Transcript: Rep. Harold Ford Jr. on 'Fox News Sunday'

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The following is a transcribed excerpt from "Fox News Sunday," Aug. 24, 2003

TONY SNOW, FOX NEWS: And now joining us, another member of the delegation that just toured the region, Representative Harold Ford, Jr., of Tennessee. He joins us from our studio in New York.

Congressman Ford, let's begin with the Middle East.

There is some suggestion now on some parts that Yasser Arafat ought to surrender control totally over security forces so that the Palestinian prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas, can set about the business of going after terror cells.

Should Yasser Arafat get out of the business of trying to control security forces in Palestinian areas?

U.S. REP. HAROLD FORD JR., D-TN: Of course he should. I was in the same meeting that Senator Graham was present, along with Senator McCain and other leaders in the Senate, and it was obvious that Abbas has a great level of intensity and sincerity in trying to bring about conditions for peace and stability to be pursued and for an arrangement between the Israelis and the Palestinians to be pursued.

I would differ with Lindsay, or Senator Graham, in just one respect, and we may actually agree on this if we talk a little bit about it. I think America has to be involved in helping Prime Minister Abbas and many leaders in his cabinet, including his security and finance ministers, to provide them with adequate resources, whether it's to build their own force or expanding the power of their own force and strength of their own force, or to figure out ways in which to undermine Arafat and to remove him as a symbol or instrument of power there with Hamas and other Palestinians.

It's clear that the Palestinian people, from our brief visit, are not a violent people, they're a poor people, they're a desperate people. The majority of Palestinians, if not the overwhelming majority, are not members of Hamas or some terrorist organization.

However, there are those that are. Israel has every right defend and protect itself. But if America is as committed as I believe we are, and as dedicated as our actions suggest at times, to building a lasting and enduring situation between Israelis and Palestinians where both can live in security with land and some degrees of freedom, or I should say degrees of freedom, then we're going to have to support the Palestinians, and support particularly Prime Minister Abbas in more meaningful and bigger ways than we have up to this point.

SNOW: Congressman Ford, another sore point has been a security fence that the Israelis have been erecting around Gaza. Do you think, if things do not improve, that the Israelis ought to be able to build a security fence or not?

FORD: When I traveled over, I traveled with the feeling that that fence should not be built. After two or three days on the ground, having met with leaders on both sides of the fence, for lack of a better term, I left believing strongly that perhaps the fence is needed as long as it can be removed if tangible progress is made.

We had a fascinating dinner with Ehud Barak while there, and he laid out, I think, as cogent and as coherent a case, or set of reasons, for the fence being built, as long as there is a strategy beyond building the fence.

I'm not sure that that has been fully articulated yet by the Israelis and by the leadership there, but I trust that it can and trust that it will be.

SNOW: Congressman, let's turn to Iraq. There's a lot of talk, on today's talk shows, that the United States needs more boots on the ground, more troops, and also that we need to seek help from international forces.

If the United Nations were to get involved, should U.N. forces have to answer to U.N. commanders or U.S. commanders?

FORD: A couple of questions, and I'll start from reverse.

I agree with Jerry Bremer when he suggests that there needs to be some uniform, or some unanimity, or central command. There's no doubt that the United States and Britain should remain in control of the military command.

That being said, we simply cannot solve the array of problems in Iraq by ourselves, as much as we may want to. As much as some in Washington and some in the administration may believe that kind of a Lone Ranger or taking-it-alone approach can solve it, it just won't.

We cannot rebuild the water and energy or, I should say, electricity structures. We're looking at some $30 billion over the next four years. When you consider the security concerns and costs associated with that, these are real dollars, and we're borrowing money here in our country and having to spend for it.

I would agree with Senator McCain and others, this is a battle we cannot lose, this is a war we cannot lose. However, there has to be a smarter and more efficient way to do it.

I think the U.N. has to be involved. If we have to carve out specific missions so as to ensure that European nations and others who are concerned about sanctioning the war would still want to be involved, if we have to satisfy some in the administration who are concerned about capitulating to the Europeans, I think there's a way to do it.

It's time to put aside the pettiness and childish ways that some on both sides have exemplified, and realize that we have a country to rebuild, we have 150,000 troops on the ground, and their families here in the United States wanting them to come home. And perhaps more important, the security of that region and the security of our country are at stake.

So I hope we can look beyond some of the differences, and look beyond even the past and the current moment, and realize that the U.N.'s involvement, even if it's for helping to guard those infrastructures that we're investing in as the American people, or even guarding the porous borders with Iran and Syria, or even building a security force and reaching out to the Arab world to help us provide security for soft targets across Iraq, I think there's a purpose for the U.N.

I think there's a way to do it that won't offend what we've done up to this point, and certainly won't threaten the kind of control that Jerry Bremer and others firmly believe we need, and I happen to agree with them.

SNOW: A poll out today indicates that Americans are really worried about our involvement there. Are you confident that the United States is making progress in the war on terror, specifically in Iraq?

FORD: I left -- I travelled over with some concern. Probably my feelings reflected a lot what was in that poll. I come back with assurances that we're making progress.

But there is no doubt, we are at a stall point. And if we're prepared or serious about moving forward -- and I take it that we're serious, because we're investing so much money, taxpayers are here in America -- I think we have to rethink and reassess.

I'm encouraged to hear the Defense Department and the Pentagon this morning has decided to pursue with more vigor ways to reduce the stress on our men and women in uniform, and at the same time not undermine our efforts overseas. I'm encouraged to hear them talk about ways to relieve stress on the families of our military men and women.

But at the same time, I think the conversation has to be broader. I think Secretary Powell and Kofi Annan and Jack Straw from Britain need to set even more intense -- I should say, even need to meet for more intense meetings to discuss how we involve the world and how we involve the United Nations.

I say it simply, Mr. Snow, we cannot afford to do this, I'm uncertain that we can accomplish all of this by ourselves. As much as we may want to, as much as the administration may want to, there comes a time when you have to say, "We will remain in control militarily, we have accomplished a great deal up to this point, but to take us to the finish line and to create a kind of viable and open and democratic Iraq, we're going to need the assistance of more and more people."

McCain is right, we need more troops, that we shouldn't be responsible as a nation for providing them all. We'll need $30 billion over the next several years.

The world community can, they want to play a role. We have to figure out how we can bring them to the table and satisfy the many concerns on our side as well as on the U.N. side, and I think it can be done.

SNOW: All right, Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., thanks for joining us.

FORD: Thanks for having me.