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NBC Meet the Press Transcript

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NBC's Meet the Press

Senators Joe Biden, Chuck Hagel, Pat Roberts and John D. Rockefeller discuss homeland security, the war on terrorism and the situation in Iraq

This is a partial transcript of NBC's MEET THE PRESS from May 25, 2003.

MR. RUSSERT: ...But first, Senators Roberts and Rockefeller of the Intelligence Committee, Senators Biden and Hagel of the Foreign Relations Committee, all here to try to make sense of an increasingly dangerous and complicated world.
Gentlemen, welcome all, and good morning.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL, (R-NB): Good morning.

SEN. PAT ROBERTS, (R-KS): Thank you.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Roberts, as chairman, let me ask you, on behalf of the American people, we were placed on code orange terror alert, how real is the risk?

SEN. ROBERTS: Well, the risk is very real. Typically, in a report of this type, you get a generic warning, more especially since we've had Mr. Aswari and his taped message, and then after the last taped message, we had the explosion in Bali, Indonesia. But the who and the when and the where and the specifics are very hard to come by. So it's a national alert. It's code orange. And your first responders, all of your local law enforcement, all of our intelligence community is on alert. But we don't know the specifics in terms of who, when and where. I know that's exasperating, but on the other side of it, if you did not go to an alert and you had something happen, obviously, you wouldn't want that either.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Rockefeller, the NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll asked the American people about the potential of a terrorist attack. And look at these numbers. Eighty-two percent of Americans believe that we will be the target of a terrorist attack over the next few months. Do you find that surprising?

SEN. JOHN D. ROCKEFELLER, (D-WV): No. And there's a wisdom in the American people on that. I mean, for example, the al-Qaeda went after the Saudis in Riyadh. In the process, they killed Americans, but they also killed Muslims. And so, in a sense, that puts pressure on the al-Qaeda to make up, so-called, for Americans, with American deaths, and not kill Muslims. They took a tremendous beating for killing Muslims. So all of that, either Americans overseas or Americans here, I think it threatens us, and, therefore, the alert is appropriate.

MR. RUSSERT: Are you surprised that we have not been hit again on our shores since September 11?

SEN. ROCKEFELLER: Well, first of all, you can't make the assumption that there haven't been attempts made, and that they have not been interdicted. Secondly, we have been hit in a number of places overseas, and Americans have died, along with others. And, you know, we've been through two wars in two different countries.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Biden, this is the fourth time the country's been placed on orange alert. Is there a risk that people become too accustomed to that?

SEN. JOE BIDEN, (D-DE): I think there is a risk of that. I also think there's a risk that the American people think we've done more than we have to deal with our domestic security needs. I mean, we're talking about--I ride Amtrak every day. We've had plans in place for a long time. The agency has said three years ago that--or two years ago--that Amtrak and rail would be a possible target. We have two tunnels where you have 350,000 people a day in the tunnels, no ventilation, no lighting, no anything, we have a $900 million plan already in place, already done, we're not funding it. People think the 106 nuclear power plants are being protected. They're not being protected. We're not investing the money that we're supposed to invest, which would be good, by the way, to invest just for infrastructure all by itself, it would boost the economy, but also to deal with things that I think the American people think we're doing. And, besides that, we're stretching out our--$600 million is being spent by local law enforcement every time we go on this code alert since we've been on it. The federal government is not reimbursing them. This is a national problem. And we're--I think our priorities are a little backwards in terms of where we're investing our money.

MR. RUSSERT: Where would you find the money to do that?

SEN. BIDEN: Well, I would have found it not by doing the tax cut, number one. Number two, I think you have to, if you're going to deficit spend, which we're doing to a fare-thee-well, this is a place to deficit spend. And it also would have a stimulative impact, by the way. But my point is that I'm worried about the combination of two things: one, people repeatedly hearing it, which I think we're all in agreement, you have to go to an orange alert. If you have this chatter, you have this information, you've got to state it. But it has the effect of worrying about crying wolf too often. And secondly, all the talk about all we've done to reinforce, you know, homeland security. Well, we cut cops, cut FBI agents. I mean, I think there's two--we're on a collision course here.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Hagel, the terror threat and what we're doing about it.

SEN. HAGEL: Well, let's understand this is a relatively new threat that we're dealing with here. We're making a lot of this up as we go along since September 11, 2001. This is a primary focus of coordinating and harnessing intelligence resources, working with our international relationships, developing seamless relationships of intelligence sharing and gathering. This is difficult. We just put together a few months ago a Homeland Security Department, bolting 22 different agencies and departments. It's going to be a long time before that really settles. So we're working it, Tim. No easy answers. It's imprecise, it's very serious. But I think we're on the right track. I think we're putting the right priority, the right focus on the things that we need to do and I think we're funding it. MR. RUSSERT: Properly?

SEN. HAGEL: Properly.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to a headline in today's Washington Post about Iran, and I'll show it for you and our viewers on the screen: "The Bush administration ...has suspended once-promising contacts with Iran and appears ready to embrace an aggressive policy of trying to destabilize the Iranian government, administration officials said. Senior Bush administration officials will meet Tuesday at the White House to discuss the evolving strategy toward the Islamic republic, with Pentagon officials pressing hard for public and private actions that they believe could lead to the toppling of the government through a popular uprising, officials said."

Senator Roberts, what can you tell us about that?

SEN. ROBERTS: Well, I know Iran is a big problem and we have been trying to deal with them step by step on a step-by-step basis. Not really anything that we could look forward to in terms of any specifics. I know there had even been an attempt at some kind of trade. But they are a very worrisome factor. I'm not aware of the Tuesday meeting. We will have hearings on that in the Intelligence Committee. We do have weekly hearings and we go into that in regards to Iran and the other hot spots of the world. I'm not really, you know, privy to say what that is about. I have a feeling, however, that you're going to see better cooperation from Iran once this strong signal has gone out and once we are basically threatening sanctions from other countries who are providing them materials for their efforts in regards to WMD. So I think there may be some good news around the corner, and that's about all I'll say about that.

MR. RUSSERT: But would you be supportive of covert operation to topple Iran?

SEN. ROBERTS: I think at this juncture, I'm going to dodge that question and say that there are efforts being made that would be very productive in regards to Iran and ourselves with the understanding of the al-Qaeda cell that allegedly came from Iran and had something to do with the Saudi Arabia attacks. I think we're going to make some progress on that.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Rockefeller, should we try to destabilize, topple Iran?

SEN. ROCKEFELLER: I think we have to be a little bit cautious about just sort of tossing out that term, destabilize, take over. We're getting to think that way too much because of--after Afghanistan and Iraq. Iran is not going to be the kind of place that sort of flips over because we send in covert action teams or something of that sort. I mean, it's a very clerical, it's a very fundamentalist government. And I also agree with Pat Roberts that the news is not all in yet I think on what they're willing to do about terrorism.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you what Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said on Wednesday about Iran:

(Videotape, Wednesday): SEC'Y DONALD RUMSFELD: There's no question but that there have been and are today senior al-Qaeda leaders in Iran, and they're busy.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: "And they're busy," Senator Biden. Does that mean we should go in, in covert forces, and try to...

SEN. BIDEN: Tim, I'd like to see us finish one job at a time. Afghanistan is about to collapse, in my view. We've made no--we've not made the kind of investment we should have. We heard the same statements about Iraq relative to al-Qaeda, as if it were the major mover in us having to move in there. We have a multibillion--I believe several hundred billion-dollar obligation out of our own self-interest in Iraq. I'd like to get one of them nailed down before we start off--and, by the way, this notion of being able to topple the government from within by covert operation--I have seen no evidence of that. I've seen no evidence that that is likely. And I think it ranks up there with the assertion that we were going to be greeted by the Shia as great liberators and embraced. I think this is civilians at the Defense Department. I have not seen anything from the agency to suggest this. I've not seen any--that is, that there's a likelihood of an internal uprising overthrowing this government. I think it's fanciful.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator.

SEN. ROBERTS: Tim, if I could just jump in here just a minute ahead of my good friend Chuck, and we can go around that way again.


SEN. ROBERTS: But on the Afghanistan statement, I don't think that it's about to come apart. We were just in Afghanistan, both Senator Rockefeller and myself, and Pakistan about a month ago. We have basically 10,000 of our forces in there, along with 23 nations, seven nations primarily doing everything they can to prepare that country for the 2004 constitutional convention. It's a very dangerous place, but the tribals have just finally agreed, with President Karzai, to give them the revenue or him the revenue that he needs. Now, there are pockets and I know there's a spring offensive by the Taliban, and I know that's a very dangerous place to be, but as you compare what Afghanistan used to be and where it is now, we've made, I think, very remarkable progress.

Also, in regards to infrastructure, we visited a brand-new hospital for women, a school for women. I think we're making some progress. It's a tough go, but I wouldn't say that it's going to fall apart. We are training the Afghan national army. We have one company trained. There's going to be a whole battalion. The hope is they can withstand any future attacks by the Taliban. Tough job, but I don't think it's falling apart.

MR. RUSSERT: Now, what... SEN. BIDEN: Nobody's outside of Kabul. There is no security outside of Kabul. Karzai has nothing outside of Kabul. The warlords are in charge. Ismael Kahn controls Herat and all western Afghanistan. It is soluble, but it is not being solved now. We're kidding ourselves.

MR. RUSSERT: The Taliban are now giving newspaper interviews, saying they are back. The chief justice says--he calls himself Abdu Salam. He said, "We are back. We are reconstituted." The heroin trade has increased tenfold.

SEN. ROBERTS: That is a problem with the heroin trade, but in talking to President Karzai's brother here just this past week, he thinks they are making some progress with the tribals. We do have to establish some law, order, security with the tribals. But I'm still trying to compare it to where it used to be and where it is today and the investment we're making; I think we're making some progress.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Hagel, you gave a speech May 20th to the World Affairs Council: "Afghanistan has not gone as we had hoped. While the Taliban no longer rules, the government of President Karzai has gained little ground. Warlords and those who may sympathize with al-Qaeda extremists still control much of the countryside."

SEN. HAGEL: Well, that's a fact. Yes, as Pat Roberts said, I don't think it's about ready to collapse, but the fact is we have a long way to go. It is complicated. It is imperfect. It is imprecise. But I think Senator Biden's point here is important. When you look at Iran and what our options are there, as all the other countries in that region, we must view this from a wider-lens perspective. We're engaged today in a very critical effort to get this peace process between Israel and the Palestinians on track; very delicate. We've got Afghanistan, we've got Iraq, not including the problems that we've got in North Korea. Our hands are full here. And so we better understand, so that the American people understand, the kind of commitments that we are just glibly talking about here, what that's going to require in terms of manpower and treasure and prestige and lives for a long time. And I think that all has to be understood in the wider dynamic of what we're trying to accomplish.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Rockefeller, Louis Freeh, the former director of the FBI, wrote an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal talking about the Khobar Towers, where some 19 Americans were killed in Saudi Arabia back in '96. He traced that directly to Iran. We had the recent attack on U.S.--Americans in Saudi Arabia. Tom Friedman, in his op-ed piece today, wrote this: "In private, Bush aides have been fuming: The U.S. gave Saudis intelligence warnings before the recent attacks, but they took no steps to deter them. Publicly, though, the Bush team bites its tongue. We never talk straight to Saudi Arabia, because we are addicted to its oil. Addicts never tell the truth to their pushers."

SEN. ROCKEFELLER: There's some truth to the fact that I think the Saudis had every reason to know that there was a very good chance they were going to get hit, and that information came from us and presumably from others. It came fairly repeatedly over a period of several weeks. However, I don't think that the Saudis--I think they've gotten a wake-up call. All of a sudden, Crown Prince Sultan is talking much more differently. They've sent a lot of people over here to tell us all the good things that they're doing. They have done some good stuff with al-Qaeda, they have done some good stuff with cutting off of sources of income for al-Qaeda, but I think they have a lot longer way to go than they have been telling us.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Biden, the Saudis, we've talked endlessly on this program about what they teach their children in their school textbooks. Have they gotten the message that al-Qaeda will attack Americans, but they'll also attack Saudis?

SEN. BIDEN: They may have gotten that message, but they haven't gotten the message that they have to fundamentally make a change in how they govern. They haven't gotten the mention that they have to fundamentally break with Wahabi-Sunnism. They haven't gotten the message that they are--that shows me in any way they're prepared to act like a mature nation under the same circumstances that we hold other mature nations. They've got a tough--they've got a 600-person oligarchy there, has a significant investment in no change, and it's awful hard for people to understand that in order to preserve themselves they have to change, but that's where they are. I find the Saudis to be--they paper over everything in a literal and a figurative sense. They're telling us all the good things they do, and they do some very good things, but they have to make same very, very difficult decisions. You cannot allow state-run newspapers, you cannot allow the school system you run to preach hatred, to preach anti-Semitism, to preach anti-Western notions and then expect us to say that they're cooperating with us. I mean, they're just not there yet, Tim.

SEN. ROCKEFELLER: I think it's going to be very tough for the Saudis to take all of the Wahabism out of their textbooks. This is a very fundamentalist society. The ruling monarchy depends upon Wahabism, Wahabism depends upon the ruling monarchy for mutual protection. I think it's going to be very difficult for them to make some of the changes they're talking about, and I think they're substantially threatened by the democracy they see in certainly Qatar and also to a certain extent in Kuwait. I don't think democracy is their friend at this point because about 40 percent of their people are unemployed and very unhappy.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Hagel, didn't they make a calculated guess that if they could release the steam, anger and vent it towards the United States, their regime could survive?

SEN. HAGEL: Oh, I think that was a factor that they calibrated into their strategy, but go back to that terrorist attack a couple of weeks ago. That attack was aimed as much at them, their family, their government, as it was Western interests. And that, I believe, set in motion some sense of urgency to deal with this problem. Everything that my colleagues have said I believe is correct about the complications here. They're also dealing with an internal problem, a struggle within their own family as to how far they go. This is going to be difficult for them to move where I suspect they're going to have to move to. But let's not forget, to destabilize Saudi Arabia would be very, very dangerous for us, our interests in that part of the world.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Roberts, if I could move to Iraq, because it's very...

SEN. ROBERTS: Now, wait a minute, I don't want to become a Saudi Arabia apologist here, but we've had an awful lot of hearings with people who are directly concerned with that, and as Senator Rockefeller said, they have come to indicate that they realize that this is their 9/11, this is their Pearl Harbor. Three things: They have to really stop this business of financing mosques and charities that, in turn, finance the terrorism. They are going to try to do that. Secondly, they have to become very transparent in regards to what they're doing in being concerned about terrorists that would affect their kingdom and terrorists that attack the United States, because it's the same. They realize now that was an attack on the kingdom and the United States. And third, they have to develop the capability that once they receive our intelligence, which they did three times, that they will be able to protect, security-wise, they have the forces, that they are trained to do what they have to do.

But that warning said housing and compounds. There's 1,000 compounds. They finally narrowed it down to 350, and then finally the attacks came on three. The one where they had the Air Force personnel was not successful. How we get their security force to have that ability to begin with is a big push. I think that they understand that this is their 9/11, this is their chance, this is their chance to do everything that Senator Biden has indicated. That's going to take at least a decade or so, but it is absolutely irrevocable that they have to make those choices.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to Iraq, because it's very much on the minds of all Americans, and start with this headline from Thursday's New York Times: "The Central Intelligence Agency has begun a review to try to determine whether the American intelligence community erred in its prewar assessments of Saddam Hussein's government and Iraq's weapons programs, several officials say. ... While the United States may still find such evidence, some current and former intelligence officials say it is becoming increasingly clear that the C.I.A., Pentagon and other agencies did not know as much about the status of Iraq's weapons programs and its ties to terrorists before the war as was previously believed."

Senator Rockefeller, is that accurate?

SEN. ROCKEFELLER: I can't say for sure, but I'm beginning to believe it is. In one case, I think, it apparently really is, and in that case, Senator Roberts and I together have asked the CIA and the State Department to conduct an investigation--I mean, a formal investigation. And that is about the whole connection between Nijar supposedly sending uranium to Iraq. That was, you know, intelligence, it was British intelligence, but we share with the British. It was meant to have come from another country.

Nevertheless, that was, I think, thoroughly disproved by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and it was fraudulently signed. And the minister who was meant to have signed it hadn't been in office for 10 years. And my question is: You know, how did that information about the Iraq-Nijar relationship on uranium, which apparently wasn't there, work its way up through the chain of command, through the intelligence community, up to the NSC, and beyond, and into the president's first State of the Union address? I mean, I think that's something that we're going to get to the bottom of, and I think there are a whole lot of other questions about WMD, which are very, very unclear. They may have overestimated. MR. RUSSERT: Your colleague from West Virginia, Senator Robert Byrd, said we should ask the question: "Were the American people intentionally misled?" Is that a fair question?

SEN. ROCKEFELLER: I think the question has to be asked. I mean, I think--there are either two possibilities, and, one--and, hopefully, this is not the case, and you certainly cannot assume it's the case that they were intentionally misled for the purposes of preparing them to get into that war and vote, you know, on that resolution, as far as the Congress was concerned, and the other is that they just misread it. They didn't know. Our intelligence wasn't that good. In either case, it's a very bad outcome. And the CIA is doing their own investigation on that now, and Chairman Roberts and I are going to be having--every single week, we're going to be looking at that question in the Intelligence Committee.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Roberts, as you know...


MR. RUSSERT: I'm going to give you a chance here, because this is dead serious.

SEN. ROBERTS: All right.

MR. RUSSERT: Colin Powell went before the United Nations, Secretary Rumsfeld repeatedly said Iraq had a certain capacity.


MR. RUSSERT: This was the president of the United States addressing the nation in March:

(Videotape, March 17):

PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: Intelligence gathered by this and other governments leaves no doubt that the Iraqi regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: What happens in the future if our intelligence agencies come forward and say, "X nation has weapons of mass destruction and we must do something about it," if we don't find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

SEN. ROBERTS: Well, basically, you have a real credibility problem. But let's put this so-called story about the Pentagon and the secretary of Defense asking the intelligence community for a review to determine the veracity of those reports. That letter came out, or those orders came out--it wasn't an order, it was a suggestion, really, to the intelligence community last October, before we even went in. Let's put it in context. And from what I understand, Secretary Rumsfeld asked Mr. Tenet, George Tenet, "We have a unique opportunity here to get the context of where we were in terms of the intelligence gathering on WMD," and then afterwards what actually we find out. So that started in October. This is not something where the DOD has now said, "Because you failed, let's take a look at it." So from that context, that's where the letter went.

Now, I remember after the first Iraqi war and the IAEA came in and said after three months--we're only two months out now--that there was no evidence of any nuclear capability. Six months later, they said, "Whoops, there is nuclear capability." I maintain that there was WMD, whether it's dispersed, whether it's offshore, whether it's hidden; it's still there. We have located two, possibly three trailers in regards to mobile labs, we have evidence in regards to certain train cars having the mobile labs. We haven't found the agents yet, but we are now putting in 1,400 people with an Iraq survey group as opposed to the tactical people that are there now, and it's my view that we will find out what happened to the weapons of mass destruction.

It's not so much whether or not the weapons of mass destruction and the intelligence capability were misleading, as Senator Byrd says, and I don't agree with that, I don't think that's accurate, it's what has happened to it, because we don't want it to fall in hands that we don't want it to be into. And we don't want the new government of Iraq, once it's formed, to have access to this kind of material. I think within several months in this new infusion of 1,400 people, we're going to be in a lot better shape.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Biden, is our credibility at stake, and is there a possibility that intelligence briefing data provided to the president of the United States was politicized?

SEN. BIDEN: I guess that's a possibility. I agree with Chairman Roberts that--I just look at a simple fact that when the inspectors left Iraq in the late '90s, there was documented X number of liters and tons of various weapons. There was never an explanation of what happened to them, so they were either destroyed and we weren't told. There was no evidence that they were destroyed, there was no proof, so we had to assume they were there. So I think we'll find weapons of mass destruction. I do think it gets hyped, though. I do think that we hyped nuclear, we hyped al-Qaeda, we hyped the ability to disperse and use these weapons, and I think that tends to be done by all presidents when they want to accomplish a goal that they are trying to get broad national support for, and that is, to go into Iraq. We didn't need all that to go into Iraq. There was sufficient evidence to go into Iraq, they violated the U.N. security agreements. They, in fact, violated essentially a peace treaty. So I think we hyped it.

Therefore, I think it puts our credibility at risk not only with the American people, but even with some in the Congress, and I think with the public at large. It's a little bit like when I first got to the Senate in '72, the Russians were 47 feet tall. There was always the worst case. There was always "We are about to be overtaken." And it turned out not to be true to the core. I think a lot of the hype here is a serious, serious, serious mistake and it hurts our credibility. But I do think we'll find weapons of mass destruction.

SEN. ROBERTS: I think there's a lot of hype the other way, too.

MR. RUSSERT: We're going to take a quick break and come back and talk about the reconstruction of Iraq, what will happen, how long it will take, how much it will cost. A lot more from our senators right after this.


MR. RUSSERT: Our dangerous world--more from the leaders of the Intelligence Committee and Foreign Relations Committee after this brief station break.


MR. RUSSERT: And we are back with Senators Roberts, Rockefeller, Biden, and Hagel.

Senator Hagel, let me return to the reconstruction of Iraq. Here's an article from The Washington Post on Monday: "A month before the war began in Iraq, senior Bush administration officials said their plan for winning the peace was built upon the swift provision of basic services that would 'immediately' make the Iraqi people feel they were better off than they had been under the government of Saddam Hussein. Five weeks after the war ended, the administration is still struggling to accomplish that goal. It has failed to establish law and order on the streets and has achieved only mixed results in restoring electricity, water, sanitation and other essential needs. ...military officers, other administration officials and defense experts said the Pentagon ignored lessons from a decade of peacekeeping operations in Haiti, Somalia, the Balkans and Afghanistan. It also badly underestimated the potential for looting and lawlessness after the collapse of the Iraqi government, lacking forces capable of securing the streets of Baghdad in the transition from combat to postwar reconstruction."

Is that a fair criticism?

SEN. HAGEL: I think it's a fair criticism. We, in the Foreign Relations Committee, under the leadership of Senator Biden and Chairman Lugar, held a hearing Thursday. It is the first of many to come on where are we on reconstruction. The deputy secretary of Defense was there as well as General Pace and others. But back in July, when my colleague, Senator Biden, was chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee last year, it was Biden and Lugar that held a series of these hearings long before we went to war in Iraq, asking the tough questions: Are we prepared? What are we doing? Who's in charge? Who will be in charge?--all the questions that needed to be asked. I think the planning was inadequate, and we're finding that out.

Now, realizing that this is imprecise, it's difficult, it's complicated, it's imperfect, even the best-laid plans would not have been adequate, but we need to get ahold of this very quickly. And I think bringing Bremer in somewhat abruptly, and moving that top management structure out very quickly, gives you some sense that even the White House was not very satisfied with what was going on.

MR. RUSSERT: At that hearing, General Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Senator Biden, had this to say: "It was a judgment going into Baghdad as to whether or not you waited outside the city to have enough forces that when you went in and could have complete control of the city, and then potentially have the fortress Baghdad fight that none of us wanted, or to take advantage of the opportunity, the speed and precision that we had to get in there quickly, take it down quickly, not destroy a city with 5 million people in it and accept the problem of having a less secure environment than we'd like to have. So on balance, I'd much rather be where I am today at the two-month mark worrying about police action than at the two-month mark still pounding away at a city because we waited too long."

SEN. BIDEN: I think it's a straw man. I'm not second-guessing military planners. I think General Pace was right. What we're talking about is there were detailed reports, from our hearings, from experts around the country, from CIS, from a whole group of real serious people saying you should have trained, before you went in, 6,000 police officers from around the world to be ready to go in when you needed them, so they're sitting there.

I followed up the question to General Pace after that. I said, "OK, fine, I don't disagree with a thing you've said. Now, tell me, what are your plans? How many cops, how many gendarmerie do you have that is ready to go in to Baghdad and the rest of the country now?" And Wolfowitz was silent. There has been ba--I'm not questioning whether we should have waited. I don't second-guess the plans. It was a brilliant strategy. But we should have been ready now to go in. We should have been willing to take advantage of the Europeans and others who offered that they would provide local police in the meantime. But we didn't do it. And that's not a criticism of the military. It's a criticism of the non-military planning, the aftermath of this, just like we're talking about it now, we're going to have all this money from the oil revenues to be able to pay for reconstruction. That is simply not true. Not true. The estimates are that it's going to cost to get up to 5.5 million barrels a day, a $30 billion or $40 billion infusion in the oil fields. To get to 3.5 million where they were when Saddam had it at its peak is $7 billion to $10 billion. I mean, this is--we have to be straight about this.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Roberts, during the conflict, General Shinseki, who was the Army chief of staff, said this: "The Army's top General [General Eric Shinseki] said a military occupying force for a postwar Iraq could total several hundred thousand troops...he said any postwar occupying force would have to be big enough to maintain safety in a country with 'ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems.'" And after he said that, this is what happened from his superiors at the Pentagon: "[Paul] Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, opened a two-front war of words on Capitol Hill, calling the resent estimate by Gen. Eric K. Shinseki... 'wildly off the mark.'...[Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld and Mr. Wolfowitz...were clearly irritated at the general's suggestion...'The idea that it would take several hundred thousand U.S. forces I think is far off the mark,' Mr. Rumsfeld said."

Was General Shinseki right?

SEN. ROBERTS: Well, he was right and he was wrong. I think the testimony by General Pace, who's appeared before the Armed Services Committee as well as the Foreign Relations Committee--he's a four-star Marine--is precisely pertinent. What we wanted to avoid was another Mogadishu times about a thousand. So with a very swift battle plan, we went in and we basically took Baghdad, but we did not have the number of forces that General Shinseki would have liked to have had--we had 145,000, not 200,000--for safer peacekeeping.

But to put an international force in there in terms of peacekeeping or policing, peacekeeping's fine if there's peace to be kept, but if there's no peace to be kept, you become a target. There's not only looting and there's not only real problems there in terms of security, but it is a low-combat situation. Now, that's taken care of itself. We are now putting in 21,000 people into Baghdad; 11,000 of those people will be on double patrol. We're trying to get a lower profile, a lighter footprint with more people. We're going to have helicopters now, we're not going to have tanks at the intersections, we're going to have Humvees, we're going to see the double patrols. But I think that General Pace made a good point. He didn't want to go in there and still be fighting in Baghdad house to house to house. We did it with speed. After that was done, no, we couldn't control the security like we would simply have liked to see. I think we'll see it get a lot better and a lot faster now that we have the troops there.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Rockefeller?

SEN. ROCKEFELLER: I, a little bit, disagree with Chairman Roberts on that. I think that, first of all, that we're--we have to understand that the war isn't over in either Afghanistan or Iraq. There's soldiers being killed there by the Taliban in Afghanistan and by Iraqis in Iraq. So that we're both still cleaning up the remnants of a war, but it's active, and we're trying to keep the peace. We've failed to plan, as Senator Biden said, to send in early what we needed to do in the way of keeping the peace.

Now, what Senator Roberts has said has just been announced, so here it is weeks and weeks after the end of the "war," which is actually still not finished, and we don't have the people there yet. I mean, to me, just sitting back, if you're going to go into Iraq, if you use the great majority of your military divisions around the world to be able to do this, you've got to be prepared to keep the peace. I mean, the Shiites, the Kurds, the Turkmans, the Sunnis, I mean, you know they're going to fight. It's never been a country. It's all tribal warfare. And we were not ready. And we have to accept that fact, and make up for it as fast as we possibly can.

SEN. BIDEN: Tim, can I say one thing? Shinseki didn't say we needed 200,000 troops to win. That's not what he was criticized for. He was criticized for saying we needed 200,000 troops in there after we won. He's dead right. We asked Wolfowitz. Guess what we're going to have with these 21,000 troops going in, with the Pols and the English there? Two hundred thousand troops. He was right. He was dead right.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me show you what the American people told us in our recent NBC News-Wall Street Journal survey.

SEN. BIDEN: They don't want it.

MR. RUSSERT: Three years, we said, will cost spending of $60 billion. Do you support that much money over three years? Thirty-seven percent say yes; 57 percent oppose. It's a total reversal of just one month ago. Senator Hagel, will we stay the course in Iraq, and must the president turn that popular opinion around so that the American people will want to invest that much money in Iraq during difficult economic times?

SEN. HAGEL: We have no choice. We must stay the course in Iraq. Not only are our vital interests directly affected, but our credibility, our word, everything that is meaningful in a relationship, especially international relations, is on the line here.

As I said earlier, this is not just about Iraq. What begins in Iraq does not end in Iraq. This has ramifications all over the region. American people, predictably, are concerned. That poll show that. My goodness, how long? How many more people are we going to lose? How much more time, money? To your point, politically, this is dangerous because a president rarely gets much credit in an election year for any kind of efforts on the foreign relations side. This is not going to be complete, finished next year. None of these big foreign relations problems will be finished. So the president's going to have to continue to do what he's doing. I support him strongly on that. He's going to have to work with the Congress, I think, closer. We want to be his partner. We should be his partner. And we're going to have to be there.

SEN. BIDEN: At the level of the American people. No foreign policy can be sustained without the informed consent of the American people. That was the issue six months ago. They have not been informed as to what the costs are. They will support it if they're informed. They think Johnny and Jane are going to come marching home. They're there for three years, five years, seven years.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn, if I could, to...

SEN. ROBERTS: Even Bosnia for one year. Yeah, do you remember that?

SEN. BIDEN: That's right.

MR. RUSSERT: Let me turn to the September 11 Commission that was created. Senator Rockefeller, Senator Roberts, you both served on it. Bob Graham, the former chairman of the Intelligence Committee, now presidential candidate, had this to say a few Sundays ago: "I think what they are shooting at is to cover up the failures that occurred before September the 11th; even more so, the failure to utilize the information that we have gained to avoid a future September the 11th."
Talking about the Bush administration trying to "withhold" information from the September 11 report. What's your reaction to that?

SEN. ROBERTS: I think it's dead wrong. I don't think there's been a cover-up. There are 500,000 documents that we went through during that investigation. I might add that investigation was not so much by the Senate and House Intelligence Committees, it was a joint independent staff. Our staff was not allowed in. I don't want to get into that because I objected to the process at the time. But basically to say there was a cover-up is not the case. This information will be made available. If you have 500,000 documents and you're going through all the lawyers who say, "What about the pending cases?" and you're going through all the security to make sure you don't reveal the sources and the methods, there's no cover-up.

If there was a cover-up--I mean, this is like saying if you have 90 percent of the terrorist activities done by car bombs and by suicide bombers and you lay it at the feet of the commander-in-chief and you say there's a cover-up, I think that's ridiculous. Senator Graham was chairman of the Intelligence Committee during 9/11. Was he responsible? Absolutely not. There is no cover-up. We are going to work through this in a workmanlike manner. I am firmly committed, as is Porter Goss, who is the chairman over on the House side, as is Jay, to say that this information will be provided to the independent commission.

Now, I'll tell you one thing in terms of this investigation, it isn't only the Bush administration that has a lot of things that we need to look back on and lessons learned, but the Clinton administration as well. So it isn't so much one party or the other, it's lessons learned on how we--where were we prior to 9/11, what lessons learned did we really learn and let's apply them now, a lot of which we are doing right now in the Intelligence Committee mark that we just approved.

MR. RUSSERT: Senator Rockefeller, is there information that should be made available to the American people now about why September 11 occurred and what lessons can be taken to make sure it doesn't happen again?

SEN. ROCKEFELLER: Yes, that is correct. Look, that was the whole point of that investigation. It was not to try and nail Bush, nail Clinton, nail anybody else. It was to find out what happened. You remember we used to use the expression connect the dots? That's still really important to get information sharing, data mining, to get a new corporate culture or intelligence culture within the intelligence community. The problem is that they have not declassified. The CIA has not declassified. They've only declassified 25 percent of that report, so the American people have no idea what's in it. And there are, in fact, Senate rules which make it possible for us to do that. Now, we'd have to do that in a very careful basis. I don't favor us doing that. They say they're going to have it done by the end of the month, but I don't believe it.

MR. RUSSERT: Will you...

SEN. ROCKEFELLER: So the Americans have the right to know what was in that report except that which ought to remain classified.

MR. RUSSERT: Can you help accelerate the declassification if it is not jeopardizing national security?

SEN. ROCKEFELLER: We have the authority under the Senate rules to make that a public document, but we would be irresponsible not to take out--excise those parts which ought to remain classified. But the whole question of what went wrong, what should we do, what is the future of the intelligence community, how are we going to make it work better, that was the point of the 9/11 investigation. It wasn't just to pin blame, it was to say what are we going to do in the future.

MR. RUSSERT: It's a very interesting time, generally, in my experience in Washington, intelligence, foreign policy truly became a bipartisan adventure mostly unless something went wrong and then there would be a lot of finger-pointing. More and more it seems to be breaking down along party lines. The most recent example was this Washington Post editorial Friday about something that happened in Texas. State legislators fled the state to avoid a vote on redistricting, went to Oklahoma. Congressman DeLay's office has now acknowledged they called the Department of Justice and the FAA. The Washington Post wrote this editorial: "...somehow the search for the missing [Texas] Democrats came to involve the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and state records concerning the search were ordered destroyed... The public deserves convincing evidence that the document destruction was routine, not an effort to cover something up. ...The public is entitled to know how a Cabinet department formed to protect America from terrorists ended up looking for Democrats who didn't want to show up for work."

Senator Biden, what's going on?

SEN. BIDEN: Well, on the overall question of foreign policy, 100 percent of the Democrats supported the Republicans on Afghanistan, 80 percent of the Democrats supported it on Iraq. So I think that's an exaggeration to say there's a split. You look around here, these two guys are more together and we're more together, and we're Democrat-Republican, split. But on this issue of whether or not you'll use domestic tools for--that are in the realm of foreign policy-related for domestic purposes, I don't know enough to comment on that. I mean I just don't know what happened there. I'm just not qualified to comment.

MR. RUSSERT: Anyone?

SEN. HAGEL: I think they all went to Kansas. If they really wanted to get lost, that's where they'd go.


SEN. ROBERTS: Well, I shouldn't say this, but they were in Dodge City, Kansas, and we hosted them. We had a barbecue, and it was--because our barbecue is a lot better than Texas barbecue and Oklahoma barbecue, and you can see just exactly what light I think this should be put in.

MR. RUSSERT: There goes the vegetarian vote, Senator Roberts. Senator Roberts, Senator Rockefeller, Hagel, Biden. Roberts, Rockefeller, Hagel, Biden. That's a new Washington law firm, I think.

SEN. ROBERTS: That's exactly right.

MR. RUSSERT: Coming next, two former CIA directors, Admiral Stansfield Turner and William Colby speak out almost 20 years ago about Middle East terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism.


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