MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: Substantially Disarming.

U.N. CHIEF WEAPONS INSPECTOR HANS BLIX: (From videotape.) The destruction undertaken constitutes a substantial measure of disarmament, indeed the first since the middle of the 1990s. We are not watching the breaking of toothpicks. Lethal weapons are being destroyed.

While the numerous initiatives which are now being taken by the Iraqi side, with a view to resolving some long-standing open disarmament issues, can be seen as active or even proactive . . . even with a proactive Iraqi attitude, induced by continued outside pressure, it will still take some time to verify sites and items, analyze documents, interview relevant persons and draw conclusions. It will not take years, nor weeks, but months.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: After Blix testified, his counterpart, nuclear chief inspector Mohamed ElBaradei, reported on his Iraq findings over the past three months.

MOHAMMED ELBARADEI (director, International Atomic Energy Agency): (From videotape.) In the past three weeks, possibly as a result of ever-increasing pressure by the international community, Iraq has been forthcoming in its cooperation.

After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapon program in Iraq.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Despite the dominant praise for Iraq, Blix had some criticism, notably, the rate at which Iraq has handed over documents on prohibited chemical and biological weapons, and that disarmament has not been immediate.

Question: Did Mr. Bush present any compelling reason in his news conference this week to deny the U.N. inspectors the time they need, a few months, to declare whether Iraq has or has not fully disarmed, Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: John, the answer is no. Iraq is no imminent threat to the United States of America. It has no nuclear program, no fissile material.

However, this is the first preemptive war of the Bush doctrine and the new century. The decision has been made to go to war. We are going to take this man down and disarm him before he can give away chemical or biological weapons to terrorists. We're going to eliminate a potential threat.

So no, it is not imminent. The president has not, in my judgment, made the case for war. But I believe there's going to be a war, because he believes there should be, and the Congress has given him the authority to go to war.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why would Saddam Hussein give away chemical or biological weapons?

MR. BUCHANAN: I don't believe he would do it. He hasn't done it in 12 years, and it would mean his complete end. But the president --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why is that?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, the United States would destroy him utterly.


MR. BUCHANAN: But the president of the United States has decided we are not going to take the risk, and this is the first country that's going down under the Bush doctrine.


MS. CLIFT: He presented no new information. He used the reporters as props. He basically --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is the president?

MS. CLIFT: The president. He regurgitated sections from past speeches, made mostly an emotional appeal to the world to go along with this. He didn't even try to argue the merits of a preemptive strike versus continued containment. What he has done is redirected anger at Osama bin Laden into Saddam Hussein. And it's worked in this country, but the rest of the world doesn't buy it, and they don't think this president is on the up and up in the way he's presenting this case for war. And you have this huge disconnect.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't forget to talk about the Blix testimony and the ElBaradei testimony, James.

MR. WARREN: Yes. Now I'm in Tony Blankley's seat. Do I pronounce -- (using American pronunciation) -- "charade" -- (switching to British pronunciation) -- "charade"? Is that the deal?

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know. We thank you, and the seat thanks you.

MR. WARREN: No, you combined -- Pat is absolutely correct. But I think it's -- you know, it's still, unfortunately, a losing argument for those who don't want to go in.

The degree of the president's moral certitude the other night, I think, might comfort a few folks out there, but I find absolutely very troubling. There is no way he now cannot go in, given that moral certitude.

And I think, even though there's going to be some short-term relief for sure for the Iraqis once we go in, the nevertheless result is that neighborhood which he talked about -- you're going to have greater insecurity, you're going to worsen the Palestinian-Israeli situation, you're going to accelerate the whole notion worldwide of the U.S. as an imperial power and, I think, most interestingly enough, not in the short term, but in the long term, the possibility that you have a reconfiguring of power coalitions, with the common denominator being anti-Americanism -- the Europeans, on one hand, and the Chinese over here maybe even getting footsy again with their old friends the Russians.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm. Is there anything left for you to say, Mort? (Laughter.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: (Laughs.) Yes, well, I'll put it this way. I think the president made a case that he has made over and over again. There are a lot of people who believe it and a lot of people who don't. I thought he had his act together and his words together, but I do think that what the moral certitude that Jim refers to underlines for the rest of the world is a sense that he always wanted to go to war from the very beginning, and I think that's been the biggest problem that he has had to cope with around the world.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Henry Kissinger says you can't march in 200,000 American troops and march them right out.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Absolutely. Absolutely.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the question is: Why can't they stay there? Why can't the troops stay put for a while? Listen to this.

ZBIGNIEW BRZEZINSKI (professor of American foreign policy, Johns Hopkins University): (From videotape.) Admittedly, the Middle East is not Europe, and the climatic conditions are more adverse. But the fact is that we kept war-ready troops in Europe -- war-ready, poised for war -- for several decades, and we have far greater rapid- redeployment capability today than we ever did. So the argument that we have to go to war because we deployed troops to press the other side to concede, I think, is not a sufficient cause for a war, which could be very costly, very destructive, and which at least in the near future is not necessary.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you agree with Brzezinski? I ask you, Eleanor Clift.

MS. CLIFT: Oh, I think in theory you could leave the troops there indefinitely. But that would be accepting a policy of containment and deterrence, and this president has not bought into that. And he was Messianic in his press conference last night. I mean, he gives the impression of being determined to go ahead, with or without the permission of the world. And he's now set up -- if he does get a second resolution, he's set up a deadline, and there's no way that Saddam Hussein can slip the noose; he can't meet the requirements.

MR. WARREN: Yeah. Yeah.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now Eleanor, wait a minute. You know that Messianic comes from Messiah. Do you think that George Bush -- serious question -- do you think that George Bush has -- he feels a direct communication from God to behave the way he is in foreign policy on this particular issue; to take these positions?

MS. CLIFT: I think he was transformed by 9/11. I think he always wanted to get Saddam Hussein. But the events of 9/11 have made him feel that he is historically situated to do something great here, and I think that blends into his feeling about religion.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you read your own magazine this week, and Marty Marty's essay?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does that contribute to your thinking?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where this religious imperative that he feels is dominant in his motivation?

MS. CLIFT: Well, yeah, because there's a religious imperative that's felt on the other side. And the huge fear here is that we're going to be walking into another religious war.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Has this been deplored or has it been respected?

MS. CLIFT: It's been respected by a lot of people in this country; the Evangelical Christians are very much behind this war and -- (inaudible).

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. What do you think?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, Jack, let me say that -- John --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is diplomacy a product of a religious motivation?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, first, let me talk about the military. The military could stay there, militarily, easily and logistically. The problem is the politics of it. He's got that problem in North Korea. Once he gets --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, suppose he says he's going to wait for the inspectors for a couple of months.

MR. BUCHANAN: He's got the North Korean problem.

But here's the thing. On 9/11, George Bush -- George --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, you mean he needs the troops over there?

MR. BUCHANAN: Yes. George Bush and 9/11 -- what happened was, I think he feels divine providence, said, "Now this is the mission of my presidency: to fight terror, to rid the world of this scourge," as Churchill did of Hitler. And he's very much caught up in this, and he has moral certitude. I believe he is sincere as he can be. He believes it's right. He's going to do it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Are you saying that he's sincere but he's dangerous?


MS. CLIFT: Yes. Yes. It doesn't --

MR. BUCHANAN: I mean, I don't think it's -- I think it's an unwise policy, but he is sincere.

MS. CLIFT: It doesn't --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Wait a minute. Wait. Wait. Wait a minute.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, all right. Mort, you want to straighten this out?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Yes, yes. Well, look, I think 9/11 is what changed him. It wasn't his sense of religion. Nine-11 changed him and the country. He believes that there is a great threat to this country, and happens to be the president at a time when it is the time to confront that.

MR. WARREN: Right.

(Cross talk.)

MR. ZUCKERMAN: And that changed everything in this president.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Exit question: In the light of the most recent U.N. briefing by inspectors Blix and ElBaradei, has Bush made his case for launching an attack against Iraq, or should he rethink his case?

Pat Buchanan?

MR. BUCHANAN: It's too late. It is too late to rethink the case --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What, is this about the troops not being able to stay there?

MR. BUCHANAN: Well, no --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: (Inaudible) -- more than --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or that he is beyond recall?

MR. BUCHANAN: He's -- look, he's got -- he's given them a Saint Patrick's Day deadline for war, John. It is gone.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it's not for war.

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, yes, it is.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's for voting on the resolution.

MR. BUCHANAN: No, voting on the resolution is seven- to 10-day -- is on next Tuesday. Saint Patrick's Day is the war --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, Pat, Pat, he could have four voiding vetoes. He may not even need -- they may not even need the veto.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He hasn't got nine votes.

MR. BUCHANAN: He has said we have a March 17th deadline.


MR. BUCHANAN: After that, we go to war.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: In effect.


MS. CLIFT: He has put U.S. credibility on the line, and I don't think he backs down. And the worry that I have about his religiosity is that it doesn't allow in logical, rational thought. And I think that's why he's going to continue here, because the fact that your credibility is on the line is not a good enough reason to put all these lives at risk.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean the last thing we want in the White House is an ayatollah? Is that what you're saying? (Laughter.)

MS. CLIFT: (Laughs.) Yes.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say?

MR. WARREN: Should he rethink his position? Absolutely yes. Will he? No. Devout, even messianic, he's going in. He wants that guy out. All the stuff from Brzezinski and all is absolutely -- is pedantry. He doesn't care about how long you can keep those guys in the summer of Iraq. He wants the guy out NOW!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean -- you felt that that last remark about ayatollah was too close to the bone, but you know that religious --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: No, I didn't. It was too close to your bone.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that all kinds of religious stripes -- all kinds of religious stripes -- feel that sense of mission. But is that the basis for an evaluation of this critical situation on which so many lives depend?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: You know, I think that's a real unfair interpretation of what he was talking about. He believes that it is the national security of this country that drives him to this conclusion, not his religion.


MR. ZUCKERMAN: His religion may give him strength, as he says, but he does believe it is the security of the people of the United States, which he has pledged to protect, that drives him to that conclusion. And that's a very legitimate -- you may not share that view --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Those who have engaged him in conversation and close up feel that the religion is playing a role. Isn't that true, Eleanor? Isn't that true?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I engaged him in conversation. I have --

MR. BUCHANAN: John, God has -- he believes God has called him and given him this mission for his presidency on that terrible day, and he will carry it out.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. The answer to the question is, he should rethink this and provide for a graceful exit, if that is in order, when we hear more from the inspectors.

When we come back: There are over 65 million Catholics in America. The pope's envoy talked with President Bush this week. The pope says the war is unjust and an international crime if done without the U.N. okay. Will the pope's diplomacy produce crises of conscience, particularly among Catholic servicemen and servicewomen?


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Vatican diplomacy. The Vatican sent Cardinal Pio Laghi this week to meet with President Bush to dissuade the United States from going to war. The pontiff views the war as unjustified and, in fact, a violation of international law. At a press conference on Wednesday afternoon at the National Press Club, the cardinal made it clear that he was not allowed to speak at the White House or on its grounds. Then he read a statement:

"A decision regarding the use of military force can only be taken within the framework of the United Nations, but always taking into account the great consequences of such an armed conflict -- the suffering of the people of Iraq and those involved in the military operation, of further instability in the region, and a new gulf between Islam and Christianity."

When asked whether the cardinal believed that a war in Iraq would be immoral, he said, "I would say it's illegal. It's unjust."

Besides this envoy meeting with the president, the Holy Father has been exceptionally active in trying to defuse this crisis. He sent another envoy, Cardinal Etchegaray, to Baghdad, where he met with Saddam Hussein for 90 minutes, urging the Iraqi leader to comply with U.N. demands. And the pope himself at the Vatican, in turn, received Iraqi Foreign Minister, Tariq Aziz, also Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi, Spanish Prime Minister Aznar, British Prime Minister Blair, and German Foreign Minister Fischer. They all met with the pope very recently.

The pope's position is that Saddam Hussein must disarm. But so long as the inspectors are making progress -- as judged by Blix, ELBaradei, and the U.N. Security Council -- war to disarm Saddam is not justified. Under the present circumstances, war would be an immoral and an illegal act of military aggression, not an act of self- defense. Also, the Vatican position is that the U.S. will be committing international crimes if it launches a war under current circumstances against Iraq without the sanction of the United Nations Security Council.

Question: There is talk in Rome and Europe that the pope will speak before the United Nations and make his appeal there. What would be the impact of that?

MR. BUCHANAN: That would be extraordinary, if he did that, John. It would be really extraordinary. I don't believe he's going to do it. But with due respect to the Holy Father and the Catholic Church, this is not just war doctrine that says the U.N. has to approve before the United States can go in. The prudential authorities of the state should go through the necessary rubrics of the just war doctrine, and they make the final judgment themselves.


MR. BUCHANAN: The president has the approval of Congress, and it is his decision. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: First of all, you have to understand that he is not only a religious figure, he is a secular figure in the sense that he is a fully vested sovereign leader of a sovereign state called the Vatican, by reason of the Lateran Treaty and other treaties. Speaking as that, what he sees is the following: that if it is a unilateral act and the succession of deaths result, it's an international crime.

MR. BUCHANAN: Who decides? The authority decides, the president of the United States. The Holy Father would do as well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, I'm telling you what the pope said.

(Cross talk.)

MS. CLIFT: Well --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The pope says that. The pope believes by reason of his analysis of the secular side of this that it is a crime.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, well, why --

(Cross talk.)

MR. BUCHANAN: That is not based in morals!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I believe it is illegal, that's what he said.

MR. BUCHANAN: It is not based in morals.

MR. WARREN: Can I --


MR. WARREN: Can I -- if I can interrupt this debate between the greatest assemblage of Catholic brainpowers since the Council of Trent -- (laughter) --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Ephesus. Ephesus. (Laughter.)

MR. WARREN: -- in 1545 -- on some practical considerations, too. The Vatican is, you know, is not pacifist there. I mean, they have supported a fair number of wars in the past; most recently, I think, the NATO invasion of Kosovo.


MR. WARREN: And also, they've been very chummy --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They supported -- the pope supported Afghanistan.


MR. WARREN: And they've been very chummy with the Bush administration on a lot of crucial issues like cloning, stem cell research --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. What's your point?

MR. WARREN: I am saying that when it comes to the just war doctrine, that they obviously feel very serious about dating to, as you know, Saint Augustine in the 5th century.


MR. WARREN: They think this doesn't pass the smell test.

(Cross talk.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- the essential ingredients to the just war doctrine is that it be a present danger, an immediate danger --

MS. CLIFT: Right. Right, and --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- it must be actual, it must be proportionate --


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that is, that what you do, you know, must be just. And we're dropping 3,000 missiles in 48 hours on Baghdad. Does that sicken you?

MS. CLIFT: Right. No. And our military power is like Notre Dame going after the Little Sisters of the Poor, to continue the Catholic analogies here. But just as there are "cafeteria Catholics," there's a cafeteria president. And he's going to ignore the pope here -- he is ignoring the pope -- even though he sought the endorsement of the Catholic Church for his anti-stem cell research thing. So he picks and chooses.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. The pope is also extremely concerned about the split between Islam and the West, or between Islam, Arabs and Muslims and Christianity.

Exit: Did the pope's exhortations to President Bush and his people fall on deaf ears? A quick answer: Yes or no. We're behind.


MR. BUCHANAN: They certainly did, even though Pio Laghi is the friend of the Bush family.

MS. CLIFT: Yeah, and they fall on deaf ears among parishioners, too. Catholics are just as split as the rest of us.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?


MR. ZUCKERMAN: Well, they didn't fall on deaf ears, but they will not change American policy.


MR. ZUCKERMAN: Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's is American policy.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, well, that kind of says -- (laughter) -- well, it says a lot of things.

MR. BUCHANAN: Caesar's going to drop the hammer, is what he -- (laughter) --

MR. ZUCKERMAN: I think you're right!

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And I think it is a pernicious blur on your part. (Laughter.)

Issue three: What's the most dangerous?

FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY WILLIAM PERRY: (From videotape.) I believe that Korea is the most dangerous spot in the world today.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Number one on the axis of evil is not Iraq, says the former secretary of Defense. It is the Korean Peninsula, with or without the bomb.

MR. PERRY: (From videotape.) Even without nuclear weapons, North Korea poses a dangerous threat to security ... as demonstrated by the action this week in shadowing and harassing an American reconnaissance plane.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On a routine mission last Saturday night, a U.S. Air Force RC-135 plane was 150 miles off the North Korean coast over the Sea of Japan, legally in international waters, when four North Korean armed MIGs moved in and shadowed the U.S. plane for 22 minutes, at times within 50 feet of our plane's wingtips. At one point, one MIG locked onto the U.S. plane with its weapons radar. It did not fire, as it did in 1970, when the North Koreans actually did shoot down a U.S. reconnaissance plane, killing all 31 crew members Perry's remarks were chilling and reflected the National Security Advisory Group's thinking, assembled by Senate Democratic leaders, which Perry chairs, that includes Madeleine Albright, Sandy Berger, Generals John Shalikashvili and Wesley Clark among its notables. The group openly blasted the Bush North Korea policy at the press conference.

SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D-DE): (From videotape.) We, quite frankly, have no policy now. There is no policy. I would not call it benign neglect, I'd call it malign neglect.

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD): (From videotape.) We have repeatedly urged the administration to get off the sidelines and face up to the developing crisis.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here's a 60-day crisis chronicle dating from today back to mid-January:

U.S. deploys 24 bombers to Guam, a springboard to North Korea, if needed; Kim Jong Il warns that a nuclear war could erupt if the US strikes North Korea's nuclear facility, as Israel did against the Iraq Osirik reactor in 1973; North Korea fires a missile into the sea between North Korea and Japan, announces plans to produce weapons- grade plutonium,- withdraws from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

On Thursday, Rumsfeld announced that the U.S. may pull out its 37,000 troops from South Korea -- South Korea.

Question: What signal does that send to North Korea? Work that into your answer, if you can. This is an exit question. We're almost out of time.


MR. BUCHANAN: Well, frankly, that sends a signal of weakness right now. I think they ought to have been out of there a long time ago.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it also signals support to the head of South Korea, because he campaigned on getting our troops out --

MR. BUCHANAN: Yeah, but the North Koreans are watching the Americans. And for him to do it now -- they should have been out of there 10 years ago. But to do it now, is probably not unwise to say it.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What will the North Koreans think if they see us pulling our troops out? That we don't care?

MS. CLIFT: No. They expect that they're putting them in a position where they can be more battle ready, because we didn't really want to get directly involved with the troops in South Korea. So --

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it's a tripwire, right?

MS. CLIFT: Right.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the sooner we get them out, the better.

MR. BUCHANAN: Oh, yeah. They should be out of there.

MR. WARREN: But it also possibly will raise the notion in their head that we will still reward them for their various extortions. And I think the Bush folks have got to realize that they can on one hand be tough, and still get to the bargaining table with these guys.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah, but we don't know what this guy is going to do. He may come up to the brink and then go over the brink.

MR. ZUCKERMAN: Just remember, 24 B-1 and B-52 bombers were also moved into place, recognizing that that's the principal way we can threaten North Korea, not with 37,000 troops within artillery range of one of the largest batteries of artillery ever assembled in any country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, is this worse than Iraq?

MR. ZUCKERMAN: It's worse for South Korea, but it's not as bad as Iraq for us.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is it worse than Iraq as far as the problem for us is concerned?

I ask you. Yes or no?

MR. WARREN: Potentially yes.


MR. WARREN: This is, arguably, more imminent.

MS. CLIFT: It's more imminent and it's more lethal.


MR. BUCHANAN: More imminent, more dangerous, and it may come -- even come as soon.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Imminent -- more imminent and more dangerous, and it may come -- well, more dangerous, and it's more imminent. (Laughter.)

We'll be right back with predictions.


MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's not forget that the good news this week was Khalid Mohammed --

MR. BUCHANAN: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. And that certainly was wonderful for this country and for the world; correct?

MR. BUCHANAN: We're winning the war on terror. They're doing a terrific job. They really deserve all the credit in the world.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about the Pakistanis, do they deserve a lot of credit?

MR. BUCHANAN: Tremendous credit.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tremendous credit.

Go ahead, Pat. What's your prediction?

MR. BUCHANAN: My prediction is, as we move very rapidly to war after March 17th, the Saudis will move much, much deeper into our corner and let the Americans move into that country.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they have a condition, and that is it's providing we do not attack.

MR. BUCHANAN: (Laughs.)

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: In other words, we've been flying over there anyway and just, you know, don't tell us about it.

MR. BUCHANAN: They're going in right now. Right.

MS. CLIFT: The State Department will not release its latest country-by-country human rights report until after the Security Council vote because some of the biggest offenders are the countries whose votes the U.S. needs.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Almost out of time.

MR. WARREN: A Democratic presidential contender with the nerve to embrace the new "60 Minutes," commentator, Bill Clinton, will win his party's nomination.


MR. ZUCKERMAN: After the war in Iraq, documents will be uncovered which will paper the French political and business elite relationship with Iraq that will create a major scandal in France.

MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It will soon be made known that a primary source of the bad intelligence of the CIA, as demonstrated in the Blix- ElBaradei report -- reports, plural, is the Iraqi defector network.