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CFFC in the News - 2003

CNN - Crossfire

Look at Latest Evidence Against Iraq

Paul Begala, Tucker Carlson, hosts

5 March 2003

GUESTS: Charles Rangel, Peter King, Frances Kissling, Rod Dreher, Maureen Orth By Paul Begala, Tucker Carlson

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BEGALA: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're coming to you live, as we do every night, from the George Washington University here in Foggy Bottom, Washington, D.C. This of course is home of the Colonials, that's right. This is Ash Wednesday, the traditional day of fasting and prayer at the beginning of Lent, the 40-day period of penance for Christians leading up to Easter.

But over at the Vatican, the Holy Father, John Paul II, called on the faithful of all religions to pray for peace. The pope also sent a personal envoy to President Bush, carrying a message that there's no justification at the present time for war with event.

In the CROSSFIRE to debate papal peacemaking, Frances Kissling, of Catholics for free Choice, and in our New York bureau, senior writer of "The National Review," Rod Dreher.

(APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: All right. Frances Kissling, here's the problem I have with the Vatican's stance on the war with Iraq. The Vatican, which I respect as an institution, I think is being used as a propaganda tool by the Iraqi government. Let me give you an example.

This is a statement from the Vatican spokesman, Joaquin Navarles (ph), after his meeting with Tony Blair. He said, "The Holy Father expressed hope that in solving the grave situation in Iraq every effort is made to avoid new divisions in the world. Special consideration was given to the humanitarian situation of the Iraqi people, already tried by long years of embargo."

That is Iraqi propaganda. The Iraqi people are suffering because of the dictatorship under which they live, not primarily the embargo. Why is the Vatican repeating Iraqi talking points?

FRANCES KISSLING, CATHOLICS FOR A FREE CHOICE: Well, I think that the Vatican tends to see things in humanitarian ways. And in that sense, I don't think you can ignore the embargo as an element of the suffering of the Iraqi people.

CARLSON: But this is saying it's the reason for the suffering. And that's not true.

KISSLING: Well I would disagree with them in that sense. I would disagree. I don't think that the embargo is the reason for the suffering. I think the reasons for the suffering are very complex.

They certainly include the enormous suffering that the Iraqi people are experiencing under Saddam Hussein. The man is a dictator, he is a horrible leader. He has absolutely no respect for human life and no respect for his own people. There is no doubt about that.

But I don't think that that undercuts the importantance of the Vatican as a voice for peace, which really is the most critical thing that we need to deal with at this time. Is the way to solve these problems in Iraq to go in and bomb the country? I don't think so. And the pope doesn't think so.

BEGALA: Mr. , first, thank you for joining us. Let me bring you into this by, let's compare basically the two leaders of this movement. The peace movement led by the pope, our president leading us on foreign policy. And let's look at their foreign policy and, frankly, their moral credentials.

Here's the pope. He's a doctor of theology. Our president, a C student at Yale. The pope, in fact, was elected pope. Bush was the owner of the Texas Rangers.

The Holy Father was shot by an assassin perhaps for his efforts against communism. Our president missed a year of National Guard duty. The pope did help to bring down communism, one of the great events of modern history. President Bush served before this as governor of Texas. The pope has met with 650 heads of state, the president got elected president of the United States, which was a very big deal; good for him.

The pope has visited 115 countries; our president 23. The pope speaks eight languages, Mr. Bush, habla espanol. This is not a close call, Rod.

(APPLAUSE)

ROD DREHER, SENIOR WRITER, "NATIONAL REVIEW": And Paul, for all of the great things this pope has done compared to our president, he's still wrong on this. And this is one Catholic who supports our of evangelical president.

I think the president is right on this war, the pope is wrong. And I say that with respect for the Holy Father. But we Catholics are allowed to dissent on this matter, on a matter of prudential judgment about the war. And I think the Holy Father simply doesn't see things in the right way and our president does.

What's more, the Holy Father does not have responsibility for protecting all 280 million of us Americans from terrorist attacks. George Bush does.

CARLSON: Now, Frances Kissling, you said a minute ago the pope is for peace. Everybody is for peace. But the choice here is not a choice between war and peace. In many ways, it's a choice between war, on the one hand, and continued suffering by the Iraqi people on the other, and threats to the world from Saddam and the others. I want to know what are the pope's plans to liberate the Iraqi people? I didn't hear you talk about that.

KISSLING: Well I don't think the pope has a plan to liberate the Iraqi people, and I don't think that that's his job.

CARLSON: Well, he's weighing in on very complex matters, so he has no plans?

KISSLING: Absolutely. And the complex matter is the difference between war and peace. And I don't think we can avoid this. I don't think we get peace through war. I think this is one of the most (UNINTELLIGIBLE) sound bites imaginable.

DREHER: I think World War II showed that was wrong.

KISSLING: We get peace through working for justice. We get peace through continuing the process. And I think the important thing here in terms of the pope is really the whole concept of when can you have a just war? We can only go to war when it is the last resort, when everything else has been tried and everything else has failed. And we're not finished.

DREHER: Frances...

BEGALA: Go ahead, Mr. Dreher.

DREHER: Frances, war solved the problem of Nazi Germany. You know war liberated the pope's homeland. I think that we have to recognize that, in the end, when all peaceful means have been exhausted to solve a problem like Saddam Hussein, that we have to have recourse to war.

I think this war satisfies all of the just war, all the provisions of just war theory. The one thing that some people object to is that just war theory calls for the attack to be imminent, the attack we're defending against to be imminent. Well, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction were not accounted for when they came up with just war theory.

The president has to worry about that. Has to worry that Saddam will give these biological weapons to terrorists and will use them to destroy New York City or some American city. I think the pope is not seeing that reality.

CARLSON: OK. Rod Dreher, Frances Kissling, we're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back. We'll continue our debate on papal peacemaking in a moment.

And later, Michael Jackson turns to voodoo. You won't believe it, yet you won't want to miss it. We'll be right back.

(APPLAUSE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Pope John Paul II today asked the world's one billion Catholics to raise what he calls a choral prayer for peace. The pope has also let it be known he thinks a preemptive war with Iraq has no moral justification. We're talking about religion and politics with Frances Kissling, of Catholics for free Choice, and "National Review" senior writer, Rod Dreher, who is in New York.

BEGALA: Rod, you do I think have to concede that the Holy Father has maybe a little credential to speak about just war theory and, for that matter, diplomacy. Here is what he had said. This is his plan.

Tucker asked a moment ago what's the Holy Father's plan for peace. This is it, quoting from Pope John Paul II, "International law, honest dialogue, solidarity between the states, the noble exercise of diplomacy: these are the methods whereby individuals in nations engage in resolving their differences.

Now you know apparently President Bush doesn't have the time or the stomach or the patience or the wisdom and experience for that, but the Holy Father does. Isn't he right?

DREHER: No. Paul, the thing is we tried all these things. We've gone to every possible length to get Saddam to disarm peacefully. It hasn't worked.

The Holy Father would like a dialogue, dialogue, dialogue. That's the way he's run this church and it hasn't worked. It hasn't worked in the ways governing the church and it doesn't work in the real world.

BEGALA: Well he did end Soviet communism, Rod. I mean he has a little experience in facing evil.

DREHER: He did, but that's a different matter from what we're facing right now. And this is the thing: the catechism says that in the end the right to decide if a war is moral or not lies with the legitimate public authorities who are responsible for the public good. That's President Bush, that's Tony Blair.

Listen to the Holy Father, respect what he has to say. But in the end, even the catechism recognizes that President Bush in the one who has the right to make this decision.

APPLAUSE)

KISSLING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) notion that he was given an authority to make decisions for the public good as only referring to the elected leaders of a country, to governors, presidents and generals, is a really narrow view. Religious authority also has legitimate authority.

CARLSON: But nobody denies that. Here's the problem, however. The pope (UNINTELLIGIBLE), Vatican is not a government, it is a church. But the problem here is these are really complicated issues.

KISSLING: Right.

CARLSON: And the church, no offense, has been wrong on a lot of them. The Catholic bishops were wrong about the Cold War. Paul said the pope brought down the Berlin wall -- debatable. Not debatable, the Catholic bishops again and again issued statements, making it sound as if the United States has shown that we're morally (ph) equivalent.

I think the pope was probably wrong on the first Gulf War, on Nicaragua. I can go on and on and on. The point is, the church is not always right about international affairs. Correct?

KISSLING: That's right. It's not always right. But that doesn't mean that we can disregard it. And in this instance, the fact -- our government is not always right. No one is always right.

But the point really is what do we want to do about this question of peace? It is so important that religious leaders like the pope come out and really keep reminding us that we must consistently, constantly, to the ultimate end, think about how we can make peace and do everything we can to avoid war. The argument...

DREHER: But peace is not the absence of war.

KISSLING: Excuse me, excuse me. The argument among us is whether everything has actually -- one of the arguments -- has actually been tried and failed. And many of us do believe...

CARLSON: We're almost out of time. Rod Dreher...

(CROSSTALK)

KISSLING: ... saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

BEGALA: Let me let Rod respond. We've only got 30 seconds left, Rod -- go.

DREHER: I'll tell you what bothers me a lot, is the church, the bishops, the cardinals, even the Holy Father presuming to tell President Bush, who has to protect 280 million of us, what his moral duties are in that regard, while these guys couldn't even protect Catholic children from their own robed priests. I just think it's appalling and it really bothers me as a faithful Catholic.

BEGALA: That's a cheap shot. We could have a serious discussion, and you've had many about that topic. We will at another time. But thank you very much, Rod Dreher, From "The National Review," joining us from New York. Frances Kissling...

This transcript courtesy of CNN.