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Hardball - Interview

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MATTHEWS: Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia sits on the Armed Services Committee, and he is the member the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

Senator Chambliss, I'm going to ask you the bottom line how 's the war going?

SEN. SAXBY CHAMBLISS ®, GEORGIA: Chris, I think the war is going great. Our brave men and women are the best trained, best equipped, best prepared army in the world, and in only 13 days, we have moved further with greater speed than army in the history of the world, and everybody knows what they've seen on TV with respect to the airpower that we're delivering to Baghdad and other surrounding communities.

In Iraq, we're taking out the Republican Guard in a very surgical manner, and at the same time, not destroying civilian sites. We're not destroying a lot of the history of that country, and I think their folks are doing extremely well with the minimal of casualties. Unfortunately, we've had some, we'd rather have none, but I'm very proud of our leadership, very proud of every single man and woman who is doing their part to win this war.

MATTHEWS: Do you think based upon what you know, senator, on the intelligence—rather on the Armed Services Committee, that our fighting men and women had adequate intelligence going in last two weeks?

CHAMBLISS: Oh, I think so. You know, you just look at what happened on the very first day, Chris—we had a very select strike on the palace in Baghdad, and we either killed or seriously wounded Saddam Hussein in all likelihood.

So, I think we've had very good intelligence. We had some people on the ground who were doing what they needed to do, and that's use their eyes to see what was happening over there and where the people were that we needed to go after.

MATHEWS: What do you make of the complaint from William Wallace, the head of our ground campaign there, that the soldiers weren't trained for the war they are facing?

CHAMBLISS: I think what General Wallace was saying was hey look, I am going to tough firefight here, and these guys are fighting hard, and you know, we weren't facing the real enemy when we were training for this; now, we are facing the real enemy. And I think he would do and what he needed to do to keep his troops pumped up. I think that he is a tough fighter, and he knows and understands that it's different when you have people come to you with a white flag and all of a sudden open fire on you. That's not the kind of war that we're used to fighting.

MATHEWS: Was that the kind of war we should have expected though? A desperate regime, we are facing a desperate regime.

CHAMBLISS: That's right. When you got a guy like Saddam, who is a murderer, a torturer and a rapist, you need to expect all of the worst from him, and now I think we do that, and our guys are prepared for whatever may be forthcoming.

MATHEWS: Do we know—you know, you have heard a lot about the red line that surrounds, that's said to surround Baghdad, which will trigger, it is said, the use of chemical weapons by the defenders, by Saddam's regime. Have you got any information about were they intend to use chemical?

CHAMBLISS: Well, we know that we now had penetrated that redline, and at the moment we penetrated that line the likelihood of use of biological, chemical weapons certainly increased. Whether he will use them or not, I don't know. We know he has them. But whether or not he will use them now, whether he'll wait to we get in Baghdad and the hand-to-hand combat that may be happening in Baghdad in the not too distant feature, if that's the time they use them, we just don't know Chris, but it could come in any point in time.

MATTHEWS: What flexibility do you think the President should have? I guess he has under the constitution a great deal. In terms of negotiating any kind of end to that regime? The President has said, "The only thing I would negotiate is surrender, unconditional surrender." How do you think it's going to look over the next—apparently it's going to be a two-month war inside the city? Have you seen that, and how do you see it ending?

CHAMBLISS: Well, I think a lot of it will depend on when the Republican Guard finally realizes that, "hey, this thing is over, and we need to get the best deal we can get, irrespective of what Saddam may have to say about it, or the Defense Minister or Aziz, or anybody else like that. And I think that may happen. We can't anticipate that. But I think that it may happen at some point in time, because we have really waded through his most elite troops like a knife going through butter, but it's going to get tough once we get to Baghdad.

Causalities are going to increase, and at some point in time, it will be in the best interest of everybody to bring this to a conclusion.

But I think the president's right, total surrender is all we need to accept.

MATTHEWS: How well do you think the president's program for rebuilding Iraq will sell with the American people and therefore with Congress? Do you think the American people are prepared for the big cost that's going to come our way mainly to try to build that country back into something like a democracy, a country that wouldn't cause trouble in the region?

CHAMBLISS: Well, the good news is that Iraq has a pretty strong economy, and certainly has the potential for a very, very strong economy. With all of their natural resources there, there is the ability on their part to rebuild their country within, and not require the terrific expenditure coming from the United States and all of our allies around the world.

And I think what you are going to say, Chris, is in spite of the decision that was made my the Frances, the Germanys, the Russias, we're going to need a strong coalition, other than just the United States and Great Britain, to go in there and to reestablish that country and let the Iraqis decide exactly how they want to be governed, and let them create that government under proper supervision initially from outside forces like the United States, and these other coalition countries.

MATTHEWS: Thank you very much for joining us Senator Saxby...

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