Transcript: Lawrence Eagleburger on FNS

Published August 19, 2002

| FoxNews.com

TONY SNOW: Joining us from Charlottesville, Va., is Lawrence Eagleburger, secretary of state in the first Bush administration. Also here with questions, Brit Hume, Washington managing editor of Fox News.

Secretary Eagleburger, let me begin with a simple question. Is regime change a legitimate aim of American policy when it comes to Saddam Hussein and Iraq?

EAGLEBURGER: Yes, I guess the answer is yes, but under certain circumstances. I don't think it's legitimate policy at this stage, unless the president can demonstrate to all of us that Saddam has his finger on a nuclear, biological or chemical trigger and he's about to use it.

In other words, to me, the question has to be, what is his -- where does he stand now on the use of weapons of mass destruction? Does he have them? And if so, is he likely to begin to use them soon?

And if the intelligence demonstrates that and the president gets up and tells us all that that is what the intelligence shows us, I'll believe him. He's the president of the United States; he isn't going to lie to us, I'm convinced of that. But I need to know -- we all need to know, I think -- what the purpose is, why is it that we have to do it now.

I believe that sooner or later we're going to have to deal with Saddam Hussein, because of his general reputation, because of what I'm convinced he's done with regard to terrorism and the support thereof. But I'm not at all sure I believe that it has to be right now.

HUME: Well, Mr. Secretary, if you believe that eventually we're going to have to deal with him, and you believe that he is an evil man intent on harm to his neighbors and that he has had weapons of mass destruction in the past and has been trying now, without any inspectors for four years, to get them, you seem to be arguing that we ought to wait til he's stronger before we attack him. That seems odd.

EAGLEBURGER: No, no, not necessarily. Look, I think, Brit, what you've got to cast on the other side is a lot of what Brent Scowcroft was talking about. We don't have the allies on our side. In fact, we have many questions on their part.

HUME: We always do, though, don't we?

EAGLEBURGER: Secondly, we have no demonstrated appearance on the part of the administration that they have really thought through what it's going to take to overthrow him.

EAGLEBURGER: I'm scared to death that the Richard Perles and the Wolfowitzes of this world are arguing that we can do it in a cakewalk, when I think it will take some hundreds of thousands of troops at least to be sure that we can do it correctly. And we haven't seen any reserves called up.

And finally, it doesn't seem to me that we've thought through at all what we do when we overthrow him. Are we going to stay there for the next six years?

All of those things I think have to be thought through and explained to the American people before we take any steps against him.

HUME: I'm a little unclear. You seem now to be saying that your fear is not that we do it, but your fear is that we fail?

EAGLEBURGER: I think that's also a part of it. I think -- look, as I've said, I think sooner or later we are going to have to do something about him. I don't argue that at all.

HUME: Well, what would that be?

EAGLEBURGER: I'm not at all sure that this is the time, given what we have in the way of problems with our allies and with not having thought through what it is we would will do afterward if we succeed and how much it would take to do it.

So all I'm saying is, all of this furor now about let's do something -- don't just stand there, let's do something -- I don't know what the do something is in terms of what it is it would take to do it, why it is we're doing it now, and what it is we would do after we succeed. I think all of those things have to be laid out.

And I think Scowcroft is correct when he says don't do it now because we don't have the allies with us and because it may really foul up our war against terrorism.

So where I am is a little bit confusing. I will agree with you in the sense that I'm not prepared to say, under no circumstances, don't do anything. At the same time, I am saying I don't understand why this rush to judgment to do it right now when we have no demonstrated reasons for doing it right now. So I'm kind of -- I lean toward Scowcroft unless the president can prove to me that there is an immediate reason to do it now.

SNOW: But you also believe that if the president were to use force it would not be for silly reasons. He would in fact have sound reasons for doing so, correct?

EAGLEBURGER: If he does it -- I hope that would be -- and my point is, I'm -- if he comes to the American people after he has gone through all of this and says, "Here are the reasons why I am doing it, here is what we are going to do afterward, and I've called up the reserves so that we do this in the proper way," which is what his father did, I'm going to accept his reasoning for doing it. I don't think the president's going to lie to us about it.

SNOW: OK. Do you think...

EAGLEBURGER: But he can't -- it doesn't seem to me we can do it on the basis of what the Richard Perles and the Wolfowitzes say, which is this can be done in a cakewalk and we've got all of these wonderful insurgents out here who will be able to govern immediately after we succeed.

SNOW: This is the second time you've mentioned Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz. Do you think they're naive?

EAGLEBURGER: No, I don't think they're naive.

SNOW: Do you think they're reckless?

EAGLEBURGER: I must tell you, I think they're devious. And I think they have had for some time this view that this is a -- well, first of all, I think they are committed to getting rid of -- and have been for years -- committed to getting rid of Saddam Hussein because they think we should have done it the first time around.

And secondly, I think they have convinced themselves that it could be done on the cheap by using these rebels, if you will, these people who are anti-Saddam Iraqis. I think there are at least six of them.

(LAUGHTER)

And the point is, I have no idea whether they can be used or not, whether they are real people or not and whether they would succeed or not. And I don't think there is any evidence one way or the other.

I am scared to death that they are going to convince the president that they can do this overthrow of Saddam on the cheap, and we'll find ourselves in the middle of a swamp because we didn't plan to do it in the right way.

HUME: Let's posit for a moment, Mr. Secretary, that the military campaign were undertaken that was well thought through and that enough forces were committed to it to get the job done and that Saddam Hussein were indeed toppled, removed from power. Is that a desirable outcome in the near term? Would the world be a better place or not?

EAGLEBURGER: Under what you've posited, yes, the world would be a better place. But there are a level of questions that remain. For example, what -- who replaces him? Do we have to stay there and occupy Iraq? If that's the case, it would not be a better place.

I mean, I can tell you right now if the new regime that follows Saddam is perceived by the Iraqis to have been put in place by the United States, it will have a half-life of about 10 minutes...

HUME: Well, wouldn't you agree though, sir...

EAGLEBURGER: ... and we'd be right back where we were.

What?

HUME: You've expressed concern about our allies, and you've also expressed concern, as General Scowcroft did, about the diplomatic consequences of forging ahead basically on our own, perhaps with the support of the British.

HUME: Was it not also the case, though, sir, that when the United States ran Saddam's army out of Kuwait 10 years ago that the effect of that was an enormous increase in American diplomatic prestige in the region, and that, for a time at least, that act, the ousting (ph) of Saddam Hussein, did more for prospects for peace in the Middle East than anything else you could imagine?

EAGLEBURGER: You're quite right. And the point is, again, we didn't stay. And we won our war, we kicked him back out of Kuwait; we didn't stay there as an occupying power. President Bush had enough sense to recognize that we would have gotten ourselves into lots of trouble with our Arab allies if we'd stayed on, and we got out.

Where we made our mistake was in not enforcing the sanctions that we put in place that would have kept Saddam in his box if we had continued to maintain those sanctions and to enforce them.

SNOW: Mr. Secretary...

EAGLEBURGER: ... and it was when we didn't enforce those sanctions that we let him out of his box and that he's become the problem he is again.

SNOW: ... do you think Colin Powell agrees with you?

EAGLEBURGER: I think Colin Powell probably does not think we ought to be invading Iraq right now. Whether he goes -- I'm guessing, I don't know, but I think he is reluctant to take on Iraq at this point.

I would also suspect, as I've -- and I think probably Scowcroft would agree with this, that none of us would disagree that in the end something's going to have to be done about Saddam Hussein, something.

I'm not -- my own view of this, by the way, is, if the war on terrorism is successful over time, in its own way it's going to box Saddam in in a way that's going to make it much more difficult for him to maintain his power, and that he's going to become increasingly isolated. I think that's going to take time.

SNOW: Do you...

EAGLEBURGER: But what's happening because of this whole focus on Saddam Hussein, we are losing our focus on the terrorist war, and that worries me a lot as well. There are a lot of other terrorist targets we ought to be focusing on.

SNOW: Such as?

EAGLEBURGER: And I'm afraid that, because we focus so much on Iraq, we're losing that sight.

SNOW: What are those targets?

EAGLEBURGER: Well, there is Syria, for example, which is pumping through -- because of Iran, is pumping weapons on into Hezbollah and so forth -- we ought to be -- which is then producing a lot of agony in Palestine and in Israel. We ought to be doing a bit to try to stop that.

There's Hezbollah, there's Hamas, there is a whole range of terrorist targets out there related to Palestine and to Israel that we ought to be trying to deal with.

And there's a great deal of targets in the Philippines, Iraq -- I mean, rather Indonesia. You name it, there are a number of places where there are targets that we ought to be trying to deal with.

SNOW: But...

EAGLEBURGER: And I think we ought to be spending more time looking at those.

SNOW: Do Brent Scowcroft's views reflect those of President George Bush, the 41st president?

EAGLEBURGER: I heard yesterday somebody saying that they thought this was the former President Bush putting Brent up to this. I don't believe that. I believe this was Scowcroft on his own. I do not believe that this is something that he even talked to the former president about. Nor do I believe that, if he had talked to the former president about it, that the former president would have said, "Brent, would you please do this for me."

I have no doubt, in my own mind, that this is a Scowcroft view and that the former president had nothing to do with it at all.

SNOW: Final question, why do you think Brent Scowcroft went public?

EAGLEBURGER: Well, in the first place, as I recall it, a year ago or so, at least some months ago, didn't he say to you, in an earlier interview, that we ought not attack Iraq? This is not the first time he's done it.

And so, while he did it again, I think it's because of all of this furor that's developed over the last few weeks, and the last month or so, about it because of all of the blathering that's gone on from various people within the administration on various subjects related to going after Iraq. And I think what Brent finally decided he had to do was to voice his view again, but he has said it before.

SNOW: You're absolutely right, Mr. Secretary.

Thanks for joining us.

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