tv Key Capitol Hill Hearings CSPAN May 26, 2015 12:00pm-2:01pm EDT
are certain people in this world who do not deserve or are too unsophisticated or incapable of handling what we call freedom. i consider it an honor to havei consider it an honor to have served him, and i look over to a meaningful discussion tonight. thank you so much for your attention. [applause] >> good evening. i really appreciate being here at hofstra to participate on this panel with this distinguished people, and i appreciate what you are doing here with the george w. bush presidency conference. we will not agree here on everything that is said, i am sure, but i bet there is one thing on which we can agree, and that is 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 that events of september 11, 2001, when the united states of america was vicious he attacked by an enemy whose leader, osama bin laden skated as far back as 1983 that the united states-- stated as far back as 1983 that the united states was the mortal enemy of islam and must be destroyed. on 9/11 he declared that he would do whatever was necessary to protect our country, to keep it safe, and to keep it free. this became the mantra of the g. w. bush presidency. president reagan had his mantra to bring down the soviet union and end the cold war.
president lincoln had his, slavery. so did president bush. his golden war on terror kept us safe, and kept us safe. so let's start with that. president bush told the type of leader he would be at his except speech in august 2000 -- acceptance speech at the republican convention speech. i remember it well because i was chairman of republican of -- the republican national committee. then, candidate bush said, " if you give me your trust, i will honor it. grant me a mandate, i will use it. give me the opportunity to lead this nation, and i will lead." little did he know then the events that would befall us all about one year later, but we found out soon thereafter just what a leader we had.
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 the civilian jetliner. the white house staff were told to evacuate, and evacuate in a hurry. in fact, the women were told to take off their shoes so they could run faster down the street. the reason was, they thought of plan was about -- plane was about to slam into 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. and a sense that was a small
act. presidents'throw pitches all the time. -- in a sense, that was a small act. when the fires were still burning, and the entire nation was on edge about another terror attack, it was a big deal the president went to a ballpark and stone on the mound. he demonstrated that he was not afraid. that we should not be afraid and the game and the business and life of this nation must go on. the present address the nation in a joint session of congress. he was joint command and comforting with his emphasis on safety and security and patriotism. an interesting side note to that speech is on that date, september 20, 2001, the philadelphia flyers faced the new york rangers and an exhibition game in philadelphia. inthey played two periods and
during intermission the jumbotron switch to the president's speech at the joint session and washington, a live shot. when it was time to restart the game the jumbotron turned off the president and turned back to the game. the response was overwhelming. people started booing and demanding the president be put back on. for a moment americans dropped professionals sports and tuned into what the president had to say. in the end, the game was called. they never played the third period and ended up in a draw. i think we can stipulate the war to find president bush's presidency. the presidential authority at -- a secretary said war is the most faithful, and his opinion all of the best presidents were involved in war either before or
during their presidency same thomas jefferson. slicing jerk further -- slessinger said crisis helps those who can rise to it. and the association with war with presidential greatness has it on the myth at this --on the omniumous access. i presented my credentials to the holy father, the leader of the catholic church and lever -- leader of the sovereign state, the holy sea 9/13 at his summer palace. we had prepared remarks that the state department had helped me prepare. we put those aside. the first thing we did was set of prayer for the victims and then talked. by then i was able to give him a brief of what we thought the
derivatives of what had happened were. he said to me, ambassador nicholson we must stop those people who were killing in the name of god. that was not a privileged communication, so i was able to report that and put that out there, and it really helped us in putting a coalition together to go into afghanistan. but the pope did see a rack differently. he expressed his opposition emphatically during his address to the diplomatic court in january 2003. -- but the pope did see iraq differently. he looked at me and said no to war. war should only be the last resort. that was a disappointment to us after his affirmation of afghanistan, but not a surprise. it did set off my biggest diplomatic challenge as the ambassador and the most robust and other to convince the holy
father --them the most robust endeavor. i listened to the support of distinguished vaticanisttas to come to rome and assist me in an effort at the holy sea and throughout italy. professor novak and george wigle over their apartment welcome which means they have wonderful bona fides with the pope, but they felt the same way we did and they came immediately. we held several forums around the country and talked about the need as we saw it to go into iraq. but the pope continued to view this as preemptive.
in spite of the personal interventions, including those of the president himself, in a session with the president -- pope personal emissary to the president who went to see the president in the west wing of the white house for a long encounter, which i attended, the pope dispatched a french cardinal to baghdad, to talk to the people there to see if they could get hussein to come into line as he and requested through the u.n. primarily. of course neither were successful. the president understood and often said the pope is a man of peace and had a different responsibility. importantly though the pop e never said it was immoral for us to go into iraq, and he
really could not because it would be violating the doctrine of the church, which has been there for centuries which recognizes there are evil forces in the world, and there are innocent people who are entitled to be protected from those evil forces, and that does, on occasion require the institution of war, of violence. in fact, today on the train coming up from new york i read a report from a distinguished writer from " the catholic news service" suggesting pope francis may indeed end up advocating the use of force against isis. so there are precedents for this. we of course were unsuccessful with pope john paul ii in trying to underwrite our endeavor to go into iraq. but as we all know march 19,
2003, we entered iraq with the purpose of protecting our country and eradicating the threat to us and others possessed by iraq's brutal dictator, saddam hussein. the case had been made to our citizens, the u.n., to our friends, the pope, and to the world really. the facts as we saw them were that hussein was a threat. he had invaded two of his neighboring countries, kuwait and iraqn. n. he used weapons of mass destruction on his own people and the iranians. he was working to evade international sanctions. he failed to comply with numerous u.n. resolutions that required him to disarm and prove that he had. he paid the families of palestinian suicide bombers. he gave every indication he
maintains stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. he remained belligerent and violent and refused to appear to international commands and showed every sign of and willing and interested in supporting attacks on the united states. therefore, after 9-11 -- 911 the united states could not to take the chance he would unite with terrorists and provide them with weapons of mass destruction and other material support needed to attack american target. -- targets. of course no stock file of weapons of mass destruction were found. nonetheless, saddam hussein was a threat to peace, and due to his continued hostility to the world we chose war. he was toppled, and iraq did catch a glimpse of freedom and democracy. their courageous participation in their elections demonstrated their hunger and appreciation for freedom.
in fact, i will never forget just weeks after we went into iraq that callously and patriarch -- catholic patriarch asked to visit me. i received him at my residence in rome, and he was the leader of 850,000 catholics who have been there for centuries. for him hussein 00-- for whom hussein kept in a protected that is. they were kind of off to the side. --protected status. he did not walk, he ran up the steps to my residence where i was standing and thrust his hand and said thank you for coming to my country and freeing us. exhibiting the innate
desire man has for freedom. the euphoria he exhibited was exhilarating of course knowing even as he did the risks that they were now and as a result of this. one can debate the conduct of this war as many have, and one can argue we should not have dismissed the sunni backed parted dominated army and police force. i think that would be a very legitimate inc.. one can argue we shifted emphasis too soon on nation building and democracy building in lieu of law and order building and infrastructure, particularly law and order infrastructure. there were mistakes made certainly. those are fair discussions as far as i am concerned, but i will and the way i started which is to say again that president bush, after we were
invaded on 9/11 said he would do whatever necessary to protect our country. he did. he kept american safe for the next seven years as our president. was war necessary? was it worth it? did it matter? the final report of the chief weapons inspector for the u.n. concluded saddam who wanted to re-create weapons of mass destruction capability. i agree with those who say had he done what -- had done that we would have seen an arms race develop between iraq and iran and the sunni-shiite terrorism race with the cap -- with chemical or nuclear weapons
being in the hands of terrorists. it would have increased greatly. the possibilities of a dirty bomb being asked loaded in our country. the pressure on our friends like israel, kuwait, saudi arabia would be even greater today, and as a result, the american people would be less safe as well. only time will tell about president bush. all i can say is that he is looking better and better as the world he comes more and more dangerous. and we become more vulnerable to those who want to destroy us. what is the president's most important job? it is to keep us safe, and he did it. thank you very much. [applause] >> i am going to take a little bit different tact.
i am going to try to look at -- i hope i have time to look at three seminal episodes in what was my life after 9/11. once the very chilling effects of that attack had sunk in, and we had realized at the state department and throughout the government what had happened to us and what kind of reaction we were going to probably present to the world, we set down with the planning policy staff, as did some other people at state and 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 message from fidel castro. arguably the most influential paper in paris red a headline, " we are all americans." there was a moment of incredible solidarity, and my boss and his boss decided one of the things we should try to do, remember we are the diplomats, former soldiers but diplomats now, was to capitalize on that 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 have problems. so we threw up the matrix -- drew up the matrix. on that were the missions and the countries, and the people who would do it. in some cases like pakistan it was the president of the united states and secretary of state
that would talk to the president and the head of the pakistani military. in other countries it was our ambassador. donald rumsfeld wanted to get back into the philippines in a meaningful way for example. a reasonable terrorist group in the philippines we could capitalize on. so we were going to try to talk with the philippine government and get u.s. forces back into the philippines in some sick second sort of way. -- in some significant sort of way. it was a huge task sheet that focused on this moment of local solidarity. iraq completely shattered that. the invasion of iraq and the run-up to that shattered the global solidarity. shattered the diplomacy 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, colin powell, and i was his special assistant at the time, what we had done to the armed forces of the united states and what some call the peace dividend. it was not bill clinton who delivered the peace dividend. it was george h w bush. he delivered it because the congress of the united states demanded it. we cut the armed forces 25%. that was a huge cut. biggest cut since world war ii really, especially when you look at how we did it. bill clinton came along with his new secretary of defense and cuts another 3%. what relevance does that have to this?
he was secretary of state but former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and even though dick cheney told him not to talk military matters, he felt it was his responsibility to say mr. president, we cannot do two wars at the same time. we destroyed the capability with the 28% in the armed forces. so you better finish afghanistan afghanistan. no one is arguing about afghanistan. you better finish that before you go to iraq, otherwise you will neglect afghanistan, which is exactly what we proceeded to do. we shuttled global all the garrity and then donald rumsfeld decided that would be the amount i would send. tommy franks, the military commander, who he had told on two different occasions you have too few troops.
general shinseki said you had too few troops, which he was released. that would lead to 100,000 plus contractors being brought on to do the ultimate public function, war. we are still living with it. we have not really put it to rest yet. the other item he brought to the president's attention, other than timing was legitimacy. legitimacy in the shape of the united nations. other allies other than britain and so forth. well we went to the u.n. in november 2002 and got this teen-zero vote, unanimous vote approving 1441. again, we had resurrected a little bit of the global solidarity. -- and got 15-0.
what that did was to say that they could go and do their jobs. they could go and continue the inspections. but you can't continue the inspections if you have already marshaled 160 4000 plus american forces and started them on their way. we call it tip fitting them. you have artie started them, and the summer is coming. excessive heat in iraq. so if you are doing this, you will probably have to cut the inspections short. if you really intend on going to war, you will probably have to do it even without the preparation you should have. that is the second point. third point. my boss got put out to the united nations security council to give the most specious presentation on iraqi wmb that
probably anybody has ever been called on the american government to render to not just the security council, the american public, and to the international community. polls showed afterwards it was very effective. why was it very effective? because it was: powell who it that time had mother theresa poll ratings. -- collin powell. you are looking at the individual who are -- who went out to the cia and prepared him for the presentation in terms of orchestrating all of that analysts from 16 different intelligence agencies. working daily and nightly with george tenet and john maclachlan, his deputy. frankly, 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 tantamount to the biggest lie of all formidable contacts between saddam hussein and al qaeda. on one occasion he grabbed me and put me down in a chair and the national intelligence council's bases where no one else was and closed the door and said take all of that terrorist crap out. none of it is believable. take it out. i said boss, don't shout at me, i am with you, let's take it out. within 30 minutes george tenet was in a conference room where we resumed council telling the secretary of state all about al qaeda high-level operative who had been interrogated and revealed substantial contacts between the secret police of a rack and al qaeda-- secret
police of iraq. that was a total, utter fabrication. the secretary of state went to new york and gave a presentation that he believed in, that had been orchestrated by carefully orchestrated plot if you will. the vice president office, undersecretary and defense department and cia, certain analysts and the cia that were given to me as gospel. he presented that to the security council, the american people to bring about a war he had artie seen destroyed the global solidarity 9/11 and produce for good for diplomatic purposes and destroyed any hope of legitimacy for the united states, and was based on false intelligence.
it was not just an intelligence failure, it was that toom, but the orchestration to present a picture that was simply not true . there were people in that administration who knew that. those are my three similar events about this particular war , and in that sense, i think i would say disastrous decision and disastrous aftermath. we have already heard about that. i could go into great detail but my time is up. not a good time for the united states of america. [applause] >> thank you very much. i would like to pick up where you left off. it is interesting hearing the first two speakers induced in me it's of nostalgia, because back
in 2001 on 9/11 i very much you the world through the language and terms of the employed. i was living near the twin towers on that day. i had lost friends in the attacks. i believe the war on terror was one that was against people who hated our way of life, people who hated freedom, people who were hell-bent on destroying everything we stood for, and maybe that -- some of that is true when you think about al qaeda, but what i learned quickly is it is much more confiscated than that. i moved to afghanistan in 2008 and i hit the road very soon after. i took a motorcycle, i lived in villages, and i got the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life. what i learned in that in those trips is those ideas, those ideas back in 2001 were not very
accurate. i will give you one example where i've cold into a village after a few days of travel and met a tribal elder who was in his 70's or 80's and had lived through 30 years of war, and we got to talking about the war on terror and the american invasion, and at one point i asked him, why do you think the united states invaded your country you? he knew about 9/11 and talked about it a little bit, but for him it was a faraway occurrence. it was not at the center of the way he thought. instead he told me, he looked at me and said the u.s. invaded our country because they hate our way of life. i did not necessarily agree with him, but hearing him put it in this way, which is the way we talked about in 2001 was a
watershed moment for me because it spared me to investigate how -- spurred me to investigate how afghans view the war on terror and the war, particularly those living in the south where the war is paying pot. not living in those areas that are peas will, but living in the areas where there is constant fighting to this day. here is what i found after 2001 al qaeda fled the country after the u.s. invasion. al qaeda went to pakistan. some of them went to iran. eventually some of them regrouped in iraq. after the invasion there was essentially no al qaeda and afghan and dish -- afghanistan. the leadership quit. they surrendered september 2001. some of them met with hamid karzai escorted by the special
forces to engineer a deal, and subsequent months, every single one from the senior officials like the end -- like minister of justice, interior and the supreme leader all the way down to rank-and-file field commander surrendered and tried to switch sides. the reason they tried to switch sides is not because they suddenly felt they believed in the american ideals of freedom or loved the united states, but this is how war worked in afghanistan over the past two or three decades. if you go back to the soviet occupation, when the soviets left in 1999, a lot of those who call themselves communists rebranded themselves as holy warriors. during the civil war in the mid-1990's, people would switch side, because in a conflict
where things get so deadly you learn very quickly you would switch sides depending on which way the wind blew. similarly, after 2001, the taliban members try to switch sides. there were a number of high-profile incidents incidents covered in the press of the times in which taliban members try to hand over their weapons and try to cut a deal with the officials and find a way not to be persecuted. early january 2002 there were efforts to raise funds by a radical pakistan. they were trying to get donations in an effort to bring the taliban back on their feet. at the time, the finance minister of the regime and close to the supreme leader, he said publicly to reporters, please do
not donate to us because we are defunct please give your money elsewhere. i have another example in january 2002, the minister of defense along with the minister of justice and a number of other top officials publicly cut a deal with the afghan governor of conduct are province -- kandahar province and handed over weapons in exchange for aiding at home and living in community. -- staying at home and living in community. you have a situation where you have thousands of soldiers on the ground in afghanistan, but you had no al qaeda, and the taliban as a military movement was essentially stopped. in other words thousands of soldiers on the ground without an enemy to fight, but we had a political mandate, and that mandate was we are to fight a war on terror, and you are either with us or against us.
this essentially categorized afghans into two categories terrorists or good guys. mainly doing away with all the shades of gray that make the reality of afghanistan. this is a contradiction. how did the contradiction get resolved? in a very profound and unsavory tragic way this conflict got result in which the u.s. allied with the local -- war loads and local strongmen and the enemy of war became the enemy of the united states. you have to remember back in 2002 in afghanistan, extremely underdeveloped country, there were no cell phone towers and most of the country, so most of the intelligence was human intelligence. almost all were coming through local proxy, local war loads -- warlords that a very complicated
situation on the front who have their own enemies, rivalries and hatchet to very -- bury and their enemies became our enemies. so the u.s. did not go to afghanistan and create a dictator, or as one of you referred to one of the options of the american policy was creating a dictator, but instead creating hundreds and hundreds of mall dictators in villages and distress -- districts around the country. men who were armed to the health, given contracts to the detriment of state building and nationbuilding over the years. i will give you an example of this, which happened to a friend of mine in conduct are -- kandahar province. when i met him he was in his 80's. he was a fighter. he was in retirement, and he
would come sometimes to a bakery he owned early in the morning. one morning militia men showed up outside his house. militia men showed up outside his house. they asked for him and he came outside. they asked his name. they said we have intelligence you are a terrorist. he protested, of course. he was not intelligent -- not a terrorist, just a bigger. they arrested him and handed him over to u.s. special forces. there he went under interrogation. he had metal hooks inserted into his mouth that were twisted. he was beaten. they kept saying he was a taliban mastermind and were convinced of this fact because they have intelligence from afghan warlords that this was so. he kept insisting he was not an al qaeda mastermind and could not get a confession from him so
eventually the u.s. forces terms -- turned him over to the militia men, the same one who initially captured him. they then took him to a private jail in kandahar city, down the stairs, and hung him upside down for 18-20 hours per day. they hung him upside down and with him. he was hung with a number of tribal elders. one of them was a very famous tribal elder and was with so much he was eventually killed. -- whipped so much he was eventually killed. he quickly realized that they would wear after was not necessarily intelligent, what they were after was money. in other words, if he were to pay, he would be given his freedom. so his family raised money, they sold some of their goods to collect the funds and delivered it to his captors, and he was released.
the problem is once he demonstrated he was able to pay were his release, he was a mocked man. so like clockwork every few months he was arrested again by militiamen. he was then transferred to the special forces who accused him of once again being an al qaeda master man -- mastermind. he was eventually turned back to the militiamen and hung upside down. this charade went on for three or four years until 2005 when the commander of the unit arresting him was killed in a suicide attack. the major commander of the intelligence services that ran the militia that was torturing him now lives in california. he was brought here and he has many family members who are now american citizens. this is the situation. i can repeat hundreds of stories like this. there has been many stories of
people like this to have been caught in what we call the war on terror. in fact, in afghanistan it turned out to be wars on local communities in which certain war loads -- warlords or communities were gaining -- using the united states to gain riches and power . we live with that legacy today. i think the prophecy that created the insurgency in afghanistan to group in 2002 and 2003. by 2004, the taliban have reconstituted itself as a fighting force. it was now based in pakistan. it was very hard. the moment that existed is now very hard to undo what had been done, and we are still living with the consequences of that in afghanistan. when we think about legacy of the war of up in a stand and legacy of george w. bush, we need to think about what that means for four -- four afghans on the ground and ask why it is
fighting is still continuing in afghanistan today? thank you. [applause] >> we're going to switch the order around just a little bit. i am not peter baker. i would like to thank hofstra and all of the staff for inviting me. i wanted to start in discussing george w. bush with a quote from someone who is always been a great error when of mine, a woman named diane nash. have people heard of diane --? she was a great hero of the civil rights movement. --have people heard of diana nae nash? she was the one who really orchestrated the march on selma 50 years ago. she was being honored in the
front row of those who were going to march to commemorate that extraordinary experience at the last minute she said this, she refused to march, and she said " i refuse to march because george bush marched. he was in the front row with her . i think the selma movement was about nonviolence and peace and democracy, and george bush stands for just the opposite, violence and war and stolen election, and his administration had people tortured, is so i thought this was not an appropriate event for him." i think she was right, it was not an appropriate event for him, and it is actually a good thing that he is not here today. i would assert the only event that is public that is appropriate for george bush and others of his administration is to be on trial in the hague for war crime. [applause] i think that when we look at war crime it is important that we
look at it and interrogate it more thoroughly than i think we sometimes do. both in my view, the wars in afghanistan and iraq, were illegal. and afghanistan, the claim was made that this was a war for justice and the defense when 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 is very specific about what self-defense is and is not. among other things it says the country has absolute right of self defense until the security council can meet and decide what to do about that together crisis . the security council met, as you will remember, those of you who were not too young -- who are
not too young, the security council met within 24 hours of the attack on the trade center. the building was still smoldering. diplomats have lost friends. some had children in the area. it was a terrifying thing for people at the u.n. and everywhere else in new york, and those of us in washington as well. they would have on that day have anything the u.s. would propose, but they did not propose an endorsement of the use of force. it was a very the civic decision not to do that, not because it would not have passed, it would have passed unanimously and great fervor, it called for a variety of 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 seven, the criteria in the u.n. charter that is the only basis for the use of force. in that sense it was not
self-defense, and it did not meet the requirement for self-defense, and under article six of the u.s. constitution treaties are part of the law of the land. treaties include the u.n. charter. so that was clearly a violation. whether or not the president makes a decision, congress makes a decision, does not determine whether international law had been violated him and in this case him it was violated. in the national ir --in 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 into the towers, that would have been a legitimate use of self-defense. going to war three weeks later against the country on the other side of the world was not legitimate self-defense. in iraq we have many claims of why the war was legitimate.
it was weapons of mass destruction. it was the possibility of nuclear weapons. the links to al qaeda. the yellowcake uranium with the 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 of other reasons. i will not get into those reasons, that have to do with power, oil, and a whole other group of resources and power. 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 stand would have been the case otherwise. -- than would have been the case otherwise. i think we talk about war crimes it is also important that we distinguish the war crimes that have to do with how wars are carried out from another kind of war, the crimes that have to do
with how the war was carried out are more common in much of our discourse. so the issues of collective punishment, shock and alwe, the massive civilian deaths that were known to occur, the thousands that were killed, the rendition, torture -- all of those things, the determination that some prisoners somehow to not deserve the geneva convention as oh that is the right of some lawyer in the u.s. justice department to decide that some prisoners do not deserve to be treated under the terms of the geneva convention. all of those things weren't you legal. all of them were were crimes. there-- warm crim articlee 30 three that prevents collective punishment. articles 29. .
-- article 33 that prevents collective punishment. regardless of what agents of the government carries out the action. that goes to the western of commands responsibility and obligation of the commander. the commander in chief, and all those up and down the chain of command to be responsible for that. we saw none of that. we saw low-level accountability in three or four people in abu ghraib's scandal and nothing above very few, very low ranking soldiers. article 47 of the geneva convention that says people that are protected under the geneva convention cannot be denied protection by actions taken either by the occupying force or by the government that is in place. so things like dissolving the military and ending home 300,000 former soldiers without a job
without any way to support their family, was a violation of the geneva convention. all of those are talked about not only in the context of international law, but talked about a lot as part of the legacy of the bush administration. what is not talked about very often is what justice jackson who was a supreme court justice and also served as chief prosecutor at the nuremberg trial, what he called the supreme international crime. which was of course not a violation of the geneva conventions, which did not exist at the time, it was the crime of aggression. that that was the fundamental crime, the supreme crime from which all of the others stemmed. these were wars of aggression. these were not of self-defense.
they were in justice jackson's words, the supreme international crime. they were grounded in the concept of u.s. exceptionalism something that has guided u.s. foreign-policy from the first settlers on the band who took it as manifest this denny their right to slaughter native people across the land to claim the land as their own. that we are different, we are better. that we have the right to do whatever we want around the world, to take the world to war because we have then the victims of the terrorist attack. imagine if another country where in the situation. take an attack that actually did happened 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 mediterranean and killed 73 people, among them the entire young cuban fencing team, government officials and civilians on board, clear act of terror. one of the known master man -- masterminds of the attack was living for many years in miami. he was first charged at one point with an immigration violation and brief we put under house arrest, but he was never jailed, never tried for the terrorist attacks. what if cuba had decided because they had been victims of a terrorist attack, 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 is their right? that is -- they
have been the subject of a terrible attack and therefore they have the right to go to war . i don't think so. the u.s. only allows itself to violate international law with impunity, and to demand the world stand with it. that was the nature of this point. 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 first days when the world said we are all americans now, it was about saying if you are not prepared to go to war with us we will treat you as if you were terrorist, and we will go to war against you. it was that kind of manichaean approach, and it has to do with the notion we heard from george bush. it was not september 11, but september 12.
it was september 12 that change the world. september 11 was horrific crime a crime against humanity. september 12 was the announcement the response to the horrific crime would be to take the world to war. what we heard, was the only choice we have is to either go to war or to let them get away with it. unfortunately we too often hear that same argument now. it was not true then, and it is not true now. there was never only the choice of war or nothing. there are always a host of alternatives. it is our job as students, activists diplomats and elected -- as elected officials to find the alternative. that is what didn't happen. the justice of something else at
the time of nuremberg. he said 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 against us. justice jackson was betrayed by george w. bush and his administration. it was in the context of the refusal to ignore knowledge the reality of international law and the views of the rest of the world, and i know there are people here either in the audience or listening here long distance who do not believe international law really has any role to play, who do not believe in international law. i would say for those of you in that position you may want to think about one thing, whether you want to have the legitimacy of international law or not does not matter much, but it does matter in this sense, it is how
the rest of the world views our action. it is how the other 197 countries in the world you what we do. it is through that lens of international law and international legitimacy, or lack of legitimacy that other people judge our action. it is for that reason the legacy of george w. bush will be that of war criminal. [applause] >> ok great. as you can see i am physically off the end of the table here. that may be metaphorical as well. i think what has transpired is chattel effect. as a journalist, someone who been -- spends a lot of time in washington on the debate, i very
much enjoyed a great diversity of views. i do not think i have very much to add, so maybe i will say a few words and then we can continue the conversation. i think hofstra should be applauded for bringing together those who can enjoy a vigorous debate president george and his action and a sharp indictment of what he has done here. i would i say as a reporter in afghanistan i was there in 2001 before the americans arrived. i was based in moscow and -- at the time. i spent about eight months there in the early parts of the war. i went from there to the middle east and spent about six months in iraq when saddam hussein was
still in charge, and during the initial phase of the war and came back during the second term of george bush. as a journalist i had a chance to see from both sides of this time. an onset i really thought was on point is how different it looks from the different vantage points, and how complicated these issues are, whether you agree with secretary nicholson or phyllis bennis, and i do not mean to complete because i think everyone is making somewhat different argument, but these are in fact such -- they go beyond the easy conversation. as i mentioned, the afghans told him they invaded our -- their country because the americans hated their way of life. that reminds me of journalists
who were in baghdad in the early days after the fall of the saddam government and decided to test and effect this very conundrum of the different perspective. each of them rode along with them -- and american military procession through the city. tom ricks rode with the american troops. our arabic speaking fantastic amazing foreign correspondent has passed away unfortunately. he walked alongside and talked to the iraqis. the troops came away from the event and talk to him and said they either are happy and seemed happy to see us and shadid who was listening in arabic and heard anger and resentment and bitterness that would fuel obviously a lot of trouble to come. i think it is that sort of
disconnect that has flavor this period in which we have tried to find solutions, and would have made it a lot easier for president obama. a lot to say about him as well if this were an obama conference. but, you know, this evolve and change over time as now two presidents have struggled the lesson to take from this. i would argue in some ways this first anti-war sentiment that happened at the white house after the invasion of iraq and afghanistan came before president obama took office as president bush took a different tact by his second term. the actor that stands out is 2007 when the israelis come to the white house and say we have intelligence suggesting the nuclear -- they have nuclear
facilities, and we think you should vomit. president bush gathers his team he had in 2002 and 2003 when he was making the decision to go to war in iraq and in 2002 he asked the opinion and they all more or less said yes, we inc. you should go. even general powell said i am suiting up at that point. despite his misgivings he had expressed up until that point. then the president takes them all out of the room and is just him and cheney at this point. flash forward to 2007 and the question of what to do about syria, and the same people in front of him and the vice president is in front of -- in front of everybody. the vice president is the only one who says basically we should go ahead and bomb this.
you should lay down that line on the issue of proliferation and follow through with that. the president asked if anyone agreed with the vice president and nobody's hand goes up. the path from 2003-2007 shows how much iraq and afghanistan had begun to weigh on even president bush on his second term. he did not take the winter action against iran, despite the urging of some. he did not take the literary action against syria. he did not take military action in darfur to intercede he did not take military action against iran despite the urgings of some. he did not take military actions in darfur to try to intervene in the genocide despite desires of some. because he too by that point was struggling to figure out what had happened, what had worked. i don't the he regrets hi decisions, at least he wouldn't say that out loud and he would defend it on strong terms on some of the terms that tom mentioned earlier. but by the time he left office he himself was trying to figure
out what was the appetite for military action versus diplomacy. he has instituted that the millity lateral talks with iran basically continued and accelerated by president obama now playing thought week, in fact, in sit swer land he engaged in multilateral diplomacy on north korea's nuclear program and tried to repair the relations and began to least move some of the people in guantanamo and began a shift and accelerated with president obama. and this is what happens in the country. we have national security crisis. go to war. we often find situation where is we take actions and we -- that end up evolving over time. lincoln and the suspension of habeas corpus, f.d.r. and the internment of the
japanese. john adams and his position to act. i find all that to be an important part of the overall story of how we gotten frp there and here where president obama himself is still struggling with these very same issues and sees choices that he doesn't like in front of him whether come to isis, iran or ukraine or adding a number of different scenarios that confront them on how he chooses to respond. we have more to say on that i'd rather hear -- i have questions for everybody up here if you want to go through them. thank you very much. [applause] >> actually you summarized everything really nicely and you're the moderator at this point. made my job easier. but i do think it's a good idea because so many issues have been
exposed from different vantage points to open up with some questions back and forth would be most productive, in fact. and then we'll of course take some time for audience questions too. but there's a lot to discuss here. we have core differences on the need to the war, the different ways that it was fought. legality, so there's a lieutenant on the table than could productively debated. so with that i guess i'll open it up if people want to have specific responses to each. >> can we hear from the audience? >> certainly, but we have a panel of discussion was what i was thinking first in a sense. so actually, yes. peter do you want to answer a few questions. peter: i have a couple questions. i guess i'm curious -- tom and phyllis and maybe you guys can maybe bring this into sharper relief for us.
tom, you were in iraq and you make the argument that a member made of a logical decisions that had been criticized afterwards with regard to the army and so forth. and your argument was if i remember correctly or stated correctly is that we went under resourced and we didn't -- we didn't properly commit to what was going to be necessary. i'm curious if you have other thoughts about what our
understanding of the war of sunni vs. shiah, whether we understood the pot broiler that was there to be awakened. whether you think more resources would have made a difference. how is this inevitable. i would ask you -- talk about they didn't ask the security council immediately after 9/11 to authorize a strike against eaching. i guess i'm curious. are you saying -- let's just say they had. had they ask the council clearly would have gone along. do you think that would have been wise or not wise to have proceeded with the war? was the only question whether the u.n. authorized or was it unwise toe go in, period, despite that they seemed to have a sanctuary there? >> well, that's a lot to handle but thank you, peter, i enjoyed your book. and i recommend i. peter: thanks. >> let's address these one at a time. intel going in. let's not forget that secretary powell did go to langley for three days and you know really sat there and went through the intelligence. this is not just our intelligence. we had a number of different intelligence sources including french and the israelis.
when we went to the security council we didn't gate veto. they also understood that there was a strong likelihood that saddam hussein had chemical and biological agents and that -- and somebody who's been in saddam's 300-room subterranean bunker which even our most powerful weapons did not penetrate, i walked down in the dark with a flashlight and saw all the chem bio gloves and suits that you could buy. i often speculate what was there?
was there anything ever there? was -- what was he telling hi leadership? these regime elites have a very sort of cloistered circle of people that they deal with, ok? there's a lot of show. there's a lot of sort of -- there are a lot of mirages that these author tarne regimes have to construct in order to continue to exert authority over their regime members but then also the larger public. so, you know, i think that that's -- you know, clearly we can -- we might be able to say that that was an intelligence failure but there were also -- there were others. i remember very clearly walking in and talking to people and said look, we had no idea that it was this bad in term of the degradation of the physical infrastructure some of much of the resources had gone up to building up the military. so much of the resources had been consolidated by the regime over a number of years that nothing worked -- nothing much worked before the war and definitely didn't work after the war, after the looting.
so when we talk about resources an we talk about intel you have to maintain and overwhelming physical force in order to secure the secure and maintain the infrastructure. it's really the first thing that we did not do effectively. you know, nature, of course, is a vacuum. when you're dealing with the situation when you're going into a country, if there is a vacuum of -- of force then what you're going to see is people filling that void, people filling that vacuum. and that's where you saw some of the sectarian militias. it's important to remember in iraq that this was a nonsectarian country. there was a separation of the state for many, many years. saddam viewed himself as this islamic leader in the middle
east really since the -- after the first gulf war when he was trying to or of reassert some of his authority in the region. and you had enter marriage in iraq between sunnis an shiah. you have sunni shiah and turkman who were living in the same numbers in baghdad. so when i say that you talk to rank in file iraqi these people wanted to move on with their lives. they were sot saying, ok. i'm going to -- this guy next do to him, he's a shiah. let's go kill him. that was not part of the psychy of the country. and i believe that as the insurgency and the foreign fighters come in, you saw still the vast majority of iraqis still want to get on with their life but you saw the sectarian militias want to feel their power.
they felt that opportunity because we didn't have enough people to adequately secure the infrastructure in the streets. with respect to the army and this is probably the most talked about issue. when you discuss the immediate aftermath, i have the benefit of actually sitting and speaking with walt slokham under president clinton who was over
in iraq who was one of the architects of this strategy and actually getting in the car and going out and visiting some of these military facilities or what was left of them. and there, i know there are people on this panel who say it's a lie and there's no truth of it. you have no place to feed them or it you have no way to pay them because of the infrastructure breakdown. you have to understand that unlike in the first gulf war where we took literally thousands of pows who are members of the fighting force in iraq this time around we took i believe less than 1000. these guys were so poorly equipped, they actually went to the plant where they were making their uniforms and helmets to their helmets were like the
things you give to a five-year-old kid. hard plastic. a lot of this stuff was for show. they had big numbers. they have an officer corps as it was essentially a patronage den of not very well trained generals, officers, and ncos. we had a very little intelligence at battle. fighting these officers would have been very difficult to do. the first thing they did was say, look there is not an army to really reconstitute. what we need is a professional fighting source. in order to secure this country and put ourselves in the game to secure the country, we need a professional fighting source trade within 60 days of his arrival, 60 days, not six months, not a year, not two years. within 60 days of his arrival, we started training the first classes of a new iraqi army. anybody up to the rank of colonel, from the old army was able to apply, and 80% of the new army was folks from the new army.
you need is have the components, including in ceos and officers and places to feed these folks to train. i would like to add that we did try once, no one talks about this, we did try once to actually reconstitute an old division of the iraqi army. that was in 2014 and the battle of falluja. the variance of found a general from the old army who was actually halfway decent on paper. he had training. he was not just a buddy of
someone and that is how he got his rank. the sky was able to locate a core group of his ncos in his infantry. the marines wanted to use him to go into falluja. they did that and it was a disaster. it was such a disaster to the point have of those guys ended up fighting on the other side. i know this is an easy thing for people to say, this was a crazy idea. someone who actually saw the facilities, met with these folks, and saw the operation and how they tried to reconstitute these folks firsthand. there were certain, very real reasons why that was done, and why we tried to remedy it as quickly as possible, because we knew we had to. >> briefly, i heard one thing i absolutely agree with, regime a leave have cloister groups of people around them. that was absolutely true of the white house. many of them knew far more about iraq than anyone in the white house. >> there you go. >> i think that on the question of what was there, one thing we knew was true was received stock for biological weapons had been sent to iraq in the 1980's, we
knew that because they came from the united states. not clandestinely, but officially. they came from the american type culture collection. we all have the documents. what is also true is that the use of chemical weapons was done with the help of the united states military who provided targeting information to saddam hussein's military. in that war, while the u.s. was supporting both sides, kind of hoping both sides would kill off young soldiers and destroy resources, we weighed more on the iraqi side because they were the weaker side. the point about the destruction of how bad things were.
there was tons of information out there about what 12 years of crippling sanctions had done. after the iran/iraq war, iran built quite well. the sanctions had destroyed not only be physical infrastructure, but most of the social fabric of the country. this was the famous statement by madeleine albright who said, when she was asked about the 500,000 children who had died as a result of sanctions. her answer was, we think the price was worth it. i always wanted to asked, she had two daughters, i wanted to say if it were your children would you still think the price was worth it? she would not deny the figure, she knew it was 500,000 children. she said we think the price was worth it. this is not a partisan issue. finally on the question that you raised first peter, about if the security council had had endorsed it.
i think there has been a difference about legality and legitimacy. i would not have considered it legitimate, it would have been illegal if the security council endorsed it. in 1990, for the 1991 war, the bush one administrators -- administration used a wide array of punishment to force other countries to vote in favor of the war. at the end of the day there were only two countries that voted no on the security council, cuba and yemen. yemen had just been reunified. yemen voted no, no sooner had the yemen ambassador put down his hand in the security council meeting, eu and -- u.s. ambassador to the u.n. was at his side and said that will be the post -- most expensive no vote you cast.
the remark was picked up on an open mic. the u.s. cut aid to yemen. it is the poorest country in the arab world. me and others wrote at the time that we did not think it was a accident. he knew full well it was an open mic. it was a message not aimed at yemen, but the rest of the world. if you cross us on an issue, you will pay a price. at the u.n. they call it the yemen president. -- precedent. other bribes had to do with arms sold to columbia that had not been given -- the u.s. had not been willing to sell arms because of human rights violations. there were oil deals cut threats, punishment, and wide variety. the result was they got a majority of votes.
the war was legal, but not legitimate. that does matter in the eyes of the rest of the world. >> there are so many issues we could get into and discuss amongst ourselves. alternative is not taken, etc.. so many things have been arisen as important issues. let's turn to audience questions. two things, try to asked short questions -- asked court short questions. >> hi. this was a great panel. there was a lot of, in my opinion, crazy things said. it is hard to pinpoint what i want to question.
they made one, mr. scope hall, that was an interesting story and i think it was fascinating that you lived in afghanistan for a while. the basic gist of what i got from what you're saying is that when we got there and realized al qaeda had fled and the taliban had quit, should we have packed up and gone home and let them go back to afghanistan and plan another attack? in my opinion, it sounded like you were saying we should of just let the country go back to exactly what it was. one of the worst countries in the world run by some of the worst people in the world. we could go on and on about how that they were. they were obviously going to return if we left. what should we have done instead? >> there was a real opportunity at 2003, what i want to draw attention to, two different concepts, date building and
counterterrorism. afghanistan shows that because for every dollar spent on the central government, on institutions, there was an equivalent amount builds on -- spent on building personalities. let me give you an example, the afghan national police, there was an attempt to build one. there is a number of ways one can build a police force. one is to create a national academy to train people, hire people from around the country instead what happened was the police force built with a conglomeration of local militias. the militias chosen were those most effective at killing bad guys or people who were deemed bad guys. not those who are most effective at writing law and order. the effect of that was now today we have militias all of the country, the police are
considered probably [indiscernible] in 2002, if we were serious about state building, we would've privilege the building of institutions. all of that would be a tall order. it would be a radical break from the paradigm that has dominated the last 13 or 14 years, to counterterrorism. that would be an alternative. i don't believe that what actually has happened coming given the state of affairs in 2002, the united states would have been serious about state building. it was never serious about state building. another example, i was traveling last week, looking at schools, i was interested in the question
of education because supposedly the united states has helped bring education to millions of afghans post 2001. it turns out particularly in the south, many schools built were actually contracted to the warlords and strongmen. the building of the schools actually deeply damaged local communities in ways that probably would've been better off if they never done so in the first place. they brought answer is if the u.s. was serious about state building, it had to be serious
about actually building institutions. instead we focused on counterterrorism and now we have no state and terrorists. >> [inaudible] >> it depends where you look. there are part of the country where life is significantly better today than it was under the taliban. there are parts of the country where life is worse. i will focus on part because it is counter intuitive. in southern afghanistan for women, they were kept away from health care, education, today in southern afghanistan, women are still locked in homes and kept away from education and health
care, on top of that they live in a war zone where their husbands and brothers can run over roadside bombs. i was just in southern afghanistan and i did not see a single woman the whole time i was there. it is a complicated question. for whom is it better? for many afghans, life is not better. that is an indictment of what is happened in the last 13 years. >> hi, thank you all for giving up your time for coming to talk to us. mr. baker, you mentioned you worked with a colleague named thomas rick, a couple of months ago i read a book for my class that you know well. with that said, what do you think can be taken from his books and be applied right now to what is going on in iraq and afghanistan? mr. baker: i don't want to
answer tom. but i think his book was a fabulous encapsulation of what went wrong in iraq. ira member when he came to the newsroom and said he would write it. he said he was worried it might be too strong. he said his worry with -- is someone else would do it first. he had a very good sense of it. he had a lot of experience with these officers. he was seeing it through their lens. i think tom later wrote the next book called "the gamble" about the three us -- petraus. that book could come away with lessons that could flow from fiasco. tom left the washington post and wrote another piece recently for foreign policy about how in the last number of years he has been -- i wouldn't be sure if he says radicalized, he now have a much more -- liberal would be the right word.
he was tight with the military for many years. he is come away very sour. depressed -- the right word -- it might be the right word. he talked about posts to medics stress after covering the awful things that happened. it has made him rethink -- i think this. has made a lot of people who felt strongly about the war -- it is important to remember this is a bipartisan vote in congress in 2002. there were people across the ideological -- and party as phyllis pointed out. lines who supported things and change their view have become distressed. i think there are very few people with a stronger and more vigorous feeling than the kernel has had about what happened, why it happened, why it shouldn't have happened, and so on. i don't have any good lessons. i would leave that to smarter people than me.
>> let me touch on another point you in every young person in this room and across the country should be concerned with. this is 14 years of war. the gauge commission that was set up for president nixon and tom has talked about this too made a mistake. it did not contemplate anything like this for one thing. it didn't contemplate what would happen once 1% of the nation was bleeding and dying for the other 99%, particularly for an
extended. of time and over the active and reserve components. and all volunteer force, i recommend a book called "skinning the game." the force alone would be almost the entire portion of the defense budget for those services in another 15-16 years at present rate of increase. the all volunteer force is not working. think about what you have to do if you give a war no one comes. phyllis would probably say, that
would be wonderful. i'm not that far yet. phyllis: give it a month. >> one reason we go from 2% women to 4% has nothing to do with eager -- ecotality areas we can't find men. we are taking criminals, people with drug records, people who are mentally unstable, it is incredible what we have done to the armed forces. the reserves have become an operational reserve rather than strategic reserve. think about that, young people. >> can i asked about the military? i work with iraq veterans against the war. it is the organization of mainly young veterans of both iraq and afghanistan. one of the things we have talked about a lot is what the statistics showed, particularly from iraq about who it was from
the u.s. who was dying in those wars. phyllis: after age, the single most common threat among those thousands killed in this war from the u.s. was that they were from either rural areas or towns in less than 25,000. they were not from big cities. they were from places where there were were no jobs, there was no opportunity to go to school. many of them were very impoverished.
they did not have options. they did not have other choices. because they were from a small towns, gathered -- scattered around the country, they were not from a big cities were overwhelmingly people who work in the media come from. people who work in the media today, and i have many friends in the media and the work i do is the same. some of my best friends are media. me and my best friends know very very few people in the military. part of the reason is, i know lots of people who don't know anyone in military or anyone who has ever been in the military of this generation. that is a reflection of who it is that is being drafted by lack
of opportunity, lack of other choice malacca jobs, poverty, a range of things. it is not quite as volunteer as the name sounds. those who are writing a history of today in the newspapers online, on blocks, on the radio and tv, often have no clue who these people are. that affects how the coverage happens. what does and doesn't get covered. that is one of the aspects we have to look at when we talk about the problems in the military. >> the author of "matterhorn," one of the best war books written calls it the all recruited force. that is what it is. you would be stunned if i gave you the figures of what the army alone spent to recruit that force, especially during the height of the iraq conflict. we're talking about six, 7, 8 $9 billion being spent just to pay for this force. it is not get much better. -- it does not get much better. >> let's take advantage of us having this behind us. >> this is were phyllis. you mentioned earlier there are alternatives to instead of going into war in afghanistan after 9/11, can you mentioned some of those alternatives that the u.s. government could have taken instead of war? phyllis: one of the great things i got to the when i wrote this book about 9/11 was right the
speech that george bush should have given when he dropped the helicopter down to land when he was circling. i think the first thing was to recognize it as a huge crime against humanity rather than a act of war. that implies another country is somehow guilty. going to war against afghanistan when the hijackers were not afghans, they were saudi's and egyptians. they had not trained in afghanistan, the trains in germany. they went to flight: minnesota. here we were saying we were going to bomb afghanistan.
that was certain to creating more terrorism later. the first thing would be to recognize what is going to create more terrorism, and don't do that. that meant recognize it as a crime, recognize the need for international justice. there was a lot of talk about justice. it should've been a moment to say this is why we need a viable, functional system of international justice. why were -- why we were wrong to oppose the criminal force, why
we were wrong to weaken it even though we had no intention of signing on to it. in that context to say, first, too many people have died today. as president i am going to make the pledge, not more -- not one more person will die in the pursuit of justice for those who did die. that is not a way to bring justice. it means treating it as a crime,
treating it with international engagement, not telling the rest of the world you are whether -- you are either supporting our war or we will treat you as a terrorist. it means cooperation, police cooperation. it means engaging, not through military, but through law enforcement, to do some of the things the u.n. was called on to do but not given the resources to. in terms of identifying funding sources. the fact the u.s. refused to put pressure on its ally, saudi arabia, known to be the source of much of the funding for al qaeda in that stage and today. the u.s. is too worried about the relationship with saudi oil, relationship with the saudi monarchy, military roles, etc.. it means putting aside all of
those concerns that have to do with the usual diplomatic relationship. 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 in normative amounts of money, people, the best minds available to figure out what kind of negotiations would work. not necessarily negotiations directly with al qaeda, but negotiating with those who are enabling al qaeda. how do you put pressure on the people funding them? those questions were not only never addressed, but those who said they should be addressed, we have to understand the root cap -- causes of why it happened in the first place. many of us were called apologist for terror. if we were not supporting war, we were somehow apologizing for terror. we were sucking up to saddam hussein. the insults were pretty constant. that was what we needed to do, figure out root causes. maybe you can't prevent and extremists of some sort who is a so she'll have -- sociopaths. you can figure out why people from many places around the world think that maybe it was not such a bad idea, and look at what those reasons were. that makes it much harder to ever do it again. if your goal is to prevent it from ever happening again, you have to start with figuring out
why it happened the first time. we know it was not because they hate our freedom. they hate the fact that we are denying them their freedom. it was a huge challenge never met. there are always alternatives. you need to put your best minds, influx of resources of money time, attention and people to figure out what those alternatives are. >> just in response to that, i am stretching for how to actually address that. as she says, it was not an act of war. letson is where i started, the paradigm of what we consider to be war has shifted. thomas: this is the change and
these are the new challenges our world faces. this speaks to something the colonel said earlier. we wasted and opportunity because we went into iraq. there can be no doubts in the kernel's defense, there can be no doubt certainly that george w. bush earned a lot of capital going into iraq. don't ever think that just because you hear about iraq or afghanistan in the news that that was the extent of what this president did to keep us safe. george w. bush and for those of you who think on the panel that we just threw bombs and killed lots of people in iraq and afghanistan to -- this was the strategy. this government after 9/11 initiated operations, in conjunction with the fbi, cia, the u.s. military, and the intelligence agencies in governments working together with government of 62 countries to interdict terrorism. we have the cooperation of 62 countries.
for different types of operations, intelligence gathering, diplomacy, economic and military pressure, and other types of work to interdict terrorists networks. this was not about identifying al qaeda is the only threat and then saying, if we are done there, we are moving on. the president had a global view of this. he happy relationships and the administration built relationships, productive relationships with countries all around the world to help, not only protect our interests, but also there's. while yes, political capital with bert, i think that bold decision-making makes that a necessity. but please do not think that iraq is the only estimate of what george w. bush did keep this country safe and initiate a global effort that had global participation, cooperation, and reach to entered it -- interdict terrorism. >> i was asked a question -- i am burning to know your answer phyllis. while your response to the young man's question might be intellectually appealing to me it might appeal to my humane side, how would you ever get the american people not to impeach? phyllis: that is easy.
i think at the time of 9/11, we go back in history and remember no one was alive at the time of 9/11 who had ever seen an attack on u.s. soil by a foreign country. the attack on pearl harbor hawaii was not a state at that time. this was unprecedented in the life of everyone in the country. people were terrified. people were desperate for leadership. there was a moment when i think, i know that people, many people have followed any kind of leadership. there was a danger. that is a dangerous moment in the life of the country that people can be pushed to take positions they would never take in normal times. when you have an abnormal situation. people were desperate. if that leadership had given
another alternative, i think there would've been massive support from the state to stand with the french saying, we are all americans now. 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 than america looked vulnerable to anyone else. that had never happened before. i think many, huge numbers of people and the country would have wanted to follow that kind of leadership. we were never given up -- we were never given that option. >> how would you explain that, 51-52% continued today identifying torture as necessary. phyllis: 88% supported a war in afghanistan at the time. by three years ago, 82% or 83% were saying it was never worth it. obviously that included a lot of the same people.
statistics are snapshots, they are useful for gauging where public opinion is at a given time. depending on how the media is covering stuff. we all use statistics, it is not to say they are not valid. they are limited. it depends on how you asked the question. >> it is one of my greatest concerns about the american people. phyllis: if people are going to believe that it works and somehow it is legal because some lawyer in the justice department said it was legal, it is the ultimate ecology --tutology. that is not how the law works in this country. you say this is a country of laws and not people, we don't do that anymore thankfully. it is a country of laws and not a people, that means the laws have to have some credibility, not just some lawyer who happen to have riser in law school to say -- whether it was you or
someone else to say yes, i think it is legal. and then they say if the president says it is legal it is. >> we have already taken over our time. i want to thank our panelists for illuminating discussion, lots of great debate. hopefully we will continue this discussion throughout the conference, but think each and everyone one of you for coming in making this a very informative and interesting panel. [applause] [indiscernible] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] announcer: at a ceremony to mark memorial day, president obama spoke at the cemetery. a profile over members who served in the military. we set down with republican representative lee zeldin of new york. on the next washington journal we will speak to kimberly robinson about some of the terms undecided supreme court cases
>> the national academy of sciences released a report today on incarcerations and it's a -- effects. live coverage of that event starts at 3:00 p.m. eastern time today here on c-span. senator bernie sanders will hold a kickoff rally for his presidential campaign today in burlington, vermont. you will be able to watch that life. that is at 6:00 eastern here on c-span.
now the first of clutch or with house freshmen. first, lee zeldon of the new york first district. he served in the new york state senate and was deployed in iraq in 2006. host: congressman lee zeldin what got you interested in public office in the first place? rep. lee zeldin: i came off active duty from the army in 2007. loved serving in the military, wearing the uniform, alongside great men and women. transitioning into the reserves, i wanted to continue to serve. i came back home, moved about half a mile from where i grew up, before college, law school and active duty in the army, and i started running for congress. host: where is home? where is that? rep. lee zeldin: this is long island. the first congressional district of new york is the east end of long island. a lot of people know the hamptons. this is the district of the hamptons. on the north fork, a lot of vineyards, agriculture out there, and i live in a small
town just west of the hamptons with about 486,000 residents called brookhaven. that is where i live. host: so you were 2007, you got out of the reserves, and then you went into local office? rep. lee zeldin: so i came off active duty, transitioned to the reserves, ran for congress. i was 27 years old. we got our clock cleaned in that race. actually, i was elected to the state senate in 2010, reelected in 2012, and then was elected to congress in 2014. host: what is behind your motivation for running?
coming out of the military, what -- why do you want to serve? rep. lee zeldin: right now, we are confronting such huge issues. every day when we are down here in washington, domestic issues foreign policy issues. i'm on the foreign affairs committee, transportation infrastructure committee veterans affairs. my home county has the second-highest vets population of any county in america. and the foreign affairs issues as far as evoking passion, when you are talking about the need to defeat isis, to ensure that we are not entering into a bad deal with iran, protecting our military to make sure we keeping america safe and free, when you deal with some of the issues that we deal with on a daily basis, again, here at home and abroad, it evokes the huge passion, and i am just privileged to be a part of it. host: said you get elected in 2014 and come to office in 2015.
what was that transition like for you? rep. lee zeldin: i came down with about 200 of our supporters at the beginning of january. i served four years in the state senate and got some experience with regards to how hills become lost, how the process works, how conference works, and how to do constituent services, and how to be a good family man, be a good husband and father, so coming down here in january, it was not really too new, even though it was a new setting here in congress. we just tried to have the staff fully operational as quickly as possible, and we know each other's strengths and weaknesses, set our priorities not just on national issues but also on important, local issues, so we hit the ground running and fortunately, we were able to. host: did you bring some of the staff with you? rep. lee zeldin: i did. my district office is almost entirely the people that were with me in the state senate, and my office downtown is new staff. each were exciting for different reasons, but good chemistry, and constituent services is a key part of the job, and having a good team here in d.c. to make sure we are doing our due diligence is important, as well. host: what is a typical day like for you in washington, when congress is in session?
rep. lee zeldin: very busy. there was one day when i have 31 things on my calendar. you might have a five-minute meeting followed by a 10 minute meeting followed by a 10 minute meeting, with the committees and the subcommittees. i try to exercise as close to every morning as i can. the evenings usually end late. i like to -- there are other people there that have vices. you know, they might go out drinking or whatnot. i like to empty my e-mail box. that is my vice. staying on top. but for me, we might be out -- there might be an event going on. local groups from the district here, for good causes, but i like to get back to work, and i usually go to sleep around 12:00 or 1:00 and am back up around
5:00 or 6:00. host: when you are in washington, where do you stay? rep. lee zeldin: i am one of 80 staying in my office, 1517 longworth. host: is that because it is expensive? rep. lee zeldin: when i visited here, chris gibson was one of my officers. i remember in 2010, i member thinking then, if i was elected as part of that class, there are a lot of different factors to it. it might still just be the army in me, but i have an air mattress put down, and it is all good. host: let's talk about emptying the e-mail box thing. what are your favorite parts of being a member? rep. lee zeldin: i have honestly enjoyed every minute of every day. while i am here, i don't spend my time wishing i was at home, and when i am home, i do not spend my time wishing i was in d.c. it is a privilege to serve. a two-year term goes by quickly.
i think you should stop being a member when you are stepping on the house floor or walking in the capital where it loses that feeling, and you lose the appreciation for the history of the institution, and for me, i really do enjoy that part of it, being able to walk into the united states capital. host: you mentioned the agenda on the list. three committee hearings to attend to. does it ever feel like, i cannot devote my all to this issue, this one committee meeting that i wish i could? rep. lee zeldin: there are so many issues, and there will never be enough time in the day to get as neck deep in all of them. i will have a constituent come in, but until they walk and, i have never even heard of that proposal, and then there is a next meeting, somebody pitching
a proposal, which is the first time since being an office, and you might be here for a few months and a few years, and you are encountering an issue for the first time, so you try to prioritize your time as to what is important, delivering for your district and your country and there is just not enough bandwidth to spend all of the attention on everything. i wish we could. host: who keeps an eye on that schedule? rep. lee zeldin: we have a scheduler. we have one person who handles everything, both in the district and in d.c. she is based here in d.c., and we have a chief of staff, and a deputy chief of staff who also serves as a legislative director. we have a good team. you make adjustments over the course of months and years, and responsibilities. people come and go, with life events, and that is the best way to stay organized, is having a
good team. host: hounding interact with republican leadership on a daily basis? rep. lee zeldin: i would say i interact with my colleagues most on the floor, when we are therefore votes. that is when it happens most often. there may be events in the evening, where you're able to cross paths with a particular member. at times, you might be sitting
at a dinner for two hours. and i would say over the course of a routine, you must frequently interact with the rank and file members when you're on the floor. when you are not on the floor, everyone is busy with meetings. host: is there a best way to communicate with you? a text message where they say, hey, we really want to get your support for this? rep. lee zeldin: the with team will go around with names on a card. maybe it is monday, and we are told on thursday, there will be a whip check, and a person will come find you, and sometimes you're able to tell them, yes, absolutely i'm voting for something, or no, i am absolutely not. sometimes you have a really important question, and you need that answered. it mostly happens on the floor then. host: so there is not a lot of arm twisting going on on the
floor? rep. lee zeldin: there are bills, and a might be opposed to something, that i would vote no for, and maybe they would want me to vote yes, and you have to have a good, honest dialogue. they appreciate an honest know a lot better than a dishonest yes, -- honest no better than a dishonest yes so when they ask me how i would like to vote on a particular bill that i am not with them, the best thing for a legislator to do is just to tell the whip team, i am not with you. that is just not good for the process to not do that. host: have you seen opportunities for you to be approached by democrats to support their legislation? rep. lee zeldin: sure, that has happened on the floor. i have interacted a bunch the
colleagues on both sides of the aisle. sometimes it might be in the hallway, on the shuttle ride back to new york, and you happen to be with your colleagues from the other side of the aisle, and you start talking about something they are working on, and they might put and ask him. sometimes you are with them. sometimes you are not, but it is important to find common ground. that is the best way to serve our common districts. host: what are your concerns? rep. lee zeldin: the first congressional district in new york is almost completely surrounded by water. there is only a small 13 mile or so stretch that is connected to land. aircraft noise is an issue. there is a national research facility there. so education is a big issue, with the implementation of federally mandated state-mandated, as well as local school district created testing. so those are some of the very local issues that we are working
on, and it gets even more specific when some business contacts you, or some individual contacts you. that disability ratings from the v.a. to get approved, that really becomes very high on the priority list as far as that staffer and that can do to it. some of the more national issues that are important to the district, i would say certainly fighting for veterans, trying to create more good-paying, private-sector jobs, making our policy more can did, improving our health care. we will see how the supreme court and congress reacts with changes as 2015 moves along. those are some of the national issues that are of importance to our district, and there are many others, as well. host: you are a fairly young member of congress.
what is the average age for people in the first district? rep. lee zeldin: i am 35 years old. in congress, there are 31 members under the age of there are 20 in the house republican conference. 11 in the democratic house conference. i am in favor of term limits personally. there has been such a huge changeover. two thirds of the republican conference was not even here five years ago. the average age of the house republican conference is about excuse younger than our colleagues on the opposite side of the aisle, and there is just a lot of changeover that has happened over the course of the last few years, all across america. so as far as my district, about a decade older on average, but we have people who are 18 years old, and they want to know how they can afford to go to college, and then you ha