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Charles Pena, Cato Institute & Nile Gardiner, Heritage Foundation, Discusses intelligence reports on Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq,  6-11-03 - 2003-06-11


The Bush Administration has been receiving criticism over allegations of exaggerated intelligence reports on Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. Joining us to discuss the intelligence situation are two defense analysts: Charles Pena, from the Cato Institute, and Nile Gardiner, from the Heritage Foundation.

MR. BORGIDA
And now joining us to discuss all this, from the Cato Institute, Charles Pena, and from the Heritage Foundation, Nile Gardiner, both of you defense analysts. We're delighted you could join us on this day. A lot of action on Capitol Hill on this. As we've just reported to our audience, Republicans are rejecting a formal investigation.

Mr. Pena, we'll begin with you. What does that tell you? Is this kind of becoming a political issue here in Washington? Is that to be expected?

MR. PENA
Well, I think domestically, it's really not going to be much of an issue. The Democrats I think will try to make it an issue, but the public, by and large, seems to be okay with what's going on with weapons of mass destruction and not, at least for the moment, being able to find them. I think that's largely because the war became a cathartic war for the American public. It was about regaining pride and confidence. And after all, as the administration says, we did a good thing; we got rid of an evil dictator who oppressed his own people. And no one would argue with that.

MR. BORGIDA
Well, what do you think about that?

MR. PENA
Well, I think actually the administration has explaining to do whether they find weapons or not. If they don't find weapons, then I think their rationale falls apart. If they find the weapons, they still have to explain how Saddam was a threat, because he didn't use them even in self-defense. So, to me, I think the real question should be, how were the weapons, assuming he had them, a direct threat to the United States that required military action?

MR. BORGIDA
And, Mr. Gardiner, have at it. He says that twin explanations are in order from the administration. Does the administration, in your view, have explaining to do?

DR. GARDINER
No, I don't think the administration has to explain anything at this stage. I think that we're in the early days of the search for weapons of mass destruction at the moment. I'm very confident that we will unearth substantial quantities of chemical and biological weapons. These are very easily concealed. Let's now have more time, several months, to find these weapons.

As to the comments by Hans Blix earlier today, I think they were absolutely outrageous. And I don't think that he is in the position to be making those kinds of allegations.

MR. BORGIDA
Well, he doesn't have a chance to defend himself, so let's go back to the issue of the weapons of mass destruction. How much time is enough? I'm sure there are plenty of Americans, and certainly some British citizens, who are asking that question. Where is all this evidence?

DR. GARDINER
It's certainly I think a very big issue in the United Kingdom, a bigger issue than it is here, in terms of voter concern. But I believe that in the space of the next six to 12 months, the British and the American Governments will start to unearth the full extent of Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons program.

MR. PENA
You used the term "program," Nile, and I think you've got to find more than a program. Because the administration alleged vast quantities of weapons that could kill hundreds of thousands of people. So, a couple of mobile laboratories, a few vials, in my opinion, is just not going to cut it for the administration to make the case that they made. I find the greatest irony that the administration is asking for time, time that they would not give the U.N. weapons inspectors, and in fact we now have U.S. weapons inspection teams scurrying around the country, unimpeded, able to question anybody they want, and they're not finding weapons any faster than the U.N. was.

MR. BORGIDA
Why do you think that the Americans -- in your words a moment ago -- it doesn't seem to be a salient issue for Americans, at least, when you compare it to the British public at the moment?

MR. PENA
Because of 9/11. 9/11 changed everything here for people in America, and people want to feel safe, they want to feel protected. All the threats, I think, are being viewed more or less equally. Saddam was easy to villainize. I mean, after all, he was an evil dictator. Nobody, even the people who opposed the war, would argue with that. And so this really became about regaining a sense of pride and confidence and feeling safer in a more threatening world. And I think that's why Americans, by and large, are willing to be a little more forgiving and less critical in asking the questions about rationale for the war. But, clearly, our friends and allies overseas, their populations, are willing to ask tougher questions on this point.

MR. BORGIDA
Mr. Gardiner, as you look back on this war effort, and in the months ahead, six, seven, eight months ahead, we do not find any clear evidence of weapons of mass destruction, would you feel that this still was a legitimate effort and paid off in the end?

DR. GARDINER
Absolutely. I think we have to consider the possibility that Saddam Hussein and his cohorts may have destroyed, for example, substantial amounts of chemical and biological weapons, or transferred them to another country, such as Syria. We can't discount that possibility. But even if we don't find anything, let's face the facts here that the United States and Great Britain, together, removed one of the most brutal dictatorships of modern times. And surely that was reason enough, alone, for us to have gone in there and carried out a regime change.

MR. BORGIDA
Mr. Pena, any final thoughts?

MR. PENA
That is, I think, the popular opinion both here in the United States and, to some degree, in Great Britain. I would simply argue, if he was never a threat to begin with, regardless of whether we did a good thing or not, that the use of force should be reserved for true national security threats.

MR. BORGIDA
Defense Analyst Charles Pena of the Cato Institute here in Washington, and Nile Gardiner of the Heritage Foundation, both of you joining us on an important day in a discussion of the issue of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. I thank you both for joining us today.

MR. PENA
Thank you, David.

DR. GARDINER
Thank you.

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