CNN LIVE 9/24/04
Amy on CNN speaking about the situation in Iraq.
KYRA PHILLIPS: All right. I think we’ve reached communications with our Bob Barr, former congressman from Georgia, also Amy Goodman, who hosts "Democracy Now". We can all hear each other, right?
GOODMAN: I can hear you.
BOB BARR, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: I can hear you.
PHILLIPS: Excellent. Very good. OK. I kept thinking it was my political question. But we’ll move past that. Anyway, let’s start by talking Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Let’s talk about yesterday and how he came before this joint meeting at Congress. You had him telling folks, hey, everything is improving in Iraq, it’s getting better. We need the U.S. help. But eventually we will be on our own, Elections will happen come January. President Bush saying everything is fine.
But it wasn’t long ago where Allawi was saying we’re in big trouble and we’re having issues with insurgency. Now John Kerry coming forward and saying, you know what, this was all a big political stunt.
Amy, what did you make of yesterday’s conversation?
GOODMAN: Yes. As the unelected prime minister of Iraq, Ayad Allawi, talked about how well the country he was just coming from was doing. I was wondering if he was referring to London, where he had just come from, Britain, or if he was actually talking about Iraq.
Both Allawi as well as President Bush, their descriptions did not in any way resemble what we are seeing on the ground right now in Iraq with the tremendous surge of resistance, with the number of U.S. soldiers who are being attacked in the last month escalating, not to mention the number of Iraqi civilians, the death toll on both sides.
They were not describing what is actually going on in Iraq. It looked like they were trying to make a campaign commercial for President Bush.
PHILLIPS: What do you think, Bob? Is Allawi just a political puppet here of the Republican Party right now just weeks before the election?
BARR: I don’t know that I would say he is a political puppet. But clearly, he was engaged in an effort yesterday to put the very, very best face forward on a very difficult situation that I don’t think anybody can really describe as optimal over in Iraq.
Even the secretary of defense, in testimony yesterday before the U.S. Senate, was forced to admit under repeated questioning that the security situation in Iraq is, if not getting worse, certainly the incidence of violence are increasing.
So certainly I can understand the prime minister trying to put the best face forward, but by the same token I don’t think that means that we here in this country have to just blindly sit back and say, oh, yes, that must be the way the situation is.
There needs to be some very tough questions asked, and I’m not here to say whether Senator Kerry is doing it in the very best way. But certainly it is a very appropriate for us in this country, who are spending a great deal of our money and far too many U.S. lives, to ask some very tough questions.
PHILLIPS: Well, John Kerry is constantly at this point just tearing down the president’s accomplishments, things that the president says, hey, these are my accomplishments. Things are working. If John Kerry were to become president, Amy, what would he do differently? Could it work?
GOODMAN: Well, it is about time that John Kerry started talking about what is actually going on in Iraq. He has had a hard time doing it. We know the famous comment when asked if he knew then what he knows now, would he have supported the invasion, and he said yes.
Now, he is turning around. He has got new advisers, he’s coming out hard on Iraq. It is extremely important that we understand from these two major candidates where they stand about where the U.S. is and whether the soldiers should be pulled out. That’s the real issue right now. Because we are in not only a quagmire, I think that would be putting it mildly, the horror that is Iraq right now.
And the question is will Kerry persist and escalate on the issue of truly describing what is happening on the ground there and what is the solution. Former President Carter just came out, was quoted in "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution" saying that the U.S. troops should be leaving. We’re talking about a country that is suffering horribly right now, and John Kerry seems to — just beginning to deal with this.
PHILLIPS: Political debate next week. Bob Barr, who is going to have the stronger argument when it comes down to Iraq?
BARR: Well, The American people deserve a more substantive debate than we’ve seen thus far. We’ve seen on the part of the administration, to be very honest, just the same repetitive messages, basically short soundbites. That doesn’t really answer the tough questions.
And on the part of Senator Kerry’s campaign, as Amy just mentioned, he really just now seems to be getting into some substantive disagreements. Whether or not we’ll have enough time to really have the kind of vigorous debate we need on this before the election, I don’t know. I’m not terribly optimistic. But unless Senator Kerry by next week can come up with some very specific responses, not just criticisms, but positive responses, then I’m afraid that President Bush will have the upper hand.
PHILLIPS: Bob Barr, Amy Goodman, appreciate the conversation today.
PHILLIPS: Thank you.