It could have happened.
It should have happened.
It could have averted a war.

By Don Hodges

Picture this: Before the war, a formal debate between George W. Bush and Saddam, conducted live on world TV. Now, just as quickly, forget it. It never happened. But it could have happened. It should have happened. It could have averted a war.

Just three weeks before George W. Bush’s military invaded Iraq, Dan Rather was granted an interview with Iraq’s [then] leader, Saddam Hussein. The interview was shown on CBS’s television show, 60 Minutes II, on Wednesday, February 26, 2003.

During the interview, Saddam suggested that a debate take place between George W. Bush and himself. It would be a live debate, using satellites and translators, to conduct dialog between the leaders of two nations, one of whom was threatening war, the other accused of not cooperating with U.N. weapons inspectors.

What was the response of the White House? “There’s no debating what’s required of him,” White House communications director Dan Bartlett told CNN. (Saddam challenges Bush to debate

So there it is. Saddam challenges Bush to a debate, and Bush declines. According to the CNN article, “The White House said it was not taking Saddam’s debate suggestion seriously.” Anyone who bothers to watch or read the interview would know immediately that this was not a joke. A war was being threatened. Human lives were at stake. It was a serious attempt at communication between Saddam and George.

Three weeks later, Iraq is invaded by Bush’s military.

Why did George W. Bush avoid this debate? What was he afraid of? If the truth is on his side, such a debate would be easy to “win”. It would have given the United States a chance to show the world the facts of the matter and might have created a lot of international support for a military “operation” to achieve the stated goals. Plus it would have been fun to watch. The networks could have made a “killing” selling advertising on such a great “reality” TV show, broadcast to the entire planet.

But it was not to happen. Why?
It could have happened.
It should have happened.
It could have averted a war.

Why, George, why? Why did you avoid diplomacy at that crucial moment in history? Others may think highly of you, but I think you are a wimp. You could have easily beaten Saddam at his own game, because you are better than he is at it. You had God and the truth on your side. You could have told the world all about Saddam’s WMD, his brutal regime, his oppressed people, failure to cooperate with the U.N., and everything else he was doing wrong. You could have done it. You should have done it. You could have averted a war.

For this obvious blunder I will forever remember you as the president who wimped out of a challenge which could have easily been met with no harm done, but instead led his country into a bloody and deadly war.

You gave up on peace, George. Why?

You could have averted a war! (Saddam challenges Bush to debate) (Saddam vows to die in Iraq) (Transcript part 1) (Transcript part 2) (Transcript part 3)

Translator For Saddam Hussein: If-- the American people-- would like to know the facts for what they are, or as they are, through a direct dialogue, then I am ready to conduct a direct dialogue with the President of the United States, President Bush, on television. I will say whatever I have to say-- about American policy. He will have-- the opportunity to say whatever he has to say about policy of Iraq. And this will be in front of all people, and-- on television, in a direct—uncensored – hon - honest manner. In front of, as I said, everyone.

And then they will see what the facts are, and where falsehoods are. And I would not object to see this dialogue conducted on-- by-- by Mr. (UNINTEL).

Rather: Are you speaking about a debate?

Rather: This - this is new. You-- you are suggesting, you are saying, that you are willing, you are suggesting, you're urging a debate with President Bush? On television?

Translator For Saddam Hussein: Yes. That's my proposal.

Rather: Well, that's an interesting (UNINTEL).

Translator For Saddam Hussein: The American people, as we see on films - are great. On films, we see that the Americans, when they are challenged for a duel, they will not-- decline the - the offer. As the Arabs would - would (UNINTEL). We are not asking for a duel. But… We are proposing that we should (UNINTEL) support the Americans, and - We are asking for a – a – a - an opportunity to be seen by the Americans, the Iraqis, and all of the people in the world in a debate that is shown on television, between myself and Mr. Bush, directly, to be watched by…

Translator For Saddam Hussein: This will be - This will be an opportunity for him, if he is committed to-- to war, and if he has decided to-- commit to wage war, this will be an opportunity for him, if he's convinced-- to-- to convince the world. If he's convinced in his own position, this will be an opportunity for him to convince the world that he is right in taking such a dec-- (GLITCH). It could also be an opportunity for us - To - tell the world our own side of the story. And why we want to live in peace, and in security.

I believe that it is the right of the American people, the Iraqi people, and the world, of honor. Which makes it incumbent-- incumbent upon us to say what we have (UNINTEL), so that-- they-- they will be clear about-- our position.

Don't you call for the truth to be released in the United States? This is how we hear. This is… And what we read, from-This is what we read and hear about the American philosophers, and (UNINTEL)--


In their books, and even in their movies…. So, why should we hide from the people? So, why should we discredit ourselves? Why should not we-- why shouldn't we disclose ourselves to the people? We as President - President of the United States, and President of Iraq, in front of our people.

Translator For Saddam Hussein: (UNINTEL) invite… Then we will either go (UNINTEL) to peace, to choose the path of peace, which is what we look for, and hope-- Then we will spare both our people the harm and the loss. Or otherwise, the-- whoever wants to decide anything other than peace, then he will have to convince his own people, with whatever-- avenues--

Translator For Saddam Hussein: This is the-- the gist of my proposal, my idea.

Rather: This is not a joke.

Translator For Saddam Hussein: No, this is something proposed in earnest. This is proposed out of my respect for the public opinion of the United States. And it is out of my respect to the people of the United States. And to the people of Iraq. And in-- out of my respect to mankind in general. Humanity at large. I call for this, because war itself is not a joke. Whoever chooses war as the first choice in his life, then he is not a normal person. I think the - the debates would be an opportunity for us to insure peace and safety. Then, why don't we--


Why don't we - Why don't we choose to talk, in which we will be respecting our people, as two-- as the two highest authorities in our countries. The two needed to take the decisions, on the basis of their own-- you know, decision-making apparatus.

Here in Iraq, we have our own apparatus, for reaching those decisions. And we know that in the United States, you have your own system. But we, as the leaders of the two countries, why don't we use this opportunity in a debate, so that-- we can show our respect to both our peoples, and to humanity. And then each of us can take the decision that h-- h-- he or - decides to take, according to what goes on.

Rather: Mr. President, where would this debate take place, that you imagine-- what would be the venue?

Translator For Saddam Hussein: It will be in a place, as President of the United States, and Saddam Hussein will be in a place as President of Iraq. And then the debate can be conducted through satellite.

Rather: Oh. So, a satellite television debate. Live.

Translator For Saddam Hussein: And if Mr. Bush has another proposal, a counterproposal with the same basic idea then we're prepared to listen to such a proposal.

Rather: Would you be prepared to come to the United Nations for this debate?

Translator For Saddam Hussein: The basic thing is that as far as debate to be heard in the natural, normal-- in a (UNINTEL) accurate manner. In the United Nations, voices are not heard. Not always. And I do not mean that I go and I make a speech at the United Nations and then that Bush will make his speech at the United Nations. That is not what I mean. What I mean is that we sit-- as we are sitting, you and I, now as-- Here is-- I will address questions to him and he will address questions to me. The position of Iraq and he will - the position of the United States.

He will explain why – ‘I will (UNINTEL) go to war.’ I will explain why we are insistent on peace and we want to maintain peace. And we maintain our (UNINTEL).


Translator For Saddam Hussein: Those people in the United States also - and other people will (UNINTEL).

Without make-up. Without - Without editing. Without – Without - Without prepared speeches which-- which (UNINTEL) do not listen to. The people like listening to live debates. Live debates between--


Translator For Saddam Hussein: I believe people listen to psychological (UNINTEL) about people in the United States (UNINTEL). That they like to see live debate amongst people with - proof and counterproof.

Rather: Well, this surprises me. I want to make sure I understand.

Translator For Saddam Hussein: That this debate should be-- shown--

Rather: A live international debate via satellite--

Translator For Saddam Hussein: That's it. A live, direct debate through satellite.

Rather: How did this-- who-- who would moderate this debate?

Translator For Saddam Hussein: Any (UNINTEL) that you can moderate.

Rather: With respect, Mr. President, I have (UNINTEL) other problems. I've got enough problems already. But I--

Translator For Saddam Hussein: That's another (UNINTEL PHRASE)…. But--


Translator For Saddam Hussein: - the responsibility of - The responsibility of displaying the truth as-- as an outstanding man of the media-- to carry out this responsibility is something that is on-- of course you will do that while maintain - when you can play the truth he'll be sparing people many-- a lot of harm.

This Page Last Updated Wednesday, July 16, 2003

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