Bush, Kerry Both Tout Duelfer Report Findings

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," Oct. 8, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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PRESIDENT BUSH: Based on all the information we have today, I believe we were right to take action, and America is safer today with Saddam Hussein (search) in prison.



JOHN KERRY, DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The President of the United States, and the Vice President of the United States, may well be the last two people on planet who won't face the truth about Iraq.


JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Well, there may be more than the last two. One report, two very different responses. Both President Bush and John Kerry (search) saying the Duelfer Report — that's the Iraqi Survey Group (search), Charles Duelfer led, that his report proves their point about Iraq.

Joining me to discuss the findings Henry Sokolski (search) of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (search).

And Harlan Ullman (search), with the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the author of the new book "Finishing Business: 10 Steps to Defeat Global Terror."

So Henry if you wouldn't mind, Mr. Sokolski, if I could to you first, what does it mean when you see this huge accusation from Charles Duelfer (search) about Saddam Hussein corrupting the United Nations?

HENRY SOKOLSKI, NONPROLIFERATION EDUCATION CENTER: Well, I mean, it's pretty clear that the idea that the sanctions were working is good enough as far as it goes, but the sanctions were not likely to stay in place. And people forget that. And we were moving to smart sanctions and trying to hedge against removal of the sanctions. And part of the reason they were coming off apparently were the bribes Mr. Duelfer has identified.

GIBSON: Mr. Sokolski, what John Kerry is saying is we wouldn't have been forced to accept lifting sanctions. We have a veto in the Security Council and that even if France was on the take, which evidently it was, and China and Russia, we could have blocked lifting the sanctions. Isn't that true?

SOKOLSKI: Well, technically you could block the legal lifting of sanctions, but in practice what Duelfer details in his report there were end runs, smuggling and the like looked at with no action being taken against them by a number of countries. And that that in de facto, he said, the sanctions regime was falling apart. That is what he argues.

GIBSON: Mr. Ullman, I know it is important that Charles Duelfer confirmed what we've known for some time and David Kay reported that there wasn't going to be stockpiles of WMD there. That the world's intelligence agencies were wrong. But isn't this U.N. thing an eye popper to you?

HARLAN ULLMAN, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well, let me make four points. First, John, it seems to me that in a strategic sense, the Duelfer Report is devastating because it really shows the administration's case for urgency to go to war was wrong. Second, however, will it have much impact ton election? I don't think so. Because the President and Senator Kerry will probably fight to a draw tonight. But thirdly, what it does do, and I will get to the question in a second, is it obscures the real issue that should be the center of the debate. We went to war in the greater Middle East to impose democracy as the best way of solving those issues. That should be the debate. Was that right or wrong? Now about the Oil for Food program, this is a disaster and I've got bad news for you. The Clinton administration knew about it and did nothing it. The Bush administration knew about it and did nothing. It is a scandal. It's just like the Pakistani...

GIBSON: What would they do? What would you do? I mean if you know that Saddam Hussein is funneling billions of dollars into the Security Council where you've got to go and ask a vote, what would you do?

ULLMAN: Real simple. You would expose this immediately, you would take over the Oil for Food program and you would shut it down.

GIBSON: The United States can take over the Oil for Food program?

ULLMAN: No, when I say "you" we would shift the program to other hands and put in some kind of a means to do that. We did this with... the Pakistani nuclear scientist who was selling stuff. We caught him and broke it down.

GIBSON: Doesn't this explain why we got no diplomatic cooperation?

ULLMAN: No, it doesn't.

GIBSON: Why not?

ULLMAN: I don't think it does. First of all, I think if we had the opportunity to take this under control earlier, we could have had some, I think, great success. But the real reason that we ran into opposition was the fact that our European allies did not share the sense of urgency over the nature of the threat and were worried that if we went to war as quickly as we did, that was going to be a big problem.

GIBSON: I understand that. They made the argument for a long time. Mr. Sokolski, can't you now make a credible argument that the reason European leaders were telling their public that this is not the time for war and Saddam is in his box and leave them alone is they are getting paid?

SOKOLSKI: Look, we are into counterfactuals as to what happened and what we knew and when we knew it. One thing we always have known and we have dodged bringing ourselves back to is that we knew, and this report confirms, that Mr. Saddam was in defiance and constant defiance of rules associated with the most dangerous weapons. We did not know — we now know — what he had. We worried about the worst, and we had just gotten slammed by a terrorist organization that was threatening to follow-up with attacks and even threatening that they had nuclear weapons or would get them. And under those conditions, we need to remember what we knew and what we still know. This man was defying the rules and we did not know what he had.

GIBSON: You know, Harlan, I will give you the last answer. I mean, Duelfer says Saddam would not have remained in his box. Why shouldn't we believe Duelfer?

ULLMAN: Well, I think that the reason that he would have stayed in his box, first of all, remember we were flying air strikes against him if you speak to the military commanders who were around during those periods, they were very confident they had gotten rid of most of the stuff he had. I agree with Henry' assessment. The issue is not whether we went to war. The issue was when we went to war and why we didn't prepare for the peace. Those to me are the key things. But the fact of the matter is we had ways of containing Saddam for the long term. He was clever, he had great ambitions, and I'd like to take over the Fox Network from Rupert Murdoch, but that's not going to happen. I can have ambitions. They could have been constrained in my judgment, and they were constrained.

GIBSON: Harlan if you get a few billion dollar, you might have better luck.

ULLMAN: Perhaps I'll ask Saddam and the Oil for Food program. The question, John, whose pink tie do you like better? Henry's or mine?

SOKOLSKI: I like mine.

GIBSON: Harlan Ullman and Henry Sokolski, I appreciate it, both of you guys coming on.

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