CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER - Transcript
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ROBERTSON: Wolf, we know that they're being kept on their base. We know they've had their weapons taken away from them. We know that, whenever they move around on their base, they have to go with military escort, as well as those four other soldiers who have now been charged with the rape and murder of a young Iraqi woman, the murder of three other of her family members.
Also, a fifth soldier is being charged with dereliction of duty for failing to inform officers about these events. They are being charged in connection with the charges against former Private First Class Steven Green.
That is, planning to rape a young Iraqi woman who was in a house near a checkpoint, raping her, killing her, killing the family, attempting to destroy the evidence by burning the building down and throwing the AK-47 used in the killings, throwing it into a nearby canal. Wolf?
Nic Robertson in Baghdad. Nic, be careful over there. Thanks very much.
Let's get some more now. Here to discuss the situation in Iraq as well as the threat from North Korea, the overall war on terror and more, are two key U.S. senators.
Joining us from Greenville, South Carolina, Republican Lindsey Graham. He's a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. And joining us here in Washington is Democrat Barbara Boxer. She's a member of the Foreign Relations Committee.
Senators, thanks so much for joining us.
Senator Boxer, I'll start with you. This latest sectarian strife in Iraq right now -- you've been among those calling for a timeline, a timetable for a complete U.S. pullout from Iraq. Have you had any second thoughts about that, given what the Iraqi ambassador to the United States just said that any such timeline would simply reinforce this sectarian strife, that they need these U.S. and other foreign troops there to help them stabilize their country?
SEN. BARBARA BOXER (D), CALIFORNIA: Well, I could just tell you this, Wolf. When I went to Iraq about a year ago and spoke to General Casey, he was very clear on the point that our long-term presence is counterproductive, that it is fueling the insurgency; it is making matters worse.
Eighty-seven percent of the Iraqi people want to see a timeline. Now, if we are here to help them and they are speaking with, literally, one voice, I think that is the right course.
And I feel stronger than ever every time I hear what's going on there. It's a nightmare that gets worse and worse. Our troops are in the middle of a civil war there.
It's a difficult assignment. It's one that I don't even think has a clear mission anymore. Our troops have done everything we've asked them, from the day they got there. And, you know what, we won the war. This is an occupation. And it isn't working.
BLITZER: Well, we hear the reports, Senator Graham, about these Sunni militia men, today, going after Sunnis (sic) in these residential neighborhoods, going house to house, looking at I.D. papers and simply killing anyone that seems to have a Shiite name.
And we hear of similar atrocities by the Sunni insurgents against Shiites. It looks like the sectarian violence is getting really, really intense. And there are fears, once again, of a civil war.
SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R), SOUTH CAROLINA: Well, if I had one thing that I could wish for the Iraqi people, it would be to disarm the militias. It's going to be very difficult to form a new government, a functioning government, where you have armed camps roaming around in the country.
But I would say this. We have had three elections in Iraq. Every time we've given them a goal, they have met the goal. We have a constitution written. We have a unity government being formed. And you've got militia people creating sectarian violence to disrupt a democratic Iraq.
And at the same time, at the same moment, you've got Shias, Sunnis and Kurds coming up with a political solution for a Democratic Iraq. So who is going to win?
I believe the political leadership of Iraq, if supported by the United States and the world at large, will overcome the militia threat, as they have overcome other threats.
But we have got to be patient. There will be a timeline for us to withdraw. But it needs to come from the elected leadership of the Iraqi people. That would empower them, diminish the terrorists. If it comes from us, it's going to send the wrong signal. It would diminish the elected leadership of Iraq. It would empower the terrorists. So I do believe there will be a timetable set, but it needs to be set by the Iraqi people through their elected representatives.
BLITZER: Also today, Senator Boxer, we've seen more arrests of U.S. soldiers in Iraq, accused of this horrendous crime, raping this young girl, killing other members of the family.
The prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, this week, said it's time for the Iraqi government to have authority, some control over alleged atrocities committed by U.S. and foreign forces. Listen to what he said.
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NOURI AL-MALIKI, IRAQI PRIME MINISTER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I believe that the immunity given to international forces is what emboldened them to commit such crimes in cold blood.
This requires that such immunity should be reconsidered. We affirm that we should participate in investigating crimes committed against the Iraqi people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you agree with him?
BOXER: Listen, I would not trust the Iraqi government to try any American citizen. They can't even control their own country. We have tried to help them do it. They can't even stop the violence, one Iraqi sect against another.
And now we're going to hand over our military?
I have full confidence that our military will punish those responsible. But I also want to go a step further, Wolf. We are putting our military into an absolute nightmare.
Everyone says war is hell. We know that. We all use that word. This particular situation, they don't know who the enemy is, they're having a lot of problems.
One in three has post-traumatic stress. They are in deep trouble over there, our troops are. And many of them are being sent onto the battlefield with anti-depressants.
I really feel that the whole issue here is getting out of there. And yes, you're going to have troops act in a way that is just unthinkable, because of the stress they're under and because of this mission which is very unclear to me.
And no, I would not turn them over to the Iraqi government, no way. BLITZER: Senator Graham, what about you? What if the prime minister of Iraq, close ally of this U.S. Bush administration, this U.S. government, persists in demanding that the Iraqis get authority over alleged atrocities committed by U.S. troops? What would you say to him? What would you do?
GRAHAM: I would respectfully decline to do that. I agree with Barbara in this sense. We have a status of forces agreement with the Iraqi government. We have status of forces agreement all over the world with host countries where our people will be tried by us if they commit crimes. We have it in Germany, we have it in Japan, we have it all over the world. So it is nothing new. It is nothing unusual for Iraq.
I can assure the Iraqi people, I've been a military lawyer for over 20 years, I'm a reservist, judge advocate. What will happen with these young men, that they will be given a fair trial in our military legal system, and if they're found guilty, they'll be severely punished.
I can assure the Iraqi people that we in the United States take misconduct by troops very seriously, and that we're going to put on display a legal system that I am quite proud of and been part of for the last 20 years.
In terms of what we should do in Iraq, our troops, I've been there four times, feel very close to this mission. They believe they're making the world safer by fighting the terrorists there and not here. Enlistments are up. We're not going to judge everybody by four or five people.
Morale is good in Iraq. People have a sense of purpose. They're re-enlisting there in greater numbers than anywhere else in the world. So I want to get this right. So do the troops. And we've got to be patient, because this is a determined enemy. We've got to be just as determined as they are.
BLITZER: We're going to move on to North Korea, but a quick domestic political question, Senator Boxer, related to Iraq. Senator Joe Lieberman, he strongly supports the Bush administration's stance on Iraq. You strongly oppose that stance. Do you support his reelection?
BOXER: I do.
And I wanted to say to Lindsey that he's mixing up the war on terror and the war on Iraq. There wasn't one terror cell in Iraq when 9/11 occurred. We have many more in this country.
I do support Joe. He's asked me to go to his state, tell his people the work I've done with him on the environment, protecting our kids from being sprayed with pesticides, to test pesticides on kids, global warming, keeping the air clean. He's a strong supporter of women's right to choose.
BLITZER: So you'll go and campaign for him? BOXER: I am going to spend a couple of hours there in Connecticut, just telling the people what I know about Joe.
He and I disagree completely on the war on Iraq. I disagree with a lot of people on the war in Iraq. It is up to the people in Connecticut. And they're going to make a decision, and let's see what it is.
BLITZER: And what happens if he loses the primary and he runs as an independent? Will you support him then?
BOXER: I think we'll all have something to say at that time. But the people of Connecticut will make their choice.
BLITZER: Do you support Senator Lieberman, Senator Graham, even though you're a Republican?
GRAHAM: I admire Barbara Boxer for supporting Joe Lieberman. I have the utmost admiration for him. He's a man of his conviction. And I think he believes that Iraq is part of the war on terror. Certainly the terrorists do. They're there in large numbers, trying to destabilize this democracy. The biggest nightmare for a terrorist is a functioning democracy in the Mideast, where a woman can have her say about her children, people of different ethnic backgrounds and religious backgrounds can work together and live together in peace. That's why the terrorists are there trying to disrupt this. I think Joe sees Iraq as very much a central battlefront in the war on terror.
I'll leave it up to the Democratic primary voter in Connecticut, but I'm a big fan of Joe Lieberman as a person. I admire him tremendously.
BLITZER: Sounds like a pretty good endorsement from Senator Graham, but he's not getting involved in Connecticut politics.
Senator Graham, stand by. Senator Boxer, also, please stand by. We have a lot more to talk about, including the latest situation at Guantanamo Bay. Should that prison be shut down?
Also, it is called al Qaida 2.0. How powerful does the terrorist organization remain, and how is it evolving? We'll get insight from our expert terror panel.
And later, the U.S. Supreme Court hands down an important ruling regarding the rights of Guantanamo Bay detainees. What does it mean for Osama bin Laden's bodyguard and driver, Salim Hamdan? We'll ask his lawyers.
Don't forget, for our North American viewers, at 1:00 p.m. Eastern, right at the top of the hour, John Roberts has a CNN special report, "This Week at War." That airs right after "Late Edition."
We'll be right back.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Welcome back to "Late Edition." We're continuing our conversation with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer.
Senator Graham, what is wrong with the U.S. having a direct bilateral dialogue with North Korea if that will ease this nuclear stalemate?
GRAHAM: I agree with President Bush; it needs to be a multi- party situation. In September of last year, Wolf, six-party talks yielded an agreement where North Korea would dismantle their nuclear weapons program in return for economic aid and other benefits. They reneged on that agreement.
I think it would be a huge mistake for us to sit down by ourselves. What they need to see, the North Koreans need to see a table full of people throughout the world -- the Japanese, the South Koreans, the Chinese, the Russians -- telling them the same thing, that if you keep going down the road of enhancing your nuclear program, if you treat -- if you keep testing missiles and keep making nuclear weapons, you're going to be an isolated nation forever. They need to hear it from the world, not just us. This is a world problem, not just a United States problem.
I don't want to do empower this regime. I want the world to condemn them. And the Chinese are the key to this. The Chinese are hanging by a thread politically with the Congress now over trade policy. If they don't really come to the table harder with North Korea, they're going to be hanging by a thread in terms of international diplomatic policy.
BLITZER: Sounds like a real threat to China coming from Senator Graham.
What about you, Senator Boxer? What do you think?
BOXER: Here's what I think. First of all, I think the six-party talks are central. I've always believed in them. But I don't think there's any conflict with having some back channel, one-on-one conversations with the North Koreans.
I think we've learned under the Bill Clinton administration that they can, in fact, get to trust someone. Bill Richardson was a special envoy there. And he got to know them a little bit. They're so isolated.
So to me, I think arguing about the shape of the table isn't what we should be doing. I think the most important thing here is making sure that we use every avenue open to us. It's not a sign of weakness to tell people what you think, to look in their eye and tell them what you think.
It's not a one-on-one with President Bush, for goodness sakes. I think it could be a special envoy. It could be Chris Hill. It could be someone else. You do it as part of the six-party talks. So I don't think there should be an argument about this. We seem to argue about everything.
And by the way, Senator Lugar, a Republican who is my chairman of the foreign relations committee, has called for one-on-one talks, as has Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Republican. I support what they're saying. I think they're right.
BLITZER: Senator Graham, here is what Bill Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, himself a former U.N. ambassador during the Clinton administration, went on some trips to North Korea over the years, as you well know. Listen to the way he phrased it. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL RICHARDSON, GOVERNOR OF NEW MEXICO: This is not a military crisis. This is a diplomatic crisis. The best way to resolve it is, in my judgment, face-to-face, direct talks, which the administration so far has not wanted to pursue.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Senator Graham, you want to respond to that?
GRAHAM: Yeah. During the Clinton years, we tried to negotiate with the North Koreans directly. Madeleine Albright went over. We cut a deal with them where we would help them economically, provide aid for food, and they would dismantle their nuclear weapons program. They backed out. In September, the six-party talks yielded an agreement where they would dismantle their nuclear weapons program, September of '05. They backed out. How many times do you have to go down this road? If the world doesn't get tough together against North Korea, we're going to allow this regime to get stronger militarily. This is about military negotiations. We're using diplomacy for what reason? To control a nuclear North Korea, trying to develop a nuclear missile to deliver a nuclear weapon.
So it very much is about military activity. And I do agree with President Bush. The world through the United Nations Security Council needs to condemn this rogue regime through economic sanctions. If we can't come together as a world and say that North Korea is a threat with nuclear weapons and a missile to deliver that nuclear weapon, then we're just blind as a world to what threats are in 2006.
BLITZER: Senator Graham makes a serious point, Senator Boxer, that all those agreements that the North Koreans worked out with the Clinton administration, including with Madeleine Albright, the secretary of state, they went ahead and violated those agreements, ripped them up and ignored them.
BOXER: Well, let's take another look. First of all, I'm from California. I think this is a very serious threat. And I have said in debate with Republican friends, don't take any option off the table, including military. So as far as being tough, I'm as tough as they come on North Korea. I have to be.
Number two, let's look back at what happened. They were in conversation with Korea, they did have -- with North Korea, they did have an agreement. And they were able to keep an eye on their nuclear development. It is true that they broke their agreement.
But the fact of the matter, since George Bush called them part of the axis of evil, way back in '02, they have now quadrupled their fissile material. Why? They isolated them even more, this administration, by not even talking with them at all. I think if you look at the Clinton administration's approach and the Bush administration's approach, I think when Clinton was president they were far less isolated and far less dangerous.
BLITZER: We have to unfortunately leave it there. Senator Boxer, thanks very much for coming in. Senator Graham, we'll continue this conversation down the road. A good discussion.
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