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CBS News Face the Nation - Transcript

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CBS News Transcripts

SHOW: Face the Nation

HEADLINE: Senators John McCain and Joseph Biden discuss the war in Iraq



And to—to continue the discussion, from Wilmington, Delaware, now, Senator Joe Biden, ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee. Here in the studio, Senator John McCain of the Armed Services Committee, who is just back from Iraq.

Senator McCain, Senator Biden, you just heard Secretary Powell. I go back to what I said at the beginning of the broadcast. This whole business of going to the United Nations has to do with getting more troops on the ground in Iraq. Senator McCain, do you have any indication that any nation at this point is going to be willing to put more troops in there?

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona): No, but I think some personal diplomacy like secretary of State going to Islamabad, Ankara and New Delhi might be very helpful. I'm afraid this process with the UN is going to be a very slow one. It's obvious that the French and the Germans, unfortunately, are acting more like an adversary than an ally, at least on—on this issue.

SCHIEFFER: What about some of our allies? Do you have any indication that they would be willing to put more troops in there?

Sen. McCAIN: Well, I—I—I think it's not only troops but it's also money. We'd like to get additional financial assistance, but I—I think it's all worth trying. I don't have anything—any problem with that, but I think that for us to not appreciate it's the United States' war. We're the ones that started it. It's our responsibility to finish it. We need more troops and we need more money and we need it quickly and time is not on our side. That's—that's, in summary, why this is so time important. And I'm not sure that a UN resolution, even if it passed tomorrow, we would be addressing the immediate issues.

SCHIEFFER: The secretary of State indicates that commanders on the ground there have told him we do not need more American troops. You were just there. Did you get that response?

Sen. McCAIN: Well, if you need more foreign troops, you probably need mor—more American troops, but ou—our commanders and our men and women over there are doing a magnificent job. It's tough. It's very difficult conditions, and my conversations with them is that clearly they could use some more assistance, and from what I see and the statistics of Americans killed, wounded, the state of the situation particularly in the more sensitive areas, the so-called Sunni triangle or the Ba'athist Triangle, argues for a whole lot more money, more Marines, more Special Forces, more civil affairs people and—and quickly. We've got a million and a half roughly men and women in the military. There's 140,000 there, which, by the way, was supposed to be down to 60,000, according to the original plans and—and we need to get them there and we need to get them there quickly.

SCHIEFFER: But—but you—you were hearing while you were there that the commanders wanted more troops.

Sen. McCAIN: When they—when they—when you say that, these are loyal people.


Sen. McCAIN: They're not going to—they're not going to undercut their civilian or military leaders. But the fact is, that just their description of the challenge they face argued that they—that they're not able to get the job done in the manner in which they would like to. We need people who are there to secure oil pipelines. We need people to do—to s—to do civil affairs. We need all kinds of that kind of help, not more tanks, particularly. But...


Mr. DAVID BROOKS (The New York Times): Senator Biden, do you agree? Do we need more troops?

Senator JOSEPH BIDEN (Democrat, Delaware): I—I—I agree with John we need them, but the most important thing I think John said, and I've been a broken record on it, is a sense of urgency—urgency. We need much more attention paid, many more resources now. We needed them last month, the month before, because every assumption the administration made about what would happen after the war was dead wrong. Oil revenues, a—a—an infrastructure in place, a civil affairs that they could go to, a military, a police force, all were fundamentally wrong, and—and Powell knew that before he went in. He was arguing for something else. But so—we're—but we—we still have time. We still have time but there's a sense of urgency that John is talking about that I agree with completely.

Mr. BROOKS: Now it—that also means money.

Sen. BIDEN: Absolutely. Positively.

Mr. BROOKS: Now there—there's talk now of $60 billion appropriation, $80 billion based—appropriation. Is your view this is so important we've got to spend whatever it takes to get the job done?

Sen. BIDEN: Absolutely. And I predict to you over the next 12 months, it will be a $100 billion price tag. That's why we ought to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time, get those commanders and civil affairs people what they need now while we're attempting to get in foreign troops. I've spoken to n—a number of foreign leaders. I think there's a prospect of getting up to one division each from Turkey, from India and from Pakistan. I think you'll see if we do this right, we'll get up to 10,000 French troops...

Mr. BROOKS: Yet some...

Sen. BIDEN: ...before this is over.

Mr. BROOKS: Sometimes it seems your party is marching to the beat of Howard Dean, who is not singing this song, and that Dick Gephardt calls this whole project a miserable failure. Are—are a lot of Democrats singing your song, that we need more, we need a lot more troops, more money?

Sen. BIDEN: Well, I don't know, and quite frankly, I don't care. You know, Howard Dean doesn't hold office. He may be our nominee. I'm on the Foreign Relations Committee now. I've been there in Iraq. I've come back. Most of the people who have been there, I think John will tell you, Democrat or Republican, come back with the same general view, a sense of urgency. The window's closing. The Hammer Report said there's very little time for the Iraqi people before they start to forget about w—wa—wanting us around, and I'm more concerned about the American people. That's why I hope tonight the president genuinely levels with the American people about what we need, what our objectives are and what he's going to ask of them. I think there's still time but it's urgent.

SCHIEFFER: What does that mean, Senator McCain, because you, too, have said he needs to level. What does that mean?

Sen. McCAIN: Well, I think the president...

SCHIEFFER: Is he not leveling?

Sen. McCAIN: I think the president should say that the—the United States entered that conflict for good reasons and good things can come of it. We must succeed. The consequences of failure are immense, and it's going to require an enormous expenditure of American blood and treasure, hopefully a minimum of blood, but we must do it and we must do it quickly. And I'm confident the American people will support it.

Sen. BIDEN: So am I.

Sen. McCAIN: I visited th—I visited mass graves of 3,000 people. You know one of their cute little tricks was to tie two people together and shoot one and bury them both together. These were bad people. But the Iraqi people also know, or believe, that we supported them in the '80s, we supported them in the war against Iran. We put economic sanctions against them in the '90s, we told them in '91 we'd get rid of Saddam Hussein and we didn't. And so there is suspicion out there about American motives. How do you resolve those? Get the money in there and get the people in there and of course get the government over to the Iraqi people as quickly as possible.

SCHIEFFER: What do you think, Senator McCain...

Sen. McCAIN: You can't do that without civil...

SCHIEFFER: And let me—let me ask both of you...

Sen. McCAIN: Sure.

SCHIEFFER: General Zinni, who was the commander of the Central Command before Tommy Franks, is—is comparing this—what he calls a lack of planning to—and the word he used was the 'garbage' that we heard and saw in Vietnam. He—he made an extraordinary speech to a group of retired officers.

Sen. BIDEN: Bob, he made that speech—he made that speech before my committee.

SCHIEFFER: Well, do—do you feel that...

Sen. BIDEN: Uh-oh, I dropped—here. Here, gra—grab this real quick.

SCHIEFFER: Do you feel that the—the uniformed military has lost confidence in the civilian leadership? And I would say, Secretary Rumsfeld in particular?

Sen. McCAIN: I don't—I don't view it that way. The one thing that all our military people are imbued with is a—is a ex—a loyalty and understanding of your civilian authority. But there is no doubt that retired military people, which is their right, are very unhappy about some of the things that are happening and very vocal about it as—as well. But the American people will support the president when they're told what the task is. And, yes, as Secretary Powell just mentioned, we made some wrong estimates. We always make wrong estimates in every conflict I've ever heard of, but it doesn't mean they can't be fixed.

Mr. BROOKS: Some people...

Sen. McCAIN: But time is—is—is of the essence.

Yes, David?

Mr. BROOKS: Some people say one of the reasons we have not sent more troops is because Senator—Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld is so into ref—transforming the military, which means a lean, mean small army, that he doesn't want to send troops there because that might lead in the future to a bigger Army.

Sen. McCAIN: We have to have them.

Mr. BROOKS: Do either of you senators agree that transforming the military is taking wrong priority over Iraq?

Sen. McCAIN: We have to have a bigger Army. We have to have a bigger military and we have to go about understanding what's necessary in order to do that.

SCHIEFFER: Senator Biden.

Sen. BIDEN: I agree with John, and I'd like to add one point about Zinni. Zinni testified before our committees before we went in, explained exactly what the needs were, was dead on about what was—we were going to run into afterwards. And what I think everybody's a little concerned about is the president keeps making this all about terror. Remember, the rationale for going in wasn't just going after weapons of mass destruction and al-Qaida, it was to transform the region. We could end terror tomorrow and we still have a country called Iran, that—if we get this wrong in Iraq, Iran's power expands and our interests diminish. So I hope the president doesn't try to simplify this—only about al-Qaida and terror. That's real, that's genuine, but it's far bigger than that, and I think that's part of the problem Zinni and many other people have.

Sen. McCAIN: Why it's time—the reason why it's time urgent is the people of Iraq have not made up their minds now. And if they make up their minds that they're going to be against the United States, then you're going to have a problem with this insurgency 'cause the fish will be in the water as the gorilla is to the people. That's why time sensitivity is important.

Sen. BIDEN: Absolutely.

Mr. BROOKS: Some people say when you—when you go to the administration where Paul Bremer is running the country of Iraq, you don't see any Iraqis there. It's Americans running the—Iraq as if there were no Iraqis. Is that true from your visits and your opinion?

Sen. McCAIN: I—I—I think that th—the process is slower because without security it's—or I think Ambassador Bremer is doing a fine job, but let me—let me just also fi—finally add: Th—we are doing things with city councils; success in the north, success in some parts of the south. It's not all a—a terrible story. There are some bright spots here and it's got to do with some great and wonderful people.

SCHIEFFER: Gentlemen, I'm sorry, we—we have to—the clock has run out. Thank you, Senator Biden.

Sen. BIDEN: Thank you very much, fellas.

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