Monday :: Sep 6, 2004

Political Twister Party

by pessimist

[Sometimes, an issue can bend around a corner and cause polar opposites to meet in agreement. Such an instance happened on Meet The Press this last Sunday. In discussing the Iraq Occupation, the opinions of both Senator Bob Graham and conservative commentator Pat Buchanan overlapped quite a bit.]

[In presenting this interview, which also included ex-Speaker Newt Gingrich, I culled what I considered non-spin, factual discussion in an effort to illuminate the issues. Thus, if you don't like what I did, edit the transcript your way and put it on your own blog!]

[Gingrich's comments tended to be mostly spin in my opiniion, but even he posed some thoughtful questions and a few cogent comments. Those I include below.]

MEET THE PRESS Sunday, September 5, 2004
Sen. Bob Graham, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, & former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to the subject at hand: the war in Iraq, war on terrorism. You believe it is a necessary war?

MR. GINGRICH: I believe it is unequivocally a necessary war.

[OK - so much for the case for the defense. On to the prosecution!]

MR. RUSSERT: These are the latest numbers of U.S. military casualties in Iraq: killed, 979; wounded and injured, 6,916--1,100 wounded or injured in August, 2004, the highest number since the war began. Newt Gingrich - Will those numbers, that toll of killed and injured and wounded American solders, have an impact on the presidential election?

FMR. REP. NEWT GINGRICH: I think absolutely, Tim. You can't be in the middle of a real war and have real effort by your enemy to kill you and not have some impact. The country will have to render summary judgment: Is President Bush right that this is a necessary war? Is he right that we are doing the difficult, painful, long-term things, or, in fact, are Senator Kerry's critiques more accurate? I think this is the central question of whether or not the commander in chief should stay or whether or not you need a new commander in chief.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Bob Graham, we're in the middle of a presidential election and the New York Times quotes you today as saying this, "The people are there, the candidate is there; it's the reason to vote for the candidate that's still a little out of focus. ... It's become a referendum on the challenger." Should Senator Kerry be very explicit as to exactly what he would do now with the war in Iraq?

SEN. GRAHAM: He has been explicit and he needs to continue that. I would suggest he also needs to say that the issue is now beyond Iraq; it is now Iran; it is now North Korea. Will we have a president for the next critical four years who will apply the same standards of judgment, or lack of judgment, preparation or lack of preparation, to wars in those countries that we have seen in Iraq?

MR. RUSSERT: Pat Buchanan, in your book, Where the Right Went Wrong, you write the following: "In 2003, the United States invaded a country that did not threaten us, did not attack us and did not want war with us to disarm it of weapons we have since discovered it did not have. ... Now our nation is tied down, our Army is being daily bled in a war to create democracy in a country where it has never before existed. ... With the guerrilla war, U.S. prestige has plummeted. You go on to write that Iraq was, "...the greatest strategic blunder in 40 years, a mistake more costly than Vietnam."

MR. PAT BUCHANAN: Certainly, Tim, I believe it is an unnecessary war; it is an unwise war. The United States, by invading that country and taking over its capital, we have inflamed the entire Middle East and Arab and Islamic world. American prestige and support for the president and the United States has never been lower in that part of the world. And Mr. Rumsfeld's question has been answered. He asked, "Have we been creating more terrorists than we are killing?" When he said that, some 5,000 insurgents were said to be in Baghdad by General Abizaid. The latest count is 20,000. I believe this war itself is creating a pool, a spawning pool out of which Osama bin Laden can draw recruits. I think that there has been nothing that has done more to put Osama bin Laden, if you will, in the mainstream of the Arab cause of nationalism than what appears to the Arabs to be to be a near-imperial adventure by the United States in Iraq.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Bob Graham, in your book Intelligence Matters: The CIA, The FBI, Saudi Arabia And The Failure of America's War On Terror, you write the following about a February 2002 meeting with General Tommy Franks, "Here, General Franks, a four-star general and commander of CENTCOM, was laying out for me how he would fight a true war on terrorism. Instead, his men and resources were being moved to Iraq, where he felt our intelligence was shoddy. This admission was coming almost 14 months before the beginning of combat operations in Iraq and only five months after the commencement of combat in Afghanistan. ... And though President Bush packaged action in Iraq as part of the war on terror, the truth was that not only was it not part of the war on terror, it actively and demonstrably detracted from the war on terror." And yet General Franks addressed the Republican convention in New York and he praised on President Bush.

SEN. GRAHAM: I reported, with as much precision as I can, what General Franks told to me in that meeting at Central Command in February of 2002. He laid out a very precise strategy for fighting the war on terror. First, we should win the war in Afghanistan; second move to Somalia, which as he described was almost anarchy but with substantial number of al-Qaeda cells, then to Yemen, and that we should be very careful about Iraq because our intelligence was so weak that we didn't know what we were getting into. And then, interestingly suggested that several European countries knew more about the realty of the situation in Iraq than we did, and that we should look to them for advice.

MR. RUSSERT: Pat Buchanan, we are now hearing on the wires that Mr. al-Douri, the number-two to Saddam Hussein, has been captured. So we now--and there he is on the screen. We now have a situation where Saddam Hussein and his number two are in captivity. Is the world not safer without them presiding over the country of Iraq?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, certainly, the Iraqi people are probably safer as a consequence of the American liberation and overthrow of Saddam Hussein. The problem, Tim, is this: Now, that Saddam Hussein is gone, what we have is a situation in Fallujah and Ramadi where Sunni fundamentalists are in control and the Shias are rising up in the south, and we--and Americans are dying, and we do not have enough troops, in my judgment, in place to win this war. What you could have here and what the risk is: that having overthrown this one devil, we could have seven devils enter in his place. This could turn into a failed state in chaos and civil war, where the United States is forced out or either forced to double our troops in there. And if that happens, Tim, we've got ourselves a hellish situation there. It was not a problem. Saddam was a criminal and a thug and a brute, but he was no threat to a country that flew 40,000 sorties over Iraq in 10 years. He did not shoot down a single one.

MR. RUSSERT: Would you send more American troops or would you withdraw?

MR. BUCHANAN: This is the question that, I think, should be put to John Kerry and the president of the United States in the debates: "Mr. President, if John Abizaid comes to you and says, `We can't do it with the present complement, we need 75,000 more American troops'--what would you do, John Kerry? What would you do, George W. Bush?" If it were up to me, Tim, I think I would execute a strategic withdrawal from Iraq. I think it was a terrible mistake. We're going to pay consequences one way or the other. And my feeling is probably it would be better for us in the long run if we withdrew.

[I would like to jump in here for the moment. Despite the fact that we should not have invaded Iraq until the inspections demonstrated a real need for us to do so, and then only with the active and physical support of the United Nations, we are now the best and only hope for Iraq. Unfortunately, because our current government seems more concerned with making GOP contributors from Texas far more wealthy than they have a right to be than they are with establishing a stable Iraqi government to run that nation, our bungling efforts have incurred great costs that we can't recoup easily - not just in lives lost and damaged, but in national prestige and respect. Who is going to listen to a nation whose leader is a demonstrated fool? Thus, I am in basic agreement with the next two opinions on this topic.]

MR. RUSSERT: Newt Gingrich, strategic withdrawal?

MR. GINGRICH: Pat Buchanan just described his own formula for creating precisely the failed state he talked about.

MR. RUSSERT: Might we need more American troops?

MR. GINGRICH: We might, and I think the president will say that he will do what General Abizaid recommends, but we do not need a 500,000 or 600,000-man force. That is exactly wrong. What we want to do is have Iraqis patrolling the streets so that they're the enforcers and the American troops are the reinforcers.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Graham, should we send in more American troops to Iraq or should there be a strategic withdrawal?

SEN. GRAHAM: If the commander in chief in Iraq feels that more troops are necessary and we are unable to fill that need either from Iraqis who are prepared to assume more of their defense of the country or international forces, then I think we don't have any choice. To me, the real issue is the decision-making that led us into the war in Iraq and the decision-making that is going to be in place for future conflicts in Iran and North Korea. I think the key question ought to be which of the many enemies that we face around the world, particularly in the Middle East and central Asia, has the greatest potential to kill Americans, and there is no question that greatest enemy is al-Qaeda and the other international terrorists. They should be our primary focus and not the distraction of a foe that was contained.

MR. RUSSERT: Mr. Speaker, as you well know, Jim Schlesinger, a former Republican secretary of defense, looked into the prison abuse issue for the Pentagon, an independent study, and he reported this: "In Iraq, there was not only a failure to plan for a major insurgency, but also to quickly and adequately adapt to the insurgency that followed after major combat operations." Will you acknowledge that there were serious misjudgments, miscalculations made in the war in Iraq?

MR. GINGRICH: Tim, on your show five or six months ago, I said we made a huge mistake in June of last year by not moving promptly to an interim Iraqi government. Had we continued to move as we had planned to an Iraqi interim government and to using the Iraqi regular army in June of last year, we would be in better shape today. I think Pat Buchanan put it pretty clear: Would John Kerry, as commander in chief, hang tough until the Iraqi people have a free country, or would he find some excuse to withdraw, even if it led to a dictatorship or, even worse, to a vicious civil war?

[I agree with the assessment of what we should have done in Iraq, for it's logical in many ways. I leave this somewhat inflamatory and partisan question in this post because it shows that there is a need for Kerry to address this issue. The context of the question is thus a reasonable one for the opposition to be asking him. A good answer could win some of the undecided voters to the Kerry column.]

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Graham, in your book, you write that you were given, in effect, two different intelligence estimates of Iraq's capability. Now, we're confronted in a world with a growing concern with Iran and with North Korea. Do you have the confidence that the American people and the world would listen to the United States if we came forward and said, "Iran has a nuclear program and a threat. It must be taken out." North Korea must be taken out based on the whole weapons of mass destruction controversy regarding Iraq?

SEN. GRAHAM: If there's one lesson that comes from both 9/11 and the Iraq War is the unreliability of American intelligence - and I am distressed to say that, but it is the truth. I think we have an urgent need to reform our intelligence agencies so that we can recapture the credibility of the world, and we're feeling it already today. We don't have to get into an Iran situation. The Chinese are questioning our intelligence relative to North Korea, which is affecting the negotiations that are going on to try to disarm North Korea from its nuclear capabilities.

MR. BUCHANAN: Who promised us, Tim, a cakewalk? Who promised the president a rose garden? Who failed to prepare for what would happen after we took Baghdad and Iraq? Who are the men responsible for this and why has the president of the United States not removed any of them? Most of them over in the Pentagon are the neoconservative war hawks who planned, prepared and propagandized for a war in Iraq as far back as 1996. This was their class project. I believe they imposed it upon the president. The president bears full responsibility for accepting it. But why he has not removed these people from office, I cannot for the life of me understand.

MR. RUSSERT: Pat Buchanan, let me just jump in here, because you have written something in your book that I think is going to be quite controversial and I want to put it on the screen and share it with you and our viewers and give a chance for our group to respond to it. "U.S. dominance of the Middle East is not the corrective to terror. It is a cause of terror. Were were not over there, the 9/11 terrorists would not have been over here. And while their acts were murderous and despicable, behind their atrocities lay a political motive. We were attacked because of our imperial presence on the sacred soil of the land of Mecca and Medina, because of our enemies' perception that we were strangling the Iraqi people with sanctions and preparing to attack a second time, and because of our uncritical support of the Likud regime of Ariel Sharon in Israel". Are you suggesting that our alliance with Israel is one of the reasons that we were attacked on September 11?

MR. BUCHANAN: Sure. That's one of the reasons given by Osama bin Laden. In his fatwa of 1998, he wrote that there are three causes of the problems and three causes for a declaration of war by all Arabs and good Muslims against the United States. One, America's imperial presence on the sacred soil of Saudi Arabia. Secondly, the sanctions policy against Iraq which was persecuting and basically starving, he said, the Iraqi people, and we were planning another invasion. Third is the United States' uncritical support of the Ariel Sharon regime in Israel, which he argued is persecuting the Palestinian people.

In my judgment, this one-sided support for Sharon, the refusal to condemn that wall snaking through the West Bank, the agreement to support Sharon's claim to virtually half of the West Bank, this has caused enormous hostility and animosity and hatred for this country in that part of the world, not just among the Palestinians. And if we want to drain off some of this hatred, this venom against us, we have got to adopt a more evenhanded policy here. We have got to stand up for the same rights for the Palestinian people, a homeland, a nation, a state of their own, a viable one, on the land their forefathers farmed for a thousand years, because those are first our principles and secondly, that is in the national interest of the United States of America. I don't care what Ariel Sharon believes.

MR. RUSSERT: They are not attacking us because they hate us and hate our culture?

MR. BUCHANAN: This is the fundamental point. Are they attacking us because of who we are and what they believe, or are they attacking us because of what we do? I believe it is our policies, not our principles, that are causing these attacks. Osama bin Laden wasn't sitting in some cave in Afghanistan and stumble on the Bill of Rights and go bananas. It is because of what we are doing. Most fundamentally, it wasn't Israel number one. Number one, Saudi Arabia, female soldiers, American soldiers sitting there on the land of Mecca and Medina.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Graham, you buy that theory?

SEN. GRAHAM: I think that our policies have been the key to the terrorist motivation. In the book, you'll see several discussions with leaders in Egypt and Syria and Lebanon, and they all point to the urgency of the United States being fully engaged with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to try to bring it to a resolution and a concern that President Bush has not been significantly committed to achieving that goal.

MR. BUCHANAN: We also need to investigate whether there is a nest of Pollardites in the Pentagon who have been transmitting American secrets through APAC, the Israeli lobby, over to Reno Road, the Israeli embassy, to be transferred to Mr. Sharon. Now, I did not know until this weekend's stories in The Washington Post that this is exactly what is being talked about; that certain individuals over there in Mr. Feith's shop or beneath him have been transmitting these secrets. Now, the FBI have been asking questions. There are no conclusions. No one should assume guilt on anyone's part. But if this has been going on, Tim, we are getting dangerously close to the T-word. [treason - ed] And I would urge the president of the United States to get out in front of this, to take this investigation away from Mr. McNulty and give it to Patrick Fitzgerald and let them look into it because if the president can-- I'm sure the president has no involvement in this. But questions have been raised, and this is not something on the Internet. This is The Washington Post doing this, moving all this around, and so I think there clearly needs to be an investigation.

[Putting this on Fitzgerald's plate might distract efforts at discovering who outed Valerie Plame? Fitzgerald has demonstrated that he's a straight shooter so far, despite being a Republican (something for them to emulate - Democrats also. Politics should never rise above the safety and welfare of the nation.), but I am not aware if he has enough staff to take on this additional task at this time. If he does, thenI am confident, based on the Plame investigation so far, that he would get to the bottom of this - regardless of who is involved.]

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Graham, I'll give you the last word.

SEN. GRAHAM: I would say that one thing this administration needs to do is to come clean with the American people. They are dramatically overusing classification, not for national security reasons but in order to protect political embarrassment. I think we lay out the case in this book of the extent to which Saudi Arabia was a key part of making 9/11 happen, and yet this administration has taken every step to obfuscate, avoid and cover up Saudi Arabia's actions.

[There just might be something to this accusation. Cantor Fitzgerald, one of the companies who was quartered in the World Trade Center and lost many employees on 9/11, is suing the Saudis for complicity through their financial support of Islamic fundamentalists. These people are not stupid or flighty, and their business is to know what's going on so that they can advise their clients with good information on people and events which might affect their investments. If Cantor Fitzgerald feels that they have a case, they just might know something that we the general population don't at this time - and maybe that our current government won't admit.]

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pessimist :: 10:10 PM :: Comments (1) :: Digg It!