CBS "Face the Nation" Transcript
BOB SCHIEFFER (CBS News Washington Correspondent): Good morning again and joining us now from Wilmington, Delaware, Senator Joe Biden; here in the studio Senator Richard Shelby.
Gentlemen, let's get the obvious questions out of the way first.
Senator Biden, are we going to war with Iraq?
SEN. BIDEN: Well, the president hasn't made that clear year. I think we are making it clear, the president is that if the UN doesn't act he reserves the right to act and enforce the UN resolutions. And my guess is he'll intend to do that and that wouldn't be probably until sometime after the first of the year, but that's the course we're on, Bob.
MR. SCHIEFFER: You're saying that you think that we're going to do this, in other words?
SEN. BIDEN: Well, let me put it this way. I think it depends a great deal on what happens at the UN, not in terms of our sovereignty and us deciding to go to them. We should reserve the right to move alone regardless of what the UN does.
But I think it will matter to the president when and how and if he uses force, depending on what kind of support he has around the world. For example, if the Turks don't sign on this is a very difficult military undertaking not able to use Turkey or fly over Turkey. If the Saudis don't sign on, it's a very -- it's not impossible, but it makes it very, very different.
And so I think the president will be working regardless of what happens in the UN resolution. The president will be working feverishly and hopefully effectively during the months of October, November and December gathering international support for whatever effort he decides is most needed to deal with the situation in Iraq.
SEN. BIDEN: Senator Shelby, if you had to make a prediction right now, do you think we'll be going into Iraq?
SEN. SHELBY: I believe we will unless he does total 180-degree turn. It's going to be a few months.
But first, Bob, I believe that the Bush resolution is going to pass the Senate and the House by overwhelming numbers.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Really?
SEN. SHELBY: Big time and there are going to be a lot of Democrats supporting it. They might be tinkering around the edges with the resolution but the substance of the Bush resolution, as I would call it the resolution to deal with Iraq is going to pass, I predict, and what will happen in the UN I don't know. This could drive the UN, but we're going to find out who our friends are in the world in the next few months.
GLORIA BORGER (US News and World Report; CBS News Special Correspondent): Senator Biden, speaking of this war, there are reports today that unlike the Gulf War, Israel is now saying that it will retaliate if attacked. What can we do or can we do anything to say to them, "No, don't," or is this our --
SEN. BIDEN: You know, Gloria, this is the reason why how we do this and our justification for using force, if we use it, is so important. We're going to lay down a precedent here. Dr. Kissinger, a former secretary of state, is talking about how dangerous it is to enunciate the rationale for going into Iraq as a doctrine of preemption or for a regime change. If we make that the premise for our action, then, in fact, what pressure can be put on Israel not to do something that could make this an overall Middle East war? What pressure can we put on India not to attack Pakistan?
So the details matter here a great deal, and that's why I think that the president started this off the right way. He went to the UN. He made the case by the UN standards as to why the UN should act.
Now, what the president should be doing, in my view, is going to the American public, making a statement to the United States public, go on air and say this is why I believe we will have to act, if we do, and the rationale for it and what we're in for, because I think we're ready to support the president, but there can be no foreign policy that succeeds without the informed consent of the American people. The American people have no idea what the president knows, and that is he's going to have to stay in Iraq with thousands and thousands of troops, as many as estimate, as many as 75,000 troops for up to four or five years. Whether that's true or not it's clear there are thousands of troops, billions of dollars.
And I think that the president, now having made the case at the UN, has to begin to make the case to the American people about not only the do-ability of this but the commitment we're going to be making as a nation.
And I think it's important it be done in terms of weapons of mass destruction. That should be our international rationale for moving, if we move, not this new doctrine of preemption and this doctrine of regime change, because then what do you tell the Israelis?
MR. SCHIEFFER: I think you bring up a very interesting point, and, in fact, I want to get back to that, but I want to go back to this business about Israel. Let me just ask you the other side, and I want to get both of your views on it.
Senator Shelby, the president is starting by building a coalition to go against Iraq. What's the downside of Israel going in militarily, if we go into Iraq, or if they're attacked?
SEN. SHELBY: Well, I think we all recognize there is a downside, that if the Israelis go in it could just be a widespread war in the Middle East and also we'd be perceived we'd be fighting side by side with the Israelis against all Arab interests and the war could spread. I think that's some of the concerns.
But having said that, any nation has a right to defend its own interests and Israel would be no different. I believe, Senator Biden was talking about staying in Iraq and all this. I don't believe that we will have to stay there that long. I don't believe that we're going to need that many troops. I'll leave that up to the military planners. But at the same time we heard all those horror stories in '90 and '91. None of it came about.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Well, let me go back to Senator Biden, because I want to ask you why you believe that, but, Senator Biden, what is the downside of Israel joining in the fight here?
SEN. BIDEN: Well, the downside is what Richard just said, which is that it becomes an Arab-Israeli war and you would find probably every embassy in the Middle East burned to the ground before it went too far. It would not be perceived as what it should stay on focus.
What makes Saddam Hussein different is he invaded a country, he lost a war, the terms of surrender were specific requirements made and commitments made to the United Nations that he has violated and that's what it's about now and that's what it should stay about. And the moment that Israel, for example, strikes -- and they will not to it lightly if they do it -- strikes back at Iraq, what happens then to the ability of any Muslim nation to continue to support even sub rosa our efforts?
And so again it's a chance we may have to take. I'm not suggesting we rule that out.
And by the way, where I got those figures were from military planners who testified before my committee, a colonel whose whole job is to plan in the aftermath of a war. And you know what's going on in Afghanistan right now, Bob. We are now changing positions and the Defense Department is saying we should expand the international security force because we're worried we may lose the fight.
The American people are grownups. You tell them what we need to do, tell them the threat and they will back the president, but we haven't told them all the story yet.
MS. BORGER: Senator Shelby, I know you want to talk about this for one second, so go ahead.
SEN. SHELBY: I was just going to say in regard to what Senator Biden just said, I believe the American people are a lot smarter than some people give them credit for. They're a lot better informed than a lot of people give them credit for. You can see the polls in the last week. You can see the dynamic change in America toward the war since President Bush went before the United Nations. They understand what's going on. They see these hearings that we've been having in the joint committee. They're concerned about safety.
MS. BORGER: Well, let's back up for a moment and talk about inspections before we talk about war, and last week Iraq said, "Yes, we're going to allow the weapons inspectors in." Over the weekend they said, "Well, wait a minute; we want to do it under the old resolutions. We don't want to tie it to the use of force."
What does that mean? What can we do? We want one vote and we want to tie it to the use of force.
SEN. SHELBY: Well, I think that we need to back the Bush resolution as it's come up, the substance of it, and go on. Saddam Hussein is going to put all kind of restrictions on any kind of inspections. He's played that game a long time. He knows how to play it. The clock is ticking. Time is on his side. He has no real intentions of ever having meaningful inspections. That is just a trick.
MS. BORGER: Senator Biden, is the president though locked into some kind of inspections now, do you think?
SEN. BIDEN: No, I don't think he's locked into that. I met with Foreign Minister Ivanov with Senator Lugar and myself for an hour or so, I think it was Thursday. Ivanov and others, the Russians are prepared to have a new resolution relating to the nature of the inspection regime. And so it has to be a different inspection regime than under the old resolution for it to have any -- any possibility of determining what he is doing and how much he's done. And if, in fact, the UN rejects that, then I think the president has every right, and we would support his right to use force to enforce a genuine inspection regime that could tell us something about what he is doing.
But the details matter, Gloria. The draft resolution sent up by the president was just a draft for discussion. It sets out all the UN resolutions and says I want authority to go to war if, in fact, he does not live up to them.
I don't think there's a single American who's ready to go to war over whether or not Bahraini prisoners are returned. I do think Americans may be ready to go to war to dislodge weapons of mass destruction from Saddam Hussein.
So there is this detail matters for historical purposes and it matters for the rationale we offer the world as to why we're moving, and we can offer a compelling rationale, in my view, and that's what we should be about doing now.
MR. SCHIEFFER: All right, let me switch just quickly. Senator Shelby, you've been on the committee that's been investigating who knew what before 9/11. It seems to me the most important question at this point is could 9/11 happen again?
SEN. SHELBY: Oh, absolutely; 9/11 or something like 9/11 could happen again in this country or against our interests overseas. Brent Scowcroft said the other day, the former National Security Advisor, to President Bush, he said the safest place for a terrorist anywhere in the world was in the United States of America.
MR. SCHIEFFER: So you're saying we have not yet put in the reforms that could prevent another 9/11, we could still be blindsided you're saying?
SEN. SHELBY: Absolutely. To think otherwise would be folly. We've made some adjustments but the cultures have not changed between all the intelligence agencies making up the community. I don't believe they're sharing information. There's no fusion, central place yet to do it. The FBI agent that testified behind a screen the other day I thought it was rather poignant. He said somebody is going to die. And what was he talking about? He wanted to go after a would-be terrorist who was found out to be a terrorist and there was no cooperation.
MR. SCHIEFFER: I know that you favor going beyond this investigation, broadening it into a national commission to not only look into the intelligence communities but all the other federal agencies concerned.
SEN. SHELBY: Absolutely.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Senator Biden, what's your view on that? Do you think we need this national commission and will you be for that?
SEN. BIDEN: I am and I do and I am. I think that Richard Shelby and his intelligence committee has done a great job and jointly with the House in laying the groundwork for this. Now I think it's time to expand it. I think even the president agrees with that now.
But one of the things I hope we keep in focus here, al-Qaeda and terrorist organizations are a serious threat to the United States of America. Well, let's keep them in focus. We're not talking about 12,000 nuclear weapons aimed our way. We're now talking about 42 divisions coming through the Fulda Gap in Germany. We're talking about a serious problem that we can get our arms around. We're making some progress on it. We'll make more progress on it, and I think the culture is changing.
MR. SCHIEFFER: Should the White House release the documents that tell us what the president knew and what he didn't know in the days and weeks before 9/11, because so far they haven't?
SEN. BIDEN: I am more concerned those documents are released to the appropriate committees for their look at it. I've listened to Richard talk about how he was unhappy with the cooperation from the White House in their investigation. I think that is the most appropriate for us first to do that and I do think though eventually, meaning in a matter of months or years, that we have a full report to the American people as to what happened.
But I think this is something that matters how we do it, methodically and thoroughly, and I think the process is the committees with jurisdiction, with subpoena power, continuing their efforts and then also setting up a national commission that can go beyond this so there's a patina of a different kind of credibility for whatever they report.
MS. BORGER: Senator Shelby, is the White House going to cooperate the way you've asked?
SEN. SHELBY: Well, we hope so, but what we've asked for this far, the committee, the committee's jurisdiction, that is the House and Senate Intelligence Committees have asked for information. We know a lot of that is very sensitive and highly classified, and we're not talking about sharing that with anybody at the moment, but they ought to share it with us because if we're going to do a credible, thorough, definitive investigation we've got to get into everything and I think we will.
I do want to say something about a commission. I think the commission should not be limited; it should be broad. Some people were talking the other day and said it shouldn't even be about intelligence. It's got to be about FAA, Immigration, intelligence, everything. They could take what we're doing now, build upon that, because we've got a great staff director in Eleanor Hill. We've got a good staff. But time is not on our side. And we don't know what we don't know.
MR. SCHIEFFER: I think we should leave it there. What we do know is we're out of time. I want to thank both of you for being here this morning.