July 10: WMD Chaos

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This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, July 10, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: In 1998, Saddam Hussein created conditions that caused the inspectors to have to leave. They were getting close and they had to leave. President Clinton was so concerned at that time that he bombed. What did he bomb? He bombed for four days in Operation Desert Fox facilities that were believed to possess that were developing or producing weapons of mass destruction.


TONY SNOW, GUEST HOST: That was Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) responding today to a BBC report that senior officials and the British Foreign Ministry have concluded that coalition forces aren't going to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Hypothesizing that Saddam destroyed or removed them before the war.

Joining me to discuss the matter and more, Senator Chuck Hagel, a member of the Intelligence and Foreign Relations Committee.

Senator, welcome.

SEN. CHUCK HAGEL, R-NEB.: Thank you, Tony.

SNOW: Let's me just first get your reaction. A lot of Americans have been waiting and waiting and waiting for evidence that Saddam Hussein (search) had in his possession at the time we went to war, weapons of mass destruction. And nobody's found anything yet. Do you think we are going to see evidence that he had weapons of mass destruction when the war began?

HAGEL: Tony, just as Secretary Powell said, we do know that he at one time, was in possession, certainly of supplies of weapons of mass destruction. We're not sure where what he did have. But we did know and knew very clearly that he did possess some of those supplies.

Now, the question is, so what? What does that prove? Does he have them or did he have them here in the last year? And to your point, I don't know. Certainly that is one scenario that you just developed, based on the BBC report that maybe he did destroy what he had or he hid them so deep and wide that we may never find them.

But on the other hand, I think we need to keep in mind, this chapter is not over. This process continues. And we could find something tomorrow morning. I don't know what we could find, or will find, and if we will find anything. But it's not over.

SNOW: Well, let's talk about intelligence matters a little bit. Did the administration doctor evidence in any way, shape, or form in order to make a case to the American public in the U.N.?

HAGEL: I think again, Tony, it's too early to make any determination on that. As you know, the Senate Intelligence Committee is conducting closed hearings. We had another hearing today on all of this, had witnesses in the administration up. You know also that the administration this week acknowledged that the Niger uranium issue was not, in fact, what the president and others in the administration had once told the American people and the world it was.

It was bad analysis, bad intelligence, it all came together and it should not have been wrapped up in the president's speech. Now, if we find two or three more examples of that, then I think there's going to be a real credibility question for this administration to deal with.

SNOW: A couple of your colleagues on the Intelligence Committee have said that David Kay, a former weapons inspector has returned to Iraq to help look for weapons, is in possession of the information that if the American people saw it, people would say OK, we need to see no more, that it's compelling and it's interesting.

A, do you know of such evidence? And B, what possible reason could there be at this juncture for withholding that kind of information from the American public?

HAGEL: I don't know of any such evidence, No. 1. No. 2, I think your question is very appropriate. What would be the point of withholding it? I don't see any reason why you would withhold it, especially with the kind of pressure that this administration is under and the questioning and the intensity of that questioning regarding the credibility of this administration.

It's not just confined here to the United States, as you know. Tony Blair is dealing with this in Great Britain. And it is an issue around the world because it does cut to the credibility and the trust in the word of the American government.

SNOW: At most, it appears that the administration right now can sustain an argument that Saddam Hussein was guilty of hostile intent, although he may not have been acting on it. Is that about right?

HAGEL: I think that is a fair assessment. The bigger question here, Tony, is what's happening now. How long can we sustain what we are involved in? The fact is we own Iraq.

It is becoming more and more evident that it is more and more difficult to even with 150,000 American troops there, do the things that we must do to sustain our involvement, to help secure that country and stabilize that country and rebuild that country without a lot of help from a lot of allies.

You probably saw reports today that are out in many of the national newspapers saying, for example, that India and Pakistan and Portugal have pulled back here from their original commitment of troops. They're sending ambulance drivers because they feel that you need a more legitimate cover, an umbrella organization like they mentioned, the U.N. or NATO to be in there, not just the United States. I think that becomes more of a concern and a problem for the United States.

SNOW: Do you believe that the U.N. or NATO, given the opposition to France and Germany to the war, would in fact, dispatch peacekeeping forces to join with the United States in Iraq?

HAGEL: Tony, I've had conversations with very senior administration officials on this very recently, like as recently as yesterday. As far as I know, that request has not come from the administration to NATO. I saw Lord Robertson, the secretary-general of NATO in Jordan two weeks ago, spent some time with him. He told me that request had not come.

I think, however, to answer your question that NATO (search) would respond to it. I have reason to believe, in conversations I've had with the senior levels of the French and German government, that they understand the immensity of the task in Iraq. They understand it is linked to security and stability in the world. Hence their own interests are in play here. I think NATO would respond and I think we are going to have to go to NATO.

SNOW: Senator, we have got about 20 seconds. Quickly, do you think we're going to have combat with Iran, within the borders of Iraq?

HAGEL: I don't know, Tony. I would certainly like all of us, hope not. I don't think so. I think that we can deal with this without open hostilities.

SNOW: All right. Senator Chuck Hagel, thanks so much for taking time out of a busy day to join us.

HAGEL: Thank you, Tony.

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