BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Elaine Sciolino, author of the book "The Outlaw State," what's that all about? The outlaw state?
ELAINE SCIOLINO: Well, it was a difficult title. It was a difficult decision to choose that as the title, but I did because I thought that we needed to write a book about Saddam Hussein and the state that he created, a state that went beyond the pale. He and the state he created went beyond the pale when he invaded Iran in 1980, when he used chemical weapons against Iran and against his own people, and when he invaded and annexed Kuwait in 1990.
LAMB: When did you first go to Iraq?
SCIOLINO: I first went in 1983. I had not gone to Iraq before because I had spent a lot of time in Iran, and you were either for the Iranians or the Iraqis, and it was very difficult to get visas in those days. But the Iranians expelled me during a trip in 1982, so then I became the Iraqis' friend and they began to give me visas.
LAMB: How would you describe the differences between those two countries?
SCIOLINO: They're very different. Iran is a much larger country. It has probably more than double the population, almost three times the population of Iraq. It's populated by Persians. Iraq is an Arab country. The cultures are very, very different. The people are different. Ninety-five percent of the Iranian people are from the Shiite branch of Islam. In Iraq, they're almost evenly divided with a slight Shiite majority, although the other branch of Islam, Sunis, make about 45 percent of the population.
LAMB: If somebody told you that you had to make a choice between living in Iran or Iraq, which country would you choose and why?
SCIOLINO: I think I explain that in the book. I would choose Iran. Even though both countries are autocratic -- they certainly are not democratic countries as we know them -- Iran is an easier country to work in and it's easier for a foreigner to be accepted in Iran -- I think, in part, because the Iranians have a long coastline on the Gulf. It isn't called the Persian Gulf for nothing. The Iranians are used to foreigners settling, foreigners trading. It's much more of a mercantile society than Iraq is. Also there are holes in the system. Iran is much easier to break into. I could go to Iran today and people I've known over the years would invite me over for dinner and would be seen with me in public. Iraq is very different. Iraq is as close to a totalitarian state as we have, and there's a level of fear there and a fear of the foreigner that pervades the society.
LAMB: When was the last time you were in Baghdad?
SCIOLINO: I went to Baghdad just after Christmas, this past Christmas, and stayed until just before the war. If I didn't have two children, I might have stayed for the outbreak of war, but a cooler head prevailed and I left.
LAMB: What was it like then?
SCIOLINO: You were starting to see a real degradation of the country. I hadn't been to Iraq for a number of years, in part because I had written a very harsh piece on Iraq in 1985 and it was very difficult for me to get back into the country. But even with the Iran-Iraq war, you saw a level of prosperity. There was enough food, there was enough medicine. The people of Iraq truly believed they were fighting the enemy, Ayatollah Khomeini. They truly believed that Ayatollah Khomeini, if unchecked, would cross over the border and Iranian hordes would seize Baghdad and they would be under Iranian rule. So they felt they were fighting for a cause, so they were willing to make sacrifices. What I saw in the beginning of this year was sort of like a national depression, a nationwide depression. As the inevitability of war began to sink in, an extraordinary black market that had always been illegal in Iraq had sprung up, and everyone was trying to do what he or she could to survive. Survival of the fittest replaced any kind of ideology or loyalty to the state.
LAMB: I noticed that you signed off on this book in April of this year. What was the origin of this book? Why was it written?
SCIOLINO: It had an odd genesis. I was actually on maternity leave with our second child when Iraq invaded Kuwait and was called back to work for the New York Times on an emergency basis and was sitting at my desk and was called by John Wiley & Sons, the publishing company, where a man who I had gone to graduate school with 20 years ago was a vice president and asked did I want to take on this project. Hubris prevailed, and I said yes. So I worked on the book from September until February, and then we closed the book in April.
LAMB: You knew that when the book came out eventually that you were going to be in the middle of all things happening around it and change and all that, so how would you go about writing a book about Iraq right in the middle of a war?
SCIOLINO: I will say that when war broke out, Brian, the book changed, and three chapters had to be completely rewritten because I really did not believe that there would be war. I truly believed that Saddam, the cunning man at he was, at the last minute would at least pull back some of his troops and at least stall a war.
LAMB: Why didn't he?
SCIOLINO: It's a question that even now I continue to deal with. I try to explain it in the book, but it will be one of the mysteries of the next decade and historians will have to deal with it. But there are a number of reasons. For one thing, Saddam, according to people who talked to him in the last days before the war, was sort of overtaken by this sense of fatalism. He thought that war was going to be inevitable, and he said this to people. He said, "There's nothing I can do to stop war." So this was one of the strands of his thinking.
Another strand of his thinking was that, on an another level, he thought he might be able to win. He had fought a war with Iran, a devastating war for eight years, and he thought, "Hey, I won that war. Why can't I win again? Why can't I put all my troops at the front lines and see if I can't outlast the Americans?" The Americans had lost Vietnam. He was obsessed by Vietnam. Saddam is still obsessed by Vietnam. He saw that we lost and thought, "Maybe I can win." On another level, he thought, "Even if I lose militarily, I can win politically. So what if my military is destroyed? I can't demobilize these troops anyway. After the Iran Iraq war, there was no employment in Iraq. So, if I lose a few hundred thousand men, so what? I'll lose militarily but I can win politically. I can become a great political hero like Nasser was in Egypt."
But there's another reason, as well, and that is that Saddam, at bottom, is not a military man. He wears the uniform of a field marshall but he never fought a day in his life. He never was a foot soldier. He never commanded troops in battle except as president. So he didn't get it. He just didn't understand the rules of war. He thought he was fighting the last war, so he set up these extraordinary encampments and dug trenches and built berms and strung miles and miles and miles of barbed wire and laid thousands and thousands of mines and dug in, but this was not the war that he was to fight with the allies.
LAMB: You say he was obsessed by Vietnam?
SCIOLINO: He was obsessed by Vietnam because he saw that the Americans didn't have the staying power, and he always wanted to know why the Vietnamese won. There are even Vietnamese workers in Iraq, and he used to get reports on the workers and try to get a sense from them and even from Vietnamese diplomats as to why the Americans lost.
LAMB: You have a couple of things in the back I wanted to ask you about, in the appendix. You ran part of the transcript of April Glaspie and Saddam Hussein's office visit. You ran part of a transcript or maybe it's all of it with . . .
SCIOLINO: The whole thing.
LAMB: . . . Joe Wilson.
SCIOLINO: Yes, both of them are the entire transcripts.
LAMB: First of all, what do you think of April Glaspie?
SCIOLINO: Well, Ambassador Glaspie is a first-class diplomat. She's a first-class Arabist. She was the first woman in the foreign service to be named ambassador to an Arab country, and she's extraordinary. She's had an extraordinary career. She's been in the foreign service for more than 25 years, and I hope she will go down in history as a fine diplomat and not someone who, in a two-hour meeting with the Iraqi president, perhaps was not as tough as she could have been.
What we have to remember about her performance in the two hour meeting she had with Saddam just eight days before his invasion of Kuwait is that she was carrying out a policy. She was given strict orders about what American policy was. Now, it's a policy she believed in, but it was a very weak policy. She went in to see Saddam Hussein with no fresh instructions from Washington. She didn't know she was going to see him. She had no notetaker with her. She listened to his message to the president, and she told him what American policy was. Now, could she have been tougher? She absolutely could have been tougher. I wish she had been as tough as she had told Congress that she had been. I agonized over whether to run the Iraqi version of her meeting with Saddam Hussein because there was a discrepancy between what the Iraqi version said and what she said she said to him when she testified before Congress. But, in the end, I decided to run with Iraqi transcript and now if you look at her minutes of the meeting that she reported back to the State Department, they pretty much dovetail with the Iraqi version of that meeting.
LAMB: Let me read you one particular paragraph and get your reaction to it. This is April Glaspie saying, "I saw the Diane Sawyer program on ABC and what happened on that program was cheap and unjust." First of all, what's the program she's talking about?
SCIOLINO: Diane Sawyer did an extraordinary interview with Saddam Hussein last summer. It was very, very tough, and it really exposed him for the brutal leader that he was. But, as in any interview, it was cut, it was pasted, it was edited, it was tough-minded, but it was, in my estimation, a superb piece of American journalism.
LAMB: What did you think when you saw that she said it was cheap and unjust?
SCIOLINO: Well, all journalists -- and you know this -- don't like it when our work is criticized, and we especially don't like it when an ambassador tells this to a head state. We have a free press here, and I think we have a pretty good press. It bothered me tremendously because when I wrote a story for the New York Times Sunday magazine five, six years ago on Saddam Hussein that went against the grain, I was criticized as well, and I was criticized by people in the State Department for being unfair to Saddam.
LAMB: Let me read on. "It is a true picture of what happens in the American media even to American politicians, themselves. These are the methods that the Western media employs. I am pleased that you add your voice to the diplomats who stand up to the media." Again, what do you think of April Glaspie saying those things?
SCIOLINO: Well, this is the Iraqi translation of what she said and it may be slightly off, but what I would like to add is that April Glaspie was questioned at length about just this thought and these phrases when she went before Congress. She was questioned both by the Senate and by the House. What she said to both the Senate and the House is that she was misquoted in the Iraqi version, that what she really had said was that it was a fabrication and that she had told Saddam Hussein that what she was complaining about was his editing of the Diane Sawyer program, that when the Diane Sawyer interviewed aired on Iraqi television, that it was unfairly edited and that this was cheap and unjust. But what we've learned since from her transcript, her own minutes of the meeting to the State Department, is that, indeed, in those minutes she does say that the Diane Sawyer program was cheap and unjust -- not Saddam's editing of it.
LAMB: Let me finish this paragraph. April Glaspie said to Saddam Hussein, "Because your appearance in the media, even for five minutes, would help us to make the American people understand Iraq, this would increase mutual understanding. If the American president had control of the media, his job would be much easier." Why is an American diplomat saying those kind of things to somebody like Saddam Hussein?
SCIOLINO: She shouldn't have said it and that's not me talking, that's people in the State Department and other parts of the government saying that's not the way that an American ambassador should deal with a head of state.
LAMB: Do you find a lot of American diplomats think that way?
SCIOLINO: A diplomat can get too close to the country to which he or she is assigned. It's the same thing that happens to journalists. You get assigned to a country and you get very close to the officials and then you portray the official in the best light. It's a hazard of the profession.
LAMB: Joe Wilson, first of all, who's he?
SCIOLINO: Joe Wilson was Ambassador Glaspie's number two. He was the charge.. What happened is that Saddam called in Ambassador Glaspie just eight days before the invasion, and he basically laid out his state of mind and his state of affairs and why he felt so angry about what was happening between his country and Kuwait in a message to the president. Ambassador Glaspie reported back to Washington. Then a message came back from President Bush that was even more conciliatory towards Saddam.
I think that's something that gets lost in all of this is that Ambassador Glaspie had one meeting with Saddam, but instead of her cable ringing alarm bells throughout the whole administration, the president himself sent back a message to Saddam three days later that said, "We want to have good relations with you."
The president didn't even mention the fact that there were tens of thousands of Iraqi troops on the Kuwaiti border. He never mentioned that the United States was concerned about the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the states in the region. He never talked about America's vital interest. It was a very, very weak memo, and it is much more dramatic than even April Glaspie's transcript which has gotten so much attention. So that Saddam didn't really think that there was going to be a huge hue and cry when he invaded Kuwait. Four days after the invasion, he called in Joe Wilson, the charg‚, for a meeting and said, "We want to have business as usual. Just because I've invaded Kuwait doesn't mean that we shouldn't have a good economic relationship, that you shouldn't be able to buy our oil, and we hope you don't do anything foolish."
LAMB: In this August 6 transcript, the opening thing is Saddam Hussein -- by the way, what is his name? How do you pronounce his name correctly?
SCIOLINO: Saddam [Sadahm'].
LAMB: What's his first name?
SCIOLINO: His first name is Saddam. His full name is Saddam Hussein al-Tikriti. The Tikriti comes from his home village of Tikrit, but the accepted way of calling him by name would be to say President Saddam.
LAMB: In our way, would that be like someone calling George Bush, George?
SCIOLINO: Well, yes and no. Because al-Tikriti is really his last name and because he dropped that part of his name, Hussein is really his middle name so that it just became accepted practice for us to use President Saddam.
LAMB: During the last year, we've heard three pronunciations. Saddam [Sadahm'] Hussein, Saddam [Sad'um] Hussein . . .
SCIOLINO: That's President Bush's pronunciation.
LAMB: . . . and Saddam [Sah'dum]. There's three different ways. How do you know that Saddam [Sadahm'] is right? In other words, we hear people in the media pronouncing it all over and the President pronouncing it one way.
SCIOLINO: Well, that's the way he pronounces it and that's the way his officials pronounce it and that's the way they pronounce it in the country and that's good enough for me.
LAMB: All right, first in this transcript, this is on August 6. The invasion was what date?
SCIOLINO: August 2.
LAMB: "What is the news on the political and diplomatic fronts?" Saddam Hussein asks Joe Wilson. "Your minister has more information through CNN than I do." Why would he say that?
SCIOLINO: Joe Wilson is referring to Tariq Aziz, the foreign minister, and he's saying that, you know, "Why are you calling me in to ask me the news because you guys all get CNN?" What has happened in much of the world in the last few years is that many world leaders have CNN and now in the presidential palace in Iraq, in the foreign ministry, they can watch CNN all day. Joe Wilson, the charg‚, didn't have CNN so he was sort of creating some distance between himself and President Saddam, saying, "Why are you calling me in because you know more than I do about what's happening?"
LAMB: Why wouldn't he have CNN?
SCIOLINO: Because the Americans wouldn't really be allowed to have CNN. No embassy in Baghdad had CNN.
LAMB: Why would that be?
SCIOLINO: Iraq is a controlled country.
LAMB: Oh, they wouldn't be allowed by the government to have it.
SCIOLINO: Oh, of course not. In fact it's extraordinary now that the embassies were allowed to have satellite telephones and that journalists were allowed to have satellite telephones. When I first went to Iraq, I wasn't allowed to take a typewriter in. I would take a typewriter in, it would get confiscated at the airport and I'd spend the next two days with papers and stamps and little sealing wax and people from the Ministry of Information trying to get my typewriter out of customs. This is a country that has no free press. This is a country where an American diplomat had to ask in writing to travel outside of Baghdad a week in advance.
LAMB: Before the war and since the war, a lot has been written about the power of CNN worldwide and all that. Some people would say if we have all this communication, we're going to prevent wars. Well, we had the communications and there was no prevention of the war. What impact do you think CNN had on it, positive or negative?
SCIOLINO: That's a really interesting question and you as an expert on American television could probably have more salient thoughts than I do.
LAMB: That's why I asked you. You know we like to think that this communications mechanism helps, but in this case, the war was prevented. It went on.
SCIOLINO: No, but you can only do so much through public diplomacy. I mean I hear in Washington from ambassadors here that they get very frustrated because they sometimes hear news from their own presidents back home on CNN before they get it in their embassies. It has transformed the way we do diplomacy. I don't think we're going to prevent wars, though, just because we have this instantaneous communication. The most dramatic impact CNN had on this whole episode of history was that we all watched the war on television. We watched it live.
LAMB: Is that a positive or a negative?
SCIOLINO: I as a journalist would have to say it's a positive because it gives you broader access to history as it's occurring. If you were a planner in the Pentagon, you were probably getting a massive migraine headache when you see some of these military actions on television.
LAMB: Do you believe the figure that's bandied around that $30 billion is spent by this country every year on intelligence gathering.
SCIOLINO: Oh, I think that's a fair figure.
LAMB: If we spend $30 billion on intelligence gathering, why can't we communicate as a government between our embassies around the world without waiting for a CNN or anybody else, a New York Times. Why isn't there direct communication?
SCIOLINO: Well, there is direct communication. What you do have now is you do have satellite telephones, but President Bush can't push a button now and be seen on the television screen anywhere around the world.
LAMB: Why not?
SCIOLINO: We're not that high-tech. Our government is probably not as high-tech as first-rate journalism.
LAMB: They can use the same satellites that CNN did.
SCIOLINO: That costs a lot of money.
LAMB: What do we spend that $30 billion on?
SCIOLINO: Oh, come on, you're goading me on. We spend it on all sorts of things. The Pentagon spends most of it. We spend it on human intelligence. We spend it on a variety of different agencies -- not just the CIA, but the Defense Intelligence Agency, the NSA. We have a huge eavesdropping network, satellites around the world.
LAMB: In this appendix, you have Joe Wilson. Then they have Saddam Hussein saying with Joe Wilson there, "By the way, say hello to President Bush." Now, this is on Aug. 6. "By the way, say hello to President Bush and tell him that Jabir" -- who is Jabir?
SCIOLINO: He's the emir of Kuwait.
LAMB: "Jabir and his clique are finished. They're history. The Sabah family are has beens."
SCIOLINO: One of the reasons I wanted to run the transcripts of both of those meetings is that they're windows into Saddam's mindset. Here it is four days after the invasion of Kuwait, and Saddam just didn't get it. He's acting as if it's business as usual with the United States, and he's just saying, "Oh, give the president my warm regards," as if the United States wasn't going to respond to his seizing all of Kuwait. He was also warning Bush. "By the way, forget about the Sabah family, the ruling family of Kuwait. They're history."
LAMB: When do you think the president made up his mind to go all the way with this?
SCIOLINO: I think he made up his mind as soon as the Iraqi troops moved to the Saudi border and as soon as it looked as if Saudi Arabia was threatened. If Iraq had only seized a few kilometers of Kuwaiti territory and had only taken the two little islands at the mouth of the Persian Gulf that it had always craved, there wouldn't have been a huge military buildup. There probably wouldn't have been a war. But Saddam miscalculated. Instead of just nibbling at the edges, he ate the whole thing. He took the whole country and annexed it, and then he went one step further. He put three divisions of soldiers on the Saudi border and actually crossed over into Saudi Arabian territory. This is what rang the alarm bells in Washington. When it looked as if Saudi Arabia, our great ally, could also be threatened, President Bush knew the United States would have to respond and respond militarily and respond quickly.
LAMB: Have you ever met Saddam Hussein?
SCIOLINO: I've never met him but I feel as if I know him.
LAMB: Have you ever met Tariq Aziz?
SCIOLINO: Yes, I've met him a number of times, and I've met most of the other people in his ruling clique?
LAMB: What happened to Mr. Tariq Aziz? Is he still involved in the day-to-day activities?
SCIOLINO: Oh, he is. He's lost his portfolio as foreign minister, and I get different versions from different Iraqi officials as to whether or not he's been pushed aside because he maybe didn't do as good a job as he could have in selling Saddam's side of the story. But others feel that he is still part of the ruling revolutionary command council. He is still involved on a day-to-day basis advising Saddam so that even though he's not foreign minister, he's still part of the inner clique.
LAMB: How did you get into all this in the first place? Where did you start from? Where's home?
SCIOLINO: Well, I grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., and went to school there, went to college there, and went to NYU for graduate school in history.
LAMB: Did you go to State University of New York?
SCIOLINO: No, I went to Canisius College, which is a small Catholic Jesuit school right in Buffalo, and went to work for Newsweek magazine while I was sort of back and forth with graduate school and spent four years in the Chicago bureau of Newsweek covering 11 states -- everything from trying to find the Big-foot monster in North Dakota to tracking the drought across Kansas. From there I moved to Paris as a correspondent for Newsweek magazine, and one of the feature stories I did early on in my career in Paris was to cover Ayatollah Khomeini when he first arrived in Paris. I thought, "Gee, this would be a fun feature to do on this Iranian religious exile," talking to Iranian students, sitting under an apple tree in the Parisian countryside. Little did any of us know that he was going to play such a crucial role in that country's history, so that when it came time for him to fly back to Iran, I went on his plane with him and that's really how I got involved in the Persian Gulf.
LAMB: I want to talk some more about the earlier days, but how did you get on that plane?
SCIOLINO: Ayatollah Khomeini knew and his people around him knew that it was a great risk for him to go back to Iran. It was touch-and-go as to whether or not the shah's army would shoot down the plane. But if you took 150 journalists with you, there was less likelihood that the plane would get shot down. We were his first hostages, and we knew it. In fact, when it came time for us to get off the plane, the Ayatollah and his people were sitting in first class. We were all in the back, but we got off the plane first -- just in case the shooting started.
LAMB: How did he pick those 150 journalists?
SCIOLINO: It was actually journalists who had covered him throughout the four months of his stay in Paris. It was the people who had spent that whole winter standing outside of his little house, waiting for him to come and give his daily sermon.
LAMB; Do you remember what it felt like flying on that plane?
SCIOLINO: I sure do and when we circled that same mountain for the third time, I got awfully nervous looking down at the ground and seeing all of the shah's troops strategically placed throughout the air field.
LAMB: What happened after you got on the ground?
SCIOLINO: We got on the ground and there was extraordinary euphoria. There was more than a million people in the streets of Teheran waiting to meet Ayatollah Khomeini who had been in exile for more than a decade. It was an extraordinary scene and a welcome and the beginning of a sense that this was it.
LAMB: What was the date?
SCIOLINO: Feb. 1, 1979.
LAMB: What did you think of him?
SCIOLINO: I thought that he was an autocratic, theocratic ruler who did not understand the West. But he had managed to galvanize the country and unite a very disparate people -- the middle class, the intellectuals, the poor, religious people, secularists -- and eventually even the army came over to his side in his relentless quest to overthrow the shah. I didn't know that he would play such a crucial role throughout the next decade because what he said over and over is, "I'm not a political leader. I will do what I can to see that the revolution takes place, that the shah is overthrown, and then I will recede into the background."
LAMB: Buffalo, N.Y., to Teheran. What in your life got you interested in writing for a living?
SCIOLINO: I started out thinking I would be a historian. I went to college in the '60s and fell in love with history, fell in love with European history, and intended to go to graduate school in an obscure field of history.
LAMB: Did you do that on your own? Your interest in history? Did this come to you in school or did somebody encourage you at some point to get interested in history?
SCIOLINO: As I said, I went to a small college, but it had a superb history department and it was really that more than anything else that got me interested in history. I just really enjoyed it. I really liked it, and you know what it's like. You have very good professors. They inspire you and they say, "Look, why don't you do this for a living?" So I went to graduate school thinking that I would be a historian, and it was a time when there were no jobs in the literary field. It was a time when everybody was writing articles about how there were no jobs for Ph.D.'s in liberal arts. I hooked up with Newsweek magazine, and I realized that I was having more fun writing about things that were happening today than writing about things that were happening in 18th century France.
LAMB: And you were at NYU in New York City? That's how you got to know Newsweek?
SCIOLINO: That's right.
LAMB: Chicago to Rome. How did that happen?
SCIOLINO: It was Chicago to Paris. Well, my field had been French history so I knew the country and I sort of knew the language, although I had to do a stint at Berlitz to get my French up to snuff.
LAMB: Then how long in Paris?
SCIOLINO: Three years in Paris, and then I moved to Rome for Newsweek.
LAMB: How long were you there?
SCIOLINO: About two-and-a-half years.
LAMB: What was the impact of living in Paris and Rome having on you during these years?
SCIOLINO: Oh, it's a journalist's dream. It was a wonderful experience. I loved living in Paris, and it was a wonderful bureau. Newsweek had a great bureau and a large bureau. But I loved living in Rome even more because all my grandparents were Italian and so, for me, in a way it was like coming home.
LAMB: What part of Italy were your grandparents from?
SCIOLINO: They were all from Sicily.
LAMB: Any town in Sicily?
SCIOLINO: Well, my mother's family comes from close to Taormina, which is on the coast, and my father's family comes from Caltanissetta, which is in the center. It's very interesting because Italy is still very regionally divided even though it's a nation state. There are still these prejudices. In the north, people couldn't recognize my name, but when you got as far south as Rome, people could recognize it. This was a Sicilian name, so I was slightly suspect.
LAMB: The name is pronounced, if I'm correct, "Shelino."
LAMB: If you live in certain other parts of Italy, would it be pronounced differently?
SCIOLINO: No, it's pronounced the same all the way through. It was the first time in my life I never had to spell my name. It was great.
LAMB: When you got back from Rome where did you go?
SCIOLINO: I had a fellowship at the Council on Foreign Relations for a year, and it was a wonderful year. Every year, the council, which is based in New York, gives a fellowship to one American journalist. I was able to study Arabic and write about the Iranian revolution and live in New York and be with a lot of very wonderful, brilliant people in that atmosphere. It was great.
LAMB: As I'm sure you know, the Council on Foreign Relations, in some people's worlds, is a code word for liberal and establishment and all that. What's your reaction to that?
SCIOLINO: Well, it's a very establishment organization, but I would hardly call it liberal.
LAMB: What would you call it? How would you define what it does?
SCIOLINO: It's an independent think tank that does allow for an extraordinary exchange of ideas. It's a membership organization and so to a certain extent, it's an elitist organization. You have to be asked to become a member. But in recent years, it's done better in opening its membership to more women, to more minorities, although it's still stuffed with a lot of pinstriped lawyers and bankers.
LAMB: Does the organization run the world?
SCIOLINO: I think the organization would love to run the world, but certainly it doesn't.
LAMB: In all seriousness, can you point to things that it has direct influence on?
SCIOLINO: I think it does have direct influence on foreign policy. It certainly organizes and runs a number of study groups that bring together journalists, diplomats, officials in Washington, academics, and you are brought together in a forum that is off the record, where there is an open exchange of ideas. Papers often come out of these study groups. Books often are written because of these study groups. I think there is a good interchange between government and journalism. But I certainly don't think its a conspiratorial organization, and I don't think it makes foreign policy.
LAMB: Are you still a member?
SCIOLINO: I'm still a member in good standing, yes.
LAMB: What would you say if somebody said, "Yes, well, you know, it's nice of you to think what you think about it, not being conspiratorial, but here you have journalists and people who make policy together, off the record, and the only people who don't know what's going on are the folks out there that are reading you."?
SCIOLINO: Well, there's been some controversy over the council's off-the-record rules, and, in fact, in recent years some of their sessions have been put on the record and now they're doing a television program and a radio program as well. As a journalist, I would say -- for all of you council people out there listening -- that it's good to have that balance, that, yes, sometimes officials who are invited as guests want to speak off the record, but many times it's often better to structure it so that's it's on the record and so that, as you say, the American public can get a sense of what's going on behind the closed doors at 68th and Park in New York.
LAMB: Where did you go after the council?
SCIOLINO: I went back to Newsweek for a year. I was a roving correspondent based in New York. It was very exciting, but I ran out of steam, frankly. I'd be Grenada one week, I'd be in Beirut the next week. My editor would say, "What countries do you have visas for in the Persian Gulf?" I'd go through and say, "I have one to Kuwait." He'd say, "Go to Kuwait tonight." So it was an exciting job, but it was one where I always had a suitcase packed and a thousand dollars stuffed in a book in case I had to get on a plane on a Sunday night and the banks were closed. From there, I left Newsweek magazine. I had decided I really wanted to get into daily journalism, and I went to the New York Times.
LAMB: Why the New York Times? What was the draw?
SCIOLINO: Oh, it's a great newspaper, and it's a place I had always thought of working some day.
LAMB: What was your first assignment?
SCIOLINO: My first assignment was as a metro reporter, general assignment. My last job at Newsweek was to cover revolutions and wars and interview heads of state, and then I went to the New York Times where one of my first assignments was to cover the Thanksgiving Day parade. It was quite a change. I got to see neighborhoods in New York that I never even knew existed.
LAMB: But you eventually got back into foreign affairs and why did you do that?
SCIOLINO: Well, it was fun. I mean, actually I did it for six months. I got to know New York. It was fun. It was a real change. I think every New York Times reporter should do it because the newspaper is based in New York and you learn about New York City. But from there I went to become bureau chief for the U.N. bureau.
LAMB: In the front of this book, you have a dedication, "To Andy." Who's Andy?
SCIOLINO: Andy's my husband.
LAMB: Was it hard to decide on who to dedicate this book to?
LAMB: When did Andy come into the situation in your life?
SCIOLINO: Andy and I met on a train goingout to the Hamptons on a Saturday morning at 7:30. He sat next to me and it's one of those great New York stories and I was very lucky and I'm very blessed. I have a wonderful husband and two great kids.
LAMB: What year did you get married?
SCIOLINO: We got married six years ago.
LAMB: You start off in the acknowledgements by saying, "This book is a product of both passion and folly." What's the passion?
SCIOLINO: The passion is that I really wanted to write about Iraq. I had felt very strongly in the mid 1980s that our policy was skewed, that the United States had shifted too much towards Iraq and had written about this in the mid '80s at the height of the Iran-Iraq war. This book is really a logical extension of that thesis that I wrote about for the New York Times magazine. So that's the passion. The folly is that I took on this project, which was quite an ambitious project, knowing that I had to produce a book in six months at a time when I had a full-time job and two children under the age of 2. Now they're 2 and 1. But it was a bit crazy to think that I could do it all.
LAMB: Would you do it again?
SCIOLINO: Not under these circumstances. I don't think my husband would let me because he is as responsible for this book as I am.
LAMB: What kind of work is he in?
SCIOLINO: He's a lawyer here in Washington.
LAMB: You also name a lot of people, some of them new names to me; I'm sure not to you. Phebe Marr. You give her a lot of credit.
SCIOLINO: Phebe Marr is a truly wonderful person. She is a scholar. Her doctoral work was done at Harvard, and she lived in Iraq for many years in the 1950s. She's now at the National Defense University, so she's working officially for the government. She's a great friend. She opened up her library to me. She just said, "Come over one Saturday afternoon and take whatever you want from my library, and I'll be there for you." She really guided me through this project, and there are not enough good things to say about her.
LAMB: I'm sure I'm not going to pronounce this right. Shaul Bakhash.
SCIOLINO: Yes, Shaul Bakhash is probably the country's best scholar on Iran. He's a man I've known for years and years and writes extensively about Iran. Wrote the best book on the Iranian revolution. But he's also a true intellectual and watches the whole Middle East and the Persian Gulf and he filled me with ideas, and, again, a man for whom I have great respect.
LAMB: I've got a couple of other names -- one because we saw so much of him on ABC. You thanked Anthony Cortisman. Who is Anthony Cortisman?
SCIOLINO: Who is he? Anthony Cortisman knows more about the American military and more about the military in the Middle East than any living human being. His mind is like a computer. He has a photographic memory, and he can tell you up and down what the structure of the Iraqi military is, how it fits in with the rest of the Middle East. He is a brilliant military analyst and was very helpful in giving me advice along the way and correcting a lot of mistakes in the book.
LAMB: Another name that popped out was Peter Galbraith. Who's he?
SCIOLINO: Peter Galbraith is on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has done extraordinary work on Iraq, especially with the Kurds. It was Peter, early on, who documented the Iraqi use of chemical weapons against the Kurdish population. He has a real passion for this subject and has followed through.
LAMB: Any relation to the other Galbraith that we know so much about?
SCIOLINO: I think so, but some day you'll have Peter on and he can just talk about his own life.
LAMB: All right. "When the text of Chapter 1 mysteriously disappeared from my computer hard drive." What did you do?
SCIOLINO: I cried.
LAMB: How did it disappear?
SCIOLINO: I have no idea. We even went to the same people who had found the secret memos of Oliver North, the same experts, and they couldn't find the chapter on the hard drive. I was quite upset for about two days.
LAMB: Did you have to rewrite it?
SCIOLINO: I had printed out an earlier version of Chapter 1, so I knew that if worse got to worse, I could use that as a base. But one of the technicians in our computer department spent hours trying to find the chapter on the little disk, which had also been degraded. There was some massive blowout so that my backup system had failed. Eventually, he found it.
LAMB: You interviewed Muammar Khadafi. When? What's he like?
SCIOLINO: I think it's been about 10 years now. He can be quite charming. It was a very interesting interview. It was at a time when there was tremendous antipathy between the United States and Libya, and I think he granted me an interview because he wanted to explain that he really loved America and that he couldn't really understand why President Reagan hated him so much. He said that one of his heros in life was "Ibrahim" Lincoln.
LAMB: When you look back on what President Reagan did with the bombing there, did that have the impact that the president wanted and is that why he's been so quiet ever since?
SCIOLINO: I think so. I think that's one of the reasons that he has been so quiet. I think he got scared. He really believed that he almost lost his life in that bombing.
LAMB: Will the same impact be on Saddam Hussein, do you think?
SCIOLINO: Not at all.
LAMB: Why not?
SCIOLINO: Saddam hasn't changed one single bit.
LAMB: Not a bit?
SCIOLINO: No, in fact, just a couple of days ago he was giving a speech in which he proclaimed Iraq victorious in the war against the allies and said that Iraq emerged from the war with its dignity intact. Saddam came out of the war with much of his army intact. He had about a million men under arms last Aug. 2. He probably has about 300,000 men under arms now. This is a battle-tested army. It's largely made up of mean-and-lean troops -- not the foot soldiers we saw surrendering to American soldiers at the front. It's a larger force by about 50 percent than the force he had when he went into Iran in 1980. He has his intelligence services intact. These are the overlapping services that keep an eye on every aspect of Iraqi life. There's really no viable alternative right now to Saddam Hussein, despite all of the wishful thinking in Washington and other capitals in the world.
LAMB: Do you think he'll last for a long time?
SCIOLINO: I think he could last for a long time.
LAMB: If you were President Bush, should you feel good about what you did a year ago?
SCIOLINO: I'm not one to get into President Bush's mind. I think to hear President Bush tell it, he would say that the war was an extraordinary victory. I would look at it and say, "What did the war accomplish?" The war kicked Iraq out of Kuwait. The war degraded, although it did not destroy, Iraq's military capability, but it didn't do very much more than that.
LAMB: What did it do for the president and the United States?
SCIOLINO: It gave the president a great military victory, and it took attention away from domestic problems.
LAMB: In the book, you talk about some figures in the Iran-Iraq war I wanted to ask you about. You say, "In the course of the eight-year war, between 600,000 and 1 million people died." Then you go on to say, "By some estimates, the war cost the Iraqis as much as $450 billion." Is that a misprint?
SCIOLINO: It's not a misprint.
LAMB: "And the Iranians as much as $650 billion"?
SCIOLINO: This war went on for eight years.
LAMB: What did they spend it on?
SCIOLINO: They spent it on extraordinary supplies of weapons. Those figures also reflect losses of oil revenues, losses of trade.
LAMB: So it wasn't just on weapons?
SCIOLINO: No, that's the total cost. Compensation of the people, compensation of the families of war dead. Again, those are just estimates, but if you add it all up, those are the figures that are pretty much accepted.
LAMB: What kind of damage did that war do to the two countries?
SCIOLINO: In a sense, it did much more damage to Iran than Iraq. The cities, especially in the south on the Iraqi border, were largely destroyed. But the greatest damage was just in the loss of young men on both sides. That's an interesting question because I think, on some level, the fact that Iraq was not destroyed in the Iran-Iraq war, that Baghdad remained intact, that Basra, the second largest city in Iraq, even though it suffered a lot of damage, was not completely devastated. I think that contributed to Saddam Hussein's thought that if he could last for eight years in this extraordinary war against Iran, he could certainly invade Kuwait. Kuwait was nothing compared to Iran.
LAMB: In Chapter 4, "Terror and Enticement," you talk about the blank stare. Tell us that story of someone you had met and how they changed their personality.
SCIOLINO: I think that's a story about a carpet dealer. There are very few people that you can talk to when you go to Baghdad. You can't just sort of ring up people and go and visit them in their homes. They'd be scared stiff. In fact, they'd probably be visited from someone from the intelligence services and they might even be arrested. So, who can you talk to? Well, you can talk to taxi drivers and you can go into the suk, the bazaar, and talk to the different merchants there.
Over the years I made friends with a carpet dealer. He was an older man and his kids were grown and he spoke enough English that he could communicate with me. He had been to Switzerland once and had a picture postcard from Switzerland up in his shop and, of course, a portrait of Saddam in the corner. He always used to serve me tea. He didn't have good carpets. He just had some old moth-eaten Kilims, but he was the first person I'd go to see when I'd come go Baghdad. I remember wandering through the bazaar once with an official guide from the Ministry of Information, and we were very close to his shop I said to the guide, "Well, gee, I'd really like to stop off at this one carpet dealer just to say hello."
So we went by his shop and I said hello, and he hadn't seen me for a while. He looked at me with what I called the blank stare. He looked at me as if he had never seen me before in his entire life. He said, "Oh, madame, can I show you some carpets?" I then realized just how suspicious he was even of me, especially coming into his shop with someone from the government. The next time I came without the person from the government, next time I came alone, he was cordial but something had been broken and he didn't offer me tea.
LAMB: Do you want to go back?
SCIOLINO: I would like to go back. I would very much like to go back because it's an unfinished war. Iraq is still suffering from the effects of the war. There has been extraordinary devastation, and it's really the people of Iraq who have suffered the most. Saddam is still living fine. He still gets enough food and medicine and whatever he needs, and so does the clique around him. But the people of Iraq really do need some help. I don't know if I'll go back right away, in part because of the book.
LAMB: Why do you say that? You think the book would give you trouble?
SCIOLINO: I just don't know, and that's part of the problem in dealing with a country like Iraq.
LAMB: On the back of the book you have a quote -- I realize this was done before the turn of events -- from Gary Sick. He says, "This book is riveting, a highly readable account of the events leading up to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and the conflict that followed. A seasoned political observer, Elaine Sciolino does not merely describe what happened, she explores why and how it happened." Gary Sick is a former staff member from the National Security Council and professor of Middle East politics at Columbia University. The reason I ask you about Gary Sick is that since you wrote this book and since he wrote this jacket piece, he has written a New York Times op-ed piece that said basically -- describe it.
SCIOLINO: It's called the "October Surprise." It's that there may have been some sort of a deal between the Reagan campaign team, particularly William Casey, who was to be head of the CIA, and the Iranians to stall the release of American hostages in Teheran.
LAMB: Do you have a sense that Gary Sick is right?
SCIOLINO: I have a sense that Gary Sick has amassed an extraordinary amount of data, and as someone with an extraordinary reputation, his allegations have to be seriously looked at.
LAMB: Do you expect a thorough investigation by the government before this is all over?
SCIOLINO: Yes. In fact, I think you would probably would have already seen congressional hearings on the subject, but there is some feeling that maybe the Congress should hold off until after Bob Gates is either confirmed or rejected as director of Central Intelligence.
LAMB: We just have a few moments left. As a result of the Iraqi war, the Gulf War, what has changed for this country and that part of the world? What's different in the way we relate to the rest of the world because of that war?
SCIOLINO: What's different with the way that the United States relates?
LAMB: If you're George Bush in the White House, how is your life different now than it was, say, a year ago before this all started? Do you have more power, less power, people listen to you more than they used to, are you in a better position, worse position?
SCIOLINO: Well, the war has shown that there really is only one superpower left. But this was also shown by the events of Eastern Europe and really the collapse of the Soviet economy. So, in that sense, the war validated that the United States is numero uno in the world. I look at it a different way. I look at it as what hasn't changed in the Middle East. I think that's a really interesting question. There was all this talk a year ago that the Middle East would never be the same again, yet an attempt to impose a regional arms control regime on the Middle East hasn't worked.
Since the war, the United States has sold arms to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Morocco, Oman and the United Arab Emirates. We heard a lot of talk about democratization movements in the Middle East, that the Middle East would have to open up and would have to democratize after the Gulf crisis. We've seen just the reverse, that especially Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have turned inward. There was very little movement towards democratization. Also, there was all this talk about a restructuring of the relationship between the rich and poor in the Middle East, that the rich nations would have to realize their commitment to the smaller, poorer Middle Eastern nations. And a lot of talk about a $10 million development fund. This hasn't materialized because the rich Gulf countries are saying, "Hey, this war cost us a lot. Now we have to pay for it and take care of our own."
LAMB: The book's called "The Outlaw State." Our guest has been Elaine Sciolino of the New York Times. Thank you for joining us.
SCIOLINO: Thank you for having me.
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