common ground

Stansfield Turner/Iraq

Program 0210 March 5, 2002

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(This text has been professionally transcribed, however, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.)

STANSFIELD TURNER: I wish we had understood earlier how important all of the other nations of the world are to our well being. And therefore been a little more willing to take into account the problems of other countries before they festered into envy and resentment.

KRISTIN MCHUGH: This week on Common Ground, critiquing the CIA. And, examining Iraq’s position in the axis of evil.

GRAHAM FULLER: I think most of the region feels that either, “Really do the job”—in other words get rid of this man, but don’t simply gratuitously poke sticks into the cage because we’re gonna have to live in the area. And that a wounded Saddam is a very, very dangerous beast within the cage.

KEITH PORTER: Common Ground is a program on world affairs and the people who shape events. It's produced by the Stanley Foundation. I'm Keith Porter.

MCHUGH: And I'm Kristin McHugh. Retired Admiral Stansfield Turner has had a long and distinguished career in military and government service. He is a Rhodes Scholar and a former President of the Naval War College. He served as Commander of both the US Second Fleet and NATO’s southern flank. In 1977 he became President Jimmy Carter’s Director of Central Intelligence.

PORTER: Since leaving the CIA, Admiral Turner has written a number of books on terrorism, democracy, and the need to better control nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. Lately he has been concerned about problems with the US intelligence system, which may have kept American officials from preventing the September 11 terrorist attacks.

STANSFIELD TURNER: There certainly should be an investigation. And secondly, the excuse that we should postpone the investigation because we’re still in the middle of all this, I don’t believe is wise. We’re going to be in the middle of all this for a long time and if there is something wrong with our intelligence apparatus and the way it’s operating we’ve got to correct it quickly, not wait till war is over. I don’t know how to speculate on whether if you pulled all the clues that were available on 9/10 that would have told us there was an attack coming at the World Trade Center and Pentagon on 9/11. I doubt it. But it’s conceivable, and it’s why we need an investigation. And if that reveals there was enough evidence, we certainly need to take corrective action and ensure that it doesn’t happen again.

If there were enough pieces out there it would be because some information from a flight training school in Minnesota didn’t get down here to the Immigration and Naturalization Service that knew this man was an illegal alien in our country, which didn’t get over to the FBI, or which didn’t get to the CIA—you see what I mean? But it’s broader than that. And that’s why we do have to hope that Governor Ridge can bring the homeland defense program together. He should not try to coordinate the internal workings of the intelligence community. But he should be sure that the intelligence community is sharing information with and obtaining information from the Immigration Service, the Health Service, the other—Border Patrol—you know, all these other agencies that have clues. And we’ve never really thought about bringing that together.

PORTER: As the former Director of the CIA I’m wondering if there are things that you think we could have done differently that would have prevented the September 11 attacks?

TURNER: Yes. When you go way back to 1941 we missed the call with our intelligence of Pearl Harbor. We investigated that and one of the conclusions was that there was more information available than we were utilizing. It was compartmented. Army had some, the Navy had some, the State Department had some. And they didn’t share it adequately. We still have that problem, which is almost criminal. And we need to go back and revisit the law that we created in 1947, after World War II, to avoid the Pearl Harbor syndrome. We created a Director of Central Intelligence who was to coordinate all of the intelligence activities, whether they were housed in the CIA, or the Defense Department, or the State Department, or the FBI, or wherever. But we never gave that individual—the Director of Central Intelligence—authority over the other agencies to ensure they shared information, to ensure they coordinated so they didn’t all look at the same problem and nobody look at a different problem, so that the clues that one operation collected by photographs were used by the people doing electronic listening, and that the electronic listening clues were used by the human intelligence people. And so on. So, we really need today to correct that situation by giving the Director of Central Intelligence authority to manage the intelligence community.

PORTER: Are there specific steps that the Bush administration should take along those lines?

TURNER: They should give the Director of Central Intelligence authority to direct the collecting activities of the photographic people, of the electronic people, of the human intelligence people. Secondly, they should give the Director of Central Intelligence the authority to command that each one of those agencies share its information with the others. Now, I don’t mean total sharing because there is a reason for people not wanting to share. That is, maybe you obtained this information from a human spy. And revelation of that information might lead to that spy being identified and killed. So there’s reason to keep it very limited in its distribution. But today, the person in charge of human spying is the one who determines how much distribution there is. It should be the Director of Central Intelligence who says, “No, that is so important that we must share it a little bit, at least.” And he would then—he or she—would then direct how much sharing and with whom. Somebody with a broader perspective than the individual in charge of the spying element should determine how much of that.

So those are the two principle things. The third one I would want to give the Director of Central Intelligence authority to put together the budgets of all the intelligence community. Why? Because you again want them to be cooperative, not overlapping. You want to put a theme behind your budget. That is, where are we taking intelligence? Where do we see the future? Is it in more satellites? Is it in more humans? Is it in more analysis? Whatever. But somebody who has the overall perspective should be looking at that and saying, “I’m putting this budget together in a way that will emphasize whatever needs to be emphasized.”

PORTER: Looking back over recent history, especially since the end of the Cold War to perhaps September 11, what could we have done differently to make the world a safer place? Were there big missed opportunities during that time frame?

TURNER: I wish we had understood earlier how important all of the other nations of the world are to our well-being. And therefore been a little more willing to take into account the problems of other countries before they festered into envy and resentment against us because we do things differently, we live on so much higher a standard of living. We sometimes appear to the rest of the world to be imperious and unilateralist. We should have tried to understand that without a major enemy like we believed Communism and the Soviet Union were that we should have taken a greater interest in our fellow human beings who were less privileged than we. You and I believe in that in our country. We try to help the poor. We’re very magnanimous. When you look at the United States one of the things that differentiates it from any other society that I know of is the fact that we have such charitable institutions here. Other countries count on governments to do this. We have that sense of respect for and interest in our fellow human beings that says, “Yes, I’ll give to this foundation,” or that, or this charity, or that. But we haven’t translated that into a global sense.

Now, we can’t raise the standard of living of every person in Africa, where the standards are so low. But we probably can do a good bit more than we are doing and I think that’s maybe where we missed the boat the most.

PORTER: I know you’ve been very vocal on the control of nuclear weapons and on nuclear proliferation in particular. Are there opportunities that we missed there? Are there things that we could have been doing over that decade that we weren’t doing?

TURNER: Over this decade the Russians have been unable to maintain the size of their nuclear arsenal. They built their nuclear weaponry to last about 15 years and then they intended to replace it piece by piece. We built our weaponry to last much longer and refurbish it as it goes along, so that it will have a longer shelf life. Well, it’s been ten years now of the 15 in a sense, and they haven’t replaced much of anything because they are too poor. We should have taken advantage of that as soon as we perceived it and said, “Hey, Russia! Let’s go down!” Here the two of us are sitting up here on—they’ve got maybe 20,000 nuclear warheads this afternoon and we have maybe 10,000. Nobody else has more than five, six hundred and that’s only China. And then the rest are down in the lower hundreds.

So why are we sitting up here at these absurd numbers? It’s because of a artifact of the Cold War. We got carried away with ourselves and we said, “Well, if they’ve got 10 we’ve got to have 12.” And if they said, “Well, they’ve got 12, we’ve got to have 14.” And it went on up to the unbelievable number of 70,000 nuclear warheads between our two countries. We should have certainly as soon as the Cold War ended have said, “Let’s really take this down to something that is much more reasonable.”

PORTER: Several years ago you wrote a book about the tension that exists between the desire to live in an open society and the desire to prevent terrorism. How are we doing along those lines? Are we making the right decisions?

TURNER: I’m a little concerned today that we can’t get too carried away with ourselves. But I don’t think we’ve gone too far at this point. The military tribunals that have been authorized are probably the most controversial intrusion into our normal due process of law. Yet I believe because they can be kept secret, because they can be conducted overseas, and because they allow you to deal quickly with a problem, that they are worthwhile. We haven’t authorized any yet, we just said they’re there in theory. So we’ll have to see how we actually apply that. And in the one or two cases that have arisen, we’ve not resorted to military tribunals. We need to maintain an alertness here that we don’t go helter skelter in too much intrusion.

PORTER: I have a question for you about this split between unilateralism and multilateralism in US foreign policy. It seems as if we’re really going it alone on so many things these days. What do you think about that? I mean, should we be making a greater effort to act in cooperation with our allies?

TURNER: One of the key lessons of the events of 9/11 is that we have to have cooperation from other nations. This is a global fight against terrorism. It is not a fight just against terrorism versus Americans. And therefore we can’t go it alone entirely. On the other hand, when you’ve seen the squeamishness of our allies over the President’s statement about an evil axis—and I happen to think it was not a wise statement—but nonetheless, the allies and friends were much more squeamish than I think they deserved to be. You realize how, how difficult it is to get other people to go along with controversial actions like bombing and such forth. So we have to be willing to go unilaterally at times. I think we’ve emphasized it too much—or more than that I think we’ve given the impression we want to be unilateral. More than we really are being unilateral. And we need to avoid exacerbating people’s concerns as we did with the phrase “evil axis.”

PORTER: You mentioned our European allies and you are a former commander of NATO’s Southern Region. And I’m wondering about the split between the United States and NATO. It seems as if we’re drifting farther and farther apart both politically and technologically. There have been articles written recently about how we can do so much more technologically than our NATO allies can with their military. Does NATO still have a strong bright future?

TURNER: NATO has a strong bright future as a political alliance. I don’t see any way the NATO allies other than Britain and perhaps Germany will catch up with us or be willing to, able to, play with us militarily on the battlefield. And I would say to you as a former NATO commander that this is nothing new. In my day I didn’t feel that NATO was much more than a political structure. That if there was going to be real fighting we would have to do it. That the other armies and navies and air forces in most of those countries—again, excepting the British and perhaps the Germans—were not really well trained or equipped for battle.

PORTER: That is Stansfield Turner, Director of Central Intelligence during the Carter administration.

MCHUGH: Examining the Iraqi threat, next on Common Ground.

DR. PHEBE MARR: There isn’t any trust of Saddam Hussein. But in some areas there’s a feeling that the threat has declined.

PORTER: Printed transcripts and audio cassettes of this program are available. Listen at the end of the broadcast for details, or visit our Web site at Common Ground is a service of the Stanley Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts a wide range of programs designed to provoke thought and encourage dialogue on world affairs.

MCHUGH: There’s considerable debate over President Bush’s naming of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea as an “axis of evil.” In his State of the Union address the President accused North Korea of developing weapons of mass destruction; Iran of exporting terror; and Iraq of supporting terror and pursuing chemical and biological weapons.

PORTER: Just how dangerous is Iraq to its neighbors and the United States? Recently Common Ground’s Cliff Brockman put that question to two experts on Iraq.

CLIFF BROCKMAN: Dr. Phebe Marr is a retired National Defense University Senior Fellow and Scholar; Graham Fuller is the former Vice Chairman of the National Intelligence Council at the CIA. Graham Fuller, was the President correct in lumping Iran, Iraq, and North Korea together?

GRAHAM FULLER: All three countries certainly have policies that can be described as very negative and maybe you could describe them as evil as well. I think the main problem is not so much the word “evil,” which maybe bothers Europeans, but the word “axis.” In other words axis suggests countries working together very closely and cooperating. And I think that’s demonstrably, utterly, not the case here, except that maybe both of them on occasion buy some North Korean weaponry and missiles. So I think many of us who have been following the Middle East felt that the old Clinton line of dual containment—which in other words put Iraq and Iran both in the same category and both equally untouchable—we’d thought we’d gotten out of that and now with these remarks of the President seem to be back in it again. Which I just feel is neither in policy terms nor analytic terms particularly useful or helpful.

PHEBE MARR: I would tend to agree with this.

BROCKMAN: This is Dr. Phebe Marr.

MARR: I think in terms of regime negativity certainly North Korea and Iraq fall into that category. I think the situation in Iran is more nuanced. But in all fairness, Bush did make that distinction as well in his speech. And I hope he will follow through in policy.

BROCKMAN: Most of Iraq’s neighbors would like us to drop the sanctions against Iraq.

MARR: This has always been an extremely difficult situation. Because we, in a sense we have to structure a policy to deal with the government in power. And if we put sanctions on to limit the flow of money to Saddam it is inevitably going to put that power in his hands to either deliver it or not deliver it to his population, and his population is getting hurt more than, than he is. We would all like to get more money in the hands of Iraq and get a normal economy there. And I would certainly favor the so-called “smart sanctions”—loosening up on, on goods and the economy for the Iraqi population but trying to tighten up on what goes into Saddam’s pocket. But frankly, taking away the escrow account. You have to understand that the sanctions means that he can sell as much—almost as much oil as he wants. And he’s making quite a bit of money on it now. But it doesn’t go directly into his pocket. It goes into an escrow account. This gives the U.N. some control over the uses inside Iraq. I would find removing that escrow account very difficult because it’s the only control that we have over what Saddam can do with his money.

BROCKMAN: What countries perceive Iraq as a threat?

FULLER: Well, I think virtually all neighbors of Iraq feel it’s a genuine threat. All of them have felt Iraq’s negative and dangerous policies in one way or another for a long time. So I don’t think anyone trusts Saddam at all. I think most of the region feels that either, “Really do the job”—in other words get rid of this man, but don’t simply gratuitously poke sticks into the cage because we’re gonna have to live in the area. And that a wounded Saddam is a very, very dangerous beast within the cage by any standard. So basically do it right or else don’t do it at all. And meanwhile I think they say your American policy had better be credible elsewhere in the region; otherwise it’s going to make it very hard for our regimes to get on board with supporting an attack against a fellow Arab state.


MARR: Yeah, I certainly would agree with that latter comment. But I would say that in my discussions with, with people in the region on this defense issue it’s sometimes difficult to get them to see the threat. I think the regimes and the leaders who themselves have to face the wrath of Saddam Hussein—there isn’t any trust of Saddam Hussein. But in some areas there’s a feeling that the threat has declined. And a little less concern for it. Maybe one of the reasons for that is because the United States is there, extending the protection. But if you get into defense discussions you’ll see the threat issue is one that is a matter of difference sometimes when we talk about this in the Gulf.

BROCKMAN: Graham Fuller, do you think there could be a coup in Iraq?

FULLER: No. I don’t believe that there are any forces within Iraq capable of pulling a sudden and surprising coup. This is the most pervasive security regime maybe in the history of the 20th century. Paralleled maybe by North Korea or by Stalin in the ‘20s. The climate of fear is extraordinary. Every element of society is penetrated and monitored. And the penalty for even a whiff of suspicion is not jail, but death. So I really am not optimistic about it. The only thing I think is conceivable—not likely, but conceivable—is if the conditions become so appalling that you have simply a spontaneous uprising. I’m thinking especially of the southern Shia regions, of just masses running wild and attacking police headquarters and security installations, that could begin to spread a wave of rebellion against Saddam. I just don’t think it’s very likely to happen.

MARR: There’s one potential scenario here. And that is that there’s an undoing within the family. This is a family run regime. And to say that there are tensions and differences in it is, is to underestimate. And somehow that could blow up and one—somebody on the inside who could really do the job might conceivably do it. But I don’t put too much stock in that.

BROCKMAN: Do you think the United States will invade Iraq?

FULLER: I have no idea whether in fact this debate on whether we’re going to actually take some kind of military action against Iraq and on what grounds—I have no—I do not know whether that’s going to actually materialize. It looks to me like it would be on the issue of inspection and weapons of mass destruction. But all of that has to be carefully thought out. How, when, where—what sort of, what sort of reception or what sort of group would we have inside Iraq that could match up with this? I frankly don’t, don’t see any. And I don’t see in this debate any of the details or thinking through the strategic or tactical way in which that would be accomplished. But, frankly, should something like that materialize it seems to me that’s the most likely way. Or, the man is getting older. And it is quite possible he might die in his bed like some other dictators we’ve known.

BROCKMAN: Graham Fuller?

FULLER: The problem of internal rebellion even within the family is that however angry and however much rivalry there may be within that family and clan, there is a real sense of hanging together/hanging separately. What is certitude is if there is a major change in the Iraqi regime, including the arrival of democracy—democratization of the country—the Shiites, who are 60 percent of the population—become the dominant force in the country politically and even socially in a way. Which would be a tremendous overturning of a pattern of, of 20, 25 percent of the population—the Sunni Arab population—running everybody else in the country. So I think there’s that sense, if we tamper with this, Saddam is awful—but if we tamper with this, god knows where the—where the pieces will fall. The vengeance factor on the part of so many that have been angry and excluded and killed and butchered and repressed over all these years could be high. The scare factor is high. And the Sunni Arabs, as a group, know that their hold on power essentially comes to an end at that point.

MARR: I’m not so sure that Shia identifying as Shia, Kurds identifying as Kurds, and Sunnis identifying as Sunnis would emerge as players. Because those terms are too monolithic. As Graham well knows. All of those communities are very diverse and they may also identify—one would hope—as Iraqis. Or people with the potential for a better future. Let me be a little more optimistic here. Or army officers. Or professionals. Or, or somebody else. And come together with a kind of a like-minded people to form another government. The tensions between the communities—Shia, Sunni, Kurd, Arab—have been very, very bad since the Gulf War in 1991. But there is a tradition of Iraqi identity and Iraqi nationalism that could be worked on, played on, encouraged. Including those people who are now working for Saddam—in the military, the bureaucracy, and so on. That would be the one hope for Iraq—that you play on sentiments of Iraqi identity rather than some other identity.

FULLER: It’s a great hope. I hope Phoebe’s right, that this could be a possibility.

BROCKMAN: What do you think the role of the U.N. Security Council is?

FULLER: We’ve had a decade of debates within the U.N. Security Council on this whole issue and it’s quite divided with European interests—French interests, British interests, Russian interests, Chinese interests—that are both commercial, political, even ideological. Many countries such as China or Russia in the past have not wanted to see us exercising unilateral power. They don’t like to see interventionism in general, on the basis of bad regimes or human rights violations or proliferation, because in theory those same principles could be used to visit other regimes and to overthrow them potentially. So I am not terribly optimistic that the Security Council is going to reach a clear agreement on this. But it’s—for all the differences, tenyears down the road they are still cooperating and there’s still discussion of reconstituting an inspection regime. There is some incentive to keep on limping along. And that’s not all bad. I mean, let’s just finally say. It could be worse. Saddam is—he’s terrible; he hasn’t changed; the situation is awful in Iraq. But in terms of the region, he is in the box. It has been somewhat contained. And it could be worse.


MARR: It’s difficult to go through the Security Council, to say nothing of the U.N., because it does represent, as it’s supposed to, disparate interests. It is—this whole issue is going to come up again before the Security Council. So we’re going to be into the discussion no matter what. Because the current extension of oil for food is due to be renewed. And as we all know, the inspection issue is going to come up. Saddam has made sure that it’s going to come up by this charm offensive that he’s just put forth. But it is difficult to get any decisive action one way or the other out of the U.N. But I, I have to say also that I have great misgivings about the U.N.—about the US, excuse me—acting unilaterally. Because I think the sentiment in the area, as 9/11 showed—it just breeds more, you know, more difficulty out there. We may have to get an alliance of convenience to deal with this. But one of the roads diplomatically will go through the U.N. Security Council. And the U.N. Security Council will stay seized of the problem of sanctions, inspections, and so on. So we will continue to have this dialogue there with all of its difficulties.

CLIFF BROCKMAN: Independent consultants on Iraq, Dr. Phebe Marr and Graham Fuller. For Common Ground, I’m Cliff Brockman.

PORTER: Cassettes and transcripts of this program are available. The transcripts are free; cassettes cost $5.00. To place an order or to share your thoughts about the program, write to us at: The Stanley Foundation, 209 Iowa Avenue, Muscatine, Iowa 52761. Please refer to Program Number 0210. That's Program Number 02-10. To order by credit card you can call us at 563-264-1500. That's 563-264-1500.

MCHUGH: Transcripts are also available on our Web site: Commongroundradio is all one word. Our e-mail address is For Common Ground, I’m Kristin McHugh.

PORTER: And I’m Keith Porter. Cliff Brockman is our Associate Producer. B.J. Liederman created our theme music. Common Ground is produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.

© 2002 by The Stanley Foundation

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