ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Okay, so why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself.
CLIFF MAY: I’m Cliff May. I’m the president of something called The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. It’s a policy institute -- a think tank sometimes called -- on terrorism and was formed almost immediately after 9-11, 2001...
[AMBIENT NOISE REDUCTION]
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Okay, why don’t you go ahead and introduce yourself again.
MAY: I’m Cliff May. I’m the president of something called the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, which is a policy institute -- sometimes called a think tank. It was formed almost immediately after 9-11, 2001 to focus specifically on the issue of terrorism and democracy -- in creating the institutions of democratic government.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And when you look at the role of the United States -- What do you see as your vision for what the role the United States should be in the world?
MAY: Well, I think that is part of what we want to develop through research --
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: I’m sorry -- My question, I’m not going to be including my questions.
MAY: Right, right, right. -- What we’re trying to do -- What we have been trying to do for almost three years now is look at the phenomenon of terrorism and who it targets. And develop, as best we can, policies that can help successfully defend democratic societies from terrorists and from the ideologies that both justify and drive terrorism. The other side of the coin is freedom and human rights and democratic government. It seems to us that where those things flourish, you’re unlikely to be also finding terrorism thriving. And so we have run democracy programs, for example, with women in Iraq to help women understand democratic governance better. It’s a hard thing if you’re an Iraqi to understand, because under Saddam Hussein you had no access to any materials about it -- You know people vote - -You know people get freedom of speech, but that’s pretty much it. So part of what we are trying to do is promote freedoms, human rights, democratic government. And in regard to human rights, in particular, we think very important -- are the freedom of worship and also women’s rights. A society that disenfranchises women is unlikely to be a successful and prosperous society, and by definition is not an entirely free society.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And when you look at democratic societies can you speak to law and the role that law plays?
MAY: Yeah. When we talk about the democratic societies, it means more than the right to vote, for example. People don’t always understand that democracy does not mean that the two wolves sit down with the sheep and vote on what to have for dinner. When we talk about democratic societies and democratic institutions, what we mean are such things as the rule of law, and an independent judiciary, and a free press, and a way for citizens to choose or at least consent to who governs them. And probably property rights are a very important component of that as well. You can prioritize this -- But those are the kinds of concepts that people need to understand -- And by the way, even here in the west -- or here in the United States -- I think we don’t necessarily understand these concepts very well. We operate within them perfectly well, but that’s not the same. Its like saying, "Well, I can drive a car, but that doesn’t mean I could build a car -- or even fix a car." And when we talk about a country that has lived under tyranny, where you’re trying to bring democratic institutions, you have to do more than operate a system that is already in use. You have to create systems. And that’s a very tricky thing to do. It has not been very successfully done very many times in history. It has happened, but it’s not been easy.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And when you speak to the rule of law, can you elaborate as to the importance of the rule of law?
MAY: Well, I think the rule of law as a very important component of democratic governance. You should know what the laws are. You should know whether there is a way to change the laws. You should know whether or not you are breaking a law, and what the consequences of that are. In a country that is run by a despot, the law is whatever is written above his name. In a country like Iraq under Saddam Hussein, somebody who had done nothing wrong -- didn’t know in what way he had, for example, offended Saddam Hussein -- could find himself dragged off to prison -- could find himself very severely punished. A friend of mine, Don North has done a documentary called "Remembering Saddam." It’s a story of seven Iraqis, all of whom had their right arms amputated by Saddam Hussein -- not having done anything that anybody listening to this would consider to be a crime.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And when you look at the role of the United Nations -- How does the role -- How do you see the role of the United Nations?
MAY: The role of the United Nations has been disappointing. The United Nations is an organization comprised of democratic countries and dictatorial countries. And institutionally, the United Nations does not appear to have a preference of one over the other. The United Nations has a human rights commission that ignores gross human rights violations all over the world. In fact, representatives of the U.N. know that if your country has done something just egregiously bad in the air of human rights, the best thing you can do is get yourself named to the human rights commission and then there will never be any condemnation of you. The United Nations does not have a working definition of terrorism, for example, as well. So I think the United Nations in this point in its history is problematic in this regard.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: [Background noise] ... When you look at the role of debate as a form of education -- Can you speak to what the press should ideally do as a form of providing -- in terms of providing a forum of debate?
MAY: Well, I mean the role of the press -- The press I think has many roles, and they are very important roles. The press’ role should be -- 1.) Just to get the news to tell people what is going on in their own community, in their own country and in the world. Then there are various perspectives that need to be brought to bear on any issue. You should be able to find out through reading the press "What are the various proposals and solutions?" and "What is the debate?" And you should be able to get to see both sides -- maybe more than one / two sides of any particular debate. The press should be free to investigate and to root out corruption. Again, these are important tasks that be performed in a democratic society. They’re tasks that are not performed at all in a despotic dictatorship such as Iraq, for example -- such as North Korea, for example. There is -- Now of course Iraq today, post-Saddam Hussein, very much has a free press. There are literally scores of newspapers of every kind -- of every sort -- representing -- some that really try to do the news, and some that represent a particular ideology or opinion. It’s a huge marketplace of ideas right now. It’s certainly preferable to what you had in the past.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And when you look at the time period leading up to the military intervention in Iraq -- How would you evaluate the performance of both the print and television news media?
MAY: Overall, nothing to be terribly proud of. --
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: I’m sorry -- What is?
MAY: Overall, I don’t think the press in the months and years leading up to what I would call the liberation of Iraq from Saddam Hussein performed particularly well. We know that in order to have bureaus in Baghdad, any number of media outlets -- including the most -- some of the most important -- essentially agreed that they would not investigate the gross violations of human rights being committed by Saddam Hussein. They wouldn’t look into or report on the mass executions. They wouldn’t reveal the mass graves. They wouldn’t talk about the torture being inflicted -- the rape rooms that were used against those considered enemies of the regime -- the genocidal attacks against the Kurds -- the arbitrary arrests -- the amputations -- the beheadings. Right now, you can see -- I have in this office -- tapes that Saddam had taken of torture and executions carried out under his regime. They’re very difficult to watch. You see people having their fingers and their arms chopped off. You see people taken in handcuffs to the top of buildings and thrown off. And you see them wildly spinning their legs in the air hoping that they can manage to land on their legs -- not on their back or their head or their side, and they usually don’t succeed. You see people being beheaded with swords. These are people who may not have had any trial or have committed any crime whatsoever. I do not think that the American or the European or any other press revealed any of this to any extent prior to the liberation of Iraq. And I do not think they’ve done a very good job of revealing it since the liberation of Iraq.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And when you talk -- Do you consider the liberation of Iraq as a humanitarian intervention?
MAY: I do... --
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Hold on --
MAY: -- I consider that the liberation of Iraq was justified -- among other things -- from a humanitarian point of view -- just as the intervention on Kosovo and Bosnia were. Except that Saddam Hussein was -- had done much, much that was worse. He is responsible for killing more Muslims than probably any figure in world history. He attempted genocide against the Kurdish people. He sponsored terrorists and harbored terrorists in the country. He not only made weapons of mass destruction, he used them. He used chemical weapons of mass destruction against the Kurds. We know that at least until 1995, that he was working on biological weapons of mass destruction. We know that because his son-in-law Kamel Hussein had deflected and revealed that in 1996. Kamel Hussein would pay for telling us that with his life. As for nuclear weapons, we know that in 1991-- 1990, when we had the first Gulf War -- he was further along in developing nuclear weapons, than most intelligence analysts thought. I kind of think he probably didn’t get very far with nuclear weaponry after 1991 till 2003 when we toppled him. But I think he had in his plans -- when the pressure was off -- to do. So I think it was very much justified, and I think -- It’s certain the Iraqis that I work with -- the Iraqis I know -- are very glad to have that tyranny lifted from their shoulders. Though there’s a great challenge in establishing freedom and human rights and democracy in Iraq -- and as an ongoing project. I don’t think there are any guarantees of that. But Saddam Hussein was one of the worst tyrants of the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: The executive director of the Human Rights Watch, Kenneth Roth, in January came out with an article saying that Iraq should not be considered a humanitarian intervention. Did you see his article?
MAY: I did not see Kenneth Roth’s article on that.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Okay. He argues that there are actual legal proceedings that could have been taken up to indict Saddam as a war criminal back in the early 90’s that were not taken. But that also there was no evidence of either imminent or ongoing genocide --
MAY: Well, I think the evidence of genocide against the Kurds is pretty clear. I think it’s -- We know that chemical weapons were used. We’ve seen the films. We know of the Anfal Campaign. We know of -- I mean, we’ve seen the pictures of women with their babies lying down in the streets and dying. I don’t think Kenneth Roth wants to challenge the concept that Saddam Hussein tried to -- I mean, committed genocidal atrocities against the Kurds as well as terrible crimes. Whether you call genocide or not against the Marsh Arabs of the south. For thousands of years they’ve had a distinctive environment of wetlands that they’ve lived in, and he drained that. He drained that. And that’s forced hundreds of thousands of them -- probably -- to leave and many, many, many of them were killed. I think its -- I don’t know why anyone particularly from a group like Human Rights Watch would want to minimize these crimes. Now should we have indicted him along time ago? Yeah, I wish we would -- I wish we had. And I wish the international community had responded in a forceful way to stop the genocide in Rwanda. The international community -- the United Nations did not. I wish the international community had responded in a forceful way in Cambodia before the Cambodians were killed by the -- I guess by the millions by the Khmer Rouge. The U.N.-- the international community again did not. I know that the international community -- or the United States really -- can not intervene every time there is a terrible dictator who is doing awful things to his people -- or people of his region -- But I also don’t want to give any guarantees to these dictators that they never have to worry about anything, because there is a long procedure that has to be gone through before anything can happen to them. I think -- I think that’s a mistake. Again, I think we should be ashamed of what we didn’t do in places like Cambodia and Rwanda. And I think that history will find clearly that the liberation of Iraq was a noble cause.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And do you have any additional information as to why the United States decided not to take action on Human Rights Watch in the early 90’s when they came saying -- You know, Human Rights Watch says they went to every country they could go to --
MAY: Yeah. I have no idea what Human Rights Watch did or did not do in 1990’s. I am just not familiar with their efforts.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Okay... When you look at -- On September 18, 2002, George Bush says that its an important goal for "the world to see that this country is united in a resolve to deal with threats that we face." And he was referring to the ongoing -- upcoming congressional resolution that was going to be passed on October 10 and 11 -- So can you speak to what George Bush meant by that statement?
MAY: Well, I’m not sure I’m uniquely qualified to tell you what George Bush had in mind. I think I’d better direct you to the administration. I would say this -- That I think that President Bush did recognize that there were humanitarian interests. I don’t think he stressed that as much as he should have. We certainly urged that. One of the groups we worked with was a group called "Women For a Free Iraq" -- this was prior to the liberation. These women were trying very hard to make the point that the human rights situation in Iraq for years had been very dreadful, and that there needed to be some relief of that. They did get to go to the White House on two occasions and make that case to the president, and we helped to facilitate that. They did go to Capital Hill. And they did do a reasonable amount of media. There was less media interest than I might of thought -- I can remember one time being on a bus with members of the Women For a Free Iraq campaign -- which consisted of Sunni and Shia and Kurdish women -- and there were those signs that we passed saying "No War In Iraq." And the women got really upset seeing that. And I remember one of them saying to me, "I don’t understand what this means. We’re not asking for war on Iraq. There is a war taking place in Iraq. Saddam is waging it against us, against me, my relatives, my friends. We’re asking America, "Help us stop the war that Saddam is waging against the people of Iraq." And I said, "That’s the message you have to get across to people. And if you don’t do it, I don’t know who will." Now I also think that President Bush thought -- particularly in light of 9/11, and I think this is still true today -- that the most important risk facing the United States is that terrorists enabled by rogue regimes will be supplied with weapons of mass destruction. And certainly when you think about that, Saddam Hussein seems to be a problem. He is somebody who has declared -- had declared himself our enemy. We knew what his intentions were -- We didn’t necessarily know what his capabilities were -- because our intelligence was not as good as it should’ve been -- but we had some concept based on the fact that he had developed weapons of mass destruction, and worse he had used weapons of mass destruction against his enemies -- and he considered us among his enemies. Now in response to that you can do two things. You can say, "I’m going to take action unless he shows us -- shows the world -- as he agreed to do in exchange for the cease-fire in 1991 -- that he has accounted for his weapons of mass destruction, and he has destroyed his weapons of mass destruction." Or you can say, "You know what? I am going to cross my fingers and hope that nothing bad comes of this." I don’t think that was a prudent policy -- to cross one’s fingers and hope. We had tried it before throughout the 1990’s. We knew that about 20,000 terrorists were being trained -- mainly in Afghanistan -- also in Iraq -- places like Salman Pak, where there was a fuselage of an airplane to train terrorists -- and the Ansar al-Islam camp in the northern -- northeastern part -- and to an extent in Lebanon and in Syria -- But at least 20,000 terrorists were trained during the 1990’s. We didn’t close one of those camps. We didn’t infiltrate the organizations responsible. We didn’t follow the terrorists afterwards. We crossed out fingers and we hoped nothing bad would happen. And what happened was 9/11. So the question is -- "Do we go back to the policies of 9/10? Or do we go with new and reformed policies that President Bush has instructed. Or is there something better?" I’m open to anything like that. But the idea that after the 1990’s -- when we simply refused to recognize and appreciate the threat we faced from terrorists -- despite the fact they had attacked us for the first time -- the World Trade Center in 1993 -- And Osama bin Laden trained terrorists brought down a Black Hawk helicopter the same year in Mogadishu -- And in 1996, we were attacked in Khobar Tower in Saudi Arabia -- In 1998, two of our embassies were hit -- And in 2000, the U.S.S. Cole was hit -- Despite all that, we didn’t really do anything about terrorism or terrorist training camps.
After 2001 and now, I just think its just irresponsible to say, "Well, let’s just cross our fingers and hope. And maybe we can do some things to make ourselves less offensive to those who have been trained to kill us."
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And when you look at Saddam Hussein Do you see -- or Iraq -- Do you see Iraq as a threat? Was Iraq a threat?
MAY: I think Saddam Hussein was a threat. I think he was, because Saddam Hussein said it was a threat -- We went to war with Saddam Hussein, who clearly had the ambition to become an oil-rich, nuclear-armed, biological- and chemical-armed, emperor of the Middle East. He obviously intended to swallow Kuwait. He attempted to do so, and would have done so if the United States had not intervened. I don’t think the U.N. or anybody else was going to do anything about that if the United States did not. He had designs on Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region as well. He had fought a huge war of course with Iran -- no friend of ours at that point in history. But, nonetheless, it showed his intentions. In 1991, after we forced him out of Kuwait, we signed not a peace treaty but a cease-fire. He had to undertake certain obligations in exchange for that cease-fire and exchange for staying in his palaces. He did not fulfill his obligations under those treaties -- or under that cease-fire --And nor did he fulfill the obligations imposed upon him to which he theoretically agreed by the United Nations Security Council and more than a dozen resolutions.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Did we -- Did the United States therefore act in self-defense?
MAY: Yeah -- That’s a definitional thing whether – It’s definitional to say whether this was an act of self-defense. I would argue we had been at war. We were at war with Saddam Hussein starting in 1990 and 1991. That war didn’t end -- It was a cease-fire. If Saddam Hussein didn’t live up to his obligations, we had every right to declare the cease-fire "null and void." And to return to the conflict in order to force him to do what we had demanded and what he agreed to -- or to remove him from power. I think the more humanitarian course was to remove him from power, because after we left him in power in 1991, he killed tens of thousands of Iraqis. And I think we bear some responsibility for that, because we encouraged them to rise up against him. And they did -- the Shia did -- the Kurds did -- and then when he went and began to mow them down, we did nothing about it. So I do think that we did have a right and a responsibility to do something about his brutality. No one else would’ve.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: So in other words -- Our actions were not in self-defense then?
MAY: Umm -- The question of self -- Look -- You can say on the one hand that he was a growing threat that we had to act against. You can say that it was a humanitarian intervention. You can say that as long as he was sponsoring terrorism, and we were at a war against terrorists, we had every right to do that. I think -- It’s -- He was a threat. He was a growing threat to us. And he was somebody that had committed crimes against humanity. And I think from those and other points of view, it was absolutely justified to remove him from power.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Now when you speak of the cease-fire agreement -- Can you give just a little bit of your expertise on international law or what international lawyers you’re referring to when you refer to 687 resolution?
MAY: Well, I’m not an international lawyer and I’m not -- I don’t think I can go through all the resolutions -- I mean, the most obvious one is, of course, was simply 1441, which said -- which everyone on the Security Council agreed to -- which said that he was not in compliance -- he was in violation -- that he hadn’t fulfilled his obligations -- that he hadn’t met the terms of the U.N. resolutions -- he hadn’t undisclosed where his weapons of mass destruction were or what he had done with them. He hadn’t destroyed them in a verifiable manner, and that serious consequences would follow. Again, you need to go to international lawyers for international lawyer expressions of this. But I think at that point, it was pretty clear that serious consequences would follow as 1441 said. And serious consequences were what happened.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: So from your sense on the international legal community -- Do they believe that the legal argumentation of the United States that they gave forth with the cease-fire 687-678 and --?
MAY: There’s a dispute within -- among international lawyers. Don’ forget, international law is not like domestic law. You do not have a supreme court. You don’t have one body that can say, ‘This is what international law is. And this is how international law operates in this particular circumstance.’ International law has to do with customary law, it has to do with treaties, and it has to do with obligations. It’s not all that clear-cut. There are always going to be some disagreements.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: But it’s dis-proportionality -- It seems to me from the international lawyers I’ve talked to, the overwhelming consensus is that the legal argumentation that the United States was putting forth was "strained."
MAY: I think it’d be very difficult for you to quantify what international lawyers said. And I’m not sure -- and would I question how you did that. How many hundreds of international lawyers did you talk to in order to get that? But even if you did -- again --The way international law works is not that you take a survey of international lawyers, and the majority of international lawyers decide what international law is. International law is a lot muddier than that.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And I guess what I’m getting at is that -- you know, the cease-fire agreement -- There’s a difference between a bi-lateral cease-fire agreement and a Chapter 7, U.N. Security Council resolution that’s binding.
MAY: That’s right there’s a difference between a cease-fire agreement and Chapter 7, U.N. Security Council resolutions. I would argue that Saddam Hussein was in violation of both.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: But 687 was a Chapter 7 Security Council resolution. It wasn’t a bilateral agreement that you can just say, "It’s the armistice. It’s no longer valid and we are going to resume hostilities."
MAY: And that wasn’t the way the President -- the President -- President Bush could have taken that course. He didn’t necessarily need to go to the U.N. He didn’t necessarily need U.N. Security Council resolutions on Iraq. He was urged to that by Colin Powell -- I believe -- and certainly by Tony Blair, Prime Minister of Britain. But he could have done it in another way. For example, when President Clinton intervened -- rightfully, I will argue -- in the Balkans, Bosnia and Kosovo -- he did not go to the U.N. for approval. Now you may say, "Well that too was a violation of international law." And I’m sure you can find international lawyers will say it’s a violation of international law. But again international law is not like American domestic law where you can say, "Well, we took it to the Supreme Court so it’s established." It just doesn’t work that way.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Can you explain to me what John Negroponte might have meant when he said there were "no hidden triggers" or "no automaticity" in 1441?
MAY: I think you'll have to go to John Negroponte to explain -- I don’t think I’m not the best person to be explaining what diplomats are saying in their language.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Okay -- When you look at the television news coverage -- and I guess by working at the New York Times -- How do you see the New York Times as -- their front pages influencing the overall news cycle?
MAY: The New York Times, I should say in terms of news coverage, has done a pretty good job. Although I am critical of other areas, John Burns is a very good reporter and did some of the best reporting that I have seen from Iraq. The New York Times is particularly -- and has been for a long time -- influential in the sense that a lot of TV producers and other newspapers editors read it. And therefore, it can sort of form the agenda for a lot of the news. I don’t think it does quite effectively as it used to years ago. But it is still obviously one of the most important papers, and it does have that ability to sort of set the agenda. If it’s on the New York front page that means everybody is supposed to take it seriously, and they generally do. It doesn’t necessarily follow -- if they put it on page 14 that nobody takes the story seriously, though that can happen too.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Did you watch a lot of the ABC, CBS or NBC television news coverage leading up to intervention?
MAY: Yeah, I think I probably did
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: If you were to characterize the quality of reporting that was done on the television news -- What would you have to say?
MAY: I saw too little regarding what Saddam Hussein had done to that country, and to the region in the past. To some extent, you can say, "Well, there aren’t good pictures." But of some of that, there are. You can go on the internet and you look up Halabja -- a town in Kurdistan that Saddam Hussein wiped out with gas -- You can find those pictures. But I think there just -- There was not enough reporting on what happened to the Kurds, to the Marsh Arabs, to the Shia and to the dissidents inside Iraq under Saddam Hussein.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: So that in other words is like "Sins of Omission"...
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Could you talk about the coverage you did see? And how would you evaluate that?
MAY: Well, I can’t recall any other specific complaints --
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Just specifically, I guess -- With the military mobilizations -- I guess, it’s taking a step back --
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: At what point would you say that the military -- The mobilization was intended for enforcing the U.N. resolutions, and then there seemed to be a point where it shifted to the forces there being intended for a liberation action. At what point did you think that --?
MAY: Well, I think the legalistic argument always was -- or was once the president made the decision to go to the U.N. -- the legalistic argument that was Saddam Hussein was in violation of specific U.N. Security Council Chapter 7 resolutions, and that we were going -- we the United States was -- the United States and the coalition of the willing -- as it’s called -- were going to take the role of enforcing those resolutions. That was a legalistic. But that doesn’t negate the possibility that there were other reasons to do this. If you went to the U.N. and said, "We think we should secure a regime change in Iraq because the people are so sorely repressed by Saddam Hussein. He has killed so many of them -- So many are languishing in dungeons -- So many have been tortured." It would not be considered a serious argument at the United Nations, unfortunately.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Right. But who has a sovereign authority to enforce these resolution. It’s not the individual member of states is it?
MAY: Well again, I am not an international lawyer -- But under Resolution 1441, I think the argument would be, that if Saddam did not comply, serious consequences would follow -- And any member of the Security Council could lead the effort to bring those consequences to Saddam Hussein.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: But they didn’t say that in 1441 though.
MAY: It said "serious consequences" would fall by tradition -- somebody has to bring those consequences. You can argue -- and I know some people do -- that "Oh, then you needed another resolution in order to make sure that that actually happened and to authorize that." Again, if you take that point of view, then you must also take the view was illegal for the United States to intervene in Bosnia and Kosovo without any U.N. authorization. I do not take the point of view -- though I know some do -- that you can only intervene when there is U.N. authorization. I do not see the United Nations as a world government in any sense. I don’t think they’re the last word on international legality. And so I don’t think its necessary to go to them and ask permission. I think the U.S. doesn’t have to do that. I think they did in this case, and they can -- And again, this is the argument -- that you can have international lawyers have -- whether 1441 saying that ‘Saddam had to comply or serious consequences would follow was sufficient for the United States to lead a coalition to intervene’ or ‘Whether there needed to be a subsequent resolution.’ You’re right -- If there hadn’t been a request for a subsequent resolution -- it’s obvious -- that, for example, the French would not have endorsed it. They would have vetoed that. We also -- I think -- know at this point that the French were involved in the U.N. Food for Oil Program, which -- I think it’s pretty clear -- was a corrupt program -- probably the largest instance of corruption in human history in dollar terms -- So that the French, the Russians and others were doing good business with Saddam Hussein, which may have influenced their decision as to whether or not he should be toppled. And may have influenced their decision as to what international law said on this matter.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Well, the context of the debates around 1441 -- was debated for eight weeks over the very issue that the United States had explicit language authorizing military action. The French objected and then -- you know, they said there’s "no hidden triggers" and "no automaticity." And they set the two-stage process. So when you look at all that in that context, and then those debates -- I can’t see how you can make the claim that "serious consequences" equals "military action authorization."
MAY: Well, I understand that you don’t see that "serious consequences" mean "military action" I might ask you, "What do you think that ‘serious consequences’ does mean?"
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Well, serious consequences -- There’s explicit language --You know, you’re implying there’s implicit language. It has to be explicit -- say by use "by all necessary means" legally. International lawyers would tell you that.
MAY: Some international lawyers would. Some would not. Again, there is no judicial body that can give you an authoritative decision on this. [Interruption] .. I’m going to have to finish up here -- I have another appointment.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Okay. And when you look at the kind if journalistic, "He Said / She Said" type of objectivity standards -- Do you think the press showed the press showed enough skeptical viewpoints leading up to the liberation?
MAY: I haven’t done a real study of it. And this was going back more a year -- so it’s hard for me to say. I don’t remember being outraged that there wasn’t enough discussion of these issues. I think if you read a number of newspapers and magazines you probably got a range of views.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Now at one point you said that "There is no doubt Iraq has weapons of mass destruction." --
MAY: I said, ‘There is no doubt Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.’ How did I know that? Because he used chemical weapons against the Kurds -- and against the Iranians as well. As for developing biologic weapons of mass destruction, we know that because his son-and law Kamel Hussein -- among others -- revealed that to be the case -- and then many of them were destroyed. A good quantity of his weapons of mass destruction were in fact destroyed under the inspection regime. But there was a long list of unaccounted for weapons of mass destruction, anthrax and other things. And that’s what -- In resolution 1441 and in other resolutions, the demand was that he produce, account for those and that they be destroyed in a verifiable manner.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: But are you aware that Hussein Kamel also said in 1996 that they also destroyed all the weapons of mass destruction in 1991?
MAY: No, I am not aware of that. In fact, after 1995 we found some of those biological weapons of mass destruction. If memory serves.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: On February 24, 2002, Newsweek reported this -- that Hussein Kamel had also said this.
MAY: Was he back in Iraq at that point?
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: He had already defected. This is the debriefing in Jordan that happened by the -- both the UNSCOM and the CIA & MI6. It was reported on February 24 that he had also said he had destroyed all the weapons.
A So you think he was lying when he first said that there were these weapons. Or do you think that they had all been destroyed? Or are you thinking he would necessarily know this?
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: He said both. He said we have them, but we also destroyed them.
MAY: Well, based as I -- As memory serves, after he revealed the weapons in 1995, biological weapons were found and biological weapons were destroyed. That means from 1991 to 1995, at the very least Saddam Hussein was hiding those biological weapons from the inspectors in violation of the agreements he undertook.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: And when you look at why the United States went to war -- Do you feel that -- What from your sense is why we went to war?
MAY: We went to war for a number of reasons. But basically because Saddam Hussein seemed to be a threat to the United States that we didn’t want to tolerate -- and in the wake and the light of what had happened to us on 9/11. And again, I would say that throughout the 1990’s there were terrorists being trained to kill us -- We did nothing about that. They didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, but they killed about three thousand Americans on September 11, 2001. After that I think it is -- I think that we should look differently on those who declare themselves to be our enemies -- as Saddam Hussein did -- Swear revenge against us -- as Saddam Hussein did. And may have the capability to meet those intentions. Again, we don’t have to do that. The other policy -- and I urge people to debate it -- is to say, "No. After we’re attacked by suicide terrorists, then we can try to find out who is responsible and bring them to justice." That’s another point of view.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: From where we’re at right now -- What is your vision for world peace and what we need to do to get to that point?
MAY: Well, I think right now there are as number of totalitarian ideologies -- that you might want to group under the generic term "Jihadism" -- These are radical Islamism, which is not Islam. It is rather a political ideology that claims its legitimacy from Islam. They have dedicated themselves to the destruction of the United States and other free world countries. We’re fighting a war against these folks who are fighting a war against us. It was in 1996 that Osama bin Laden declared war against the United States. We didn’t respond to that very forcefully or effectively obviously. I think at this point we have to – We’re in a global conflict against terrorists driven by ideologies of hatred, and ideologies that seek to destroy us. We want to understand those ideologies, but I don’t think we can appease them. I certainly don’t think we should reward them. I think we will have to defeat them. In the 20th Century we fought similar ideologies -- Fascism, Communism, Nazism. They sought -- They were also totalitarian ideologies. They all were against the basic freedoms we enjoy. And they sought to destroy us. We prevailed. I think if we understand the totalitarian ideologies that once again are seeking to defeat the United States and other free world nations, then we can prevail and defend ourselves against them as well.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: Does the United States government have an official definition for terrorism? And if so --
MAY: Well, I do -- I don’t know -- I think terrorism is the intentional targeting of innocent civilians -- or even just non-combatants -- The targeting with violence of civilians for political purposes. I think that should be beyond the pale. I think that should be something that nobody accepts. I think it should be clear that terrorism always sets back the causes it claims to champion. I understand terrorism has been used in the past, and in the past there have been plenty of people who have accepted terrorism as a tool of war. But we've also accepted slavery and piracy and genocide. Morally, I think we have evolved pass that in terms of slavery and piracy and genocide -- I would like to think no longer accept those practices. I think the same should be true of terrorism of intentionally targeting innocent civilians. I think no matter what your grievance, no matter what your complaint, you do not express it by murdering other people’s children.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: The State department, do they define the global war on terrorism as being only international terrorism actions? Is there a distinction that the State Department makes between terrorism of killing civilians versus international organizations like al Qaeda?
MAY: Well, I think -- though I think you’d need to address this to the State Department -- that terrorism is committed by an organization. If a state does it -- some people would call it ‘state terrorism’ -- more likely, it would be called either a ‘War Crime’ or a ‘Crime Against Humanity.’ Again, these are definitional. A state can sponsor terrorism, but if the state sends out its army, for example, to kill innocent children, that’s probably definitionally a war crime.
ECHO CHAMBER PROJECT: I guess -- When Saddam Hussein is -- What kind of terrorism did he support?
MAY: He sponsored terrorism. I don’t think there is any question about that. Baghdad was terrorism central for a generation. He hosted terrorists. He had a terrorist training camp at Salman Pak. Again, it had a fuselage of an airplane there. Maybe some people think was to train airline attendants to do beverage service. But I greatly doubt it. He visited that camp. He told the terrorists that were being trained there -- both Iraqi terrorists and foreign terrorists -- that when they graduated their job was to attack, in particular, American interests. He paid for terrorism -- Rewarding the families of suicide bombers in the West Bank against Israel. I mean -- I don’t think there isn’t any serious question that he was a state sponsor of terrorism. And the importance about state sponsorship of terrorism, I think, is this -- That terrorist groups that have no state sponsorship, will be on the run, will not be comfortable, will have difficulty getting funds and fake ID’s and weapons -- whether conventional weapons or weapons of mass destruction. So they call still do damage, but it’s less. But when terrorist groups have state sponsorship, they can mount much more sophisticated operations. So, I think it’s very important states not sponsor terrorism. And states that do sponsor terrorism, I think are at war with us.
Transcription by Volunteer Citizen Journalist Cathryn Brown