Did Saddam Bribe the U.N.?

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," Oct. 7, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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CHARLES DUELFER, HEAD OF IRAQ SURVEY GROUP: Our investigation makes quite clear how Baghdad exploited the mechanism for executing the Oil for Food Program (search) to give individuals and countries an economic stake in ending sanctions.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: That's our chief weapons inspector saying that Saddam Hussein (search) dangled a carrot in front of our allies in an attempt to have U.N. sanctions lifted. The carrot being oil. And there's proof many of our so- called allies actually took the bait…

So, there is proof that Saddam funneled billions of dollars from the Oil for Food Program and some of that money may have ended up in the hands of terrorists. The Duelfer Report (search) says there were no weapons of mass destruction, but Saddam was counting the days until the U.N. turned its back so he could fire up the WMD programs again.

I am joined by former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger (search). Mr. Eagleburger, the big question is, how bad is this that Saddam was, it appears, he was bribing the U.N.?

LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: If you want another good reason why we should have gone onto Iraq and taken it out, taken Saddam out of there, it is right here. He suborned the United Nations. He has — and I don't see how Senator Kerry can ignore this. He will do so, but I don't see how he can ignore it. This is as good a reason for getting rid of Saddam Hussein as anything I can think of when he is corrupting the United Nations. It's beyond belief anybody would think that wasn't sufficient reason to get rid of it.

GIBSON: When you were secretary of state, did you ever have to deal with a situation, I guess maybe this one, where you knew your allies were being bribed by our adversary?

EAGLEBURGER: Well, I would put it this way. I knew and we all — a lot of us knew that bribery, particularly with the French and French officials was not something that was unique. I mean it happened fairly often.

GIBSON: A way of doing business?

EAGLEBURGER: This particular case of the oil for peace program — Oil for Food Program goes way beyond anything I knew of before, but it's not that I haven't heard about French officials being bribed before.

GIBSON: Were we close to a situation, had there not been Operation Iraqi Freedom, had there not been an invasion, were we close to a situation where the U.N. was going to lift sanctions?

EAGLEBURGER: This gets back, if I may, to some of the claptrap we heard from somebody you talked to a few minutes ago that if we just stayed there and had not done anything, things would have worked out in Iraq.

GIBSON: That was Lanny Davis, Mr....

EAGLEBURGER: I wouldn't want to mention his name. But nevertheless, the fact of the matter is that the sanctions were coming apart. The fact of the matter is that the inspectors were not given unfettered ability to examine what was going on in Iraq. This is all rewriting history now to try to make a case for the President and his campaign. But they are the ones rewriting the history. The fact of the matter is that without going to war, it seems to me, there is no question what the Duelfer Report has said about what would have happened, clearly was on its way to happening. The bribery demonstrates that.

GIBSON: If the sanctions were lifted, Duelfer says over and over and over, if the sanctions were lifted, Saddam wanted to reconstitute his chemical weapons and he wanted to go for nuke. Is that a big leap or would you have expected with that kind of oil money he could have done that?

EAGLEBURGER: I don't think — well, it would have taken time. Particularly the nuclear side I think would have taken time, but we all know he used chemical weapons before so I don't know how anybody can deny that he used weapons of mass destruction. The nuclear issue required money, but it could have been done and would have taken a bit of time.

But the point, again, seems to me is that everything indicates that Saddam, and this report certainly indicates that Saddam was intent on doing a lot of very difficult things once he got the sanctions out of the way and to me it's clear that the President's view — when you see something like this taking place you stop it before it can go very far was, in fact, the right way to go.

GIBSON: Do you think — where does that leave us with the U.N.? I mean, Duelfer's report is — is almost like a verdict about the U.N. Security Council, so can we go to the U.N. Security Council for anything now?

EAGLEBURGER: Well, we can go there, but it would seem fairly obvious that we're not going to be able to count on the Security Council when it comes to serious problems, which is a tragedy, by the way. But, I think our attitude toward the U.N. has to change and frankly, I will say to you as well, I don't think we ought to permit Kofi Annan to have a second term — another term as secretary general. He's got to be held responsible for this and he certainly didn't do anything about it and, in fact, probably turned his back on it. And what we're seeing now is they refuse to tell us what went wrong.

GIBSON: Secretary of state — former secretary of state, Lawrence Eagleburger, about bribing the U.N. Security Council.

Mr. Eagleburger, it's good to have you on. Thanks very much.

EAGLEBURGER: Thank you, sir.

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