Ted Koppel: It's Strange Dubya Opposed Saddam, Who Was Reagan's "S.O.B."

In his Monday chat with Charlie Rose on PBS, Ted Koppel played armchair general or armchair Secretary of State and explained why he would not have gone to war with Iraq, didn't see the urgent need to remove Saddam, saw no connection with terrorism, and worst of all, smeared Ronald Reagan as not caring about the gassing of Kurds in northern Iraq in 1988. This is, as a matter of historical record, untrue. Reagan went and denounced the gassing from the podium of the United Nations. Secretary of State George Shultz also denounced it in no uncertain terms. The ironic thing about Halabja? Our media didn't cover it very hard or very long at the time. So take a look at how much Koppel sounds like Joe Biden or John Kerry:

Rose: When you look at politics today, what the president is going through, you believed what about the Iraqi war in terms of the decision to go?

Koppel: I wasn't sure that it was the right time to go. I didn't for a moment doubt that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. I wasn't convinced that even in the hands of Saddam Hussein that those weapons presented a direct challenge to the United States. Based on my own discussions with people who have access to intelligence, I did not believe -- never did, don't believe it now -- that there was a real connection between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. May some al -Qaeda people or known terrorists have made it into Baghdad at some time or another? Sure. They've made it into Damascus and they’ve made it into Amman and they’ve made it into Cairo...

Rose: Riyadh, and a lot of other capitals.

Koppel: ….and we can't expect to go to war against all those countries. So the big question is the weapons of mass destruction, and my feeling was, I could not think of a single reason why Saddam Hussein would be foolish enough to employ any of those weapons against the United States of America.

Rose: Because it would be suicide?

Koppel: It would be suicidal. Might he employ them against the Saudis? Sure. We thought he was going to do that back in 1990 before Desert Storm.

Rose: After Kuwait.

Koppel: After Kuwait. I mean certainly he had shown the capacity to be aggressive against his neighbors. He had indeed used weapons of mass destruction, poison gas, against some of his own people, Kurdish iraqis. But he did that, Charlie, back in 1988, in a place called Halabja. And that was when the Reagan-Bush administration was in power, and frankly, nobody seemed to care back then because he was our S.O.B. He was perceived to be a useful balance against the Iranians and the crazy mullahs. So back then, nobody really cared. So to hear George Bush's son, you know, some 12 years later or -- 13 years later, suddenly cite that as one of the reasons why we had to go to war, I couldn't see that there was any urgency.

Rose: Did you find another reason that you felt was compelling to go to war if not now in three months or four months?

Koppel: Not to go to war. I'm not sure that I would have gone to war. But now that we have done so, I don't see how we can easily extract ourselves. My concern is that if we pull out precipitously it may undermine the security of the entire Persian Gulf. You don't really have that stable a regime in Saudi Arabia. The Kuwaitis could be tossed over by a sharp breath of air, and the Iranians are problematic at least. So what do we have to guarantee stability in the Persian Gulf except a presence in Iraq right now, and some day, one hopes, an Iraq that is stable enough and strong enough and independent enough that it can serve as a stabilizing force as Iran once did, when the Shah was alive, as Saudi Arabia once did ten, fifteen years ago. But there's no country right now in that region that serves that purpose. And I realize it's unfashionable to say that we will spill blood for oil, but the fact of the matter is our economy is totally dependent on that, as is the economy of the Europeans, as is the economy of the Japanese.

Ted must have worn a "No Blood for Oil" button off air. It's important to understand that at the root of all the media bias on Iraq, that most of these people would have NEVER invaded Iraq at any time. Not only would they have allowed the UN's long, ineffectual post-1991 war relationship with Saddam (including Oil-for-Food program corruption) to continue and continue. In fact, Saddam was attempting to get the UN embargo removed, and the left was also sympathetic to that cause. So who's more pro-Saddam, hmmm?

Iraq ABC Nightline PBS
Tim Graham's picture