Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Friday, March 19, 2004  

[I received an email this morning from someone who wished to post a comment containing the following exchange between Richard Holbrooke and Wolf Blitzer. That thousand-word limit got in her way, so she just forwarded it as email. I'm taking the liberty to post it here. (Be sure to read the end.]

Here's what Richard Holbrooke had to say when Wolf Blitzer tried to play up the non-issue of Kerry's not naming the foreign leaders (Notice the graceless way in which Blitzer introduces Holbrooke to CNN viewers, a telling detail):

Back now to the battle over allies between President Bush and Democratic candidate John Kerry. Earlier today I spoke with the former diplomatic troubleshooter Richard Holbrooke. The one-time ambassador to the United Nations during the Clinton administration, is now a foreign policy adviser for the Kerry campaign . . .

BLITZER: Ambassador Holbrooke, thanks very much for joining us. A little revised version of what John Kerry said. He said, "I've met more leaders who can't go out and say it all publicly, but boy, they look at you and say, you got to win. This you got to beat this guy, we need a new policy, things like that." So there is enormous energy out there. The president today said, if he makes an accusation, he has a responsibility to back it up. What do you say?

RICHARD HOLBROOKE, FRM. U.S. AMB. TO U.N.: John Kerry committed an unpardonable crime in Washington: he spoketh the truth. What he said is self-evidently true.

There's a new poll out today by the Pew Institute, a worldwide pool, which shows massive and growing anti-Americanism around the world. Now American voters need to make up their own mind who they prefer, George W. Bush or John Kerry. But they also ought to know this administration is isolating us in the world, weakening us. Recent events in Spain, this election are another example.

John Kerry said something everybody knows is true. And, Wolf, you know it's true.

And why don't I say just one other thing. Why don't you, instead of staging a silly he said/he said between the White House, which is throwing all this mud at John Kerry after he said something true. Why don't you poll your foreign correspondents on CNN. And ask them who the population and leaderships in the world would prefer to see elected? Very simple.

BLITZER: That may be for future course of action. But there's no doubt that when the president of the United States says to John Kerry, you make this charge, back it up, what's wrong with that? Why can't he say this leader said this to me, this leader said that to me. Why can't he just explain what he meant?

HOLBROOKE: I have been in the last six months in Africa, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. I have met with leaders and members of the leadership that lead in every one of those countries.

BLITZER: Be specific.

HOLBROOKE: Look, Wolf, if you want me to say that such and such a foreign minister...

BLITZER: I do, if that's what they said to you.

HOLBROOKE: Wolf, you've been a foreign correspondent for many years, you don't reveal your sources when they're said in confidence. And it would be inappropriate and wrong -- these foreign ministers -- and you know this perfectly well as a very distinguished foreign correspondent.

These foreign leaders say something to you in confidence. They have to work with the incumbent administration. The Bush administration knows that you as a journalist have [to] protect sources. It is self-evident.

John Kerry simply said the truth. Everyone knows it. Look at...

BLITZER: Let me interrupt. When I interviewed Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary on Sunday, he pointed it out there's an unprecedented coalition of the willing. Ninety countries have backed the president in the war on terror. And there are 30 or 40 countries with the U.S. in Iraq right now.

HOLBROOKE: Mighty allies like Palau and the Marshall Islands. Let's get real. The United States did not forge a wide enough coalition.

Look, I supported the effort to overthrow Saddam. I'm glad he's is gone. So did John Kerry. But the fact is the way the administration did it fractured a lot of our traditional alliances. We have less support in the world today, Spain is exhibit A, than we've ever had before. And we need to rebuild it. That's what John Kerry will do.

BLITZER: Is the major lesson from the Spanish election that the people of Spain oppose the U.S. policy in the war against Iraq, in the war on terrorism? Or is it that the former Spanish government misled everyone by saying it was ETA, the Basque separatists movement, when it turns out, apparently, to have been some sort of Islamist group?

HOLBROOKE: It's clearly a combination of both those factors. And the real lesson here is that 90 percent of the Spanish people oppose the support of the United States. Aznar was brave and I admire him for supporting us, as has Tony Blair been, as Berlusconi in Italy been.

But the Spanish people decided that they wanted to change course and that was the issue that did it. I think it's extremely unfortunate that terrorism may have played a part in this. But the fact is the Spanish people and the new leader don't support the United States.

BLITZER: But isn't this a win for the terrorists that they managed to topple a government in the aftermath of a horrible terrorist strike?

HOLBROOKE: George Will wrote in today's column in "The Washington Post" that it is the biggest victory for terrorism that the most immediate consequences that he believes has happened in history.

I don't buy that. I think the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914 which started World War I was a much bigger event.

I don't want to portray this as a triumph for terrorism. The terrorist who did this should not be encouraged. The American public will not react the same way the Spanish people did. I understand Will's point, but I'm not ready to share it.

BLITZER: I know you're a major supporter of John Kerry, you're a good Democrat. You want to be secretary of state?

HOLBROOKE: I am personally right now focused solely on assisting Senator Kerry, a long-term friend in achieving his goal and leading this country in a new direction which we desperately need. The American public seems to think while they favor Senator Kerry on every domestic issue, that this administration is stronger national defense and the war on terrorism.

My goal is to assist him in demonstrating clearly that this just isn't true. He has more experience in international affairs than the incumbent, he has traveled all over the world for years for years, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, service in Vietnam, father was a career diplomat. And that is my only goal right now.

BLITZER: Being the good diplomat that you are yourself. Thanks very much.

HOLBROOKE: Thank you, good journalist that you are yourself.

posted by Jeff | 10:31 AM |
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