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Special Report Roundtable - September 18

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARMED SERVICES CMT: What we don't want to do is have nations in the world interpret or, quote, "modify," depending on what you say, the Geneva Conventions. They have not been touched for 57 years. They are the standard.


HUME: Senator McCain is talking about Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, governing the treatment of non-uniformed detainees, and the White House says that the rules were so -- that Geneva Convention is so vague that the CIA might have to stop interrogating suspects in the successful way it has, in some important cases, unless it gets some clarification. Now why, it is asked, did the CIA not ask before? That's because the Supreme Court did not rule, and some thought never would rule, until this summer that terrorist suspects and other non-uniformed combatants were entitled to protections of the Geneva Convention.

Some analytical observations on this controversy now, from Fed Barnes, executive editor of the "Weekly Standard"; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of "Roll Call"; and Mara Liasson, national political correspondent, of National Public Radio -- FOX NEWS contributors, all.

Mort, help me out here, I've been trying to understand John McCain's view of this. I heard what he said there. What the CIA is asking for is not a reinterpretation, but a clarification what it means, when you get right down to it, what the rules are, in order to comply with Geneva Convention Common Article 3, what can we do and what can't we do? McCain says if we try to do that, we will be, in effect, -- well, explain.

MORT KONDRACKE, "ROLL CALL": OK. It seems to me that the McCain group believes that if we are seen, in the world, to be tinkering around with article -- Common Article 3 that we will be.

HUME: Whether we are or not.

KONDRACKE: Whether we are or not, but we will be seen to be permitting torture by CIA agents and that that will.

HUME: Does he say that?

KONDRACKE: No, that's, in effect, what they -- we will lose the moral high-ground is what Colin Powell said. And what they think they -- what I think they mean is that it is a greater loss for us to lose the -- our reputation than it is.

HUME: Even if we lose it in the course of doing something -- being seen to do something we're not really doing?

KONDRACKE: Right. They are -- no, just a second. They are saying that the reputational loss that we will suffer is greater than whatever loss it is of information that we might gain from doing rough interrogation techniques.

I totally disagree with that. I mean, it seems to me on the basis of what the president said that we got life-saving information by using waterboarding, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed or whatever we did and that for...

HUME: We think that may have happened, we don't know.

KONDRACKE: Well, we don't know, but it's waterboarding.

HUME: Waterboarding a process whereby your -- part of your body is lowered under water and you've got a wet towel or something over your face and it feels, for all the world as if you are drowning.


HUME: You're not, but everybody who ever had it done to them thinks they are, and...

KONDRACKE: And, tens of thousands of American, fighter pilots, Seals, Special Forces, all kinds of people who might be captured and tortured by the enemy are subjected to waterboarding to show them what it's like. Everybody cracks under waterboarding as I understand it. Now, so that -- that's the basic dispute and that's what I think about it. I mean, I think they're wrong.

HUME: Mara, what do you think about the politics of this at the moment in terms of whether this is a position that a Republican, who hopes to become nominated by his party for president, can long.

MARA LIASSON, NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: Well, it depends on how long, I guess. What all the signals coming out of the discussions this weekend were that the two sides, that is the McCain in his camp and the administration, wanted to find a compromise, apparently this afternoon or late today, some kind of newly revised legislation is going up from the White House to John Warner, who is the chairman of the relevant committee, in the Senate.

HUME: And who is siding with McCain in this.

LIASSON: And is siding with McCain. And it sounds like both sides want to find a compromise. Stephen Hadley said this weekend we can find a way to do this without, quote...

HUME: So does McCaine.

LIASSON: "Amending or modifying Article 3," and so did McCain. So, if that's where this is headed to some kind of a compromise that's acceptable by both sides, I think this issue does not become the kind of, you know, killer to McCain's future political plans.

FRED BARNES, "WEEKLY STANDARD": I'm glad you asked Mort and not me to explain McCain's position because I find it totally mystifying. I mean, he said yesterday that you could do -- that the CIA program can continue under this vague language. It seems to be that the worse thing -- the only thing he's against is some wording change.


HUME: But it isn't a wording change of Common Article 3. Common article 3 stands it would be ratified.


HUME: This would be American law that would set forth how.

BARNES: Yeah, what you can do and what you can't do.

HUME: What you can and cannot do.

BARNES: Yeah, so what -- but he says that even if you just don't do that, the CIA can do the same stuff. CIA doesn't belief that but he believes you can. I mean, here's the problem, the real problem with the McCain position. He is talking utterly in theory, you know, if we do this then we think they'll do that and so on. It's although theoretical. What Bush is dealing with, is the practical problem of getting information from terrorists and protecting the United States. That's a practical problem, there's nothing theoretical about that.

HUME: When we come back with our panel we'll talk about Pope Benedict's comment on Islam and the reaction of Muslims. Stay tuned.



POPE BENEDICT XVI (through translator): I'm deeply sorry for the reactions provoked by a part of my speech at Regensburg University, considered offensive to the sensibility of Muslim believers, but these words were, in fact, a quotation from a mid evil text which do not in any way express my personal thoughts.


HUME: Well, maybe not, but the Holy Father's remarks -- those remarks, have not done the job of mollifying outraged Muslims who took to the streets and carrying on over the weekend and they're still at it apparently and they're getting support from Iran, where the leading cleric is critical and from some al Qaeda offshoot that says the conversion or the sword. So what about this controversy? And what does it say to us about people we are dealing with?

KONDRACKE: Well, look, there are strains of Islam. Islam is going through, as has been often said, a kind of a civil war within itself, a kind of a reformation and a counter reformation. And the extremist within Islam will take any slight or perceived or real on the part of anybody in the West as a slam on all of Islam and they will use it as they are using it now to stir up the masses and...

HUME: Sort of like what McCain's worried will happen as a result of clarifying these detention.

KONDRACKE: Or something like that. And the -- look, I -- the pope, reading the pope's text, it looked entirely innocent to me. He was making a scholarly point about reason and faith and all of that and somebody plucked this out and decided to stir people up, now..

HUME: Weren't his words, it really was, legitimately, a quotation from some other character who -- in the 14th century text, right?

KONDRACKE: It's important to notice what is not happening. I mean, you don't have hundreds of thousands of Muslims rampaging through the street all over the world. This is an isolated places, violence has been committed, but it's not being committed by Muslims all over the world and all Muslims and it's important for us, I think, to see to it that we are distinguishing between moderate, peace-loving Muslims, who I believe are the majority...

HUME: Are they all denouncing this.

LIASSON: No, many of them have accepted the pope's apology.

HUME: I'm talking about denouncing the violence.

KONDRACKE: Some are.

BARNES: I haven't heard one.

LIASSON: Sure, many.

KONDRACKE: Well, if you look, you can find it, it's in your material.

BARNES: Phhhth (SIC).

LIASSON: Look, many have accepted the pope's apology and said that this is the end of it. What he was talking about, and if you think about just as the pope is a politician he might have been able to say something more artful, but the actual quote was saying in the Muslim religion there you will find things "only evil and inhuman"...

HUME: That is what.

LIASSON: That's what they plucked out, but he said such as...

HUME: Yeah I know, but Mara, even those words were a quote.

LIASSON: That's right. That's right, sure.

HUME: Those not his words comments, right?

LIASSON: Sure, of course not. But he said, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached. Now, I would say probably the pope would agree that spreading faith by the sword is evil and inhuman. But, that part was not the subject of discussion.

BARNES: Look, let's be clear about one thing, the pope did nothing wrong. He didn't even do anything in politic. You know the old -- have you ever heard an umpire in baseball described as having rabbit ears? I think Mort was taking about this. That is they're looking for these things all over the place, they're trying to hear some slight and then they -- you know, earlier they found some six month old cartoons in Denmark, a while ago, and then they did have millions rioting all over the world. People were killed. I'll have to say they were a little tamer this time.

But here's my question. Why is it when Muslim terrorists blow up the Golden Mosque in Samara there aren't Muslims protesting that all over the world? Why shouldn't they be doing that? That's a lot worse than some cartoons in Denmark or some one sentence quote by the pope, that's for sure. I mean they dis Christianity all the time and think we are infidels, and in Muslim countries Christianity's banned. Now, think of the stuff they say about Jews, they call them sons and daughters of pigs. And you see in these -- well, anyway, I think I made the case there is a bit of a double standard at the least.

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