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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  May 29, 2015 6:30pm-8:01pm EDT

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weapons being in the hands of terrorist would have increased greatly. the possibilities of a dirty bomb being exploded in our country. the pressure on our friends like israel, kuwait, saudi arabia and the u.a. would be greater today. and a result american people would be left safe as well. only time will tell about president bush. all i can say that he is looking better and better as the world becoming more and more dangerous. and we become more vulnerable to those who want to destroy us. what is a president's most important job? it's to keep us safe and he did it. thank you very much. [applause] >> yeah. ok. i'm going to take a little bit different tact.
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i'm going to try to look at or hope i have time to look at three similar 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, i think it's safe to say throughout the government that the pro-funded di of what had happened to us and what kind of action we were going to present to the world. we sat down on the policy planning staff as did some other people in the 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
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global solidarity. my god we even got a condolence message from fidel castro. the most influential paper in paris ran a headline, we're all americans. it was a moment of incredible solidarity and my boss and his boss decided that one of the things we should try to do, remember we're the diplomats former soldiers but we're diplomats now was to captain lice 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 had problems. so we drew up a matrix and on that matrix 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 the secretary of
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state who would talk to the president mue sharif and the i.s.s. and so forth. in other countries it was our ambassador. donald rumsfeld wanted to get back to philippines for example. saif was a terrorist group in the philippines that 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 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.
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shattered our hopes on the wings of but it also occasioned the second episode of disgust. no one knew better than former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff colin powell and i was his special assistant at that time what we had done to the armed forces and what earlier was called the peace dividend. it wasn't president clinton who delivered it, 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 if you look at how we did it. bases and everything. bill clinton came with his secretary of defense and cut another 3%. what relevance does this have to this? powell was former chairman of
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the joint chiefs of staff. and even though dick cheney told him that, he felt it was his responsibility saying we can't do two wars at the same time. we destroyed that with the 28% cut. so we better finish afghanistan. no one's arguing with you about afghanistan. you better finish that before you do iraq otherwise you're going to negligent afghanistan which is what we proceeded to do. so we shattered the global solidarity and we went to iraq with too few forces in the first place because donald rumsfeld decided that that would be the amount we would send. some of that amount was based on the give and take with the military commander tommy franks who powell had told on two different occasions you have too few troops and whom the general told the congress we had too few troops for which, of course, he was release.
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you had too few troops to lead iraq and that would lead about 100,000 contractors that would do the ultimate public function. war. and we're still living with it, ladies and gentlemen. still living with it. we haven't put it to rest yet. the other item that powell brought to the president's attention other than timing and foresize was legitimacy. legitimacy and the shape of the united nations, other allies other than britain and so forth. we went of the u.n. in november of 2002 and we got a 15-0 vote unanimous vote proving 14-41.
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again, we had sort of recognized a little bit of that global solidarity. but what that would say to others at the iaei that they could go and do their jobs. they could go and continue the inspections, but you can't continue the inspections if you've already marshaled 160,000-plus force and started them on their way. we call it in the military tip-fitting them. you've already started them. the excessive heat in iraq. so if you're doing this, you're probably going to have to cut the inspector short. if you're really intent on going to war, you're going to have to do it even without. that's the second point. third point, my boss got put out for the united states secure council to give the most species presentation on iraqi m.d. that anyone has ever been called on
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in american government to render on the american council, to the american public and to international community. and powell showed afterwards it was very effective. why was i very effective in because it was colonel powell which had mother teresa poll ratings. he was 77% on the polls an she was about 80%. you're looking at the individual who went out to the c.i.a. and prepared colin powell for that presentation in terms of orchestrating all the analysts from 16 different intelligence agencies working daily and nightly with george tenet and frankly on three pillars of that presentation, mobile biological laboratories, existing stocks of chemical an biological weapons
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a nuclear program and then a forth one which was tantamount to the biggest lie of all, formidable contacts between saddam hussein and al-qaeda. on one occasion powell grabbed me, put me down in a chair in the national intelligence council spaces where nowhere else was, closed the door. and he said take all that terrorist crap out. none of it is believable. take it out. i said boss, don't shout at me. we'll take it out. within 30 minutes, colonel powell told them about a high -- george tenet was telling colonel powell about a high
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level operative who had been interrogating and revealed substantial contacts between the secret police and al-qaeda to the use of chemical and biological weapon, that was a total fabrication. he gave a presentation that he believed in that had been orchestrated by carefully orchestrated plot, if you will between the vice president's office, the undersecretary of defense for policy in the defense department and the c.i.a. certain allies that were given to me by george tenet as gospel. and he presented that to security council the american people in the national community to bring about a war that he had already seen destroy his strategy for exploiting the solidarity 9/11 has produced for good for diplomatic purposes and destroyed any hope of legitimacy and was based on false intelligence. it was not just an intelligence failure it was that too.
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but it was orchestration 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 similar events about this particular war and in that sense i think i'd say disastrous decision and a disastrous aftermath. we've already heard about that. we can go into detail about that. my time is up. not a good time for the united states of america. [applause] >> thank you very much. i'd like to pick up where you left off. interesting hearing the first two speakers induced in inducing the fits of nostalgia. back in 9/11 i viewed the world
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through the language that they employed. was living near the twin tower. i had lost friends in the attacks. i believe that 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 that we stood for and maybe some of that is true the thing about al-qaeda but what i learned very quickly it's much more complicated than that. i moved to afghanistan in 2008. i hit the road very soon after. i took a motor cycle, i lived in villages and i got 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 mannequian ideas weren't very accurate.
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i pulled into a village after a few days of travel and meet a tribe out there that -- tribal chief out there. and he had lived through 30 years of war about 30 years of war. we got to talk about the american invasion. at one point i asked him, why do you think the invaded your country? and he knew about 9/11. but for him 9/11 was a far away occurrence the way a famine africa is for us. he looked at me and he said, the u.s. invaded our country because they hate our way of life. there was phrase for me. but i didn't necessarily agree with him. but he put it in this way which was talked about back in 2001 it was a watershed moment for me because it spurred me to
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investigate how afghans really view the war on terror and the american war particularly afghans who were living in the south. so not living in those areas that were peaceful but living in the areas that there's constant fighting until this day. here's what i found. after 2001, al-qaeda had fled the country after the u.s. invasion. we know that. al-qaeda went to pakistan. eventually some of them regrouped in iraq. so after the 2001 invasion of afghanistan there were no al-qaeda in iraq -- in afghanistan, sorry. at the same time the taliban from the rank in file to the senior leadership quit. they surrendered in 2001.
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and in subsequent months every single -- most of them or every single one from the senior officials like the minister of justice, the minister of defense all the way down to rank in file field commanders surrendered and tried to switch sides. the reason they tried to switch sides is not because they suddenly felt that they believed in the american ideals of freedom or they loved the united states but this is how war worked in afghanistan over the last two or three decade. if you go back to soviet occupation. when they left in 1989 a lot of the afghans who called themselves communist rebranded themselves as muja hadine because in a consulate where things can get so deadly you
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learned very quickly that you would switch sides depending on how the wind blew. there were a number of high profile incidents that were covered at the press at the time, covered in the "new york times" and other places at which time they tried 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 clerics. they were going to madrasa and trying to get donations in an effort to bring the taliban back on their feet. at the time the finance minister of the finance regime he said -- of the fallen regime said
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publically to reporters please do not donate to us because we are defunct. 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 with the afghan governor and handed over truckloads of weapons in exchange for staying at home and living in that area. so you had a particular situation in january of 2002 where you had thousands of soldiers mostly special forces soldiers on the ground and in afghanistan but the taliban as a military movement was defunct. so in other words you had thousands of soldiers on the ground without an enemy to fight but we had a political mandate and that mandate was that we were here to fight a war on terror and you were either with us or against us. this world view categorized afghans into two categories.
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really doing away with all that make the reality in afghanistan. this is a contradiction. how did it get resolved? the u.s. allied were the war lords local commander and strong men, had an effective the enemies of those war lords game enemy of the united states. there were no cell phone towers some of most of the intelligence is human intelligence not signal intelligence. so all of the intelligence is coming to the u.s. it was coming through local proxies, local war lords, local commanders who had a very complicated history on the ground who had their own enemies who had their own refinery who is had their own hatchets to
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bury. and in effect their enemies became our enemies. and so the u.s. didn't go to afghanistan and create a dictator or, you know, one of you referred to one of the options of the american policy. but what you did in afghanistan was create hundreds upon hundreds of small dictators in villages and in districts around the country men who were armed who were paid who were given contracts to the detriment of state building an nation building over the years. i'm going to give you an example of this which happened to a friend of mine in kandahar plo convince and he was somebody who lived across the street from me. he was like 80, 85 years old. he was an old fighter who fought against the soviets.
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but he was in retirement. and he would come sometimes to a bakery that he owned early in the morning, 4:00 or 5 a.m. he would knead dough. his name was sharaf hudine. they showed up. and they asked for him. they said are you sharaf hudine. he said yes. we have information that you are a terrorist. and they arrest r arrested -- and they arrested him. they handed him over to u.s. special forces. there he had metal hooks inserted into his mouth. he was beaten. they kept saying that he was an al qaeda mastermind, a taliban mastermind. and they were convinced that they had information from afghan
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war lords. he kept insisting that he was no a mastermind. so eventually they turned him over to the militia men. these afghan militia men took him to a private jail in kandahar city, took him downstairs and they hung him upside down to 18 to 20 hours a day. and they whipped him. he was hung with other people who these militia men watched extract intelligence from. one of them was awe famous one and he was whipped so much that he was eventually killed. saraf hudine he realized that they were after money. if he were to pay he was given his freedom. the family delivered it to his captor and he was released. the problem is that once he demonstrated that he was able to pay for his release then he was
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a marked man. like hog work every few months he was arrested again. he was then transferred to kandahar airfield who was accused of the master mind. he was hung upside down and whipped until he could be paid again this charade went on for two or three years in 2005 until the commander of the u.n. was killed in a ss attack. and the -- major commander of the intelligence services that ran the militia that was torturing him he now lives in california. he was brought here and he had many family members who are american citizens. so this is -- this is the situation. i can repeat hundreds of stories like this. in fact, my books have hundreds of stories like that of people are caught on the war on terror.
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in fact, in afghanistan turned time-out be wars against local communities in which certain war lords and certain commanders were eliminating their enemy or using the united states to gain riches, to gain power. we live with that legacy today. i think the process cease that created the insurgency in afghanistan in 2002 and 2003 by 2004, the taliban had reconstructed itself as a fighting force and who was now based -- the leadership was based in afghanistan. -- the leadership is now based in pakistan. and the level of opportunity existed and now was very hard to undo what was do and we're stilling with the consequences of that. when we think about legacy in the war in afghanistan an legacy of george w. -- we think about what that means on the ground and interrogate about why fighting continues in
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afghanistan today. thank you. [applause] >> we're going to switch the order around. i'm not peter baker. i play him on tv. i'd like to thank hofstra and all of the staff for inviting me. i'm delighted to participate tonight. i want to start discussing george w. bush with a hero, a woman named diane nash. have people heard of diane nash? diane nash was a great hero of the civil rights movement. at the age of 18 or 19 she was the one who orchestrated the marriage in selma. -- the march in selma 50 years ago. and on the commemoration of the
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march of selma she was being honored of those many the front row of those who were going to commemorate that experience. at the last minute she said this, she refused to marriage -- march and he said, "i refuse to march because george bush marched. he was in the front row with her. i think the selma movement was about violence and peace, and democracy and george bush stands for the opposite for violence and war and a stolen election and his administration had people tortured. so i thought this was not an appropriate event for him." she was right. it was not an appropriate event for him. this is not an appropriate event for him either. i would think an appropriate event is to be on trail in the -- to be on trial in the hague for war crimes.
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[applause] -- and when we look at war crimes it's important that we interrogate it more thoroughly than we sometimes do. both in my view, the wars in iraq and afghanistan were illegal. in afghanistan, the claim was made that this was a war for justice and for self-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 of the u.n. charter is very specific about what self-defense is and what is not. and a country has the absolute right of defense until, the critical word "until" until the security council can meet and decide what to don that particular crisis. the security council, if you remember, and those of you who don't remember i don't want to hear from you. the security council met within
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24 hours of the attack on the trade center. the building was still smorleding. diplomats had lost friends. some had children in the area. it was a terrible event for those in new york and washington as well. they would have on that day passed anything the u.s. proposed. but the u.s. did not propose an endorsement of the use of force. it was a very specific decision not to do that, not because it wouldn't have passed. it would have passed unanimously and with great ferver as the resolution did. it call for a varietyy 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. and in that sense it was not self-defense and it did not meet the standard for self-defense in
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the united nations 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, doesn't determine whether international law has been violated. and in this case it was violated. in the question of iraq -- i would just say one other thing on the question of defense. if the u.s. had scrambled a 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 a country on the other side of the world was not self-defense.
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in iraq, we had many claims for why the war was legitimate. it was weapons of mass destruction. it was the possibility of weapons. it was yellow cake uranium. it was all these things. well, as we know none of those were true. it was a war fought for a host of other reasons. i'm not going to get into those reasons that have to do with power, oil and other issue of resources and power. 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 been the case. i think when we talk about war crimes, it's also important that we distinguish -- the war crimes that have to do with how wars are carried out from other kinds of war crimes, the kind that has to do with how the war was
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carried out are more common in much of our discourse so the issues of collective punishment, shock and awe, the massive civilian deaths that were known that were going to occur and the acts were carried out anyway the thousands that were killed. the rendition the black sights the determination that some prisoners somehow don't deserve the geneva convention as though that the right of lawyers of the u.s. department of justice decide that some prisoners do not deserve to be treated turned conditions of the geneva convention. all of them were war crimes. they have to do with specific things on the geneva convention. article 29 says that says that a party of the conflict, the
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government of one side in that 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 question of command responsibility and the obligations of the commander the commander in chief and all those up and down the chain of commands to be responsible for that. we saw none of that. we saw low-level accountability against three or four people in the abu ghraib scandal and nothing -- nothing above very few very low-ranking soldiers. article 47 of the geneva convention says that people who are protected under the geneva convention cannot be denied protection by actions taken by the occupying force or by the government in place. so things like dissolving the military and sending home 300,000 former soldiers without
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a job was a violation of the geneva convention. all of those are talked about -- not always in the conflict of international law, but they're talked about as part of the legacy of the bush administration. what's not talked about very often is what justice jackson who was the supreme court justice as you all know and served as chief prosecutor what justice jackson called a supreme international crime, which was of course, not a violation of the geneva conventions which didn't exist at that time. it was the crime of aggression that that was the fundamental crime, the supreme crime from which all the others stem. and these were wars of aggression.
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they were not self-defense. they were the supreme international crime. they were grounded in the concept of u.s. exceptionalism american exceptionalism something that has guided u.s. forum policy from the first settlers on this land which took it as manifest destiny their right to slaughter native people to claim the land of their own that we are better we have the right 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 mediterranean, killed 73 people.
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among them the entire young cuban fencing team, several government officials. it was a clear act of terror. one of the known masterminds of that terrorist act, luis posada correias, was lying for many years in miami. he was first charged at one point where an immigration violation and was put on house arrest, but he was never jailed, never tried for the terrorist attack. what if cuba had decided that because they had been victims of a terrorist attack that they now had the right to send drones to attack him or someone else in miami or to take the world to war to revenge that attack? would we have said, well, that's their right?
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they have been the subject of a terrible attack and therefore they have the right to go to war? i don't think that would have been our response. the u.s. only allows itself to violate international law within impunity and to demand the world stand with it. that was the nature of this manichean point of whether you're either with us or you're with the terrorists. it wasn't just amount 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 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 manichean approach. and it has to do with this notion that we heard from george bush. it wasn't on september 11.
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it was september 12, i would submit, that changed the world. not september 11. september 11 was a horrific crime, a crime against humanity. september 12 was the announcement that the response to that horrific crime would be to take the world to war. and what we heard that the only choice we had was to either go to war or to let them get away with it. unfortunately, we too often hear that same argument now. it wasn't true then, and it isn't true now. there is never only the choice of war or nothing. there are always a host of alternatives, and it's our jobs as students, an activists, as diplomats, as elected officials to find those alternatives and that didn't happen. justice jackson said something else in at the time of
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nuremburg, and he said and i quote him here, if certain acts and violations are crimes, they are crime whether the united states does them or germany does them. we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct 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 that acknowlege international law. and i know there are people here
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listening or long distance who don't believe international law doesn't have any role to play. i would say for those of you in that porks you might want to think of this, whether you want to accept the position of international law frankly doesn't matter. but it does matter in a sense it is how the rest of the world views our actions. it is about how the rest of the 197 countries around the world world view what we do. it is for that reason that the legacy of george w. bush is going to be that of a war criminal. [applause] >> ok. great. can everybody hear me? you can see i'm physically off the table and that may be metaphorical as well. i think what has transpired here is fabulous actually. as a journalist, as somebody who spends a lot of time in washington on these debates, i very much enjoy hearing such a
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great diversity of points of view, a real range. and i don't have very much to add. i'll say a few words and we can continue this conversation because i think hofstra should be praised for bringing together people who can have a vigorous and vibrant debate about these things, all the way from a stirring and ringing defense of george w. bush all the way to a pretty sharp indictment of what he's done here. i would say that as a reporter i was in afghanistan in 2001 before any americans arrived because i was based in moscow at the time and the only way through tajikistan. i spent months in the time of war there. i went from there to the middle east and spent about six months
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in iraq when saddam was still in charge and during the initial phase of that war and came back to cover the second term of president bush. so as a journalist, i had a chance to see a little bit from both sides of this period. one point is how different it looks from these different vantage points and how complicated these issues are whether you agree with secretary nicholson or tom basile, everybody is making different arguments, but these are, in fact, such -- they go beyond the easy conversation. and i mentioned that the afghans told them they invade our country because they hate our way of life, and that reminds me of my colleague tom ricks and anthony shadi who were in
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baghdad in the early days after the fall of the saddam government, and they decided to test this conundrum of the different perspectives. each of them rode along with an american military procession throughout the city. tom ricks, who was our very, very able military correspondent, rode with the american troops and anthony shadi, who is our foreign correspondent -- and he's passed away unfortunately -- walked alongside and talked to the iraqis. and the troops came away from this event and talked to tom and said, boy, they're waving at us and they're happy and they seem happy to see us and very supportive, and shadid, who was speaking to them in arabic heard anger and resentment that would fuel a lot of trouble to come. and i think that it's that sort
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that has flavored this period in -- sort of disconnect that has flavored this period in which we have tried to find solutions and it has not been a lot easier for president obama. phyllis would say a lot to say if this were an obama conference. this has evolved and changed over time as now two presidents have struggled to figure out what lessons to take from it. i would argue the first anti-war phrase s president bush took a different tack. an anecdote stood out when israelis came to the white house who said we've got intelligence
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suggesting ha the syrians have nuclear facility and we think you should bomb it, and president bush gathers his team amidst the same team that he had in 2002, 2003 when he was making the decision to go to war in iraq. in 2002, they all more or less said, yes, we think you should go or you're ready to go. even general powell in the end said i'm suiting up at that point, despite his misgivings he had expressed up to that point. and the president kicks them all out of the room. and it's him and cheney at this point. flash forward and this question about what to do with syria and the president has the same people in front of him. and the vice president is asked to give his opinion. the vice president is the only one who said we should go ahead
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and bomb. you have laid down a red line on the issue of proliferation and you should follow through on that. the president asked if anybody agrees with the president, and nobody's hand goes up. and the path from that point from 2003 to 2007 shows how much iraq and afghanistan had begun to weigh on even president bush in his second term. he did not take military action against iran despite the urgings of some. he did not take military actions syria, 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 his decision, 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 it was clear that by the time he left office he himself was trying to figure out what
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was the appetite for military action versus diplomacy. and he had instituted the multilateral talks with iran basically continued and accelerated by president obama now playing out this week, in fact, in switzerland, 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 a national security crisis. we go to war. we often find situation where we take actions that end up evolving over time. lincoln and the suspension of habeas corpus, f.d.r. and the internment of the japanese.
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john adams and the alien and sedition act. i find all that to be an important part of the overall story of how we gotten from here 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 don't 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.
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mr. fritz: ctually 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 the wars were 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. ms. bennis: can we hear from the audience? mr. fritz: 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. mr. baker: i have a couple questions.
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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 someone 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 underresourced and we didn't properly commit to what was going to be necessary. i'm curious if you have other thoughts about what our understanding before the war of sunni versus shia, whether we understood the pot broiler that was there to be awakened whether you think more resources would have made a difference or how is this inevitable. and phyllis, i would ask you -- talk about they didn't ask the
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security council immediately after 9/11 to authorize a strike against afghanistan. i guess i'm curious. are you saying -- let's just say they had. had the security 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? mr. basile: well, that's a lot to handle but thank you, peter i enjoyed your book. and i recommend it.
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mr. baker: thanks. mr. basile: 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 -- as 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 suits and gloves and suits that you could buy. you often speculate what was there? was there anything ever there? what was he telling his leadership? these regime elites have a very sort of cloistered circle of people that they deal with, ok? there's a lot of show.
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there's a lot of sort of -- there are a lot of mirages that these authoritarian 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. so 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
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it definitely didn't work after the war, after the looting. so when we talk about resources and we talk about intel, you have to maintain and overwhelming physical force in order to secure the secure and maintain the infrastructure, which really was 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 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 mosque and state for many, many years. saddam viewed himself as this islamic leader in the middle
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east really since the -- after the first gulf war when he was trying to reassert some of his authority in the region. and you had intermarriage in iraq between sunnis and shia. you have sunni, shia, and turkmen 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 shia let's go kill him. that was not part of the psychy -- psyche 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
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militias start to increase their power, because 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 slocum 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 to it. when you have a conscript army that is poorly trained, poorly equipped, poorly paid, and you have an officer corps that this integrates a buffet the rest of the army disintegrates.
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you have no place to billet them, to feed them, no actually way no -- no actual weight to pay them because of the infrastructure breakdown. unlike in the first gulf war where we took literally thousands of p.o.w.'s in iraq this time around, we took a believe the number was less than 1000. these guys were so poorly equipped that actually went to the plant where they were making their uniforms and helmets, and their helmets were like the things you would give to a 5 --year-old kid. plastic -- five-year-old kid. plastic. a lot of this stuff was for show. they had big numbers, but all conscripts. they had an officer corps who was a patronage then of not very well-trained -- den of not very
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well-trained officers. we had little intelligence in terms of battle. in terms of finding these people, it would have been difficult for us to do. the first thing that bremmer did , there is not really an army to reconstitute come and what we need is a professional fighting force. in order to put ourselves out of the game of being the only forces to secure the country, we need a professional fighting force. within 60 days of his arrival 60 days, not six months, not a year, within 60 days of his arrival we had started training the first of the new iraqi army. anybody up to the rank of colonel, from the old army was able to apply, and 80% of the
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new army was folks from the old army. you needed tohave the components, including in ceo's 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 in the battle of falluja. the marines found a general from the old army who was actually halfway decent on paper. he had some training. he was not just a buddy of someone and that is how he got his rank. this guy was able to locate a core group of his nco's in his infantry. and the marines wanted to use them to go into falluja. they did that, and it was a disaster. it was a disaster to the point
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half 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. as someone who actually saw the facilities, met with these folks, and saw the operation and how they tried to reconstitute these folks firsthand, it was -- there were certain, very real reasons why that was done, and why it was -- we tried to remedy it as quickly as possible, because we knew we had to. ms. bennis: briefly, i heard one thing i absolutely agree with, regime elites 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. mr. basile: there you go.
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ms. bennis: i think that on the question of what was there, one thing we knew was true, was the seed 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 had the documents. it had been revealed many years earlier. 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
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that was a given. 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 had actually managed to rebuild quite well, had rebuilt cities etc. the sanctions had destroyed not only the 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? that was her answer. she would not deny the figure, she did not say it was not 5000 children. she knew it was. she said, we think the price was worth it. this is not a partisan issue.
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this goes between parties across the board. 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, but it would have been legal if the security council endorsed it. in 1990, for the 1991 war, the bush one 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 that voted no on principle, and the other was yemen, which had just and reunified. it was the only arab country on the security council. yemen voted no, and 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
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the post -- most expensive no vote you cast. the remark was picked up on an u.n. might he said he did not know was open. it was embarrassing. the u.s. cut aid to yemen. at that time, nobody cared about yemen, the poorest country in the arab world. it still is. me and others wrote at the time that we did not think it was a accident. we did not think the ambassador made a big mistake. 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. and they still, at the u.n., call it the yemen precedent. that was kind of the name it was known by. there were bribes that had to do with arms sold to columbia that the u.s. had not been willing to sell arms because of human rights violations.
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there were oil deals cut threats, punishment, and wide variety of things. whatbut the result was they got a majority of votes. the war was legal, but not legitimate. but it was legal. that does matter in the eyes of the rest of the world. that is an important criteria. paul: there are so many issues we could get into and discuss amongst ourselves.
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alternatives not taken, etc. so many things have been arisen as important issues. let's turn to audience questions. two things, try to ask short questions. and let students go >> hi. first. 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. 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
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instead? anand: there was a real opportunity at 2003, what i want to draw attention to, two different concepts statebuilding and counterterrorism. afghanistan shows that because for every dollar spent on the central government, on institutions, there was an equivalent amount spent on building personalities. warlords. 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 of which is to create a national academy to train people, hire people from around the country, instead what ended up happening was that there was -- the police force that was built was a conglomeration of local militias. the militias chosen were those
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that were most effective at killing bad guys or people who were deemed bad guys. not those who are most effective in providing law and order. the effect of that was now today we have militias all of the -- all around the country. the police are considered probably the most rapacious of the afghan security forces. in 2002, what were the options? well if we were serious about state building, that would have meant not privileging at every step of the way militias and's date -- strongmen, and instead building institutions, helping collect taxes. 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. and i think that would be an alternative. i am not very -- you know, i
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don't believe that actually would have happened. i don't believe that, given the state of affairs in 2002, the united states would have been serious about state building. it was never serious about state building in afghanistan. another example, last week i was in kandahar province. i was traveling around, looking at schools, because i was interested in the question of education. because supposedly the united states has helped bring education to millions of afghans post 2001. well it turns out particularly , in the south, many schools that were 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. so, you know, the broader answer to the question is that if the u.s. was serious about state building, it had to be serious about actually building institutions.
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instead, it was only in two or only focused on counterterrorism and now we have no state and terrorists. >> [inaudible] -- >> do you think it is better now than if we had not gone in? anand: it depends where you look. there are parts 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 the later parts because it is counter intuitive. in southern afghanistan for women, under the taliban, they were locked in their homes. 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. and on top of that they live in a war zone where their husbands and brothers can run over roadside bombs. or they can be taken away in night raids. or they can be droned.
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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, i think, more than anything else is a searing indictment of everything that has happened in the last 13 years. >> this is a question for peter baker. but first, 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. it turns out that a couple of months ago i read a book for my class called "fiasco," a book you probably know very well. with that being said what do you , think can be taken from his book and be applied right now to what is going on in iraq and afghanistan? what do you think can be taken?
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peter: i do not want to answer for tom. he could give you better answers from his book. but i think his book was a fabulous encapsulation of what went wrong in iraq. i remember when he came to the newsroom and said he would write it. he said, my title is going to be "fiasco." i said, was his worry that it might be too strong. he said his worry was that 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 petraeus and the surge. and i think that book could come away with lessons that could flow from "fiasco."
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some of them did not. i do not want to give his view. tom left the washington post and wrote a very evocative piece recently for "foreign policy," which my wife used to edit. he has a blog there. 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 has come away very sour. very -- depressed is not the right word. it might be the right word. covering -- he has some posttraumatic stress after covering the awful things that happened. it has made him rethink -- i
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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 who have changed their view, have become quite distressed in some ways or another. he can speak for himself. but i think there are very few people who come from the administration with a stronger and more vigorous feeling than the colonel has had about what happened, why it happened, why it shouldn't have happened, and so on. lawrence i don't have any good lessons.
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i would leave that to smarter people than me. lawrence: 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. -- extended period 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.
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but i am not quite that far yet. phyllis: give it a month. lawrence: one reason we have gone from 2% women to 4% has nothing to do with eager -- -- egalitarianism. it has to do with, we can't find men. we have lowered the standards so far we are taking criminals, people with drug records, people who are mentally unstable, it is incredible what we have done to the armed forces. and the reserves have become an operational reserve rather than a strategic reserve, as they have been for so many years, and they are being broken too. think about that, young people. phyllis: can i ask a point about the military? i work with iraq veterans against the war. an extraordinary organization of mainly young veterans of both iraq and afghanistan. what we have talked about a lot
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is what the statistics showed, , particularly from iraq about who it was from the u.s. who was dying in those wars. and after age -- they were all young -- the single most common thread among those thousands killed in this war from the u.s. was that they were from either rural areas or towns of 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. they were not necessarily -- many of them were very impoverished. but they were not necessarily so. but they did not have options. they did not have other choices. am because they were from small towns scattered around the , country, they were not from a big city, where people who are in the media overwhelmingly come from. people who work in the media today, and i have many friends in the media and the work i do
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is the same. some of my best friends are media. me and my best friends know 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, lack of jobs, poverty, a range of things. it is not quite as volunteer as the name sounds, in my view. but it means that those those who are writing a history of today in the newspapers, online, on blogs, on the radio and tv, often have no clue who these people are, who are fighting. 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. lawrence: the author of "matterhorn," one of the best war books written calls it the -- since "all quiet on the
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western front" calls it the all recruited force, and 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 are talking about six or seven or eight or $9 billion being spent just to pay for this all-recruited force, and it is not getting much better. paul: let's take advantage of us having this behind us. we are actually at 9:00 now. >> this is for phyllis. you mentioned earlier there are alternatives to instead of going into war in afghanistan after 9/11, can you mention some of those alternatives that the u.s. government could have taken instead of war?
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phyllis: one of the great things i got to do when i wrote this book about 9/11 was write 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 saudis and egyptians. they had not trained in afghanistan. they trained in germany. they went to flight: minnesota. -- they went to flight school in 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.
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it should've been a moment to say this is why we need a viable, functional system of international justice. 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. and i am -- as president i am going to make the pledge, not one more person is going to 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 either with us to go to war, you either support our war, or we will treat you as though you are terrorists. 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 to do and was never given the resources to do very well, in terms of identifying funding sources. the fact the u.s. refused to put pressure on its ally, saudi
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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. go to war or let them get away with it. it means putting enormous amounts of resources -- money, people, the best minds available to figure out what kind of negotiations would work. not necessarily negotiations directly with isis, or back themn
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directly with al qaeda, but negotiating with those who are enabling al qaeda. who is funding 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, who said if we want to stop this from happening again, we have to understand the root 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 somehow supporting terror. we were sucking up to saddam hussein. i mean the insults were pretty , constant. that was what we needed to do, was figure out root causes. maybe you can't prevent an extremist of some sort who is a sociopath from a kind of attack, but 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.
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and try to figure that out which 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 don't hate our freedoms. they hate the fact that we are denying them their freedom. so it was a huge challenge that was never met. there are always alternatives. and you need to put your best minds, the best minds, influx of -- the best minds, the best influx of resources of money time, attention and people to figure out what those alternatives are. rather than "go to war" is the only alternative.
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tom: 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. this is the change and these are the new challenges our world faces. this speaks to something the colonel said earlier. we wasted an opportunity because we went into iraq. there can be no doubts in the colonel's defense -- there can be no doubt certainly that george w. bush earned a lot of -- burned 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
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afghanistan -- 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. and we had the cooperation of 62 countries. for different types of operations, intelligence gathering, diplomacy, economic pressure, 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. and he had the relationships, and the administration built relationships, productive relationships with countries all around the world to help, not only to protect our interests
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but also to protect there is. -- theirs. so while political capital was earned -- was burned, i think 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 -- did to keep this country safe and initiate a global effort that had global participation, global cooperation, and global reach to interdict terrorism. lawrence: i want to ask a question, if i can, of the young man who asked a question to phyllis. i am burning to know your answer, phyllis. phyllis: i am here for you. lawrence: 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.
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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, would have followed any kind of leadership. there was a danger. that is a dangerous moment in the lives of countries, that people can be pushed to take positions they would never take in normal times. when you have an abnormal situation.
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and if -- people were desperate for leadership. if that leadership had given another alternative, i think there would've been massive support from the united states 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, most majority, huge numbers, a vast majority of people in this country would have wanted to follow that kind of leadership. we were never given that option. lawrence: how would you explain that, 51-52% continued today identifying torture as necessary.
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phyllis: it has gone up and down. 88% supported a war in afghanistan at the time. by three years ago, 82% or 83% -- i forget the exact number -- were saying it was never worth it. obviously that included a lot of the same people. so, you know, statistics are snapshots. they are useful for gauging where public opinion is at a given time. depending on how the media is covering stuff. depending on what political leaders say. we all use statistics, it is not to say they are not valid. but they are limited. it depends on how you asked the question. lawrence: i understand that. it is one of my greatest concerns about the american people, that they continue to support torture. 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 tautology. it is legal because somebody
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asked me if it was legal. i thought it was legal, therefore it was legal. that is not how the law works in this country. you say this is a country of laws and not of people. they used to say it is a country of laws and not of men. 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. and so people believe it is legal because nobody is saying the opposite. paul: we have already taken over our time. i want to thank our panelists for illuminating discussion, lots of great debate. lots of issues we could continue to cover. hopefully we will continue this discussion throughout the rest of the conference. but thanked each and everyone one
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of you for coming in making this a very informative and interesting panel. [applause] lawrence: according to dennis, in his book about 2009, 2008 -- [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2015] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] >> tonight on c-span, former u.s. treasury secretary's predictions about the global economy. the atlantic council looks at the politics of saudi arabia and the kingdom's recently announced changes to its line of succession. and the u.s. commission on civil rights hosted a conference on minority participation in higher education. >> now, three former treasury's discuss the long-term economic