Terrorism and Iraq: What is the Nature of the Relationship?: A Debate
June 8, 2004
Don Smith, Robert Murphy, Stephen Hayes, Walter Russell Mead, Ivan Eland
Sponsored by The Donald & Paula Smith Family Foundation
Founder, The Smith Family Foundation
Gee, what a polite audience. Good evening, my name is Don Smith of the Smith Family Foundation, and its a pleasure to welcome you to the last debate of the season. So youre going to get a rest over summer, were going to get a rest,but we look forward to seeing you in September. Second Tuesday in September well have a great debate, probably something to do with the elections coming up. Make sure youre on our e-mail list, and if you arent, jot this down. Its also at the bottom there, but its www.TheSmithFamilyFoundation.org. And you can sign up and youll get notices of all our events.
Were going to have a big crowd tonight, so its starting to fill up over here. If you have packages on your seat, try to put them down, and hopefully therell be enough room for everybody, because were losing some seats, because this is being filmed, and someday well tell you what thats all about. Right now its a secret.
Tonights debate should be a good one, and it has a little bit to do with the election, I think, because Im sure somebody, before this election is over for the President, will use Reagans famous words, Are you better off today than you were four years ago? Only its going to be, are we better off and safer in the world than we were a year-and-a-half ago before we invaded Iraq? So thats going to be a big issue and hopefully well get some answers to that tonight.
Its my really great pleasure to introduce, on my left, Ambassador Richard Murphy wholl be our moderator. After receiving degrees from Harvard and Columbia, Ambassador Murphy spent 34 years as a career foreign service officer. And he served as ambassador to more countries than I even knew existed, a couple I cant pronounce, so Ill just give you ones I can: Syria, Philippines, and Saudi Arabia. And you may recall that he was kind enough to serve on a panel that we had at the Harvard Club on Saudi Arabia about two years ago.
He then, after serving as ambassador for all these countries, served under President Reagan as Undersecretary of State. And since 1989 hes been a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, who incidentally has been very helpful to us in putting on many of our foreign relations debates. You probably have seen him on TV, and you may have read his work in New York Times and many other magazines. So its a great pleasure to introduce and help me welcome Ambassador Murphy.
Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
Thank you very much, Don. And ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the program, sponsored by the Donald and Paula Smith Family Foundation. Theyve given us, not only a challenging and timely topicthe headline is the nature of the relationship between terrorism and Iraqbut they put in small print at the bottom that were not here just to look back, although therell be a certain amount of that this evening. There are other questions.
How much coordination is there between terrorist organizations and Middle East states sympathetic to their efforts? What strategies can the US employ to reduce the terrorist risk? To what extent does growing violence in Iraq reflect the work of foreign terrorists as compared to the Iraqi frustration with the American occupation? Should we attempt to understand terrorists motivation and change policy accordingly, or does this equate to appeasement? In the interest of time, Im going to take that one off the agenda and give you my answer. We always do better when we understand our enemies. And Id add to that, keep in mind, that these days, its particularly hard to be young, to be Arab and Muslim all at once.
But I feel very fortunate in having this trio of panelists. They bring very different perspectives to the issues. Stephen Hayes, senior writer for The Weekly Standard, wrote The Connection: How Al Qaedas Collaboration with Saddam Hussein Has Endangered America. My colleague from the Council on Foreign Relations Walter Russell Mead, author of Peace, Terror, Peace and War: Americas Grand Strategy in a World at Risk. And Ivan Eland, director of the Center on Peace and Liberty at the Independent Institute, author of The Empire Has No Clothes: US Foreign Policy Exposed. I complimented him on the particularly provocative titles Ive pulled off the Website of his writings, including comparing Janet Jackson at the Superbowl to the current administrations Iraq policy, which he will not have to elaborate on after this.
But theyre all prolific writers, and if they can speak half as vividly as they write, it should be a very stimulating discussion. Theyll speak in the following order: first Hayes, then Mead, then Eland. They have committed themselves to speaking no more than eight minutes each. I am here to offer the sword on which they will fall should they exceed that by 30 seconds. Stephen Hayes. (applause)
Senior Writer, The Weekly Standard; Author of The Connection
Great to be with you tonight. As I was thinking about how to prepare my opening remarks, this one song that some of you who are my age may identify with kept coming to mind. Its actually a song from Sesame Street, One of these things is not like the other. One of these things just doesnt belong. Clearly they have assembled a first-rate panel and Im thrilled to be a junior member of the panel, but my knowledge and experience falls far short. I am at heart a reporter, and thats what I did with my book. So I hope youll forgive me and indulge me with that caveat.
One of the other reasons Im excited to be here at the invitation of the Smith Family Foundation is because it gave me an excuse after being in a hole, a news hole for writing my book for eight months, to actually read a book, to go out and purchase a book and read a book, which I did with Walter Russell Meads book, and I highly recommend it. It is fascinating and tremendously thought provoking.
OK. Enough. (laughter) The Iraq War and the War on Terror, short and long term, great subject, great topic. I dont think its gotten enough attention. I think thats been the case both in the media, and I think frankly thats been the case with the Bush Administrationit hasnt paid enough attention to Iraq and terrorism.
Id like to begin with a thought experiment if I could. Id like to ask you to imagine the world as it was on March 15, 2003. Disregard for a moment the many post-war failures that Im sure the panelists will agree on, and think about the world as it was in those days before the war. Think about what we knew.
The world community believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. That includes the French, the Germans, the United Nations, Republicans, Democrats. The CIA director told President Bush that finding stockpiles of such weapons of mass destruction would be a slam-dunk, and told a congressional committee that weapons inspectors after the war would absolutely find such stockpiles.
That same person reported credible reporting from multiple sources that Iraq had cooperated with Al Qaeda, including senior-level meetings between Iraqi intelligence and top-level Al Qaeda terrorists, as well as training on weapons of mass destruction.
Your predecessor in the Clinton administration, if youre President Bush, specifically cited an Iraq link to justify its military response to an Al Qaeda attack in August of 1998. Indeed, even before those attacks, the Clinton Justice Department included an agreement of cooperation on weapons development between Iraq and Al Qaeda in its formal indictment of Osama bin Laden.
Telephone intercepts dating back to 1995 indicated possible cooperation between Iraqi chemical weapons scientists and high-ranking Sudanese military officials close to Al Qaeda. Both bin Laden and Saddam had repeatedly and publicly threatened the United States and both openly celebrated the September 11th attacks.
In October of 2002, before the Congress voted to authorize war in Iraq, Islamic militants conducted a series of attacks against US targets, killing at least one US soldier in South Asia. Philippine intelligence reported that the attacks were the likely result of a joint operation between Al Qaeda-linked militants and Iraqi intelligence. Saddams intelligence liaison in Manila ran what one Philippine immigration official called an established network of terrorists consisting of both Iraqi intelligence assets and Al Qaeda militants.
A top Al Qaeda operative was operating openly in Baghdad since October of 2002. Intercepted phone conversations between an Iraqi intelligence officer and Islamic militants reveal that the Iraqi regime paid Ansar al-Islam in northern Iraq $100,000 and praised its work. And on it went.
The question then was this one: Would it be possible to fight a serious global war on terror leaving the regime of Saddam Hussein in place?
Consider then what weve learned since the fall of Baghdad. An internal Iraqi intelligence document found in post-war Iraq reveals that Iraqi intelligence considered Osama bin Laden an asset as early as 1992. Abdul Rahman Yasin, an Iraqi who mixed the chemicals for the first World Trade Center bombing, and admitted to doing so on national television in the United States, was found to have been supported and financed by the Iraqi regime upon his return to Baghdad in 1993.
The Toronto Star uncovered a series of documents indicating meetings between high-level Iraqi intelligence officials and Al Qaeda representatives. Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, the most dangerous man in Iraq today, and the one that Colin Powell referenced in his UN presentation on February 5, 2003, received medical treatment, something that Powell reported at the UN. What Powell didnt report was that the medical treatment came at a hospital favored by the Iraqi regime and run by Uday Hussein.
And then the most interesting story, the one of Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, and weve had recent developments on this story within the last couple of days. Ahmed Hikmat Shakir is an Iraqi national who was dispatched to Kuala Lumpur and took a job at the Kuala Lumpur airport in August of 1999. He received his job ostensibly as a greeter at the airport for Malaysian airlines, but in reality working for the Iraqi embassy.
Shakir had his schedule controlled by the Iraqi embassy. And he was told to report to the airport on January 5th, on which date he escorted Khalid Almihdar, one of the September 11th hijackers, through the onerous paperwork process that involves foreign travel. He reported to work for three days more and then disappeared.
He was arrested on September 17, 2001, six days after September 11th, and in his possession was found contact information for many high-level Al Qaeda terrorists. He was released despite this, and arrested again in Jordan, at which point the Iraqi regime put pressure on the Jordanian government to release Shakir. A few days ago The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr. Shakirs name appears on the rolls of Saddams Fedayeenthree different lists of Saddams Fedayeen.
So were left with this question: What was a member of Saddams Fedayeen, if in fact it was the same Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, doing at the chief planning meeting for the September 11th attacks?
Ive been given a message, so Im not going to quite get through all my remarks. That was the short term. Didnt get to the long term. But Ill hopefully address that in questions. Thanks. (applause)
Thank you very much, Stephen. Eight minutes goes quickly. Walter Mead. Please.
Walter Russell Mead
Council on Foreign Relations
Well, thank you very much. What I would like to do is take advantage of the part of our charge as a panel to look ahead rather than behind when Iyou know, they say never look behind, something might be gaining on you. And thats certainly the way it looks sometimes in Iraq.
Im also reminded when I think about how the Bush administration got in and how its proceeded in Iraq, to some degree Im reminded of what Abraham Lincoln said when he first met his future wife Mary Todd at a ball. He walked up to her and said, Miss Todd, he said, I want to dance with you in the worst way. And afterwards she said to her friends, Thats exactly what he did. (laughter)
But anyway, here we are. And not only are we here in Iraq, were here in a war on terror, a war on terror that I think is going to take the place of the Cold War as the kind of central organizing element in American foreign policy. For better or for worse, I think American politics are such, and the nature of the threats that we face touches enough people in the United States in a way that is powerful and makes them respond that this is the job people are going to demand that their leadership take onthat is fight and win the war on terror.
And what I find interesting so far about the debate in this campaign, and the debate over Iraq generally, is that theres not, either from the Bush administration or from the Kerry campaign at this point, what I would consider a fleshed-out view of, OK, fine, war on terror. What is our strategy to win? What is the definition of victory? In cancer they say youre cured if you survive for five years. So is that it? Five years without September 11th we win? What does winning mean? What is our goal?
And then once youve described the goal, tell me whats your plan to get there? What stages do you see? Whats your strategy to get there? And then we can talk about, OK, is this episode, or that episode, or this venture or that venture likely to get us to where we need to be, and have the debate.
Were not there yet. So in my book Power, Terror, Peace and War, Ill tell you, after hearing some of the other titles floating around tonight, I think maybe my publisher was right. They told me it should be Power, Terror, Sex and War. (laughter) And Im regretting bitterly that I didnt take their advice.
What will our grand strategy need to look like in the war on terror? And Im going to suggest that we actually go back to our old Cold War toolkit and use something that worked very well in the Cold War as a description of our grand national project in the Cold War, that is to say containment. Lets try to think about containment as a strategy for dealing with terror.
And what are the elements of containment? Well, we go back and we look again at the Cold War, and we see we had a kind of a triple containment. It wasnt just one thing. On the one hand, we were trying to stop communists from taking over more countries. And we had the strategy that if they couldnt add to their resource base, if they couldnt win victories, sooner or later communism, because of its internal flaws, would sort of fall apart and decay on its own, which is more or less what happened in the case of the Soviet Union.
So I think that would be part of our strategy on terror, particularly since weve seen in Afghanistan what happens when a government that is closely linked to an organization like Al Qaeda is running the place. And basically Afghanistan became one large training ground for terrorists, where you were building barracks and having classrooms where they were doing lessons in how to build and place and use a dirty bomb.
We cant have that going. And imagine someone like bin Laden in charge of the oil resources and spiritual power of Saudi Arabia, and I think you see a real nightmare. So part of our strategy of containment is preventing terror groups from taking over governments and countries.
Then I think theres another aspect of containment in the war on terror that we need to think of, which is containing their power to harm us. Maybe thats comparable to what we were doing at the Fulda Gap when we were keeping the Soviet army from thinking it could come through.
In the war on terror its a little more complex. Its going to involve homeland defense, obviously, making us harder targets to hit. Its going to involve going out there and disrupting terrorist organizations, which may sometimes involve military operations. We want those people to spend their time worrying about what were going to do to them, rather than us spending our time exclusively worrying about what theyre going to do to us.
We want them to feel that they have to be on the run, that they dont have time to plan and they dont have a lot of leisure and their communications may not be secure. We want them to have to worry about their funding because they dont know when their funding lines will be shut down, or that every time they use a telephone or cross an international boundary theyre afraid of being caught and detected and brought to justice. Every time they hear a helicopter, we want them to think it might be us coming to get them, and they drop what they do and they panic.
So thats part of it. Then I think we need to cut their links to states, cut their links to money, cut their links to weapons of mass destruction. And then, finally, the third element of containment, and I see I have less than a minute to describe this very complex and fascinating phenomenon, but somebody could always ask me in the Q&A to say a little bit more about itquestions gladly acceptedwould be political containment. And again you think about this in the fight against communism. We actually made alliances with left-wing social democrats who hated Coca-Cola and America and everything else, but they also hated Stalinist totalitarianism.
So we reach out, we try to marginalize this ideology of terror in the societies in which it is. We fight its political influence, we and our allies, just as we were once fighting the influence of communists and labor movements in Italy and France. Because, after all, in the Cold War, it wouldnt have mattered how strong our armies were in the Fulda Gap if communism was triumphing through peaceful means or relatively peaceful means in France, in Italy, and Germany.
I would suggest to you that its this third dimension of the war on terror, of containment, that is the hardest to enact, that we are very far from getting there yet. The Greater Middle East Initiative is sort of a gesture; its not really a policy yet. But this may well turn out to be the front on which the war on terror is either won or lost. Well, thank you very much for your attention.
Director of the Center on Peace and Liberty at the Independent Institute
Well, Ive been assigned the topic, I guess, tonight, of finding a link between Saddam Hussein and Janet Jacksons Superbowl performance, so I guess Ill do my best to try that. But actually I think thats probably as plausible as the link between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. I have to say that I think thats really what we need to ask ourselves: Did Saddam Hussein have an operational link to the attacks on 9/11? Not just with Al Qaeda, but with 9/11?
And the reason I say that is many people have meetings, many organizations have meetings with other organizations and many people have meetings and many contacts. In fact, did we call Don Rumsfeld a terrorist because he met with Saddam Hussein just after Saddam gassed the Kurds, I believe it was in 1984? So we have to be careful about these things.
And I think the mainstream view in the CIA and the State Department and everywhere else is that therere no significant contacts between Al Qaeda and Saddam. And I think theres even less of a connection between Saddam and the 9/11 attacks.
And we also have to ask ourselves that even if there are, even if we prove this or had a deep suspicion of it, we launch a lot of attacks and things out of vengeance many times. We want a visceral reaction to 9/11. All of us had that. It was a terrible thing, and it was a despicable attack on innocent civilians, which is terror, which is the definition of terrorism.
But I think we have to ask ourselves if we really want to be smart about these things, what we should do if we did find a link. Should we have invaded? I think it would have been smarter to assess whether we would have made things worse or not rather than just say, Man, we got to take out Saddam.
So I think even in the worst case we need to assess what we should have done. And I would have had the CIA or the Special Forces do some nasty covert things to Saddam, because I think weve done this with bin Laden, weve done it with Saddam Hussein, we did it with Milosevicour politicians like to build up people that they can punch for electoral purposes.
And I think the real way to fight terrorism is quietly through intelligence, special operations, law enforcement. And you get much more cooperation from countries than you do when you make things worse. And in my view invading Iraq was much like if Roosevelt would have responded to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the German declaration of war by attacking the Dutch. I mean, youre making things worse. And its probably even worse than that because weve enflamed the Middle East and made things worse.
I think its very clear that on 61 different occasions, Cheney and other senior administration officials, including the President, made this implicit link between Al Qaeda and Saddam. And I think the evidence didnt show that. We many need to explore some of these meetings and go back.
But I think we have to ask ourselves why this question is being asked a year-and-a-half after the war, and I think the real answer is that we went to war and were not sure why. Thats just like in Iraq: were fighting people, but were not sure who they are, and thats a real problem when youre fighting a guerilla war.
So when they say that Saddam supported terrorismand the State Departments patterns on global terrorism report, they list 33 groups. First of all, we shouldnt even have a war on terrorism. We need a war on Al Qaeda. Because terrorism is a very general term, and its often used to enflame people both at home and abroad and get them revved up to do things.
The State Department mentions the groups that Saddam supported. Most of them were directed toward Iran, who was his archenemy, and also he supported Palestinian groups. He really didnt support groups that focused their attacks on the United States. So I think we really need to nail down any connection with the 9/11 attacks before we invaded.
Now of course we have invaded and we now have a mess on our hands. And we have to ask ourselveswhat we did was we said, well, if theres any doubt, lets go to war. Well, if we apply that rule, weve got a lot of fighting to do. Both Syria and Iran were bigger state sponsors of terrorism than Iraq. And so why didnt we go after them first? Do they have links with 9/11? I think this has been used as a political football to go after Iraq.
And so I think if we do go after these groups, we should do that covertly. But I say we ought to fight our own battles. We ought to go after Al Qaeda. I mean, frankly, this may be an unpopular view, but I think Israel needs to fight the Palestinian groups by itself. We cant fight everyones battles, and frankly were making things worse for ourselves. My view is, in the long term we have to assess why these people are attacking us, why theyre going all the way across the world to attack us.
Thats not appeasement. As the Ambassador said, you need to know your enemy. And bin Ladens very clear why he attacks us, and thereve been attempts by certain people to muddle this, but its for our foreign policy, and its primarily not our support of Israel, although thats a factor, but its a support for despotic secular governments that he thinks are corrupt.
So I think, in the long term I wouldnt do a lot of these interventions in the first place because I think, as we found out in Afghanistan during the Cold War, as we found out when we helped Saddam win the Iraq/Iran war, it destroyed the balance of power in the region and led him to invade Kuwait, which then continued with all these other problems. We and the Germans gave him most of his chemical precursors, and of course the United States gave him his biological agents as well.
So I think we really need to do no harm in our foreign policy first, and thats a very low standard, but frankly we havent even lived up to that. So I think we need a more restrained policy, and I think it will cut down on the number of terrorist attacks.
And when we do need to fight terrorism, as we did after 9/11, we need to do it quietly. We dont need to build up these people like bin Laden and make them heroes. Were doing this again with Zarqawi in Iraq and I think this is doing exactly what bin Laden wants us to do. The standard technique of terrorists and guerillas is to hit the stronger opponent, get them to overreact, and the terrorist group gets all the volunteers and all the funding it can handle.
And thats exactly what Bush did. And I think bin Laden got what he wanted. And I think if Bush would have reacted much more covertly, in a much more restrained fashion and gone after the real enemy, wed be a lot safer today. Thank you.
Thank youthank you all for pretty much keeping within the time limits. Now the second part of the program we aim at a little bloodletting up here on the stage. And then turn to you for about the last 25, 30 minutes for your questions.
Let me start, Stephen Hayes, question of the relationship between intelligence and exiles. Your comment in one of your articles that there was a well-established history of collaboration that goes back to 1990, developed through the Clinton administration. The only real question was what we were going to do about it.
Well, in your very recent article you said that Iyad Allawi, now the interim prime minister of Iraq, furnished information which has not always been solid. Why should the American public not be skeptical of his statements after weve been hearing that Mr. Chalabis information was not all that solid? Dont they each have their own political agendas? And in your opinion, were we manipulated, as former vice president Gore has very strongly suggested?
Id respond to that question a couple different ways. First, I think it is important that were skeptical of all of the intelligence and that we think about, of course, the agendas of everybody from whom we receive intelligence. I think, in fact, the point that I was making in that articleI wrote a short article about the new Iraqi prime minister, Iyad Allawi, who ran an organization called the Iraqi National Accord, which was sort of a CIA favorite exile group, and Allawi provided intelligence at various times. Some of it turned out not to be right.
And in fact one of the reasons I was pointing out what he had said about the Iraq/Al Qaeda relationship, something that he has maintained went back years, was precisely because we should be skeptical of what we get from exiles.
Allawi furnished a reporter a document in December of 2003, a three-page document that suggested that the former Iraqi regime had harbored Mohammed Atta in the summer before the September 11th attacks. And in the same three-page document that the Iraqis had in fact gone to Niger looking for Uraniumtwo points that one might point out were politically expedient for the Bush administration at the time. I think that document was later determined to be a forgery. So I would say that its very important to be cautious of all the intelligence we get from exiles.
I think the bulk of the intelligence reporting that weve gotten on the Iraq/Al Qaeda relationship comes not from exiles, but from a variety of other sources, including former Al Qaeda associates, including telephone intercepts. You name it, weve gotten information on the relationship from there. Foreign government sources. So I think that its important to be skeptical of wherever we get intelligence from.
OK. But just to be skeptical is to describe the State Department, as you know, as one large gathering of wimps in Washington.
Intelligence never speaks for itself. Every day we would get 100-plus spot reports out of countries, out of crisis spots like Iraq. How would you suggest guarding againstgo back to that ugly wordmanipulation, beyond being skeptical? At one point you mentioned having competing teams, and that seemed to be lacking in the run-up to war.
Well, I certainly think having competing intelligence teams with different analyses would help flesh out the various interpretations of evidence. The benefit of doing so, it seems to me, is rather clear. When you have various groups looking at the same set of facts, the same set of circumstances, theyre going to reach vastly different conclusions in some cases. The intelligence community then will pass that on to the policymakers, who have the difficult job of making decisions, acting on the intelligence.
I think thats a good thing. There is a push in Washington to move in the other direction, which is to consolidate the intelligence services under one broad intelligence operation. And I think that the problems that weve seen with the bureaucracy at the CIA, I think we all recognize that there have been significant problems in the bureaucracy at the CIA, would then just replicate themselves on a grander scale.
Do either of you have a comment on that, centralizing intelligence, the much-feared Czar of intelligence?
Walter Russell Mead
You know, I hate to admit it, but I honestly dont know enough to have an opinion worth noting here.
Honesty is not the policy on this platform.
Walter Russell Mead
I shall pass. I know its broken. I dont know how to fix it.
Well, actually I think that Bush administration has gotten probably too much criticism for 9/11, and so did the Clinton administration before it, because these shadowy groups are very tough to crack.
I think our intelligence community is still oriented toward monitoring a Soviet tank army in Germany, because we have a lot of electronic means, satellites and other means of monitoring, which are needed. But the problem is, like any other government program, you have certain constituencies that want to buy this stuff. And we keep saying, well, we need more covert agents to penetrate these shadowy groups, you know, agents in the field. We need more analysis rather than collection. We need more dissemination. We have all these bureaucratic problems.
And we certainly do, but one of the problems is that there are vested interests who want to buy these collections. And so we collect this massive amount of data, and we cant analyze it all, and we have these coordination problems. I think we do need to pare down the number of agencies in the intelligence community. We have 15. Thats way too many.
And, of course, the original problem, if youll recall, was that the CIA didnt coordinate with the FBI, and the FBI didnt coordinate within itself. Well, when that became embarrassing, the administration decided that they would reverse positions and create the Homeland Security Department, which of course has an intelligence office in it. So, of course, weve now made the problem worse. So I think rather than getting more agencies, we do need to go the other way.
The problem with centralizing it into one is that you dont have a debate within the community. And I think sometimes thats valuable. I used to monitor intelligence programs for Congress for a long time, and I think going to one agency might be too far, but I think we probably do need some consolidation.
Walter, you make the point that we should act to prevent terror groups from taking over countries. Im not sure that thats their aim, at least when I look at a country like Saudi Arabia, Im not sure that the people out killing in the streets these days are really anxious to become the kings or the royal family of Saudi Arabia. They want to turn the clock back to that wonderful, mythical first century of Islam.
But that said, on Iraq, in your writings youve made the point that taking Iraq out of the radical Sunni camp would make a permanent and probably beneficial change in the political arrangements in the Middle East. Are we on the way to taking it out of that camp? And is it possible that the changes in Iraq, which we said can come about, which may be starting to come about, are only going to last as long as our guns and our money are present in Iraq?
Walter Russell Mead
I dont know. And I dont think anybody can know. But I do think that we do see emerging around Sistani and also some of the secular Shia a sense that they want their own identity and their own interests better reflected by the Iraqi state. And I think there has been a tendency in a lot of Arab nationalistic thinking for a long time now that the Arab people are like Germany or Francethat is theyre one nation, which has been artificially divided, and the question has always been, whos going to be the Prussia of Arabia? You know, who is going to bring it all together under one roof?
And very often the idea has been, well, youve got to have one party and one leader sort of organizing all of this, and that there is a single unitary identity of the Arabs. And I think that ignores the very real diversity and pluralism of Arab culture and the Arab people. And in fact the real correlative of Arabia is not Germany or France, but Europe. And that its a community of nations and peoples more than a single nation.
And I think that in general a lot of what we should be trying to promoteand not just we, but many Arabs would like to see and certainly Europeansis a kind of a deeper and more honest vision of the benefits of acknowledging, celebrating and building on the pluralism that exists in the Arab world.
And I think that while, as Ive said earlier, I think weve made almost every possible policy mistake in Iraq. I think its actually remarkable that having done all of this, what we still seem to be seeing is a tendency by what looks like a substantial majority of the Iraqis to want an orderly state thats different from what they had before.
Youve advocated a strategy of what you call forward containment, which you say means containing and shrinking the power of Arabian fascism. Could you elaborate on that?
Walter Russell Mead
On which end of that? What Arabian fascism is or what shrinking their power is?
Well, what the strategy of forward containment means to you.
Walter Russell Mead
OK. Well, again I was getting into it a little bit in the talk. The idea is that were notyou know, when we were trying to contain the Soviet Union, it was to some extent a passive strategy because the Soviet nuclear deterrent and our nuclear deterrent meant that the United States and the Soviet Union never really came to grips.
The down side of the war on terror is that terrorist organizations, should they get weapons of mass destruction, dont face the same logic of deterrence that a country does, and so theyre not deterred. And thats one of the reasons the whole thing is much edgier.
On the other hand, were not deterred either. And so we have, in a sense, much more ability to try to affect their ability than to get to acquire and use these weapons than we did in the case of the Soviet Union. So our containing policy involves us more in trying to, as I said in the talk, get, degrade, and destroy, and reduce their ability to hurt us.
Ivan, after all, we had the CIA try to do a nasty thing, and it failed. Maybe it didnt have the right covert action in the late 90s, but it didnt work. Do you have a better plan for such efforts?
Well, I want to make that clear. Im not advocating doing that to Iraq, because I dont think Iraq had much of a connection with 9/11. In fact, I dont think it had it at all.
Now if, I said, in the hypothetical, if we did, we could either use the CIA or we could use stronger tactics with the Special Forces. But I would do any military action without much publicity, and I dont think we needed to pop the cap off this regime, because the only way, in my opinion, that this society is going to stay together, with all these varying groups, armed groups, is to have Saddam there, because its ruled by force. Now Im not advocating bringing back Saddam, but I think the solution at the current juncture is probably some sort of self-determination and decentralized rule.
But what youre saying is, what would we do? Theres a continuum of things you can do. And after 9/11, if Saddam was guilty of this, we were restrained before 9/11 in doing a lot of the things that we did. And, of course, therere a lot of options short of a full-scale invasion and running the country, because thats very difficult.
And I think the Bush administration made a bigger errorthey made errors in planning the occupation, but the biggest error they made is that they were trying to transform a whole society into a Western democracy, and I dont think theyre going to succeed.
Its a tremendous thing to do that. The military action should be very easy against a conventional military. We spend what the next 12 countries do combined. And if we cant go in there and do what we did to Iraq, I want to know where the money went.
But its a different story with a guerilla war, and I think we have other options, and we dont have to take out every regime that we have a problem with.
But Im not admitting that Saddam had anything to do with this, because I think the mainstream view, even of conservativesTony Cordesman five days ago wrote and op-ed piece in The Washington Post, and hes certainly no liberal, and he said there still exists no evidence of a link between 9/11 and Saddam.
Well, a year before the war, you argued that the threat from Iraq was exaggerated. Do you think the containment policy should have been continued and would have been sufficient, containment, that is, through the UN inspectors?
Yes, I think it was working. Suddenly this threat got real urgent, and it was the same threat for about 10 years. And really we talk about weapons of mass destruction, but thats another term thats used to enflame people and get fear. Really, the only weapon of mass destruction is a nuclear weapon, and Saddam Husseinno one thought he had a nuclear weapon when we went into Iraq. Nobody did. And I think that weve now found that most of the pieces of his nuclear program were in the scientists backyard. His reconstituted nuclear program wasnt very reconstituted at all.
And so, I said, even if he had a nuclear weapon, the worst case, I still wouldnt have gone in, because, frankly, we let Mao in China, who was very radical at the time, have a nuclear weapon. We didnt launch a preventative invasion of China. And I think we can live with people.
And I dont think Saddam was irrational. I think we ought to worry about other leaders like Kim Jong Il of North Korea and the Iranians before we worried about Saddam. Saddam was a very pragmatic leader. We didnt always like what he did, obviously, but I think the policy of containment was working. His military was a half to a third of what it was after the first Gulf War when we crushed it the first time. And really the only threat was these weapons programs.
But prior to the invasion, a Defense Department briefing, which I got, cited 12 threat countries. These are not Britain and France. Twelve countries with nuclear programs, 13 countries with biological weapons, 16 with chemical weapons, and 28 with ballistic missiles. So weve got a lot of invading to do if we want to do a preventative strike on any one of these countries.
And I think Saddam was probably third on every type of threat list that existed, from terrorism to weapons of mass destruction. The North Koreans were ahead in missiles and nukes. The Iranians were ahead in sponsorship of terrorism. So they picked the low-hanging fruit. And so I think containment would have worked and it was working.
Well, you pushed your argument further in an article you wrote called The Top 10 Reasons Not to Do Iraq. You suggested thatand everyone should read that article. I think through nine. I read nine rather than 10, but still. They were well spelled out.
But you wrote the terrorist groups that Iraq supported did not focus their attacks on the US, but on targets in the Middle East such as Israel and Iran. Are you actually denying theres evidence linking Iraq to US-targeting by a terrorist group such as Al Qaeda? Stephen has spoken of the dots all over the place, which hes connected.
As I said, terrorists do cooperate sometimes, and sometimes its sporadically. Like the IRA cooperates with the FMLN in Colombia. I think these links need to be further explored, but I dont see a high-level operational link between Saddam and 9/11 or Saddam and Al Qaeda. And I think most of the stuff that we have, like the meeting in Czech Republic that was alleged, all these things have evaporated. And I really dont think we should go to war until we have some substantial evidence. And were trying to find the evidence a year and a half later.
This was only one of the rationales they used. Its so important now, because they didnt find any weapons of mass destruction, and it doesnt look like were going to get a democracy in Iraq anytime soon. So were grasping for why we did this invasion.
And so I see no link, and Ill be prepared to say that if there is a link, that I would have been willing to do something. But I would have liked to have seen that evidence. In a democracy we cant just say, well, you know, we have these intelligence reports out there, and they look like there might be something. When you go to war, thats a pretty solemn decision. When you invade another sovereign nation, you got to have a good reason for doing it.
And in a democracy it has to be made public. You know, Ive had very high-level security clearances, and most of the stuff thats classified is either detailed or it has sources associated with it that you dont want divulged. But most of the things in our society can be debated. Most of the stuff is not classified.
It seems to me that the CIA and the State Department and every other agency would have had an incentive to do what their boss, the President, wanted to do, which was invade Iraq. If there would have been really good evidence, we would have seen the really good evidence, and it would have been made very public, because they have a veryits a lot easier for them to find that evidence to satisfy their political masters than it is now.
Im not saying they do that, because there is a certain analytical integrity, and thats why the intelligence community is so mad at the Bush administration because they feel theyve been manipulated. But they definitely have an incentive to find that evidence of a link between Al Qaeda and Saddam if it exists because the administration can play hardball; Cheney visits the CIA to intimidate them, or they can say, hey, well cut your budget next year. They dont say that in, you know, direct form, but its implicitly threatened.
Stephen, does your silence signal assent, total assent?
You might be surprised, but no, it does not. Well, several things. To your allegation that the Bush administration is now talking about this because of post-war difficulties, a failure to find WMD, and dim prospects for democracy, I would say no, theyre not. I want them to. Theyre not talking about it right now. Theyve been virtually silent on the Iraq/Al Qaeda issues. I think they should be fleshing it out.
Taking sort of a broader look, to me there is a disconnect because on the one hand youre citing George Tenet and the CIA as experts. On the other hand, when George Tenet reports to the Senate Intelligence Committee that there is a decades-long relationship between Iraq and Al Qaeda, that it involved not only meetings, but training on weapons of mass destruction, that it involved fundingGeorge Tenet testified as late as March 9, 2004 and told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the CIA could now show safe haven and funding from Iraq to Al Qaeda, in addition to training on weapons of mass destruction.
What the CIA cant show is command and control, but no one has ever alleged that Iraq somehow had command and control over Al Qaeda. Is it that you dont believe the evidence thats been presented, or what?
Well, I believe I said that I dont think theres absolutely no link. I mean, there may have been meetings. I think that should be explored. Im for a full exploration of the historical record.
But what Im saying is even if there werewell, first of all we needed to talk about this before we invaded, and this needed to be talked about by the administration and everybody else. And Im submitting that theyre not talking about it now because they really dont have a lot of good evidence.
The consensus is that there are no significant links. The word significant can be debated. But I think that we see no command and control over 9/11.
The other thing which I mentioned in my presentation is, what if we did find this? Well, is the best way to invade the country, or are there other options? Are we making things worse by doing what we did? We have to ask that question. We cant just flail away and do these things. So I think, you know, we need to ask all these questions. Yeah.
Walter Russell Mead
Yeah. I would just like to jump in here and say that in my view the realthe important connection in a sense between Saddam Hussein and September 11th is more historical than organizationalalthough Im not really competent to adjudicate this discussion herein the sense that if you look at why Osama bin Laden broke in the way he did with the House of Saud and began his campaign, and really organized Al Qaeda, the specific reason was that the US military presence in Saudi Arabia, which had been temporary during the first Gulf war, became permanent.
And the reason for that was so that we could carry out the strategy of containing Saddam Hussein. That is to say when he refused to adopt the conventional disarmament that he was committed to under the ceasefire, the Saudis and we, and the Kuwaitis, and a lot of other people thought that only US permanent military presence there would be sufficient to stabilize the region in the face of that.
So my sense, when I look at the policy of containment, I see actually a very expensive policy, and I see that actually the attacks of September 11th and the organization that carried them out are a piece of blowback, if you want to use that term, from the effort to contain Saddam Hussein.
You think about a government like the Saudi government, a lot of its identity and its legitimacy is its special role as the defenders of these very holy cities and mosques. And here you have them sort of openly, and in a very shameful or shaming way saying, We cant defend them. Were the guardians of the holy mosques. Not only can we not defend them ourselves, we cant defend them unless we have a permanent presence not just of foreign troops, but of non-Muslim troops, and of non-Muslim troops from the country that is Israels closest ally.
And, you know, this, I think, was a tremendously damaging political reality. And I do note that one of the first things that happened after the fall of the Saddam Hussein government is the US began a very dramatic and systematic reduction of the military footprint in Saudi Arabia.
And so I think in looking at the relationship, for me, it was not always so important how many cups of latte an Al Qaeda representative and an Iraqi might or might not have had at a Starbucks or whatever in Prague. But the containment of Iraq was a policy that was much more expensive than many people understood. And one way or another, even going back to the Clinton administration, the United States had pretty much reached a consensus that we needed to change policy, and we couldnt go back; OK, Saddam, were just going to give up enforcing the ceasefire and so on. You go on and sort of go about your business.
We couldnt go that way, so we sort of had to go forward. Now, I think had that logic been behind the war policy, we might have been more convincing. For example, we wouldnt have needed new UN resolutions. We would have said, look, theres a ceasefire being violated, and this ceasefire is one that ended an authorized war.
When one party violates a ceasefire, what happens is the ceasefire ends. And so we would then take steps to enforce every article of the ceasefire 100 percent, which is arguably what we should have done in the beginning. And that I think might have put us in a somewhat better position with a clearer public explanation of what were doing and why. But I agree that we do need to try to pursue now the intelligence questions here and see where we are.
Can I just make a point of clarification with respect to Saddam and 9/11, before we are cascaded with calls suggesting Im a crack? Im not arguing and I dont argue in the book that Saddam necessarily had anything to do with September 11th. What I argue in the book, and what I think we need to look at, especially in light of new evidence, is that its interesting at the very least that someone who appears to have been a member of Saddams Fedayeen, his military, his scare force, if you will, appears to have been present at what the US intelligence community believes to have been the chief Al Qaeda operational planning meeting.
Now, I mean, its all fine and dandy to dismiss that as unimportant and to say that Janet Jackson has as much of a link with 9/11 as Saddam, but thats a serious question. I mean, if he was there, what was he doing there? If he provided active support with the knowledge of the Iraqi embassy, what did it mean?
And I guess the problem with dismissing those questions, and I would also say the question of Mohammed Atta and Prague, which, by the way, George Tenet believes took place. He tells his associates privately that he believes it took place. We cant prove it, we cant disprove it. But just as a matter of further exploration, its important to consider and look at these questions.
Can I makecan I make?
I see a certain amount of frothing on the part of the audience. Lets see if they dont raise the point you were about to make. But lets invite questions from the audience. Microphones on both sides. And before we end tonight, I want to hear from each of the three of you: are we, to take Dons point, are we better or worse off in the war on terror after having invaded Iraq? But well come back to that if it doesnt come up inGood Lord, look at that.
All right. Please identify yourself, ask the question, and try to spread the barbs around among the panelist.
Editorial Director, ReportersNotebook.com
Hi, my name is Michael Santomauro. Im the editorial director of ReportersNotebook.com. And you all touched on the grand strategy on the war on terror. How about liberating America from Israel? 9/11 would not have occurred if the US government had refused to help Israel humiliate and destroy Palestinian society.
My question: Israel has violated more UN resolutions than all the countries in the world combined since 1948. How can we fight terrorism when the US continues to use the veto power at the UN Security Council to support Israels state terrorism? (applause, boos)
Could we get an answer rather than applause, please?
Walter Russell Mead
Well, I think what I would say is I do think that part of this broader strategy of containing terror that Im talking about, the political side of it, does involve turning down heat, to the extent the US can, between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
I was in the Middle East for five weeks this spring speaking to all kinds of audiences, and I can tell you that Israel/Palestine was much more on peoples minds than the war in Iraq or even Abu Ghraib. Bush is more hated because of a perceived association with Sharon than because of anything thats happened or not happened in Iraq.
But I think we need to do this. I think there are ways of looking at what aspects of a peace deal, a compromise two-state solution, would be a benefit to the Palestinians that we havent done enough to talk about and work on. For example, compensation for people who dont return to 1948 Israel. I think we all know that very few people will, at the end of the day, be able to do that. So lets start raising the money. Lets start figuring out what a legal tribunal would look like.
Theres also the whole question of finding passports. When peace is signed between Israel and Palestine, as we all hope that it will, every Palestinian needs to have a passport and the right to live somewhere as a full citizen with all the economic, social and political rights.
So I think what we as the United States can and should be doing here is not trying to so much force Israel to do X or Y at the moment, because I think, again, we wont get very far with that. But we do need to start opening up a much broader discussion of, in a sense, a roadmap to the future for Palestinians. And that is, I think, an important part of dealing with the questions that we face.
Thank you. Yes, maam. Or sir.
Hi. My name is Ron Unz and Im a software developer. My question is primarily addressed to Mr. Hayes. Now, during this presentation youve cited very shadowy intelligence reports alleging meetings, or possible ties, or dots between Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, and Saddam Hussein.
It seems to me the problem is over the last year, the likely sources of those reports have been unmasked as utterly devoid of the slightest shred of credibility. Now, credibility is a very important capital asset. Once you lose it, its gone forever. And the people who seem to me likely the source of those reports at best have absolutely no credibility in my mind. And at worst, according to the revelations of the last few weeks, have unmasked themselves as basically foreign spies or people who worked very closely with foreign spies. Why should we give any heedance to the points you make when everything else theyve said has turned out to be entirely false?
Well, thats a very interesting and a very simple way of looking at the problem, if I can say that. Your question presumes, and I think most people in the room know it, that all of our intelligence on Iraq came from Ahmed Chalabi. In fact it did not.
Im not talking about that. Im talking about your sources within the Pentagon who were involved in fabricating a tremendous amount of various data from, you know, not only from Ahmed but some other exile groups, third-party reports. Im talking about the Pentagon people, not theyre sources of the fabricated data.
Well, again, Ill dispute your premise. I mean, your presumption that you know my sources is interesting. And the assumption that theyve all been discredited, if indeed my sources are at the Pentagon, seems to me unproven at this point.
What we do know, and I think if you look at the collection of reporting, take your pick. If you dont like Donald Rumsfeld, look at George Tenet. He says the same thing. If you dont like George Tenet, look at Bill Clinton. He said the same thing. It was not Donald Rumsfeld, but William Cohen who testified in front of the September 11th Commission in March of this year and said, Look, I didnt want to be testifying in front of you after an attack where terrorists had colluded with a rogue state and unleash weapons of mass destruction on the streets of the United States.
And in so making that point, Cohen reiterated his belief that the head of the Al-Shifa plant, the much-disputed Al-Shifa plant in the Sudan, which the Clinton administration attacked in August of 1998, had traveled to Baghdad to meet with the head of Iraqs chemical weapons programs. Now, you know, its possible that they were just getting coffee. I think we have to err on the side of assuming that they were not.
All right. Yes, sir?
Yes, my name is John Marcus. Id like to ask Mr. Hayes and the other speakers, why havent we heard more about Salman Pak, which was the airplane hijack training center run by Saddams people, and at which at least some Western people found out that there were Al Qaeda people there.
Why havent the Bush administration and the conservative media been doing a better job of connecting the dots, which include The Wall Street Journal editorial page, Mr. Hayess book, the Judge Harold Bayer decision, and Salman Pak? Seems to me theres a very strong circumstantial case about the fact that Osama and Saddam were blood brothers, conspirators and allies.
Just for clarification, you said why havent we heard about Salmon Pak? You mean, the training
The airplane hijack training center run by Saddams people.
Right near Baghdad, with a huge airplane sitting in the desert.
There actually is a reason that the Bush administration gives. In the interviews of the 650-some-odd detainees at Guantánamo, that question has been asked. None of them has admitted to training in Salman Pak, which of course, doesnt mean that none of them did.
But it is an interestingit presents an interesting problem for an administration to make that case publicly with that data point so well known, because I think they assume that if they make that case publicly, they assume that they will be undercut by leaks, and its a battle that they care not to engage in.
I think they should. Clearly there was terrorist training going on. Whether it was Al Qaeda or not, there was terrorist training going on. The UN weapons inspectors, who came upon Salman Pak looking for biological weapons, actually found the training camp, found it intact, testified to the fact that there was terrorist training camp going on. In fact, one of them, I think it was Tim Trevan, had a great response when the Iraqis told them in fact it was a counter-terror training camp. He said we just dropped the counter.
Well, Id say the reason we havent heard much about it is because its not very good evidence, and I think Mr. Hayes just said that they dont want a fight because I dont think they can win a fight if the evidence is shown.
He also just said, well, there was a training camp there, we dont know if it was Al Qaeda or not. Well, thats big to me because I dont want to fight every terrorist in the world, and I dont care if Saddam is supporting some groups. Lots of countries support groups, and most of these terrorist groups are regional organizations. They have regional goals. Al Qaedas one the few organizations that has global objectives. And I think we need to fight Al Qaeda, and we need to ask ourselves, is Al Qaeda linked to this camp?
And also, Id like to bring up one other related point. From the interrogations of senior Baathists and senior members of Al Qaeda that have been captured, presumably who would have an incentive to tell the American interrogators what they want to hear, given the aggressive, some would say torture that theyre probably undergoing, they both said that there was no high-level cooperation between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
And some of the Al Qaeda people said that they brought this up with bin Laden, and he vetoed it, because bin Ladenit would sort of be like cooperating with your arch enemy.
The main reason that Al Qaeda attacks the United States is because we support secular regimes in the Middle East that bin Laden thinks are corrupt. He features himself as cleansing Islam from these governments. And the reason that he doesnt like our troops in Saudi Arabia, or he didnt, was because theyre on the land of the holy sites, but also because they represented support for the Saudi government, which he despises. So Saddam is a secular despotic ruler, so theres no ideological affinity.
Now there have beenthroughout historythere have been marriages of convenience of people who are opposites. But I tend to believe the fact that bin Laden is probably fairly committed to what hes doing, and this would be like cooperating with your archenemy. I think his main enemy is these regimes, and he attacks the United States because we support these regimes.
I am Peter Wong. My question is addressed to Ivan Eland. My question has two parts. Number one, I think George W. Bush has already achieved his objectives, his definition of victory. That is, according to his extreme rightist religion, he got rid of the SOB, whos not our SOB anymore.
My question directly to that is if he were honest, he were straightforwardand hes intelligent, he went to Harvard Business Schooland he were to say that I dont care if theres any relationship between 9/11 and Saddams mass destruction weapon. I just dont like the SOB. I want to get rid of him. I personally would admire that more than the insidiousness that he plays. What would have happened? The Americans are relatively intelligent and they keep on believing that.
My second part of the question is you mentioned by example that Chairman Mao developed nuclear weapons as a negative example. Let me remind you that, I dont know why you didnt mention Pakistan, India, Israel. They all have nuclear weapons. And the fact that President Nixon spoke to Mao twice, he never mentioned it, said please get rid of the nuclear weapon. And also the succeeding Presidents went to China, he either spoke to Mao himself or his successors, and nothing about get rid of nuclear weapons.
Well, I think your points are well taken. I think that if he would have just said the guys an SOB and were getting rid of him, thatyou know, Americans are very idealistic. They dont like realpolitik. People in Washington operate at a realpolitik plane. But thats not where the pubic is. The public is at an idealistic level, and you cant justify that.
And I think one of the problems that George Bush has, his policies to some extent are not that much different than Clintons. Clinton used preventative threats against North Korea. He threatened war in 1994 if they didnt freeze their nuclear program. So this is nothing new. But I think Bush has taken it farther.
But the main thing is hes dropped some of the Wilsonian rhetoric of democratizing Iraq. He only picked this up after the weapons of mass destruction and the Al Qaeda/Saddam link didnt pan out.
But I think youre right, there are other reasons. And none of the three reasons given, the Al Qaeda/Saddam link, the weapons of mass destruction, and the democratizing Iraq, I dont think, are the real reasons for this invasion.
On the other question, yes, I think actually the United States sort of implicitly encouraged Mao to get nuclear weapons as a counterweight to the Soviet Union. Certainly they did nothing to prevent this. But youre also right: we didnt say anything about these other countries as well. And particularly Pakistan is probably the most dangerous country in the world because its got a fundamentalist element there.
And if they take over Pakistanand of course, weve helped destabilize Pakistan by running an overt war in Afghanistan. Afghanistan may have been necessary, but perhaps we could have been a little bit more sophisticated about conducting that war.
But anyway, yes, these other countries do have nuclear weapons and the United States has acquiesced to them. And some of them arent very good regimes.
Walter, youve written about the doctrine of preemption and how useful it can be. Do you have any comment on this, building on the last question?
Walter Russell Mead
Well, again, I think I do, you know, share the view that in fact it is nothing new and that it was, in a sense, I think a mistake by the President to dress it up as something new, because people then reacted like it was some weird new doctrine. I think if the President had simply said, Look, I, like every other President in American history, have sworn an oath to defend the United States and the American people, and I will do whatever it takes, which essentially is ruling nothing out. Then you also say, And like President John Fitzgerald Kennedy who was willing to go to the mat with the Soviet Union over just the possibility of installing nuclear weapons in Cuba, I will not sit passively by while threats, etc., etc., etc.
Youll notice that Senator Kerry has also said that preemption cant be ruled out as a last resort. In fact, this is always part of diplomacy, or its potentially a part.
The question is of prudence, judgment. When is the right time to do it? I think many people would agree that the President was probably right to remind countries that deterrence doesnt just start operating when you develop WMD, but maybe you should think about deterrence as youre beginning to do it.
But I think it was probably a mistake and allowed a lot of people to criticize the United States as if we were introducing some revolutionary legal doctrine. We werent.
All right. Yes, sir. And then I think since were starting to run out of time, if I could take two from this side and then two from that side, and then well see how the answers come.
Thank you. My name is David Gilman. My question is addressed to Mr. Mead. Your use of the term war on terror, and the use of that term by our Pentagon and by our Attorney General causes me a great deal of concern because of the folly of the notion of a war on terror. You cant win a war on terror. The best, I think, you can do is hope to neutralize a terrorist organization like we did when we went to Afghanistan, and we had worldwide support to go to the source of training for terror and to eliminate that.
But to go on a war of terror that does not have an identifiable army and a particularly identifiable opponent, uniforms, bases that you can destroy, you cant really win such a war. The best I suggest you can do is to neutralize it, because terror can be conducted on the streets of any city with just a briefcase full of weapons, and it could kill just a few people or a few hundred people. But a war, we would never actually win it. And all I believe that we can do is to hope to neutralize.
You have to end saying, Do you agree? (laughter) Yes, sir.
Robert Kleckner, Jr.
Robert Kleckner, Jr. is my name. Years ago as a young army officer I worked in an eighth army forward in intelligence with a top-secret clearance, so I know something about it. Since then I practiced law for a number of years and am now retired.
I think most of you, with all due respect, have spent your time and hours rehashing what happened or didnt happen, whether Saddam did or whether Saddam didnt. And Saddams now history, unless hes tortured to death under our Presidents new conceived powers as arranged by his advisors, legally speaking, in the Pentagon.
But I want to ask each of you individually, how do you define a terrorist and how do we deal with such people? What do you think a terrorist really is? For instance, in Afghanistan, 14,000 Russian mothers sons were killed by freedom fighters. They were Mujahidin, they werent terrorists. They were freedom fighters.
Now, how do you people define a terrorist, thinking in the context of the Iraqis, the Palestinians, and a number of other people who are fighting, as they see it, to protect their land? (applause)
All right. Walter first on the war on terror that you cant win.
Walter Russell Mead
Well, I guess just to start with the second question, I guess I end up being reduced towas it Potter Stewart who used to say about pornography, I know it when I see it? And, you know, Im not going to try to go much further than that, and partly because in my answer to the first question, isnt a war on terror an absurd concept logically? Its like, of course, a war on crime, yet we have war on crime all the time, or war on cancer.
The Cold War itself, a war on communism, was a metaphorical war, and you could really make the point that, in fact, some of our allies and collaborators in the Cold War were communists, like, for example, Marshall Tito, or toward the end, China.
So, you know, I think what were stuck with here, because it has struck such a chord in the public mind and because politicians of both parties have repeated it and sort of tried to surf the wave here, the war on terror is and will remain, for good or bad, and partly for both, the way we talk about this foreign policy challenge. Most people will under
Robert Kleckner, Jr.
Thats not an answer. (inaudible) if I may say so. How do you define a terrorist? Whats a terrorist?
Walter Russell Mead
I told you, I know it when I see it, and Im not going any further.
Robert Kleckner, Jr.
Potter Stewart decided a case on the basis of that
Walter Russell Mead
I told you Im not going any further. Im sorry.
Ivan, can you answer?
Yeah, actually Id like to address that question, because I sit in on meetings with a lot of terrorism experts, and the first thing theyll tell you is that nobody can agree on a definition of terrorism. But thats a big cop-out because I thinkand I suppose you can come up with anything you wantbut my definition is if you deliberately, with the emphasis on that word deliberately, kill civilians to get their government to change a policy that is for political reasons, then youre being a terrorist.
Now, theres a gray area, and some countries, which I wont mention their names, they find a target in an apartment building, and they could assassinate him or blow up his car or something, but they choose to use a 2,000-pound weapon in an apartment building. But they have a target, a legitimate target, but they know a lot of civilians are going to be killed, and I think they do it on purpose so they can use the same tactics.
But is that a gray area? Thats a gray area. You can debate whether thats terrorism or not, but I say its getting pretty close. Because any military can go, oh, yeah, we got a target over here, there happens to be a lot of civilians around, and theres going to be collateral damage, but boy, we have a target.
But the reason I think that people dont like to use that definition is because sometimes governments could be guilty of terrorism. Let me give you an example. And this is treading on pretty soft ground, because I know last week was World War II week.
But in 1945 we were winning the war and we were closing in on Germany and they firebombed Dresden, and they did it on purpose to kill massive amounts of civilians. And if the Germans would have won the war, our leadership might have been, or certainly the British leadership, but our leadership, too, might have been charged with war crimes.
So you see, people dont like to use definitions because that definition might be turned around on them at some point. But thats my definition, and thats about the best I can do.
Robert Kleckner, Jr.
Let me add just one note.
Stephen? Well, sir, weve got to move on, Im sorry.
Walter Russell Mead
I am going to add, though, on the firebombing of Dresden that that had been my view until I read the diaries of Victor Klemperer, you know, the Jew who survived the Holocaust in Germany. The firebombing of Dresden saved his life from deportation. It somewhat changed myyou cant weigh and measure lives, but the fact is it burned the records that labeled him as a Jew. He took off his yellow star and went off about his life.
I think in the interest of comedy and brevity, I will endorse the first part of Ivans answer as a working definition of terrorism.
Hurting innocents for political reasons. Yeah. OK. Two over here. Yes, maam?
Im Robert Madding.
I have a two-part question for Mr. Eland, and Im sorry to bring you into this, Mr. Murphy, but you did raise an important point. Id like to start out with a small clarification. I happen to think most people ignore the fact that theres a huge difference between my friends who are Muslim and Al Qaeda who are Muslim. Granted, I think this is done by the antiwar activists. They say the people of Islam, but they dont make the distinction, which I find rather offensive. My friends havent killed anyone.
What were looking at here is were looking at a culture that is barbaric and savage in many respects. Limbs can be removed, body parts can be removed for offenses. Were looking atin Iraq there were men walking around, cards that said, Violators of womens honor. Government-appointed rapists.
When they attacked the twin towers on September 11th, that is a symbolic powerthe twin towers carried a symbolic power and an economic power. The whole point was to drive fear into the hearts of Americans. But it didnt work. We got angry. We were enraged by it. This strikes me as a miscalculation. As far as I can see, what were looking at is a group of people who are barbaric, savage, and not quite sure what theyre doing. Theyre striking blindly in the dark.
And if thats so, then how is it going to be useful to know what they want? I understand understand your enemy. That makes sense. But knowing what they want, what good is that? Because if we use a policy because of them, we are no better than them. If we change our policy because they kill us, then we are willing to bow down under their heel and do wrong. We should do whats right despite what they want, and I dont see how knowing what they want will be of any use to us.
Also, especially to you, Mr. Murphy, you said that its very hard to be a young Muslim and an Arab. Im sorry. I happen to believe if one of my friends is treated poorly because hes a Muslim, then Ill be angry. But as for Al Qaeda, etc., as for the Middle Eastern governments, the terrorists, those who were involved, I consider my countrymen my brethren, and my brothers and sisters died on September 11th. And once you have killed those whom I hold dear, I cannot see a single good reason why I should care about anything but seeing that you never do it again. Can you give me a single good reason why I should understand that theyve had a hard life after what theyve done? (applause)
I said the more you understand about your enemy, the better off youre going to be in dealing with them, and hopefully avoiding anything like a 9/11 again. Youre reacting like Mayor Giuliani did in September, that month when, in response to the Saudi who wanted to present him with a check for helping to rebuild New York, added, perhaps you could review your Middle East policy. And he took it very badly. And
Reasonably so. The man said you have to accept that you were responsible for these acts.
No, he didnt say that. He didnt say that. Go back and read what was reported from that press release. But anyway, thats my view on it. Yes? Could we have the next?
Hi. Hello. My name is Diana Pollack and Im a concerned citizen and obviously the only woman whos come up here. The topic that weve discussed today is the relationship between Iraq and terrorism. The panel and the Ambassador have all made references to the fact that weve been focusing and talking about Iraq, but weve also alluded to other countries, such as Iran, Pakistan, and Korea.
What are we doing in this policy of spending, I think its $180 million a day on, and weve killed 1,000 of our soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. This will continue. What are we doing to preserve peace and tranquility and/or minimize terrorism when our focus and all our geopolitical attention and money is going to Iraq and not these other countries which we have alluded to and which may be even worse terrorists? Thats one part of the question.
And the second is, what are we doing to find and try to counter the Al Qaeda leadership and bin Laden? We havent heard anyone talk about that. Thats the real heart and soul of terrorism. Our attention is focused and contained on Iraq. How is that helping us and/or hindering us minimize terror and promoting peace and tranquility around the world?
I think the first question was to me, and Ill try to get the second in a minute. But I think you cant conflate all of Islam with a small portion of Al Qaeda people who are obviously terrorists. No ones saying theres not terrorism. No ones supporting terrorism up here on the panel, or Al Qaeda. And I wish they would have been more aggressive on Al Qaeda and less on distractions, as the second person said. She alluded to the fact that we had been distracted, and I think we have.
And I think weve been beating a dead horse here this evening because I think weve already invaded Iraq, and we should have been talking about this before. But what we have are 61 instances where the link was implied betweenand this is from a Congressional reportbetween Al Qaeda and Saddam. And I think they never made the specific link. They always brought the two up together because they didnt feel they had enough evidence before the war.
So I find it curious that were still debating this a year-and-a-half afterwards. I think the reason that were debating is because we have been distracted. We have been taken off the main enemy and we need to get back on it.
And as I say, I dont believe in a war on terror. I believe in a war on Al Qaeda. And most of the groups on the US terrorism list dont attack the United States. And if you want to go through the terrorism report, therere 33-odd groups. Its a very political list. Its people that we dont like, its groups that we dont like, and countries that we dont like. Some of them have relations to terrorism and some dont. But I think weve got to keep focused and weve got to not fight all the battles because were making things worse.
Im going to have to call that the last question. But Walter and Stephen, if you can address that. And then those who didnt get to ask, would you please come up afterwards, wed be happy to deal with them. Yes.
Walter Russell Mead
Well, Ill just very quickly say, without trying to respond to everything thats been raised, on the question of what else are we doing, Iran and North Korea in particular. I dont think weve given them up. To some degree all of us feel the urge to criticize the Bush administration from time to time, partly because it is so criticizable. (laughter)
But I thinkwell, Im sorry, but it is. And particularly we say, oh, that awful George Bush, he put Iraq, Iran, and North Korea all together in an axis of evil. How could he? Theyre so complex. Theyre such different problems. How could he? Then in another mood we say, that awful George Bush, why doesnt he treat them the same way? Huh? He invaded Iraq, what kind of a hypocrite is he? He didnt invade Iran and North Korea. Ah!
Whatever he does, weve decided hes no good. And, you know, that could be true. But still I think we ought to look at the arguments a little more carefully. In fact, with North Korea, the United States has actually been following a model of multilateral consultative diplomacy. Whether its going to work or not is another issue. But North Koreas central demand is that the United States unilaterally deal with North Korea and make a decision. The United States central demand has been, no, were not going to be separated from our friends and partners and allies like Japan, like South Korea, like, in this case, China. So there is a diplomatic dance going on.
In Iran, the United States has actually let the Europeans take the lead, in particular in an initiative organized by the Germans with some of the Europeans to begin working this issue through institutions. So theyre not being neglected. Theyre being dealt with actually in many of the ways that people wish that Bush had dealt with Iraq. So we are moving.
And then I think on the hunt for bin Laden, let me just say this. I dont think it does us or anybody else any good to trumpet how much we want to catch him and to make the hunt for bin Laden the big show on the news, because that means every day he stays out its like, ha-ha, its a victory for him. Hes Bugs Bunny, Americas Elmer Fudd, (laughter) and you make him more of a star. I think hes got enough star status already. I think what we do is we dont say a lot, but we work on the problem, and then well do our talking hopefully when hes caught. Thank you. (applause)
The last comment?
Just on that last point, I dont think anybody would be surprised. It may not be wise to advertise that were on a hunt for bin Laden, but its certainly no secret that were on a hunt for bin Laden.
But going back to the question of Iraq, and I have to go back to what Ivan said earlier, its distressing, frustrating, I have to admit, to hear you continually suggest that these are fictitious links between Iraq and Al Qaeda when youve never actually demonstrated how any of them are wrong.
I spent five minutes at the beginning of my presentation laying out some of these links, none of which are inaccurate. Might they change? May they prove to be wrong? Perhaps. But as we know the intelligence today, these are accurate. The 61 mentions you continue to invoke, have they been shown to be false?
I mean, everybody I talk to in the intelligence community across the administration and the Congress, wherever, says that the picture of collaboration between Iraq and Al Qaeda has only gotten clearer in post-war Iraq, and weve been aided by the capture of documents of the Iraq Survey Group in which they found that bin Laden, as I mentioned earlier, was considered an Iraqi intelligence asset in the early 1990s. There were additional series of meetings. There was an undated document, presumably after 1995, that discusses bin Laden meeting with Iraqi Intelligence Service and a representative of the Taliban. And on the agenda of this internal Iraqi intelligence document was attacking American interests.
Now, is that proof? Its not proof. Youre right. Ill grant you that its not proof. But is it something we should be concerned about? I think we absolutely should be concerned about it. And whats distressing, again, not only on this panel, but I think in the mainstream media, its distressing to me that the Bush administration doesnt raise this more.
These are important data points. These are important points of discussion. Some of them are flimsy. Some of them are suggestive. Some of them are solid. You dont fake telephone intercepts that suggest that Iraqi intelligence was providing $100,000 to Ansar al-Islam. Either it happened or it didnt. You dont have detainees, one after another after another, talk about the funding from the Iraqi regime to Ansar al-Islam and these other terrorist groups.
So I guess Ill end by saying what we know today is much more than we knew when we went to war, and the picture of collaboration between Iraq and Al Qaeda is much stronger than it was at that time. (applause)
I wasntI wasnt
Ladies and gentlemen, I always heard that the mark of a good discussion is where you succeed in changing your opponents position 360 degrees, and I think thats what weve done tonight. Thank you very much, and thanks to the panel.