CBS' Face the Nation

March 2, 2003

(Excerpt of show transcript)

(CBS) BOB SCHIEFFER, Chief Washington Correspondent: Today on Face the Nation, we continue our look at the Democratic presidential field. Today, former Vermont Governor Howard Dean. Then, the first Sunday interview with the newly retired NATO commander, General Joseph Ralston.

With 225,000 troops within striking distance of Iraq, a war seems closer than ever. But opposition is growing, as well. Why does former Governor Howard Dean believe more inspections would work? How would he contain Saddam Hussein? We'll ask him. Then we'll talk about what a war in Iraq would be like with a former NATO commander, Joseph Ralston.

Dana Priest of "The Washington Post," author of "The Mission," a new book about the American military, will join in the questioning. And I'll have a final word on tax cuts in a time of war. But first, Howard Dean on Face the Nation.

ANNOUNCER: Face the Nation, with CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent, Bob Schieffer. And now, from CBS News in Washington, Bob Schieffer.

SCHIEFFER: And good morning again. Today we get serious about the coming presidential campaign. We intend to have everybody seeking the Democratic nomination on for a serious discussion of the issues. We begin with Howard Dean.

Joining in the questioning is Dana Priest of "The Washington Post." And Governor Dean, I want to get right to it. The liberal Democrats have by and large been very suspicious of our intelligence agencies, of the CIA. They've been reluctant to fund those programs.

But today we seem to have a major intelligence coup, and that is the capture of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is said to be perhaps the single most important member of Osama bin Laden's group. Osama bin Laden, of course, is the leader, but this man seems to be the brains behind all of these attacks, including 9/11. What do you think about that?

HOWARD DEAN, Democratic Presidential Candidate: I think it's terrific. And actually, I think you're partly right about what you say about the CIA. I think one of the reasons for the intelligence failure before September 11th is that the FBI has, I think, had a leadership problem for some time.

The CIA's problem is they were under-funded by Congress for a long time, and that's one of the reasons that I think they were unable to do the things that they needed to be able to do to head off September 11th and other catastrophes. I think this is a real coup. I think our intelligence agencies ought to be very, very proud of themselves, and this is a very big deal.

SCHIEFFER: So, I would take it that if you were president, you would increase funding for the CIA?

DEAN: I would.

SCHIEFFER: You think we need to do more rather than less with our intelligence agencies?

DEAN: Yes, I think we really do. I think one of the criticisms that I had of the president regarding the Iraq war is that we're not paying enough attention to al Qaeda and North Korea, which both are imminent threats to the United States, and we're paying too much attention to Iraq, which is not an imminent threat to the United States.

And I think that we need to increase our funding for things like the CIA, for things like homeland security, police, first-response people, and probably spend a little less attention on tax cuts and on this war in Iraq.

DANA PRIEST, "The Washington Post": In the case of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is the number-one operational control of Al Qaeda, do you think it is acceptable to use what we might call unorthodox methods to question him, given the fact that he knows about current operations?

DEAN: If you mean driving hot slivers under his fingernails, yes, that's unacceptable. I do think we need to get the most information out of him as we possibly can. There are lots of techniques we can do that without crossing over the line to torture.


SCHIEFFER: What do you think about, should the CIA have the right -- because as I understand it, Dana, correct me if I'm wrong, the CIA has now been given authority to assassinate certain people. What do you think about that?

DEAN: I think as long as they're not heads of state, that's within--we're in a war here. We are in a war against people who murdered 3,000 Americans in the World Trade Center. And we have to fight that war everywhere we can. And I think the CIA absolutely ought to have the right to assassinate leaders of terrorist organizations and people who are, in fact, terrorists trying to attack the United States. This is combat, the rules of combat apply, not the rules of peacetime.

I think assassinating state leaders is a different matter, and I do not want to go back to the days where we were complicit in some way in the assassination of a democratically elected leader, for example, in Chile. I think that would be a very bad step.

PRIEST: You mentioned the FBI. There's been still a lot of criticism that they haven't made a successful transformation into an investigatory agency here at home. Do you think that we need to at least consider the creation of a new homeland domestic security apparatus like the MI-5 in Great Britain?

DEAN: No, I think we ought to get the FBI run properly. It hasn't been run properly for some time. I think Director Freeh was really a disappointment. I'm not a big fan of Director Mueller. I simply think that the culture in the FBI is a problem.

Now, in our state, we have a very good relationship between the local and the state and the federal folks. But that's not true in a lot of other states. I know something about what went on in the Washington sniper case. I thought the FBI was very difficult in terms of their dealings with local law enforcement people. That's not a good thing. That's a cultural problem. We need leadership in the FBI who will change that culture, and I haven't seen that in a long, long time.

SCHIEFFER: Let me go back to your position on the war. You have been against war with Iraq from the very beginning and, in some ways, really set yourself apart from some of the other Democratic candidates by saying you simply oppose it.

DEAN: Well, that's not exactly so. I do oppose it, because I don't believe there's any cause for unilateral and preemptive intervention in Iraq. Iraq is not of immediate threat to the United States. Al Qaeda and North Korea -- North Korea is about to become, about to be -- I can't believe under a conservative Republican president, that he's going to be the one that, quote, unquote, from the old days "loses North Korea" and allows it to become a nuclear power because we simply refuse to talk to them, which is incredibly foolish. That is a really dangerous situation.

The reason I don't believe we ought to go into Iraq unilaterally is they're not an imminent threat, and we set the tone for global military intervention in this world. If we go in, sooner or later somebody else, perhaps the Chinese will say, "Taiwan is a threat, so let's go in. And the United States has done it, so why don't we have the right to do it?" That's the real case to be made against unilateral and preemptive action.

SCHIEFFER: Well, number one -- and I want to get back to the original question I posed -- number one, it's not unilateral. There will be other nations that will go along with us.

DEAN: Well, except that we're about to pay $26 billion to the Turks if they'll vote our way. And when you start paying money to people to agree with your foreign policy -- I mean, here we're going to pay $26 billion to the Turks and we don't have $5 billion to spend on homeland security, helping states and local governments fight terrorism. There's something the matter with this president's priorities, I think.

PRIEST: But is the use of the term "unilateral" a little overblown? We didn't pay the Spanish anything. We aren't paying the Bulgarians anything. There are dozens of countries who agree with the U.S. position on this.

DEAN: But, Dana, here's the way I look at this. This is the United Nations' job. Saddam is not an imminent threat to us, but he is an imminent threat to nations in that region. He is a bully. He is a tyrant. So the United Nations job as a peace-keeping institution is to make sure that he is disarmed, and he should be disarmed.

The United Nations is making progress. The inspectors are making progress. Hopefully as we sit here talking, they're starting to destroy the missiles that were deemed to be out of compliance. So why not let this process continue to work instead of waging a war preemptively outside the purview of the United Nations?

SCHIEFFER: Well, are you saying, Governor, that under no circumstances should we ever take unilateral action? I mean...


SCHIEFFER: ... do we leave the defense of this country to the United Nations?

DEAN: No, absolutely not. I've never said that, and I don't say that now.

SCHIEFFER: So under what circumstances?

DEAN: If a country is an imminent threat to the United States, I believe we have the right to defend ourselves. Had we known five days ahead of time before al Qaeda blew the World Trade Centers up with planes, we of course would have defended ourselves and done everything we could to stop it. If Saddam possesses nuclear weapons, if he has a credible nuclear program, if he's giving weapons of mass destruction to the terrorists, then we have a right, I think, to intervene unilaterally. But there's been no good case made for those things.

As it is, he's a threat, a regional threat, which the United Nations ought to deal with, but he is not a threat to the United States. And there are two threats to the United States, al Qaeda and North Korea, which we are not effectively dealing with.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let me go back now to the original question that I was leading to. You have been against going to war with Iraq, basically. But if war does come, then will you support that action, or will you continue to oppose it?

DEAN: I think a lot of it depends on the circumstances. Certainly, you always support the troops in the field. I went down to Paris Island about three weeks ago just so could I look at their operations and look at the kids and have lunch with the kids who are Marines. I mean, they don't consider themselves kids, but they're 18-24 years old, 17-24 years old. Those are the kids we're going to be sending over there, ultimately.

And, you know, of course there are some circumstances under which we should do that. But I think we have to do this much more carefully and be much more thoughtful about what the real dangers are. And Iraq is third on my list, not first or second.

SCHIEFFER: All right. The Iraqis have begun to destroy these missiles that earlier this week Saddam Hussein said, number one, we don't have any missiles like that. Then he said no, under no circumstances, he told Dan Rather, would we destroy them. Now they have begun to destroy them.

Is that progress, or is it, as the president said, just the tip of the iceberg of a problem here?

DEAN: Bob, I think it's big progress. Look, Saddam is not a nice man. He is a liar. He's all the things that the president says he is. But if we can win this war of disarmament without actually sending our kids over there to die, then I think we're far ahead of the game.

It does take some patience. And I wish we had a little more patience in Iraq and a little less patience and a little willingness to negotiate in North Korea. We are in the middle of a full-blown crisis in North Korea, and the president refuses to even admit so.

SCHIEFFER: Well, are you suggesting we take military action against North Korea?

DEAN: No, I'm suggesting we start to talk to them.

PRIEST: What happens if that doesn't work, and they go ahead with their nuclear processing? Can you imagine a unilateral preemptive strike on North Korea?

DEAN: We could be forced into that. If they develop a missile that could reach the West Coast of the United States, which they are in the process of doing -- such a missile has been tested on the ground but never fired -- we would have a very serious, much more serious problem than we have with Iraq, because then they would become an imminent threat to the United States of America and to our people.

PRIEST: Would you say the same for Iran, whose nuclear capability is very sophisticated, much more sophisticated than Iraq?

DEAN: Yes, we have to be very, very careful of Iran. One of my criticisms with this president is that because we have no oil policy of any kind here, other than drilling the national parks, he is beholden to the Saudis and the Iranians.

The Saudis and the Iranians and the Syrians are funding most of the terror in the Middle East, and this president has not been willing to confront that, partly because we have no oil policy. Absolutely, Iran is a very serious danger.

PRIEST: So, again, you could consider preemptive strikes against the Iranian nuclear program?

DEAN: Look, you never rule in or out anything. But when America is threatened imminently with a -- by a foreign power, then we have a right to defend ourselves. I do not believe that is the case in Iraq. And I do believe that al Qaeda and North Korea are imminent threats and we have to deal with that.

PRIEST: You have said Iraq does not pose an imminent threat, but isn't, by the nature of the threat -- small vials that can kill thousands of people -- isn't it going to be particularly difficult to figure out when the threat is imminent? In fact, it might be too late by that time?

DEAN: You know, that's always the judgment call you have to make, and it's a very tough judgment call.

But Saddam has had these weapons for 10 to 12 years. I said before, one of the criteria for Saddam being judged as an imminent threat is if we find that he is giving weapons of mass destruction to terrorists. We have not -- I've not seen the secretary or president make a convincing case for that. If there were a convincing case for that, yes, then Saddam would be an imminent threat.

SCHIEFFER: Final question, and here's the part that concerns me about what I hear you saying today. You are talking about this is not a threat, but how can you trust Saddam Hussein? He is now saying he doesn't have any of these weapons. His word is not worth a nickel, as we found out this week.

DEAN: That's absolutely right. No one is going to trust Saddam Hussein. Anybody would be an idiot to trust Saddam Hussein.

We need to continue to put pressure on him, have inspectors. I actually that thought the Germans made a suggestion to increase the number of inspectors by 300 percent. I thought that was a very good suggestion. We are making progress with Saddam. He is a liar. He is a terrible person. But if we don't have to preemptively attack him, we are much better off.

SCHIEFFER: All right. We have to end it there. We'll invite you to come back another time...

DEAN: Thanks very much.

SCHIEFFER: ... to talk about domestic issues. But I thought it was important to get your thoughts...

DEAN: Thank you. I appreciate it.

SCHIEFFER: ... on the news of the day. Thank you very much.

DEAN: Thank you, Bob.

SCHIEFFER: When we come back, we'll talk to General Joe Ralston, who retired Friday as NATO commander in Europe, in a moment...

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