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Special Report Roundtable - September 26

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I told the DNI to declassify this document. You can read it for yourself. We'll stop all the speculation, all the politics about somebody saying something about Iraq. You know, somebody trying to confuse the American people about the nature of this enemy.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: He's talking about the National Intelligence Estimate, a piece of which was leaked to the "Washington Post" and the "New York Times" over the weekend which resulted in stories that had some headlines about what this document allegedly contained. You see "Spread terrorism globally" says the Iraq war -- the "New York Times" "Say Iraq war worsens terrorism threat." Well, the excerpts from what are called the key findings are now out. And let's look at a couple of them, bear on the "New York Times" said -- one of them:

"The Iraq conflict has become the `cause celebre' for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of U.S. involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating supporters for the global jihadist movement."

Another judgment:

"Should jihadists leaving Iraq perceive themselves, and be perceived, to have failed, we judge fewer fighters will be inspired to carry on the fight."

Nowhere in the key findings or key judgments released by the White House is there any assertion that it has made the terror threat -- it certainly talks about how it's fed al Qaeda's propaganda machine and recruiting efforts, but does not say that it has made the overall terror threat worse.

Some thoughts on this now from Fred Barnes, executive editor of the "Weekly Standard"; Mara Liasson, national political correspondent of national public radio; and the syndicated columnist, Charles Krauthammer, FOX NEWS contributors all.

Charles, what to make of this whole kerfuffle over this thing, starting with the weekend, the debate, the Democrats saying what they said, the demand for hearings, and all of this. What about all this?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, the first thing that's striking upon reading is how banal it is. It reads like a high school term paper and it's findings are what any reasonable person who thinks about Iraq would say. There is on the one hand and on the other hand.

On the one hand it is a "cause celebre," it attracts jihads. But in fact, Iraq before 9/11 was a "cause celebre." If you look at the declaration of war that Osama issued in 1998 against the United States, Iraq, with reasons No. 1 and No. 2.

No. 2 was the sanctions embargo, killing Iraqi children, that was a reason to go to war against America due 9/11. No. 1 was the stationing of American troops, infidels if the holy places of the Mecca and Medina, meaning our troops in Saudi Arabia who were there protecting against Saddam. So, Iraq has always been a factor.

On the other hand, the factor is that if we fight the jihads in Iraq and we succeed, then that will be a defeat for jihad. It's on the one hand and on the other, the idea that it is the cause of the spreading of terrorism is absurd. It was propaganda in the press and it was not a reflection of reality.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, it certainly says it's one cause. Now, how you want to interpret that to say the Democrats -- some suggest if we weren't in Iraq at all, maybe terrorism wouldn't be as bad. Supporters of the administration say, look, this terrorist threat would have grown anyway. I think this completely begs the question of, well now what will we do? I mean, even if the Iraqi jihad as this NIE says, is one of the factors that are fueling the spread of the jihads movement? What do you do about it? Nowhere does this report suggest that pulling out would make us safer. But, on the other hand, how do you make sure that jihads don't leave Iraq, perceiving themselves to have succeeded, and I don't think that's being discussed this campaign season.

FRED BARNES, "WEEKLY STANDARD": You know, I certainly would not have drawn the conclusion from this that we suddenly face or since 9/11 face a much more serious terrorist threat. Obviously, we had a terrorist threat. I thought the single sentence that came the closest to saying what this report was about was it said "The global jihads movement is desensitized, lacks a coherent, global strategy, and becoming more diffused."

That may mean that there are more terrorists, but it didn't say that the threat itself to the United States was greater though it did say if this trend were followed, of more and more terrorists, that at some point that would be a threat to the United States and Americans overseas. It really is -- is this the best they can do, the CIA can do?

HUME: Well.

BARNES: Look, if I were president, the first thing I'd say is get me a real report. You know, let's see something a heck of a lot better than this. Is this -- I mean have you been working for months on this, years, and this is what you come up with? It's sad.

KRAUTHAMMER: Let me read you a line -- a highlight, a bullet point.

"We judge that the groups of all stripes will increasingly use the internet to communicate propaganda, et cetera." Now, for that you have to spend 50 billion a year? I'll tell you how to save that, give me a billion, I'll write a report like this with more elegance and at a lot less cost. Look, this is a reasonable.

HUME: Leave a card when you go to your house?

KRAUTHAMMER: I'm hanging out a shingle right here. What they are saying is what's obvious, yes on the other hand -- look, when we attacked Japan, the home islands, it increased a recruitment for kamikazes. Was that a reason not to attack the Japanese home islands? If you're going to hit the bad guy, of course he's going to get upset about it. Big deal. What's new about that?

And, secondly, look, if it is a magnet, just this week a guy called Omar Faruq, the head of al Qaeda in Southeast Asia was killed in Basra, by the British. He was a guy who ordinarily would be in Southeast Asia planning attacks on Americans, on Australians, et cetera. He went to Iraq, he died in Iraq. If that's a magnet -- and a lot of them go to Iraq and die in Iraq. It's a good thing.

LIASSON: You know, there's something else that this report mentioned in terms of factors that are fueling the spread of the jihadist movement. Talked about the slow pace of real reforms in the Muslim world and I don't know what exactly is being done to increase the pace of those.

HUME: Well, one of the things is being done is they're trying to get a Democracy established in Iraq.

LIASSON: Yeah, I know. But there's a lot of other countries where our efforts have not been that consistent, Egypt is one. Certainly the democracy efforts in other places have not proceeded very quickly. And that -- those are other reasons that this is spreading. Iraq is clearly something that's fueling them, it doesn't really suggest what we do now.

HUME: Well, one of the things it does suggest that should be done now is -- it suggests we got to get rid -- it said back in April, when this came out, that we needed to do something about Zarqawi.

BARNES: Well we did. He's dead. No, look, it does say that if U.S. and the Iraqis win in Iraq and defeat the terrorists there that that is likely to have -- be a real downer for terrorist recruitment and for terrorist movement itself. I agree.

HUME: When we come back with our panel Secretary of State Rice President Clinton's version of fight against terrorism, without naming him. We'll get the views of the FOX all-stars when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK: I'm certain that if my husband and his national security team had been shown a classified report entitled "Bin Laden determined to attack inside the United States" he would have taken it more seriously than history suggests it was taken by our current president and his national security team.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HUME: Well, this is what Condoleezza Rice had to say. Not about that particular comment but about the Bush administration's record vis-a-vis the Clinton administration's record in terrorism in the early going of the new Bush administration. Quote -- this through the "New York Post."

"What we did in the eight months was at least as aggressive as what the Clinton administration did in the preceding years."

She also says, regarding this whole idea that president Clinton said that there was this comprehensive strategy left behind, "We were not left a comprehensive strategy to fight al Qaeda," she said, and she ads, "The notion that somehow for eight months the Bush administration sat there and didn't" that is pursuer bin Laden, "is just flatly false."

So, there the debate is clearly joined. Now, it is true that Richard Clarke left behind a 13-page document that was called "A Strategy for Fighting the War on Terror." It is a document that had been around for some years -- three years, anyway, before it was passed on to this president. So.

BARNES: Yeah, but it was a document, Brit, as Clarke, I think, told the 9/11 Commission even if it were followed to the "T" it would not have prevented 9/11.

HUME: Correct.

BARNES: And that's what the argument's really about.

I think the key thing you have to remember about Clinton is he advised everybody to read Richard Clarke's book. Well people went back and read it, cited this, which Clinton had many opportunities when he wanted to kill bin Laden and every time it was the defense department or the CIA or somebody else who balked. What Clinton had, he had a desire -- a great desire to eliminate Osama bin Laden, but he didn't have the nerve to follow through on it. He lacked the leadership.

LIASSON: But you know what, Fred, you've said so many times that 9/11 changed everything.

BARNES: It did.

LIASSON: To look in hindsight and say he didn't have the nerve to do it.

BARNES: Well, he obviously didn't.

LIASSON: The threat was not even -- Condoleezza Rice said today that she would make the divide September 11 when the attack on the country mobilized us to fight the war on terror in a totally different way.

BARNES: I would, too. But Bill Clinton expressed to Chris Wallace on Sunday that this firm, I mean this really passionate desire to kill bin Laden. Why didn't he follow through on it? He realized that bin Laden was a great threat. I mean, that's what he said. And he didn't follow through.

KRAUTHAMMER: Look, when Clinton said angrily that he left behind a full-fledged anti-terror plan it was not true. Condi is right on this. As we know from the Monica days Clinton is an angry liar. When he lies he gets self-righteous, indignant, in the face, angry exactly as he was. And what he was saying, Richard Clarke himself was, in 2002, said there was not a compressive plan. All he did is he left behind what the plans had been but he also left behind what had been unresolved in the last three years of the Clinton administration -- changing Uzbekistan's policy, Pakistan, and helping the northern alliance.

The three key ingredients of the Bush administration activated after 9/11 and essentially won the war in Afghanistan in 100 days. And Clarke, it said, those issues were the key issues, were left unresolved, I would say criminally unresolved, because of indecision and hesitation in the Clinton administration.

Yes, he wanted to kill Osama but he complains "I didn't have a finding after the bombing of the Cole from the FBI." The FBI, under our Constitution is the creation of the executive, it serves the executive. He is the executive. If he wanted to do it, he should have gotten a finding. And the idea that you got to have a legal finding that would stand up in court in order to go after a guy who just attacked an American ship is absurd.

It's exactly the original sin of the Clinton administration. Terrorism, in their eyes, had always been law enforcement. In fact, it was an act of war and they treated it as law enforcement unseriously and that's why he had 10 chances to get Osama and he never got him.

BARNES: I can't top that.

KRAUTHAMMER: Was that enough of an indictment or shall I go on?

HUME: On the other hand, to be perfectly fair, politicians respond to the political will of the country. Does anybody here think there was pre- 9/11, despite the attacks, the kind of political will that would have been needed to give any politician the feeling he could go ahead and do this? Could he have ginning it up? Could he have worked it up?

KRAUTHAMMER: No. He couldn't have and what he shouldn't have done is say yes I wanted but the country was not ready to go to war and I couldn't immobilize it to go to war and that would have been a good honest explanation. He should have made.

(CROSSTALK)

HUME: Mara.

LIASSON: President Bush didn't spend the first eight months ginning up the country to go to war, he reacted to 9/11.

(CROSSTALK)

HUME: That's true, but on the other hand -- I know that -- but wait, wait, hold it a second, the fact is, though, there were no attacks on Bush's watch until 9/11. There had been some attacks, though not on the scale of 9/11, during the Clinton years including -- to include the Cole, the attack on the U.S. embassies, and of course the (INAUDIBLE) could the president, in your view, if he had seized on those as a kind of a casus belli to go to war against al Qaeda, made speeches, whipped it up, led, in effect...

LIASSON: I think it would have been very, very difficult. I think he would have had a lot of opposition from the Republican Congress who opposed him on Bosnia, a lot of them did. And I think that...

HUME: By the way, he said that when he was doing what he was doing that he was accused by conservative Republicans.

LIASSON: That, I don't remember.

HUME: Do you remember?

LIASSON: That, I don't remember. I'd want to go back and see to find what his references were. Because he said he was accused of being obsessed by bin Laden by Republicans and I'm not sure what he's referring to.

BARNES: Yeah look, it wasn't a question of going to war. It was a question of.

HUME: They declared war on us.

BARNES: I know they had. But what I'm talking about is, for instance, there was the flight when bin Laden went from Sudan to Afghanistan in 1996. Clinton knew about it. Could have shot down the plane "boom," Osama bin Laden would have been dead. Wouldn't have taken a war.

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