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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Senator Edward Kennedy

Aired July 15, 2003 - 20:17   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Senator Edward Kennedy today delivered a blistering critique of U.S. policy in Iraq, calling it adrift, and comparing U.S. troops to -- quote -- "police officers in a shooting gallery."
A short while ago, I asked Senator Kennedy about the controversy surrounding U.S. intelligence on Iraq and why he thinks the president led the country to war.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. EDWARD KENNEDY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I don't doubt his motivations. I believe that he believed what he said at the time. I think that there was a policy that was wrong.

I think it was a mistake to rush to war. But, most importantly, no one ever doubted that we could be successful in war. The real issue today is, can we win the peace? And I'm very, very concerned that the failure of this administration's policy in Iraq is resulting in Americans every day being in a shooting gallery and getting killed.

We've lost 81 Americans since the president was on the aircraft carrier and announced that this war was effectively over. And it does seem to me that we have a good example of how we can try and share this responsibility, both of rebuilding Iraq and sharing the security issues. And that is working through the United Nations, as we did in Bosnia, as we did in Kosovo, as we did in East Timor, and even as we're attempting to do in Afghanistan.

It seems to me, we ought to go to the United Nations, get a resolution, bring in NATO, so that they can reach out and we can get Muslim countries, other countries, participating there, lesson the pressure on the American military, bring in the Jeandarms (ph), bring in the Guardias from Spain that are experts in police control, and really move this into a different direction and relieve the great pressure that is on our service men and women.

ZAHN: Senator, then, are you telling us tonight that you believe the president does not have a viable plan in place to protect American troops?

KENNEDY: Well, American troops can have a perimeter defense. And American troops can be out there trying to do police work. But that isn't -- they're the best troops in the world. And we have an Army second to none.

But, quite, frankly they're doing and performing functions that they weren't set up to do. They are set up to move in and take over countries, which they have done very well. We need to have an international force there. I think that that would provide a greater kind of security within the country. And also, by bringing it, we would provide relief. We have today, between Iraq and Afghanistan, half our Army overseas in these two countries. They need relief.

We've got the forces that are prepared to come under a United Nations mantle and would be glad to help to provide security. And, also, we have the professional police, like the Jeandarms (ph) and the Guardia and the Carabinieri in Italy, who are trained for this very kind of function. And they could be enormously successful. It seems to me, this is the way to go in terms of sharing the burden of investment in Iraq with the American taxpayers and also sharing the security issue with American servicemen. It makes sense. It's been done in the past. It's been successful. Why not do it now?

ZAHN: Senator, I want to come back to a point you made at the very top of this interview, where you said, it is your belief that the president believed what he said in the run-up to war. At what point, do you believe, that he, in any way, exaggerated the threat the Iraqis posed to the United States?

KENNEDY: Well, I think the -- we have the Intelligence Committees now looking into exactly how intelligence was handled.

I think one of the issues that are presented in the very current situation about the statement about Niger and the uranium is, the administration says this issue is really all over. George Tenet should have taken the information out. The question I would ask is, who put it in? Who put it in the speech and what instructions did they have? When we get those answers, I think we'll know what really happened. I think those are the answers that people really want to know.

ZAHN: Before we let you go, Senator, there has been some criticism of the Democrats for not having a unified voice, the nine announced candidates running for the president.

KENNEDY: Welcome to the Democratic Party. Welcome to the Democratic Party.

ZAHN: Well, exactly.

I guess my question to you is, have you been satisfied with what you heard from them or do you think they have been somewhat constrained because they're fearful of appearing to be unpatriotic?

(CROSSTALK)

KENNEDY: Well, that is a real challenge. And I think the American people have to understand that the issues of dissent is really a very important value for all Americans.

It is a very important value for our society. That's how it's functioned. If you look back, for example, in Supreme Court decisions, if we had just been willing to dissent to Dred Scott, just think. We would have continued the issues of slavery. So often, those that have been in the dissent have eventually ended up in the majority.

ZAHN: Do you have a prediction to make about who your ultimate nominee might be?

KENNEDY: Well, I think John Kerry sounds good to me. I always said we needed someone from Massachusetts to be president.

(CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: I would have expected you to say just that.

Senator Kennedy, always good to see you.

KENNEDY: Thanks very, very much. Nice to see you. Thank you.

ZAHN: Thanks again for dropping by.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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