Friday, May 4, 2007

* Lou Dobbs Interviews Christopher Hitchens

DOBBS: Author Christopher Hitchens says it's well past time for regime change in Iraq. Hitchens says that Saddam Hussein has been pushing this current confrontation for a mere 12 years.

Christopher Hitchens is, of course, "Vanity Fair's" columnist, an extraordinary writer and journalistic talent, author. And joins us tonight from our studios in Los Angeles. Good to have you with us.


DOBBS: The United Nations Security Council making a decision just moments ago there will be no vote on a second resolution on Iraq this week. Your reaction?

HITCHENS: Well, those of us who take the regime change position, as it's become known, have held it for a very, very long time. And so really the way the argument's become muddied by certain kinds of diplomacy and especially by calls for more time is time wasting, from our point of view.

To the independent observer, it must be more extraordinary that Saddam Hussein has been in breach of all known resolutions, and much besides, for 12 years and that he's now being told it's time to decide.

So people who say this is a rush to war or a drum beat or a drive are simply abolishing the history of this question, which is that Mr. Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, refused all diplomatic overtures to give him an easy exit, blew up the Kuwaiti oil fields while he was leaving them behind under a truce, which shows he doesn't understand rationality or diplomacy or containment, and has a tremendous thirst for the weapons of genocide to pursue the policy of ethnocide that he's already been able to successfully, I'm sad to say, been allowed to get away with in Kyrgyzstan.

Who wants more time for him? More time means he could join the club that Kim Jong-Il of North Korea now belongs to, the club of those who have deterrent force. And Mr. Kim Jong-Il got there with the help of Mr. Hans Blix, I might remind you.

DOBBS: Let me...

HITCHENS: ... who certified him, inspected him, gave him more time, and said he was in compliance. Anyone who believes this kind of thing, is just advertising their willingness to believe anything.

DOBBS: Well, as you said, they are advertising their belief and their opinion. The critics of the Bush administration and the British government on this issue say there's been -- on the part of this administration, certainly too much of an attempted connection between September 11, the war against terror, and Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

How do you respond to those critics?

HITCHENS: A few years ago, the name Abu Adal (ph), I'm sure you'll remember, was almost as well-known as Osama bin Laden. The pseudonym for international gangsterism. Abu Adal (ph) had blown up, if you'll recall, Rome airport, Vienna airport, had assassinated four or five very important Palestinian democrats, had murdered the Israeli ambassadors to London, which helped provoke the war in Lebanon. He was the so-called terror master. I went to interview him, and I think I'm the only journalist around except for Jim Hogan of the "Washington Post" who's had that experience. Well, it wasn't hard to find him. He had telephone number and a villa in Baghdad, as all people like him have always had had there.

If, by any chance, it's the case that the Iraqi party is not supporting or doesn't have a secret understanding with al Qaeda, it would be the first time they hadn't tried that.

And if that is the case, then it would be surprising to find -- or rather unsurprising to find that so many of the al Qaeda refugees in Afghanistan have shown up in Baghdad -- This is important, by the way, Mr. Dobbs -- not before September 11, but after.

In other words, here's a regime that will give them safe hiding places, hospitals, treatment, and safe corner after their attacks on -- not on America, I should add, but on the civilized world, on September 11.

This is a regime that lives on its partnership with and boasts of its partnership with the suicide bombers in Palestine, with every other gangster in the region. Those who say there's no terror connection simply don't know what they're talking about.

DOBBS: And amongst those who are obviously asserting that case are, in particular, the French, who have been helpful in a war against terror. Not helpful to this administration in pursuing an Iraqi policy.

The French position, the German position, that of the Belgians, adamantly opposed to support of the U.S. resolution...

HITCHENS: Not of the U.S. resolution, if I may say so. I mean, Chancellor Schroeder, for example, was helpful enough to say some weeks ago he didn't mind how the U.N. voted. It would make no difference to his policy or that of Germany. His policy wouldn't change whatever the vote was. Mr. Chirac has said the same thing.

I think that should be better understood than it is. These are the true unilateralists, if you like, especially the French. It's also true, as your previous segment helpfully pointed out, that the French policy is the oil-driven one. The French policy is the one that is individual and won't allow any other countries to mandate it or even shape its policy.

DOBBS: Is it your...

HITCHEN: There are elements of President Bush's presentation that I must admit alarm me.

When he says al Qaeda is attacking America, it seems to me stupid. The al Qaeda forces surely, as the Iraqi Ba'ath party, are common enemies of any civilized country or society. It's not an attack on America, it's unilateralist to say so. But of the two unilateralisms, the French is the most selfish and the most colonial and the most -- after all, the French invade Africa every day of the year without asking for anyone's permission. They let off nuclear weapons in the Pacific in the atmosphere without asking for permission.

The French position is the more dangerous, the more sinister, and the more colonial one.

DOBBS: And likely to change? In a few seconds we have remaining.

HITCHENS: And morally different, I would say. For one reason, really, most of us came to this argument this way.

One policy keeps Saddam Hussein in power and asks for that regime to have its life prolonged. What morally serious person can say this national socialist, aggressive genocidal regime should have a longer life and not a shorter one?

In the end, the United States policy, after making many mistakes and blunders, has come out at least morally on the right side. And the French are with Saddam Hussein. They'll have to live with that.

DOBBS: Christopher Hitchens, "Vanity Fair," thank you very much for being with us. Come back soon.

HITCHENS: Thanks for having me.

CNN Transcripts, May 3, 2007