Former Pres Candidate Pat Buchanan on Iraq

This is a partial transcript from "On the Record," Sept. 17, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

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GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: In 46 days, this nation will decide who will lead our country for the next four years. Joining me here in Washington is former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, author of the brand new book, "Where the Right Went Wrong," which is essentially a great lesson in foreign policy. This is a history lesson.

PAT BUCHANAN, AUTHOR: I think it is. It talks about how we got into Iraq, certainly, and it goes back into terrorism, how it all came about. What are its origins back in Russia?

You go back to the French Revolution. A lot of stories and anecdotes. You go back in history to Islam, its great war against the Christian West and how it developed. It was a lot of fun writing it.

VAN SUSTEREN: And you know, I've told you off camera a couple of times how much I enjoy reading it.

All right. If you were president, what would you do about Iraq?

BUCHANAN: I would hold the line right now. On November 3, I would call all the generals and commanders in Iraq, I would bring them back to the Situation Room, and we would be there about three of four nights. What I would say, you tell me how many men we're going to need, how much money it's going to cost. What is the likelihood we can win this thing? What exactly do we have to do?

And then I would make a command decision of what we're going to do, whether...

VAN SUSTEREN: What would you wait 46 days? Because every day we hear about people dying in that country. Why not do it now?

BUCHANAN: I think -- I don't think the president can really make that decision until he determines he's going to be reelected president of the United States and he's going to be dealing with this over a period of years.

I'll tell you, Greta, my problem is this: The situation over there is grim if it is not grave, I believe right now. And if the United States cannot pacify Fallujah, Ramadi, Sadr City ourselves, how can we expect the Iraqis to do it?

The second thing is, the cause of the insurgency is the American presence. It is an organic growth now, and it's getting broader and broader and broader. Attacks increasing. Casualties increasing. The number of the enemies increasing. Territory lost increasing. And I think we've got to ask ourselves whether our presence there is the problem.

VAN SUSTEREN: But see, what I don't understand is 46 days may not seem like a long time, but it makes for a lame-duck war, and we're not making decisions if we have the president wait until then. If it, as you say, very grave, and I see the death lists every day, how many people, how many Americans died, how many, you know, people trying to help Iraqi security die there. I mean, the 46 days is where I guess my attention is fixed.

BUCHANAN: I understand, because I don't think the president can make that decision until he has all his commanders back here, until he talks to Rumsfeld and Powell and Cheney, because I think we are at a Westmoreland moment. Remember when Westmoreland came back in 1967...

VAN SUSTEREN: Too young.


BUCHANAN: He had 500,000 troops and only said, I need 200,000 and we ought to win it. Lyndon Johnson thought and said, no, we're not sending them. And that was a dramatic moment. I think the president should wait until then. We don't even know if he's going to be president. We don't know what Kerry is going to do.

But I'll tell you this. You hear McCain talk about a 10-year war and generals talking about a seven-year war. I don't think the American people have signed on to an indefinite war in Iraq if the purpose of that is to democratize a country, and we see that goal receding every single day. So I think that -- you know, I think he's got to have an overall review of the entire war.

VAN SUSTEREN: How would you grade him as commander in chief?

BUCHANAN: He is a good commander in chief in terms of rallying the troops. He's very positive, he's maintaining a positive outlook. I think he's a decisive leader.

But I think he made a terrible mistake in nearly allowing the neoconservatives to sell him a bill of goods that this would be a cakewalk, and to tell him that we would have a rose garden there and democracy would break out. I cannot believe he listened to those people, and quite frankly he ought to be rid of those people, because I think they are responsible for a lot of our problems.

They are people who planned and plotted and propagandized for this war long before 9/11, in the mid-1990s they were colluding with Israel to get us involved in this war in Iraq.

VAN SUSTEREN: The way you paint it, it almost sounds like he was hoodwinked.

BUCHANAN: Well, I think -- General Zinni used the quote, he said, "who are these neocons? They've captured the vice president, they've captured the president." I think they sold a bill of goods to Rumsfeld and Cheney, who then, together with them, sold the president on this war.

So I think the president went in there without thinking it through, and they had no plan.

VAN SUSTEREN: But is it -- but should -- I mean, if in your opinion, if he went in there without any plan and he was so persuaded by people that you think are so wrong, why should the voters return him to office in November? If you think he's swayed so easily by people who you think are so wrong.

BUCHANAN: Well, because the opposition -- John Kerry -- I don't know what John Kerry believes on the war, I have no idea. I think John Kerry voted for this war even though he had grave doubts about it, he voted to give the president of the United States a blank check to go to war when I think he didn't believe this was the right war in the right place at the right time.

That wasn't leadership. Whatever you criticize the president and Cheney on, they do have certitude. They do believe, they are leaders, they put themselves on the line. But with Kerry, I don't get that sense at all, and the country needs a strong leader.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right. Well, Pat, you've got a great new book, "Where the Right Went Wrong," and I hope, it's a great -- it talks about Goldwater, it talks about...


VAN SUSTEREN: It goes way back.

BUCHANAN: Takes you back to your childhood, doesn't it?

VAN SUSTEREN: It certainly does. Nice to see you, Pat.

BUCHANAN: Nice seeing you.

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