American Power & The Crisis Over Iraq (transcript)
MR. STEVE WASSERMAN: My name is Steve Wasserman. I'm editor of the Los Angeles Times Book Review, and it is my privilege to welcome not only all eighteen hundred of you who are here in this beautiful Art Deco theatre, the Wiltern here in Los Angeles, but also the many tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of others who will be watching this broadcast live nationally on C-SPAN. We are also being recorded by KCRW, 89.9 FM here in Los Angeles, by Radio Nation as well, which will broadcast the entire proceedings off their network all over the country as well. The Los Angeles Times, the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities, and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism are the principal sponsors of this event.
There is a long list of co-sponsors
which I do want to acknowledge, a kind of coalition of the concerned
who believe that sound bite debate can never replace a more fulsome
debate which we feel it is our obligation, both singly and collectively,
to undertake at a moment of tremendous national, indeed, international
importance. Before I welcome Dean Orville Schell of the UC Berkeley
Graduate School of Journalism for a few welcoming remarks, let me just
read, in alphabetical order — and please bear with me — the list
of co-sponsors, both individuals and periodicals, organizations and
the like who have helped make this event possible.
The Atlantic Monthly, the Commonwealth Club of California, the Los Angeles County Art Museum's Institute for Art and Cultures, the Los Angeles Public Library, the L.A. Weekly, the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, The Nation, Radio Nation, the New York Institute for the Humanities, the New York Review of Books, the Norman Lear Center at USC's Annenberg School, Occidental College, Oakland Society Institute, Penn U.S.A., the Wiesen Foundation, Betty and Stanley Sheinbaum, Barbara Streisand, Town Hall Los Angeles, the UCLA International Institute and the USC Annenberg School for Communication. Thank you all. [Applause.] Let me introduce, for a few welcoming remarks, Dean Orville Schell. [Applause.]
MR. ORVILLE SCHELL:
Well, thanks, Steve. It's very gratifying to see you all here
on this eve of, I think, some unprecedented events. And I suspect
I know why most of you are here. You could be home with your families,
at a movie, having dinner. But I think it's this sense that
the country is heading into some very uncharted waters, and that in
fact we really had not had a chance to have the kind of discussion that
might have led to a more hopeful end to what I think could be a quite
tragic scenario. I think there's a kind of a food chain of events
that has to happen in order for those kinds of discussions to have real
effect. It starts with an issue, it goes to the media, gets vectored
into the public, and ultimately back to the media and up to those who
formulate policy. And I think this is really what has been missing.
Those synapses have not been firing correctly.
I think many of you, like me,
are probably a little weary of hearing people yell at each other on
television, so this debate provides a more formal structure, as Steve
said, and it's the kind of event that I think we ought to have more
of, particularly on the media. It's the second debate.
We had one up at the University of California Berkeley with Mark Danner
and Christopher Hitchens, and Steve came up and thought this was a great
idea; indeed it is. And I very much hope that this will be one
of many of these debates that we can have here on the West Coast with
these congeries of organizations and the Los Angeles Times.
So Steve, thanks for taking this on. [Applause.]
Without further ado, let me bring out our panelists. I'll make
a few opening remarks, and then we will begin the conversation which,
it is hoped, will shed at least as much light as heat. [Applause.]
Because we are also being broadcast by radio, it will be important for
all of us, from time to time, to exercise the most stringent discipline,
and insofar as we're humanly capable of, not interrupt each other,
even though ever fiber in our bodies may desire it, so that the listening
audience can actually know who is speaking. And I will, from time
to time, reintroduce the panelists as the occasion warrants.
Let us first say that this last period, year and a half or so, has been, I'm almost tempted to say, unprecedented, certainly in my lifetime. A degree of bellicosity, a degree of rhetorical flourish has inflamed the language both of policy and ordinary talk. Many Americans, like many people all over the world, have grouped themselves around dinner tables and breakfast tables and water coolers and on street corners to debate what feels, at least to some critics, like what people might have felt in 1913. We appear, at least to some, to be on the precipice of a potential great catastrophe. For others we seem, finally, to be on the eve of an epic of emancipation. We are plunged into this moment by the fact that there has been assembled, in Mesopotamia, a tremendous military machine which has girdled a state called Iraq, which is a kind of synthetic but real country formed in 1920 through '24, carved out of lines in the sand, which has endured decades of a very difficult and troubled history.
Whether or not the Bush Administration's
desire to both topple Saddam Hussein and disarm his country is both
justified and wise is the point of departure for tonight's discussion
and debate. It is our hope that in the two hours that we have
this evening, that we will challenge received opinion, that we will
remark upon some of the shibboleths and canards that have affected and
deformed much of what has passed for debate, that we will try to explore
some of the ironies and paradoxes that have, for many people, exploded
old categories of what has heretofore been thought to be the Left position
or the Right position. We seek to find the right position, the
moral position, a position consistent with what we understand to be
the Republic's interests, and indeed the interests of securing peace,
with justice, for peoples all over the world, including our own.
Let us begin, and I will introduce each of the speakers in turn. And for the first period, they will each have about 12 minutes. In television land, 12 minutes might seem an eternity, and particularly with no break for commercials, but it seems to us, in the short attention span culture that coarsens almost all debate, that this gives us at least, and each of the speakers, a bit of elbow room to stretch out with the notion, and to plumb it in some way. We, of course, will not be able, in this evening, to address all issues that have attached themselves to the principal one before us, like so much collateral damage, but we hope at least to raise the kinds of questions that all of you can begin to think about, and with any luck, may challenge the sorts of notions that you entered this hall with this evening.
To begin, we will begin with Christopher Hitchens. Christopher Hitchens is currently the I.F. Stone Fellow at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. He is, as many of you may know, a contributing editor to Vanity Fair. He's the author of numerous books including, most recently, Why Orwell Matters. It is a matter of, I think, almost inarguable assent that he is one of the most gifted, whether one agrees with him or not, polemicists of his generation. Christopher Hitchens. [Applause.]
MR. CHRISTOPHER HITCHENS:
Thank you, Steve, for a very handsome introduction. Thanks also
to your suspiciously long list of sponsors. It seems almost consensual,
the way he phrased it. And to the L.A. Times and the
L.A. Weekly particularly for their own genius. And I'd like
also, in a fraternal spirit, to offer my opening thanks also to the
anti-war movement for so bravely — [applause] — I hope that
wonderful applause don't come out of my time — the anti-war
movement for so bravely and doggedly and stubbornly wearing and displaying
the medals of its defeats. It takes a certain amount of moral
courage, I think, to do that, or courage of a sort.
I don't just mean the defeat they suffered over Bosnia or Afghanistan or Kosovo. I don't have to rub in the fact that if their advice had been listened to, Kuwait would now be the 19th province in Iraq, and would have been for some years. Bosnia would be part of greater Serbia. Kosovo would be a howling wilderness dominated by the ideology of ethnic cleansing, and Afghanistan would still be run by the Taliban. That's what you would have got if you'd heard the anti-war movement's arguments and taken them seriously before. And in many cases, including those who run this movement and actually organize it, that would have been the desired result.
I speak, rather, tonight, I think, to the people to whom that result would at least be unintentional, those who have the excuse of innocence. I suppose I mean the touching way in which they now call for more containment, more sanctions and more inspections. In other words, they can see that every step of this policy so far, and all the success that it has had, hard won and bitterly fought, is self-evidently attributable to the programs put forward by those of us who have long favored regime change in Iraq. There would be no sanctions, inspections, containments or no fly zones if it wasn't for that. And while many people want to hold it right there and say this far and no further, there are some of us who have long believed that the logical and moral conclusion is to finish this task and complete it. And this will have the happy result of the full emancipation of the Iraqi and Kurdish peoples from a regime of an explicitly National Socialist type.
Now, I took this view long before George Bush did, and so if you want to bring up Kyoto or capital punishment in Texas, or any other thing that may be on your mind — prescription drugs for seniors, I don't know — save it, would you? We're discussing Iraq tonight. [Laughter.] Want to hear another really stupid argument? There are some people, some of them with actual Jewish names, who have been wanting to remove Saddam Hussein for some time. I have to break this to you. Someone has to tell you. They've had it in for him for a considerable period. Bush himself is only a very recent convert to this scheme. I've been in Washington for 21 years, ladies and gentlemen, comrades and friends, brothers and sisters; let me tell you what I've learned. The Gentiles keep worming their way into my positions no matter what you do. [Laughter.] It's worse than you might think, actually.
Paul Wolfowitz wrote the first essay warning that Saddam Hussein was an aggressive tyrant who hoped to dominate the Gulf. He wrote it in 1978. That's almost a quarter century of being essentially right. I ask you what could possibly be more sinister than that? Now, I'm quite happy to give my support to this open conspiracy. I joined it more recently than some, but earlier than others. And very happy, in fact proud to say that my solidarity belongs with the brave fighters of the patriotic unit of Kurdistan and the Iraqi National Congress. Some of you wouldn't know what courage was unless you'd seen what some of these people have fought against and how they've had to fight it. I don't want to be part of Saddam Hussein's human shield constituency, and every bit of the progress that's been made so far has come from the careful, graduated deployment of force or the believable threat of it.
And every betrayal along that
road, particularly the 1991 decision of the Bush Administration to leave
Saddam Hussein in power, and not just to leave him in power, but to
stand by while he used helicopter gun ships to massacre again and humiliate
again and torture again what I refuse to call, I decline to call, his
own people, but the people of Iraq who were slaves then and will be
free tomorrow. This policy, which was dictated by the regime of
Saudi Arabia that didn't want regime change in its region and still
doesn't, and for very good reasons, and didn't want the emancipation
of the Shia Muslims, those were the consequences of diplomacy, secret
diplomacy sometimes, open otherwise, and of compromise.
If I could see you all, which
I can't, because the lights are in my eyes, I would ask you to put
up your hands if you favor, any of you, the removal of the no fly zones
that have, for the past dozen years or so, protected the people of Kurdistan
and in southern Iraq. Perhaps I could sense a rustle if many hands
went up. Nobody wants to do that. Well then, we've been
at war with Saddam Hussein for some time, haven't we? And we
are at war with him now. And the argument about what side to be
on and how to prosecute this matter has essentially been already decided,
and in a wonderful way, in my opinion, on the side of principle.
We have demonstrated, in the
northern sixth of Iraq, the area that's roughly contiguous with Kurdistan,
we've already demonstrated that regime change is no utopia.
Already, in that part of Iraq, emancipated from the rule of a sadistic
megalomaniac, there's a party system, there are 21 newspapers, there
are three female high court judges, there are Internet cafes.
And the oil revenues, because this area is under sanctions, too, scarce
as they are, are spent on the reconstruction of the country's roads
and schools and hospitals, and not on the upkeep of a parasitic and
aggressive military oligarchy. It's already been proved.
And by the way, this gain, this enormous gain from the interventionist regime change policy may have to be defended not just against Iraq, but also against Turkey, in which case those of us who favor regime change are obliged to say, as I do, that we would be on their side still. And it would be a good slogan for the peace movement, I think, to demand down with Turkish unilateralism in Iraq. But somehow they can't seem to muster that kind of energy.
Now, I don't have to go all
the way back to '78, when Paul Wolfowitz began this argument,
just take you to 1989. Finally, it seemed to most of us, that
the discredited, bankrupt, sinister idea of the one party state, the
one party regime, had been finally banished. In an enormous shout
of liberation, those regimes collapsed from one end of Europe to another,
and one of the great moments of human emancipation was consummated.
We looked forward then, some of us, to a peace dividend, and some of
you will cast your minds back that far. We thought that perhaps
a new era of international relations and internal affairs was dawning.
But we've been cheated of this, and we're at this grave hour now because of the survivors of the ridiculous idea of the worship one man, one rule, one party regime. Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Slobodan Milosevic tried to create a greater Serbia. Kim Jong-Il, even as South Korea was evolving under the heroic, in my opinion, campaign leadership of Kim Dae Jung, into something like a functioning democracy, was using this time to become an international plutonium merchant. And now these people have been joined, in what I would call a sort of Hitler-Stalin pact, by an even more hideous faction, those who believe not just in the one party, but in the one God, and the Jihad. And that's how we got Afghanistan and that alliance.
Now do you think, or does anybody believe that a confrontation with this kind of system that is inherently aggressive as well as inherently pornographic and dictatorial is postponable? Is it not rather inevitable that we will have to confront these regimes and their intentions? Who would let the other side pick the time of this confrontation? Who would let them preempt? Who would allow Saddam Hussein to do what he's always done before, to choose the time and place of the engagement? Rather, I think, we should say no, it's enough. We will pick the day that your rule comes to an end.
There used to be a slogan, when the Left had good three word slogans, that said Fascism means war. What it meant by that was that Fascism intends war and desires war and entails war. It just means the two questions are indissoluble. And now we hear no war in Iraq chanted by people who say no quarrel with Saddam Hussein. And if they want more time, if they now bleat that they do, what are they going to use this time for? What does time mean in this context?
In May, the U.N. Special Committee on Disarmament will start to be chaired by Iraq. Shall we wait for that? Would that be a good deadline? Want to know who the co-chair is? Iran. Shall we give them time for that? Why do you think that Kim Jong-Il is now able to talk to us as if he was the one with deterrent power? Because Hans Blix was the inspector in his case, and asked to give him more time, and certified him as strenuously attempting to comply with the nonproliferation treaty. And Saddam Hussein wants time so he can join the Kim Jong-Il club. And I don't think he should have it. And I can't believe that anyone in this room thinks so either.
Thank you, Christopher. [Applause.]
MR. HITCHENS: Well, it was a start, isn't it?
MR. WASSERMAN: I'd like to introduce Mark Danner. He's a professor at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. I suspect he is down the hall from Christopher this semester, and they pass in unruly collegiality in that hall. Mark Danner is also a staff writer for The New Yorker. He's the author of a remarkable piece of investigative reportage published some years ago about the depredations in Central America entitled The Massacre at El Mozote. Professor Danner. [Applause.]
MR. MARK DANNER:
Thank you, Steve, and thank all of you. It is wonderful to join
a crusade. Christopher has just introduced you to the power and
the passion that you can feel in the thought of fighting for the right.
What better thing than to go off and destroy evil? What better
thing than to search out monsters and destroy them? And Saddam
Hussein is, indeed, terribly evil. He is a horrible dictator.
He has done atrocious things. So who could quarrel with this?
Who could quarrel with the case that Christopher just made? Surely
no one. We're all on the side of the right. And yet as
we speak, the President of the United States finds himself floating
on an island in the middle of the Atlantic with no one to play with
but Tony Blair and José Maria Aznar. [Applause.]
Now why is this? Surely
it's because of the duplicity of the French. [Laughter.]
Surely it's because the rest of the world is simply wrong. Why
is it that not only the French, but the Russians, the Chinese, the Germans,
four of the half dozen most powerful countries of the world, not to
mention, as we've seen over the last week, the Guineans, the Cameroonians,
the Angolans, the Mexicans, the Chileans, the Pakistanis, the Turks
find this a terrible idea. So terrible that the Turks seem to
have turned down six billion or 13 billion or 40 billion dollars, depending
on whom you're talking to. What makes these countries so stupid?
Why do they think this battle for the right is such a terrible idea?
Now, we can say they're duplicitous or we can say Jacques Chirac is a pimp, or we can say Hans Blix is a disaster. We can ascribe this to a lot of reasons. But we have to, as we stand here tonight on the brink of war — and war will begin in a matter of days — as we stand here tonight on the brink of war, it would be wonderfully welcome, I think, if we could come up, together, with the reason why the United States will very soon attack, invade and occupy Iraq.
Christopher has given you a
set of reasons. The man's evil. The man's evil.
We have to destroy regimes like his. First comes Saddam, then
perhaps Kim Jong-Il. Maybe after that Robert Mugabe. And
we could go on in a long list. The fact is the Iraq crisis, which
is in the title of our debate tonight, what exactly is that crisis?
I would put to you the crisis has to do with the last two months of
diplomacy in which the United States has succeeded in isolating itself
from its closest allies, from the rest of the world, and even from states
that it has been habituated to purchase in diplomatic support.
Very few people are with the United States. Why?
I would venture to say that
the United States is virtually alone in its public definition of the
threat that Iraq poses. I would venture to say that the United
States, in the last six months, has clothed the policy of regime change
in a policy of disarmament, and that many nations, including those on
the security councils, have concluded, reasonably, that if what the
goal is is actually to disarm Iraq, to render it impotent, then this,
indeed, can be done, it can be achieved. And that further, the
United States is intent on war because it does not have in its mind
the idea of disarming Iraq. It wants to remove Saddam Hussein.
It wants to fight what might be called a war of convenience against
a state that does not directly threaten it and occupy that state and
redefine the international order in the Middle East.
These are imperial dreams. You are being asked to sign on to an argument based, first of all, on a moral crusade which Christopher Hitchens has very ably and very eloquently set out in front of you, and a regimen of fear. It is no accident that half of the American people currently believe that Saddam Hussein was behind the attacks of 9/11. That's no accident. The Administration has defined Iraq as a struggle against fear and against threat. And yet what have we found out in the last six months? We have found out first that Iraq does not have a nuclear program. Mr. ElBaradei has seen to that. It was destroyed by the inspectors and others in the 1990s. There is no nuclear program. And many of you may have noticed that the Administration has stopped talking about the nuclear program.
So what is the threat that
Iraq poses? It has, no doubt, some chemical weapons. It
has, no doubt, some, perhaps, biological weapons. Indeed, it had
those in the 1980s when we were allied with Iraq. Perhaps we should
look at the bill of attainder against Iraq that the Administration has
put forward repeatedly. He attacks his neighbors, he gases his
own people. We've heard that again and again. It's fascinating.
We're talking about an attack on his neighbor first, Iran, in 1980, that was supported first by the Carter Administration and then by the Reagan Administration. It was in our national interests, and there was nothing erratic about it. The Americans knew it was coming, they supported it. During the war, they armed the Iraqis. They floated the economy with three billion dollars in agricultural credits. They armed Iraq's army with shipments through our Egyptian and Saudi allies. And finally, and here we get to gassing his own people, they supplied, through our intelligence agencies, targeting information for use of Iraq's gas weapons.
Now you might say, well, you know, this was long ago, a dozen years ago or more. Those same officials are in office today, those distant officials. [Applause.] Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, the great envoy to Baghdad, Reagan's envoy, visited him twice, Saddam Hussein, bringing letters of peace. Now, you might say, well, goodness, that they got it wrong 14, 15 years ago, that doesn't mean we can't get it right now. But I would make two remarks on that. First, it should cause you to cast doubt on the arguments about the threat the Iraqi dictator poses to the United States, about his erratic character.
Secondly, it should cause you to doubt the general arguments you're hearing. If, indeed, these officials are essentially pointing to the graves of Kurds who were gassed, graves that they could have prevented, and they are looking out at you and saying, "Look at what this man has done, send your young men and women to remove him, look how terrible he is" when, a dozen years ago, they gave him money, they gave him arms, and they showed him where to place his gas, then I think you have to ask yourself a question when you consider these arguments: are you citizens or are you dupes? [Applause.]
And after you ask yourself this question, you should look a little bit at the record, the more recent record. You should look at Bob Woodward's book in which, four days after 9/11, we hear in meetings at Camp David Paul Wolfowitz, "Should they think about launching military action elsewhere as an insurance policy in case things in Afghanistan went bad." That's a quote. "Attacking Afghanistan would be uncertain. In contrast, Iraq was a brittle, oppressive regime that might break easily. The U.S. would have to go after Saddam at some point." And then, Don Rumsfeld, the erstwhile envoy to Baghdad, "Is this the time to attack Iraq? He noted that this would be a big buildup of forces in the region and he was still deeply worried about the availability of good targets in Afghanistan."
Now, I'm not sitting here
saying there's some plot. I'm sitting here saying that the
idea that Iraq is a vital threat to the United States is ridiculous,
and countries around the world — [applause] — countries around
the world, including our closest allies, recognize this. What
we are here tonight debating is what our future is going to be as a
nation, how we're going to behave in the world of nations, how we're
going to behave with our allies, and how we deal with problems that
can be dealt with not through use of military force, but through diplomacy.
MR. WASSERMAN: Thank you, Mark. [Applause.] I should now like to introduce Michael Ignatieff, who is the director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard University's JFK Kennedy School of Government. He's also the author of numerous books, recently The Warrior's Honor, Blood and Belonging, and a marvelous biography of the late Isaiah Berlin. Michael Ignatieff. [Applause.]
MR. MICHAEL IGNATIEFF:
I can't see you, but I wanted to address those of you who are undecided,
that is, those of you who are anguished by the choices that you have
to make as citizens. The choices put to us are, is this justified
and is this wise? What is justified may not be wise. And
so I want to talk to those who are still in a mode to make up your mind.
I wanted to ask, first of all,
are there alternatives to war? There certainly are alternatives
to war. War should never be regarded as inevitable. Let's
look at the alternatives. One alternative is to strengthen inspections.
But the problem with strengthening inspections is that they're only
credible if backed by force, and France, Russia, China have made it
clear that they will veto in almost any circumstances. That is
to say the French proposition that we can avoid war by continuous inspections
depends, for its credibility, on the very exercise of force that they're
prepared to veto, and this seems to me to be — [applause] —
this seems to me to be just a problem with strengthened inspections.
We could then decide that we
should simply deter Saddam, and I think he could be deterred from using
weapons of mass destruction. But as Mark Danner has conceded,
he does have some chemical and biological weapons. And what I
think is much more difficult to deter is the possible transfer of these
technologies to Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups. I think the
possibility of this happening is small, but any possibility north of
zero does pose a national security threat to the United States.
We could also, then, consider containment, which would be maintaining the no fly zones, maintaining sanctions, trying to lock the regime down so that he can't use oil revenue to develop weapons of mass destruction. But as Chris has pointed out, sanctions have exerted a very high cost on the Iraqi people. The no fly zones involve combat operations. In a sense, we've managed to prevent Saddam from committing genocide against the Kurdish people, but the costs of containment are high, and those costs are already being paid by the Iraqi people.
And all of these options —
strengthen inspections, deterrence and containment, do leave 25 million
people in jail with a dictator. That is a consequence, a cost
of peace. It's as evident to me as it is to you that there are
serious costs to war. I'm only asking you to think seriously
and hard about the consequences of peace. The consequences of
peace will be paid by the Iraqi people. [Applause.]
Now peace leaves Saddam, possibly without a nuclear program, I concede that point. Mark's made a good point there. But it leaves his strategic intentions entirely unchanged. It seems to me nobody in this audience would claim that this man does not have the strategic intention to possess weapons of mass destruction. There is an empirical question as to what he possesses, but there can't be any doubt as to what his strategic intentions are. And we leave him in possession of a country and we leave him in possession of strategic intentions, which seems to me to pose a threat.
The fact that the world does
not support us is deeply problematic. Mark Danner has made a good
point there. But propositions don't become wrong simply because
other people don't agree with you. Propositions don't become
right — let's do this symmetrically — propositions don't become
right because everyone agrees with you. This is the burden that
we all have as citizens. We have to decide what propositions convince
us. The fact that these propositions don't convince the French
doesn't, frankly, mean very much to me. Okay, now. [Laughter.]
Let me make a cautious case for war, having looked at some of the alternatives. The case for war is, as Chris suggested, that it frees the Iraqi people, 25 million people, from a dictatorship. It allows them to create a federal, democratic Iraq free of weapons of mass destruction. It gives those people the first chance in two generations to take the money from oil and use it to build roads and schools and hospitals, as opposed to chemical and biological weapons.
It does eliminate the threat, or sharply reduces the threat, to the state of Israel. It reduces the leadership of Arab rejectionism, the part of the Arab world that says they will never come to terms and live in peace with the state of Israel ever. It subjects those forces to serious historical defeat. And finally, it eliminates the possibility, a low possibility, but still a possibility, of weapons of mass destruction transferred to Al Qaeda.
What is the case against war? The case against war is the prudential case, and it's not a weak case. I think it's a strong case. Dare I might even disagree with Chris. The case against war is that people will die. Quite a lot of people may die. I am not one who thinks that this is a 72-hour wonder. We have absolutely no way of being certain what the human cost of this war will be. The cost may be high in American lives, it may be high in Iraqi lives. There's no point of an honest debate unless I concede to you that I cannot tell you that the cost will be zero, I cannot tell you that the cost will be low, and it's morally dishonest to pretend that we're not talking about the death of human beings here.
The second cost is the possibility
that this operation will simply increase hatred for the United States,
and instead of reducing risk to the United States, to you, as citizens,
increase the risk to citizens of the United States, to which I can only
say it's a fair point. [Applause.] To which I can
only say this country is deeply hated already. It's not clear
to me this is going to make it so much worse. [Laughter.]
But let me make another point
which seems to me crucial here. You can't, I think, conceive
an Iraq operation which produces freedom for the Iraqi people, even
under difficult circumstances, apart from what seems to me integrally
linked to it — the absolute strategic necessity of the Palestinian
people getting a state of their own. [Applause.]
I say strategic necessity because the only long-term guarantee of the
security of the state of Israel is a legitimate democratic and stable
state in Palestine for the Palestinian people. [Applause.]
One of the policy ironies that needs to be firmly understood is there are no people in the Middle East who hate the Americans more than the Palestinians. There are no people in the Middle East who need the Americans more than the Palestinians because, frankly, the only power capable of insisting, as a consequence of this operation, that there are two states in the Middle East, is the American government. This is an irony that needs to be firmly understood.
I would find it difficult to
support this operation just on national security grounds unless there
is a linkage between the two operations, because it does seem to me
to increase the risk to the United States if you have Tommy Franks in
Baghdad and helicopter gun ships in Khan Unis. It seems to me
the only way we can see this as acceptable ethically is if the Palestinian
people get a state. My sense is that the chances of that happening
are increased by an Iraqi operation for two reasons. One, the
Americans can turn to the Israelis and say, listen, we have removed
your chief strategic threat; it's time for you to do business.
We can then turn to the Palestinians and say, your chief champion is
out of here; it's time to settle this conflict.
In conclusion, I support the President on this issue. I don't support him on almost anything else. [Laughter.] Secondly, and finally, because my red light is on, supporting the President on this does not mean you think America is the last best hope of mankind. It doesn't commit you to any set of ideological propositions about this country. This country has done some great things. Mark Danner has shown the moments when it's done some terrible things. My proposition to you is this might be a case, if it's done right, in which American power is allied with freedom for 25 million people. Thank you. [Applause.]
had some technical problems for the next ten minutes or so, as we continue
with comments by syndicated columnist Robert Scheer.
MR. ROBERT SCHEER:
I was a little worried, after Mark's presentation, that I wouldn't
have anything to say because it was so clear, a case against acting
without the U.N. Security Council this time, but I do have a place to
fill here, which is that of George W. Bush, whose views on the war have
not been presented at all. George W. Bush did not tell us we had
to go to war with Iraq to make the world perfect or to free all the
people who live under tyranny. He was elected specifically in
opposition to that notion. He was against nation building, which
he thought was dangerous. [Applause.]
And remember, when Bill Clinton
sent cruise missiles in to take out Al Qaeda, it was the same conservatives
that condemned him for drawing attention to the all important affair
of Monica Lewinsky and trying to wag the dog. During the first
part of the Bush Administration, there was absolutely no interest in
terrorism, Iraq, tyranny, human rights. He was interested in the
drug war. That was the preoccupation. And towards that end,
we even had meetings with the Taliban officials, and while we asked
them to do something about Al Qaeda and maybe turn them over, our main
emphasis was to congratulate them on eliminating the opium crop.
The opium crop is back in force without the Taliban.
So let me state what has been the position of this Administration. And it's important to state it because, after all, we live in a democracy. We're trying to export this model to the world. And if our President cannot back up his arguments — and put more crudely, if he has lied to us, and as Mark points out, on one of his biggest lies, the connection between Iraq and Al Qaeda, 40 percent of the people believe it, what does this say about the free press, the free society, our very model? How did people come to believe something that the Administration cannot support?
The two propositions driving our attention towards Iraq were, from the first beginning days, that Iraq was behind Al Qaeda, behind the attack on the World Trade Center. Let's not forget that. This was, they said they had, in the words of Rumsfeld, bulletproof evidence. Now, they have searched high and low, I can assure you. The New York Times, the other day, had a description of the torture or near torture or neo-torture, I guess is the right word, that is used. And yet they have not come up with a single shred of connection between the World Trade Center and Saddam Hussein, okay?
So when the President said
today, in his radio address, one reason that we have to go after this
man is to remove a patron and protector of terror, I thought he was
talking about Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the oil emirates — [applause]
— or Pakistan, where we know the Secret Service was behind the Taliban
and was giving support to Al Qaeda. So this is the big lie.
The big lie. Loathsome as Saddam Hussein may be — he's certainly
loathsome — and if we're going to free all of the people who live
under loathsome dictators, it's a tall order. There are quite
a few that may be every bit as unattractive or even more so.
That wasn't the argument
of this Administration. The argument of the Administration was
that this country, which was traumatized by the terrorist attack on
the World Trade Center, on the Pentagon and so forth, that was an explanation
that this guy over there in Iraq, this evildoer, this devil and so forth,
he must be behind it, and Rumsfeld said, even a year later, bulletproof
evidence. They don't have it. It's amazing that they
haven't been able to plant it. [Laughter.] Okay?
[Applause.] That's number one. All right?
And it is very unfair, in these
attacks on the French and the Germans and the Chinese and the Russians
to pretend that they don't care about terrorism when they've all
experienced terror. They've had the bombings in their societies.
They know full well the cost of empire. But also, they deserve
major credit for helping to crack Al Qaeda. We know the French,
we know the Germans, we know the Russians, we know the Chinese have
played a major role. So making it to seem like there are these
people who are sitting on the sidelines who don't care is utter nonsense.
And what they're worried about is the distraction.
Secondly, the argument before
us is whether we move now or we wait for four months. The finks,
the pacifists, the marchers, the French, all of these terrible people
have said let the inspectors do their work, let's wait four months.
The poor Chileans, they tried to say let's wait three weeks, and that
was slapped down. Now why wait four months? Okay, the argument
for waiting four months is that these inspectors are doing their work,
and in their own words have, in fact, made a great deal of progress.
It was conceded, rather loosely here, on the main point.
And we talk about weapons of
mass destruction, let's not kid ourselves. The nuclear weapons
are the serious weapons of mass destruction, right? And on that
main point, no one seems to defend the idea that Iraq has made any progress
since 1991. No one has come up with any evidence, and in fact
there's been fakery, deception. But even on the other weapons,
we know that the inspections, as Hans Blix said, they're not destroying
tooth picks, they're destroying lethal weapons. We made a big
deal about the missiles which, by the way, were revealed in their document
which we said was unimportant, and they are destroying those missiles.
We said those missiles were terribly important. Now we say those
missiles are unimportant, you know? You can't have it both ways.
So the inspections — [applause] — are working.
Now, their only valid argument,
because the inspections are making progress, to go now and not wait
the four months, and have the unity of the Security Council, have the
support — by the way, it wasn't always so that the world hated us.
It's a rather cavalier admission here that somehow this Administration,
in less than two years or whatever it is, has managed to get the whole
world to hate us. It's not unimportant. We have to live
in that world. This was the one world, new world order that George
Bush was bringing about, you know. [Applause.] We
have to live and trade with these people, okay? The only argument
for going now is if you thought, as George Bush has said repeatedly
— George W. — repeatedly and repeatedly he has said there is an
immediate threat of these weapons of mass destruction, or an immediate
threat that some of this material would be turned over to terrorists.
Now, come on. If there's
a threat of this material being turned over to terrorists, why wouldn't
they come from the people who support the terrorists and whom the terrorists
like, because they're good Muslims, and not from this socialist, secular
guy whom they hate, okay? Why wouldn't they come from Pakistan?
Why wouldn't they come from Saudi Arabia? Why wouldn't they
come from the guy in Washington who made anthrax, who is supposed to
have made it in an American laboratory, according to the FBI?
Why would they have to come, on the slim chance, from Iraq?
And if it is a slim chance that is the basis for invading countries, there are a lot of other countries we could be invading tomorrow, okay? So the argument that there are weapons of mass destruction, in fact, of everything that the inspectors, the immediate threat, have destroyed. And I think the reason we don't want the four months is the Administration will lose its main argument for going to war with Iraq, and it will lose that argument with the American public.
Now let me just address the human rights question, because I think it's important, and I want to say two things here. We didn't get involved with Iraq just 15 or 20 years ago, but as Roger Morris points out, who was a former member of the NSC, we got involved with Saddam Hussein 40 years ago, and we put the Ba'ath Party in power, and we supported Saddam Hussein at every key moment, okay? And so this idea that somehow we didn't know about him — no, we helped create him, just as we helped create the Taliban, remember? They were the Mujahedin that were fighting the Communists.
But what is important about what Mark was saying about this evidence is that it's old. You see, the justification for going now is there has to be something new. What's happening? The attack on the Kurds, the use of chemical weapons, that stuff, that poor guy, the English had this great intelligence report based on a guy, a doctoral candidate's research in Monterey that was 11, 12 years old, based on events that happened in the previous decade.
The reason that's important
is because the President, as he did today, he brought up the gassing
of the Kurds. Terrible event, no question about it. But
it did happen 15 years ago. What happened then? Today President
Bush said, "This is the 15th anniversary of the chemical weapons use.
The chemical attack, just one of 40 targeted on people, provides a glimpse
of the crimes Saddam Hussein is willing to commit, the kind of threat
he now presents to the entire world. He is among history's cruelest
dictators. He is arming himself with the world's most terrible
weapons." Based on something that happened 15 years ago.
What did the U.S., under George Bush, who was President then, do? I quote the great authority William Safire from a column of November 23rd, 1989. William Safire said, "How has the United States government responded to this continual rape of human rights? Our export-import bank has provided a 200 million line of credit to Iraq, our Department of Agriculture has provided one billion in commodity credits to Saddam's cash short regime, our State Department, eager to woo Iraq, turns a blind eye to the suffering of the people being told to assimilate or die." That's how we responded then, under George Bush's father, to that chemical weapons attack. The same attack that is brought up now, 15 years later, to justify going to war against Iraq was used to justify aid at that time. [Applause.]
I want to say a final thing about the human rights concern. There is no doubt that you can make a case for intervening. The question is, do you trust the people who are going to be doing the intervening? No imperial regime has ever failed to defend its actions in terms of noble slogans. When the French went into Vietnam and Algeria, it was for civilization, for Catholicism, for decency. When the English went all over the world, it was certainly to raise the standards of living. When we went into Vietnam — this human rights thing is not new — remember, not just Vietnam, Grenada. Why did we go into Grenada? Human rights concern, you know, the great threat. You know what Grenada is now? It's one of Cuba's closest trading partners. We don't even care about Grenada.
What happened when we lost
in Vietnam? These people in jail. What happened? Vietnam
went to war with Communist China. Totally unpredicted by our policy.
Now Vietnam and Communist China, two countries which, by the way, in
the old days, speakers would have argued for intervening, let's liberate
them, let's free the people from jail. They're now seen as
benign. Why? Because they're embracing capitalism.
The fact is the history of
the post war of the Cold War period shows that containment works.
The containment of communism worked. Trade works. And what
we are doing is a terrible disservice to democracy to say we can fight
a war based on a lie in the name of liberty. It doesn't wash.
Thank you, Mr. Scheer. [Applause.] We will now have
a series of short rebuttals. And then we will have a kind of seemly
free-for-all. [Laughter.] Mr. Hitchens.
Ladies and gentlemen...thank you. I don't know how evident it
is to all of you that you just applauded, rather easily, I thought —
am I not loud enough? I don't know how evident it is to you,
ladies and gentlemen, that you just gave a round of applause to Robert
Scheer for regretting that the gassing of the Kurdish people had not
been conducted more recently. [Boos.] He wants it
to be. He wants — no, he wants it — he says that old stuff,
that old stuff, we want — the case we made, I've got to prove there's
been more recent gassing of the Kurds. What a scandalous state
of affairs that you should clap such a thing.
Let me just say to you why
that hasn't happened. [Audience heckling.] Why
is the evidence old? Why is the evidence old? Why is the
evidence old? Because for 12 years and more, pilots of the United
States Air Force and the Royal Air Force of the United Kingdom have
protected the Kurds from exactly that fate. That's why Saddam
Hussein hasn't done any genocide recently. You want fresher
evidence, give him more time, he'll sure provide it to you.
But this is frivolous talk, you know. Do you think that Saddam Hussein lost his nuclear capacity in 1991 because of diplomacy? Was it a peace movement that took it away from him? No. He lost a war, and he lost the ability, for a while, to control his own country. And it was to the tremendous shock of the inspectors and the U.N. that it was discovered how near he'd got to a nuclear device at that time. And he has himself only ever made one self-criticism, that he should have waited to get the bomb before he invaded Kuwait. That's the way the man thinks.
Now, I don't know how many
of you imagine that North Korea is behaving in this way now, with this
sudden aggressive nuclear promiscuity, in some way that is wholly unconnected
to developments in the Middle East, that it's just a coincidence that
Kim Jong-Il is providing this distraction from his ally and friend Saddam
Hussein. Perhaps you think it's a coincidence that a ship all
the way from North Korea approaching the coast of Yemen was recently
stopped, boarded and searched by a Spanish vessel and discovered to
have in its hold an elaborately concealed cargo of Scud missiles.
Yemen doesn't want Scud missiles for anything. Where do you think the end use certificate of those Scud missiles was going? What has North Korea got to sell at the moment? Only one thing. It's only got to sell plutonium. It could be Saddam Hussein, thwarted by the forces of regime change, I will insist, from having a nuclear program, will buy one off-the-shelf. That's a thought even more frightening and much more real than the equally — not equally, but the considerably alarming scenario mentioned by Professor Ignatieff.
Now, I wouldn't be standing
here today if I hadn't been able to say, as I did in opening, that
I've been against this policy of coddling Saddam Hussein for a long
time, I've been for regime change longer than George Bush, and I'd
remain for it if he was against. It seems to me unworthy of Mark
Danner, who I admire, to say we used to have a bad policy. Robert
Scheer echoes him glibly. You clap as if a point had been made.
I'm in favor of the policy having changed. I didn't think
it was a good thing when the U.S. had Saddam Hussein as a client.
I think it's better it wants to get rid of him.
Shall I say that again slowly
for anyone's benefit? Is it not self-evident, can it not be
easily demonstrated, at any rate, that George Bush, Sr. had a different
policy? He still does. So does Brent Scowcroft, so does
Lawrence Eagleburger, so does Normal Schwarzkopf. All those people
still think the '91 policy, the earlier ones, were correct and defensible.
They still think so. Colin Powell I don't think has really changed
his mind. Something's changed it lately, but not that.
And the only person I know in the Administration who's said they were
wrong before and they're right now is the Vice President.
It's frivolous to say we used to be bad, so nothing we possibly could ever do was any good. This has been a long struggle to get this argument underway, and I really think it's depressing that people will applaud the easiest and most sarcastic attempted ironies of such a serious project. Thank you. [Applause.]
MR. WASSERMAN: Mark Danner.
MR. DANNER: It's
clear that we have major differences here. [Laughter.]
MR. HITCHENS: You have no idea.
MR. DANNER: Regarding not simply the level of the threat to the United States, but the possibility of dealing with it through ways other than war. The points to be made about the events of the late 1980s are to be made because those are the events on which the Administration has made its case for war. Bob Scheer is perfectly right in saying nothing recently has happened. The crisis over Iraq. What is the crisis over Iraq? Have we been attacked? Of course the Bush Administration would say yes, September 11th. And, sotto voce, actually Iraq was responsible for that. And this has been a very politically lucrative strategy for them.
But the fact is, when they're pointing at events that Saddam Hussein is responsible for, that should make us want to attack, invade and occupy Iraq, they point to events 15 years ago. This should cause us to be skeptical. It should cause us to look at Iraq and try to understand what kind of threat it does pose, and how that threat can be dealt with. And it should cause us to look at the Bush Administration and try to ask ourselves why is it doing what it's doing.
Now, I agree with Michael Ignatieff
that containment is difficult. I agree with him on that.
When a megalomaniacal dictator gets nuclear weapons, this is very threatening.
I mean, think for a moment if Stalin had gotten nuclear weapons.
Oh, I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Stalin did get nuclear weapons.
The United States followed, for a half century, a policy of patient
containment, and it won, and there was no war.
And one could argue that it would have been enormously bracing, for the forces of freedom, to attack the Soviet Union, remove that immediate threat, remove the weapons of mass destruction, and liberate the Soviet people. Indeed, people did make that argument in the early '50s — Curtis LeMay, Douglas MacArthur, others. They were obsessed with the idea of roll back. President Eisenhower decided, in 1956, that the United States would not follow this policy, and the Hungarian Revolution was crushed as a result. These are terrible events. But the United States must make a decision based on its national interest, on the threats facing it, and on its role in the world.
We haven't talked enough, I think, tonight about the effects this policy has had on our alliances, on our standing in the world. [Applause.] And we haven't spoken enough, I think, of the risks that a war will pose to the political future of the Middle East and to terrorism on America's streets. [Applause.] Members of Al Qaeda will never be convinced to love the United States, but the political dynamic that Al Qaeda is struggling to put into place is being actively advanced by the Bush Administration. [Applause.] That political dynamic envisions a war of Islamicists against the West. It envisions an attack on regimes friendly to the United States, such as those in Cairo and Saudi Arabia, overthrowing their regimes, and replacing them with Islamist ones. It will benefit greatly from this policy. We will make no one love us, it's true, but we will make a lot of people who matter hate us.
This was the process set in
train by 9/11. Now, should we make policy based on what we fear
of Al Qaeda? Should we let them dominate our policy? Absolutely
not. Should we act intelligently, with an eye toward the politics
of this region? I would argue yes. And I would put alongside,
or on top of the list of risks that Michael Ignatieff set out before
you, the risk that you will start a politics of anti-Americanism and
a wave of repression throughout the Middle East as a result of this
invasion. We say we are doing it to advance democracy. Already
in Jordan, already in Egypt, security forces are making their arrests.
They are making their arrests in anticipation of uprisings, or at least
demonstrations that they believe will accompany this war.
This will not lead to greater democracy. It will lead to greater repression. It will lead to forcing opposition into the basement. And when it is forced into the basement, it comes out in noxious forms, as we've seen with Al Qaeda. The Islamist movement that Al Qaeda represents was on the downturn, the dramatic downturn before September 11th. It was on the downturn in Algeria, in Chechnya, in Bosnia. All of the battles of the '90s had ended in defeat.
Al Qaeda cannot defeat the United States, but the United States, I would argue, can defeat the United States by... [Applause.] ...by unleashing a war that, indeed, could be a 72-hour wonder, it's possible. Or it could drag on. It could kill only 10,000 or 50,000, as the Gulf War did, by the way, and that would be a good war. Fifty thousand dead, no problem. Or it could kill many more. We don't know that. Nobody on this stage can predict it. But that uncertainty, to me, belongs on that list of risks, very prominently on that list of risks.
Now, Michael Ignatieff talked about the difficulty of containment. I would argue that there is a possibility for a deal here in which inspectors can be bolstered, a longer deadline can be set out, benchmarks can be placed, a declaratory policy put in place in which any sites suspicious, that are not being opened to inspectors, can be struck from the air, and war crimes tribunal started modeled on the Hague to try the Iraqi regime. All of this is quite possible. Two-thirds of Iraqi territory is covered by no fly zones. The rest is crawling with inspectors. The idea that they represent an immediate threat to the United States is ridiculous, but we, we represent an immediate threat to the United States. [Applause.]
MR. WASSERMAN: And now to Michael Ignatieff.
I wanted to pick up a couple of points, one of them raised by Robert
Scheer. And I invite him to correct me if I heard him wrong or
misunderstood what he was saying. But he was saying the option
is between war and waiting for four months. I mean, that is...and
then that would fit in with what Mark Danner was saying, which is the
alternative is between war now and an enhanced and strengthened inspection
regime along the lines proposed by other governments.
I think my difficulty with that is simply I don't believe that a coercive inspections regime is credible for one second, and can be maintained for one second without precisely the threat of the use of force which the other people on the Security Council have threatened to veto under any circumstances. The hard reality, the painful reality is that I would not be in favor of military action if I believed that the Security Council was prepared to go through with a coercive and intrusive inspections program that would deliver the results that you claim. I simply think that we have got where we are and got some forms of minimal, notional compliance simply because the United States has stepped up to the line with a quarter of a million troops.
And it seems to me that the wait for four months argument is only credible if Jacques Chirac had not said what he said, which is I'm going to veto this under any circumstances. This seems to me an exercise in bad faith in the sense that you can't have both of these propositions at once and be credible. We have been here before. We have had a coercive inspections regime that was slowly taken apart not because there was any lack on the part of the previous inspections regime to be coercive and intrusive, as Mark and Robert are suggesting, but simply because the Security Council simply didn't want to threaten or deploy force to make it work. I mean, what one has to think through is whether there really is a credible, sustainable alternative here which will deliver what we want. I don't see it.
I also think that, moving on to the second issue that has been much discussed, particularly by Mark, is the dismissal of the threat, and a point made about Stalin and containment. I think the Stalin argument has merit, but it has a problem, which is that it relates to a world which has vanished. I don't think that we are in that world anymore. We're in a world where the illicit transfer of lethal technologies, the illicit transfer of technologies that can cause mass casualty harms right here is the world we're living in.
We can deter states, we can interdict shipments, but we've now reached a world where, it seems to me, we're dealing with terrorists who are undeterrable. And the key issue is to prevent them from acquiring capabilities that can, you know, destroy the city of Los Angeles or kill everybody in this room. And this seems to me to be a fundamentally different reality than the one that we faced when we were dealing with state to state deterrence in the Cold War.
The final point I would make is that I hear in both Robert's and Mark's comments a kind of "dirty hands" argument. There was applause when Robert said we can't really trust the Americans to do the right thing in this case because in previous instances they have been aligned and compromised in moral, illicit ways with this regime, with the Saddam regime and other regimes. And I think that's a kind of what's called a dirty hands argument. No one can do anything clean if their hands have ever been dirty. And I find that an example of a kind of enfeebling moral perfectionism. That is to say... [Applause.]
MR. HITCHENS: You must mean relativism.
MR. IGNATIEFF: Sorry?
MR. HITCHENS: You must mean enfeebling moral relativism. There was nothing perfectionist in that argument.
MR. IGNATIEFF: No, it is perfectionist in the sense that it says you can only do good actions if your hands are perfectly clean at all times. That's what I mean by perfection.
MR. HITCHENS: It's still relativism.
MR. DANNER: It's not the argument, though.
MR. HITCHENS: As stated, it was relativism.
MR. IGNATIEFF: Well, many good actions, consequential actions, are accomplished in this world by people with dubious records. As I said when I concluded my opening remarks, you're not required, if you believe that war is regretfully the only option that's actually real and credible here, you're not required to believe that the United States is the last best hope of mankind. You're not required to forget the very pertinent points that Mark and Robert have made about the ghastly mistakes of American foreign policy in this region over the last 30 years. You are asked to decide what we do now, what are our options now, what credible options are available now.
And with due respect to both
Robert and Mark, I just do not hear a credible, deliverable strategy
because the will, the intention, the desire which you clearly feel about
this — I'm not questioning your intentions, I'm not questioning
your desire to restrict, control, dismantle this infernal regime of
weapons of mass destruction — I am saying that the strategic partners
of the United States will not pull the trigger. And that's a
challenge that you have to provide an answer to, because otherwise there
simply is no other way to take these weapons away. [Applause.]
MR. WASSERMAN: Robert Scheer.
MR. SCHEER: Well,
first of all I implore people not to applaud anything I might say because...
[Laughter.] ...it will prove that my argument is invalid,
and we don't want that. In general, this is actually the tactic
that's been used to dismiss public opinion throughout the world.
The people who demonstrate the largest demonstration in the history
of Berlin since the Second World War, they're dismissed as, what,
naÃ¯ve pacifists. The French, who demonstrate—
MR. HITCHENS: No, a large number of naÃ¯ve pacifists.
MR. SCHEER: —against the war who, after all, a number of whom fought, families fought in Algeria and Vietnam, lost quite a few in the First World War, experienced bombings in their country. Maybe they're speaking out of the experience of imperialism in opposing such a cause of action. In Christopher Hitchens' native country, here we have the example of Tony Blair, who claims to be, again, interested in exporting democracy, and is totally indifferent to the feelings of 80 percent of his public. [Applause.] The argument is that the true test of leadership is being indifferent to the public in a democratic society; otherwise you're a wimp.
Let me straighten out a few
things here. First of all, I am for action. I supported,
in my column, Mavis Leno and the Feminist Majority and ultimately Bill
Clinton when they said that we had a responsibility to remove the monsters
of our creation, the Taliban, which not 15 years before or 40 years
before, or five years before, but in that moment were oppressing the
majority of their population. I defended the attack on the Taliban
quite apart from Al Qaeda because I said we put these people in power
and we trained them. Secondly, once they were harboring Al Qaeda,
and once these people attacked our embassies, clearly we had a right
to go after them. So it is a false argument.
And if these inspectors, informed, presumably, by our intelligence agencies, find these weapons of mass destruction that are threatening, find some evidence that any of this is being given to terrorists, I am in favor of action and for shutting them down. We bomb Iraq all the time. Don't tell me that our hundred billion dollar a year observation system cannot find the buildings where stuff is being produced and our planes can't take it out. It's just not true. [Applause.] So that is, I think, a false argument.
And let me say this thing about North Korea slipping...North Korea has actively worked with Pakistan. That's how Pakistan got their nuclear option. It's very frightening, as you well know. It is a country which...Christopher always talks about religion as being the, I guess what, the...what was the thing Marx said? Opium of the people—
MR. HITCHENS: No, he didn't. No, he didn't.
MR. SCHEER: —that he thinks is more dangerous.
MR. HITCHENS: Didn't say that.
MR. SCHEER: He thinks it's the crack of the people.
MR. HITCHENS: No, he didn't say that, either.
MR. SCHEER: The
fact is that Pakistan, which has these weapons, which got them through
cooperation with [those people], just yesterday was taken off, finally
off our sanctions list, finally, not to be punished in any way for having
this dictatorship, which we were upset at, at one point. We don't
care about democracy in Pakistan. And in fact, one of the great
ironies is what if the Muslim majority comes to power, or threaten to
come to power, as in Algeria, and wants to do all these terrible things?
Then we suddenly won't believe in democracy anymore. But in
the case of Pakistan, where you have active nuclear force.
What about Iran? Just in the last two weeks we found that Iran — the one country that will most immediately benefit from the destruction of Iraq is Iran, clearly, three times the population, historical enemy, has this Shiite population that might be sympathetic across the border — Iran announced very proudly that they're developing nuclear weapons. Iran, I would point out to you, was one of the countries we were once very frightened of.
However, I would also point out to you, and the reason I do think the dirty hands — I don't go quite all the way with Christopher and think that Henry Kissinger should be hung or something — but I do think dirty hands matter. And the fact that Elliott Abrams is now in charge of the Mideast at the National Security Council does matter when he's the guy who did the trade with Iran and the Contras. [Applause.] How could it not matter?
And by the way, just to put
this argument to rest about the Jewish conspiracy, which was, I think,
effectively exposed by Sy Hersh in The New Yorker, the problem
with some of the Jewish people in this administration is not that they're
pro Israel, it's that they are against arms control. Richard
Perle was the guy at Reykjavik who was opposed to Ronald Reagan making
a deal with Gorbachev. Richard Perle has been opposed to every
arms control agreement. They have never believed in any inspection
regime. That's what we're talking about.
And you throw in Elliott Abrams — but by the way, it's hardly Jewish people. Rumsfeld, who we're going to now trust, is the guy who in 1984, after the U.N. concluded that Iraq had used chemical weapons, went to Saddam Hussein and said there's no problem here, we're going to recognize you, we're going to have relations, we're going to give you aid and everything. That was Donald Rumsfeld. So the question of dirty hands, let me say, is not that people cannot be redeemed. Obviously they can. The problem is we have to ask what motives were they acting out of before?
Now, I know Dennis Kucinich got beat over the head, and no one is going to ever mention the word that he used, oil, okay? [Applause.] Oil. Oil. You're not allowed to talk about it. Well, let me tell you, we didn't go to war with Iraq over human rights when it invaded Kuwait. What are the human rights we were defending in Kuwait? The right of the emir to have 70 virgins each week? [Laughter.] We went to war because we cared about the oil, you know? That's why we went to war. [Applause.] And if you have this idea historically that for the United States to now move into the second most important source of oil in the world and take over and run it through an American general, if that does not smack of imperialism, I don't know what does. And that's why people are suspicious. [Applause.]
It seems to me the question is not a distrust of America. The American people, I am amazed at how many Americans see through this war. We don't have a draft, they've been lied to systematically, they were frightened by September 11th, and yet we have a large number of Americans, close to a majority, that are opposed to this war. I love this country. I love Americans. It's the people who act as maniacs in the name of America that I am afraid of. [Applause.] That's the concern.
We might follow up his remarks with some questions, in which I'll
try to be an equal opportunity provocateur, but let's carry on with
the argument that Robert Scheer has initiated, and let's turn to perhaps
both Christopher Hitchens and Michael Ignatieff. Each, in their
own way, can perhaps answer for a cynic who might ask, how is it, Mr.
Hitchens, you, a scourge of Henry Kissinger, deeply skeptical of his
motives and intentions, why now have you placed your faith in the ability
of such Kissinger wannabes as Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle and Dick
Cheney and Rumsfeld? What gives you such confidence that they
will be able to make the world safe for democracy when they have evinced,
critics would argue, such contempt for it at home? [Applause.]
MR. HITCHENS: I should first say that I don't seek the execution of Henry Kissinger. I'm unalterably opposed to capital punishment, but I do think... [Laughter.] ...I do think he should be charged with crimes against humanity and war crimes. [Applause.] And I think if charged, would be convicted.
What Marx said about religion, by the way, was that it was the heart of the heartless world, the sigh of the oppressed creature, the spirit of the spiritless situation, an opiate for the people, and that criticism had plucked the flowers from the chain not so that men could wear the chain without consolation, but so that they could break the chain and cull the living flower, which I think is much better put.
Now, on the question of Henry
Kissinger realpolitik, as it were, well, perhaps it's escaped
the attention of many people that every member of Kissinger Associates
known to me, including its chairman, is against this war and against
the regime change policy, and always has been, and that the Saudi Arabian
regime, which I think has a pretty oleaginous influence in Washington,
is against the regime change policy, too, and is a very odd way for
the oil companies to be behaving, and the oil lobby to be carrying on.
I'm not one of those who thinks that oil cannot be mentioned, as if it was some kind of ghastly bodily secretion that was too indecent to discuss. And I don't think, no, I don't think it's a prudent policy to allow nine percent of the world's energy resources to be at the mercy of a man who blew up the Kuwaiti oil fields, if you remember, while he was leaving. I'm sorry he didn't democratize Kuwait enough. I'm sorry we didn't, either. But the Kuwaitis are a lot better off for his departure, ladies and gentlemen, and it's silly to say they are not, or to imply it. He blew those oil fields up when he'd been warned not to, and he blew them up when the act of vandalism could do him no good, and he flooded the Gulf with burning oil. And this is the man who's believed to understand deterrence and containment. No.
It's just as true to say of the earlier policy of successive administrations of backing Saddam Hussein, helping him in the Gulf War, helping him to re-flag tankers and generally arming and covering up for him. That was blood for oil when the United States was on his side and allowing him to slaughter Iraqis and Kurds and invade other countries. That was blood for oil just as much.
So I'm glad to have Robert Scheer's admission that it can be true, only it seems, in his case, for Afghanistan. It can be true that earlier crimes and blunders give you an extra responsibility. They mean you have to do something to repair the crimes and blunders that you committed. And one of my reasons for supporting this policy is precisely because it's a responsibility we've inherited for having got it so wrong so long and for oil, okay? Nobody interested in safeguarding oil wants to do it by war. It's much easier to do it by client state or proxy regime.
Here will be my defense, then,
of Paul Wolfowitz. Wolfowitz has been arguing since '78 that
it is unwise for the United States to rely on client regimes.
He began this argument as a critique of the Shah, he made it as a critique
of Saddam Hussein, later of Ferdinand Marcos, and still later, when
he was Ambassador in the Philippines of the Suharto regime, that bases
at this price are not worth having. If you have an American presence
in a country, and you need a dictatorship to guarantee the presence,
then you'll lose both, and so you should. And that democratization
movement that began with the overthrow of Marcos and went into South
Korea and into Taiwan and then into Tiananmen Square, and then later
into Eastern Europe, is one of the great creative events in my lifetime.
As far as I can see, he's been — I can only speak for him — on the right side of all of that. And you may notice that Henry Kissinger was on the other side each time. Pro Saudi, pro Chinese Communist Party, pro dictatorship in South Korea, and even considering the revolutions in Eastern Europe to be destabilizing. This is actually a policy that can be defended almost as one that is quixotic. People say it's risky. All right, then, I'll admit it. That's part of what I like about it. It does take the risk that democracy and self-government is both more desirable, more stable and more defensible than dictatorship or proxy rule. And I think it can be consistently argued.
Now, just one thing on this thing I've been taunted about about allies. I can't really tell you why it is that if 90 percent of people disagreed with me I would still hold the position I do. I'll just let you guess. If I'm told, "Well, you may say that, but I know ten other people who don't," I'm not impressed. How does that affect the argument? It doesn't affect it at all. But I know that the same people would have been telling me until recently, were, in fact, telling me till recently, "Ah, look who supports the policy. Turkey supports it." Now it doesn't. Saudi Arabia never did. Many of the regional despotisms don't want it, for obvious reasons. I would say the less the better. The fewer the better.
There is a policy of unilateralism,
pursued by the government of France, which built Saddam Hussein a nuclear
reactor knowing what he wanted it for, which is entirely oil driven,
which intervenes colonially in Africa with force at any time of its
choosing, and which tests nuclear weapons in the South Pacific, not
caring about the wishes of the neighboring countries or their inhabitants.
One day... [Applause.] ...and whose president had
to run for office to stay out of jail and preserve his immunity on very
serious charges of corruption, which include the charges of a long relationship
with the Iraqi Ba'ath Party. I can say no more than that Monsieur
Chirac has never refused a bribe, and Mr. Saddam Hussein has never failed
to offer one. I know no more than that for now. [Applause.]
But I am waiting, I am holding out for the day that I see the word "unilateral" in the New York Times next to the word "French," and then I'll be more impressed by the...it seems to me that there's no discredit here at all in the enmity the United States has found for itself on this. It rather redounds to the credit of the President and his policy. Thank you. [Applause.]
MR. WASSERMAN: A two-part question for Michael Ignatieff, both rhetorical. One, you decry the spectre of the illicit transfer of lethal technology to third parties, other countries, brigands of one kind or another. But doesn't it strike you as surpassingly paradoxical that the single most devastating terrorist attack on this country to date was committed by men who bought their weapons of mass destruction from Home Depot? Box cutters. Isn't this spectre that we are now going to war, or seem to be about to go to war to prevent, doesn't it seem to you misplaced when, at least by one measure, the real weapons are here at home?
That's one part of it.
The second part is you paint a very rosy picture of an allied — well,
I use the word advisedly — an American-British victory in Iraq, of
the prosperity that will be the democracy of a freed Iraq, so that they
may use their oil money, as you put it, for the rehabilitation of their
roads, schools, and hospitals. But doesn't it give you pause
when, in the largest democracy of the world, it has used so little of
its prosperity to do the very same thing? [Applause.]
MR. IGNATIEFF: As to question one, look, nobody thinks that if you replace the Saddam regime, that that eliminates threats to the United States. That's just not a credible proposition. It's obvious that low tech did as much damage on September 11th. But we need to think seriously about the possibility of a mass casualty bioterrorist attack. It is the case that the sources of those awful weapons could come from a lot of other places than Saddam's regime. I quite concede that point. But he's one source, and he's a source with intention. He's a source with purpose, he's a source with a motive. And he's a powerful ruler of an oil producing state.
I'm simply saying that the
public policy issue that citizens in this room have to think about is
everybody's — one side of this house is saying the threat is very
low, and I'm saying the threat is maybe five percent. But I'm
not happy about five percent. I'm not happy about three percent
if we're talking about mass casualty terrorism devastating a city
like Los Angeles. We've got to rethink the issue of what threat
here is too much threat. Nobody on this side of the house is saying
that if you take out Saddam these threats are eliminated. These
threats continue. And one of the most difficult—
MAN IN AUDIENCE: Who's next to be taken out?
MR. IGNATIEFF: Sorry?
MAN IN AUDIENCE: Who do we take out next?
MR. IGNATIEFF: I mean, in answer to that question, I think Saddam Hussein belongs in a very exclusive club all of his own, thanks very much. I have no desire to do this except under the most pressing necessity. The case I'm making is this is a pressing necessity, not the prelude to a march around the world.
Second, on the question of
an after Iraq scenario, I didn't paint a rosy picture. I painted
a picture full of risk and hazard. Any responsible person looking
at this post war world in Iraq has to be honest about the difficulties.
Deep divisions in the country, possibilities of conflict, absence of
a democratic tradition, a police tyranny and a police terror that has
rooted right into the guts and heart and soul of 25 million people so
that they're afraid even to dream a free dream, right? So nobody
in their right minds thinks any transition is going to be easy.
I've walked the ground, however, in Afghanistan. I've walked the ground in Kosovo. I've walked the ground in Bosnia. The American investment of force and power in those three regions has made lives better for ordinary human beings. Not perfect, not wonderful, not as nice as Los Angeles, but a hell of a lot better than what was there before America used military force. [Applause.]
So nobody is spinning out rosy scenarios. I just point out that when Robert was saying — and again, we don't want to polarize this falsely. Nobody on this side of the argument is saying you're against strong measures, you don't care about Saddam, you're prepared to appease him. That's never been my position with either of your views. And it's perfectly obvious to me that Robert wants to take strong and resolute measures in respect of Saddam. But what he said, for example, was we should bomb him from the air, we should take tough measures in the autumn. But the hard reality of that is that that's a certain kind of toughness that still leaves 25 million people in jail, right? It's a form of toughness that does some of the job, but in my judgment, not all of the job. [Applause.]
MR. HITCHENS: Well said.
And let me turn to you, Mark, and you may, of course, answer this in
any way you wish. What about the argument which has been put very
forcefully by both Messrs. Hitchens and Ignatieff that precisely because
the United States in the past did a great deal to support the Ba'athist
Party into power, precisely because it did a lot to coddle and turn
a blind eye to the depredations that Saddam Hussein unleashed against
his own people, that all the more reason that we owe a blood death to
the Iraqi people which we cannot, in good conscience, walk away from,
and that to define our national interests so selfishly as to exclude
the 25 million people who are unable to liberate themselves would be
an ignoble thing, and it's a risk that we ought to take to remain
true to ourselves as a people who ought to be able to hold up their
heads in the world arena despite what others fear might be unleashed,
and that this is, indeed, a good and noble cause?
MR. DANNER: Well,
that was very eloquently stated. You know, Colin Powell said,
during Bosnia, when he was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and he didn't
want to intervene, that when he heard the words "surgical strike,"
he headed for his bunker. I must say that when I hear moralism
mixed with foreign affairs from high officials, I head for my bunker.
[Applause.] I am not trying to make the dirty hands argument
here. The United States can act for good in the world. I
supported intervention in Bosnia. I wish that it had happened
much, much, much earlier than it did, after everybody was dead.
I am not making a dirty hands
argument, I am making an unclouded minds argument. That is —
I mean, I'm gratified, frankly, that we've talked about the past
so much on this panel tonight. I'm a great fan of the past,
particularly the recent past, because I think it leads us to look at
things as they are. And that's what I'm pleading with this
audience to do. I think Michael Ignatieff's sentiments are very
noble. I'm sympathetic to many of them. But I think by
his own arguments, the calculus of risks he makes is not reasonable.
He said a moment ago that if there's five percent risk of Saddam giving
chemical weapons or biological weapons to terrorists, that's too much,
therefore we should invade, attack, occupy Iraq.
I would ask him, what percentage
risk does he think there is if we attack Iraq and occupy it? That
is, is the risk reduced by fighting a war in which he has absolutely
no incentive to contain himself? I think the notion that Saddam
Hussein is not containable is rubbish. In 1990, he had weapons
of mass destruction. That is, he had chemical weapons, certainly.
He was told in no uncertain terms by James Baker, among others, that
use of these weapons would bring most severe consequences. He
didn't use them. He used them against the Iranians, who by the
way used them back in their turn. So the notion that he can't
be contained and deterred is completely unsupported.
Or that he's erratic. We knew in advance about the attack on Iran. We knew about three weeks to a month in advance about the invasion of Kuwait. He did it very slowly, so our intelligence satellites could see the disposition of forces. And we essentially, perhaps stupidly, gave him a green light, in effect, or what he took to be a green light. So this notion of this insane dictator who is just doing whatever he wants and who will ravage the world I think is misplaced. I don't think history bears it out.
We've said a word here tonight
about North Korea. North Korea has two nuclear weapons.
By the end of the summer it will have eight. The single thing
this administration has achieved with respect to North Korea is take
it from a regime that had two to taking it to a regime that will soon
have eight and more. And the Administration and the general policy
of letting the Iraq tail wag the world dog is saying, you know what,
we're not going to pay attention to this until Iraq is "done,"
quote, unquote. Now, you want to talk about irresponsible policies?
That's an irresponsible policy. [Applause.]
MR. HITCHENS: Unbelievable.
MR. DANNER: One should add, by the way, that Christopher's argument that North Korea demonstrates the necessity of attacking, invading and occupying Iraq has a number of vital flaws. North Korea deters us from attacking it by its conventional forces. It can level Seoul in a matter of hours. It's a fact of geography and a fact of conventional armaments. We have to deal with the nuclear question in North Korea, and we will do it, eventually, diplomatically. The question is how terrible that deal — for eventually there will be a deal — how terrible that deal will be. And every day the prospective deal gets worse.
Finally, Michael's point
about the Palestinian-Israeli peace settlement and its necessity for
U.S. policy. I agree with him wholeheartedly on this point.
I would point out that George Bush only yesterday finally announced,
after saying he would not, a so-called roadmap for peace, which other
nations have been pushing him to do. He did it at the instance
of Tony Blair, to try to protect him domestically, and he did it in
essentially pulling the rug out from the entire premise of the so-called
roadblock. That is, he said it was a basis for discussions.
The idea that this government, which has supported Ariel Sharon in everything
he's done, which has given him no incentive to stop settlement activity
or to expand them, will at some point force Sharon to do this I think
beggars reality and beggars what we see in front of us. [Applause.]
Robert Scheer, it's probably a fool's mission to look for consistency
in foreign policy, as it is in much of the rest of life, particularly
in moral terms, but why shouldn't the United States seek to unseat
a sawdust Caesar who has certainly in the past, and may yet in the future,
deploy terrible weapons, not only against his own people, but others
as well? Not because our ability to do so is constrained elsewhere
in the world, but because as a matter of opportunity, we can and we
ought to do so because it's the right thing to do.
MR. SCHEER: Well, I guess I don't believe it is the right thing to do, in general, to make other people's history for them. And I think was it Marx who said the road to hell is paved with good intentions. [Laughter.] It seems to me the irony of the whole Cold War period is that we ended up being on the side of as many horrible regimes as the Communists did, even though our motives were clearly superior. We supported as many dictatorships, we oppressed as many people. So I am very wary of intervention except in extreme situations where you can show genocide.
The reason I mention this thing about going against Saddam Hussein, if you could actually show evidence — which our CIA says doesn't exist, that was their first report — if you could show any evidence at all of where the stuff is made, of their lying to the inspectors. But in fact, what we're objecting to now, it seems, is an inspection process that is working, that is vigorous, that is getting rid of weapons, that is telling us what's going on there. And why in the world would we be against knowledge? That's what I don't understand. We have satellites, we have all sorts of spy intercepts. If we know where these weapons are, why don't we tell Hans Blix? That's what I don't understand. [Applause.] Why are we...? It seems to me actually criminal to hold back this information.
Now, where we really have a
disagreement here is...my green light just went on, so I don't know
if that means I start my seven minutes or not.
MR. HITCHENS: Geez, it just started?
MR. SCHEER: Where we have our real disagreement, it seems to me, is whether history began with September 11th. It went off again, Christopher, you don't have to be too alarmed. [Laughter.] But this idea that history and terrorism began with September 11th is absolute nonsense. First of all, as was pointed out, the September 11th attack did not involve weapons of mass destruction. And that line about Home Depot was taken from one of my columns, Wasserman. [Laughter.] But there's been terror. In fact, Bulgaria, which is one of our supporters now, no one's bothered to ask the Bulgarians are they the ones who tried to kill the Pope? Remember that one? The Bulgarian plot against the Pope.
And we used to think of these — now we think of the Communists as stable, reasonable people that you could deal with containment. That's not what I remember. I remember Tom Dooley and the stories of the bloody rampage of the Vietnamese against Catholics, and that's why we had to intervene. I remember the yellow horde, the Chinese ants that were going to come sweeping down, the horrible KGB terrorists that were threatening everyone in the world and were behind terror all over the world. You know, we've reinvented history here now that Saddam Hussein is the first guy to come along who may support terror.
The fact is Pakistan supported the Taliban. Pakistan supported Al Qaeda. You know, they helped them, they aided them after they blew up our embassy. So this idea that somehow we have this totally new phenomena is, to my mind, false. And what I would suggest — take the case of Qaddafi and Libya. Well, who ever even talks about Qaddafi anymore? [Applause.] Qaddafi wasn't — to answer your question, Steve — isn't he someone we should have taken out? But we didn't take him out. And nobody ever talks about Qaddafi anymore. And we didn't take Castro out. And yes, you could say those people live in jail. But, you know, you could have said that about the Russians, right? Two hundred million people living and, what, a billion people in China?
But you know what? History has a way of being made by people other than Wolfowitz and Kissinger. [Applause.] And one of the great weapons in that is normalcy and trade and contact, and not turning people into the devil, and not saying that you won't talk to them. What happened with North Korea? All right, we had an imperfect relationship under Clinton, but we were talking to them. Why can't we follow South Korea's lead and deal with North Korea? They said give us a promise that you're not going to attack us. Why is that such a hard promise to give? I don't understand that.
MR. WASSERMAN: We'll now have two minutes of rebuttal from each of the panelists and a bit of summing up.
MR. HITCHENS: Wow. On the terror connection — I better be quick then. Do a thought experiment. On the 12th of September, 2001, Saddam Hussein calls in his chief of intelligence and says, "Do you know anything about these guys who did this yesterday?" "No, Mr. President, never heard of them. Don't know a thing about it." The guy wouldn't live out the day if that was his answer. The Abu Nidal organization, which used to be as synonymous with terror as bin Laden is now, was headquartered in Baghdad. I went to interview Abu Nidal there. It wasn't hard to do. He had a villa. He had a phone number. He was a political extension of the Ba'ath Party, of the Iraqi state.
Iraq openly boasts of its support for the suicide murderers in Palestine, and it has sheltered Al Qaeda members, numbers of them, on its territory since September the 11th, whereas the Pakistanis and the Saudis have ceased to do so, and are, in any case, more or less under American scrutiny. So the double standard thing there simply doesn't work. Yes, Iraq has always been an arsenal and backer of international gangsterism and remains so. To doubt this is foolish.
There is something inherently unstable about dictatorship and inherently aggressive about it. Now, I really don't feel that anything that's been said in reply to that proposition can alter that fact. The plain fact of the matter is that Iraq and North Korea are different. They are exorbitant totalitarian regimes. They're not just other bad guys. People who make that comparison don't know anything about the sort of regime that exists there, the endless slavery and coercion. And yet they say, "why don't we go around and destroy all the other bad guys while we're about it," and they know perfectly well that if that was the Unites States' policy, which it isn't, they would describe it as imperialist, overreaching and quixotic. So I really think be serious, okay? Get real.
MR. WASSERMAN: Mark Danner.
MR. DANNER: I would argue here tonight for a foreign policy that is not based on fear. [Applause.] As in 1919, as in 1945 to '50, we are living in a period in which our approach to the world is being redefined. At present, the symbol of that redefinition is President Bush floating on his island in the Atlantic accompanied only by Prime Minister Aznar and Prime Minister Blair. The question is whether the United States can exert power in the world without alienating the rest of it. This administration has participated, over the last few months, in a fascinating experiment in the limits of power. Michael said that there is no deal to be made on the Security Council. I think that's wrong.
I think the French, indeed, can be brought around to promise a use of force, given a reasonable deadline, given reasonable benchmarks, and given a reasonable policy between now and then. I think that's possible. And one cannot argue it's impossible because the United States has not tried it. [Applause.]
One should also say, as a comment on deterrence and Saddam Hussein, that in order for a policy of arms inspection and disarmament under international auspices to work, the Iraqi regime must be assured that if it disarms, it will not be attacked, invaded and occupied anyway, and that has never been the case. That has never been the case.
I'd say to all of you tonight
that if, indeed, we go to war very soon, as looks quite possible, and
perhaps looks quite probable, this will not be over. This will
not be over. One has to remain interested, vigilant, concerned
and involved. And I thank all of you for coming, because this
struggle about the soul of this country is nowhere near over.
I have to close, though my
red light is on, with a quote from John Quincy Adams, 1821. He
told America to go not abroad in search of monsters to destroy.
But his reasoning was not about the inherent difficulty of that, or
at least not only. He said that if America did go abroad in search
of monsters to destroy, it would become "the dictatress of the world,
but would no longer be the ruler of her own spirit." I ask all
of you in the hall tonight to keep that in mind, because that threat,
if war comes, if it doesn't, however bloody it is or however quickly
it goes, that will remain the question for all of us. [Applause.]
MR. WASSERMAN: Michael Ignatieff.
MR. IGNATIEFF: Picking up on what Mark Danner says, I think first of all that a concerted attempt over 12 years has been made to develop an international consensus to disarm Saddam by force. I think it's just not true to say that diplomacy has not been tried. I think what's happened here is that the French, the Russians and the Chinese will not go where the United States feels it's in its national interest to go. I think there have been obvious failings in the diplomacy of the Bush Administration, but it takes two to tango here, and I think Mark is sorely underestimating the basic unwillingness of the other powers in this network to actually back what they say with deliverable and credible threats, because I think deliverable and credible threats are the only things that got any progress in this matter.
Mark also raised the issue of John Quincy Adams, a call to watch out about the dangers of slaying monsters abroad. I'm very hesitant. I share his worries about moralism in foreign affairs. But I would point out that this country has slain some monsters, and the world is immensely better because it did so.
MR. HITCHENS: Hear, hear.
MR. IGNATIEFF: Milosevic of Serbia is in the Hague, a monster who was slain by the exercise of American power.
MR. DANNER: The Serbs removed Milosevic.
MR. IGNATIEFF: Well, if you, if... [Applause.]
MR. HITCHENS: Oh, casuistry.
MR. IGNATIEFF: There are limited cases in which the United States, I think, should go abroad to slay monsters, and it can do so without losing its soul as a Republic at home. [Applause.]
MR. WASSERMAN: Robert Scheer.
MR. SCHEER: Let me first of all say there's no question that we have the power, or the Soviets had the power, or the French had the power. There have been powerful regimes before. There's no reason to assume this power will be used in a wise way. And let me give you a good example.
I happened to be in Egypt and Israel at the time of the Six Day War, and I remember Moshe Dyan saying, "Come back in ten years and this will be a paradise." And he had every reason to say that sincerely. First of all, he knew Arabic, he knew the country, he knew the miserable conditions under which Palestinians had lived in Gaza and had lived under the Egyptians and had lived in the West Bank under the Jordanians, and he thought indoor plumbing, democracy, secularism, whatever. He was sincere about it. And we see the result.
People want to make their own history. Their history is complex. Their religions are complex. Nationalism is complex. And what I think the French, the Germans, the Chinese, the Russians, the Chileans and all the others are saying to us is you guys, led by a president who never even bothered to use his American Express card to visit us, who never cared about us, who has transferred your enormous angst and feeling about terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and has lied to the American people, will not lie to us and get away with it. And I think that's an important restraint. [Applause.]
And instead of demeaning the United Nations, I think this is the first time in the history of the United Nations that it is acting as the organization that it was intended to be. [Applause.] This is not a case of the Soviet Union saying nyet. This is a case of democratic societies like France and Germany saying to us, we love America, and for that reason we're here to tell you you're wrong and you're making a very big mistake. [Applause.]
MR. WASSERMAN: As one can readily hear and one can readily see, this is a debate that has no end, and will never have any end so long as citizens debate whether a nation ought to have a moral mission in the world in a realpolitik world in which monsters are loose and evil is there and good needs to be done and people need to decide and debate amongst themselves where their true interests lie.
The Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Institute for Humanities and the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, as well as all the other co-sponsors, thank all of you in this theatre, the Wiltern, for coming tonight, and we thank all of you at C-SPAN who are tuning in tonight or listening to this broadcast, and we thank KCRW 89.9 FM for recording it and airing it on Monday between two and four. Thank you and good night. [Applause.]
[End of recording.]
Mark Danner debates Christopher Hitchens, Michael Ignatieff and Robert Scheer, The Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles, CA