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DEPARTMENT OF STATE INTERNATIONAL INFORMATION
Moscow, Russia &
Dr. Kenneth Pollack
Moderator: Jody Rose Platt
February 25, 2003
MS. PLATT: Dr. Kenneth Pollack is here with us today. Dr. Pollack is at the Brookings Institute, where he's the Director of Research for the Saban Center for Middle East Policy. His areas of expertise include Iraq, Iran, the Middle East, and Gulf military issues.
Previously he did serve the administration under President Clinton at the National Security Council. He's also been with the National Defense University and the CIA, as well as Director of Research for the Council on Foreign Relations.
He has also authored many articles and books, including The New York Times bestseller, "The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq," which is the basis of his talk today.
His degrees come from Yale University as well as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and we are very grateful to have you to come in. Thank you so much.
DR. POLLACK: Thank you, Jody Rose, and thank all of you for coming out this afternoon.
I will make some brief remarks, and let me start with a caveat, which is to say that I do not speak for the Bush administration. As you heard Jody Rose describe, I am a former official of the Clinton administration, although I also did work at the CIA under the first Bush administration, but that was not in a political capacity at all.
I have my own views on this matter, and while I do agree with the Bush administration's bottom line on Iraq, I actually have some very significant differences with the Bush administration on a number of issues.
If you ask me a question on which I disagree with the Bush administration, I will try as best I can to explain to you what I think the Bush administration believes, but I'll also then explain to you why I believe differently.
I'll also say that I come to this conclusion that the United States must go to war very, very reluctantly and very grudgingly. I do not think that war is going to be the solution to all of our problems in the region, and I am quite concerned that going to war with Iraq could create additional problems.
I do recognize that there could be considerable problems created in the region if the United States does not handle a war with Iraq properly, and I am concerned about them. But as I say, I think, very grudgingly, it is going to be necessary to go to war because I don't think that we have any other good options.
Now, let me start with two main reasons why I think the United States is going to have to go to war, why it is necessary and why it would be in some senses positive to go to war.
And the first is the plight of the Iraqi people, which for so long, in the United States, and in the international community in general, has been almost beside the point.
You know, throughout the 1990s, when we talked about Iraq, so rarely did we talk about what was best for the Iraqi people, what they wanted and what could be done. And today I think that it is clear that continuing under Saddam Hussein's tyranny would be the worst of all possible worlds for the Iraqi people.
Without going into too much detail, Saddam Hussein is one of the worst tyrants of the last 100 years. The United Nations Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Iraq has repeatedly stated that the condition of human rights in Iraq, the civil liberties of the Iraqi people, the status of the Iraqi people is so grave that it can only be compared to the World War II dictatorships of Stalin and Hitler.
Saddam Hussein, since coming to power in 1979, has probably been responsible for the death of as many as one million Iraqis, many of them in the most horrific circumstances imaginable -- as a result of chemical warfare or the most inhumane forms of torture that the world has seen over the last 100 years.
In addition, all of the evidence that we have, all of the information that is coming out of Iraq, from people who are going to Iraq and from Iraqis who are fleeing the country, is that the Iraqi people themselves are so desperate to be rid of Saddam Hussein's tyranny that while they are quite concerned about what a war would entail, they are quite nervous about the potential risks of a war, they prefer war, and they would welcome a U.S.-led war to liberate Iraq over living under Saddam Hussein's tyranny for many more years.
And I think that is an important reason, something that we need to take into account, something that we've neglected for too long, I think, in the world.
For me, the second reason is the threat of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and our inability to deal with it in any other manner. And here I think it's important to go back to 1991 and remember the history of what happened.
In 1991, a remarkable thing happened, unique in history. The entire international community, 180 nations, expressing itself through the vehicle of the Security Council, decided, for the first time ever, that a particular ruler was so dangerous that he could not be allowed to possess an entire range of weapons.
This, of course, was Saddam Hussein.
We've never seen this before. There are plenty of arms control agreements out there, but they were all voluntary. We have never seen the United Nations all come together and say, this man, this ruler is so dangerous that he simply cannot be allowed to possess this entire range of weapons.
And so it was that the United Nations -- not the United States, the United Nations, put in place the policy of containment, which was designed to prevent Saddam from reconstituting his weapons of mass destruction.
The problem that we had with containment was that while it worked for a brief period of time, it began to come apart fairly quickly after that, and by the mid-1990s we realized that containment was in a tremendous amount of trouble. And it was in a tremendous amount of trouble for a whole variety of reasons, but I will simply mention the two most important of them.
And those are, first, that the Iraqis became so good at hiding their weapons of mass destruction that neither we, in the United States, nor any of the other western intelligence services, nor the inspectors themselves, could find any of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
And it wasn't that we didn't know that the Iraqis had them. We knew the Iraqis had them. We had mountains of evidence that the Iraqis had them. And, in fact, there was no country in the Security Council who doesn't believe that Iraq still has weapons of mass destruction.
In fact, I would commend you to go back and look very carefully at the statements of Mr. Ivanov and Mr. de Villepin and all of the statements by Russia and China and France over the last 10 or 12 years, and particularly over the last few months. They have never suggested that the Iraqis do not have weapons of mass destruction.
In fact, every conversation I have ever had with a French or Russian or Chinese or German official, for that matter, they all believe that the Iraqis do have weapons of mass destruction.
The only area of disagreement with them, ever, is over how best to handle the issue, how best to handle the problem, what to do about it. But there's never been any dispute over that.
The second problem that we ran into was that the rest of the world simply stopped caring about the problem of Iraq, and simply stopped caring about trying to make containment work. And that is why, throughout the 1990s, we did get on any number of occasions "smoking gun" evidence, irrefutable evidence that the Iraqis were continuing to cheat. And yet the Security Council did nothing whenever we did so.
People say now what we need is a defector to come out, someone to come out of Iraq who will tell us what the Iraqis are doing. Well, we've had tons of defectors over the years.
In 1995, we got Hussein Kamel Omajit (phonetic), Saddam Hussein's son-in-law, the second most powerful man in Iraq, the head of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program, the "mother of all defectors." He came out of Iraq, he fled to Jordan, and he told us all about the extent of Iraq's cheating.
You may remember that in 1994, before Hussein Kamel came out, the inspectors had been duped into believing that the Iraqis were disarmed. Rolf Ekeus and UNSCOM wanted to transition from aggressive inspections to passive monitoring, because they thought they had gotten all of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
And it was only when Hussein Kamel came out, and also, to a certain extent, Wafik Al Samauri and Khadir Hamza and a number of other important defectors, but, most important, Hussein Kamel himself, who revealed the extent of Iraq's deception, who said Iraq has a massive biological warfare agent program that they have not admitted to you. They have a massive nuclear weapons program that you have not yet found.
And it was Hussein Kamel's defection that convinced Rolf Ekeus to never again trust the Iraqi regime, because he then knew how they had been duplicitous.
But, of course, when Hussein Kamel came out, the Security Council did nothing. No new resolutions were passed, no new conditions imposed on Iraq. Iraq was not punished in any way, shape, or form. There was no payment for this cheating.
And afterwards we saw the same thing again and again and again.
In 1995, the U.N. inspectors found Russian ballistic missile gyroscopes hidden at the bottom of the Tigris River, gyroscopes that the Iraqis had imported after the Gulf War was over and had hidden, and it was a U.S. intelligence tip that told the inspectors go look for them. And they dredged the river, and they found the gyroscopes, and they brought the gyroscopes to the Security Council, and the Security Council again did nothing.
And in 1997, the inspectors found traces of VX nerve gas on Iraqi scud missile warheads. Now, the Iraqis have claimed that they have never done anything with VX. Initially they claimed they had never even experimented with VX, but then they claimed they never produced it, they never weaponized it, they never loaded it into missile warheads.
And the inspectors found proof that they had done all of these things, and they brought it to the Security Council, and, again, the Security Council did nothing.
And this was the problem that we ran into all through the 1990s, was that, first, the Iraqis were getting too good at hiding what they had, and, second, even when we did catch them "red-handed," the rest of the world simply didn't care, and there was nothing that the U.N. was willing to do about it.
And you'll remember that is why, in 1998, it was the Clinton administration that first embraced the policy of regime change in Iraq. It was the Clinton administration that said, if we can't make containment work -- and it is clear that none of the other countries of the world, with the possible exception of the British and the Japanese and just a few other countries, are willing to do anything to make containment work -- we must move to regime change.
But the problem that the Clinton administration had in 1998 was that there was no American anywhere who was willing to countenance a full-scale war against Saddam Hussein.
And, of course, this was deeply problematic for us, and so many of our friends throughout the Arab world came to us and said, "Look, if you're willing to go to war with Saddam, if you're willing to go the ‘full nine yards' and mount a full-scale invasion, we will be with you, because we know that Saddam Hussein is a terrible threat to us, and we know that he is a tragedy for his own people.
"But if you're not willing to invade, we're not willing to fight some low-level, meaningless war. We're not willing to just mount constant air strikes against Iraq, because that will help no one. It will not help us remove the threat, and it will not help the Iraqi people in removing Saddam Hussein's tyranny."
And so, instead, the United States looked for other ways to deal with Saddam Hussein -- covert action, dealing with the Iraqi opposition, propaganda, diplomatic pressure, all of the things that you saw all through the 1990s, and they all failed.
And they all failed, because there's one thing in this world that Saddam Hussein is good at, and that is keeping himself alive and in power in Baghdad.
And, of course, we're not the only ones who have tried to remove Saddam Hussein from power and failed. The Syrians, the Israelis, the Iranians, other Arab states have all tried to get rid of Saddam Hussein at different points in time, and they have all failed, too.
And so it is for these reasons that I come to the very reluctant conclusion that I think a war is justified and is necessary -- because we have come to the end of our tether, because we have tried every other possible alternative, and none of them have worked.
Containment has not worked, inspections have not worked, diplomatic pressure has not worked, limited military operations against Iraq have not worked, covert action has not worked, nothing has worked.
The only solution that is left out there is a full-scale war. And if we do not go to war, I think the only the alternative is that we'll find ourselves in a very few years with Saddam Hussein once again in full possession of the full range of weapons of mass destruction, and, worst of all, at some point he will acquire a nuclear weapon.
All of the Western intelligence agencies are now agreed that it is simply a matter of time before Saddam acquires a nuclear weapon, and most of the estimates are somewhere between three and six years.
And knowing what we know about Saddam Hussein, about his willingness to slaughter his own people, slaughter other people, his willingness to use force, his incredible aggressiveness, and his gambling nature, and also what we know about why he wants nuclear weapons -- and this is a very important point.
He wants nuclear weapons, as we understand it -- and he's told many of his closest associates this -- because he believes that once he has acquired nuclear weapons, it is the United States that will be deterred. He believes that once he's acquired nuclear weapons, the United States will not dare to try to stop him should he attack any of the countries of the region or blackmail them or threaten them in any way, shape, or form.
And that is simply a world that none of us can afford to live in. That is a recipe, not just for instability in the region, but for outright catastrophe.
MS. PLATT: Thank you very much, Dr. Pollack, for your opening remarks. As I said, we will take our first question from Moscow. Again, please identify yourself, sir.
A PARTICIPANT: I'm (inaudible) and I work for (inaudible), and my question is -- first question is, you gave very wise and very convincing evidence about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction.
If this evidence is as convincing as you put it, then why, in your estimation, do France, Germany, Russia continue to say that the inspectors haven't found any traces of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?
DR. POLLACK: It's a good question, and I will give the good reason, and then I'll also give what I think may be a more realistic reason.
I think the good reason is -- Your word -- what you said is very important. What the Russians and French and Chinese are saying is, the inspectors have not found any weapons of mass destruction. They're not saying they're not there.
And, in fact, if you go back and look at all the statements by Mr. de Villepin, by Mr. Lavrov, by all of the permanent representatives, there is none of them -- none of them have ever suggested that the Iraqis don't have weapons of mass destruction.
In fact, the French and Russian statements at the time of the passage of Resolution 1441 were indicating very strongly that they do believe that the Iraqis possess weapons of mass destruction.
And as I said before, in my conversations with French and Russian and Chinese and, for that matter, German officials, I have never heard one of them suggest that the Iraqis don't have weapons of mass destruction.
In fact, I've consistently heard them admit that the Iraqis clearly do have weapons of mass destruction. The only difference has been over how best to handle Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.
Now, here let me talk a little bit about what I think may be going on realistically. Because I think it's important to remember the change in the French, Russian, and Chinese position from the 1990s to today.
In the 1990s we had the same problem. The French, the Russians, and the Chinese agreed with us that the Iraqis did have the weapons, but, again, they disagreed with us over the best course of action. And at that point in time it was the United States that was arguing for very robust containment.
It was the United States that was saying, we've got to give the inspectors a chance, we've got to find ways to make it better for them to do their jobs. We've got to be aggressive with the Iraqis and put pressure on them to comply with the inspections.
And all through the 1990s, it was the French and the Russians and the Chinese who were arguing against that position, the very position which they are now espousing. And their argument was, look, the Iraqis are never going to give this stuff up unless we buy them off, unless we appease them, is effectively what they were saying.
What they wanted to do was to make concessions to Saddam Hussein. They wanted to give one carrot after another to the Iraqis. And all throughout that period of time, we mostly fought it.
But you'll remember that in December of 1999, we did pass Resolution 1284, and Resolution 1284 included enormous carrots for the Iraqis. We finally gave in to the French and the Russians, and we said, "All right. We will try it your way. We will try making concessions to the Iraqis."
And I'll tell you, I personally hated Resolution 1284. I didn't think it was a good idea, because I didn't think it would ever get Saddam Hussein to do anything differently. But, nevertheless, it was the decision of my government that we will try the French and Russian approach, and we made a massive concession to Iraq.
We put down that if the Iraqis simply cooperated with the inspections -- not complied, not gave up all their weapons of mass destruction, all they had to do was cooperate with the inspectors -- if they did that, we would suspend all of the economic sanctions.
And, by the way, everyone knew that suspension of the economic sanctions meant lifting all of the economic sanctions, which is what Saddam had been asking for for so many years. We said, "Fine. You want, you get it. All you have to do is cooperate."
And not only did the Iraqis not do it, but the French and the Russians, at the last minute, jumped ship, and instead of voting for it, they simply abstained.
And so now the idea that the French and Russians have suddenly discovered that, yes, robust containment, aggressive containment, helping the inspectors is the right way to go, suggests to me that there are other things at work here.
And for my own part, I think that part of it is certainly commercial interests. I think that the French and the Russians have been very well rewarded by the Iraqis over the years. The Iraqis have given them tremendous amounts of money in the form of "oil for food" contracts, and even illicit contracts under the table.
I think they know that they are mostly likely to get the best treatment from Saddam Hussein's regime than from any potential successor regime, which is probably going to try as hard as it can to make nice with the Americans, and not necessarily with Saddam's old friends.
But, to some extent, I also think that there is a certain degree of anti-Americanism or, to put it a different way, anti-Bushism in the French and the Russian positions.
And here I fault the Bush administration. While I agree with them on their bottom line, I think that the Bush administration, in selling their policy on Iraq and explaining to people why a war with Saddam Hussein is important, have not done a very good job. And I think that many of the actions of the Bush administration -- or put it a different way. Much of the rhetoric of the Bush administration has made many countries, France and Russia, in particular, deeply concerned.
And, in fact, what I hear oftentimes from French and Russian and other European officials is, they don't oppose a war against Iraq, because they know Saddam Hussein is pure evil, and they know that he is cheating, and they know that the world would be a much better place without him, but they oppose George Bush, and they oppose the Bush administration because they don't like the Bush administration's policies. And that is why they're opposing the United States on the question of Iraq.
Those are only my personal opinions.
MS. PLATT: Thank you very much. We turn now to Abu Dhabi for the first question. Please go ahead.
A PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible) from Al-Itihad newspaper in Abu Dhabi. Mr. Pollock, it appears the Bush Administration is at a point of no return regarding a decision to invade Iraq. We would like you to shed light on what's the future of Iraq? How do you see? And what about Secretary Powell's statement that the United States will be engaged in re-designing the whole region after Saddam?
DR. POLLACK: This is a very important question, and I'll tell you that when I speak to friends from the region, from the Middle East, when I was out there -- I'm often out there in the region -- what I consistently hear is exactly that question come back to me from so many Arabs.
It's we know Saddam is evil, we know the Iraqi people would be better off without him. But we are deeply concerned about what the United States plans to do in Iraq afterwards.
I think that the Bush administration has done something in terms of talking about what it intends for Iraq, but I think they need to do much more. I think that people don't give them enough credit for what they had said about the future of Iraq, but I also do agree that they could say much more.
All I can tell you is what I would envision, my ideas. Because here, as I said, I don't think the Bush administration has really spelled out its own ideas.
For me, I think that Iraq must be rebuilt by the international community, not the United States. The United States has to be a major part of it. We have to play a huge role in providing security for Iraq and providing resources for the reconstruction of Iraq, but it has to be led by the United Nations.
Because I know that so many Iraqis and so many Arabs are very concerned that the United States is simply intending to set up a new empire, that we are planning to take over Iraq, and take over its oil wealth and use it for ourselves.
And I think that the only way that we will be able to reassure other people that we are not intending to do that is by allowing the United Nations to lead the effort overall.
And there are all kinds of different ways that you could set things up, with the United States in charge, and the U.S. playing a major role within that U.N. system, but I think the U.N. has to be in charge.
As for Iraq itself, I think that Iraq needs a free market economy, and it needs a stable and pluralist form of government. But I would never try to suggest that I know what the best government for Iraq should look like.
And I would also say that I think it would be a terrible mistake for the United States to tell the Iraqi people what the best form of government for them is.
I think what the United States has to do is, working with the United Nations, we have to create a process, a process by which the Iraqi people can determine for themselves what the new form of their government should be.
And I think that is what is critical. It is why I get so concerned when you hear Iraqi exiles talk about how the United States should appoint a government in exile. There are many people among the Iraqi exiles who are perfectly wonderful and smart and good-natured people. But I don't know for a fact, me, as an American, that those are the people who the Iraqi people would choose to be in charge, or that they would choose these people to design their own government.
So I think what is critical, as I said, is that you create a process where the United Nations comes in and helps the Iraqi people to decide for themselves what the form of their future government should be.
MS. PLATT: Thank you very much. We will turn back to Moscow now for your question.
A PARTICIPANT: (Inaudible.) (Inaudible) this question that you already answered in response to one of your remarks that the Iraqi people are so desperate to get rid of the present regime.
What do you base your conclusions on and -- well, as far as I know, there has been no psychological researches concerning the Iraqi sentiment and officially it's 99.99 and so on supporting Saddam Hussein and all that.
Are you saying that anybody comes and not appointing, but just helping Iraqi people (inaudible)?
DR. POLLACK: Also good questions. First, with regard to the basis of the information, I will caveat that I made, which is, these are not scientific surveys. You know, we've got to take all of these with grains of salt.
What I said was simply all of the evidence we have -- which is a true statement -- all of the evidence we have points in this one direction. And I can give you some pieces of information.
There is the International Crisis Group. The International Crisis Group is an international organization which writes on global affairs and which wildly opposes the war. Their head, Gareth Evans, writes another op-ed every day talking about how awful the war with Iraq would be.
The International Crisis Group, though, also periodically sends people into Iraq. They've been doing this for years now, sending people into Iraq and conducting informal surveys of Iraqi public opinion. And while they're not scientific, we have found them to be very accurate over the years. And the most recent one which they conducted in December, just two months ago, the report was incredible.
They said, "We don't favor the war, but we have to admit that what we found in Iraq was that the Iraqis do." And they said there were three conclusions, which I found really remarkable. They said there were three incredible things that they found.
One, they never found Iraqis more willing to say what they really believed. Two, they found that Iraqis were unanimous in saying that their own political situation was so terrible that they would actually prefer a war to the continuation of Saddam Hussein's regime.
And, third, and, for me, the most remarkable conclusion of all, was that they said they found unanimously that the Iraqi people were saying that they recognized it would be necessary to have a long-term occupation -- their word, not mine -- occupation of Iraq to build a stable and prosperous new Iraqi society, because Saddam Hussein had so horribly traumatized Iraqi society that it would take years to build a new government there.
That's one piece of evidence.
There's other evidence along the lines of journalists. In fact, just last week The New York Times had another piece by another journalist, this is when he was sitting in Jordan. He went out to the eastern border of Jordan and was talking to all of the Iraqi refugees coming across the border from Iraq. He was --
MS. PLATT: Oh, we lost Abu Dhabi.
DR. POLLACK: He was helping all of the Iraqi refugees coming across the Jordanian border, and what they were saying to him, again, unanimously, was they are desperate to be rid of Saddam Hussein, and they welcomed a U.S. war.
And they were concerned. None of these people are saying they think a war is going to be quick and easy and painless, and no one will die. They were all saying, "We are nervous that there will be Republican Guards who will fight hard for Saddam, and we are nervous that people will die."
But what they were saying is, our lives have become so miserable that we would prefer the risks and the costs of a potential war to simply living under Saddam Hussein's tyranny for another 10 or 20 years.
And I find all of this absolutely remarkable.
MS. PLATT: We will move to United Arab Emirates for your next question, please.
A PARTICIPANT: Hello. My name is Dr. (inaudible) Tamimi. I have a degree in electrical engineering and I am Iraqi. I am not politician; I am just a normal Iraqi.
As an Iraqi, I have two questions. At the end of the second Gulf War in 1991, President Bush asked the Iraqis to raise their weapons to rid themselves of Saddam. And after that, we had a very bad experience, because the Iraqi army hit the civilian people while American troops were there.
It was a very bad experience, and we hope that in any future war in Iraq, the Iraqi people understand from the first moment that you will not let them starve, as you were saying, which is really very important to know as Iraqi.
Secondly, We have heard of some talks between America and Turkey last week. We heard that there were some promises from the United States to Turkey that said that Turkish army will stay in north of Iraq, not just during the war, but maybe permanently.
I hope that the United States-- as a great power and a great democracy, which represents maybe the only chance to get rid of Saddam Hussein—will do its job well and not repeat some bad experience. Thank you very much.
DR. POLLACK: Thank you so much for your comments, and I could not agree with them more. I think it was a disgrace, what the United States did at the end of the second Gulf War.
I was at C.I.A. at the time. I was one of the Iran-Iraq military analysts. And I can tell you, in particular, some of the most -- some of the worst things that I ever saw when I was at C.I.A. were the satellite images that we took of Karbala and Najaf after the Republican Guard and the Special Republican Guard drove back in and destroyed the Shi'ites who had risen up against Saddam and all the freedom fights who had risen up on George Bush's plea.
And I'll never forget the images from the satellite imagery of the bodies that we saw strewn about, the mosques, the shrines of Hussein and Ali in those satellite imagery of the bodies that we saw strewn about the mosques, the shrines of Hussein and Ali – and we can never let that happen again.
I tell you, I am convinced that the Bush administration is determined not to make the same mistake. They will not stop at Basra and Nasiriyah, but they will go all the way and get rid of this odious regime forever.
As far as Turkey is concerned, I agree with you. I will give the Bush administration credit. I think the administration has done a good job with the Turks, of saying to the Turks, "We understand what your concerns are, about Kurdish independence. If you leave it to us, if you let us work with the Kurds, we will get you a much better outcome than you will get yourselves." I think it would be a tragedy if they move beyond the immediate enclave. What I think the Turks are saying is they are afraid of refugees pouring into southeastern Turkey.
And that is a fair point on the Turk's behalf. What the Turks are saying is that they're afraid of refugees pouring into southeastern Turkey. And I think it's one thing to say that's fine if you'd like to set up camps along the Turkish boarder to handle Iraqi refugees so that you can feed them, so that you can provide for them on the Iraqi side of the border. That, I think, is acceptable.
What I think would be unacceptable would be for the Turkish army to drive on Mosul, to drive on Kirkuk, to try to create facts on the ground and to try to impose their own will on northern Iraq.
That I would find absolutely unacceptable. And I know that -- again, here I am in agreement with the Bush administration. I give them credit. I think they are working hard to try to keep the Kurds from driving too far into north Iraq. Keep them just at the very border; and, hopefully, to say to them, once the invasion is over, all right, "We, the United States, working with the new Iraqi government, we have the situation under control and now Turkish troops can pull back out of Iraq and go back into Turkey, secure that the new Iraqi government and the United States has the situation under full control."
I think that that is also a critical outcome. And I'm very concerned that this be a part of U.S. policy, because, of course, as you were suggesting, and as I believe too, winning a war against Iraq is not just about removing Saddam Hussein -- it is about creating a stable, and prosperous, and whole Iraq afterwards.
MS. PLATT: Thank you very much. We'll return now back to Moscow for a question. Go ahead, sir.
NUCLEAR WEAPONS AND NORTH KOREA
PARTICIPANT: My question will be concerning your remark in your opening statement that Saddam Hussein wants nuclear weapons because, in that case, that will be the United States that will be the deterrent, as you said, if I quoted correctly. Well, turning a little bit outside Iraq, isn't the case with North Korea that you turned your attention to Iraq and you don't notice the nuclear programs that go on in North Korea? And maybe it is already the process of deterrence (inaudible).
DR. POLLACK: I'm really glad that you asked it. You're absolutely right. There are -- I mean, there are three important issues with North Korea, three important differences between U.S. policies toward Iraq, or what U.S. policy toward Iraq should be, and what U.S. policy toward North Korea should be.
The first problem is a simple and obvious one: North Korea has nuclear weapons. The U.S. intelligence community believes that North Korea has at least one, and probably several, nuclear weapons.
And what that means is we do not have a military option against North Korea. It's simply unthinkable. We are not going to invade North Korea and risk the obliteration of Seoul or Tokyo. We're just not going to.
In fact, one of the reasons to go to war with Iraq sooner, rather than later, is so that we never find ourselves in that position where Saddam Hussein has nuclear weapons and we have to risk the obliteration of Riyadh, or Kuwait, and the Saudi oil fields, or Amman, or any of the other capitals of the region that we would worry so much about. Or, for that matter, New York. If the Iraqi's decided to put a nuclear weapon on a freighter, they could just drive it into New York Harbor and have the same effect there.
The second important difference between Iraq and North Korea is that North Korea is surrounded by very powerful countries that are fully capable of deterring North Korea all by themselves. China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea all have extremely formidable militaries. All of them are fully capability of deterring North Korea all by themselves.
In the case of Iraq, Iraq is surrounded by mostly weaker nations. Only Turkey has the military power to effectively defeat Iraqi armed forces -- certainly, after they begin to recover and now that the sanctions are being lifted already. Iran, maybe on a good day, might be able to defeat the Iraqi armed forces, but Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria -- they cannot do so.
But the final and, I think, the most important point, the most important difference between Iraq and North Korea, lies in this realm of intentions. What is so striking to me about North Korea, and I am not a North Korea expert -- but what all of the Korea experts say -- in the United States, in the region, everywhere -- what all the Korea experts agree on is North Koreans want nuclear weapons for defense purposes.
They want nuclear weapons to deter an attack on North Korea by China, by Russia, by the United States. And the worst that anyone can suggest that the North Koreans might do with nuclear weapons is that once they've got enough of them, they might sell them to another country.
Who's on the top of that list but Iraq? In the case of Iraq, what we know about Saddam Hussein's thinking is fundamentally different. In fact, it is unique. As I think I said earlier, there is no other country -- no other ruler that we have ever encountered in the world -- that thinks about nuclear weapons the way that Saddam Hussein does.
Saddam Hussein sees nuclear weapons, as best we understand it, as offensive weapons, as weapons that will enable aggression; because he believes that once he has them, we, the United States, will be so terrified of getting into any kind of a nuclear exchange with him that we would not dare to intervene if he attacked Kuwait again, if he attacked Saudi Arabia again, if he attacked Jordan, or Syria, or any of these other countries. For that matter, even if he attacked Turkey, that the Turks themselves might be deterrent for fear of having a nuclear weapon dropped on Ankara.
You know, Saddam -- actually, let me start with his brother. Barzan Tikriti, Saddam's half brother, who was then the head of the Iraqi intelligence service, once very famously said that Saddam Hussein wants nuclear weapons because he wants a strong hand in redrawing the map of the Middle East.
Saddam himself has apparently told any number of his senior-level officials, after the Gulf War, that he believes that his biggest mistake during the Gulf War, the second Gulf War, was not that he should never have invaded Kuwait, but that he should have waited another year or two until after he had a nuclear weapon -- because once he had a nuclear weapon, the United States wouldn't have dared to attack him.
And, as I said, what we have heard from other sources is that Saddam believes once he has a nuclear weapon, he can once again do whatever he wants to in the region. He can attack whomever he wants, blackmail whomever he wants, and threaten whomever he wants.
This is unique. We've never seen another leader like this.
You know, all through the cold war we Americans used to worry that Russian leaders thought this way. Our greatest nightmare was that the Russians would believe that once they had achieved strategic parity with the United States, that they would then be free to attack whoever they wanted to in Europe.
And of course, what we found out after the cold war was that the Russian leadership never believed that. Not even Khrushchev, perhaps the most adventurous of all the Russian leaders -- never believed that, because the Russian leadership was simply too realistic and too conservative.
Saddam Hussein is not realistic; he is not conservative. He is a wild-eyed, reckless gambler who has a bizarre and incredibly dangerous set of ideas about nuclear weapons. And I think that, at the end of the day, is the most important difference between Iraq and North Korea -- why we have to handle Iraq differently than we do North Korea.
MS. PLATT: Thank you. We will take our last question of the day from Abu Dhabi.
A PARTICIPANT: My name is Dr. Nizam (phonetic). I'm a physician; I'm a surgeon working in Abu Dhabi. I'm an Iraqi citizen. First of all, really, I want to thank Dr. Pollack for what he mentioned about Iraq. I want to say that he is 100 percent right goal what he mentioned about Iraq.
I want to tell my friends in Moscow, 99 percent -- I repeat, 99 percent of Iraqi people are praying to God that Bush not change his mind about liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein.
Every single Iraqi, every -- I repeat -- every single Iraqi is waiting. Even they are praying. And I want to mention that story that recently I heard it from a friend of mine.
He came from the Haj [Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca] that concluded in Saudi Arabia just a few days back. They were in the near the Kabba [holy site in Mecca], where an old lady, an Iraqi, was praying to God that Saddam be gone.
The people around her asked her, "Why you are doing this? Why you are praying thus? In shallah, there will be no war" She immediately said, "No, please, no. We want Bush to come and liberate us."
So I want to tell my friends in Russia that please tell your administration not to stop the war, please; not to stop the war. This is the only hope for us to get rid of Saddam Hussein -- otherwise, we cannot to live any more, there's no more time for us. Please tell your administration about that.
MS. PLATT: Thank you, sir. Do you still have a question that you want to ask?
A PARTICIPANT: Dr. Kenneth did not finish my first question about Powell's statement on bringing democracy to the region.
DEMOCRACY AND THE MIDDLE EAST
DR. POLLACK: I'm so sorry about that. You're right, I did forget to answer that question. I think that there are many different ideas in the United States about the region and what would be best for the region. And I think you're hearing many different Americans suggesting different ideas.
I think that most Americans believe -- and I would say I fall into this category -- that there needs to be political and economic change in the Middle East.
But I, for one, don't know exactly what that change needs to look like. When I talk to my friends in the Arab world, I constantly hear things along the lines of, "You know, we're not happy with our situation; we're deeply unhappy with the situation for the region; we feel like our economies are stagnating; we're falling behind the rest of the world; we look at East Asia, we look at Latin America, we see them making all kinds of economic progress; we're not in the same league."
My friends from Egypt, in particular, who complain constantly about the tremendous amount of unemployment -- extremely well-educated Egyptians who talk about how their sons and daughters are graduating from colleges, good colleges -- smart kids -- but they can't find jobs in Egypt because the economy is not dynamic and because they feel like the economic and the political system there has broken down.
And I think that what that says to me, and what it says to all Americans, is we need to find ways to help bring change to the Middle East. What you're hearing in the United States is a great deal of differences over what that change should look like and how much it should be the United States doing the leading.
There are certainly people in the United States who say, "We know the right answer and we should simply go to the Middle East and impose it." We go and we say, "You must do this; you must do that; because we have the right system of government." And these people, they believe that's the right way to do thing.
As you probably hear in my voice, I don't think that that's necessarily the right way to do things. I think that it is going to be important to help the Middle East to change, to help the Arab world to change, but it's a change that it needs to make itself.
I don't -- this is my lesson from East Asia. When I look at East Asia, I remember that 30 or 40 years ago East Asia was ruled by nothing but very nasty dictators and East Asia was a backwater -- economically, politically, in every way, shape or form.
Over time, East Asia has changed dramatically; and now most of East Asia is democratic; and most of East Asia has very dynamic economies. But East Asia doesn't look like Europe.
The democracies and the economies of East Asia look very different from the democracies and the economies of Europe. And what that says to me is that the Middle East too is probably going to need to go through some process of political and economic change, but it shouldn't necessarily look like Europe, or like the United States, or even like East Asia, for that matter.
It's going to have to be a process of change by which Arabs themselves determine what it is that they want from the modern world, what they want a modern Arab state to look like. And I will say that I think it is very important for the United States to play a role in that, to help.
And here I think that what Collin Powell was saying was that this is what the United States needs to do. We need to help.
In fact, I think that what that Collin Powell was saying was something that many Americans -- at least in Washington -- have been saying for some years now, which is: We made a big mistake. All through the 1970s and '80s and '90s, the United States did not do enough to press for political and economic reform in the Middle East.
We were content to simply say to all of the leaders of the region, "Whatever you want to do in your own country is fine; we don't care; we don't really care about your people, as long as you deliver for us on foreign policy." And I think we're now recognizing that was a mistake. It was not good for the Arabs; it was not good for the Americans. And the result has not been a positive one. But I think that it would also be terrible for the Untied States to go to the Arab world and say: "We know what's best. Here's what it is."
It has to be a cooperative effort where we go to Arabs and we say, "Tell us how you would like to move; tell us in what direction you'd like to take things; and tell us how we can help you."
And for me, that is the right way that this should work. It should be a partnership. And, in fact, one of the things that's out there -- that's so promising to me are some of the ideas being articulated by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.
The Crown Prince is talking about how he wants to bring change to Saudi Arabia; how he wants to change the education system and the legal system; how he wants to bring greater participation for the Saudi people in their own government and make the Saudi government more responsive to its people.
And I think that is all wonderful. And I think what the U.S. Government should be doing is go to Crown Prince Abdullah and say, "Crown Prince Abdullah, what you are proposing sounds wonderful to us; tell us how owe help you."
MS. PLATT: Thank you very much. I'd like to thank you in Moscow, as well as you in Abu Dhabi, for taking the time this afternoon to come in to the embassies and participate. I'd particularly like to thank you, Dr. Pollack, for coming here this morning. I wish you a good evening.
DR. POLLACK: Thank you all very much.
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