offer a commitment to help Iraq in the post-handover period. That commitment expected to come in the form of training and technical assistance for Iraqi forces.
President Bush met today with NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. Scheffer saying the request from Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi for training of Iraqi forces will be debated on Monday and approved. Details on just what form that training will take is still to be announced.
This NATO summit and President Bush's visit so far also a magnet for protesters. Today, some 30,000 protesters demonstrated in Istanbul against the summit and against President Bush. A massive security force of at least 23,000 also assembled to deal with protests and other issues. A number of small bomb blasts over the past few days, including one on Thursday, just a few feet away from the hotel that the president stayed in overnight at Ankara, keeping those security forces very busy.
And finally, as Fredricka just mentioned, Turkey also dealing with a hostage issue now. Three of its citizens being held by hostage-takers who are threatening to behead them. U.S. officials pledging to do all they can to help Turkish officials. President Bush, asked today if this casts a pall over the NATO summit, he said, "No."
BLITZER: Frank Buckley in Istanbul covering this NATO summit.
Frank, thanks very much.
As the handover of power approaches, there's lots of speculation about whether the Iraqis will really be in charge and whether they can get the job done.
Today, I spoke with the secretary of state, Colin Powell, in Turkey about the future of Iraq, the U.S.-European alliance, the war on terror and more.
BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, welcome back to "LATE EDITION." Thanks very much for joining us.
You're in Turkey right now. Three Turkish citizens are being held prisoner, apparently by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Iraqi terrorist. What do you say to the Turkish government that clearly is concerned about what is going on in Iraq?
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, the president just met with Prime Minister Erdogan, and obviously this came up, and we assured the prime minister that we were doing everything we could to secure their safe release.
Once again, this shows that we're dealing with a terrible terrorist organization led by Mr. al-Zarqawi, that doesn't care about human life, that does not care about the Iraqi people.
The Iraqi people just want to be left in peace, so that later this week, they can see the full transfer of sovereignty and be responsible for their own destiny. And Mr. Zarqawi, and other evil terrorists such as him, are trying to keep that from happening, and they're taking innocent Turkish civilians in this case as a way to make their case, and it will not succeed. We cannot yield to this kind of terrorism.
And our heart goes out to the families of these individuals. And we hope that it will be possible to rescue them, but it's a dangerous situation.
BLITZER: It looks like these operations, these insurgent or terrorist operations in Iraq right now are becoming increasingly better coordinated. Do you get that sense?
POWELL: There certainly is a level of coordination, in my judgment, and hopefully we can penetrate whatever system is operating there, whatever command and control system is at work. Nevertheless, we expected that we would see this increase, increase in terrorist and insurgent activity as we got closer to the first of the month and the changeover, and it might continue for a period after that.
But I know that our military hard at work, and we're building up the Iraqi security forces as fast as we can.
What's impressive is that the new leadership, President Sheikh Ghazi and Prime Minister Allawi are not shrinking back from the challenge. In fact, they are speaking out with strength and forcefulness and determination not to let these bandits and terrorists keep them from the goal of putting in place a stable government for the people of Iraq, a government that will rest on a solid foundation of democracy and freedom.
BLITZER: Prime Minister Allawi is now suggesting perhaps that elections be delayed -- they're scheduled for next January, as you well know -- because of the security situation. Is that a good idea?
POWELL: Well, I think it's too early to determine whether that's necessary or a good idea. I think he was speculating on the possibility that, if they don't get the security situation under adequate control, it might be hard to have the elections at that time, but those are the dates we're still shooting for, the dates that the U.N. resolution is based on, but we'll certainly be discussing this with the prime minister as we move along.
BLITZER: What about martial law being imposed in Iraq? Some top Iraqi leaders are now suggesting may be necessary.
POWELL: Well, there was some rumors and some reports earlier this week that that might be under consideration, but I think the prime minister dampened down that reporting. He had suggested it in an aside. But I think that's been dampened down.
Obviously, any government has to consider what emergency powers they have and might be needed at a particular point in time, but I am not aware of any movement right now to move to some state of martial law or anything like martial law.
BLITZER: Do you expect the NATO allies, Mr. Secretary, to go ahead and approve the request by the Iraqi government, Prime Minister Allawi, to at least start training Iraqi security forces?
POWELL: Well, we'll certainly know tomorrow when NATO meets, but every indication I have now is that NATO is coming together to say that they would be willing to provide police and military training to Iraqi forces. Exactly how that would be done, where it would be done, all of that remains to be determined, but I think the alliance is coming together on that issue.
BLITZER: Is France still holding out for something, as far as you know?
POWELL: On this issue, I don't know. When I get to Istanbul this evening and have a chance to meet with Ambassador Burns and my other foreign minister colleagues, we'll have a better understanding of that. But right now, I sense a consensus is developing to respond in a positive way to Mr. Allawi's request. BLITZER: For the first time, in our CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll that came out this past week, a majority of Americans now believe going to war against Saddam Hussein in Iraq was a mistake. Fifty-four percent say it was a mistake sending troops to Iraq; 44 percent say it wasn't a mistake. This is about the opposite of what occurred only two weeks earlier in polling.
How concerned are you that at least a big chunk of the American public now is thinking you made a mistake?
POWELL: Well, of course, we are concerned with numbers like that, but you have to put them in context. The last several weeks have been difficult weeks for us. We've seen a number of bombings. We've seen these insurgents and terrorists try to stop the peaceful changeover that will take place in a few days' time. And when you see these scenes day after day on your television set, it will affect attitudes of the American people.
I hope that as the Iraqi government takes over, the American people see that they are taking over and they now have sovereignty and they are now in charge of their country and moving their country in the right way. And as the security situation gets under control, and as the American people see that we are going to have elections and those elections will bring in a representative government, I think in due course they will see that we have made the right decision and what we are doing is noble work and those numbers will change.
BLITZER: The president says the world is safer now as a result of what has happened in Iraq. Listen precisely to what he said this week:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I do believe the world is a safer place and becoming a safer place. I know that a free Iraq is going to be necessary, part of changing the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Yet in our CNN-USA Today poll this past week, we asked, did the war with Iraq make the U.S. safer from terrorism? Only 37 percent said yes; 55 percent said no. This is almost a complete flip- flop 180 degrees the exact opposite answers back in December the last time we asked this same question.
I'll ask you. Why is the world safer today than it was before the war in Iraq?
POWELL: Because we increasingly are rounding up al Qaeda leaders. We find that the Saudis have been able to kill some recently. Some dealt with in Algeria, other places they're on the run. The remaining elements of al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
And so, we have taken out a lot of the leadership structure of al Qaeda. And we have the whole world unified going after these terrorist organizations. That doesn't mean that the problem is solved, and terrorist organizations are responding as they come under assault.
The United States, fortunately, has not seen anything like the terrorist attacks of 2001. And so, terrorism is a real and present danger, but I think that we have made inroads against this terrorist threat, and I think that's what the president was clearly referring to.
BLITZER: There is a top CIA official, a counterterrorism official who has written a book only going only by the name Anonymous. Among other things, he says this: U.S. leaders refuse to accept the obvious. We are fighting a worldwide Islamic insurgency, not criminality or terrorism, that our policy and procedures have failed to make more than a modest dent in enemy forces.
I assume you know who this CIA counterterrorism analyst is, but do you agree with him?
POWELL: I don't know who he is. I haven't read his book.
I think what we are seeing are an insurgency in Iraq and terrorist activities elsewhere in the world. I think what we are also seeing is that the world is coming together in the clear understanding that we have to deal with these kinds of terrorist organizations and not just write it all off to Muslim extremism.
There are some people here who just don't want to see progress. They are not acting in the name of Muslim -- of Islam. They are working against Islam. They are violating the basic tenants of Islam. And what we have to do is to continue to bring the world together in this effort to defeat this kind of thinking and to defeat these individuals.
But I don't know who Anonymous is, and I can't really comment on his book because I haven't read it.
BLITZER: A couple of technical questions on the June 30 handover. Will U.S. troops in Iraq, serving in Iraq be immune from any Iraqi laws? In other words, will they only be subject to U.S. military considerations?
POWELL: Well, there is an order that is being worked out between the new Iraqi interim government and Ambassador Bremer during the next several days. Number 17, as it's called, which will grant those kinds of immunities. It's anticipated that such immunities were going to be required.
The U.N. resolution, in the letters that I exchanged with the Iraqi prime minister, anticipated that this would be required, and it would cover from now until an elected government comes in place. And then we can work out the normal arrangements of sofas and other agreements of the kind that we have with most nations around the world.
I don't know whether or not Ambassador Bremer has finished his work on this with the interim government designate, and whether it's ready to be issued or not. BLITZER: One final question. Saddam Hussein, when do you hand him over to the Iraqis?
POWELL: Well, that's also being worked out, but handover has two aspects to it. There is the legal transfer, of who has legal authority and responsibility for him, and then there's physical custody, who can best protect him, but also best keep him from escaping.
And all those items are being worked out. I would expect that legal custody would be handed over shortly, but physical custody would remain in our hands for the foreseeable future.
BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, good luck to you, good luck on the NATO summit, and especially good luck when you head to Sudan in the coming days.
POWELL: Thank you very much, Wolf.
BLITZER: And coming up, as the wave of violence plagues Iraq, will the new government there declare martial law? Iraq's interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi, speaks out. He speaks to our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, about plans for making Iraq secure.
And later, the former Democratic presidential candidate, Howard Dean, he's out of the running, but still on the campaign trail for John Kerry. I'll ask him about the race for the White House.
"LATE EDITION" will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
With only three days to go before the handover of power, Iraq remains clearly a tinderbox with deadly attacks occurring across the country.
Amid all this, CNN's chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, had the chance to sit down today with Iraq's interim prime minister, Iyad Allawi. They spoke about establishing security in Iraq, the fate of Saddam Hussein and more.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You have written in the newspapers today, and you've expressed an understanding for the Iraqi insurgency against the U.S.- led occupation. Can you explain that?
IAYD ALLAWI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER: There are some in the so- called "resistance" who have not been really the hard core, or those who have been involved in criminal activities and terrorist activities. Those could be given a pardon... AMANPOUR: A pardon?
ALLAWI: ... provided they come forward and give information about the hard core people, or the people whom they have assisted. This is a possibility that my government is looking at, and I don't know whether the council of ministers would agree on this policy or not, but definitely we think it's worth it, and it's worth a try.
AMANPOUR: And do you have any reason to believe that they would?
ALLAWI: I think so, yes.
AMANPOUR: Have they already approached you?
ALLAWI: We have some approaches made, yes.
AMANPOUR: There's been a lot of talk about how you plan to crack down. You, your defense minister, the interior minister have talked about a showdown, talked about tough action, confronting the terrorists.
What precisely does that mean?
ALLAWI: Well, tough action is tough action.
AMANPOUR: Is it martial law?
ALLAWI: We are considering a host of issues. What we are considering is a public safety -- defense of public safety law, and our laws to be implemented, definitely we are mobilizing our police force. We definitely are mobilizing our army, and make it ready to confront the enemies of Iraq, and the criminals and the terrorists. And really we intend to turn every stone in the country to look for these guys and capture them, and put them through to justice.
AMANPOUR: Does it mean curfews?
ALLAWI: It may include curfews.
AMANPOUR: Does it include a ban on demonstrations?
ALLAWI: You will hear this in the next two days.
AMANPOUR: Two days you're going to announce it?
ALLAWI: Yes, if it is passed and agreed.
AMANPOUR: The reason I ask is because we've had 15 months of the world's most powerful military in this country, and it continues, this violence, and by all accounts, your forces are not yet up to the task. How do you plan to do anything differently than has been done over the last 15 months?
ALLAWI: Well, we plan to mobilize the Iraqi people. We plan to change some of the laws. We plan to take real action. Don't forget, the military presence here of the coalition and now the multinational force is a presence. All the military are geared towards fighting and winning wars. They are not geared toward policing, and this is what we intend to do is to provide a proper policing, and to involve the Iraqis in protecting themselves.
AMANPOUR: You mentioned Saddam Hussein. When will your government take custody of him?
ALLAWI: Very soon, I think. I can't tell you probably now. It will be either hopefully the 2nd or 3rd of July. I was just briefed by the minister of justice and the legal advisers that all the documents are being done with the coalition and with the multinational force, and we hope two or three or fourth of July Saddam would be in the custody of the Iraqi people and the Iraq government.
BLITZER: Iyad Allawi, the interim prime minister of Iraq, telling our Christiane Amanpour that Saddam Hussein would be in the legal custody, the legal custody of the Iraqis by July 4th.
Earlier we heard here on "LATE EDITION" the secretary of state, Colin Powell, saying the U.S. would retain security, control, physical possession, that is, of Saddam Hussein at least until there are elections in Iraq scheduled for January of next year.
Christiane Amanpour speaking with Iyad Allawi in Baghdad earlier today.
We'll get a quick check of the hour's top stories, including the latest on a series of blasts heard only moments ago in Baghdad.
Then, as new leaders prepare to take charge in Iraq, we'll talk with two key U.S. senators about what the United States got right and what it got wrong.
You're watching "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.
BLITZER: Just ahead, after more than a year of occupation in Iraq, didn't the United States lose the battle for the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people? We'll get assessments from two key members of the United States Senate, Democrat Chris Dodd, Republican Chuck Hagel.
"LATE EDITION" will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I'm going to lead in the face of terror. We will not let these terrorists dash the hopes and ambitions of the people of Iraq.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush telling a television reporter from Ireland that the United States won't back down in the war on terror.
Welcome back to "LATE EDITION." I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
We turn now to two leading members of the United States Senate. In Connecticut, the Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd. He serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Here in Washington, the Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. He also serves on the Foreign Relations Committee, as well as the Select Intelligence Committee.
Senators, welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
Let's begin with you, Senator Hagel. This proposal that we just heard from Prime Minister Allawi that Saddam Hussein would be handed over, legal custody, in effect, by July 4th, even though the secretary of state, Colin Powell, said on this program that the U.S. would retain security control over him, presumably until the elections in January -- is this a good idea, to sort of divide this up like that?
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: Wolf, I think there will be a number of these big issues that will need to be worked through and worked out. This is certainly a big one.
I think the cooperation between the new interim Iraqi government and our forces there will deal with these in a way that makes some sense. This is a very important issue. And there will be many of these issues that we need to work through.
But here's a fundamental, I think -- this sovereignty cannot be just formal sovereignty. This sovereignty must be as complete as possible. Because the expectation of the Iraqi people is very important here. And they believe, they expect, that this government is going to be an Iraqi government, making Iraqi decisions for the future of their country.
BLITZER: Well, the sovereignty is going to be certainly, Senator Dodd, limited, in the sense, not only will the U.S. have physical control over Saddam Hussein, at least for the time being, you heard the secretary of state say on this program that as far as immunity for U.S. troops, coalition forces in Iraq, the Iraqi government's not going to be able to prosecute them if they commit crimes in Iraq.
SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), CONNECTICUT: Well, I think Senator Hagel has it right here. I accept, for instance, with the dealing of Saddam Hussein, that the U.S. will retain physical security over the person in the coming days. But that can only be for a limited amount of time, and that also goes on these issues for immunity certainly. We've seen these problems arise in the past. We've had similar arrangements in other countries where U.S. forces are located.
But the point that Senator Hagel is making, and I think it's the correct one here, sovereignty cannot be, in the eyes of the Iraqis, somehow a limited or constrained sovereignty, or it won't be worth much here. If we're going to convince the Iraqis to take on this responsibility, which they're going to have to do, then they also have to have a sense that this is their country, their future and they're going to be calling the shots.
And so, the sooner we get to that point, then the better off we're going to all be.
BLITZER: But, Senator Dodd, you know the Iraqis don't have security control, at least right now.
DODD: I agree with that. That's why I say I accept what Secretary Powell has said here in the limited time. But we need to be moving and make it very clear at the outset that we're going to be turning over as much, if not all, of this as soon as we possibly can.
I would have preferred frankly, Wolf, that this date of June 30th, that we had let it slip. I realize we're not going to do that, nor should we. We set that date almost a year ago, or at least last fall. I think it was premature, but that's not even a debate worth having at this point.
It's going to happen on June 30th. The Iraqis expect it to happen. But they're really not ready, in many ways. But we need to get over that, and we need to move on this as quickly as we can.
BLITZER: Senator Hagel, there's a revealing interview in the new issue of Newsweek magazine coming out today and tomorrow with the new Iraqi defense minister.
Among other things, he says this, and I'll put it up on the screen: "After June 30th," that's the transfer-of-power day, on Wednesday, "we will hit these people and teach them a good lesson they won't forget. Americans and allied forces have certain restrictions we won't have." Then he goes on to say, "It's our country, it's our culture, and we have different laws than you do." Finally, elsewhere in the interview, he says this: "We will cut off their hands and behead them."
Those are strong words from the new defense minister of Iraq. Can they do a better job dealing with the insurgents than the U.S. and coalition forces?
HAGEL: Wolf, that remains to be seen. But the fact is, we go back to what Senator Dodd said, what I said in my opening comment to your question, this is now an Iraqi game. It must be an Iraqi game.
The definition of success in Iraq is a free, independent Iraq governing and defending itself. And they are going to have to defend themselves, take responsibility for their own security.
How they do that, we're not going to be able to dictate that. At some point, we are going to have to hand over that country.
And I have not seen that interview, but it is difficult, it is tough, but this is their world. And if they're going to make something of their world, then they're going to have to not only win it, but then frame it in their way.
BLITZER: Senator Dodd, there already is the Iraqi leader throwing out the idea, perhaps martial law in the immediate future, maybe even delaying the elections next January. Now we hear the defense minister saying, "We have different laws than you do. We will cut off their hands and behead them." Does this raise certain alarm bells for you?
DODD: Well, certainly this isn't exactly what we were hoping we were going to set up here, when we talked about going in and creating a new Iraq, embracing the principles of democracy and a judicial system that would be open and fair.
But having said all of that, again, what Senator Hagel has said is accurate here. This is their culture, it's their world. We can open a door. We can try to set things up. We can help. But in the final analysis, the Iraqis are going to have to define democracy in their terms, not our terms.
Jeffersonian democracy has been an evolving story in this country over 228 years. It's not going to emerge in Iraq in a matter of weeks or days.
What I found most alarming in the statements, aside from the question about how they're going to treat the insurgents that they capture, is the possibly of delaying the elections. Because I think that's going to be a very important point here.
Certainly the insurgents are going to do everything they can to stop that electoral process from happening. It's not encouraging to hear the incoming government talking about delaying that, because that'll be the real point at which the Iraqis can determine for themselves who their leaders are going to be. Leaders in Iraq have been determined by the elite for years. The Iraqi people deserve to make that choice themselves. I hope that wouldn't slip.
BLITZER: Senator Hagel, if the United States, the strongest military power in the world, after more than a year they are decisively destroying the Saddam Hussein regime, couldn't achieve the kind of security that's required for the political process really to go forward, what makes you or anyone think -- and I don't know if you think this -- that the new emerging Iraqi military will eventually be able to get the job done?
HAGEL: First, it will be their military. It will be the Iraqi people's country, their military, their government, their future. They'll define that. That's different from an occupying power, as we were.
And we were seen as an occupying power. That doesn't mean that our purpose was not noble or our efforts not correct, but it's a different context.
And it is within that new context, their world, their future, that we all hope that this can work into something that is not just a representative government, but a free, independent, stable Iraq.
BLITZER: Have you met with Iyad Allawi, the new prime minister?
HAGEL: I've met with him, but I have not met with him since he was designated as the prime minister.
BLITZER: Based on what you know about him, Senator Hagel, do you have confidence in him?
HAGEL: Well, I have confidence in him. I think he was a good selection. And it remains to be seen, like everything in Iraq, how effective he can be, what kind of a prime minister and leader he will be. But I think, of the possibilities, he was certainly one that was at the top of everyone's list.
BLITZER: What about that, Senator Dodd? What do you think of Iyad Allawi?
DODD: You know, this is a much better crowd we're talking about than the Governing Council that existed for the past number of months. This is a much better group of people, in my view.
But also, it's happening in a positive way. We talked about the context in these questions you've raised, Wolf, versus the United States versus the emerging government here.
The good news is, it looks like NATO is going to be involved, maybe in a limited way, but I think that's very, very encouraging. The U.N. is getting back in. Many of these things many of us urged on the administration months ago, and had we taken those steps earlier, we might not be facing the kind of consequences we're look at today.
But I think with the NATO involvement, with U.N. involvement, a declining U.S. presence, per se, then there's a better chance of these things working than I think many people might expect today.
BLITZER: All right, Senators, I want both of you to please stand by. We're going to take a quick break.
We have lots more to talk about, our special conversation with Senators Hagel and Dodd. They'll also be taking your phone calls.
And later, a very tight race for the White House. We'll speak with the former Democratic presidential candidate, Howard Dean, about President Bush versus Senator Kerry.
Stay with "LATE EDITION."
skip ahead to next Hagel and Dodd
BLITZER: Welcome back.
We'll get back to Senators Dodd and Hagel in just a moment, but right now in Iraq a very violent, tense situation unfolding, as the country prepares to assume power on Wednesday.
Our chief international correspondent, Christiane Amanpour, has been following some breaking developments happening right now.
Christiane, update our viewers what we know about these explosions heard only a few moments ago in Baghdad.
AMANPOUR: Well, not a whole lot, is the short answer. We've heard several throughout the day, not sustained barrages, but just a few, one in the morning and one just a few minutes ago.
We've been told by those inside the Green Zone, which is the protected area which is the occupation headquarters, that they believe that the, whatever it was, the explosions detonated outside the Green Zone, more towards the river bank. We don't have confirmed casualty reports yet, but we are chasing that down.
We also know from the Green Zone that today a rocket attack did kill one U.S. soldier at a base in Baghdad.
Also we know of various things from around the country, in relation to the wave of bombings that took place on Thursday. Remember, in Mosul and other parts of this country on Thursday, simultaneous suicide and car bombs killed more than 100 people, in Mosul itself more than 60 people. Police are now saying that they have arrested five people, among them, they say, members of the Ansar al-Islam terrorist organization. They say they received tips from people. They found cars, they say two cars that were equipped to be car bombed. And they say they believe those may have been used, or may have been designed to have been used in that wave of bombings up in Mosul on Thursday.
So, certainly from the police report, it would be an encouraging report, if they are getting information and tips that can lead to the kinds of arrests once we find out exactly what that actually leads to.
In Baghdad also, there was a shooting on a plane, a U.S. plane. We're not sure of the full details, but it was a plane at the airport. It had taken off, and apparently one person was killed. The plane had to return to the airport.
And that is the wrap-up from here today. Wolf?
BLITZER: Christiane, we played for our viewers your interview, at least a portion of your interview with Iyad Allawi, the interim prime minister. Give us your sense of this man. Was he nervous? Was he in control? Does he have an optimistic or a pessimistic sense of this handover?
AMANPOUR: Well, he certainly did not appear nervous, and he obviously is presenting an optimistic if realistic view of what he wants to do. And the mantra over the last week, as this handover proceeds, is security, security, security. They know that that's what the people are looking for. They want to promise to crack down. They've used words like "showdown with the terrorists," "tough action."
But when pressed, it's very hard to get details. They say that they're going to announce a plan -- of course that also comes with a caveat: as long as it's approved by his cabinet -- to do some kind of emergency law procedure that appears to be falling short of martial law. Martial law of course is military rule and all that that entails. But they want to impose some kind of emergency law, which probably will involve curfews, bans on public gatherings and demonstrations. He mentioned changing certain laws, setting up more police checkpoints, mobilizing the police and their armed forces.
But the reality is, as everybody knows, their armed forces are not up to the job yet. But the U.S. forces will still be around. As we talked to General Petraeus, he said, you know, next to them, behind them, around the corner, wherever they need help, they will get it from coalition forces. I think they're hoping that, once it becomes an all-Iraqi endeavor, or a mostly Iraqi endeavor, that might take some of the steam out of what's going on. But of course others believe that it will be the turn of this interim government to be targeted once it takes over, and the aim is simply to derail this whole project.
BLITZER: Christiane Amanpour, reporting for us from Baghdad.
Christiane, good work, thanks very much.
Let's continue now our conversation here in the United States, Connecticut Democratic Senator Chris Dodd joining us, Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel.
Senator Dodd, what do you make of what we just heard from Christiane about these emergency regulations they may have to impose?
DODD: That doesn't shock me or surprise me.
Again, considering what's going on in the country -- I haven't been there since December -- but based on reports I've read and other colleagues that have gone and come back, clearly this is -- the insurgents, this is going to get tougher before it gets better. And our hope is it does get better.
But certainly, anyone who expects it to begin to just to abate, come July 1, I think is terribly naive. I think the insurgents are going to do everything they can to disrupt this effort.
And so it's going to take some extraordinary measures, probably, to get things on track. And certainly imposing some kind of curfew, some kind of martial law is not going to shock me at all, if in the end we're able to bring some stability and some opportunity for the Iraqis to emerge with a government that they can support, that'll deal effectively with these insurgent elements.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take a caller. We have a call from South Carolina. Go ahead with your question, please.
CALLER: Yes, this is for Senator Hagel or Dodd. I'd like to know, with the extraction of our troops on June 30th, or the turnover of Iraq to the Iraqi people on June 30th, do you see a military presence in Iraq for the foreseeable future?
BLITZER: All right. What about that, Senator Hagel?
HAGEL: Well, just recently some of our senior generals in the Pentagon noted that we would have probably 140,000 American troops in Iraq through 2006 and into 2007.
My sense is that there will continue to be a significant America troop presence in Iraq for the foreseeable future. Whether that's two or three or four years, I don't know.
BLITZER: All right. That's interesting.
I want to play for you, Senator Dodd and Senator Hagel, some testimony earlier this week. Richard Armitage, he's the deputy secretary of state. Listen to what he said about the U.S. analysis of what the opposition in Iraq would be like. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD ARMITAGE, DEPUTY SECRETARY OF STATE: I think we underestimated the enemy, and we didn't destroy him in our initial attack, and he melted away, and we're seeing him again.
We underestimated the degree to which this enemy had a central nervous system, and I think the attacks the other day showed that it does have a central nervous system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Senator Dodd, he's pretty candid, isn't he?
DODD: Well, yes, I mean, this was -- the failure of intelligence here is so sweeping that it's just hard to imagine how, with all the money we spent to collect evidence and collect intelligence around the world, we could have gotten this so wrong. And yet we certainly did.
And Dick Armitage is one of those public officials, a rarity in Washington environments, that has the courage to stand up and admit a mistake, admit an error when one has occurred.
And boy, this was a major one. We made other ones, as well, but if I had to pick one at the top of the list, it would be the failure of our intelligence to estimate accurately the power of this insurgency and what a difficult time we were going to have with it.
BLITZER: Senator Hagel, you're on the Intelligence Committee. Do you agree?
HAGEL: Well, I do, but I would even go a little further than Chris's point. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on which Chris and I both serve, had a number of very significant in-depth hearings, starting in August of 2002. And before our committee came many, many experts -- military, diplomatic, business experts, religious experts -- on the Middle East, Iraq in particular.
They warned, at that time -- General Zinni, General Hoar, a plethora of former ambassadors -- warned of this complicated ethnic- religious dynamic that we did not understand, that in fact we were going to face.
So it was out there, Wolf. It was there.
BLITZER: Very briefly to both of you -- and I'll start with Senator Dodd -- how unusual was the fact that, on the Senate floor, the vice president of the United States, Dick Cheney, this week at a photo-op, the class photo for the senators, swearing at Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont? Senator Dodd?
DODD: I think we had just passed the act in defense of decency. I think it was...
So it's somewhat in contradiction to that effort to clean up TV.
But, look, putting aside the specifics, the problems I have with Vice President Cheney are not so much the language he uses but some of the decisions that are being made. And my hope is that this president would begin to expand his circle, to listen to other voices, when it comes to setting domestic and foreign policy.
BLITZER: Do you think, Senator Hagel, that the vice president owes Senator Leahy an apology?
HAGEL: Well, he said he was not about ready to apologize, but I suggest maybe we bring Miss Manners in...
... and we all take a two- or three-hour course from Miss Manners.
There's no place in this business for that kind of discourse, and it defines down our standards and our expectations. The American public doesn't like to see it. I don't think anybody is shocked at that kind of language being used, but let's kind of clean this mess up.
We're bogged down in a morass of nonsense here in Washington, and it's the politicians doing it to ourselves. And if America is frustrated, I understand why they are. This is just further evidence of the silliness that goes on here, and we need to clean this up.
BLITZER: All right. Senator Hagel, speaking bluntly, Senator Dodd, thanks to you, as well.
DODD: Thank you.
BLITZER: And still ahead, inside the United States Senate, are relations between Republicans and Democrats reaching a boiling point? The Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, he'll weigh in on all of this, as well. He's my guest.
"LATE EDITION" will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
We'll get to my interview with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist in just a moment. First off, let's go to CNN headquarters in Atlanta for a quick check of the hour's top stories.
BLITZER: President Bush has suggested that the war in Iraq could be the start of establishing democracy across the Middle East. But a new CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll shows that, for the first time, a majority of Americans now have a negative view of the costs and challenges of the war in Iraq.
Earlier today, I spoke with the U.S. Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, who joined me from the NATO summit in Istanbul, Turkey.
BLITZER: Senator Frist, thanks very much for joining us. Welcome back to "LATE EDITION."
How frustrated are you, Senator Frist, by the apparent inability of the NATO allies to get together and reach a consensus on what to do in Iraq?
SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, Wolf, the real breakthrough, I think, was having the U.N. Security Council resolution, number one. And number two, the secretary-general, who I just met with a few minutes ago, received a letter from Prime Minister Allawi reflecting the request by the Iraqi people for training and equipment from NATO.
Having talked to the secretary-general, having looked at the endorsement by the European Union yesterday, at this juncture, I am absolutely confident that NATO, over the next 48 hours, will speak up and collectively, that means all 26 nations, speak with one voice and say that they will provide training and equipment through NATO for Iraq in response to the request from Prime Minister Allawi.
BLITZER: So France is on board, basically, is that what you're saying?
FRIST: I predict that France will be on board. There have been preliminary meetings held yesterday and the day before. And with that, as I understand it, having talked to the secretary-general and a number of other people over the course of today, there will be a collective endorsement of that training and equipment in Iraq, with strong participation by the United States as part of that NATO coalition.
BLITZER: Do you have any sense how many NATO forces will actually go to Iraq to help train Iraqi security forces?
FRIST: No. No one knows what will happen over the next two days. There'll be an additional commitment in Afghanistan, strengthening of our commitment there. That is NATO's commitment. And all we know at this juncture is that there will be this collective response.
In terms of troops, nobody's making any commitment of new troops. People have been very careful to say it is the training exercise, it is the equipment exercise.
Even with that, I don't think there's going to be very much details coming out of the conference. But the collective commitment by NATO in Iraq in response to Allawi is going to be positive.
BLITZER: Let me get this straight. The Iraqi troops will be trained in Iraq. They won't be leaving Iraq for training in NATO countries. They'll be trained in Iraq by NATO forces who will go there, is that right?
FRIST: Well, I suspect it will be both. That decision has not been made. At least it has not been made as of this morning. But the overall commitment under NATO auspices of increased training and equipment is all that has been said today.
There won't be troops that are actually sent in or NATO forces actually sent in. At least that commitment has not been made. I don't think that that will be made. It will be training of the Iraqi troops.
And, again, what will be stressed over the next couple of days is that the United States will be a part of that NATO training force, as well. The secretary-general stressed that to me today in Afghanistan. Our forces and the NATO forces have been kept somewhat apart. But in Iraq, it's going to be very well integrated as we move ahead.
BLITZER: It sounds like a relatively low bar, what NATO has agreed on, the 26 nations of NATO, far less than what they agreed to do in Afghanistan, for example, or elsewhere, in the Balkans. Why this relatively modest commitment?
FRIST: Well, we don't know how modest it ultimately will be. I think for what is quite remarkable, that we had some statements just two or three weeks ago, in particular by France, that we would almost have no participation by NATO in Iraq.
Yet, all 26 countries, 26 countries as part of NATO, are endorsing this new endeavor.
So I've come here to Istanbul and am actually surprised, think that we, or the Iraqi people, are getting a lot more. I thought the bar had been set pretty low, but it sounds to me as if they're going to be moving much higher than most people had anticipated. I think it's quite remarkable that Europe is speaking as one voice through NATO.
I think it's also important to remember that already, there are 16 nations in NATO participating in Iraq, not through NATO, but as individuals, 16 of the NATO members. This will take it up to 26 collectively now involved in these training exercises.
BLITZER: How worried are you, Senator, about the wave of violence these past few days in Iraq? 100 killed this past weekend, one day alone. And that violence seems to be more coordinated by various factions among the insurgency. This doesn't necessarily bode that well for the transfer of power on Wednesday.
FRIST: The terrorists are going to take advantage of this transfer from our occupation to a mission and to sovereignty.
I was in Iraq about two and a half weeks ago, met with Prime Minister Allawi, who I have tremendous respect for. He's a bold leader. He believes in freedom and ultimately having democracy there and in the rule of law, a courageous leader.
He made it very clear that the increase in terrorism we saw in late March and we saw at a pretty high level through April would continue through May and June, and it will likely continue into the near future.
Terrorists are out to subvert and really overturn not just the United States or the coalition, but any rule of law, whether it's the sovereign new interim government or the coalition forces before. They're out to create panic, to hope that people will run, but we're not going to run.
And by "we," I mean the United Nations committee, with that great resolution, that commitment, it is not going to run. The terrorists are going to see now a new commitment by NATO, another international organization, speaking, all of which reinforces what sovereignty is all about. That is, that self-government, which, in just three days, will begin to take place.
BLITZER: Senator Frist, let me make a turn to some domestic political issues while I have you here on "LATE EDITION."
One thing, the Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry was very irritated this week. He came back to Washington for a vote. That vote had been scheduled on veterans' benefits. He spent all day here, canceled some campaigning out west. Listen to what he said when the vote, obviously, didn't occur. Listen to this:
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D-MA), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They found a way, all day, to twiddle their thumbs, do very little, attend a reception at the White House, but not let John Kerry vote.
That's the way they play. That's what's at stake in this race.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is he right?
FRIST: You know, we are in war now, and that's the discussion here at the NATO conference, with 26 nations, under way. We have men and women who are dying overseas. For the last month, we've been on a bill of what's called the defense authorization, a defense appropriation bill. John Kerry has missed nine out of 10 votes. He was not there for final passage of the most important piece of legislation in supporting our troops overseas.
Over the last month, we've had 175 different amendments considered on the defense. Again, this very important issue to the American people. John Kerry parachutes in for eight hours and expects us to put the whole schedule of the Senate. Where has he been for the last four weeks? Why isn't he participating in the debate?
I think it is a real disservice, the fact that he's not representing Massachusetts. He is not out there on the floor of the United States Senate each and every day. I think he might look at the standards set by Senator Bob Dole, who in early June, when he was running for presidency, stepped down. And maybe it is time -- it's up to him -- but maybe it is time for John Kerry to do just that.
BLITZER: Well, you think he should?
FRIST: Well, I'll leave it up to him. I think Bob Dole set the standard. I think if John Kerry expects the United States Senate to have our whole agenda set when he parachutes in for eight hours, and he makes statements critical of the great institution of the United States Senate that is out there passing legislation to support our troops overseas, the authorization and the spending bill, and then doesn't show up for the votes, is really not serving the people of Massachusetts very well.
BLITZER: The bitterness that's in the Senate right now, a lot of observers suggesting it's been a long time since Democrats and Republicans have been so angry at each other.
That seemed to be underscored when the vice president, the president of the Senate, Dick Cheney, cursed at Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont this week. He's acknowledged he did so.
How bad is it getting? And was the vice president justified in using that kind of language at a senator?
FRIST: Well, first of all, let me say that the nation's business is being conducted in a way that I think the American people can be quite proud of. We passed the defense authorization bill, which supports our troops overseas. Last Thursday we passed the appropriations bill, which controls the overall defense spending bill. An important bill passed on Africa, the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act, passed also at the end of last week, a resolution supporting our troops overseas, a bipartisan resolution endorsing the war on terror, as well as our current activities in Iraq. So the nation's business is getting done.
The country is very evenly divided. In the United States Senate, there are 51 Republicans and in essence 49 Democrats. There's one seat that separates the difference. It's a political season right now, where partisan feelings and emotions come to the surface itself. In spite of all that, the nation's business continues, and I think in a very positive way. We're delivering for the American people. We're moving America forward in a way that they can be quite proud.
With regard to the vice president's comments, I did not hear the comments, did not witness the comments, but clearly they reflect a lot of that emotion, a lot of that strong feeling, again, on both sides of the aisle, especially when criticisms do get very personal. And without taking one side or the other, a lot of personal feelings are being expressed, and that emotion came out by the vice president, and I'll let the American people judge as to whether or not it was warranted.
BLITZER: But you don't condone that kind of language on the Senate floor, do you, Senator?
FRIST: Well, first of all, we were -- just so the American people will know -- we were not in session at that point in time. So it was not while we were conducting business of the United States legislative body at that juncture. So I am not going to condone, I am not going to overly criticize the language that people in the -- the language that people use to express themselves.
I do think it is important that we all work together, whether we are a Republican or whether we're Democrat, we need to work together in a positive way to move that agenda of America forward. And in truth, I think we're doing just that.
BLITZER: Senator Frist, thanks very much for joining us. Good luck this week at the NATO summit in Turkey.
FRIST: Wolf, great to be with you. Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you.
BLITZER: And still ahead, my conversation with former Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean. Is he willing to be John Kerry's partner in this campaign, moreso than he has been already? We'll speak to Howard Dean. That's coming up.
Also, more on the NATO summit, right now unfolding in Istanbul, Turkey. You're looking at live pictures, a state dinner prepared for the 26 leaders of NATO and others. More from Istanbul.
All that coming up on "LATE EDITION."
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Howard Dean may have lost the Democratic presidential nomination, but the former Vermont governor is still speaking out on all of the major issues of today, from this week's handover of power of in Iraq, to his party's efforts to deny President Bush a second term.
Howard Dean joins us now live from our Chicago bureau.
Governor, welcome back to "LATE EDITION." Thanks very much.
HOWARD DEAN, FORMER GOVERNOR OF VERMONT: Thanks for having me, Wolf. Thanks.
BLITZER: I want to show our viewers some live pictures we're getting in from Istanbul, Turkey, right now, the NATO summit under way right now. It looks, governor, like they're on the verge of a deal. The NATO allies expected to announce tomorrow or Tuesday that they will go ahead and start training Iraqi security forces. The president, Tony Blair right there in Istanbul right now.
This looks like progress is being made. What do you say?
DEAN: I think it's mostly nonsense. I'm glad that we're making a deal, but I think it's mostly the president desperately needed some positive news to come out. And we're already getting those police officers trained. NATO countries already are training the police officers. So I don't see much coming out of this.
I think it's the right thing to do to transfer sovereignty on June 30, and that's a good thing. Unfortunately, I think it's likely to have a happy ending. There was is a big story this morning in one of the major papers about women who are losing all their rights now because fundamentalists are starting to take over in Iraq. That's exactly the kind of thing I was afraid of, exactly the kind of thing the Bush administration never thought of.
So I think an on-paper smile and shake the hands of all these guys in suits in Istanbul is not going to improve the situation for ordinary Iraqis on the ground.
BLITZER: Well, there was a new U.N. Security Council resolution that was unanimously passed. It looks like President Bush is clearly getting greater international support, albeit probably not what he would like.
DEAN: Actually, I think that's a good thing, the U.N. resolution. And I was very pleased to see that the president had to adopt a Democratic position in order to get the resolution, which is essentially to turn over real sovereignty to the Iraqis. He had a very different position going into that.
So perhaps after this year-long experience and 850 brave Americans killed, the president's finally learned that you ought to listen to other countries once in a while, and you ought to listen to our own military once in a while before you go sending Americans to fight.
BLITZER: I asked you in April of last year, a little more than a year ago, whether you thought the Iraqi people were better or worse off now that Saddam Hussein has been captured. I want you to listen to what you said in April of last year, Governor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DEAN: We don't know that yet, Wolf. We still have a country whose city is mostly without electricity. We have tumultuous occasions in the south with where there's no clear governance. And we have a major city with no clear governance. We don't know yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You were clearly one of the first political leaders in the country to speak out against the war in Iraq. Right now, where do you stand on that question? Are the Iraqi people better or worse off without Saddam Hussein in power?
DEAN: Well, one of the things I think is interesting is now, that after being castigated by both Democrats and Republicans for a while, now the majority of Americans agree with me. This was a mistake.
I think that we still don't know whether the Iraqi people are better off or not. I do think that having Saddam in custody is a good thing, and I do not think that we ought to turn Saddam over to the custody of Iraqis after the June 30th deadline. Should something go wrong, and should he escape, then the war would have been entirely in vain. So we need to keep control of Saddam Hussein.
On the other hand, it's very clear that we don't know if the Iraqi people are better off or not. Women are certainly worse off in terms of their rights. We don't know if a successful democracy will emerge or not. It's too early to say.
The president took an enormous risk. I believe that that risk was unwarranted. We still have yet to find out. We're certainly no safer than we were. In fact, the majority of American people also agree with me that we're no safer than we were because of the Iraq war.
BLITZER: When you say women are worse off in terms of having limited or no rights right now in Iraq, isn't it fair to say...
DEAN: Fewer rights, I didn't say no rights, fewer rights.
BLITZER: Fewer rights. But isn't it fair to say that under the Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party regime, no one had any rights, effectively, in Iraq?
DEAN: Well, women were allowed to dress in western clothes if they chose. They were also allowed to go out. And there are areas now in Iraq where fundamentalist thugs are going through the street making sure that women aren't allowed out in western clothes. They must cover their heads and wear more restrictive clothing. I don't think our people fought a war over there to make sure women would become second class citizens.
BLITZER: All right. Well, let's move on and talk about torture, or the lack thereof. The allegations that the U.S. may have engaged in torturing Iraqi prisoners or detainees or al Qaeda detainees. The president has flatly denied it this past week. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: We do not condone torture. I have never ordered torture. I will never order torture. The values of this country are such that torture is not a part of our soul and our being.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you accept the president's word?
DEAN: Well, yes, I do accept that the president didn't order anybody to be tortured, but I think some of the people who work for him did. I think the Justice Department, clearly, with that memo, is just outrageous, saying that torture could be used by the United States if we wished to because these people were not subject to the Geneva Convention.
That is a disgrace and embarrassment. And it's a typical kind of thing that comes out from overzealous people who are committed to peculiar right wing ideologies within the American mainstream of what judicial thought is.
I think a lot of the things that happened at Abu Ghraib are because of what the president did, not because he ordered torture -- I'd think that I'd be very surprised to find that -- but because we have a mercenary army of 20,000 people over there who are not under the control of the American military.
The chain of command was not clear at Abu Ghraib, and the civilian influence of privately hired people ought not to be running our interrogation.
This administration has an obsession with privatization. When you start privatizing military functions, you break down the chain of command, and this is the kind of thing that happens.
So I think the president has a great deal of responsibility for what went on, although I doubt very much that he ordered it directly. But because he is running an operation that is not being run well.
BLITZER: Despite all the setbacks for the U.S. in Iraq, despite the embarrassments, clearly, of what happened at the Abu Ghraib prison, when the question is asked, who do you trust more as commander in chief, in our latest CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, Bush got 51 percent, Kerry got 43 percent.
Are you surprised that Bush still wins in that category?
DEAN: No, I think John Kerry is closing that gap very, very rapidly.
When I was running, we believed that, if we could close that gap to less than 10 percent, that the president would lose because of the problems in the economy, the distrust of the president over his statements in Iraq, which have all largely turned out to be not true, that we would be the victors. And I think John Kerry is very likely to win the presidency, because this number is not strongly enough in favor of the president. In fact, there have been other polls, as you're aware, where people trust John Kerry more than they do President Bush. And that's a shocking development for the Republicans.
BLITZER: Among our likely voters, a question that was asked in the CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll, virtually a tie, 48 percent for Bush, 47 percent for Kerry, 3 percent for Ralph Nader.
How worried are you, Governor, about this whole Ralph Nader factor?
DEAN: I think Ralph Nader's candidacy is the single biggest danger to the Kerry candidacy. He only has to take 3 percent of the vote in two or three states to send George Bush back to the White House, which I think would be a tragedy for America, given the tumultuous four years that we've had, the loss of life that we've suffered, the disorganization that the president seems to be nurturing in the military and abroad. These smiley and papered-over differences abroad are not going to be enough to give us back the moral leadership of the world.
I was just in London. The majority of businesspeople over there, who normally are in favor of Republicans, are hoping very much that John Kerry will indeed be the next president of the United States.
BLITZER: What do you make of the -- obviously, the uproar that's developed in recent days over Vice President Cheney's using the F-word in attacking Senator Patrick Leahy, your fellow Vermonter, on the floor of the Senate?
DEAN: Well, I find it amusing that the Republicans, having condemned bad language and behavior on television and in the radio, are now backpedaling away, when the vice president used some of that language himself.
I think that the biggest problem that the right wing has is that they're so hypocritical all the time. They say one thing, but when it's one of their own, they don't condemn it.
You know, I was pretty open about condemning Democrats for doing things I didn't think they ought to be doing, and I'm still very willing to do that. I think the Republicans ought to just bite the bullet and say, you know, if they don't want to use that kind of bad language, then the vice president of the United States ought not to be using it on the Senate floor either.
BLITZER: Well, we did hear Senator Chuck Hagel -- he's a Republican. He did speak out forcefully on this program just a few moments ago again, though Senator Frist avoided any criticism of the vice president.
DEAN: Yes. And, you know, Chuck is a stand-up person. We may disagree on political issues, but there are stand-up people in the United States Senate and in the House of Representatives. But unfortunately there are not enough of them.
BLITZER: Howard Dean, always speaking bluntly and candidly to our viewers in the United States and around the world.
Thanks, Governor, very much for joining us.
DEAN: My pleasure, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, a quick check of what's making news at this hour, including the latest developments on a series of blasts just heard in Baghdad.
Then, two top former presidential advisers here in the United States size up the Bush doctrine on Iraq and the war on terror.
More "LATE EDITION" straight ahead.
BLITZER: Up next, what will the handover of power in Iraq mean for the political dynamics across the region? And will it affect world perception of the United States? We'll get special perspective from former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Bzrezinski.
"LATE EDITION" will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A memorable but controversial moment: President Bush aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln in May of last year, declaring an end to major combat operations in Iraq.
More than a year later, as Iraq prepares to assume power, serious security and diplomatic hurdles remain for that country, as well as for the United States and its coalition partners.
Joining us now to talk about the challenges ahead, two special guests, the former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. He served in the Nixon and Ford administrations. And Zbigniew Brzezinski, who served as the national security advisor under former President Jimmy Carter.
Gentlemen, welcome back to LATE EDITION.
And I'll begin, Dr. Kissinger, with you. Is this handover of sovereignty, of power in Iraq going to work? HENRY KISSINGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: The handover of power is going to be a major test of about what has been accomplished. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) or not, it had to be turned over at some point, and I think the turnover will crystallize the issues that have to be resolved.
BLITZER: Well, give us your assessment. What do you think? Is it going to work?
KISSINGER: There are three -- I don't know, to be quite frank.
There are three issues that need to be solved. One is the security issue and how that is conducted under conditions of sovereignty.
The second is the sort of governmental structure that will emerge, how much centralization and how much local autonomy.
And the third is the international status of that new regime and of the relationship between the United States and that new regime on the international pages (ph).
I think we have an opportunity to deal with all of these problems. We must deal with all these problems, because the consequences of failure would be very serious, not only for us, but for our allies and for our countries that have significant Muslim populations.
BLITZER: Dr. Brzezinski, what's your assessment?
ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I think the longer we stay, the greater the difficulties of transition. Because the fact is -- and we have a lot of evidence for that -- most Iraqis, overwhelmingly now, resent, hate the occupation.
BRZEZINSKI: Hate the occupation. Resent it and hate it. We have lots of polls on this, taken by the Coalition Provisional Authority.
So any interim government that's being put in place by us, by default, is going to become the object also of the Iraqi animus, the longer we stay.
How long can we stay? That depends very much on whether we simply wait and see that the situation has become stable and secure, which could be a very long time indeed, as Israelis have learned in the West Bank, where they have been now for 37 years. Or we can decide that at some point, we're going to set the date, make it clear we're leaving, thereby, in my view, give more impetus to the Iraqis to shape up and take charge.
BLITZER: What kind of a time frame for a deadline are you suggesting?
BRZEZINSKI: Obviously, it shouldn't be a deadline which forces us to leave rapidly, in a pell-mell fashion. But it shouldn't be so far away that the Iraqis become convinced that we mean to stay indefinitely.
So I would say sometime next year, sometime next year, maybe as early as April, which will have been two years since the occupation, maybe toward the end of the year. Because that would give the Iraqi government the stimulus it needs to get hold before the whole thing becomes explosive.
BLITZER: Dr. Kissinger, we heard Senator Hagel say on this program earlier that top U.S. generals have briefed him and other members of the Foreign Relations Committee to the point that they are preparing for about 140,000 U.S. troops through 2006, maybe even through 2007. What do you say to Dr. Brzezinski's proposal for a time line to get out?
KISSINGER: Dr. Brzezinski and I have been on programs for 30 years, but I've never disagreed with him as much as this. We cannot possibly set a date for next April under present conditions, unless we're looking for an alibi to leave.
There's no possible way we can ask an Iraqi government to train the forces and to withstand the pressures from the internal insurrection and from the outside forces from Iran and Syria and others that will be involved. And I think such a complete collapse of the American position would have disastrous consequences for us on a global basis.
We shouldn't stay indefinitely. But I do not think we can aid this process by setting a deadline now. We have to get this president an opportunity to develop.
BLITZER: Let me let Dr. Brzezinski respond.
BRZEZINSKI: Well, I think what Henry is saying is, in effect, that we'll stay indefinitely. He has already raised the issue of Syria and Iran. Does he think that Iran and Syria are going to disappear? They're going to be there. They're going to be there. And one way or another, they're going to be involved.
If we're going to stay there until such time as the Syrians and the Iranians are no longer engaged, we're going to be there indefinitely. And I don't think staying indefinitely in Iraq is in our interest, because the issue's not just Iraq.
What we have to recognize and face is the fact that our involvement in Iraq is becoming now a catalyst for unrest throughout the Middle East. And it's destabilizing Saudi Arabia; it's galvanizing Arab passions against the United States. It's beginning to be viewed as the other side of a single coin, namely, it's being viewed as linked to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. And we're going to be bogged down for years and years and years to come.
BLITZER: Dr. Kissinger, go ahead and respond.
KISSINGER: Certainly Iran and Syria are going to be there, but the conditions in which their relationship to Iraq will take place will depend importantly on the role that they think that not only the United States but other countries may play in Iraq.
It is a phony argument to say we either stay indefinitely or we get out next April. We should proceed on trying to build a government in Iraq. We should try to maintain the security situation, to the best of our ability. And in that process, we can also then deal with relationships with Syria and Iran.
But for the United States to withdraw from Iraq, saying that we cannot cope with Iran and Syria, and that the United States leaves everything that has been done in what is in effect a pell-mell fashion, I think would be a disaster.
BLITZER: All right. I'm going to ask both of you to hold your thoughts for a moment. We're going to take a quick commercial break.
Lots more to talk about with the former secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, the former national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski. They'll also be taking your phone calls.
You're watching "LATE EDITION," the last word in Sunday talk.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our conversation with the former U.S. secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, and the former U.S. national security advisor, Zbigniew Bzrezinski.
Dr. Bzrezinski, I wanted to give you a chance to respond to Dr. Kissinger saying if your proposal to just pull out by next April goes into effect, it could be a disaster for the U.S. throughout the region.
BZREZINSKI: Well, Henry has said more than that. My good old friend said it was a phony argument. And I want to return the compliment by suggesting that his argument is very reminiscent of what he used to say during the Vietnamese war, when he was arguing that we should stay until we see light at the end of the tunnel.
The point is, the longer we stay and the more indefinite our stay is because we don't define how long we're staying, the more there will be opposition and the more Iraqi politicians will begin to compete in demanding that we leave. So we, in effect, lose control over our policy.
BLITZER: Well, that's a serious charge you're making against Dr. Kissinger. Let me let him respond.
Is this the same argument you're making today, Dr. Kissinger, that you made during the Vietnam War, that if the U.S. simply pulled out, it would be a disaster?
KISSINGER: I never used the argument "a light at the end of the tunnel." I said, indeed, during the Vietnam War that we could not simply abandon people to which four American administrations of both parties had pledged support. And I believed then that we owed it to the people of Vietnam that we would leave under conditions in which they were given an opportunity to determine their own fate.
As it happened that once an agreement was made, the domestic conditions in the United States and Watergate made it impossible to implement the premises of the agreement. So we don't know how it would have worked out.
But I repeat, of course we should leave at some point. I object to a deadline that is set closed and indeed to any specific deadline. I think we should state certain criteria that we want to meet in the process of building security and in other matters. But I do not think that setting a fixed deadline can possibly lead to anything except people waiting us out.
BLITZER: Dr. Bzrezinski, the former vice president of the United States, Al Gore, delivered another speech here in Washington at Georgetown University, the law school, there earlier in the week, basically saying the president lied to the American people about this war, and it's been a disaster ever since. I wanted you to listen to this little lecture from what Gore said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORE: If Iraq had nothing to do with the attack or the organization that launched the attack against us, then that means the president took us to war when he didn't have to, a war in which almost 900 of our soldiers have been killed and almost 5,000 have been wounded.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Was this war, Dr. Bzrezinski, a mistake?
BZREZINSKI: The fact that Hussein is gone is a good thing. But the costs of getting him out have been too high and are rising.
And this is what concerns me about the longer run, namely that the war in Iraq is actually intensifying hatred against us in the Islamic world as a whole, and specifically in the Middle East. It is galvanizing greater unity among a variety of terrorist groups. And it is making it more difficult to sustain our position in the Middle East.
Look, Saudi Arabia may blow up at any point. Americans are being told officially by the State Department to be leaving Saudi Arabia, which means, in effect, we're giving advice to Americans that the terrorists themselves favor, namely, "Americans, get out."
Our position in the region is deteriorating. And we need a much broader strategy than just saying we're going to stay in Iraq indefinitely until we feel the place is secure. We have to address other issues as well.
BLITZER: Let me let Dr. Kissinger weigh in on this specific point.
Was the war, Dr. Kissinger, a mistake?
KISSINGER: I think the war was made on the basis of reasonable judgments in the light of analysis and intelligence information that then existed.
The terrorism in Saudi Arabia is surely not caused by events in Iraq. And the challenge that we are facing from terrorism we would face in any event.
Certainly, there were mistakes of analysis made and that the expectation of how to govern Iraq after victory was too optimistic. But there's no point in going over that particular argument. And I think it's painful to hear a former vice president make the sort of charges that you made.
The question is how we can best improve the situation from where we are. And the challenge of terrorism is what brought us into the region, and it was certainly not caused by our resistance to it.
BLITZER: All right, Dr. Kissinger, Dr. Bzrezinski, unfortunately we have to leave it right there. Thanks for a serious, thoughtful discussion.
BZREZINSKI: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Up next, the results of our Web poll question of the week on who should have legal custody of Saddam Hussein after this week's handover of power in Iraq? We'll give you the results when we come back.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Our "LATE EDITION" Web question of the week asked whether the interim Iraqi government or the United States should have legal custody of Saddam Hussein after the June 30th handover in Iraq.
Here's how you voted. At least so far, 82 percent say the interim Iraqi government, 18 percent say the United States. Remember, this is not a scientific poll.
That's your "LATE EDITION" for Sunday, June 27th. Please be sure to join me again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.
I'm also here Monday through Friday twice a day, at both noon and 5 p.m. Eastern.
Until then, thanks very much for joining us. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.