This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, June 11, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.
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SEN. PAT ROBERTS, R-KAN., SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE CHAIR: If there is a problem in regards to the Defense Department and the intelligence community, why, rest assured we’ll get to the bottom of it.
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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: And my next guest will make sure they get to the bottom of it. Senator John McCain was a staunch supporter of the war effort and the war results, but he wants to get to the bottom of the war reasons, namely those weapons of mass destruction (search).
Senator McCain joins me now from Capitol Hill to talk about it.
CAVUTO: Senator, always a pleasure. Thanks for coming.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, R-ARIZ.: Thanks, Neil.
CAVUTO: Why do you want hearings?
MCCAIN: Well, first of all, I think you might have misunderstood my position a little bit. I have always been in favor of hearings post- conflict as we did after the Gulf War, after Bosnia, after Kosovo where we have congressional oversight hearings, particularly in the Senate Armed Services Committee of which I am a member.
And I believe we’re going to have General Franks as the first witness, and I’d like to hear about the tragedy of the friendly fire accidents, how our military functioned so effectively, the strategy and tactics employed, and what their future needs are. That’s the appropriate role of Congress. Weapons of mass destruction will be part of that.
CAVUTO: Senator, after a conflict means after the conflict, and many argue the conflict isn’t over.
MCCAIN: Well, then why was there a banner that said mission accomplished on the aircraft carrier?
Look, I have said a long time that reconstruction of Iraq would be a long, long, difficult process, but the major conflict is over, the regime change has been accomplished.
In two weeks, General Franks is going to come before the Senate Armed Services Committee, and we’re going to have his overall assessment of the conflict. I think that’s entirely appropriate because we’ll be taking up the needs of the Defense Department and the men and women in the military on the Armed Services Committee.
But I’m looking for an overall review of the conflict, what we did right, what we did wrong, and what the needs are, including the issue of weapons of mass destruction. I remain confident that we will find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
CAVUTO: All right. I guess, to pursue the point one last time, Senator, there are men and women still serving there. Do you think any of these ongoing investigations could undermine what they’re still doing over there?
MCCAIN: Well, I hope not. There are still men and women serving in Bosnia and Kosovo, as we speak, that are U.S. military people. What I’m hoping is that we can learn the lessons and put those lessons into effect as quickly as possible. As I say, General Franks is probably the most qualified person, and he would be our first witness.
But to somehow think that the president deceived the American people on this issue, I have no evidence of that, and I do not believe it.
CAVUTO: All right. Now, as you know, sir, Senator Pat Roberts, who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, and Senator John Warner, who chairs the Armed Services Committee, Porter Goss, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee -- none of these guys are keen on starting hearings as quickly as you seem to be. Is there a division?
MCCAIN: I have no idea what you mean. I’ve had many conversations with Pat Roberts and worth Senator Warner in as short a time as an hour ago, and that’s how I know we’re going to have a hearing in two weeks, with General Franks being the witness. So I don’t have a clue as to what you would be thinking.
CAVUTO: All right. Well, look, here’s what I’m thinking. Porter Goss had been saying that he favored a CIA review first off, and others in your own party, Senator, have said maybe let’s examine it through the CIA or other investigative agencies and then let the Senate and/or House tackle this. What do you say?
MCCAIN: Well, that would be fine with me, but I don’t get it. After the Persian Gulf War, we didn’t wait for a CIA investigation before we started hearings about how the conflict went. I remember General Schwarzkopf testifying before the Armed Services Committee. It was a tremendous experience. I look forward to General Franks testifying and others.
You know, I think, Neil, you’re manufacturing something here that just isn’t the case.
CAVUTO: All right. I might be. I just want to talk about what some in your own party have said, Senator, that maybe...
MCCAIN: My own party is saying that we ought to have hearings, and that’s why Senator Warner is scheduling hearings.
CAVUTO: All right. So you don’t argue that these hearings are not a wise idea now. You just think they’re a good idea, and whether you’re for them earlier or later, it doesn’t matter?
MCCAIN: I think I’m for them at the same time as the schedule set by the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which I believe that the secretary of defense and the president would probably be in agreement with, that we have an orderly process of hearings, that we learn the lessons of this conflict.
And, look, some of it isn’t going to be happy. Unfortunately, we lost some lives due to friendly fire, and that’s a tragedy, but there’s a lot of other...
CAVUTO: How do you know, Senator, they’ll be orderly and not just a political trump show to embarrass the president or our ongoing effort there?
MCCAIN: Well, I would imagine Senator Warner will not allow that to happen. I also hope that my Democrat colleagues would not allow such a thing to happen.
Neil, you’ve got to understand something here. We have a responsibility to our taxpayers, to the men and women in the military. The Congress has a responsibility.
An orderly hearing about how the war was conducted -- and it is -- the regime change has been accomplished -- is entirely appropriate in an orderly process, and that is what we normally do post-conflict scenarios.
CAVUTO: Well, could I ask you this, Senator? If we don’t find evidence of these weapons of mass destruction and it turns out to be an intelligence failure, what should the president do about that?
MCCAIN: I am confident we will find those weapons because, look, he had them in the ‘80s, when he used it against his own people and others, he had them in ‘91 after the Gulf War, he had them in ‘98 -- that was President Clinton’s opinion as well as the inspectors’ opinion. I am confident that we will find those weapons.
CAVUTO: All right. Senator, always a pleasure.
MCCAIN: Thank you, Neil.
CAVUTO: Thanks so much for joining us.
Senator John McCain, who chairs the Commerce Committee.