Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., Financial Services Committee

This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, March 26, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.

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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Our next guest was very outspoken against the war before it started. Now he's outraged at how much this war is costing.  Joining me now is the senior Democrat on the House Financial Services Committee, Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank.

Congressman, welcome.


CAVUTO: How do you feel now?

FRANK: Well, I don't know where you heard I was outraged at how much it was costing. The cost was one of the things that we took into account when you decided whether you were going to be supportive of this or not. I'm not surprised at what it's costing. And nobody that I know in the Congress begrudges enough money to make sure that our young people very protected. What I feel now is that the case for the president's tax cut, which I always thought was weak, is even weaker. The fact that this is costing more because it's being a little tougher than we thought, the fact that we are spending billions now for some of our allies, that we'll be committed to spending tens of billions probably for the reconstruction of Iraq, the developments of this now I think is to further call into question the level of tax cutting the president is talking about. Because I don't think you can pay for two wars with three tax cuts and still have a coherent fiscal policy in the government.

CAVUTO: But when it comes to the war itself, Congressman, you are standing by our troops.

FRANK: Oh, sure, there is no concern, no objection to spending that money, although the money obviously will be to replace what has been spent. I would say, by the way, that one of the things that I think people ought to be noting now is that some of those criticisms that were made of Bill Clinton for having allegedly weakened the American military now I think I've seen clearly to be just political rhetoric.  Because the American military that's now fighting is essentially still the one that was inherited from the Clinton administration. And it was Secretary Rumsfeld who pointed out that we are not only still doing operations in Afghanistan, on a smaller scale, we are in this a major effort in Iraq. And Secretary Rumsfeld said that if we had to we could also deal with North Korea. So the argument that somehow the military had been seriously weakened at the end of 2000, I never thought that was true and I think we now have evidence that's untrue.

CAVUTO: Even though some of the improvement, you would allow, has been enjoyed because of the increased military spending that this administration has initiated, right?

FRANK: Oh no, very little. No, no, because, you cannot - they have asked for more spending but in this relatively short period of time, since January 2001, much of that spending has not yet been able to take effect.  In other words, there is a long lead-time certainly with weaponry, certainly with any technology. That's going to be for the future, but the lead-time in terms of military weaponry and technology is such that you essentially are still fighting this with the military that was in effect at the end of 2000.

CAVUTO: Well, let me ask you about the progress of the war thus far, what do you think?

FRANK: I am not an armchair general or even a battlefield general, and I am very reluctant to comment. Obviously, war is a sad thing, people get killed and you feel regretful. But I think that civilians like myself that try to second guess tactics or become instant experts really ought not to get a lot of attention paid to them, and I try not to do that.

CAVUTO: I guess what I would be asking is whether you think that in six days would you have envisioned we would have been within 50 miles of Baghdad and controlled two-thirds of the country?

FRANK: Oh, I thought it would be a war that we would clearly win.  Because, as I said, it was clear to me that despite some of the partisan criticisms of 2000, the American military remained overwhelmingly the most powerful by far in the history of the world. And one of the things that struck me, and one of the reasons why I didn't feel there was a need to go to war against Iraq was that, contrary to the analogy that I think had been falsely made with Hitler, who was about to get stronger and stronger during the '30s, Iraq was weakened during the '90s. And in fact, the American military said that the Iraqi military was only one-third as strong as we started this war, as it was in 1991. So it was clear to me there would be a great imbalance. But as to the specifics, I think any civilian who tried to pretend that he or she would know what was going to happen was just talking through his hat.

CAVUTO: Do you find it, though, maybe vindicating for the administration that these 3000 chemical suits that they at the found and other evidence of maybe chemical weapons in other parts of Iraq as an indication that maybe, maybe the Bush administration was right to conduct this war in the first place?

FRANK: No, because I never was opposed to the war on the grounds of Saddam Hussein was a reasonable man. I always thought he was a evil man who wanted to do bad things. My point is that we had quite effectively constrained him. I think the analogy to Hitler is relevant here. Hitler was allowed from the day he marched into the Rhineland to get stronger and stronger and stronger. From the day Saddam Hussein marched into Kuwait, he was weakened. And before this war started, he was, I think, under control. As a matter of fact, we have no evidence that he was successfully able to do anything, outside of Iraq, damaging to us or anyone else since 1991. We have sanctions that I have supported. We were flying over and spying on him, and I supported that. We had inspectors in there. We had a great deal of electronic surveillance. I just think that.

CAVUTO: So all bets aren't off if he has chemical weapons, you are saying?

FRANK: Beg your pardon?

CAVUTO: All bets are not off if he has chemical weapons and then uses them?

FRANK: No. I believe he probably had some of these weapons.


FRANK: We were able to keep him from using them. My point is that we were able effectively to constrain the man without the great loss of life, political destabilization in the rest of the Middle East, and the cost of hundreds of billions of dollars.

CAVUTO: All right. Congressman Barney Frank, appreciate it, sir.  Thank you very much.

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