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Out of Iraq or More Troops? A Debate with George McGovern, Dennis Kucinich and Joshua Muravchik

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As leading Democrats call on President George W. Bush to soon begin withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, some Republicans are calling on more troops to be deployed. We host a debate on the issue with three guests: former Democratic presidential candidate and South Dakota Senator George McGovern; Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich; and the American Enterprise Institute’s Joshua Muravchik. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The military’s top commander in the Middle East, General John Abizaid, is heading to Capitol Hill today to testify about the war in Iraq. Abizaid’s testimony before the Senate Committee on Armed Services comes a week after the Democrats swept to power. Leading Democrats are now calling for President Bush to soon begin withdrawing troops. On Sunday, Senator Carl Levin said a phased redeployment of forces from Iraq should begin in four to six months. Levin is set to become the chair of the Committee on Armed Services. However, President Bush has dismissed the calls. On Monday, he met with James Baker and other advisers from the Iraq Study Group. Bush has given little indication over what was said at the meeting, but he has rejected calls for setting a timetable for withdrawing troops.

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: General Pete Pace is leading investigations within the Pentagon as to how to reach our goal, which is success, a government which can sustain, govern and defend itself and will serve as an ally in this war on terror. I believe it is very important, though, for people making suggestions to recognize that the best military options depend upon the conditions on the ground.

AMY GOODMAN: Meanwhile, some Republicans are calling on President Bush to send more troops to Iraq. The leading proponent is Senator John McCain, who will become the ranking member on the Armed Services Committee next year. On Sunday, he spoke with Tim Russert on Meet the Press.

SEN. JOHN McCAIN: The question is, is what’s the solution? And I believe that a withdrawal or a date for withdrawal will lead to chaos in the region. And most military experts think the same thing. I believe that there are a lot of things that we can do to salvage this, but they all require the presence of additional troops.

AMY GOODMAN: The Congressional Progressive Caucus is planning to meet to address the situation in Iraq. Addressing them on Thursday will be former U.S. senator and presidential candidate, George McGovern. He was a leading opponent of the Vietnam War. McGovern has co-authored a new book entitled Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now, and he joins us in the studio now. Welcome to Democracy Now!

GEORGE McGOVERN: Thank you. It’s nice to be with you.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you lay out what it is that you feel needs to happen right now?

GEORGE McGOVERN: Well, contrary to the president’s position, we think it’s important to spell out the details of a plan to get us out of this uncontrollable mess in Iraq. We recommend first that our government advise the government of Iraq and advise the American people and the Congress that we’re going to begin a withdrawal next month, December of this year, and we’ll have all Americans out of Iraq by June of next year. That’s about a six-month span.

We’re not advocating a mad dash to the border, not a stampede or what the critics call “cut and run.” We’re advocating an orderly withdrawal, not the kind of forced withdrawal that took place in Vietnam so many years ago, where we saw the TV pictures of our last survivors there being airlifted off the roof of the embassy.

We also advocate that simultaneously with the American withdrawal, the Iraqi government invite brother Muslim and Arab states to “loan” them, if I can use that word, law enforcement people to try to preserve some degree of order over the next couple of years, and the United States, as the major invader of Iraq, would be expected to pick up some of the cost for maintaining law and order there, but by people in the area, not by American troops.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re also joined on Capitol Hill by Democratic Congressmember Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, member of the Out of Iraq Congressional Working Group. He’s set to become the chair of the Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations. And on the telephone with us is Joshua Muravchik. He’s a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. His most recent book is called The Future of the United Nations: Understanding the Past to Chart a Way Forward.

Congressmember Kucinich, Senator McGovern is coming down to brief the Out of Iraq caucus on Thursday. What are your plans in the new Democratic majority in Congress?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, first of all, it’s good to be on the show with Senator McGovern, somebody who I’ve admired and worked with through the past decades. I want to say that there’s one solution here, and it’s not to engage in a debate with the president, who has taken us down a path of disaster in Iraq, but it’s for Congress to assume the full power that it has under the Constitution to cut off funds. We don’t need to keep indulging in this debate about what to do, because as long as we keep temporizing, the situation gets worse in Iraq.

We have to determine that the time has come to cut off funds. There’s enough money in the pipeline to achieve the orderly withdrawal that Senator McGovern is talking about. But cut off funds, we must. That’s the ultimate power of the Congress, the power of the purse. That’s how we’ll end this war, and that’s the only way we’re going to end this war.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator Harry Reid, who was just elected the new Senate majority leader, Congressmember Kucinich, said one of the Democrats’ first priorities is to increase the U.S. military budget by $75 billion. Your response?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, you know, we must have a total review of spending. I mean, we’re seeing the amount of money that’s being wasted right now by this government in Iraq, the waste, fraud and abuse that takes place. We see the same thing throughout the Pentagon budget. We stand strong for those who serve our country. But let’s face it, the system is being gamed by people who are in the defense contracting industry who create newer generations of weapons, when we haven’t even seen the utility of the first generation.

We have to take a whole new approach. We’re spending over $400 billion a year, money that’s also needed for healthcare, for education, for job creation, for seniors. We have to take a new look at this. We need to be a strong country, but strength isn’t only military. Strength is also the economic strength of the people, their chance to have good neighborhoods. We spend more money than all the countries of the world put together for the military.

It’s time for us to start to shift our vision about who we are as a nation, because if we don’t do that—we’re borrowing money right now to wage the war in Iraq. We’re borrowing money from China. We’re not looking at our trade deficit. We’re not looking at conditions, where people are going bankrupt trying to pay their hospital bills. We need to shift our direction, and the direction has to be away from the continued militarization of the United States society.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to bring Joshua Muravchik into this conversation. What do you feel is the key approach that should be taken to Iraq right now?

JOSHUA MURAVCHIK: Listening to Congressman Kucinich sounds like listening to a broken record from the '60s or the people who wanted America to follow Senator McGovern's advice and give up and surrender in the Cold War. And we would be in a totally different and horrible world today, if anyone had listened to the policies that were advocated by Senator McGovern and are echoed today by Congressman Kucinich. These people were catastrophically wrong about the Cold War, and we managed to win the Cold War precisely because the United States did the very opposite of what Senator McGovern recommended and what Congressman Kucinich is echoing today.

As for Iraq, Senator McGovern said what he wants is an orderly withdrawal. But the problem isn’t whether the withdrawal will be orderly. The problem is what in the world will happen after we withdraw. And the kind of withdrawal that these two gentlemen are advocating, which is to just get out orderly or not and let heaven take the hindmost, is going to lead to complete chaos and mass warfare and killing, not only in Iraq, but surrounding it.

And on top of that, it’s going to lead to disaster here at home. And the reason for that is that this will be taken throughout the Middle East as a monumental victory on the part of radical Islam over the West. They feel that they defeated Israel in Lebanon and Gaza. They feel that they defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, even though they ignored the large role we played in that. And now, they will feel they drove the great Satan out of the Middle East and that they are on the rise and we are on the run. And it’s going to make for infinitely more numbers of people joining the ranks of the terrorists and finding new ways—they’ll be like sharks smelling blood in the water—new ways to attack us in our cities, in our airplanes, in our trains, and every way they can. And Congressman Kucinich will be going on with this silly rhetoric about how strength isn’t—we need jobs and schools and things at home, and forget the military, and cut the military budget, and there’s lots of waste, and all that stuff. And meanwhile, America will be besieged by extremist terrorists.

AMY GOODMAN: All right. Let’s take these points one by one. Senator George McGovern?

GEORGE McGOVERN: Well, let me say, first of all, I resent the implication of what has just been said about me not supporting American national security during the Cold War period. I have always been for a strong defense. I was a bomber pilot in World War II. A lot of these so-called hawks, who sound so belligerent vocally, never have been near a battle scene. They know nothing about war from firsthand experience. What I know, as a bomber pilot that flew in World War II, is that war is a bloody business. As General Sherman said, “It’s hell.” And that’s true. And we want to avoid unnecessary wars that weaken the country rather than strengthening us.

You know, Iraq had nothing to do with the terrorist attack of 9/11. The administration tried to leave the implication that somehow we went into Iraq to fight terrorism. There was no terrorist problem in Iraq until we put our Army in the middle of the country. Now, some of the highest-ranking American military officers in Iraq will tell you, face to face, that we’re turning Iraq into a breeding ground for terrorists. The whole Middle East is against the United States having an army there year after year.

Even Richard Perle, one of the chief brain trusters of the war in Iraq and of this present administration, says that we probably should have left after we overturned Saddam Hussein three years ago, instead of occupying that country. It’s the American occupation. This is not a criticism of the Army, but putting an army of 145,000 men into somebody else’s country and leaving them there year after year after year is bound to set off the kind of guerrilla activity we’re seeing there now. So if you’re interested in preserving America and protecting our stature in the world and our influence in the world, the quicker we can get out of Iraq, the better.

Dennis Kucinich was rapped by this gentleman from the Enterprise Institute. Dennis Kucinich made a lot of sense in 2004, and he makes a lot of sense now. It’s hard for some Americans to admit that we made a mistake. We made a tragic mistake in going into Vietnam, which was no threat to us and became our friends once we took our army out of their country. We made another tragic mistake in going into Iraq.

I’ve always thought that I live in the greatest country on Earth. We have to be great, because we make these dreadful blunders from time to time, along with all the good things that we do, that nullify some of the constructive, positive things that the United States has done. I supported World War II all the way. That was a war that had to be fought to save Western civilization. But there’s nothing in Iraq that requires the long-term occupation of that country by an American army.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break, and then I want to talk about plans, what are each of your positions on what should concretely happen. Senator George McGovern is our guest in studio. He has written a new book with William Polk called Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now. We’re also joined by Congressmember Kucinich in Washington, D.C. And we’re joined by Joshua Muravchik. He’s with the American Enterprise Institute. His book is called The Future of the United Nations. Stay with us.


AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Kucinich, your response to Joshua Muravchik of the American Enterprise Institute, that your plan to put money into the domestic economy, as opposed to Iraq, will just breed more terrorism?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: I think the American people responded a week ago. They asked for a new direction. They’re fed up with a war that’s based on lies. They’re fed up with seeing our brave men and women die in a cause that was not correctly stated by the administration. They are fed up with having America separated from the world community. They’re looking for a new vision, one that includes America as a nation among nations, not a nation against nations, one that takes the real power of our ingenuity and creativity to create alternative energy, so we don’t pursue oil as a matter of national security, using the military to grab oil. Americans are looking for a new direction.

And what’s happened with the gentleman who spoke earlier is they’re trapped in this old thinking of us versus them, that dichotomized thinking which is a precursor of war. We’re in the 21st century. War is not inevitable. Peace is inevitable, if you have the capacity to work with people, not to grab their natural resources, not to insist that they have to have the kind of government we have, but to find a way to cooperate.

Now, what we need to do in Iraq is this: First of all, we need to get out. And we need to get out through cutting off funds. Once we determine to cut off funds, the money is in the pipeline for an orderly withdrawal. Simultaneously, we have to work through the U.N. and all the nations in the region, particularly the Arab nations, to help form a transition phase to create some stability with the Iraqi people.

But it’s not going to be pretty. There’s chaos now. There’s civil war now, and it’s going to be there after we withdraw. We have to understand, there have been consequences to this illegal war that the United States exacted on the people of Iraq.

And we’re going to have to help reconstruct Iraq. We’re going to make sure the people have to have real control over their oil. You know, our insistence on grabbing oil has led us into this war, and it’s led us to the threshold of conflict with Iran. We have to get Iran and Syria in a solution to help us get out of Iraq. This is a new world. It’s time that we started acting like it. It’s time that we reflected new thinking—

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Kucinich, a quick question. Nancy Pelosi, the incoming House speaker, has spoken about her support for Jack Murtha over Steny Hoyer to be her right-hand man. Congressmember Murtha spoke out early against the war and has proposed a redeployment or a stationing of an over-the-horizon strike force of U.S. troops in Kuwait or elsewhere to respond if necessary, about as many as 20,000 troops to remain in, say, Kuwait or Qatar. What is your response to that?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, I supported the Murtha plan, but I have to tell you that I think we’re going to have to go beyond that. I think we’re going to have to really go to a cutoff of funds, because until you cut off funds, the administration is free to deploy the troops anywhere they want, the administration is free to keep the troops there, as the president has stated again and again he’s going to do. Let no one misunderstand what the White House has said: The White House is prepared to stay in Iraq through the end of its term.

And we, as Democrats, have to come up with a new direction. And that new direction must be out. It has to be “U.N. in, U.S. out.” We need to work with the world community to enable an orderly transition, but we cannot determine to stay there. And the only way to definitively end this discussion about whether we stay or go is to cut off funds. And that is the direction that I am pursuing. Anyone who needs more information, just go to my website at kucinich.us.

AMY GOODMAN: Joshua Muravchik, what did you take the election results to be a sign of this past week?

JOSHUA MURAVCHIK: Well, the election results were a sign of people being discouraged and fed up with the war in Iraq. It’s not going well. But the question then is what to do about it. I’m just stunned by what I hear from the Congressman Kucinich. His stump speech that he’s given us comes really from way out in left field. It’s—it’s—

AMY GOODMAN: What is your proposal, Joshua Muravchik? What do you feel has to happen now?

JOSHUA MURAVCHIK: Wait, wait, wait. Miss Moderator, you didn’t interrupt the other two gentleman when they were having their say. So, there’s no—

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, I just interrupted Congressmember Kucinich to find out what he thought of Jack Murtha.

JOSHUA MURAVCHIK: You let him finish, and then you asked him another question. So you gave him another shot at the mic. You’ve set up this interview, so it’s two against one, which is OK. You know, it’s your mic. You can do that if you want to. But then, you’re going to have to let me, you know, have my piece, or else there’s no point in inviting me on.

And, you know, we just heard some amazing things from Congressman Kucinich. They’re really what Jeane Kirkpatrick called the “blame America first” line. This is really more like the “hate America first.” It’s an absolute slander on our country to say that we went into Iraq to grab their oil. This is what the radical Islamists said. But, you know, anyone with eyes to see or the least bit of brain power can see that that’s ridiculous. Things that we did in Iraq may have been mistaken, may have been misguided, and so on, but the idea that we went in there to grab their oil is just a cockamamie slander on the United States. If we had done that, we could have grabbed their oil two years ago. We wouldn’t be trying to bring peace and order to the whole country.

And we don’t—our country imports a lot of oil. We import it. We have a very simple way of getting it: We pay for it. We buy it. That’s how we get our oil. We don’t go on imperial adventures in order to take other people’s oil.

Now, both Senator McGovern and Congressman Kucinich have talked about the other nations of the region, but they’ve both failed to mention this very important fact, which is that the other nations of the region were, more or less, unanimously opposed to our going into Iraq. They are now, more or less, unanimously opposed to our getting out, the way these two gentlemen recommend, because they say, “Look, you Americans shouldn’t have gone in. You’ve made a mess there. But if you pull out before there’s some kind of tamping down of the violence, then it will be a catastrophe. Please don’t do that.” So, if you’re going to invoke what the other nations of the region feel, you’ve got to be—why not be honest about it and acknowledge what they’re saying now?

As for what I would do about Iraq, I think we need to do what we should have done in the first place, which is to send a lot more troops. I think we made a tragic mistake in trying to go in there light, to try to—apparently, the secretary of defense thought we should—we didn’t need as many troops as some of the generals told him we did. And it was a terrible and reckless mistake. Obviously, once you do something as serious and with as powerful potential consequences as we chose to do in invading Iraq, you have to make sure you don’t fail. And you can err in the direction of sending too many troops, but you can’t err in the direction of sending too few. And we made a terrible mistake in that regard. We didn’t have enough forces there to provide security for the Iraqis, after we had ousted Saddam’s bloody tyranny. And—

GEORGE McGOVERN: You know, this gentleman who just spoke, Amy, is contradicting himself. He condemns me and condemns the congressman for criticizing a policy that we think is damaging the best interest of the United States. And yet, after saying that he’s against blaming America first, he turns around and says that the Bush-Cheney administration made a terrible mistake in not sending in enough soldiers to begin this enterprise in Iraq—

JOSHUA MURAVCHIK: No, Senator. I didn’t contradict myself, Senator.

GEORGE McGOVERN:—and that what we need now is more troops. So he reserves the right for himself to criticize our government, but he would deny that to people that he happens to disagree with.

AMY GOODMAN: Senator McGovern, if you could—

JOSHUA MURAVCHIK: Amy, let me get in on this, please. Let me get in on this. It’s my turn. You let him interrupt me. Now let me—let me have my turn! You let him interrupt me! Now it’s my turn!

AMY GOODMAN: Why don’t you lay out your plan quickly. I want to ask Senator McGovern a question about history, about Vietnam. Go ahead, Joshua Muravchik.

JOSHUA MURAVCHIK: Senator McGovern, your powers of logic are failing you. I think it’s perfectly appropriate for me, you or anyone else to criticize the policies of the U.S. government or the execution of policies, which is what I was criticizing. But it’s an entirely different thing to do what Congressman Kucinich did, which is to criticize and defame the motives of the United States in going into Iraq or anything else, to say that we had evil and sordid motives, that we wanted to kill all these Iraqis in order to steal their oil. That’s what—

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Who defames the United States? We went into a war based on lies!

JOSHUA MURAVCHIK: That is what Congressman Kucinich said—

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: We went into a war based on lies. Where’s the defamation there? You defame the United States when you stand by a policy that says that we should stay in a war that’s based on lies.

JOSHUA MURAVCHIK: Congressman Kucinich, you said—

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: You’re sending the people to death based on lies. It’s time to tell the truth! The American people want the truth.

JOSHUA MURAVCHIK: Congressman Kucinich, will you get off the stump speech and this sort of loaded politician—

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: The American people want the truth! Tell the truth, if you’re capable of it!

JOSHUA MURAVCHIK: Congressman Kucinich, you said that we went to kill Iraqis in order to steal their oil.

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: We went into Iraq for oil. Everybody in America knows that.

JOSHUA MURAVCHIK: Why don’t you just apologize to the American people for having said that?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: The American people know that our invasion of Iraq was about oil. Big surprise! Surprise to you, maybe, but not a surprise to the American people.

JOSHUA MURAVCHIK: Well, Congressman Kucinich can yell louder than I can, but the fact is, you—

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Not really. My ear is getting blown out here by your screaming.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to Senator McGovern for a minute. And I want to go back to Vietnam, because I want to ask the question—there are a number of people who are saying right now, they want out now, but they are terrified of what will happen in Iraq if U.S. troops immediately leave. Can you talk about the time in Vietnam? You were one of the earliest people speaking out against the U.S. attack and U.S. involvement in Vietnam. What happened? How did the U.S. pull out? What were people saying then?

GEORGE McGOVERN: Well, they were saying the same thing they’re saying about Iraq. We were told all during those long years when I and others were trying to terminate our military involvement in Vietnam, an intervention that the chief architects now say was a dreadful mistake. And they said that if we pulled out—maybe it was a mistake to go in, but if we pulled out, there would be a slaughter of people in Vietnam of indescribable dimensions, that Ho Chi Minh and his people would just slaughter everybody in the country that disagreed with him. We also were told that the countries next door would start toppling into communism, if we left Vietnam. None of that happened.


GEORGE McGOVERN: There was no great bloodbath inside Vietnam. The Vietnamese—

JOSHUA MURAVCHIK: What about Cambodia?

GEORGE McGOVERN:—became our friends almost immediately after we took our Army out of their country. They assisted us in trying to locate missing American soldiers. They were ready for diplomatic relations with us. We have no problem with Vietnam today. And, as a matter of fact, none of the countries next door toppled into communism. So, those were the scare tactics that were used to keep us in Vietnam for about 20 years.

The president has said recently that maybe we have to stay until the year 2010. That’s another four years, during which time we’ll probably kill several thousand more American troops, and the terror now going on inside Iraq that began when we invaded the country will only get worse. No country, in the long term, wants a foreign army lodged in their country.

AMY GOODMAN: How did it ultimately end up that the troops were pulled out of Vietnam?

GEORGE McGOVERN: Well, you know, we were finally forced out. You remember the pictures of the American ambassador being airlifted off the roof of the Embassy there and Vietnamese trying to cling to the helicopters that took him out. I don’t want to see that happen in Iraq. I don’t want to see us just kicked out. I want to see an orderly withdrawal that would begin next month, in December, and be completed by June. And we can do that.

And I—let me say, one poll that was conducted recently in Iraq, it was conducted by our newspaper, USA Today, CNN, the television network, in cooperation with the Gallup polling organization, America’s oldest polling. And they asked the people of Iraq, “Do you regard the Americans as liberators or as occupiers of your country?” Eighty-one percent of the people said they didn’t see us any longer as liberators. They see us as occupiers of the country. And they made very clear they want us out.

I read a statement by an American major in Iraq who is working on civic reform in that country. He said a few months ago that just about everybody in Iraq now wants us out. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. And we ought to pay attention to the doctrine of self-determination of peoples. The Iraqis are quarreling among themselves now, but we can’t settle that. We can’t settle it or control it with 145,000 troops there. We can’t control it after we leave. They’re going to have to work through those internal difficulties themselves.

AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Kucinich, you are part of the largest ideological caucus in Congress right now: the Progressive Caucus. And that might surprise some people. So, in fact, you have tremendous power. Are you in agreement amongst each other about what should happen? And what are the first plans once you take over? What is being proposed by your caucus and by the Democrats?

REP. DENNIS KUCINICH: Well, first of all, when I led the effort against the administration’s drive towards war in Iraq, we were able to get 125 Democrats to vote against the Iraq War Resolution. That exceeded the number of people who are in the Progressive Caucus. So, there are people not only in the Progressive Caucus, but throughout the Democratic Party, who understand that we need to take a new direction. They understood then that the war was wrong. They understand now we need to take a new direction. They understand that’s what the American people voted for.

I believe we’re going to be able to get a consensus among progressives to cut off funds. Mr. [James] McGovern of the House of Representatives has put a resolution forward with that regard. I think support is growing in the direction of getting out of Iraq. And I think that we see a cutoff of funds—we’ll use the money in the pipeline to have the kind of orderly withdrawal that Senator McGovern so wisely spoke of.

People want a new direction. They know that we have to involve the world community. And they know the direction has to be out of Iraq. I mean, we’re losing soldiers at an increasing clip. We’re seeing the civil violence increase. The Iraqi people want us out. The American people, by and large, want us out of Iraq. We need to take a new direction. That direction is out.

The Progressive Caucus, I believe, is on board in that direction. The Out of Iraq caucus, which contains members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, is moving in that direction. But again, the bottom line is going to be the cutoff of funds. And that begins the next time a supplemental appropriation comes or the general appropriations for defense. We need to take this new direction. That’s what the American people voted for.

AMY GOODMAN: Joshua Muravchik of the American Enterprise Institute, this has just come out, that the government conducted a series of secret war games in 1999 that anticipated an invasion of Iraq would require 400,000 troops. Even then, chaos might ensue. They were called the Desert Crossing games. Seventy military, diplomatic and intelligence officials assumed the high troop levels would be needed to keep order, seal borders and take care of other security needs. By your plan of sending in more troops, how many more and for how long, as we wrap up this discussion? Joshua Muravchik?

JOSHUA MURAVCHIK: I don’t know how many more or for how long, but a lot more, until we can bring some order to Iraq. I must admit that I have never heard such blindness to history as I heard from Senator McGovern a minute ago when he talked about what happened in Indochina after the U.S. disorderly withdrawal that he was in the forefront of forcing. There was a horrendous bloodbath in Indochina. Not only South Vietnam fell to communism, but so did Cambodia and Laos.

In Cambodia, there was one of the great holocausts of all time. Something like 2 million people, just under one-third of the population, 2 million out of a country of 7 million, were slaughtered by the communists as soon as they took power. In Vietnam, there was not a bloodbath of those dimensions, but there was an enormous bloodbath. We don’t know how many hundreds of thousands of people may have perished in the seas trying to escape. Those were called the boat people. They were very well known and talked about at the time. I’m surprised that Senator McGovern has forgotten, but—

GEORGE McGOVERN: I haven’t forgotten what happened in Cambodia.

JOSHUA MURAVCHIK: Well, their blood is on your hands, Senator.

GEORGE McGOVERN: Prince Sihanouk was in charge of that country—

JOSHUA MURAVCHIK: But, wait a minute, I didn’t interrupt you. I didn’t interrupt you when you were talking, Senator.

GEORGE McGOVERN:—and we started bombing him, although he was trying to preserve a neutral stance on the war.

JOSHUA MURAVCHIK: Senator, I didn’t interrupt you when you were talking.

GEORGE McGOVERN: As a direct result of that, this murderous killer came into power, and guess who put down the killing in Cambodia? The Vietnamese moved in and stopped that genocide. I sponsored a resolution in the Senate to get the United States to take the lead at the United Nations in ending that genocide. But that had nothing to do with our decision to pull out of Vietnam.

AMY GOODMAN: Joshua Muravchik, you have written about bombing Iran, that that would be necessary now. So, are you proposing staying in Iraq and bombing Iran?

JOSHUA MURAVCHIK: Yes and yes. We need to. We are in a war, a war against terrorism. We’re up against some very, very fierce and dangerous enemies. Senator McGovern has never recognized an enemy of the United States since World War II. He thought the Soviet communists were our friends—

GEORGE McGOVERN: I never said that.

JOSHUA MURAVCHIK:—and he thought everyone else that was against us were our friends. But we are up against a very fierce and bloody-minded enemy that hit us on 9/11 and that had support throughout that region. We got into Iraq, for better or worse. We’ve got to—we cannot leave Iraq with a victory for the radical jihadists. And the way to prevent that from happening is to, in my opinion, is to send more troops until we can get control of the situation. I do not favor invading Iran the way we invaded Iraq or trying to occupy it.

But I do not think we can safely live in a world where Iran has a nuclear weapon. The mantra of the president of Iran is that he wants to see, quote, “a world without America,” close-quote. “A world without America.” People have paid more attention to the fact that Ahmadinejad has spoken over and over again about wanting to wipe Israel off the map, and that seems like a more feasible project, but he also has said he wants to wipe America off the map. And to put a nuclear—or allow a nuclear weapon in the hands of men such as this is a formula for disaster.

And so, we’ve tried the path of diplomacy, offering them lots of carrots and inducements, and we’re beginning to talk about piddling and meaningless economic sanctions. But the fact is, it really comes down to two choices, which is either to accept the terror of living in a world where President Ahmadinejad has a nuclear bomb at his disposal or using military strikes to destroy as much as we can of their nuclear weapons facilities.

AMY GOODMAN: We just have a minute to go, so I’m going to end with you, Senator McGovern. This issue, at the same time the debate is going on about what should happen with Iraq, Seymour Hersh has been reporting in The New Yorker magazine that secret plans are already in process for attacking Iran, as Joshua Muravchik suggests. Your response?

GEORGE McGOVERN: I’d say the last thing the United States needs is another war in the Middle East. We’ve got our hands more than full keeping an army of 145,000 people in Iraq year after year. I don’t know what the gentleman from the institute wants to do. He says we need a lot more troops over there, maybe 300,000. We finally ended up with 550,000 in Vietnam. It still didn’t work. They still wanted us out and forced our withdrawal.

Let me make clear one thing. I am not against using military force under certain conditions. That’s why I supported World War II. That’s why I supported the first Gulf War, when President Bush Sr. sent American forces into Kuwait to force the Iraqi army out of there, Saddam Hussein. But he wisely stopped short of doing what some people was advocating, moving right on into Baghdad. And as he points out in his own memoirs, if we had done that then, we’d be locked into a morass of the kind that his son now faces. And so, let’s not assume, as the gentleman does, that there’s just a little radical band of people that want us out of Iraq.

I think the American people spoke loud and clear in the Tuesday election, that they want this war terminated. And I’m convinced, in my own mind, that President Bush Sr., his secretary of state, Jim Baker, and his national security adviser, General Scowcroft, all opposed this war from the very beginning. And they were ignored by young Bush, Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld, and now we’re reaping the consequences of that irrational decision.

AMY GOODMAN: We have 10 seconds, and that is, the discussion of bringing Iran and Syria into direct negotiations about Iraq.

GEORGE McGOVERN: We ought to negotiate directly with both Syria and Iran. Negotiation doesn’t mean surrender. It means a civilized way of trying to work out an agreement.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you very much for joining us. Senator George McGovern, his book is Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now. Congressmember Kucinich in Washington, D.C., and Joshua Muravchik, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, his recent book, The Future of the United Nations: Understanding the Past to Chart a Way Forward, thank you all.

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