Transcript of Chrétien interview on ABC's This Week

Gary Lawrence Murphy Gary Lawrence Murphy <garym@canada.com>
09 Mar 2003 11:25:34 -0500


[ executive overview: GWB has already won. ]

Interview given by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien to ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos 

March 9, 2003
Ottawa, Ontario

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much for having us in your home.

JEAN CHRÉTIEN: My pleasure to be with you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The divide in the United Nations seems deeper than ever this weekend. How can it be bridged?

CHRÉTIEN: I don’t know if it can be bridged because we’re quite late in the process, but there was some movement of sorts last week, because, you know the Americans, the Brits and the Spaniards decided to have a deadline, something that we had recommended, the Canadians, two or three weeks ago.

And the French said that 120 days is too much. So, I was…, you know I had recommended the end of March, so we’re talking of days. And I…, I don’t know what would happen, you know, it’s kind of sad because, you know, they have done very well with 1441.

Now the question is a question of interpretation of what’s going on there. And for me, I’m not…, I don’t know all the facts, but I know that we made some progress in the position we have presented to the United Nations in a speech by my ambassador on the 19th, two weeks ago, but we have worked on that before.

You know it was the series of deadlines on four different items that was to be terminated at the end of March and of the four items that were on the agenda two things…, where we have made a lot of progress. In the case of the missiles, it was one of the points that we had made. You know, they are destroying them today, still they destroyed some more, the last few days, they stopped for one day only and the inspector responsible, El Baradei, said that the nuclear issue is almost resolved now.

So, we were left with the biological and the chemical. And all that is happening, you know, people don’t say that often, but I say that all the time in Canada, it is because the Americans and the British have moved a lot of troops there. You know it is for me what is moving Saddam to comply otherwise he wouldn’t have complied. Will he comply completely? It’s a question of interpretation.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You’ve been talking to a lot of members of the Security Council.

CHRÉTIEN: Yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Many of these Mexico, Chilli who are still undecided, still in the middle. What are you hearing from them and what do you believe they need in order to support a resolution?

CHRÉTIEN: But…, they need…, they all agreed that, you know, there’s a limit, you know we cannot wait forever and everybody has this view, clearly at this moment that Saddam has to disarm, you know the question, and the resolution 1441 is about disarmament and that it’s a question of more days.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What is reasonable?

CHRÉTIEN: You know in politics it’s the people who judge you about, are you reasonable yes or no. And it is a question of how do you interpret the facts that you have in front of you. For me, you know, I think that…, you know we should give credit to the president and to Mr. Blair. The movement of troops there has really created the situation. In my judgement, it has been won. You know the president has won. I have no doubt about it. He won.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What do you mean by that?

CHRÉTIEN: I mean that you know, he has created a situation where Saddam cannot do anything anymore. He has troops at the door and inspectors on the ground. Planes flying over and he cannot do anything, and he started to destroy missiles, there’s no nuclear danger there, we…, so, he has to destroy the…, What’s happened, we don’t know exactly what’s left. But again, he has moved.

And when I say you know, it’s because the Americans moved strong troops there, otherwise probably nothing would have happened.

You know, you know the Americans have won I say that in Canada all the time. You guys, you won the Cold War, without one tank, one missile and losing one life. (Inaudible)…, USSR.

And there’s the same thing in Iraq, in my judgement. You’re winning it big. In my view, you probably have won this time. But the question is, I’m talking in terms of disarmament. The question of a regime…, change of regime is something else.

But, yesterday or Friday, Mr. Straw was clear. He said the British are there to…, the elimination of the armament of massive destruction.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Not regime change?

CHRÉTIEN: He didn’t, he said no it’s not their policy a regime change. So, there’s a confusion there. He said disarmament of regime…, change of regime. And this is not the debate at the UN. So, I’ve concentrated on that and I thought that there is a way to bridge, probably it’s too late, but the Americans and the Brits and the Spaniards moved yesterday, Friday. And but they need probably to move more, that is the impression I have. But when you’re in a situation like that you don’t…, you know perhaps it’s the definite date, the 17th of March, perhaps a couple of more weeks could help, I don’t know.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, if the Prime Minister…, the President of Chili, came to President Bush and President Fox in Mexico and some of these other nations came to President Bush and said, we need another week, we need two more weeks, give us till the end of March, do you think that’s something President Bush would accept?

CHRÉTIEN: I don’t know, I cannot…, I cannot pass a judgement on that. But I know that they…, these people face a difficult political problem at home with that. You know, the public opinion is strongly opposed and some like Fox, you know he’s the president, but the congress is not on his side, so he has to…, same thing in Chili and these people have to live with the political reality at home. But they…, what I suggested, on the 19th of February, they were all very much interested. Some days ago, all the (inaudible)…, my ambassador at the embassy of Mexico, in New York, to look at the Canadian Paper. And…, but there’s more there is there. But they seemed to be buying at that moment.

But, you know, I’m not at the Security Council and I cannot pretend that I would be a bridge. But I’ve talked with all of them and they…, everybody…, you know it was amazing…, everybody wants Saddam to disarm. No doubt about it. He’s a terrible man and so on and we have to take away anything dangerous in his hands. And there was…, that was the agreement after the end of the war in 1991, the cease fire, and some conditions that he has not respected. No doubt about it.

But, for me it’s…, you know, there is…, (inaudible) could solve the problem, because effectively it’s won.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say America has won. You know, given that and as America’s closest neighbour and friend, what advice would you give President Bush now?

CHRÉTIEN: Well, for me I…, he knows of my paper…, he called me and we discussed that and my ambassador in New York has talked with your ambassador there and so on, you know. The problem is for him he thinks, probably he’s afraid that he has been dragging to…, delays and delays and delays to just to postpone a decision. And if he had a date in mind and he has decided, like he seemed to say to the nation when he appeared on TV Thursday night, last week, there’s not much I can tell him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You think he’s going to go?

CHRÉTIEN: I’m not sure, you know, for me I think peace can be preserved there, if he could move, but I really don’t know how far he’s advanced in his planning and his decision making.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But he…, the president does seem to have…, indicated at least that he is ready to go to whether or not the UN approves. In your judgement, what would be the consequences of a military action without the UN umbrella?

CHRÉTIEN: Well, it would be quite bad because, you know the Americans are the only super power now. And everybody…, you have to really be realistic about it, that makes some people nervous. You know, while I’m not complaining I have great relations with the United States and with the president and I have no problem. But some do not want to take your word, you know, too easily, they want to ask questions and they are afraid to have only one super power, that it’s dangerous for them.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That seems to be the French position.

CHRÉTIEN: Yes, and others. And the UN can indeed be useful to the United States. You know, take for example when the father of George…, George Senior went to war in 1990, he had a resolution at the UN. And I remember very well, that was the position of Canada. My predecessor Mr. Mulroney said, Canada will be with you and you need a resolution at the UN and we’ll be with you.

I said the same thing a year ago to President George W., that…, you know the same position.

STEPHANOPOULOS: (Inaudible) having a UN resolution, if Canada will not (inaudible)…, forces?

CHRÉTIEN: Right now you know we’re in the middle of this because we have 1441 and we don’t know what will happen, so it’s purely a hypothetical question. But it is the position that I’ve stated since the beginning and remains the position of the Canadian government.

But at that time, you know, that was…, when you went to Kosovo, for example, there we did have a resolution, but I mean, the Russians opposed, and being, you know because it was Serbia and question of the same religion and so on, people considered that as special veto, everybody was one in agreement, but we went there anyway under the NATO umbrella and it worked because we went there to stop the genocide and we succeeded.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But your position now is that Canada will fight in Iraq only if there is a UN resolution?

CHRÉTIEN: It has been the position of Canada since the first day and it was the position of Canada in 1990, so…, but I’m not confronted with that. And at this time there is no request from us because we’re moving quite a big number of troops…, we have three ships in the Gulf at this moment there and in the summer we have to go and replace some troops in Kabul, in Afghanistan, because they think that Canadians are the proper group to be there at this time.

So, this is where we stand on the question of Iraq, you know they have their troops there at this moment and we have ships there that are useful, but…,

STEPHANOPOULOS: You talk about the consequences for the United Nations, if the United States goes forward without the United Nations, what is your concerns specifically? Will it be more difficult, for example, for the United Nations to come together and reach a unified position on North Korea?

CHRÉTIEN: It might because the President (inaudible)…, try do the same thing. That is one of the concerns that a lot of people have, you know. China might say, well we have a problem somewhere and you know, we don’t like the regime and we’re going to change the regime. It’s why it’s dangerous. You know, everybody will take that as a pretext.

Because there is a notion in the United States that I find a bit surprising. They say we went to Kosovo to change the regime. Not true at all. We went to stop the genocide. There was no change of regime there. The regime was changed there by a vote in Serbia, when Milosevic lost the election. But it was…, the war was terminated before and he was still the president when the election came, he was defeated by his own people. That was the perfect solution.

Probably the reason was the fact that we stopped the genocide in Kosovo (inaudible)…, you know, made him very unpopular with his own people, but even there he contested the elections. But…,

STEPHANOPOULOS: So when I talk of regime change, it’s dangerous talk?

CHRÉTIEN: It’s something that I’m not very comfortable with and I said that in Canada and I said that to everybody, because where do you stop? You know, if it’s okay that we do that there, why not elsewhere?

And you know, the British position with…, as expressed on Friday by…, or Thursday by the minister of foreign affairs was very clear on that, that they are going to Iraq to stop Saddam Hussein and force him to destroy his armament of mass destruction.

STEPHANOPOULOS: There’s some difference between the United States and Canada, but do you feel it’s a serious difference? What kind of affect do you believe it will have on United States-Canadian relations?

CHRÉTIEN: Oh, not much. We’ve always been very close with the Americans. We went with them in Kosovo and we were in Bosnia, we’re still there and so on. We’ve always been peacekeepers. Canada is always willing to get involved in peacekeeping and you know, you remember at one time when the Americans went into Haiti, when they wanted to get out they needed somebody and President Clinton asked me to send…, if I could not go and replace the Americans, because the country did not want anymore to have Americans there and it was easier for us, because it was convenient we sent some francophone soldiers there to replace the Americans and it was the type of people that they needed at that time.

So, whenever we…, generally speaking we have absolutely no problems there. You know, the position is clear since a year with the president about what Canada will do.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Can you imagine Canada being part of a future peacekeeping force in Iraq?

CHRÉTIEN: I think we’re always somewhere, you know, we’re very strong on that. Always…, because you know we have to be ready for that. Canadians are always willing. You know, when we talk…, probably the biggest problem that we all face collectively is Palestine and Israel, where we should…, the international community move there and solve…, only the Americans can do that.

(Inaudible)…, Cyprus, you remember what happened in Cyprus 40 years ago, something like that, Canada was there for about 28 years. You know where the international community came and said this is Cyprus North and South. The Greek are in the South and in the North was the Turks. And we just built a wall there and the Canadian soldiers and others were there at that time.

But you remember in those days, it was always…, I should be (inaudible)…, on the news every night with some killing here and there. And the community of nations went there and imposed the peace.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Do you feel now that war is inevitable in Iraq?

CHRÉTIEN: For me it’s never inevitable. You know, if Saddam Hussein was smart he would make a move over the weekend. You know, he has made a move on missiles. I don’t know why he’s not just, come-on guys and look at this like it was done in South Africa. But I think he’s crazy too.

Unfortunately I don’t think that he is…, you know he’s acting in…, he attacked his own people with biological instruments and so on…, So he’s not…, does not seem to be very rational about that. It is his own people who will pay the price. You know, it’s not…, I think the Americans are much too strong for them. It’s not a real match. And why does he come and take anything that we have, I mean…, You know, Blix says that he’s making progress. I don’t know why it’s taking so much time. But in fact, he’s trapped and he cannot move. Two hundred and fifty thousand American and British soldiers waiting there. I’m telling you that if I were in his…, you know, in his boots I would be shaking.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Prime Minister, thank you very much.

CHRÉTIEN: My pleasure to be with you Sir. *****    

-- 
Gary Lawrence Murphy - garym@teledyn.com - TeleDynamics Communications
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  "Computers are useless. They can only give you answers." (Picasso)