I want to start by talking about when you met Paul Wolfowitz ... several years ago, when he came to you after a talk.
Gosh, that is a long way back. I think it was 1994, 1995, I can't remember frankly. I was giving a talk on Iraq and he was in the audience. I remember him seeking me out and -- very touching moment -- he said that he felt that the United States had been wrong in 1991 in the way it had handled the uprising. He had come to this talk, I gathered, to tell me that, I was deeply touched.
Did you then stay in touch with him, or--
I didn't actively seek contact for a while, long after that. We didn't meet again till about a year and a half ago. As the preparations for the war, as the build-up towards -- well, post-Sept. 11, we met again. ...
At that point, were you already working with the INC or in touch with the INC?
I've always been a strong supporter of the INC, from 1992 onwards. But I was closely supporting the INC and very much part of the discussion about the role of the opposition in the coming war -- if it was going to be a war, in those days -- and very much a supporter of a very active opposition under the umbrella of the INC. So that was the context in which I was working.
But he came to you in 1994 and said that we made a mistake?
Yes. I must say it was the most poignant moment I've had with a politician or a senior policy figure ever in my life, because I've never known anyone do a thing like that and--
To admit that they were wrong?
Yes, and do it in such a graceful way. To have sought me out to say this thing was touching -- was something special. I took an immense liking to the man because of it.
A year and a half ago, when he got back in touch with you-- ... Was it obvious at that time that Sept. 11 had changed the thinking about Saddam and Iraq?
It was obvious to me that a sea change in America foreign policy had begun to occur, and that it was now going to focus on Iraq as the place or the arena where this sea change was going to be effectively realized. So I was very much caught up in the atmosphere of that and--
What was that sea change?
It was a realization, as I see it, that a policy of supporting dictatorships, autocratic regimes and so on, was perhaps no longer in America's interest, as policy goes back of course half a century. And that ... regimes like that in Saudi Arabia ... bred monsters in the midst of the United States. All of a sudden, the problems were coming from the very allies of the United States. ...
So that meant that there was now an argument for dramatically changing the terms of American engagement with that part of the world, in the direction of promoting other ideals that benefit large numbers of people, not the existing autocrats in power.
A transformation of the Middle East?
How was it that transforming Iraq -- or regime change in Iraq -- would affect Saudi Arabia or the region?
If you have a successful American -- let's call it enterprise -- here in Iraq, that actually succeeds in not only overthrowing a dictatorship, which is easy, but in building a society that is beginning to move towards stable institutions, to rule of law -- proper constitutional political system and representative democracy -- then you would have transformed the rules of the game in the Middle East.
Let's not forget that UNDP [United Nations Development Program] report, written by Arabs themselves, that pointed out that the greatest obstacle to development in the Arab world -- [and pointed out] that that world is failing miserably on all social, economic, and educational indices that you can think of, computer literacy, et cetera -- but in comparison with the rest of the world, the cause of it is the decrepit, bankrupt, corrupt and autocratic nature of its political systems throughout.
So here was a chance to reverse that. The UNDP report is quite important. To reverse that in a country that had the means, the resources, human and financial, to do it -- Afghanistan not being in that league, for instance. So the opportunity was all there. Their question was ... how to go about doing it. So that seems to me the challenge that the serious thinkers inside the Bush administration put to themselves. ...
I know these ideas of Mr. Wolfowitz and Cheney, and others, are very often dismissed and discredited by people ... usually from a position of ignorance, on the basis that they're sort of dreamy ... the dreamy fairy tale idea of transforming the Middle East, or [transforming] a country like Saudi Arabia into a democracy -- ha, ha, ha -- isn't that a funny thing? How funny, how unreasonable can you get?
That kind of thinking is very, very prevalent, by the way, in the State Department. I've had State Department officials actually say to me in so many words--
It's a pipe dream?
Yes. That kind of way of looking at it is, of course, not the way it's being portrayed. We're talking about beginning something in Iraq which eventually changes the perception of [the] United States in that part of the world, which will then have repercussions which cannot be predicted in advance. We're not talking about military adventures all over the world ... one after the other. No sensible person should be talking that way.
We're talking about an alternative to the autocracies -- Iraq being another oil-producing country -- an alternative to Saudi Arabia. That itself opens up fissures ... in set political agendas of the Middle East. It transforms the Middle East simply by the fact that now there is a growing oil-producing country which is on a par, in the same league as Saudi Arabia.
All of a sudden, the dynamics of politics as a whole in their region are shifting, from the ground level up. You also have a shift in direction of the Arab-Israeli peace process. Democrats are strengthened, radical democrats, people like myself. My Palestinian equivalents, my Syrian equivalents, et cetera, are strengthened up and down the Arab world by the success of this.
All of this has a ripple effect which will have consequences down the line. It is in that sense that one is changing a policy, a long-term, strategic way of thinking about things. Perfectly in line with a thinking about the war against terror laid by the president earlier -- that this is not short-term, this is not just about Afghanistan, it's not just about one group, and so on and so forth.
So it is in line with that policy, again, born by Sept. 11, that this sea change -- and I insist that's what it is -- is taking place. Of course any such departure from the norm is going to bring up criticism from establishments that are set in their ways, that are used to doing policy in certain ways. Any such radical departure [such as] I'm talking about is going to look fantastical to people with no political imagination -- of whom of course the United States has its fair share in the policy establishment.
Well, you're saying that it is ambitious. It is idealistic, perhaps.
Of course it's ambitious. ... It is thinking on the big scale. It is not thinking like a clerk, or a bureaucrat, pushing one piece of paper, another piece of paper. ... It's a difference between a guy who's running for election and thinking about the polls, and somebody who's got a real strategic agenda down the line, and is fighting for big ideas and big values. ...
Do you think the American public understands ... that the war in Iraq is about Saudi Arabia and autocratic regimes across the Middle East?
We could do with a lot more talking about that, but of course for reasons that are -- let's call it typically realpolitik -- people don't talk about these things.
They talk about weapons of mass destruction ... and imminent threats?
Exactly. You don't go around with an ally you're still working with, who's still an ally, who you want to convince to help you on the war against [terrorism], you don't around saying things like that. But certainly that's how any half-intelligent person would be thinking.
That the war in Iraq is about Saudi Arabia or Egypt as much as it is about anything?
It's about the entire strategic relationship of the United States to this part of the world, to the Arab-Muslim world. Hence, within that framework, down the line, it includes and embraces the Arab-Israeli conflict. But it's not -- there's not a direct one-to-one relationship. It is trying to change, it is understanding that terrorism is not just ... it's not really economic or poverty-stricken circumstances, which is what you get from all kinds of irresponsible critics in Europe. ... I mean, that contributes, of course. But it is about a relationship, a political degradation ... that we have arrived at in the Arab-Muslim world, that we desperately need to get out of.
When does your involvement with the State Department begin?
It begins in June 2002, actually, in a conference held in Michigan. ... I deliver a talk there and at that talk I am approached by the State Department to participate in a series of meetings called "The Future of Iraq Project." ...
OK, so someone from the State Department ... comes to you.
Yes, and suggests -- and asks if I would participate in a workshop that was originally called a "Political Principles Workshop." It was one of 12 or 13 workshops being [convened] at the time. This was a workshop, incidentally, the State Department had not wanted to have, but Congress insisted upon convening.
This was out of the Iraqi Liberation Act, and monies--
I understood where the funding was coming from. It was a State Department-led exercise to look into various practical questions that would follow the overthrow of the regime.
The State Department didn't want to do this?
No. The State Department wanted to do the whole project, certainly. But it did not want to do the political principals part, because that looked like it was too political. The State Department wanted to talk about how best we can collect garbage in the streets the day after liberation, or how we can recruit a thousand health workers to go to this or that area the day after. I said I didn't have anything to contribute to such questions, unfortunately. I'm sure there were people inside Iraq who would know much better how to go about doing these things.
But I could contribute on matters of the type of political entity that we would be heading towards in Iraq as a result of such a dramatic change. They did not want to discuss the big framework, the big picture questions, the constitutional questions, the shape of the state, the kind of state we'd be looking at. They wanted that entirely left out. So I said it was impossible for me to participate in any such endeavor. ... They were urging me to do so. I would not do so unless the agenda was explicitly about democracy. I refused to do so. ...
You have to remember that's the time when the State Department was courting military guys for potential leaders to replace Saddam Hussein. So the idea of making democracy a central focus, a central plank of the agenda of transformation, was not on the State Department's mind.
You actually said to one journalist, "The enemies of a democratic Iraq lie within the State Department and the CIA."
I think that was correct. Yes -- I'm sad. It's very sad to have to say it, but the State Department and CIA have consistently thwarted the president's genuine attempt, I think, to do something very dramatic in this country. Fortunately they have not totally succeeded, and in some ways, the struggle is still on, although the situation has changed now inside Iraq. I mean, ever since the appointment of Paul Bremer, we have a very different dynamic now at work inside Iraq. ...
It is incomprehensible to most people, to understand, to believe that the State Department doesn't favor democracy.
It's not about favoring or not favoring. It believes in democracy for themselves, but it simply thinks -- I mean, people like myself get the impression from talking to State Department people that they don't think this part of the world is ready for it, or is up to it. They are in a sense too cynical; they're too embedded. They have diplomats who are too used to hobnobbing with sheiks and rulers of Saudi Arabia, and so on, to even imagine that something dramatically different is possible.
But there is no tradition of democracy ...
That is true, that is true. That is why you need imagination and you need a deep inner conviction that people, just because they are Muslims and Arabs, are not somehow obstructed from bringing about democratic societies. You need to be very firm, as people like Paul Wolfowitz are. As Arabs and Muslims, you need to believe in your heart of hearts that fundamentally it's both important and necessary to break the stereotype that just because somebody's Muslim or an Arab there is somehow an antithetical relationship to democratic values and culture, that somehow the religion or the culture is against that.
You make it sound like a form of racism.
That's how I would feel. It's certainly how I felt with many officials that I had to deal with in the U.S. government. By the way, it's even worse in Europe. It's condescension, and they treat you in the most condescending possible ways. Actually, when you see them work inside Iraq later on, you see this condescension change. You know, all of a sudden they like inculcating little NGO's. ...
But let me take you back. So you agreed to join the Future of Iraq [Project]?
After I made a big fuss, I wrote to all kinds of people, I denounced the existing setup, refused to be a part of it, then got invited in to talk to people in the State Department. Came in with ideas about how the whole program should be reorganized. [I] came out of that meeting with a sense that part of what I had suggested was being accepted, [the] other part wasn't. For instance, I wanted the personnel -- they were picking and choosing the people that were going to attend these workshops without consulting Iraqis. ...
But the goal which I was trying to head towards, here's a very important distinction, the original concept was you bring a group of Iraqis around -- this is where we come to the condescension part -- and what the Democratic Principles Workshop was, in the State Department view, was providing an opportunity for Iraqis to talk to one another and then assembling together a whole lot of views ... about which there was no purpose, to which there was nothing other than dialogue; a discussion for discussion's sake.
No synthesis at all. No direction, no project -- no "We're going there, and this is the way we're going to get there," type of thing. So I just said, "We do this all the time anyway. We don't need you to spend millions and millions of dollars holding meetings for us to do this, and then write up little memos and so on. We know these things and we've been doing this for years. We want a result. We want a synthesized result which is more than that, a collaborative venture between you guys and us. Therefore it's on the record as being an American-Iraqi enterprise, direction, project, policy, statement -- call it what you will -- which is going to be guiding the thinking behind the change inside Iraq."
So whatever they thought, really, they finally acceded to that. I said, "For that, we need structure." We need to be able to put together a team that will do this. It's a proactive vision, it's not, "Let's sit back and watch 100 flowers bloom and watch what so and so said, and isn't that nice and everybody's equal."
No. We're going places. We're discussing federalism, we're choosing types of federalism, we're arguing pros and cons of each one of them. We're talking about how to do that. We're coming with ideas. We want transitional justice, we talk about truth and reconciliation commissions as real things. We want them, we don't want them, how are we going to set them up and so on. We're not just a chat shop, for God's sake. ...So I joined ... with the understanding that if I emerged out of this process -- there were 32 Iraqis in the Democratic Principles Workshop -- and led such a team. It looked like the team as a whole was going to go in that direction, the State Department would accept the final results. That was the deal, and so I said, "I accept the challenge."
That's in fact what we did. I then acted proactively. We formed committees, we formed a secretariat, we formed an editorial group, and we subdivided the work and we charged ahead. We came up with a document called "The Transition to Democracy in Iraq" ... which we asked the State Department be put officially as a working document of the meeting of the Iraqi opposition that was being held in London in December of last year. Again, I came away with the impression that that was going to be the position of the State Department.
None of this was in writing, of course, and we set about doing that. We came up with the document; I think [it] is a very good document. Naturally there was some controversy. We were not allowed to vote, State Department set the rules, they said no votes -- consensus. How can you have consensus when you're discussing big questions, you're trying to go places, not just chat?
So anyway, we accepted even that limitation, which was, you know, a real pulling the carpet from under our feet type of tactic. But even that we accepted, and we came out with such a document. Yes, there was some discontent; yes, some people grumbled here and there. But we worked basically on the principle that those of us who wanted to do this threw ourselves into this night and day for a period of three months -- just did nothing else, worked like crazy. ...
So you ran into problems?
We ran into problems at the conference [in London]. At the conference itself, the moment the report came out, the State Department started taking distance from it because it apparently challenged a central tenet of the U.S., of the State Department policy, which was they were against the idea of a provisional government, outside, led by the Iraqi opposition. They wanted the discussions on government to take place after the change had taken place. So that was one reason, plus the entire direction of the thing, the commitment to all the different things that were in this 100-or-so-page report were just too much for them to bear. They just took distance the moment it came out...
Did the report explicitly choose the INC as a leader of the provisional government?
No, no, it did not.
The State Department is on record as having been opposed to the INC.
That's right. We were then at a point when things had gotten so personal and so petty within the U.S. administration over this question of the INC that it was coloring everybody's judgment. Much of our problems afterwards in Iraq are a consequence of that squabbling within the U.S. administration, that petty level of dealing with things -- that desire to push aside people who were in a position to be very effective and help move this process in such a way that we wouldn't be in quite a big a mess as we are now.
So when this paper gets presented, there's squabbling over this at the London conference. At that point, what do you decide?
We nonetheless press ahead. The conference in London creates a body of 65 people. I was on that body ...
I think you described it as just large enough to be useless.
Yes, at the time. But the body proceeds to insist that it's not going to be useless and plans a meeting again in January 2003. At this point, the United States government, as I said, certainly the State Department, is backing away from this very fast. So it does everything possible to postpone the meeting, which doesn't finally take place until March, with one delay after another. But we finally do end up having a meeting in Salahadin, in northern Iraq, attended by high-level American delegation. The Turks also played their fair share in delaying things. Structures are set up out of the 65.
The ideas of the Democratic Principles Working Group are very, I think, very much there in the background, although that document is not voted on again by the 65 when they meet. ... It's promoted by us individually, ideas are in the air, and so on. A structure is set up, a six-person leadership committee is set up. Subcommittees are begun to be discussed, and so on.
It's then that the whole U.S. government, now obviously working on the basis of some compromise that's been reached through the inter-agency process -- in which all agencies agreed they get to take big-time distance with the opposition, and not involve them in the planning for the war, certainly, but not involve them even in the operations during the war, and just push them away.
Well, a lot has happened in between here -- in January the preparations for war and postwar planning especially shift from the State Department, Future of Iraq, over to the Defense Department.
Yes, but everything is still run by this great albatross of our lives, this great ball and chain of our lives called the "interagency process," which of course kills imagination. Always, whenever you want to kill an idea, make a committee out of it. So that's what was going on.
But slowly the Defense Department is taking control ... and you're moving away from any association with the State Department towards the Defense Department?
Yes. I mean, I'm finding the people who are interested in the things I'm interested in having. The kinds of discussions I've had with Mr. Wolfowitz before, or other people -- these people are just not in the State Department; they were in the Pentagon. So that's where I, so to speak, by default found myself going more and more.
I interviewed General Garner. He told me on camera that when he started up ORHA, he was instructed by Rumsfeld to not use any of the Future of Iraq Project documents, to not use the guidance that was provided in those documents.
I don't know. I'm sure he knows. I never heard this. First time I hear that. But I think there was some good work done in those documents. I think it was, for instance, especially now, in transitional justice we suffer from the fact that nobody seems to be reading the work that was done on the transitional justice documents.
Not everything that was produced by those working groups was useless. We could benefit from going back to it. ...
So at some point, the Defense Department is starting up ORHA and is really perhaps throwing out the baby with the bathwater?
I can't comment on something that I just don't know enough about, but --
But you did say that the transitional justice working group's paper was--
There's very important material in the transition justice working group paper.
That deals with the postwar security?
Yes, of how to go about setting courts, what kind of courts there should be. ... Prisons, and so on. There's a lot of material there that we could benefit from. ... I do think it's a useful source book, let me put it that way. It's not necessarily as prescriptive as the document we had produced was. But it's a very important source book for what can be done, and the transitional justice team here should pay more attention to it.
Presumably, someone who read that in preparing for the postwar Iraq might have thought harder about such issues as security issues, looting?
Yes. I'm not sure anybody addressed the looting question adequately--
Well, that's the question. Why did the government fail to understand the needs of Iraq on the security front?
We all failed. I don't blame the U.S. government on that. I think that was a more general failure. I have written about the looting that took place after 1991 or the looting in Kuwait. You know, I'm fully aware of incidents of looting in Iraqi history, written about by Iraqi sociologists. ... But the scale of it this time was new, and I don't blame anyone for not predicting it.
We could talk about why that happened, what exactly happened with the collapse of the Iraqi state that was to create that. We can talk about the effects of 30 years of this regime that all of us can write about theoretically and try to study and understand from outside. But you understand only really by living persistently inside.
I think very few people understood just how little investment had been made in the infrastructure of Iraq over the last 15 years. What the impact of that was-- You know, they did a study of Saddam's budget, 2002. Some $1.4 billion, $1.9 billion -- I forget exactly -- was devoted to Republican Guard during that one-year period in Iraqi budget. I think it was $3 million for the entire educational infrastructure in Iraq; $3 million. $3 million, with over $1.4 billion, $1.9 billion for the Republican Guard alone.
I mean, just for a moment try to push those figures back, and you understand the state of the Iraqi social and economic system -- the state of degradation that's taken place here.
You're saying that some of the disorder that we're now facing is a result of not having recognized how dire the situation was under Saddam?
There was recognition that it was dire. But you know, there's two kinds of recognition. You can understand something abstractly, and you can understand it sensually by touching it, by feeling it, by seeing it, by living it. It was very hard to have that other kind of understanding, given the nature of the state -- almost impossible.
So the looting that took place is a more complicated phenomena. There were ways in which the looting could have been dramatically reduced, and very simple ways. These are legitimate failures that the Pentagon especially is responsible for. Like not positioning tanks before every ministry, for God's sake -- that's just unbelievable. Why stick it only in front of the oil ministry? Do you actually want the world to go get the very wrong conclusion? ... Do you want to create that condition, then you go and put a tank in front of the oil ministry and you don't put it anywhere else, in front of the ministry of culture, in front of the national museum? You make that kind of a stupid mistake, which was made.
But what I'm saying is there was more. One of our problems that we faced was when you take the lid off of a repressive system of 30 years in making, which includes a system that has now degraded the entire economic and social infrastructure of the country, utterly let it rot -- and the population, in a sense, paid the price for this system -- you now take the lid off this thing and you don't have an alternative, especially law and order, system to replace it. The population went wild. ...
There's a sense in which people did not know in the beginning what this war was all about -- Iraqis. That again goes back to this debate, this fight, this terrible, terrible inheritance of the warfare between the State Department and the Pentagon, because that concluded with a decision on both parts, through the inter-agency process, to push Iraqis outside.
Consequently, when the American army, when the coalition forces, enter Iraq through the south, they have no Iraqis as buffers between them and the local population. They have no ways of even talking to people; people don't know why they're there. Anyway, they're skirting the cities, and they're leaving the Fedayeen in place. There's even less reason to fear it.
So people had every reason to doubt American intentions -- and don't forget they paid a terrible price for hope, for believing in American intentions, back in 1991; that memory lingered. Look at the massacres, look at the price they paid. All of us underestimated that price. We used to calculate the casualties of the 1991 uprising at 40,000 to 60,000. ... We're now talking 200,000 to 300,000 people killed immediately afterwards because of the questioning of the uprising that followed the last Gulf War. That price is buried in people's fears and apprehensions. "What are they really here for, what do they want?"
You need to understand that you needed Iraqis with the American forces. There are thousands who are immediately pouring into the cities engaging with these Fedayeen thugs, fighting with them and espousing the values of the coalition. We had nothing, we had nothing. Sixty-eight Iraqis joined the whole American enterprise. ... That's ludicrous. ...
How was the failure to include Iraqis in the process a product of the interagency squabbling?
I think that a decision was made sometime after the Salahadin conference, or perhaps even sometime after the December conference in London, to stop messing around at even trying to work with the Iraqi opposition. That is, forget this as a lost cause.
It was too much trouble, too much squabbling?
Too much trouble, too much squabbling. And this new idea, this great big white elephant idea -- which I must say I loathe -- of this distinction that was created between the internals and the externals -- the inauthentic externals and the authentic internals.
Exiles versus those who have lived under Saddam?
Yes, and various words were used. Very interesting to examine the history of that distinction as it has been introduced. It's now a full operation at work inside the CPA. We have to deal with it on a daily basis. We do. You know, you get counted as one or the other, and everything gets judged, weighed up, as a consequence.
But look at the history of the idea. The history of the idea was as follows. The State Department and the CIA's way of argument for pushing aside the exiles who were the sort of logical partners the United States, because they identified with the goals and aspirations, they were fully on board with American policy thinkers -- a way of getting rid of these guys was to say, "Well, there are all these authentic Iraqis. There are all these Iraqis inside that we need to work with."
By that, they used to mean, going back to June 2002, they used to mean the army, the Baath Party, structures of apparatus that they thought could be won over. With the regime intact, the state intact-- That was the running argument. Therefore the amount of mess that would be created afterwards would be considerably less. The inside was not your ordinary average Iraqi who had suffered under the tyranny of Saddam Hussein. It was a military guy or it was a Baath Party guy whom they were going to work with. It was a military guy or it was a Baath Party guy whom they were going to install in power in one form or another. ...
So later, as that option got ruled out because of the president's decision that this was about democracy -- made sometime in August of last year-- it took on a more populist dimension. You could no longer talk about -- it was ruled out of court to even discuss putting a general in place, working with the Baath Party and so on. So it began to change and evolve into something else.
Now it has become the way of making life difficult for people like myself, who are settling back in this country, help them contribute. You know, everything is judged. There's a quota system at work on everything you deal with, on the inside and the outside.
In other words, we can't have a decision made solely by exiles. We have to--
You have to judge every committee, every structure by that. I even have an independent project that has nothing to do with government or politics. It's about a memory foundation. Even there I'm being told, "Well, all you guys are from the outside." Yes, I know. But nobody understands what a Holocaust museum for Iraq might look like from the inside. This is a new idea. There's a lot of things that never got aired in this country, you know, after 30 years of dictatorship in which the whole world was closed out.
So if a bunch of Iraqis come up with the idea of doing some sort of memory project -- which is about understanding what happened between 1968 and 2003 -- it's bound to be dominated by people who lived outside and have seen the equivalents of these things at the Holocaust Museum in Washington ... or wherever, National Remembrance Museum in Poland, or something like that. ...
Let's go back. Can you describe your meeting with the president?
I had two meetings with the president.
The first one.
The first one. The first one began with the president very emphatically stating his commitment to democracy, and that this was what the United States wanted to do. It proceeded by him asking us a number of questions about that, various implications of that. How Iraqis would receive the United States? What was the nature of the tensions within Iraq? What the role of the army might be, and so on and so forth.
So it was practical questions that began, following a very emphatic speech by the president about his desire to see democratic structures created in Iraq. …
What kind of impression did the president make on you?
He left me with the very clear impression that he was deadly serious about it, that this was not just rhetoric, and he was committed to it personally and in some emotional way.
Had you gotten to him through Cheney?
I had spoken to the vice president a number of times. But the invitation to see the president was very sudden. I don't know by what channels it happened. I didn't solicit it. ...
So how long did you spend with the president then?
It was about an hour and a quarter, I think. It was a long meeting. We all came away feeling that a truly important breakthrough had taken place.
When you get closer to the actual war taking place ... weren't you warning the government that they were going to face -- tell me about that. Who did you warn, and what did you say?
What I warned against was any reliance on the army. ... I warned against any reliance on the army in the course of the change. I said the army would not be a vehicle for transformation of this regime -- that it was wrong politically, even if it was actually possible practically -- to rely on army officers to bring about the moment of change itself.
Who did you warn?
I was absolutely consistent on that, beginning with Condoleezza Rice -- the National Security Council, the vice president, the president. Over and over and over again. ...
I think in that sense I was right. The army could not be relied on, and the army proved to be simply inadequate. ... There's a long history of the army's involvement in politics. But if you look at the army's involvement in politics, it's an unmitigated disaster. ... The last thing in the world that you want is the army involvement.
Secondly, if you also know that precisely because of these wars of the last 20 years, the army is a deeply, deeply, profoundly despised institution in Iraq, you also know that this is the wrong way to go about democratic change in Iraq.
So nonetheless, it has a great attraction. It's cheap, it looks easy. It's less messy. So it was bound to retain its supporters in the Bush administration, and it did. The CIA worked night and day on this policy, worked very closely with their Iraqi National Accord, worked to make it happen. Until the very last minute--
To make what happen? To keep the army intact?
Yes, keep the army intact, and have the army be the vehicle of change. Again, we see in the fact that this did not happen, and the way in which the Iraqi army collapsed, we see once again the failure of the CIA in particular. This is a CIA project or initiative. They spent six months. They were given hundreds of millions of dollars to invest in the south. Bringing people sat[ellite] phones left, right and center. Bribing sheiks left, right and center. I've met these guys who had the sat phones, who were bribed, who laugh and tell you the story that happened when CIA agents come up.
They worked for six months in the south and with the army trying to bribe people into such a scenario, and it all came for naught. The United States wasted something like a quarter of a billion dollars before the war even started -- pumped it into the south to create a climate and a mood, and to bring about a change -- a type of change that never happened.
So people don't refer to that as another failure of the CIA's ability to judge and estimate what's going on. Because the CIA, again-- Maybe this isn't the nature of the organization. I don't know, it wasn't like that in the early years. But it assumes the worst in human behavior and works with that as its kind of benchmark. So democracy is not something it can take seriously, if that's your point of departure.
There was a time, I think, when the CIA had some idealists in it, and who were actual advocates of democracy. ... Such idealists were at least present in some parts of the establishment. But that's not there now. It's full of so-called realists -- hard-assed cynics who think that you buy people, you hand them phones, and you've got yourself a revolution.
Were you uncomfortable in the run-up to the war in the dependence on the imminent threat, weapons of mass destruction, rationale for the war?
I wasn't uncomfortable. I genuinely thought it was true. I held it to be a legitimate rationale. But I never held it as a primary rationale, nor did any other Iraqi that I know of.
Well, that's my question. It was the primary rationale for the American people. It was sold as the primary rationale for the war to the American public.
It should not have been. Mind you, let me say something very important here. I don't think we know the full answer to what happened there. I know people are backing away from this question; even the administration is backing away from it. I still claim we don't know the full answer to what happened with these weapons of mass destruction. ...
You said it was unfortunate that that became the primary rationale for going to war.
Yes. Because post-Sept. 11, if we go back to the basic strategic change in the nature of American foreign policy, that should have been put to the American public more obviously, more straightforwardly. That, I think, would have been clearly ... more honest.
Why didn't that happen?
Because Saudi Arabia and these regimes are still allies, and because the United States is torn between two poles. The pole that helped create these alliances in the first place, helped create Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and sustain them.
There's no moral clarity, in other words?
There's no moral clarity in worlds like this. So you were pulling and straining. But I think moral clarity on this issue would have been very useful. The United States realizes that it has to be able to say what Paul Wolfowitz said to me: "We were wrong to support tyrannies and dictatorships. This is not the way we should go about doing things. Here and there we may be forced to make accommodations to deal with them -- but we should not treat these people like our friends. We are in some fundamental way inimical to these societies, and we in some fundamental way support their critics and their opponents." ...
Now, you say that, [and] you are changing the rules of the game. There are people who wanted to change the rules of the game, but were not yet strong enough to say it quite the way.
Perle, Wolfowitz, Feith?
For instance, yes.
That would have also been a direct challenge of George Bush to his father, to the way of thinking of his father.
I think so.
To say we were wrong is to say his father was wrong.
That's very true.
As the war came closer, you're still closely advising or meeting with Wolfowitz, Feith, Bill Luti -- head of the Office of Special Plans. They're in a struggle internally within the Defense Department. What was going on?
You mean they're in a struggle within the U.S. government? The establishment?
Within the Pentagon. Within the establishment, but also within the Pentagon.
That's also true.
What was going on there?
If we're talking about the issues between the sort of civilian and the non-civilian parts of the Pentagon, I was really never interested in that. I never dealt with the non-civilian guys. I dealt only with the civilian guys.
The civilians in the Defense Department?
Yes. So, I mean, I was never part of that whole thing. In fact, actually, that cost us something, because we should have paid more attention to the way the normal military functioned, not just the civilian military. Why? Because once things turned to the theater of operations on the ground, CENTCOM became very important. Pure military men who were -- it's true they had civilian overseers and so on over them, but the show was theirs.
They were surrounded by CIA guys, and we did not realize that. We came close to Washington, to the White House. We were there in these circles. But we left out the military. As a consequence, the military had no knowledge there was even such a thing as Iraqi opposition. I can say that with my hand on my heart, because I know the kind of conversations people had with officers. ...
Tommy Franks failed -- again, imaginatively -- in a way that his civilian bosses did not. ...
Tommy Franks, I think, was a mistake. He may have been technically a very good commander. But he didn't have any political vision or guidance, and I don't think listened enough to his civilian counterparts in the Pentagon--
To Secretary Rumsfeld, to Paul Wolfowitz?
I don't know about Secretary Rumsfeld, but certainly to the people who knew the Middle East better than he did. I say this because there were some very, very fundamental mistakes made, simple things. Just utterly -- just matters of oversight: not protecting the eastern border; allowing Iranians to pump people in the tens of thousands through the borders; not controlling, not realizing that one of the first things -- especially after the last Gulf War when they did exactly that. He should have closed that border off right away. We have problems now because of that. The borders are still not properly sealed. I had to go and bang the doors in Washington and say, "Close those damn borders."
Who did you go see?
I went and saw a whole number of people in Washington on one of my visits. ... Everybody was telling me to say that. I mean, sheiks, clerics, everybody was saying, "Tell them to close the borders. They're pumping people in here. We're going to have trouble here." So that was one thing. Secondly, the tanks. I mean, not positioning tanks in strategic locations.
Not protecting the ministries?
Not protecting key installations.
There was no plan before the war? You hadn't advised--
You know, I was never asked on these kinds of questions. I wish I had been. I mean, not that I--
Well, the INC, let's say?
Me or the INC or others. I mean, I can't recall anybody asking our opinion on things. I remember just once being asked -- just once -- one question which was of some relevance. [That was], could I think of Iraqi artists who might accompany the American troops to point out artifacts that needed to be saved as the troops went through there? Nothing came of it, unfortunately. I thought it was a great idea, very smart. ... We know the archeological sites were protected from targeting. We know they had the x-y coordinates of these things. ... They very carefully worked around to avoid hitting archeological sites and so on. So if that's the case, why not protect them as well from looting?
But you see, that comes from not knowing, it comes from ignorance. ...
Take, for instance, the absence of Iraqis. It wasn't important to him that he didn't have any Iraqis. He didn't think there were Iraqis that could be of help to him. I know that for a fact. So, why? I mean, why were we in that position? You need people who have a hands-on knowledge, who have relatives in places, who have friends around corners, who can pick up the phone, who can penetrate a city and pick up the phone and call a few cousins and organize a few others and go in, and who know where the Fedayeen are precisely located. This is a key element of information.
But if you've got some grandiose plan, you're going to swing by cities really fast, you're going to march up to Baghdad and it's all very beautiful and it's perfectly precision-made and so on -- it's got nothing to do with the fact that, well, what do these people think about what you're doing there? You want them to rise, right? Isn't that what the whole idea was?
But they don't even know what your plans are. They don't know anything about the democracy that you want to bring into this country. They don't know for sure you're going to knock [Saddam] out or not. After all, you didn't the last time. They're worried. They don't want to pay the price a second time around. How do you deal with them? How do you talk to them? What radio stations were being beamed into them? Is that enough? You need physical presence of Iraqis that they can trust.
You're talking about a failure of planning?
I'm talking about a failure of imagination, really.
But a failure of planning in the Pentagon?
No. Because again, the civilian-- I mean, here again, Mr. Wolfowitz did predict the need for this.
Then it was that the civilians weren't listened to by the military brass?
I need to be very clear on this. What you're saying is that the civilian side of the Defense Department had a plan in place to include Iraqis?
That [plan] was politically sophisticated, and the military side of the Pentagon, the brass, didn't listen?
... That is correct. But the reason they didn't listen has also got something to do with the way the CIA behaved. The civilian wing predicted the need for Iraqis, a large number of Iraqis to accompany American forces. It was called the Free Iraqi Forces. It was going to be based on the Iraq Liberation Act. It was going to train these guys in Hungary and various other places. Several thousand names were presented for vetting purposes. I don't know the exact number, but it's around 5,000 or more names -- 6,000, 7,000. By and large those were mostly INC names. But there were other organizations that were providing names as well. It was not only INC.
The CIA was put in charge of vetting those names, and the CIA was only able to vet -- sixty-eight people emerged from those training courses.
Sixty-eight out of 5,000?
Sixty-eight of 5,000. Now tell me -- the CIA was dead set against the program from the outset. It lost the political battle; the program went ahead. But it was in charge of the vetting, so you see what happened. ...
What happened on April 6 when Chalabi and 700 Free Iraqi Forces are flown in to Nasiriya?
There's another -- there's a classic case of what I mean by failure of Franks--
Imagination on the part of CENTCOM and Tommy Franks's team. I know for a fact that they were irritated at the fact that Chalabi was being flown in. It took the personal intervention of friends of Mr. Chalabi in the Pentagon to make it happen.
I forget the individual. It was either Feith or Wolfowitz. They were flown in then into what amounts to a black hole in the whole military planning strategy. They had no function. They were put inside in the desert. I went there, I saw the place -- a blown-up old French radar station supplied to the Iraqis back in the Iraq-Iran war, in the middle of nowhere. [They were] not even given one of these boxes that identify friend from foe from the air. So you couldn't move without getting shot at.
Nonetheless, they acted and they worked despite that. They had no plan. They didn't have water for 24 hours. It was dismal conditions. We were all sleeping in the desert, or in a warehouse. I remember when I went there for a few nights just to see what conditions were like, I was appalled. I was absolutely appalled.
I raised hell within Jay Garner's team. Immediately, Jay was wonderful about that. He just swung into action and tried to provide basic services and so on and so forth. But it was a hellhole that they were dropped into. Nonetheless, they worked and they got some good results.
But let's backtrack for a second and ask why was there 700 people organized by Ahmad Chalabi back in the north? Why did he go ahead with that? Because the program that we talked about earlier had failed. Because only 68 people had joined the American forces. He knew -- because he was a central figure in the planning for this force -- as Paul Wolfowitz knew, that Iraqis had to be there at the point of their own liberation. They had to be part of it. They had to be part of the coalition.
So the plan was to fly Chalabi in to establish a provisional government?
No. No, no, that was never the plan. The plan was to allow Iraqis to participate in their own liberation in some form or another. When those Free Iraqi Forces were not there, Chalabi went ahead and organized and trained them in a kind of ad hoc way --
But it seems kind of half-assed. It seems kind of paltry.
It is half-assed. Of course it was. But those were the circumstances he was working under. That was the conditions he was put under. ...
Of the 68 people, everybody in the U.S. Army thinks they did brilliantly. You should look at the track record of those 68. Some of them were in part of the attack team that went into Uday and Qusay [Hussein's] stronghold in Mosul, the house they were hiding in. They are still there. They are an absolutely indispensable part of the operation. They've behaved magnificently, 68 people.
So Chalabi went ahead and organized his own force, 700. Called them by the same name, and managed to get them flown into the south, supposedly to work with CENTCOM to beef up the 68. ...
But they never did, or they started to--
Franks thought they were thugs?
That's the problem. That's the problem. They were there to be given to Franks. So he never tried. I mean, he didn't know. He never even tried. He didn't have the concept--
He didn't think that Chalabi had any real recognition inside Iraq--
Here we go. Here we go, back to the same old internal/external thing, the whole discussion. Of course, the State Department was dead against it, everybody was dead against it. The Pentagon got a lot of flak for doing it and so on and so forth. So we're back. You're breaking the rules of the inter-agency process -- no dealings with the opposition, so no dealings with the opposition.
No dealings with the opposition means no dealing with Chalabi?
Yes. But actually, I mean, CIA's perfectly happy to work with people to plan coups using the army. But no dealings with Chalabi. Well, that's what it used to mean. There was an old saying that went, "ABC -- Anything But Chalabi." ...
It's really a tragic case of missed opportunities. ...
April 9, you're with--
Yes. The statues are coming down. Where are you?
I was in Washington. I was visiting the vice president, and then I was told suddenly that there was somebody who wanted to see me. It was the president. Condoleezza Rice was there and the vice president was there. We just -- really we just -- everybody was just too happy-
Just remarkable. What was that like?...
It was not about substance. It was about pleasure of a moment. Taking pleasure in the fact it had happened. ... It was an extraordinary moment. We had just seen the pictures of the statue come tumbling down. The president was very emotional and happy. I was--
On the TV in the Oval Office?
We didn't watch TV together. There's been a misunderstanding about all of this. But we had both seen it on TV. I forget whether TV was showing. ... There was no TV in the room where I met with the president. But we just talked about it and were overjoyed. I remember telling him -- I mean, we were very emotional. I think I overdid it. I may have hugged him. ...
But I remember telling him, "I was off by two weeks, Mr. President, but it happened." Because there had been no end of reporters bugging me for the fact that I had said to the president back in January that the U.S. forces would be greeted with sweets and flowers. Of course, they weren't, in the first two weeks. So it was a moment of-- what can I say? Of real joy for me and for him, and obviously for everybody concerned. We felt we were being vindicated.
What did he say?
We didn't talk substance. For him it was Eastern Europe all over again. It was the coming down of the statues. [It was] the former Soviet Union. The same for me. I can't even remember. It was such an emotional high that you don't even remember the words. It doesn't matter, because the significance of the meeting was not the actual discussion. It was the feeling. ...
What about that -- that people weren't received with sweets and flowers?
I knew you'd say that. I put my foot in it, so...
You gave me the opening.
I know. Well, it goes back to what we were talking about earlier. A) people had suffered far more because of the uprising of 1991 and the crushing of that uprising than any of us had ever thought or imagined. The weight and legacy of that had lingered deeper. B) The people in Basra, in cities, did not know what U.S. intentions were. I can't say this enough. U.S. intentions to liberate, democracy, all this talk had not been beamed into Iraq adequately, and not transmitted to Iraqis by other Iraqis. So the message came via very--
Chalabi was put on the radio by the U.S. forces.
Once, twice, three times. I mean, I'm talking about speeches. We're talking about hands-on -- you know, people going in there months beforehand working, lobbying for it. Iraqis joining U.S. forces, convincing them that it's real.
The Pentagon had Feith and Luti, Wolfowitz -- had they planned this? Was the plan in place to do this correctly, in your view?
I can't really comment. I just don't know. I didn't -- I wasn't--
I'm wondering who's at fault here besides Franks. I'm wondering if the civilian--
Who's at fault here is the absence of Iraqis on the ground with American forces principally. It's not about a speech or two or what Radio Free Iraq [says], or so on and so forth. It's about physical, tangible contact between people on the ground living with Fedayeen in their midst, thugs who are about to shoot them in the back, and strangers coming into their land who are claiming things that they are brought up to disbelieve.
How do you bridge that gap? You bridge it with people from the same culture and so on who are part of the values of the coalition. ... Until now, people are not sure -- you know, the number of rumors that float around Baghdad are phenomenal, and they all have to do with the same anxiety and so on.
So there were real fears to overcome inside Iraq. Iraqis were needed for that, principally. Not as a fighting force. They were needed to be seen physically as brethren who were part of the coalition forces. That alone would be the magical touch that would transform sentiments and lead people once again to pick up guns and put their lives on the line and take on the Fedayeen.
Could that have reduced the looting that we're seeing and the attacks on American soldiers?
I haven't a shadow of a doubt, because it would have injected a sense of responsibility into the whole thing. It would have been seen to be a -- there would be a leadership force. We're talking about a security force at least, a policing force, the incipient nucleus of a policing force present in the cities. ...
You came back into the country a couple weeks after the statues fell.
We rode with you. What was going through your head? What were you feeling?
I remember the absolute first impression was probably shock at this landscape of devastation and desolation that the south had become. Entering from plush Kuwait with its six-lane highways and its Starbucks chains and its infinite acres of shopping possibilities and so on.
You hadn't been back to Iraq in 34 years and you're rolling into Baghdad. What's going through your head?
... I suppose a shock was to realize just how rundown the city had been allowed to become by the Baath. I thought of the Baath as a modernizing force -- an ugly, brutal, deformed kind of modernity -- but modernizing nonetheless. Here I entered the city that was ramshackle, broken apart, buildings cracking at the seams, filthy -- smelling garbage on the streets.
It just -- it was -- it was -- it was -- it was tragic. There was a true sense of dilapidation everywhere. ...
The meeting that takes place -- remarkable meeting -- on April 28.
Three hundred, 400 people there -- it was the first large assembly of Iraqis in Baghdad, I suspect, ever. It was important, I think, for one salient factor emerged from the meeting. I recall thinking about it in this way. You know, I experienced this in the late 1960s and the 1970s in the United States and the anti-war movement.
You remember there was an old slogan, "We want peace and we want it now," but we would go on demonstrations and marches anti-Vietnam War. Well, the sense of the mood of that meeting was, "We want a government and we want it now." The American officials who were up there on the platform ... we're on the edge of losing control of the meeting, because they didn't have answers. They were just recoiling out there. There's this demand for government which was not really a demand for government; it was a demand for law and order. The central fact on everybody's mind was the lawlessness that had taken place, the anarchy, the breakdown. ...
Looting was going on as the meeting took place.
The looting -- the looting. And the fact that the United States appeared at least to the 300 Iraqis present as sort of waffling on about "We want you to choose your own government," when authority was needed -- here, now, immediately, instantly -- authority in the sense of law and order. Which was being translated in people's minds into a government wrongly. That association between having a government and law and order is not a necessary one. You can have a government that isn't able to control the law and order situation; you can have law and order and not have a government. But in people's minds -- used to, as they are, 30 years of Baathist [rule] -- the connection is absolutely one, indivisible. So the meeting was demanding a government...
But yet General Garner had got up, and I was there listening to him, it struck me as almost -- he bent over backwards to be politically correct...
Everybody was bending over backwards and nobody was giving anything concrete. That was the problem.
It was all a lot of nice talk.
But it was again this incredible, very American, embarrassment at being what you are -- in authority, in a position of power, in a position to determine government, and stating it, which is what people want to hear -- clarity. When you get up there ... and somebody says, "You mean you don't have a plan for the government?" He says, "No, we are here to meet to discuss that. This is your government, not our government. We don't want to impose this government on you." It all sounds so ridiculous. State Department talk all over again. It sounds so stupid.
What people wanted was authority, a sense of exertion of responsibility -- that is, democracy. I remember this is crucial to my way of thinking of this. There was nobody in charge who understood that the democracy was not some sort of instant switch. It's institutions that have to be built over time. You don't build those institutions necessarily by beginning with -- you know, it's not about beginning with consulting every single person. It's about taking the country forward towards those institutions. So it's not about 100 flowers bloom and everybody does what the hell he wants, which was the sense that was coming out about U.S. behavior. That's what they think democracy is -- anarchy. They think democracy is running amuck. "Is this what democracy is?" That's the refrain that's been coming. Why? Because the United States was too embarrassed to say, "We're giving you this structure now, temporary. It's going to go. You can get rid of it in two years. It's going to rule affairs, and then we'll be out. We and this structure you'll vote out of existence. It's a temporary vehicle, an instrument that we put in place."
No, we had to go on and on having these endless [discussions] about representatives, and the inside and the outside, and all this State Department waffle over representativeness and so on. ...
You have to have structures.
But the president and many of the people who ran this war talked about coming in here and getting out quick. I can only believe that they thought that they could come in here and that there'd be a liberation of the people and the people would immediately act like democrats and that the American troops could get out.
I mean, that was ... patently false, and that's not the case. Democracy is--
But they did think that.
I know. Not everyone -- I have had this discussion with many people in the Pentagon. I've had it with Douglas Feith, I've had it with Paul Wolfowitz, and I know they don't think that. I mean, they are too smart to think that.
Paul Wolfowitz has just come out to say that we underestimated the problems we were going to face. He had too rosy of an attitude towards what--
Perhaps we all did. I mean, look, this is a historic change. Nothing like this has ever been tried before -- in the Middle East, at any rate. There are no rules for what is going on here, this is new. Everything is new.
And there are no guarantees?
Right. There are no guarantees. The only thing we know for sure, there's only one certainty in this business: We have got to succeed, because the alternative is worse than anything imaginable. There's no alternative to success, and don't tell me that success is not doable; it is doable. But there's no alternative to it. Success does require toughness and an attitude towards the situation which I'm not yet sure the United States has got. ...
The question Americans have is, "At what cost?" Americans were sold the war based on imminent threat of weapons of mass destruction, and they're into something that they didn't expect. I think there are people that feel that way. I know that there are many Americans who feel that they've been suckered into something that is perhaps too great, too costly.
Well, then it's my duty and the duty of others, Iraqis, Americans, other people, who don't think that, to convince them they were not suckered into anything irresponsible. This is a fundamentally big thing. This is a huge engagement. American prestige is at stake, American credibility is at stake and American commitment to its own values, its own sense of what it's all about, is at stake here. If it abandons this process halfway because a few soldiers being killed here and there every day, because of mistakes being made on the ground, then all of that, that which the United States itself stands for, is rendered less credible throughout the world.
But many Americans feel -- I mean, those soldiers come from the lower ranks of American society, many of them come from neighborhoods that themselves are not well off.
I don't think they should be there. I don't think they should be sitting ducks the way they are now. I want an Iraqi force. I go back, it's the old refrain we've had throughout. We need an Iraqi force. I want Iraqis dying for this in these fights, not Americans dying.
I want the Americans out of the streets and an Iraqi police force, proactive police force that has fire in its belly that's going to go out there and get these guys. I mean get the intelligence necessarily and play rough -- roughhouse if necessary. That's what's needed. You need a tough policing force.
Instead what's happened, they've cobbled together the old police force. The old police force was corrupt, it was at the bottom of the pile. It was a useless institution to start with. The last thing in the world that it is imbued with is the values of this coalition ...
This is serious business; we're not playing footsie here. There's an awful lot at stake for us, for this country, for the United States, for the world, in making this damn thing work.
Instead they take a police force that's like a broken pot that's shattered into a million pieces and everybody's trying to stick and find like a jigsaw puzzle and stick the pieces back together. It will never be the same -- never hold water the way it used to, in first place, and it was a damned lousy pot to start off with.
So why not do what is so obviously necessary to do? Create the kind of police force that will go out, security force, whatever you want to call it, be active, get intelligence, train it, yes. Mistakes will be made, yes. Overzealousness will cause probably some human rights abuses. Watch them, observe them, comment upon them, allow human rights groups to go out there.
But for God's sake, let them get on and do the work. There is a serious war to be waged against the remnants of the Baath Party. What is it that actually happened in this war? Something quite unusual in historical annals took place in this war. A state disintegrated, disappeared as though it never existed in the first place. But the party that sustained this artificial apparatus, this house of cards, didn't it disappear back into the population? And before it did that, it robbed the banks to make sure it had tons of money and is armed.
We are talking about a minimum of tens of thousands of people. They didn't fight the war when it was a war because they were basically, essentially, closer to a Mafia organization. They're fighting the war now. This is a delayed reaction to the war.
Yes, there are people dying now, but there are far less causalities than were ever expected in the run-up to this war, if you remember all the grim scenarios that were painted out. So the war's changed its nature, changed its character.
Saddam is fighting the way he knows how best -- by buying people, paying poor people -- as a criminal enterprise would fight a war of this nature, Mafia-style. That's exactly what's going on. There's nothing sophisticated about the tactics. They're not even the people who are dying. They are paying people. You know the running price for an American these days?
Two thousand dollars.
No, $1,000. In one case, the case of my taxi driver's friend, they came up to him and said in Egyptian, they came up and offered him $300 for an operation....
To kill an American?
For each operation. An operation counts as taking your pistol out and shooting into a group of soldiers or tossing a hand grenade into a Humvee or something like that. He was coming up to ask his friend if he should do it or not. He was struggling; he needed money, he didn't want to do it, but he was in terrible economic circumstances.
And who is this Egyptian? Where does he have this money from? The going rate is $1,000. The guy's obviously a crook, and is pocketing the difference. ... That's how the money is being used. They caught Uday and Qusay with $50 million in that house in Mosul. We know there was at least about $900 million other dollars that were taken from the central banks of Iraq a few days before the war started. That's what's feeding all of this, that plus money coming in by the way from the outside, from the Gulf, maybe from Saudi Arabia. Money is pumping into ... everybody's sticking their finger into the Iraqi pie. Turkey's even sending in special forces to do nasty things in parts of Iraq. ...
What I guess what I was getting at was, was it a failure in pre-war planning not to put in--
I know that's the spin that's going on in the United States. .... But partially you could never expect everything. This is new. We are in uncharted waters here. All of us. There's no genius out there that could have predicted everything. We have to stick by what the thing is all about. We have to keep that at the center of our attention. That's what should be the yardstick against which we judge. If we go by "was the planning perfect or not perfect beforehand," and so on -- OK, the historians can scribble there.
But why is it a public relations issue? Why is it a media issue, for God's sake? What should be a media issue is the importance of getting these things to work -- keeping the goal, because of the consequences of it not working. Now that it has happened, whatever you may think of why it happened, who is responsible for happenings, and now that it has happened, it must work.
There's no alternative to failure -- failure is unimaginable.
What will the cost be?
The cost will be worldwide. It'll begin in the Middle East or begin in Iraq. Iraq will become the very thing it was supposed not to be -- a center for terrorism all over. Of course, people will be broke and an economy will not be working. What will happen there will be--
That's the cost if we don't do it. What's the cost of achieving the goals?
Cost of achieving the goals? Well, I don't -- I mean, there will be benefits throughout and costs. The benefits will be the spread of the idea that the United States is associated with the liberation of peoples from tyranny -- very important to surrounding regimes in the area.
The benefit will be that the United States is genuine about promoting democracy, that this is a real business, it's in the business of it -- that it makes distinctions between countries on the basis of their willingness to move in that direction, and so on.
I have to think that's a decent foreign policy objective. The benefit will be that the rest of the Middle East will suddenly have something upon which to cement itself, a hope for the future, which it doesn't have at the moment. ... Those are real benefits, very tangible, very real benefits that can come from the success of this experiment.
You call it an experiment.
Yes, and I'm not ashamed of calling it that. The United States has given the people of Iraq a gift -- in part for its own reasons, which is perfectly natural -- national security reasons, selfish reasons. Whatever you want to call it, I don't care. It is up to us now to make something of that gift, and make it work.
We need your help to do it. Unfortunately, we are in very bad shape at the moment. We are like a sick patient that requires a recovery period, and we need help during it. We do not need people to come and tell us to lower our standards and goals. We do not need the United Nations to come and preach -- bring us down to the level of the other Arab countries. We don't want that. We want still to stick to the goals, the higher goals, the higher plateau we think this is all about. ...