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tv   George W. Bush Presidency and Afghanistan and Iraq Wars  CSPAN  August 21, 2015 4:25pm-6:36pm EDT

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[ applause ] on c-span 2's book tv and american history tv on c-span three, this month with congress on its summer recess the city's tour is on c-span each day at 6:00 p.m. eastern. today the history of columbus, georgia, from the first prehistoric residents to the growth of the textile industry, as well as a look at confederate gun boats from the civil war and civil rights activism.
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later today, democratic presidential candidate senator bernie sanders will be in columbus, south carolina. one of the early primary states, he'll be there for a town hall meeting and afterwards take your phone call, live coverage starts at 7:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. former veteran secretary james nicholson and "new york times" chief white house correspondent peter baker who wrote "days of fire, bush and cheney in the white house, discuss the reasons for going to war in iraq and afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks this is the final part of today's programming looking at national security policy in the george w. bush administration. it's hosted by hofstra university. good evening. welcome to the george w. bush conference plenary forum, waging
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war in afghanistan and iraq. my name is paul fritz, a professor of political science at hofstra and i'm pleased to be serving as the moderator for this distinguished forum. the wars in iraq and afghanistan are arguably the most controversial and most consequential foreign policy decisions of the george w. bush administration. the di stoigs ecision to go to to fight the wars and related issues have not only dominated the bulk of president bush's time in office but have shaped current u.s. foreign policy options in and around the regions and beyond and will continue to do so to the foreseeable future there's very little doubt the wars in afghanistan and iraq will be measured by which the legacy of the george w. bush foreign policy will be measured. so with that in mind the conference organizers and, most importantly, director bose and
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associate director have brought together this outstanding panel of public servant, journalists and scholars to examine the way the bush administration waged wars -- the wars in afghanistan and iraq and the consequences of these wars. each of our panelists is extremely accomplished and i will try to keep their introductions relatively brief. although that's hard with a group like this. as i go through i would ask that you please hold your applause until i've introduced everyone so from giving us perspectives from the administration we first have thomas basile who's currently a national political commentator appearing on venues such as forbes and seirius xm. for the bush administration
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through 2003 to 2004, he was senior advisor to the coalition for professional authority. that have in 2004 he was a consultant for the republican national committee presidential campaign and prior to this service he was director of communications for the u.s. environmental protection agency in the 2001 through 2003 and was part of the 2000 bush/cheney campaign. last but not least, mr. be sill is -- basile is a hofstra alum and he was named the 2007 hofstra young alumnus. ambassador james nicholson is currently senior council at brownsteen hyatt shrek counseling people on regulatory law, international relation, real estate, oil and gas and alternative energy. from 2005 until 2009 ambassador nicholson was the u.s. secretary
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of veterans affairs before this he was u.s. ambassador to the holy see from 2001 to 2005 where he was knighted by pope john paul ii for his work on human rights. he's served as chairman of the federal interagency council on homelessness, the director of the new community development corporation, commissioner and commissioner of the defense advisory committee on women and the services. ambassador nicholson was chairman of the republican national committee from 1997 to 2001. lawrence wilkerson is currently distinguished adjunct professor of government and public policy at the college of william & mary. colonel wilkerson served in the united states army from 1966 to 1997. while if uniform he was a member of the faculty at the u.s. naval war college, special assistant
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to general colin powell when powell was chairman of the joint chiefs of stab and director and deputy director of the u.s. marine corps war college at quantico, virginia. from 2001 to 2002 he was associate director of the state department of policy planning staff. colonel wilkerson's last position was chief of staff for u.s. secretary of state colin powell in 2002 until 2005. the journalists and scholars, first, anand gopal, a journalist that served as an afghanistan correspondent for the "wall street journal," for the "christian science monitor" and has reported on the middle east and south asia for "harper's," the nation, "new republic" and several other. mr. gopal is one of the few journalists who has extensively interviewed all sides in the afghanistan conflict and this is cited extensively in his critically acclaimed book "no
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good men among the living: america, the taliban and through t war through afghanistan eyes" which was a finalist for the 2014 national book award and the 2015 helen bernstein award. by the way it was just announced yesterday a recipient of the riddenaur prize. congratulations. he's also an insight fellow at columbia university and a bernard schwartz fellow at the new america foundation. peter baker is the chief white house correspondent for the "new york times" and the contributing writer for the "new york times" magazine. he's covered three presidents for the times in his previous boggs the "washington post." and for his work mr. baker won the gerald ford prize for distinguished reporting on the presidency and the beckman memorial award for white house coverage. ? between his white house assignments, he was also the moscow bureau chief for the "washington post" during the rise of vladimir putin.
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mr. baker is the author of "days of fire: bush and cheney in the white house." which provides a comprehensive look at the bush administration from the controversial 2000 election to the wars of afghanistan in iraq to the last moments of the bush and cheney white house. prchlt baker is serving adds the distinguished conference scholar for this conference. and phyllis bennis is the director of the new internationalism project at the institute for policy studies in washington, d.c. and is a fellow of the transnational institute in amsterdam. ms. bennis has been a writer and analyst and activist in the middle east and unissues for many years and speaks widely across the u.s. and around the world as part of the global peace movement. she continues to serve as an nfrl advisor for middle east issues and u.n. democratization
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issues. she's the author of eight books, including most relevant to this panel the 2003 book "before and after, u.s. foreign policy and the war on terror" and the 2005 book "challenging empire, how people, governments and the u.n. defy u.s. power." please join me in welcoming this distinguished panel that we have here. [ applause ] so for the formats, we are going to have 10 to 12 minutes for each of our guests here and then there will be a question and answer session and possibly in between a moderated discussion depending on how much time we have. so we will go in the order that was listed in the program so first mr. basile? >> thank you, paul far
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introduction. it's a pleasure to be back here. i was thinking today as i was walking through that it was 18 years ago that i served as a student on the planning committee for the bush 41 conference and during the conference i got to trail around john sununu for three days who happens to be the fastest walker i'd ever encountered and today joe is following me around now two days -- two decades later and, joe, i'm sorry, you got stuck with me. but i really appreciate the invitation of dr. bose and the calico center to be here not only as abalumnus of the administration but also as an alumnus of the institution. it's wonderful to see hofstra's place in this discourse surrounding the american presidency increase so dramatically over the last number of years. it's good to see secretary
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nicholson here with whom i was so fortunate to share a very wonderful and for me a very meaningful and emotional moment in american history when we were both able to attend president bush's meeting with john paul ii at the vatican in 2002 so it is good to see you, sir. for millennia, the causes of war and the strategies associated with it were defined by particular margins involving resource and territorial acquisition resulting in the subjugation of conquered populations and i suggest for most people this paradigm continues to drive perceptions of war and war-making. i submit that with the close of the cold war and the rise of the united states hegemony in the world, the proliferation of technology, the breakdown of certain alliances that we witnessed -- what we witnessed in the rise of al qaeda and the
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decision making of the united states in the aftermath of 9/11 was a sharp departure from the usual war making paradigm. in fact, i believe we are still in many respects in a transitional phase in the way the country handles the military and the strategy to account for this shift. the administration of george w. bush was the first such administration to have to deal with this paradigm shift. during the bush presidency the white house was faced with the challenge of handling both the traditional territorial and institutional impacts of war in the form of external forces such as terror groups embedding and influencing the governance of state actors, the viral nature of the radical islamic terrorist movement, and the exploitation by governments of state actors of the new global paradigm that had emerged after the end of the cold war.
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that was historically complicated confluence of forces and circumstances that led to both the afghanistan and iraq missions. the bush administration had to cope with the concept of trying to fight mobile terrorist groups and dozens of countries while fighting traditional territorial battles, rebuilding infrastructure and institutions in afghanistan that perhaps may not have existed and in the case of iraq projecting out the impact that that state actors might have who exploit and support the efforts of the terrorist enemy. we've spent a great deal of time over the last decade and a half on whether we should have gone into afghanistan or whether we should have gone into iraq and i personally view the decision making process through who what my old boss paul bremer calls the reasonable man test. it comes from the old chancery courts. could a reasonable principle -- in this case the president of the united states -- faced with the confluence of circumstances
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that that i just described in a general sense, buttressed by specific intelligence, act in a certain way? keeping in mind, of course, that saddam hussein had been declared a state sponsor of terrorism and regime change had been the policy of the government since the clinton administration. when it comes to both iraq and afghanistan i believe president obama made the correct choice for military intervention in both of those circumstances. however, i believe the more relevant conversation for all of us and for our country moving forward remains once you make the decision to go to war what is the principle purpose or desired out come? now you have several choices. you can remove saddam hussein or the taliban and leave, which i believe is a false choice. you can, two, remove the leadership then grab some general or expatriate and impose them with absolute authority, trading one dictator for another and i think particularly for bush the moral and political
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argument fails there as well. or, three, you could attempt to secure the country and build institutions that could support not what some people have suggested, some so-called american style democracy but a participatory flurlistic and tolerance governance structure. the coalition prohibital authority in iraq was developed to execution option three, this historic gathering of often maligned members of our military and civilian corps and diplomats had the responsibility to get the economy growing and establish security in a political framework that would accomplish goal number three, working together with an iraqi population that was more supportive of the effort than is generally known or accepted. they tacked this extraordinary task with great passion and commitment and sacrificed much. with their efforts going largely unnoticed as the security situation worsened due to the rise of al qaeda in iraq and sectarian violence and,
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unfortunately, a white house that as the mission went on often failed to aggressively defend its own policy in iraq. president bush understood several key points very well. one, he believed that left unchecked it was likely that hussein would develop a nuclear weapons program. two, hussein had funded external terror groups and he believed it was likely that he would fund if not al qaeda he would be supporting other terror groups. three, the war on terrorism was a long-term global threat that involved dozens of groups, some closely aligned, some loosely aligned not only with each other but also state actors and also nation states as well and we're seeing this today as you see isis and al qaeda and boko haram and ansar al sharia and the muslim brotherhood and hamas, all these groups are converging as a network, and a very
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powerful one at that. fourth, he believed this was a generational -- generations-long fight. and it would require long-term and aggressive engagement. and five, that addressing the freedom deficit in the middle east and in countries that serve as incubators for these group, however long term and complex that strategy might be was essential and an avenue toward ensuring a more peaceful world and further international cooperation to intersbidict terrorist nations. where the strategy fill short was how to fight and manage all of these various components simultaneously. after all, we weren't just ejecting somebody from a country or protecting the territorial boundaries of a nation. we were trying to fight and insurgency while attempting to build new government and social and political institutions. on my first day in iraq i got off the plane in searing heat at
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the baghdad airport and i put on my flak vest that didn't have any plates in it because the government didn't issue me any and i put on my helmet and got on the bus to go to the compound and they said "by the way, the road is closed." the road between the airport and compound was closed because the army was not able to secure it. they called it the road of death. people were dying on it virtually everyday so they closed the route. and from that point on -- and that was my first day and my first hour, we knew we were going to have a resource issue here. manpower issues that plagued the iraq mission early on and have been a constant struggle in afghanistan were very real. the administration, particularly the rumsfeld pentagon, had a vision for a later fleet-footed high tech 21st century army. and that vision has merit, but it was incompatible with the mission that we had at that
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particular time. for our part, nearly every civilian and military liaison that i worked with agreed we needed to maintain overwhelming force size in order to accomplish the mission. today at the white house former johns hopkins university professor and noted economist ashraf ghani, the newly elected president of afghanistan, came to washington to tell the american people thank you for the work that it helped give them a shot instead of being a burden to the world to actually have a shot at a free future, but we are clearly seeing the begin whoofg the president call called a generational process of development. in iraq, despite poor intel regarding infrastructure, military assets, essential services, mass looting, a lack
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of indigenous security forces, the iraq mission also realize add range of successes also not sufficiently promoted by the administration and frequently ignored by the media, training of new iraqi security forces began within weeks of the creation of the cpa which enabled anybody up to the grade of colonel to reapply to a new professional army. ultimately 80% of the officers and the ncos in the new army were from the old army but they were better paid, trained and equipped. the central bank was reopened and the currency transitioned to a single stable unit within the first six months. it took us two years to do that in post world war ii germany. oil production increased, dozens of schools and government buildings were rebuilt. a constitution was developed with shi'a, sunnis, kurds and turkmen at the table and an election was facilitated in incredibly challenging environment. and let's not forget more than
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eight million people voted in iraq's first election. perhaps most importantly, al qaeda in iraq had been decimated due to one of the boldest foreign policy decisiones in my opinion of the last half century made by president george w. bush. delayed, admittedly, but necessarily surge. by the time bush left office the economy increased several times over from its time under hussein. per capita income increased between four and six times. life expectancy had risen and security forces secured much of the country due to the training and ongoing assistance from the united states. despite the consequences of a precipitous withdrawal of troops administer bid the current administration and the insistent by both parties of this military strategy via cnn which left iraq all but defenseless in the face of isis, we also recently just saw the fourth peaceful transition of power between
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governments in iraq, which is something that had never before been accomplished in the middle east with the exception of israel. none of these positives, of course, can negate the challenges that persist but they can when added to the conversation give us a better understanding of the need and the ability to move nations toward a freer more pluralistic construct. in my time in iraq i saw courage and conviction of an iraqi people anxious to build a new nation. a thousand acts of courage, an unheralded success everyday overshadowed by a security situation that we were unprepared to address. as we look back, there are many issues and things to be learned. few are for certain, few are certain, that must inform our thinking. the world has changed. the changes we face and the challenges we face, rather, have changed but giving people a chance to be free and
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self-govern is the surest way to a greater peace. saw firsthand the consequences of how the tarnism and oppression and the evil that sap it had soul out of people and nations and regions in a way we can not fully appreciate here. and you haven't experienced the power of freedom until you talk to somebody who has never known it and they realize for the first time the participatory government isn't some abstract theory. it's real and it works and it's achievable with great effort and great sacrifice. george w. bush did not buy into the big industry that suggests that there are certain people in this world do not deserve or are too unsophisticated or incapable of handling what we call freedom. i consider it an honor to have served him and i look forward to a meaningful discussion tonight. thank you so much for your attention.
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[ applause ] . >> good evening, i really appreciate being here at hofstra university on this panel with these distinguished people and i appreciate what you're doing here at hofstra with this conference on the george w. bush presidency. and we won't agree here on everything that is said, i'm sure, but i bet there's one thing about which we can agree and this is that whatever is said here tonight about the george w. bush presidency will look different to us in 20 years and different again 20 years after that. george w. bush's presidency must be defined by the events of september 11, 2001, when the
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united states of america was viciously attacked by an enemy whose leader, osama bin laden, stated as far back as 1983 that the united states was the mortal enemy. it was necessary to protect our country. and keep it safe. president regan put the end to the cold war. president lincoln had his, slavery. so did president bush. his global war on terror. kept us safe. and kept us free. so let's saturday with that. president bush fortold the
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leader he would be at his acceptance speech in august, 2000 at the republican national convention. i was there, and i was a chairman of the convention, as the chairman of the republican national committee. and then they said, quote. if you give me your trust, i will horn it. grant me a mandate, i will use it. give me the opportunity to lead the nation. a little did he know the events that would befall us later. we found out later. it started immediately on 9/11. the context is worth a reminder. the president was at a school in florida, but immediately authorized the shooting down of civilian jet liner.
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the white house staff were told to evacuate. and evacuate in a hurry. and the women were told to take off their shoes so they can run faster down the street the. the reason was, they thought a plane was about to slam in the white house. the details stand out, because you have to think about, when the last time the white house was evacuated under similar circumstances. the only time that comes to mind is when the british burned the building during the war of 1812. soon after the president went to new york city, to game three of the world series to throw out the first pitch. in a sense, that was a small act. president's throw pitches all the time. but in this case. in new york. while the fires were still burning at the world trade center and when the entire nation was on edge about another terrorist attack, it was a big deal that the president went to the ballpark, and stood on the
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mound. he demonstrated that he was not afraid, that we should not be afraid, and the game and business of the life of the nation must go on. the p president addressed the nation that a joint session of congress. he was in chand and he was comforting with his emphasis on safety, security and patriotism. an interesting side note to that speech is that on that day. which was september 20th. the jumbotron turned off the
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president and turned back to the game. the response was overwhelming, for a moment, americans dropped professional sports and tuned in to what the president had to say. he ended up on the draw. president bush's presidency, presidential historiy author sad that of all things that face a president. the war is the most fateful. all of our presidents were involved in war, before or during their presidency, save thomas jefferson. crisis helps those that rise to it and the association of war with presidential greatness. has the ominous aspects.
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let's start with afghanistan. the pope supported our going in to afghanistan. i presented my credentials, the leaders of the sovreign state. and we had prepare remarks and we put them aside, the first thing we did did was said a prayer for the victims, and then talked. and i by then was able to give him a brief of what we thought. you know dirivitives. we must stop the people killing in the name of god. that was not a privilege, and i was able to report that, and put that out there, and it really
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helped us in putting together a coalition together to go in to afghanistan. but the pope did see iraq differently. he expressed his opposition during his address, he looked directly at me and said, no to war. war should only be a last resort. it was not a surprise. it was a diplomatic challenge of the ambassador. and it's a robust debate, under our lead. i enlisted the support of the
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vatigan, and come to rome and assist me in an educateive effort. at the holy sea. the apartment welcome, which means they have wonderful. the need that we saw it, to go in to iraq. the pope continued to view this as preemptive. and in spite of the personal interventions. the president himself and in a session with the pope's personal especially sary. who went to see he the
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president. the pope dispatched an admiral to baghdad. they were trying get hussein to come in to line, that was requested through the u.n. primarily. and of course, neither were successful. but the president understood and often said that the pope is a man of peace and he had a different responsibility. importantly, though, the pope never said that it was immoral for us to go in to iraq and he really couldn't, because it would violate the doctrine of the church, which recognizes that there's evil forces in the world and there's those that
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deserve to be protected from evil forces and that needs the institution of war and violence. in fact, today, in the train to new york, i read a report from a distingui distinguished reporter. john paul the ii. earned the right affirm our endeavor to go in to iraq. we know we entered iraq for the purpose of protecting our country and eradicating the threat to us. possessed by iraq. the case had been made that the citizens to the u.n. and
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friends. the facts as we saw it, hussein had known that we evaded two of his neighboring countries. kuwait and iran, he used weapons destruction on his own people. our planes and allies planes, we were work iing to the resolutio, to improve that he had. he made the family of palestinian suicide bombers. and gave every indication that he maintained stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. he refused to adhere to p international demands and showed every sign of being willing and interested in supporting attacks on the united states. therefore, after 9/11, the
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united states could not afford them to take a chance. and that he would provide them for weapons of mass destruction and other information important to american targets. no stock piles of weapons of mass destruction were found. nonetheless, is a saddam hussein was a threat to peace. and because of his hostility to the world, we chose war. hussein was toppled and iraq did get a glimpse of freedom and democracy. their courageous participation in their elections as tom mentioned demonstrated the hunger and the appreciation for free the dome. in fact, i will never forget just weeks after we went in to iraq, the catholic patriot, came to rome and asked if he could visit me, and i received him at my residence in rome and he was
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the leader of about 850,000 catholics. and for whom, hussein kept up a protected a status. and the dispute between the sunni and the the shia were off to the side spite of the fact that they knew this would be disassem p -- he said, thank you for coming to my country and freeing us. exhibiting that innate desire that man has, but for freedom, and the euphoria he exhibited was, was exillrating knowing even as he did the risks that they are now in because of this. but, you know, one can debate
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the conduct of the war as many have, and one can argue that we should not have dismissed the sunni bath party dominated army, and the police forces. i would think that would be a legitimate thing. one can argue that we shifted emphasis intensely -- in lieu of of order. but i will end the way i started. which is to say again, that president bush after we were invaded on 9/11 said he'd do what was necessary to protect the country. he kept americans safe for the next seven years as our president. was war necessary?
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was it worth it? did it matter? the final report of the chief weapons inspector for the u.n. charles doolford conclude saddam wanted to -- i a agree with those who say, that had saddam done what he wanted, we would have seen an arms race develop, and have an arms raft with the possibilities biological, chemical or nuclear weapons being in the hands of terrorists. it would have increased greatly the possibilities of a dirty bomb being exploded in our country t pressure on our friends like i see z real, kuwait, saudi a arabia and the uae would be greater today and as a result the american people would be less safe as well.
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only time will tell about president bush. all i can say is that he is looking better and better as the world becomes more and more dangerous. and we become who vulnerable to those that want destroy us. what is a president's most important job? it's to keep us safe and he did. thank you very much. [ cheers and applause ] okay, i will take a little bit different tack, i'm going to try to look at, hope i have time, to look up three seminole episodes in what was my life after 9/11.
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once the chilling affects of the attack had sunk in. and we had realized at the state department, it's safe to say throughout the government, what happened to us, the reaction we were going to present to the world. we sat down on the policy planning staff as the did other people at state and we thought about it. one of the things that impressed us majorly was the phone calls, the letters, if you will, that were coming in. the tv scenes, it was a moment of incredible global solidarity, my god, we even got a condolence from fidel castro. one of the papers in paris ran a
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headline, "we are all americans ". my boss and his boss decided that one of the things we should try to do, we are diplomats. former soldiers and diplomats now. was to capitalize on the moment of global solidarity, not just for what we knew the president wanted to do with regard to afghanistan, but in so many other realms that we had problems. we drew a matrix, and on the matrix was the mission and the countries and the people who would do it. and in some cases like pakistan, it was the president of the united states and the secretary of state that would talk to the president interest the head of the pakistani military and the iss and so forth. and in other countries it was our ambassador.
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so, we were going to try to talk to the philippine government and get u.s. forces back in the philippines in some significant sort of way. it was a huge task sheet that basically capitalized on this moment of global solidarity. iraq, completely shattered that. the invasion of iraq and the run up to that shattered that global solidarity. shattered the diplomacy that was associated with it, shattered our hopes of solving lots of other problems on the wings of that. if you will. but it also occasioned the second episode i will discuss. no one knew better than former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff colynn powell and i was
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his special assistant at the time. what we had done to the armed forces of the united states, and what porter gossin called the peace dividend. it was not clinton that delivered it, it was george hw bush. and he did it because the congress of the united states demanded it. we cut the armed forces, for example, 25%. that was a huge cut. biggest cut since word war ii really, especially if you look at how we did it, bases and everything. bill clinton came along with his new secretary of defense and cut another 3%. what relevance does that have to this? it has this relevance. powell was secretary of state, but he was a former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, even though cheney told him that, and told him to not talk military matters, he felt it was his responsibility to say, mr. president, we cannot do two wars
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in same time. we destroyed that capability with the cut of 28%. you better finish afghanistan, nobody is arguing with you about afghanistan. you better finish that before you do iraq, otherwise, you are going to neglect afghanistan. which is what we proceeded to do. we shattered the global solidarity and went to iraq with too few forces in the first place because donald rumsfeld decided that was the amount we would send. that was partly a give and take, the president was told he had too few troops. so you had too few troops to do iraq, and that left contractors to come on to do the ultimate public function.
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war. we are still living with it. we have not put to rest yet. the other item that powell brought to the president's attention other than timing was legitamacy, in the shape of the united nations and other allies other than britain. we went to the u.n. in november, and we got a 15-0 vote. unanimous vote approving 14.41. again, we brought back a bit of global solidarity. what that did, that they could go and do their jobs. they could go and continue the inspections.
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you cannot continue inspections when you have the marshals on the way. you already started them and the summer is coming, the heat in high rack. if you are doing this, you are believe proly going to have to cut the inspectors short and if you are really intent ongoing to war, you are going to roblly have to do it even without the preparation you should have. that's the second point, third point. my boss, got put out to the united nations security council to give the most specious presentation on iraqi wd, that probably anyone has been called on the american government to render, to not just the security council.
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to the american public, it was effective. why? because it was powell, he had mother teresa poll ratings. and you are looking at the individual that went out to the cia and prepared powell for that preparation, in terms of ork straig -- from orchestrating the analysts and working day and night with his deputy. and frankly, on three pillars of that presentation, mobile biological laboratories, existing stocks of chemical and biological weapons. a nuclear program. and then, a fourth one, which was tanamount to the biggest lie of all.
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formidable contacts between saddam hussein and a -- he said take all the terrorist crap out, it's not believable or accurate. take it out. i said, boss, don't shout at me, i agree, let's take it out. to include training them in the use of biological wiy weapons, s a fabrication. the secretary of state gave a speech that he believed in.
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that was orchestrated carefully between the vice president's office and the under secretary defense and defense department and the cia, certain analysts in the cia that were given the to me as gospel. and he presented that to the security council, tot american people and the international community to bring about the war that he had already seen destroy his strategy for exploiting the global sole da global solidarity that 9/11 produced and destroy hope of legitamacy, and it was based on false intelligence. it was not just an intelligence failure. it was that. but it was ork stragz of that intelligence to make it present a picture that simply was not true. and there were people in that administration who knew that. so those are my three events
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about this particular war and in that sense, i think i would say disasterous decision and a disasterous aftermath. we have heard about that. i could go in to great detail about that too. my time is up, it's not a good time for the united states of america. [ cheers and applause ] thank you very much. i would like to pick up where you left off. just in hearing the first two speakers and the fits of nostalgia, back in 2001, on 9/11, i very much viewed the world through the language and the terms that they employed. i was living near the twin towers on that day, i lost friends in the attack.
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and i believed the we are on a terror was that against people who hated our way of life. people who hated freedom. people who were hell bent on destroying everything that we stood for. and i have learned that it's more complicated than that. i moved to afghanistan in 2008 and i hit the road soon after i took a motorcycle, i lived in voi villages and i goity the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life and what i learned in that, in those trips is that those ideas, really those ideas that i had back in 2000 can and one, were not accurate. i will give you one example, where i pulled in to a village after a few dawes of travel and met a tribal elder, he was in his 70s or 80s and he had lived through 25, 30 years of war and
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we got to talking about the war on terror and about the american invasion. and at one point, i asked him, why do you think the united states invaded your country? and he knew about 9/11 and talked about it a little bit. for hiit was a far aoccurrence. it was not at the center of the way he thought. instead, he told me, he said, the u.s. invaded our country because they hate our way of life. those ringing phrase for me. i did not necessarily agree with him, but hearing him put it in this way, which was the way it was talked about back in 2001, was a watershed moment for me. it spurred me to investigate how afghans really view the war on terror and the american war. particularly afghans that are living in the south. where the war is being fought. so not live engine areas that
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are peaceful, but living in areas where there's constant fighting to the day. and here is what i found. after 2001 alquaida left. after the 2001 invasion of afghanistan. there were none of them in iraq. in afghan, story. the taliban quit. from the senior leadership, they surrendered in summer of 2001 and met in fact with karzai who was being escorted by the speci special forces to engineer a deal. every one of them from the senior officials like the minister of justice, the minister of defense, the minister of the interior, is
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wall the way down to rank and file field commanders, they surrendered and tried to switch sides. it's not because they suddenly felt they believed in the american ideas of freedom or they loved the united. this is how war worked in afghan over the last two or three decades. when the russians left, they rebranded themselves holy warriors. people would switch sides out of nothing more than bald pragnatism, in a situation where life gets so deadly, you learned to switch sides depending on which way the wind blew. after 2001, these taliban members tried to switch sides. there were a number of high profile incidents that were covered in the press at the
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time. covered in the new york times and other places, in which taliban members tried to hand over their weapons and try i to cut a deal with the new officials and find a way to not be persecuted. as an example, in early january of 2002, there were efforts to raise funds for the taliban by radical pakistani claerics, the were trying to bring the taliban back on their feet. at the time, the finance minister, he was he was close to the supreme leader, he said, publically to reporters, please do not doe p nate the to us, we are defeated and please give your money elsewhere. as another example, in january of 2002, the minister of defense along with minister of justice and a number of other top officials publically cut a deal
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with the afghan governor and handed over truckloads of weapons in exchange for staying at home and living in immunity. you had a particular type of situation in jn or february of 2002. you had thousands of soldiers, mostly special forces soldiers on the ground in afghanistan. you had no al qaeda can and the taliban as a military movement was defunkt, so, in other words you had thousand thes of soldiers on the ground without an enemy to fight. but we had a political mandate, and that was that we are here to fight a war on terror and you are with us or against us. this world view categorized afghans in to two categories. terrorists or good guys. doing away with all the shades of gray that make the reality of
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afghanistan. this was it was a contradiction, the u.s. allied with the warlords and in effect, their enemies became the enemies of the united states. most of the intelligence at the time was human intelligence, coming through local commanders and proxies and and local figures that had a complicated history on the ground. who had their own enemies. who had their own rivalries interest their own hatchets to bury. and in fact, their enemies became our enemies. and so, the u.s. didn't go to afghanistan, and create a the dictator, what -- you know, as
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one of you referred to. what the united states did, was create hundreds and hundreds of small dictators in villages and districts around the country. men that were armed to the hilt and paid and given contracts to the detriment of nation and state building over the years. give you an example of this. a friend of mine, lived across the street from me. when i met him, he was 85 or 86 years old. he was in retirement he would come to a bakery sometimes at 4:00 or 5:00 a.m. and need dough, one morning malitia a men showed up outside his house and they asked for him and he came
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outside and they asked his name. and they said, we have intelligence that you are a terrorist and they arrested him. he protested that he was not a tear rest, he w terrorist, he was a baker. they handed him over to u.s. forces and there he went under interrogation, he had metal hooks put in his mouth, they were twisted. he was beaten, they said he was a master mind and they were convinced because they had intelligence from afghan warlords that this was so. he kept insisting he was not a taliban master mind and they could not get a confession from him. then he was turned over to the same people that captured him. these afghan malitia a men took him to a private jail, took him down stairs, a couple of floors down and hung him up side down for 18 to 20 hours a day.
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and whipped him. he was hung with a number of other tribal elders and other people that these malitia men wanted to extract intelligence from. one of them was a famous tribal elder and he was whipped so much that he was eventually killed. he quickly realized that what they were after was not so much intelligence, there was no intelligence to give. what they were after was money. if he were to pay, he would be given freedom. the families raised money and collected the funds and delivered it to his cap tors and he was released. once he demonstrated that he was able to pay for his release, then he was a marked man. and so, like clock work, every few months he was arrested again by the same men. he was then transferred to the air field, to the special forces, who accused him of being once gun a master mind, he was
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returned back to the malitia men, hung up side down whipped until he could be paid again. this went on for three or four years until 2005, when the commander of unit that was arresting him was killed in a united states attack and the major command of the intelligence services, that ran the malitia, that was tore chrichr i -- that was torturing him, he now lives in california and he has many family members that are now american citizens. so this is the situation, i can repeat hundreds on of stories like this, my book has many of them. of people caught in this, what we call the war on terror, which in fact, in afghanistan, turns out to be wars against local communities in which certain warlords and certain commanders were eliminating their enemies and using the thieds to gain rich ares and power. we live with that legacy today.
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i think the processes that created the insurgency in afghanistan, took root in 20020 and 2000 and three. by 2004, the taliban had reconstituted itself as a fighting force. it was now based in pakistan, and it was very hard, the moment of opportunity that existed in 2002 was passed it was now hard to do undo what was done, and we are living with the consequences of that now in afghanistan when we think of the legacy of war in afghanistan and the legacy of george w. bush, we need to think of what it means for afghans on the ground and interrogate why it is that fighting is continuing in afghan today, thank you. [ cheers and applause ] switch the order around a
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bit. i'm not peter baker. i play him on tv. i would like to thank all of the staff for inviting me. i'm delighted to participate tonight. i wanted to start in discussing george w. bush with a quote from someone who was a great heroine of mine, diane nash, diane nash was a great hero of the civil rights movement. she was the one that commemor commemoratcommemora tmt the march on selma. at the last minute, she said this. she refused to march and she said, and i quote, i refused to march because george bush marched. he was in the front row with her.
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i think the selma movement was about nonviolence peace and democracy and george bush stands for the opposite of that, i thought it was not an appropriate event for him. i think she was right. it was not an appropriate event for him. and it's actually, i think a good thing that he is not here today, because this is not an appropriate event for him either. i would assert that the only public event that is appropriate for george bush and the others of his administration is to be on trial for war crimes. and i think that when we look at war crimes, it's important that we look at it and interrogate it more than we sometimes do. both in my view, the wars in iraq and afghanistan were illegal. in afghanistan, the claim was
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made that this was a war for justice and for self defense, and in fact it was about revenge and propaganda, partly to prepare the way for the coming war in iraq. which was the primary war. it was illegal because it was not self defense. article 51 of the u.n. charter is very specific about what self defense is and not and among other things it says that a country has the absolute right of self defense, until the critical word, until, the security council can meet and decide what to do about that particular crisis. well the security council met as you will remember, those of you who are not too young and those too young to remember, i don't want to hear from you. the security council met within 24 hours of the attack on the trade center. the building was still smolderring, diplomats had lost friends. some had children in the area. it was a terrifying thing for people in the u.n. and
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everywhere else in new york and washington. they would have, on that day, passed anything the u.s. proposed, but the u.s. did did not propose an endorsement of the use of force, it was a specific decision to not do that. not because it would not have passed. it would have passed unanimously. it called for a variety of on things having to do with tracing the money and several other things. but it was not a resolution to be taken under the terms of chapter 7, the criteria in the u.n. charter that is the only basis for the use of force. and in that sense, it was not self defense, and it did not meet the standard for self defense in the united nations and under article 6 of the u.s. constitution, treaties are part of the law of the land. treaties include the u.n. charter. that was clearly a violation.
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whether or not the president makes a decision, congress makes a decision, doesn't determine whether international law has been violated. in this case, it was violated. in the question of iraq, i would just say one other thing on the question of self defense, if the u.s. had managed to scramble a plane to take down the second plane that was about to crash in to the towers that would have been a legitimate use, or hi ho as it would, but a legitimate use of self defense. going to war on the other side of the world was not legitimate self defense. in iraq, we had many claims of why the war was legitimate. it was weapons of mass destruction. it was the possibility of nuclear weapons. it was the links to taliban. it was the alluminum tubes that could only be used for nuclear weapons. as we know, none of those were true. it was a war fought for a host
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of other reasons, and i will not get in to those discussions. but i think that we do have to recognize that the region is more dangerous now because of the illegal wars waged by george w. bush. than would have fwn case otherwise. and i think when we talk about war crimes, it'sly also important that we distinguish the war crimes that have to do with how wars are carried out. from another kind of war crime. the crimes that have to do with how the war was carried out are more common in much of the discourse, so the issues of collective punishment. shock and awe, the massive civilian deaths were known that were going to occur and the acts anyway.
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the thousands that were killed. the rendition, the black sites of interrogation,n+v# torture, those things. the determination that someiunõ geneva convention, as though it's a right of a lawyer to decide that some don't deserve to be treated under the terms of the geneyou can't n geneva cons. -- convention, all of it was violation. article 29 said a party of the conflict, the government of one side in the conflict is responsible for the treatment of people living under occupation regardless of who, what agent of that government carries out the action. that goes to the went of, command, responsibility. and the obligations of the commander. the commander in chief, and all
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those up and down the shane of command to be responsible for that. we didn't see any of that. we saw low level accountability against three or four people in the scandal and nothing above very few, low ranking soldiers. article 47 of the geneva consensation say that people protected under the geneva convention cannot be denied protection by actions taken by the occupying force or the government in place. so things like, t the disoflinge military and sending them home without a way to support their family is violation of the geneva convention. they are talked about a lot, as the part of the legacy of the
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bush administration. what is not talked about very often is what justice jackson who was a supreme court justice as you all know, and served as chief prosecutor at the nuremburg trials, talked of the supreme national crime. it was the crime of aggression. that was the fundamental crime, the supreme crime from which all the others stemmed. and these were wars of aggression. they were not self defense. they were in justice jackson's words the supreme international crime. they were grounded in the concept of u.s. exceptional iis american exceptionalism. something that guided the
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policy. that we are different that we are better. we have the right to do what ever we want around the world to take the world to war, because we have been the victims of a terrorist attack. imagine if another country were in that situation. let's take an attack that did happen, years earlier in 1976 cuba was the victim of a terrorist attack, when terrorists put two bombs on a civilian airliner that crashed over the mediteranian, and killed 73 people. among them the entire young cuban fencing team. and several government officials and other sticivilians were on board. it was a clear act terror.
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one of them was living for many years in miami, he was charged with an immigration violation and he was never jailed, he was never tried for the terrorist attack. what if cuba had decided that because they had been victims of a horrific terrorist attack that they now had the right to send drones to attack, someone in miami or to take the world to war to revenge that attack. would we have said, that was their right, they have been the subject of a terrible terrorist attack and therefore they have the right to go to war, i don't think so. i don't think that would have our response. the u.s. only allow itself to
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violate international law, and expect the world to stand with it. that was the point of, you are either with us or with the terrorists. it was not just about reclaiming the global solidarity that we saw during those first hours and those first days, when the world said we are all americans now. it was about saying, if you you are not prepared to go to war with us, we will treat you as if you were terrorists and we will go to war against you. it was that kind of approach. and it has to do with this notion that we heard from george bush, it was not on september 11th, it was september 12th. i would say that september 12th changed the world. not the 11th. the 11th was a horrific crime, a crime against humanity. the 12th was the announcement
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that the response to that crime would be to take the world to war. and the choices we had were to take them to war or let them get away with it. unfortunately we too often hear that same argument. it's not true then or now. there's never only the choice of war or nothing. there are always a host of alternatives. and it's our job as students, as activists, as diplomats, as elected officials, to find those alternatives. that's what didn't happen. justice jackson said something else, he said and i quote him here, if certain acts and violations are crimes, they are crimes whether the united states does them, or whether germany does them. we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others that we would not be willing to have invoked
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against us. justice jackson was betrayed by george w. bush and his administration. it was in the context of that refusal to acknowledge the reality of international law, and the views of the rest of the world and i know there are probable people here in the audience or listening on long distance, who don't believe international law really has a role to play. who do not believe in international law. and i would just say for those of you in that position, you may want to think about one thing. whether you want to accept the legitimacy of international law or not, it's the way the other 197 countries around the world view our actions and what we d . it is through that lens of
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international law, that people judge ourings. and it's for that reason that the legacy of george w. bush is going to be that of a war criminal. [ cheers and applause ] okay, great, every hear me? i a am off at the end of the table here, and i think that what has transpired is fabulous. as a journalist and somebody spends a lot of time in washington, i enjoy hearing the great diversity of points of view. a real range and i think i do not have much to add, i will will say a few words and then we can continue the conversation. i think hofstra should be praised for bringing owing people who can have vigorous and vibrant debate about the things.
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wa ringing defense of president bush to a sharp indictment of what he has done here. i would say that you know, as a repo reporter, i was in afghanistan in 2001 before any americans arrived. because i was base in moscow at the time. and the only way in was through tajikastan and i spent about eight months there in the early parts of the war as it were. and i went from there, to the middle east and spent about six months in iraq for when saddam was still in charge and then, during the initial phase of that war and came back to cover the second term of president bush. so, as a journalist, had a chance to see a bit from both sides of this per. one of the things that were said that i thought was on point that
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was important to remember is how different it looks from the different vantage points and how complicated these issues are whether you agree with secretary nicholson and tom, or phyllis benice and i think everyone is making a different argument. but these are such, such -- they go beyond easy, the easy conversation, the afghanistan were told we invaded their country because we hate their way of life. i had friends in baghdad, and they decided to the test, in effect, this very bit of different perspectives and -- each of them rode along with an american military pro session
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through the city. and tom ricks was the very able military correspondent, rode with the military troops and our arabic speaking foreign corresponden corresponde correspondent, walked along side and talked to the people of iraq and the troops came away from the event and said, boy, they are waving at us and they are happy, and they seem happy to sooi see us and they are supportive and shadid listening to them speaking in arabic heard anger and resentment and bitterness that would fuel,s havely, a lot of trouble to come. and i think that, it's that sort of disconnect that has flavored this period in which we have try to find solutions and it has not been a lot easier for president obama, folks have a lot to say about him as well. if were an obama conference.
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but, you mow, this did, this is, this is evolved and changed over time, as now two presidents have struggled to figure out what the lessons to take from it. i would argue that in some ways the first anti-war, if you ask too strong a phrase, feelings that inhabited the white house after the invasion of iraq and the invasion of afghanistan came before president bomb took office. as p president bush took a different path by his second term. the anecdote that stands 2007 when the israelis come to the white house saying we have intelligence suggesting that the syrians have a nuclear facility and we think you should bomb it and president bush gathers his team, much the same team in two on thousa-- in 2002, and 2003, asked their opinion then and
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they all said, yes, you are ready to go. and then, president kicks them all out of the room and it's him and cheney at this point. and it's two of them making the decision and he gives the order to go. can and then flash forward, the went of what to could about syria and the president, the same people in front of him and the vice president is asked to give his opinion in front of everyone else. and the vice president said, we should go ahead and bomb them, it's a threat. you have laid down the red line and you should follow through on that. interest the president asked if anybody agreed with the vice president and nobody's hand goes up and the path from that point, from 2003, and 2007, shows how much iraq and afghanistan had
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begun to weigh on president bush. he did not take military action in darfur to try to step in on the genocide, he too, by that point was struggling to figure out what had happened, what worked, what did not work. i don't think he regrets his decision, per say, or at least he would not say it out loud. and i he would defend it in strong terms on the same terms that tom mentioned earlier. but it clear by the time he left office, he himself was trying to figure out what was the appetite for military action versus diplomacy.
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he engaged in multi-lateral diplomacy on the nuclear program, and tried in the second term to repair the relations that were damaged with the europeans. and gap to move some of the people out of guantanamo and began a shift that continued, and accelerated with president wahl. and this is what happens in this country. it's, i think, when we have a national security crisis interest and we go to war. we find situations where we take actions and we -- that end up evolving over time. lincoln and the is suspension of habias corpus. and i find all of that to be an important part of the overall story of how we have gotten from there to here. whereas president obama has been struggling with the same issues
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and sees choices he doesn't like in front of him, whether it's come to isis, iran, or ukraine or any number of different scenarios that confront him on how he chooses to do respond these days. i don't have more to say on that. i have a whole bunch of questions for everyone up here. but i will turn it over to our moderators. thank you very much. >> actually, you summed it all up nicely. and i think you are really the moderator at this point. makes my job easier tonight. but i do think it's a good idea, so many critical issues have been exposed and differences and vantage points, to open up to questions back and forth on the panel would be most productive in fact. and then, of course, we will safe time for audience questions too. but there's a lot to discuss here. we have core differences on the need for the war. issues of intelligence, the ways
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the wars were ]x0qfought. the logicallity, the ethical concerns for the war. that these decisions. there's a lot on the table that i think there's a lot that could be productively debated. so, with that, i guess i will open it up, if people want to have specific responses to each. >> can we hear from the audience? >> certainly, but we have a panel discussion was what i was thinking first in this sense. >> okay. >> so, actually, yeah, peter do you want to ask some of your questions? >> i have questions. i will ask a couple of questions. i guess, i'm curious at tom, tom and phyllis, maybe that way you can bring it in to sharper relief for us. top, you are in iraq, and you make the argument that jerry bremer made a logical decision that have been criticized
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afterwards with regards to the army and so forth. and your argument is, if i remember correctly. if you stated it krktly, that we went in under resources that we didn't properly commit to what was necessary. i'm curious if you have other thoughts about what our understanding before the war of sunni versus shia, whether we had really, if we understand the pot boiler that was there to awakened, whether you think more resources would have made a difference or was this, how is it inevitable? and i guess, i would ask, you talk about, they didn't ask the security council immediately after 9/11, whether or not to authorize a strike against afghanistan let's say they had. the security council would have clearly gone along. you think it would have been wise or not wise to have
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proceeded with the war. it was the only question to you, whether the u.n. authorized it, or was it okay to go in period, despite that bin laden's people had a sanctuary there. >> that is a lot to handle. thank you and peter i enjoy your book. i recommend folks buy it. all right, so, let's kind of address these one at a time. intel going in. let's not forget that you know, secretary powell did go langley three days and went through the intelligence. this is not just our intelligence. we had a number of different intelligence, when we went to the security council, we did not get a veto from the russians and they understood that there was a strong likelihood that saddam hussein had chemical and biological agents.
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and and that, and as somebody who has been in saddam's 300 room subterranean bunker, that even our most powerful weapons did not penetrate and i walked down in the dark with a flashlight and saw all of the chemical bio suits and gloves and everything around there. you know, you can, you often, you know, i often speculate, what was there. was there anything ever. what was he telling his leadership, and you know, thee regime elites have a very sort of cloistered sort of circle of people that they deal with. okay. there's a lot of show. there's a lot of sort of, there are a lot of mirages that the regimes have to construct in order to continue to exert
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authority over their regime members and then also the larger public. so, you know, i think that is, you know, clearly we can, we may be able to say that was an intelligence failure. but there were also, there were others. i remember very clear walk engine and talking to people and said is, look, i have no idea that it was this bad, in terms of the degradation of the physical resources. so much of the resources had gone in to building up the military. so much of the resources had been, had been consolidated by the regime, over a number of years that nothing worked, nothing much worked before the war, and it definitely did not work after the war. and you know, after the looting. so, you know, when we talk about resources and we talk about intel, you have to main an overwhelming physical force in order to secure the, secure and
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main the infrastructure, that was really the first thing that we did not, that we did not do, effectively. you know, nature is a vacuum. and when you are dealing with a situation where you are going in to a country, if there's a vacuum of force, then what you are going to see the people filling that void or vacuum. that's where you a saw the sectarian malitias. it's important to remember in iraq, this was a nonsectarian country. it was a separation from mosque and state for many, many years. saddam viewed himself as an islamic leader in the middle east really since after the first gulf war. when he was trying to sort of reassert some of his own authority in the region. you have intermarriage in iraq, between sunnis and shee wra.
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so, when i say that when you talk bob & tom rank and file iraqi, these people wanted to move on with their lives. they were not saying, okay, i will, this guy 96 door to me, he is a shia, let's go kill him. that was not part of the thinking of the country. as the insurgency and the fighters came in, you saw the still the vast majority of iraqis wanting to get on with their life, and you saw the sectarian malitias, start to increase in power. because they felt they could. they felt they had the opportunity. because we didn't have enough people to, to adequately secure the infrastructure interest the streets. with respect to the army and this is probably the most talked about issue. when you discuss the immediate
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after math. i had the benefit on of actually sitting and speaking with walt slocum, who was the deputy secretary of defense, under president clinton, over in iraq. who was one of the architects of the strategy and actually, getting in had the car, and going out, and visiting some of the military facilities or what was left of them. and their, i know there were people on the panel that will say, it's a lie, there's no truth to it. but when you have a conskribt that is poorly trained and poorly equipped and poorly trained and you have an officer core that falls apart above it, the rest of the army faus apart. you have no place to feed them, you have no way to pay them. because of the infrastructure break down. you have to understand that unlike in the first gulf war where we took literally
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thousands of pows and who were members of iraq's fighting force, in iraq this time around. we took, i believe, it was the number was less than a thousand these guys were so poorly equipped, they went to the plant, where they were making their uniforms and their helmets and their helmets were like the thing that you would give to a 5-year-old kid. like hard plastic. again, a lot of the stuff was sort of for show. they had big numbers and they were all conskribts. they had an officer core that was a patron ge den, we had very little intelligence on the order of battle. in terms of finding the people. particularly the senior level officers, it would have been difficult for us to do and the first thing that bremer did, was say, well, look, there's not an army to reconstitute and what we need is a professional fighting
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force. and in order to secure this country and ultimately put ourselves out of the game. we need a professional fighting force. in 60 days of his arrival. 60 days. not six months, not a year, not two years. within 60 days of his arrival we had started training the first classes of the new iraqi army. now, remember, anybody up to the rank of colonel from the old army was able to apply and 80% of the new army were folks from the old army. you needed to have the component s to start training people. i would like to add that we did try once. and nobody ever talks about this. but we did try once to actually
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reconstitute an old division of the iraq i army and that was in 2000 and 14, in the battle of feluge, the marines found general from the old army that was half way descent on paper. he was not a buddy of a bud and that is how he got his rank. he was able to locate a core group of ncos and the marines wanted to use them to go in to the battle. so they did that, and it was a complete disaster disaster. testify a complete disaster to the point that half of them ended fighting on the other side. so, i know that this is an easy thing for folks to say, this is crazy. this was a crazy idea. as somebody who saw the facilities. met with these folks and saw the operation of how they tried to reconstitute these folks, first
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hand. it was, you know, there were certain very real reasons why that was done. and why it was tried to be -- we tried to remedy it as quickly as possible. because we knew we had had to. >> okay, briefly. i just heard one thing that i absolutely agree with. regime elites have cloisterred groups of people around them. that was absolutely true of the white house. there was many that knew far more about iraq than anyone. they did not have access to the white house. i think of the question on what we knew. one thing we knew. the seed stock for biological weapons were sent there, they came from a shawl outfit outdoor
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of with a, the attc, and we all had documents of it. and the use of chemical weapons was done with the help of the united states military. who provided targeting information to saddam hussein's military because in that war, while the u.s. was basically supporting both sides. kind of hoping that both sides would kill off a lot of young soldiers and would destroy a lot of resources on both sides. we weighed in more on the iraqi side because they were the weaker side. that was a given. the point about the destruction of how bad things were. again, there was tons of information out there about what 12 years of citizenship sanctions had done. after the iran iraq war, iran had managed to rebuild well. had rebuilt cities and etcetera. the sanctions had destroyed not only the physical
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infrastructure, but much of the social fabric of the country. and this was some of you will remember the famous statement by madeline all bright, that said, asked about the 500,000 children who had died as a result of sanctions, she said, we think the price was worth it. she had two daughters and i want to ask her, if it was your daughters, do you think the price was worth it. she said, we think the price is worth it. so this is not a partisan issue. this is, this goes between parties across the board. finally on the question that you raised first, peter about if the security council had endorsed it, i think there's always been and i have written about it a a difference between legality and legitamacy, i would not have considered it legitimate.
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but it would have legal. in 1994, bush used bribes and threats and punishments. some of which we got documentation of to force other countries to vote in favor of the war. at the end of the day, there were two countries that voted no in the security council, and one was cuba that voted no on principal and the other was yemen, it was the only arab country on the security council. they voted no and no sooner had the yemeni ambassador put his hand down, he said that will be the most expensive no vote that you will cast. and it was picked up on the mic he did not know it was open. sure enough, three days later,
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the entire aide budget was cut from yemen from the united states. nobody knew anything about yemen. we wrote at the time that we did not think it was an accident, that he knew that mic was open. it was a message not aimed at yemen, it was aimed at the rest of world. if you crosses us on an issue that is important to you, you will pay a price. and they still, at the u.n., they call it the yemen precedent. that's still kind of the name that it was known by. now, there were other, there were bribes that had to do with arms that were sold to countries like columbia. that had not been given, not been willing to sell arms because of human rights violation violations, there were oil deals and threats and punishments. a wide variety of things. but the result was, they got a majority of votes. so the war was legal, it was not legitimate, but the testify legal. that is an important criteria in
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the eyes of the rest of the world. >> there's so many other issues that we can get in to and discuss among ourselves, missed opportunities, alternatives not taken, etcetera, so many things have been risen as important issues. let's turn it to audience questions and get in as many as we can now. students, two things, try to sixty short questions. and students have preference. so, students please get in as quickly as you can. >> hi, hello. this was a great panel, thank you everyone, there was a lot of crazy things said. it's hard to pick out what i want to question and who i want to question. my, i guess, the main one i would like to ask, is that was really interesting story and i think it's fascinating that you lived in afghanistan for a
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while. but, the basic gist of what i got from what you were saying, when we got there and and realized that the taliban had quit. should we have packed up and gone home? in my opinion, it sounded like you were saying we should have let the country go back to what it was. which was one of the worst countries in the world, won by the worst people in the world, which is the taliban, where women have no rights. you know, we could go on and on about how bad they were. they were going to return if we left. what do you think we should have done instead? >> well, there was an opportunity in that point, 2000 and two, 2003. what i would like to draw attention to. two different concepts. one is state building and one is counterterrorism those two are counter posed to one another. the experience of afghanistan
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shows that. for every dollar that was spent on the central government and building institutions. there was a equivalent amount built on, spent on building personalities and strong men and warlords. give you an example of this, and then i will answer your question. which is that the afghan national police there was an attempt to build a national police force in afghanistan. there's a number of ways in which one can bill the police force, one is to create a national academy, to train people, to, you know, hire people from around the country, instead, what ended up happening was there was a -- a police force that was built was a bunch of local malitias, and the malitias that were chosen were those most effective in killing bad guys or people deemed bad guys, not those who were most effective in providing law and order. and the effect of that was that now today the, we have malitias
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around the country, the police are considered the most on repacious of the afghan security forces. in 2002, what were the options? well, if we were serious about state building. that would have meant not brif ledging it every step of the way. malitias and strong weapons. helping the afghans state collect tacks all of that would be a tall order and would be a radical break. and that is counter tear yimp. and, i think that would be an alternative, i am not very, i don't believe that it would have actually happened. i don't believe that given the state of affairs that all of a sudden, the united states would have been serious about state building. it was never serious about state building in afghanistan. another example.
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last week, i was traveling around and looking at schools, i was interested in the question of, education, because supposedly, the united states, has helped bring education to millions afghans post 2001. well, it turns out that particularly in the south, many of the schools that were built were actually contracted to local warlords and strong men. and the building of the schools actually dooply damaged the local communities in ways that probably would have been better off if they would have done so in the first place. so, you know, the broader answer to the question is, if the u.s. was serious about state building, but then it had to be serious about actually building institutions. instead, it was only in to only focused on counterterrorism and and now we have no state and terrorists. well, it depends on where you
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look. it depends where you look. there are parts of the country where life is significantly better today than it was under the taliban. i will focus on the latter part, it's counter intuitive. southern afghan for women. under the taliban, women were locked in the homes and kept away from education and and health care. today, in southern afghanistan, women are still locked in their homes and kept away from educationing and health care and now they live in a war zone, where their husbands or brothers can be taken away in night raids or droned. i was in southern afghanistan, and i did not see a woman the whole time i was there. it's a complicated question. the starting point is to ask, for whom is it better and for many, many afghans, life is not better. that more than anything else is
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an indictment of everything that happened. >> this is a question, before i do give you the question, thank you all for giving of your time to talk to us. mr. baker, you mngzed that you worked with a colleague named thomas rex. a couple of months ago, i happened to have read a book for my press class called fi a asro, a book you probably know well. with that being said, what do you think can be taken from mr. rex's books and be applied right now to what is going on in iraq and afghanistan. what do you think can be taken? >> well, that's a great question. i don't want to have tom answer, tom's book, i think was a fabulous encapsulation of what went wrong in afghanistan. he said that my title will be fiasco, he said, my only worry.
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someone said, do you think it will be too strong. and he had, no, my worry is someone else will do it first and he was right, he had a good sense of it through the military contacts. he had a lot of experience with these officers, and he was seeing it through their lens as the story we mentioned. you know, i think tom, later wrote the book called the gamble, about petraious and the surge. and i think that book will come away with lessons that may are have flowed from fiasco and maybe some of them didn't flow from fiasrco, can and i did not want to -- tom has left the washington post now, and wrote a evocative peace for foreign policy. and my wife used to edit. he has a blog called the best defense.
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how in the last number of years he has been sort of, i'm not sure he used the word radicalize. he is now, has a much more i guess liberal would be the right word. from having been an objective reporter, who was tight with the military and for many, many years he can came away sour. obviously, very depressed is the right word, but actually, it may have been the right word. he talked about having a post traumatic stress after covering the awful things that happened. it has made him rethink. this period has made a lot of people who did feel strongly about the war, and it is important by the way to remember this was a bipartisan vote in congress it was taken in 2002, and there was a lot of people across the party lines that
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supported thimgs and have changed their view and become quite distressed and i think that there's few people who come from the administration with a stronger and more, you know, vigorous feeling that the corner has had about how it happened, why it should not have happened and so on. so, i don't have any good lessons for you. i will leave that for smarter people than me. >> let me touch on another point that, you and every young person in this room and across the country should be concerned about. that this is really highlighted. and this is, 14 years of war. the gates commission that set up for president nixon, and created all volunteer force, and tom has talked about this too. made a mistake. it made a number of mistakes, it did not contemplate what would
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happen once 1% of the nation was bleeding and dying for the other 99%. particularly for the extended period of time over the active and reserve components. the all volunteer force is not working. think about what you have to do if you give a war and no one comes. you know, phyllis would say that would be wonderful. but i'm not quite that far yet. one reason, one reason we have gone from 2% women not force to 14% has nothing to do with
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egalitariani is egalitarianism, we cannot find the men. we have lowered the standard, we are taking people with drug records and people mentally unstab. it's incredible what we did to the armed forces and the reserves have is become an operational reserve rather than a strategic reserve as they have been for so many years and they have been broken too. think about that, young people. >> i can just have a point about the military? i work a lot with iraq veterans against the war. which is an extraordinary organization of mainly young, not so young anymore, veterans of both iraq and afghanistan and one of the things we talked about a lot is what the statistics showed particularly from iraq, afghanistan as well, about who it was from the u.s. who was dying in those wars. a the single most common thread among the thousands killed in the war from the u.s., was that
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they were from rural areas of towns of less than 25,000. they were not from big cities. they were from places where there was no jobs and there was no opportunity to go to school. they were not necessarily many of them were very impoverished, they were not necessarily so is, but they didn't have other option ones or choices. and because they were from the small towns, scattered around the country. they were not from the big cities where overwhelming people who work in the media come from. so, people who work in the media today, and i have many friends in the media, and the work that i do is the same thing, we don't know -- >> some of your best friends are he media. >> and me and my friend few people in the military. p part of the reasons is i know people that have never known anyone in the military.
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that is a reflection of who is being drafted. it means that those that are writing the history of today in the newspapers, online, on blogs, in the radio, on tv the, often don't have a clue who the people are who are fighting. and that affects what does and doesn't get covered. that is one of the aspects that we have to look at when we look at the problems facing the military today. >> the author of materhorn, one of the best books i have read since "all quiet on the western front," called it the all recruited force. and that is what it is. and you would be stunned if i gave you the figures on what the army has spent to recruit the force. we are talking about, six or seven or eight or nine billion
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dollars being spent to just pay for the all recruited force and it is not getting much better. yes, so let's had take vac of us having nothing behind us and one more question, we are at 9:00 now. >> this is for phyllis, you mentioned earlier that there are a lot of alternatives to, instead of going to war and to afghan. can you mention the alternatives that the u.s. government could have taken instead of going to war? >> sure, one of the great things i got to do when i wrote the book about 9/11, was write the speech that george bush should have given when he brought the helicopter down to land when he was circling around. i hi the first thing was to recognize it as a huge crime against humanity rather than an
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axe of war. going to war against afghanistan when the hijackers were not afghans and they were from saudi and egypt, they had not trained in afghanistan, they trained in germany. they went to flight school in minnesota and here we are bombing afghanistan. was certain to creates more terrorism later. so, the first thing would be to recognize what is going to create more terrorism, and don't do that. that meant recommend thiez it as a crime and the need for international justice. there was a lot of talk about justice. it should have been a moment to say, this is why we need a viable function is system of international justice. why we were wrong to oppose the international criminal court. why we were wrong to weaken it, even though we had no intention to sign on to it at the time it was negotiated. in that context, to say, first, too many people have died today. and i'm as president, i'm going
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the make the pledge not one more person is going to die in the pursuit of justice for those who did die. that that is not a way to bring justice. so, it means treating it as a crime. treating it with international engagement, not telling the rest of the world you are either with us to go to war, you either support our war with, or we will treat you as if you were terrorists. it means cooperation. it means police cooperation. it means engaging not militarily, but through law enforcement, to do some of the things that the u.n. was called on to do and never given the resours to do well. in terms of identifying funding sources for instance. fact that the u.s. refused to put pressure on its keyallie, what was known to be the course of much of the funding for alq with ueda for that stage and today. the u.s. is too worried about the relationship with saudi oil and the relationship with the
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saudi monday archy, it means pug aside the concerns that have to do with the usual diplomatic relationships. it means improving diplomacy and taking seriously the need for diplomacy. these are lessons we need to apply now, when we look at what to do about isis, the choice is never go to war or do nothing. it means putting enormous amounts of reurs sos, money, people, the best minds available to do figure out what kind of negotiations would work. not thesly negotiations directly with isis or back then, directly with taliban. but negotiating with those who are enabling them. who is funding them? how do you put pressure on them. those questions were never, not only ever addressed. those that said they should be addressed. and those that said, if we want to prevent it from happening again, we have to understand the root causes of why it happened
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in the first place. those were called, i was one of them many of us were, we were called apologyists for terror. if we were not making war, we were somehow supporting terror. we were sucking up to saddam hussein. the insults were constant, we needed to figure out root causes. maybe you cannot prevent an extreemist. but you can figure out why people in many places around the the world think it was not maybe a bad idea. and look at what those reasons are and try and figure that out. which makes it much harder to ever do it again. if your goal is to prevent it happening again. you have to start with figuring out why it happened the first time. we know it was not because they hate our freedoms. they don't hate our freedoms. they hate the fact that we are
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denying them their freedoms. so that was a challenge that was never met. there's always alternatives. and you need to put your best minds. the best inflxs of money and resources and time and potential, to figure out what those alternatives are. rather than going war as the only alternative. >> in response to that, and and i am sort of stretching for how to address that. you know, she said it was not really an act of war. i will start where i finished. the paradigm of what we consider to be war has shifted. this is the change that we have seen in the war.
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we wasted an opportunity, because we went in to iraq. there can be no doubt, certainly, that george w. bush burned a lot of capital going in to iraq. don't think because you hear about iraq and afghanistan in the news that was the extent that the president did to keep us safe. george w. bush and for those of you who think, and and on the panel, that well, you know, we just threw a lot of bombs and killed a lot of people in iraq and afghanistan, this was the strategy. >> this government after 9/11, initiated operations in conjunction with the cia and u.s. military and the intelligence agencies and governments working together with governments of 62 countries to deal with it. and we had the cooperation of 62
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countries. for different types of operations. intelligence, gathering. diplomacy. economic pressure, military pressure. and other types of work. this was not about identifying them as the only threat and saying if we are done there, we are done, we are finished, moving on. the president had a more global view of this and he had the relationships and the administration built relationships, with productive relationships with countries all around the world to help not only protect our interests but also to protect theirs. so, while yes, political capital was burned. i think that bold decision making makes that a necessity. but, please don't think that iraq is the only estimatation of
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what george w. bush did to keep the country safe and to initiate a global, an effort that had global participation, global cooperation and and global reach to step in on terrorism. >> excuse me, paul. >> i want to ask a question if i can of the young man that asked the question. i'm burning to know your answer to this, phyllis. >> i'm here for on you. >> your response to the young man's question may be appealing to me and may comport with my more humane side, how would you ever get the american peep to not impeach? >> that's an easy one to answer. i think that at the time of 9/11, you know, we go back in history and we remember, nobody was alive in -- at the time 9/11 who had seen an attack on u.s.
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soil by a foreign country. the attack on pearl harbor hawaii was not a state at the time. people were terrified. people were desperate for leadership. there was a moment when i think, i know that people, many people, would have followed my kind of leadership. and there was a danger. that is a very dangerous moment in the lives of countries. that people can be pushed to take positions that they would never take in normal times. and if p people were desperate for leadership. if that leadership had given another alternative, i think there would have been massive support from the united states to stand with the french saying we are all americans now.
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to stand with the people of the world who were sending these messages of solidarity and human connection. in many cases for the first time. it was the first time in a generation or more that americans had looked vulnerable to anybody else in the world. that had never happened before. i think many, most, majority huge numbers, the vast majority of people in the country would have wanted to follow that kind of leadership. we were never given the option. >> how do you explain that 51% of people think torture is necessary. it has gone up and down. by three years ago, 82, or 83, i forget the number, were saying it was not worth it.
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that obviously included a lot of the same people. so statistics are a snap shop. they are useful for gauging where public opinion is at any given time. deend pipending on how the medi covering stuff, and depending on how the leaders are saying we all use them and it's not to say that they are not valid. it depends on how you ask the question. >> it's a huge concern about the american people. >> and if people are going believe it works and somehow, it's legal because some lawyer in the justice department said it was legal, it's the ultimate totology. that's not how the law works in this country when we say, it's a country of laws and not of people. i mean they used to say it was a country of laws and not of men, but we don't do that anymore, thankfully. that means the laws have to have
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credibility. not just a lawyer that happens to have graduated lool, saying yeah, i think it's, whether the it was john or somebody else, to say it was legal and therefore the president can do it. it just moon means somebody iss aing it's legal. we've taken over our time and imposed a lot on the panelists. thank you for the discussion and great debates. so many issues to cover. hopefully we will continue the discussion throughout the rest of the conference thank each and every one of you for coming. >> according to do dennis in his book.
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later today, senator bernie sanders will be in columbus, south carolina, one of the early primary states. he will be there for a townhall meeting and afterwards, take your phone calls. live coverage will that start at 11:00 p.m. eastern on c-span. tonight, on american history tv. programs about the vietnam war. starting at 8:00 p.m., a south vietnamese perspective of the vietnam war. at 9:25 p.m., rescue of the uss kirk. the lucky few, the fall of saigon and the rescue mission


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