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Reps. Rogers and Ruppersberger on Libya

Reps. Rogers and Ruppersberger on Libya

By John King, USA - March 30, 2011

KING: Member of the president's War Council were up on Capitol Hill today giving classified briefings to key members of Congress. Some of the questions, how much will this cost? What is the exit strategy? What exactly will the U.S. involvement in the military strikes be now that NATO is taking command, but also we are told in these classified briefings came up this question. What would Moammar Gadhafi do perhaps with this?

He is known to have -- yes, he gave up his nuclear weapons. Yes, he gave up some chemical weapons, but he is known to have stockpiles of mustard gas, once had 25 tons. He is believed now to have about 10 tons. This is one of the facilities where Gadhafi has mustard gas. He is supposed to give it up in a deal with the international community within months, but he still has it now. About 80 percent of it is reportedly in liquid form, which means easy to move in small quantities.

We are told this is among the questions. What happens to the mustard gas that came up in those briefings? A bit earlier I talked to the chairman and the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, Congressman Mike Rogers is the chairman and Congressman Dutch -- C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger the ranking Democrat.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Chairman Rogers, let me just begin with this question. I'm not sure how much information you can give us. But we are told tonight that the president has authorized CIA activities within Libya. What can you tell us about that and the quality of the intelligence you are getting now about this operation?

REP. MIKE ROGERS (R), MICHIGAN: Well, I won't speculate on any classified finding by the president, but I think the debate, the public debate that you're seeing is where Secretary Clinton today came out and said we -- they're -- they have not armed the rebels and the president speculated the course of this week that they had not ruled out arming the rebels, and, of course, Mr. Ruppersberger and I have both decided that we think arming the rebels is a very bad idea and so there is a public debate about it.

I think the intelligence that we're getting is in real time. They're doing the best they can. It is -- it's not exactly where we want it to be but it's getting better and they've laid out a very aggressive plan to get us the best information they possibly can so policymakers like us can make a good decision as we move forward on this.

KING: Well then Congressman Ruppersberger, if you agree with the chairman that arming the rebels is a bad idea, how do you get to the president's goal? It's not the goal of the United Nations resolution but the president's goal is regime change. How do you get that without a better armed opposition?

REP. C.A. "DUTCH" RUPPERSBERGER (D), MARYLAND: The only way you're going to get to the president's (INAUDIBLE) without using force which we're not going to do is to use diplomatic ways to do it and we have been doing that. We've -- in the United States we've freeze his money. We know the world court is looking at he and the people around him. But we are not going to put boots on the ground. That's clear and now we've turned over the operation to the coalition and that's NATO.

KING: The United States is a leading member of NATO, though, Mr. Chairman. Do you have any doubt and I understand the figure of $40 million a week was used by Secretary Gates in the briefings today. Do you have any doubt if we go the sanctions route and this operation goes on for weeks and weeks and conceivably months and months that the U.S. taxpayers are in for a pretty hefty bill?

ROGERS: Well that's true and the goal here is not to go on for months and months and I think we're going to use all the things that we can do to make sure that Moammar Gadhafi doesn't survive. His foreign minister today defected in London, huge news. The fact that the rebels are starting to organize a little better, that's very, very important. The only success that they had today, they being the Gadhafi regime, was because --

(AUDIO GAP)

ROGERS: -- weather prevented sorties or airplanes being flown to kind of keep them back. So when you look at circumstances on the ground, it's positive for a quick demise of Moammar Gadhafi. The trick here is -- and this is where the president really needs to step up -- you can't say you're for the U.N. Resolution so we won't do anything beyond that and oh, by the way, I want regime change.

We've got to work that out. I think we need to work that out. We should do this in a bipartisan way. There is a lot at stake for the United States and our national security interests to make sure that we get this right.

KING: Congressman Ruppersberger, you met with Gadhafi back in 2004 at a time he was agreeing to give up his nuclear program, to give up his WMD. As we have this conversation tonight, he still has somewhere in the ballpark of 10 tons, maybe more of mustard gas that he was supposed to destroy, get rid of in the months to come. If you're Moammar Gadhafi and you're backed into a corner now and the world has sanctions imposed against you and you're looking for resources or looking to make a friend, say in the terrorism community isn't that a great asset to have?

RUPPERSBERGER: Well the first thing, I don't think the terrorists are going to have anything to do with Moammar Gadhafi. One of the reasons that he came over to our side is because he was being targeted by al Qaeda as a leader and so I don't think that is the issue. I think there is plenty of weaponry and he has a lot of weapons, over 20,000 man-pads (ph) that he can use. So, you know, I'm concerned that this could be a long duration just because of the fact that he has billions of dollars, he can pay people to come and fight for him and he can use weaponry.

We would hope, though, that the coalition can continue to put on the air power and we think that will work. But we also -- you talk about the issue of cost. We have other hot spots in the world that we are responsible for. We are in Iraq and Afghanistan. We're helping Japan right now. We have issues that we deal with in Russia and China, so, you know, I think the United States clearly has to let the rest of the world be involved in this situation. We cannot be a sheriff for the whole world, and especially now when we have fiscal issues that are going on in Washington right now.

KING: So would you set a timeline, $40 million a week but only for what, a couple more months and then that's it if Gadhafi is still there?

RUPPERSBERGER: I think right now we're a member of the coalition but it's my understanding from my conversations with the administration is that clearly they're going to let the rest of the world, the coalition take control including whatever they need to do to provide the resources. We have other parts of the world that we have to deal with, but we are a member of the coalition and we're going to help them on our -- using our unique resources that we have that other countries don't. But I don't believe that will be spending the money or putting boots on the ground. That's clearly where the president is coming from now based on my conversations with him.

KING: Mr. Chairman, do you worry about that mustard gas and what would you do about it?

ROGERS: Clearly I do. And as a matter of fact, it may be worse than that. You have to remember, not only does he have it, he also was at least in an effort to produce Sarin (ph) gas and other biological weapons. He has other weapon systems that we're very concerned about and here is a guy who's under a lot of pressure. He is a nation state sponsor of terrorism. We know he plotted and planned the Pan Am bombing; he killed U.S. soldiers in a discotheque bombing in Germany.

KING: So how do you take it from him?

ROGERS: Well, this is where we're having discussions about how we make sure, which is why I was an early supporter of this no-fly zone. Clearly this is a national security interest and it still shocks me today that the administration won't talk about these weapons of mass destruction that I am very concerned about moving. Right now with planes in the air we have a very good chance of making sure it doesn't go anywhere and that's why that's clearly important. As the battlefield changes to better or worse I think it's going to get worse by the day for Moammar Gadhafi, that means we'll be able to secure it and secure it soon, if not we'll at least have other options on how to deal with it.

KING: You both sound optimistic about the battlefield conditions, but in the past 24 to 48 hours things on the battlefield and you can't score a war or a conflict in 48 hours, but in the last couple of days, things have gone against the opposition and in favor of the regime. Are you seeing things in the intelligence that, "A" that, that might change in the near future, "B" that these cracks close to Gadhafi extend beyond the foreign minister?

ROGERS: Well let me answer the first part, remember, the weather conditions did not allow close combat support by aircraft in the last couple of days. And so I think what it shows you is clearly how important that is as keeping Moammar Gadhafi back and on his heels, so when the weather interfered with those missions, he made a little better progress. Weather isn't going to be in his favor every single day, number one.

Number two, we're seeing a lot of pressure from a lot of his senior leadership about sticking around. I mean, Moussa Koussa (ph) was -- used to be his intelligence director, now his foreign minister. So the fact that he flew and got the heck out of town is a very clear signal that his inner circle is under a lot of pressure. That's good news.

Now, it doesn't mean he'll go away quickly. This guy has -- is quite a survivor. He's been hanging on for a very long time in some very difficult circumstances in the world, so it doesn't mean it's going to happen overnight. But it does mean that progress is being made at least from a military front. Even though we don't know who all the rebels are, there is big success moving and there is a lot of pressure on his inner circle --

KING: The last word to you, Congressman Ruppersberger --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Do you worry though, as someone who has sat across the table from this guy. He is, as the chairman says, a survivor. He is, as the chairman says, someone who has sponsored terrorism before. If he gets backed into a corner and he has a choice leave or go out with what he would consider glory, do you worry about that?

RUPPERSBERGER: First thing yes, we have to worry about it and we have to worry about the fact he has weapons and he has money. But we do have information; we are focusing on where the weapons of mass destruction are located. And if he attempts to use them I think we might be in a position -- when I say we the coalition -- to deal with that issue and that's a very important point.

And I think another thing that you said too, people -- some people in our country say, well, why are we involved? Well first thing we're involved because the National Security Council said that we need to deal with two issues, to enforce the no-fly zone and to stop this barbaric individual killing his own people. And we said we would be in phase one.

But the other thing is this man is a terrorist. I happen to know a family whose daughter was killed on Lockerbie and I raised that issue with Gadhafi when I saw him on behalf of that family. And so, you know as long as he is around and he has power he can affect our national security in the United States. He has attacked us. So it is in the interest of the world, but also the United States to make sure that the coalition be able to do the job that they need to do and I think Mike raised a good point about change in his leadership -- when you look at coalition change usually when you have your inner circle starting to defect to the other side that's the beginning of the end.

KING: Chairman Rogers and ranking member Ruppersberger of the Intelligence Committee, gentlemen, thanks for your time tonight.

 

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John King, USA

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