Exclusive: Aristide's Lawyer Claims U.S. Kidnapped Former Haitian President

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, March 1, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: The tumult in Haiti is like every story. There are two sides to Aristide's (search) claim that he was kidnapped.

Ira Kurzman is an attorney who represents Aristide.

The big question of the day, Mr. Kurzman, did Aristide leave Haiti on his own, or did the U.S. Force him out?

IRA KURZMAN, ATTORNEY: No, I think there's no question that the U.S. forced him out. I think...

GIBSON: That's not what Colin Powell says.

KURZMAN: Well, I think they used threat, intimidation, and ultimately kidnapped him.

GIBSON: You're calling Colin Powell a liar. He said absolutely not. It's a ludicrous charge. That's what he said. So I mean, in the face of the secretary of state saying that's a ludicrous charge...

KURZMAN: Let me be clear. I am calling Powell a liar. This was all a United States intelligence operation from day one, including bringing in people like Jodel Chamblain (search) and Guy Philippe (search) to run a military operation in Haiti. They came across the border...

GIBSON: OK. Let me back up.

KURZMAN: Let me just say...

GIBSON: You're calling the secretary of State a liar, that he wasn't saving Jean-Bertrand Aristide's life, he was conducting a coup?

KURZMAN: If Secretary of State Powell wanted to save President Aristide's life, any American can figure out that they could have sent in the Marines one day earlier and saved his life and saved democracy in Haiti.

This was a coup d'etat straight out, organized by the same people -- remember, Colin Powell was the head of the joint chiefs of staff when the first coup occurred against President Aristide.

So there's a long history here, and it's not...

GIBSON: Mr. Kurzman, I must tell you, these are wild charges.

KURZMAN: I don't think they're wild. If you...

GIBSON: You may not think they're wild, but, I mean...

KURZMAN: Well, why don't you give me an opportunity to explain?

GIBSON: Because you're going deeper and deeper and deeper in what amounts to slandering the secretary of state.

KURZMAN: I'm not slandering the secretary of state. What I'm saying is there was a commando group of people who came through the Dominican Republic armed with M-16's by the United States military, and they performed a military operation. They were assets of the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA.

I can give the secretary maybe the benefit of the doubt that he didn't know, but I doubt it. And the fact is...

GIBSON: Who would know?

KURZMAN: Well, why don't you start asking the CIA and the DIA?

GIBSON: But you're the one throwing these charges around. Who would know?

KURZMAN: I think the people at the Defense Intelligence Agency. Why don't you interview Jodel Chamblain, the man who has worked for the Defense Department...

GIBSON: I've got you on, Mr. Kurzman. You are making charges that I must say are a bit on the wild side, justifying them instead of...

KURZMAN: You keep saying that.

GIBSON: I keep saying that because I'm not going to accept them at face value. Plain and simple.

KURZMAN: OK. Well, plain and simple, here it is. They came across the border two weeks ago. They came across with M-16's that were United States-issued weapons. They came across...

GIBSON: Now, that's a fact. How do you know that's a fact?

KURZMAN: We know that that's a fact.

GIBSON: You know that the U.S. issued those M-16's? They weren't purchased in any other way?

KURZMAN: Well, they were M-16's that came from the Dominican Republic. The United States gave the Dominican army one year ago in an operation called Jade Project where they secretly trained Dominican army people and gave them 20,000 M-16's.

At the same time, it just happened, that Jodel Chamblain, who was an asset of the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA, was in the Dominican Republic along with Guy Phillipe.

Both Phillipe and Chamblain were the leaders of the so-called insurrection that crossed the Dominican border with a group of pretty elite commandos for the first three weeks and went from town to town and eventually took over Cape Haitian (ph) and other cities to make this a fait accompli.

So that when the secretary of state issued the coup de gras by saying to President Aristide, "No, we won't send in the troops the day before to protect you. These people are about to kill you. These people are going to kill your wife. They're going to kill all your followers. You must leave the country immediately in secret at night on a plane supplied by the State Department."

GIBSON: Those all may be facts that those people came across the border.

KURZMAN: Let's talk about facts.

GIBSON: Well, that's what we are talking about. But you are laying it at the doorstep of the secretary of state and the United States government, and I don't see any proof of it.

The fact that people had 20,000 guns from the Dominican Republic and crossed the border to go after Aristide does not -- the fact that they did it does not make it a Colin Powell operation or U.S. Government operation.

KURZMAN: I didn't say it was a Colin Powell operation.

GIBSON: Yes, you did at the start. You said he ordered the coup.

KURZMAN: No. I said that the United States intelligence service was involved in a military coup against President Aristide, that this was all a complete setup, and anybody who can just watch the facts can simply know that.

Last Saturday they asked president Aristide to sign an agreement with the opposition. He readily agreed to it. The opposition said we need more time. That more time was taken to get more advantage on the ground.

And that's the next day when they had the -- the day that they needed to make their decision was the day that these commandos went into Cape Haitian (ph) to create more space on the ground, to move further and further and closer, closer into Port-au-Prince, to surround Port-au-Prince.

At the same time the secretary of state was pleading with Andy Apaid (search) to accept this agreement. Andy Apaid is a United States citizen.

So we have the absurd situation where the secretary of state is, quote, pleading with an American citizen to come to a peace agreement that the president -- the democratically elected president of Haiti has already agreed to.

And when Andy Apaid, the American citizen says, "No, I don't agree to it," they turn around and say, "OK, Aristide, you have to leave."

GIBSON: It sounds to me like somebody came in and saved Mr. Aristide's life. Now they're being slimed with the charge of a coup.

KURZMAN: No, I think it's just to the contrary. If the United States wanted to save President Aristide's life and save democracy in Haiti, what they could have done and should have done is send in the Marines one day before.

GIBSON: All right. Mr. Kurzman, representing Mr. Aristide. We shall see. Thanks a lot.

KURZMAN: Thank you very much.

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