Getting the Story Straight

This is a partial transcript of "Special Report With Brit Hume," Oct. 27, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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BRIT HUME, HOST: The story of those missing explosives in Iraq, as we’ve reported, has been all over the campaign trail today with Democratic John Kerry (search) calling it a growing scandal and President Bush attacking Kerry’s language.

The former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (search) in Iraq, Paul Bremer, joins me now.

Mr. Ambassador, welcome.


HUME: This is the first time you have been out doing interviews of this kind since you finished your tour of duty. And the question is, why?

BREMER: Well, I think it’s important to talk about this story. I think the growing scandal is the irresponsibility of people asserting that they know these weapons disappeared, in the period between the liberation and arrival of our inspectors. And I think that’s highly unlikely.

HUME: Why do you think that?

BREMER: You know, unlike most of the people who are talking about this, I was actually there. I was in Iraq. I was on the ground. And it is highly unlikely for two reasons. First of all, it would have required a great deal of organization to move 380 tons of munitions. It is not something you do overnight with a few looters. The insurgency was not organized. It was not organized until late in the summer. And secondly, I was on the ground there. There was no traffic on the streets.

HUME: Now, we’re talking about an area that is south of Baghdad by some, what? Twenty miles, something like that?

BREMER: Yes. Yes, south of Baghdad.

HUME: Now, you’re familiar with that area? You’ve been down in that area?

BREMER: Yes. Yes. Well, I traveled in that area during this very period. I traveled down through that area to a place called Hilla, where one of the mass graves is. I traveled to Najaf (search). I traveled to Karbala.

HUME: So what did the roads look like?

BREMER: The roads were essentially deserted except for American military traffic. And that was the case all the way through May and into — well into June. And I traveled those roads. It is highly unlikely that you could have had dozens of heavy-duty trucks. To move this kind of stuff, you’d have to have had several dozens, three-dozen 10-ton trucks. It’s just highly unlikely that anybody could have moved those trucks on those roads without our noticing it.

Now, what we do know, however, what is plausible, we know from both the IAEA and from David Kay, our lead inspector, that Saddam had the practice of dispersing munitions when danger loomed. And there was a month between the last time the IAEA was on this site, as I understand it.

HUME: That was March 9 or something that.

BREMER: Yes, early March until our first guys got there on April 3. So there was time to move the stuff. And that is at least a plausible explanation. Certainly more plausible than to assert that one knows it happened after liberation, which I believe is highly unlikely.

HUME: Now, the American weapons inspection team got in there on something like May 8. That was the first time soldier got in there, whose principal job was to look for weapons. They did not find these explosives, fair enough? Correct?

BREMER: That’s what I read. I mean I don’t know that only from what I read.

HUME: Which means that this government has known that those weapons were not at that facility as recently — as long ago as almost a year and a half. My question is if that’s the case, and it appears to be, why do you think the IAEA would write a memo on October 10, 2004, warning the U.S. government supposedly about these so-called missing weapons?

BREMER: Well, I don’t really care to speculate on the motivation, or the timing of IAEA’s report or letter. It seems that’s a job for political pundits. But I can tell you what it was like at the time that this allegedly happened. Because I was there, I was on the ground and I consider it highly unlikely that this happened in that brief period after liberation before our inspectors got there.

HUME: Now, the principal job of our weapons inspectors was to look for weapons of mass destruction.

BREMER: That’s right.

HUME: While I guess critics of the administration are now highlighting how dangerous these weapons could be as detonators or explosives that could blow up airplanes. There was a large volume of these conventional weapons in the country, something on what order?

BREMER: Well, Saddam spent billions and billions of dollars on weapons. And we believe there was probably as much as 100 — a million tons.

HUME: A million tons?

BREMER: A million tons of weapons. We discovered and controlled and cleared more than 10,000 different munitions dumps all over the country. Some of them are tens of square kilometers in size. They’re enormous. You fly over them in a helicopter, you fly for 10, 15, 20 minutes at a couple of hundreds of miles an hour. They’re huge!

HUME: Is there any way to estimate how much of this stuff were explosives?

BREMER: High explosives?

HUME: Yes.

BREMER: I don’t know. It may be that people know that. I know we destroyed something like 400,000 tons of the munitions that we have found. I mean that’s — it’s a staggering amount of stuff that was there. And as you say, this is a big job.

HUME: Now, let’s assume, for example, let’s assume that these forces that came through there, first the Third I.D., which as far as we can tell now, searched the facility enough to find a lot of white powder that they thought was suspicious. They didn’t see, apparently, any of these sealed IAEA sealed weapons. That was true as well of the 101 that came in a couple days later.

BREMER: And so have been true of several reporters who were embedded with these units as well.

HUME: Right. Our own Dana Lewis didn’t see them.


HUME: We haven’t proved that they weren’t there, but nobody has seen them or that they were there. The question is, whether in your view — I mean if someone missed these, whose fault would that have been?

BREMER: Well, I don’t know. I think you’re asking a hypothetical question here, Brit. It seems to me very irresponsible to assert that one knows what happened here. There certainly was time. It is more — a much more plausible explanation to look at that four-week period between the last time the IAEA was on the site, and first time the Third I.D. arrived, about a month, as a chance for Saddam to do what he practiced doing. Which was to move munitions when they were threatened, he moved them into mosques and schools all over the country.

HUME: Well, hadn’t El Baradei in fact told the U.N. Security Council (search) that some of those explosives, RMX, had been moved?

BREMER: Apparently he did. I understand that from what I’ve read in the press. He apparently told them that. And that was some time before the liberation.

HUME: All right. Well, Ambassador Bremer, I appreciate your coming to give us your perspective on this.

BREMER: Good to be with you.

HUME: Thank you very much. Go back into retirement. Enjoy yourself.

BREMER: I intend to.

HUME: Good to have you.

BREMER: Nice to be here.

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