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Pro and Con debate with Randy Scheunemann and Joseph Wilson - 2003-03-12


MR. BORGIDA:
Joining us in our studio today for our NewsLine program, Ambassador Joseph Wilson. He is an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute here in Washington, and also joining us is Randy Scheunemann, President of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq.

Gentlemen, thank you for joining us. This is obviously a complicated week, with all the developments at the United Nations. Ambassador Wilson, I would like to give the first crack to you about what critics might say is the rush by the Bush administration to disarm Iraq militarily. I suspect that you probably would like to see other steps taken in advance of that, or are you comfortable with where we are now in the Bush administration's strategy at the moment?

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
I think the problem, particularly as you see it played out at the United Nations, is not so much the rush. In fact, there are those who would argue that there is no lack of momentum. But I think the real problem is lack of focus. I think, for the last several weeks, the Bush administration has been focusing on objectives other than disarmament. The President's State of the Union address and certainly his speech at the American Enterprise Institute, and certain other comments from members of the administration, would suggest that the approach that the administration wants to take is more a war of liberation and subsequent occupation of Iraq than it is a disarmament campaign.

Now, the problem is, when 1441 was voted on, and when Tony Blair, who has been faithful to the question of disarmament, signed onto this enterprise, they signed on to a disarmament campaign. I think one of the problems that Tony Blair faces is that the rest of Europe, and certainly the British public, wonders what it is that the Brits are getting into. Is it disarmament as the objective or is it in fact redrawing the political map of the Middle East, or, as the President would say, a reverse domino, creating democracies throughout the Middle East?

MR. BORGIDA:
Now, Mr. Scheunemann, let me offer the same question to you essentially. Is it disarmament or should it be regime change?

MR. SCHEUNEMANN:
Well, they are one in the same. It is abundantly clear this regime is never going to voluntarily disarm. That has been clear for 12 years. It has been clear in the lies that Saddam Hussein put forward in his declaration December 8th. And it is clear, if you read the UNMOVIC report, in each of the 29 issue areas, there is nothing but deception and lack of cooperation from the Iraqi regime. The only way Iraq will be disarmed is if the regime is changed.

And I think the problem at the U.N. is there is not a discussion of Iraqi disarmament anymore. No serious person can think that Iraq is complying with 1441. Instead, it is about other things -- the role of America in the world, the French need for national grandeur, to get all of its Francophone countries in Africa to vote with it. It's certainly not about Iraqi disarmament anymore.

MR. BORGIDA:
Mr. Scheunemann, should the United States go ahead and move to disarm Iraq militarily, what kind of a precedent would this set in terms of how other countries react to each other? For example, there are those who say -- legal experts, for example -- that if this were to occur, then what is to stop India from moving against Pakistan? What is to stop other countries from moving against others whom they view as potential threats?

MR. SCHEUNEMANN:
These are really red herrings that people are putting forward as excuses to leave Saddam in power and to leave him repressing the Iraqi people. There are 17 U.N. resolutions, passed under Chapter 7 authority, calling on Iraq to disarm. Iraq is in violation of the Gulf War ceasefire. That is an ample body of international law, and any of the various analogies about what India might do, what China might do, what Russia might do, don't have a shred of that amount of international law behind them. This is a very unique case, with ample international legal justification for liberation.

MR. BORGIDA:
Ambassador, your thoughts on that one?

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
It is all about disarmament in actual fact. It is not about compliance. When people went in to do the Gulf War, and when people did 1441 just last year, everybody understood that you were not going to get voluntary compliance from Saddam Hussein. He has never complied. He is a deceptive leader. He is not the only deceptive leader in the world. In fact, many leaders are deceptive. However, the problem really is, how do you get at this?

The question that is being posed at the United Nations -- and I disagree with the position that has been ascribed to the French by Mr. Scheunemann; is really total war, which I define as the invasion, conquest and subsequent occupation of Iraq and imposing of certain externally imposed systems upon the Iraqi population, is that the next best action to take because we have not achieved disarmament at the pace that would satisfy this administration and certainly those such as Randy?

The French are arguing, and I tend to agree with them, that you need to ratchet up the pressure and that you need to focus –- you need to make total war, which, again, I define as the invasion, conquest and occupation for the next decade of Iraq, that is in fact the next step and not the last step.

MR. BORGIDA:
When you say ratchet up the pressure, certainly there would be those who would say, hasn't the pressure been ratcheted up enough, and for long enough?

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
No. I think there are several other steps that can be taken, and they have all been outlined in any number of studies that have been done by very respected former military officers, including Chuck Boyd, who used to be the --

MR. BORGIDA:
Can you give me two things we could do instead of war?

AMBASSADOR WILSON:
First of all, you can impose a total no-fly zone over Iraq. And then, secondly, you could make it very clear, both through enhanced inspections and through the use of military assets, to take out suspected sites of weapons of mass destruction, that you will simply not stand for any obstructions, implicit or explicit, on the part of Saddam Hussein. But keeping the focus on disarmament. It has nothing to do with whether you want to keep Saddam Hussein in power. Nobody wants to keep Saddam Hussein in power. It has everything to do with assessing the risks of total war against the substantial benefits.

MR. BORGIDA:
Mr. Scheunemann, what are your thoughts about that? You'll probably get the last word, too.

MR. SCHEUNEMANN:
There are a lot of people who want to keep Saddam Hussein in power, including many in the French Government, probably because what they're worried about will be revealed in the archives once Iraq is liberated.

But this plea for more time simply gives the initiative to Saddam Hussein. Eighteen chemical warheads have been destroyed since UNMOVIC went in on November 27th; 30,000 remain unaccounted for, according to UNSCOM and UNMOVIC. At this rate, in 443 years, we'll have just chemical warheads taken care of if we keep this pace up. I don't think the world can afford to wait.

MR. BORGIDA:
You get the last word in this segment. I'm sorry, Ambassador. Television at its best and worst at times, we have to limit these debates. Thank you so much, Randy Scheunemann, President of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, and Ambassador Joseph Wilson, Adjunct Scholar at the Middle East Institute here in Washington. Just a reflection of the views percolating on the Iraqi crisis.

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