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A Debate on Iraq As U.S. Warplanes Kill Eight


From Basra to the Pentagon:
Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark at the scene of the attack vs. Lt Colonel David Lapan at the Pentagon

* Democracy Now! confronts the War Department on the legality of the "no-fly zone"…

Pentagon: "The United States did not agree at the end of the Gulf War to comply to UN Security Council resolutions."—spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel David Lapan

Ramsey Clark (to Pentagon): "You don't care about these dead people. You didn't hit Saddam Hussein, you hit Iraqi people. They hadn't hurt anybody. They hadn't done anything. You've done it time and time again and you know it."

*DN! confronts the Pentagon on Donald Rumsfeld's role in propping up Saddam Hussein…

Pentagon: Secretary Rumsfeld was in Syria at the time, there was no evidence that he met with the Iraqis.

Democracy Now! Host Amy Goodman: No, he went to Iraq and it was widely reported, both times. And he met with Saddam Hussein...


The full transcript:

Amy Goodman: The Iraqi military says a U.S.-British air raid in southern Iraq on Sunday left eight civilians dead and nine wounded.

The U.S. Central Command in Florida said coalition aircraft used precision-guided weapons to strike two air defense radar systems near the Basra province (south of Baghdad) "in response to recent Iraqi hostile acts against coalition aircraft monitoring the Southern No-Fly Zone."

Iraq said U.S. and British warplanes attacked civilian targets in the south of the country Monday for the second consecutive day. A civilian was injured.

U.S. officials have said they have no way of confirming or denying Iraqi claims of casualties. They say coalition aircraft "never target civilian populations or infrastructure and go to painstaking lengths to avoid injury to civilians and damage to civilian facilities."

We turn now to Ramsey Clark, the former U.S Attorney General under Lyndon Johnson, he speaks to us from Basra. Welcome to DemocracyNow!

Ramsey Clark: Thank you, Amy, it's good to hear your voice.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you describe where you are and what you have found?

RAMSEY CLARK: Well, I'm sitting right near the edge of the Shaat Al Arab which is the famous watercourse after the Tigris and Euphrates join and flow into the Arabian Gulf. We've been doing, interviews at hospitals, we're right by the training hospital, the Basra training hospital. And, the misery from the sanctions and all is just as great as ever, and actually there's also a lot of concern about the possibility of a major offensive against the people who've endured a lot. They've has 88,500 tons of bombs dropped on them in 1991, and they've been attacked probably every week since March of 1991.

It's heavy bombing; they've had this recent attack here. It's really one of hundreds, but it's tragic because they think now the death toll is nine. The chief physician at the Basra training hospital told us, just a few minutes ago that he thought several more would probably die. There were a lot of casualties. There was- this hospital happens to be fairly distant from the site of the bombing, but there was one man who was not conscious, here, that we saw, he had, uh, wound to the right arm and the lower right abdomen and to the head, but they thought he'd be alright.

We've been killing people like that fairly regularly, we've never lost a plane, we've never had a casualty, we've never even scared anybody. None of our people have ever been scared, that is-we've scared, frightened a nation here continuously.

AMY GOODMAN: Ramsey Clark, we're also joined here by Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel David Lapan ...Can you talk about what happened this weekend..., Lieutenant David Lapan

RAMSEY CLARK: What they say happened.

Lt. Col. David Lapan: Sure, uh, as we, as we discussed briefly yesterday, coalition aircraft responded yester-, I'm sorry, on Sunday, to uh, anti-aircraft artillery fire directed at them from Iraqi military sites, they responded Sunday using precision guided munitions on those sites. As we said, we have no way of confirming or denying whether there were any casualties, specifically whether those casualties may have been military or civilian, we certainly go to great lengths to avoid any type of civilian casualties. Our quarrel is not with the Iraqi people at all, it's with the Iraqi military, and if the Iraqi military would not threaten our aircraft and would not shoot at our aircraft, these responses would not continue. The only reason we take action is in response to these threats, and with all due respect to Mr. Clark, I would take exception to his comments that our crews are never scared or threatened, they certainly are on a daily basis, fired upon, eliminated with fire control radar and other hostile actions taken by the Iraqi forces.

AMY GOODMAN: Ramsey Clark?

RAMSEY CLARK: [In] 12 years none of them [have been] hit, I'd write a insurance policy for them if they need one. I don't mean to say that just getting in the jet isn't dangerous, but it's about as dangerous as flying over south Florida or anyplace else. To kill civilians like that, and you're in what you call a no-fly zone, but that's not authorized by these United Nations, that's the sovereign territory of Iraq, you have no right to be flying over here. But God knows that you don't have the right week after week to be killing civilians or soldiers, or whoever they are on Iraqi soil because you think they fired at you but never hit you.

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Well, again, it's not a question of thinking that they've fired upon us, it's that they actually have fired upon our aircraft on numerous occasions. Again, it happens on a daily basis over Iraq, and if the Iraqis would not fire upon our aircraft we would not respond, so, the person at the foot of this problem is Saddam Hussein. If he were to comply with the U.N. resolutions, if he were to comply with the agreement he made at the end of the Gulf War, we would not be there.

RAMSEY CLARK: [unintelligible] ...flying over their territory, you have never been hit in 12 years. You say they're shooting at you every day, which means you're flying over their territory every day. What right do you have to keep shooting at civilians who can't...killing civilians on the ground, a whole bunch this last weekend when they haven't hurt you at all. You can fly safely, you've proven you can fly safely, they haven't hit you in all these years- if you're going to violate their rights and violate international law and fly over their airspace than at least don't kill their people while you do it.

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Well, again, I would point out that we do not target civilian people at all...

RAMSEY CLARK: You don't care about these dead people, apparently, these people are Iraqis. You didn't hit Saddam Hussein, you hit Iraqi people. They hadn't hurt anybody, they hadn't done anything. You've done it time and time again and you know it.

AMY GOODMAN: What are the estimates Lieutenant Colonel David Lapan that you have of the number of Iraqis the U.S. military has killed in these bombings over the last ten years?

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Well, we don't have any estimates because we have no way of confirming what has happened on the ground there. Uh, we can certainly tell from the, we can certainly tell from intelligence sources whether military equipment may have been destroyed or disabled, but we certainly don't have the ability to tell if anyone has been injured or killed, and further to be able to tell if those killed were military people or civilians.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you concerned that civilians are being killed?

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Well, we're always concerned, but again, we take extraordinary measures to ensure that our strikes are directed at military targets. We use precision guided weapons [which], we admit, are not 100% accurate, but the fact that we use them -- and no other countries do -- show that we do have concern for hitting exactly what we're going after, and not inflicting damage outside of that...

AMY GOODMAN: Ramsey Clark...

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: ...we pick those targets specifically, uh, to disable the Iraqi air defense system so they can't threaten our aircraft and we do so with an eye toward civilian populations. Uh, unfortunately, Saddam Hussein and his forces, many times, choose to put military equipment and military facilities in the center of civilian populations, uh, because they obviously don't care for the civilian population as they've shown over the years.

AMY GOODMAN: Ramsey Clark, what estimates do you have of the number of Iraqis who've been killed by these bombing?

RAMSEY CLARK: [unintelligible]...if you want to, but the fact is that you're just shooting regularly and you've admitted that you choose your targets. And if you're choosing your targets then you're not returning fire, and you don't have any more right to kill an Iraqi soldier than you have to kill an Iraqi woman nursing her baby. You're not at war, there's no declaration of war, you're in their airspace illegally, you shouldn't be shooting and you know it. And if we keep doing that we're not going to have a friend on Earth...and don't deserve any. We're going to have this whole region angry at the United States, you just can't go around killing people like that and claim it's because it's because some guy named Saddam Hussein is bad.

AMY GOODMAN: Ramsey Clark, what estimates do you have of the number of people who've been killed by U.S. bombs over the last ten years?

RAMSEY CLARK: Well, Amy, we're talking about a very minor fraction of those who've been killed by the sanctions. I can tell you on one day, for instance, January 19, 1993, we launched about 20 Tomahawk cruise missiles. We hit the al Rashid Hotel. We killed Leila al Atar who was one of the great artists, great women painters in the Arab world, internationally known. We destroyed her home and her children and her life- not her art, thank heavens. We probably killed, we killed about 2 people sweeping up in lobby of the al Rashid. And we know why that missile was fired. There was a meeting that this bad man that we, and our friend from the Air Force or the Army, or whatever he is, have been talking about, was going to have a meeting there of Muslim leaders, and they thought they might on the last day of a former presidency get to kill- assassinate if you will- a foreign leader meeting with Islamic leaders from the whole region. I think on that single day probably 25 or 30 people were killed as I recall. I can remember in the [Mosal??] area at times when 4, 5, 6 people were killed. It'd be...over 10 years, he's talking every day...I don't think it's every day, but it's probably close to every day. He should know better than I do, the Air Force should know how many flights it has and how many times they're shooting. It could be way, way up in the hundreds, maybe up in the thousands...I don't know. Not as many as they killed when they dropped 88,500 tons of bombs on Iraq in 110,000 aerial sorties in 42 days- one every 30 seconds.

AMY GOODMAN: Lieutenant Colonel David Lapan, what would the United States do if Iraq flew planes over the United States?

RAMSEY CLARK: They wouldn't get over the United States before they were shot down.

AMY GOODMAN: No, I'm asking Lt. Col. David Lapan. What would the United States do if Saddam Hussein flew planes over the United States?

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Well, one, I don't think it's a fair comparison, the no-fly zones were imposed after the Gulf War, contrary to what Mr. Clark has said, if the U.N....

RAMSEY CLARK: [unintelligible]...the United Nations did not approve these no-fly zones Colonel and you know it.

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Now, the United Nations authorized member states to take whatever actions were necessary to stop the genocide that was going on in the north and in the south. No-fly zones were established to keep the Iraqi government from attacking civilian populations in the north and in the south and from advancing on their neighbors like they did in Kuwait. The U.N. Security Council...

RAMSEY CLARK: Id like for you to come over here and explain that to the families of these 9 people who died in Sunday's bombing? I'm sure they'd appreciate that. There's some genocide going on here and that's why you justify unilateral U.S actions without the approval of the United Nations?

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Again, the no-fly zones are based on U.N. Security Council resolutions. I mean, they're completely legal.

RAMSEY CLARK: There's not a member of the (U.N.) Security Council that believes that including our ambassador. We've been criticized uniformly, internationally for the no-fly zones as being not authorized by the United Nations and you must know that- I mean, everyone knows that.

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: [unintelligible]

RAMSEY CLARK: We're talking seriously about facts and truth.

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: [unintelligible]...if they would refrain from firing on our aircraft, they wouldn't be attacked in response. And as far as the Iraqis flying aircraft into the United States, again, we did not, the United States did not agree at the end of the Gulf War to comply to U.N. Security Council resolutions, which we have failed to do- which they have failed to do, so it's like comparing apples and oranges.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, another question...

RAMSEY CLARK: [unintelligible]...been 365 days, in 10 years, that'd be 3,650 days you've fired on Iraqi people because you claim somebody shot at you but they never hit you they fired on you. It's getting pretty monotonous to kill people all that time when nothing ever happens to you isn't it?

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Well, I mean that's absolutely false, Mr. Clark. We fly most every day, not every single day, and we certainly do not fire every single day. What I said originally is that the Iraqis fire on our aircraft on a daily basis- we do not respond to them every time they shoot at us.

RAMSEY CLARK: See, that's what we're talking were shot at 600..all I said was you were shot at 3,650 times- one time a day over 10 years and they never hit you. That's all I said, I never said you hit them every day.

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Well, not being hit is a measure of success...I would not be responsible as an American service member to agree that if we had aircraft shot down that would be a good thing.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to break for...

RAMSEY CLARK: If I walked down the street every day for 10 years and somebody shot at me every day, and I shot...I'd get tired of killing people simply because they seemed to shoot at me but could never hit me. I don't think you can possible justify that morally or legally.

AMY GOODMAN: [Station identification break]

AMY GOODMAN: I have a question for Lt. Col. David Lapan. On this issue of those who get killed with U.S. bombs, you talked about U.S. intelligence letting you know whether you have crippled Iraqi military. What kind of satellite imagery do you have, what kind of intelligence on the ground to let you know if people are killed or wounded?

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Well, again, as I mentioned, we don't have the ability to confirm to that level of detail whether individuals were killed or wounded. Our technology, which I can't speak to in particular, will give us an idea whether a target has been hit. So, we can see buildings, we can see pieces of equipment, things of that nature. It doesn't allow us to be able to tell if individuals have been taken to a hospital somewhere for treatment...whether there were a number of individuals and who they were, whether they were military or civilian, we just don't have that ability.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you able to see bodies on the ground? I know with that Connus imagery that the Pentagon bought up the excusive rights to Afghanistan, you can see bodies on the ground.

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Well, again, that presumes that we have the ability in real time to look at what's going on on the ground. I would think that as in most cases where there's an incident where people are injured they're immediately or fairly immediately taken away for treatment, so it's not a question of being able to look, you know, a time in the future to tell what happened there.

AMY GOODMAN: Former Attorney General Ramsey Clark...

RAMSEY CLARK: They take away the dead and injured as quickly as they can, you're right about that, Colonel. Now, let me ask you whether you're using depleted Uranium ammunition when you shoot at Iraq, now. We just watched a bunch of people dying from radiation from depleted uranium here in southern Iraq.

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Well, I can tell you that currently we do not use any depleted Uranium. There may be people who were injured during the Gulf War, again, when Iraq invaded Kuwait, in which depleted Uranium was used in some cases against Iraqi military targets, but it is not used today.

RAMSEY CLARK: Well, these people weren't military targets, you can tell by looking at them. They're women, and still here 10 years later some of them are still quite young. But they do have leukemia, and they do have tumors, and cancer, they do have deformed babies, and they do have miscarriages with deformed fetuses and it's just a real mess. I just hope the U.S. will never use depleted Uranium again.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask another question. That is; Vice-President Dick Cheney gave a speech in front of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Nashville on Monday and presented the Bush administration's most forceful arguments yet for attacking Iraq, saying that Saddam Hussein could get nuclear weapons, though he presented no evidence of that. Lt. Col. David Lapan, what evidence does the military have for Saddam Hussein having nuclear weapons?

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Well, as the Vice-President and the President have both said, when the time comes to make our case to our allies and to the American people, we will do that. So, we're not at the point where the President has made a decision about any possible military action against Iraq. Regime change in Iraq is the U.S. government's policy and has been since 1998. So that continues to be our policy, but how to achieve that policy is something that is still being discussed. But at the time when the President makes a decision, if he does, then whatever evidence that we have to make our case, then we will certainly present it.

AMY GOODMAN: Ramsey Clark?

RAMSEY CLARK: So you're going to have the punishment and then the know you're supposed to act meagerly. We have a constitution and we have international law that binds us and you can't attack a country, an act of aggression, because you believe you have some evidence. Now, we've been through the Tonkin Gulf resolution, we've been through 'Remember the Maine', how many times have been told these things?

The probability that Iraq could be a threat is absurd. Who's got nuclear weapons? We've got them. Who has the nuclear weapons in the region? Israel has them. Where did Israel get them? They got them from the United States, didn't they? They got the technology and they got the material. Let's be realistic, if you want to do something about nuclear weapons, you'd better ban them every place- instead of trying to blast nations off the face of the Earth because you don't really like them, because you want their oil, because you want to dominate the region, and then claim that you're afraid they're going to develop a nuclear weapon. The threat is zero…

Your military services says it destroyed 80% of all of the military capacity of Iraq including any capacity it had for weapons of mass destruction, and then the U.N. came in and said it destroyed 90% of the remaining, that left- that means they have 2% today of what they had in 1991, and how many casualties did we have in 1991? They had a thousand for every casualty we had. As we bombed the country and civilian population, we destroyed the infrastructure. There were tens of thousands of civilians killed at that time, just as there have been hundreds and possibly thousands during the 10 years in the past when you've been flying over every day and shooting at people.

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Amy, if I would, if I could, I'd like to point out that it's interesting that Mr. Clark focused on nuclear weapons and didn't mention at all chemical or biological weapons. There was certainly evidence that Iraq used chemical weapons on its own people, they have used chemical weapons on the Iranians,and when U.N. weapons inspectors...

RAMSEY CLARK: How many were involved? How many hundreds were involved? How long ago was that? How many did they use in 1991 when we were blasting them off the face of the Earth? We bombed them from Basra to Mosul.

AMY GOODMAN: Col. David Lapan, I wanted to follow up on that question on the use of biological and chemical weapons. My colleague Jeremy Scahill did a piece called “The Saddam in Rumsfeld's Closet” about how when Donald Rumsfeld was the envoy for the Reagan/Bush administration to Iraq, he met with Saddam Hussein in 1983 and then again in 1984. He met with him when both the U.N. and U.S. State Department had released reports that Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons, yet, at that time he raised no objection. In fact, he was there recommending the normalization of relations with Saddam Hussein. Your response to that?

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Well, one of my colleagues had dealt with this issue, so I'm not fully up to speed on it, but it is my understanding that Secretary Rumsfeld was in Syria at the time, there was no evidence that he met with the Iraqis.

AMY GOODMAN: No, he went to Iraq and it was widely reported, both times. And he met with Saddam Hussein. He met with Saddam Hussein, and afterwards the Reagan and Bush administration normalized relations with Iraq and …allowed the sale of goods to Iraq.

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Again, I'm just not well versed in that aspect of things.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, at the time- and this was in a number of newspapers- the U.S. was very clear, and you certainly know about the [New York Times] piece that recently came out that talked about the U.S. knowledge, defense intelligence agency, etcetera, information about the use of biological weapons by Saddam Hussein, and yet they continued to work with, the U.S. continued to work with Saddam Hussein. As one DIA analyst said, "What is the difference between people being killed by phosgene or bullets?"

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Well, I would argue that there's a great difference.

AMY GOODMAN: Right, but that's what the U.S. government, a U.S. government representative's saying this. So, the U.S. administration over the years has had clear evidence of Saddam Hussein using biological and chemical weapons and in the past, the very officials who are speaking about that today, were cementing relations with Saddam Hussein, even having that information.

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Again, I can't address those issues. They're not something that I deal with.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, let me ask you one more question about the no-fly zone that you raised, both former Assistant Secretary-Generals of the United Nations, Hans Von Sponek and Denis Halliday who both ran the Oil for Food program in Iraq have said at the United Nations that there is no basis in the United Nations for the no-fly zones. It's a bilateral agreement between the United States and Great Britain. France pulled out of this, and under international law, Iraq has the right to shoot when U.S. and British warplanes fly over its airspace. So, what justification is there for these no-fly zones?

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Again, I take you back to U.N. Security Council resolutions at the time of the Gulf War, in particular, UNSC resolution number 678 which called upon all member states of the United Nations to use all necessary means to implement the council's resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area. Security Council resolution 687, which provided the conditions for the Desert Storm ceasefire and again, to which the Iraqis agreed, and continue to use all necessary means for the implementation of Security Council resolutions. There is also a U.N. Security Council resolution number 688 which demanded that Iraq cease oppression of its civilian population. And again, the purpose of the no-fly zones is to prevent Iraq from threatening civilian populations in the north and in the south as they did early in the 1990's, and also to threaten their neighbors, as they did when they invaded Kuwait. So, the legality of the no-fly zones are based in the U.N. Security Council resolutions.

AMY GOODMAN: But where does it say in any of these U.N. resolutions that the U.S. can fly over sovereign airspace?

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Again, it allows all member states to use all means necessary to implement the U.N. Security Council resolutions. And as the U.N. Security Council continues to point out today, Iraq has not complied with those resolutions.

AMY GOODMAN: Then why isn't it a U.N. imposed no-fly zone?

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: I don't know, you'd have to ask the U.N.

AMY GOODMAN: It is the perception of our correspondent, Jeremy Scahill, who's spent a good deal of time in Iraq, that the purpose of these U.S. missiles that, the bombing, of Iraq by U.S. warplanes is to terrorize the population, that's certainly the effect of it, not Saddam Hussein. It's the people who bear the brunt of it.

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: That is absolutely false. I don't know where he gets his information, but as I said...

AMY GOODMAN: Well, of 10 years of bombing of the population.

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Well, not 10 years of bombing the population, and I would point out that the no-fly zones, both of them have not been in place for 10 years. but the no-fly zone ...attacks that occur are in response to Iraqi firing at our aircraft, and again, our responses are targeted at military targets.

There is no effort at all, there is no inclination to do anything to the Iraqi people. In fact, that's the reason that our U.S. government's policy is regime change in Iraq, to free the Iraqi people from the repression in which they live. And again, Mr. Clark pointed out cases of leukemia and things of that nature, but refused or chose not to talk about, the millions of Iraqis who have died as a result of Saddam Hussein's actions while he and his coterie continue to live in presidential palace.

RAMSEY CLARK: A million Iraqis have died from Saddam Hussein's actions- that's the most absurd comment I've ever heard among many absurd comments from official United States government.

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Well, sir, the Oil for Food program is known to bring millions and millions of dollars to feed the Iraqi...

RAMSEY CLARK: We [unintelligible] the Oil for Food program for years, and then we [unintelligible] for years [unintelligible] ...we've got enough to do it, there are children dying here. They were well fed before our sanctions. The United States imposed those sanctions on the security council which implemented them, and it's a genocidal act, and there's going to be accountability if we don't stop these aggressions against people. You're talking about 10 years later, because you say they were attacking their own citizens in the south, you maintain a, you create a no-fly zone- it's like our Indian policy- 250 years later we're still oppressing the Indians because of our original policy. Someday you're going to have to learn to live with the rest of the world and you can't do it by force, and you can't be shooting at countries every day or every other day because you want to terrorize them or you want to debilitate them or whatever your purpose is. It's a crime to do that and you have to stop it.

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Amy, just to finish my point, I'd like to say that, again, if your correspondent, or Mr. Clark has visited Baghdad, and other places in Iraq where they've seen presidential palaces with gold and marble and imported material that costs millions and millions of dollars that are altars for Saddam Hussein, yet at the same time they complain that people are starving in their country. How could that money be better used?

RAMSEY CLARK: You've got to be childlike to think palaces cost as much as food. The value of all the palaces in Iraq wouldn't feed the people in this country for three months and you must know it. There are a lot of people living here, it takes a lot of food and a lot of medicine and they don't have it. You ought to come over and come through the hospital as we've been doing today and yesterday and the day before and see how much medicine they've got. See whether they've got enough chemotherapy- they do not. … We watched a young boy today, a beautiful young child, they could give him half a dose when he needed a whole dose and they couldn't give him radiology which he really needs but they can't give him because they don't have the capacity.

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Mr. Clark, could you justify for the people why Saddam Hussein and his regime have the need for multimillion dollar palaces spread across the country if their country is starving and people are dying, what need do they have-

RAMSEY CLARK: Why don't you face the real problem? Why can't you face the real issue? You haven't talked about his yachts in the Euphrates either. Do you really think that anybody in their right mind would get on a yacht in the Euphrates? The Air Force would blast them right off the water if the Marines didn't get there first- and I'm a Marine, I can tell you we'd try to. But you won't face the issue, we are laying our fists on the whole face of this country and every person living in it- and it has nothing- we're demonizing one man to say it's justified for that reason. And we're going to liberate them; they haven't asked to be liberated. And the way you do it, if you believe in democracy, it's not by guns. … What we're doing is, talk about the Germans 'shoot first, ask questions later', and I'll protect you later. We know who said that, it was the Gestapo instruction, and that's what you're doing right now, you shoot first and you'll ask questions later and you hope somebody will protect you- you hope.

That's why we oppose the International Criminal Court, because we're instructing people to do things that are crimes under international law, under U.S. law for that matter. I been working it for half a century and that's my opinion.

AMY GOODMAN: Let me ask a final question of Lt. Col. David Lapan, and that is, this word 'regime change'. It's a new one in the Pentagon lexicon when it comes to Saddam Hussein, can you talk about why you chose those two phrases.

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Well, it's not really a new word, if you go back to the Iraq Liberation Act, which was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1998, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, it says specifically that the policy of the United States toward Iraq was 'regime change'. So, it has been around for two administrations now and through different versions of the U.S. Congress. Again, 1998 is when regime change was formalized into law as the policy of the United States government.

AMY GOODMAN: Is the term regime change being used because it is, let me just ask this...

RAMSEY CLARK: If you'll look back in history, you'll find that there is just one type of nation that engages in regime change without exception, and that is aggressor nations. It's aggressor nations that are in the business of changing regimes, democratic nations don't do it by violence

AMY GOODMAN: Lt. Col. David Lapan, is the reason regime change is being used is because it is illegal to overthrow a sovereign nation?

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: No, I wouldn't say so. Again, regime change speaks to the desire of the United States to see Iraq become a free and liberated country at peace with its neighbors. Again, the regime change is specifically not to make this just about one person, it's not Saddam Hussein necessarily because his sons are just as evil as he is. We don't wish to see Iraq replace one dictator with another. It's the desire of the United States [unintelligible] for the people of Iraq to have a representative government, and there are a number of Iraqi opposition groups striving for that goal.

RAMSEY CLARK: [unintelligible]

AMY GOODMAN: Ramsey Clark...

RAMSEY CLARK: Stop talking a minute so we can hear something meaningful. You don't see a single neighbor that's asking for Iraq to be targeted, do you? Turkey doesn't want it, Iran doesn't want it, Saudi Arabia doesn't want it, Jordan doesn't want it. Who are you talking about 'protecting from the neighbors'?

Let the neighbors tell you they want you to come in here and bomb. They haven't said it and the Iraqi people haven't said it, and we are in violation of international law when we attack this country just like we did on Saturday or Sunday and we've been doing for too many days and too many years.

AMY GOODMAN: What Arab country, what neighboring country is supporting the United States in this attempted quote "regime change", or overthrow of the government of Saddam Hussein?

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Well, again, there's been a lot of supposition in the media about attacking Iraq, and until the President has made his decision, it's just that- supposition. But until the decision is made then those countries will either support or they will not. But it's premature to talk about support for military action before any decisions have been made.

AMY GOODMAN: Is there any government that is supporting the Bush administration's call for quote "regime change"?

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Certainly. There are a number of countries in that region who feel that Saddam Hussein is a threat to the entire region and to their countries.

AMY GOODMAN: And which country is supporting the U.S. efforts to overthrow Saddam Hussein?

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Well, we'd prefer to let those countries speak for themselves, but it would not be difficult for someone to look at Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and other neighboring countries. Iran, with which Iraq fought a long war, is feeling that Iraq is a peaceful neighbor.

AMY GOODMAN: Are you suggesting that Iran, Saudi Arabia, or Kuwait is calling for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein?

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Again, I can't speak for other governments. I would just say that Kuwait, having been invaded by their Arab brothers in 1991 would most likely still consider that regime to be a threat to their sovereignty. Iraq continues to make bellicose statements about Kuwait, they still have not learned their lesson from the Gulf War. They have not lived up to the Security Council resolutions, they have not lived up the agreements they have made. There are hundreds, if not thousands of Kuwaitis who are still unaccounted for after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, and Iraq has not helped Kuwait to determine the fate of those individuals.

AMY GOODMAN: Yet, it's interesting that Kuwait has not supported the U.S. in the call for regime change.

RAMSEY CLARK: Well, there are 50, at least, Iraqis missing in action, and missing from U.S. aggression, the ones claiming to be missing, claims to be missing, from any other country claims to missing from Kuwait.

LT. COL. DAVID LAPAN: Well, you need to separate the idea of regime change from an attack. A lot of the speculation and discussion has been focused on an attack on Iraq. Again, whether neighboring countries support that or not remains to be seen until the decision is made. But I would argue that there are neighboring countries in that region who feel that Iraq remains a threat to their region, to their countries, and to their peoples.

RAMSEY CLARK: [unintelligible]...been attacked by the United States.

AMY GOODMAN: We need to wrap up this discussion to move on to the immigrant workers at the Los Angeles airport that have been arrested over the last few days. Ramsey Clark, last word from Basra, Iraq.

RAMSEY CLARK: Amy, one of the most critically important, imperatives for the American people is to prevent their government from engaging in yet another murderous assault on the people of Iraq. After all the misery we've imposed on those people, it's imperative that we stop that. There's a movement that's growing daily, it's fed by support internationally, there'll be big rallies from September 14 through 16 and a big rally in Washington D.C. and San Francisco on October 26, there'll be weekly meetings all over the country trying to build a movement. This was built in the Vietnam War to stop us from an even more serious aggression where we have a chosen enemy that we call evil like we're God, and have destroyed mercilessly for years and has been defenseless throughout. We claim to have had 157 casualties when we killed tens and tens of thousands in 42 days of bombing in 1991, and we're carting on- we're going to do that again if we don't stand up and stop this. Our government, their acts are our responsibility and we have to bring this to an end and seek friendship with people and not kill them.

AMY GOODMAN: Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General speaking to us from Basra, Iraq, and Lt. Col. David Lapan speaking to us from the Pentagon. You are listening to DemocracyNow!, we'll be back in a minute.


- Democracy Now is a national daily newshour hosted by award-winning journalist Amy Goodman. It airs on Pacifica Radio, community radio stations, Free Speech TV (ch 9415 DishNetwork) and Public Access Cable TV stations around the United States.

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