Doha Debates Special Event: Bill Clinton

Wednesday November 16 2005

Transcript

Order of speeches

Doha Debates Special Event: Bill Clinton

 

Leadership qualities

TIM SEBASTIAN
President Bill Clinton, a very warm welcome to the Qatar Foundation. Thank you very much for sparing the time to join us this evening. Ladies and gentlemen, a welcome to you too. There are a lot of young people, as you see, Mr. President, in the audience, people who don't necessarily come from the same democracy in which you grew up in, but who may treasure the dream of following in your footsteps one day to be president. What advice would you give them?
BILL CLINTON
Well, first of all the goal of having a job is not so important as the goal of pursuing a certain way of living. Maybe a particular job works out, maybe it doesn't. I could never have known when I was younger that I would become President. It was entirely improbable. I didn't come from a family with wealth or power or position. In the history of our country, only two of us who were governors of very small states became President. But what I always tried to do was to make the most of the opportunities I had that were before me, and one thing sort of led to another, so my first advice is, prepare yourself to do something that you would love and that you believe in, and then do it as well as you can, and follow the path of life as it takes you along. In terms of a specific strategy for leading a country or a community or any other large enterprise, I think the important thing for a leader is to be able to first convey as clearly and honestly with the people you seek to lead about the present condition of things. Second, offer a vision of how things could be better and a strategy of how to get there, from here to there. And then you have to execute the vision. You also have to be able to deal with what I call the incoming fire, the things that happen you could not have predicted, you could not have planned. For example when President Bush ran in 2000, I don't think that he thought he was running to deal with what happened on September 11th 2001 and its aftermath. And then the final thing is, I think you always have to keep in your mind how will you keep score in your life, that is, how will you judge yourself and your efforts, and if you put yourself to a public test, if you wish to serve the public in any sort of position, it seems to me the only real test is, did your service move things in the right direction and were people better off when you finished than when you began? I don't imagine there is any other way to keep score, and that's the way I kept score.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Can I take you back for a moment to your inauguration, because some time during the ceremony, the Military Aide moves from the outgoing President to stand behind you and offers you a selection of the most phenomenally powerful weapons in the world today, should you ever choose to use them. To what extent does having that kind of power define the presidency?
BILL CLINTON
Well, for me it was sobering but because it was obvious that we had come to the end of the Cold War, I never really thought I would have to use them. I spent more of my time trying to reduce the number of nuclear weapons in America and around the world, and trying to convince other people they didn't need them and that basically it was a colossal waste of money and a very high risk to the future for people to build more nuclear or chemical or biological weapons, but when someone gives you the codes basically that you hold and you realise for the whole time you're President, someone will be going on with you who could take your instructions to detonate nuclear weapons, it's very sobering. I mean, you know that you have a job that is different, fundamentally different from anything you've ever done before and anything you'll ever do again.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Is the job not to use those weapons?
BILL CLINTON
Of course. That's the first and most important thing, to do your job well enough to diffuse all threats and to protect people well enough so that such a thing would never happen. And I don't think any serious thinking person would ever believe that the use of such things wouldn't be the worse possible outcome for a country, for the world and for your own life.

^ back to top

Using military force

Question from TimTIM SEBASTIAN
The times when you did have to order the use of force, thinking of bombing Baghdad and Belgrade for instance, how difficult, how cool a decision is that? You're an emotional man in some ways. How much emotion can get into that decision-making process, or is it just a cool, cold decision, that this is in the interests of the United States and this is what I have to do?
BILL CLINTON
No, it wasn't that simple. I mean, whether bombing Milosevic which we did briefly once to end the war in Bosnia and for an extended period of time to end the conflict over Kosovo, in both cases Milosevic was supporting governments that were essentially slaughtering the Bosnian Muslims and the Croatian Christians, and there had been 250,000 people killed, mostly Muslims, and 2 millions refugees in Bosnia driven out of their homeland, and then they started up all over again in Kosovo and there were a few thousand killed and eventually almost a million refugees there. I did it because I thought that more people would die if I didn't than if I did. It wasn't a matter of our interest, it was a matter of whether we could have a decent 21st century without a European continent that was living up to its ideals of democracy and freedom and human rights for all people who lived there without regard to their religion or their ethnic background or their economic standing, and whether we could tolerate a tyrant like Milosevic who was killing people and creating an emergency, so I did it. But on the other hand, I knew as everyone should know that whenever you bring any kind of military power into play, innocent as well as guilty people die. It's not as if you can just say, 'Here are the horrible people who are killing the innocents and I'm going to take them out.' No matter how sophisticated the technology, how careful the people who use it, if you start dropping bombs and shooting big guns, you know that a lot of people will die who shouldn't, and you have to live with it, and the only way it can ever be morally justified is if you're absolutely certain that far more harm will come to more innocent people if you sit by than if you act.

^ back to top

The Middle East peace process

TIM SEBASTIAN
Let me take you into the subject which perhaps you were most engaged in your presidency, the Middle East peace process. How close did you really get to an agreement, to a settlement in Camp David in 2000?
BILL CLINTON
Well, actually we got quite close, not so much at Camp David but in the process that began there. I never thought we would get an agreement at Camp David, but I should back up and tell you, we had from the time the peace agreement was signed on the White House lawn in 1993, the so-called Oslo Accords, until the beginning of the second intifada when now Prime Minister Sharon walked up on the Haram-al-Sharif, the Temple Mount, and the violence started, in August of 2000, and then we had still four intense months of negotiation through Taba, which ended in 2001, early in 2001, we had 7 years of progress toward peace, more and more land being turned over to the Palestinians, and a dramatic drop in violence. To give you some comparative, we had about 258 Israelis killed by violent incidents and probably four times that many Palestinians, in eight years. In the next four years, there were 1100 Israelis and 4,000 Palestinians that died, when the second intifada started and the peace process collapsed, which has only recently hopefully resumed, so we got pretty close, so I still don't know why Mr. Arafat turned the deal down. I mean, basically I had worked for eight years to get to the point where I thought Israel would withdraw from all the settlements in the West Bank except those that were adjacent to pre-67 Israel, comprising about 80% of the settlers, where Israel in turn would give the new Palestinian state an amount of land out of Israel equal to that, adjacent either to the West Bank or the Gaza, they would split the Old City by an agreed-upon formula and the capital of the new Palestinian state would be in East Jerusalem. The only thing we really didn't reach final agreement on was the language used to describe the sovereignty over the Haram-al-Sharif, the Temple Mount. Everybody agreed how it was going to operate, the Palestinians would control the top, the Israelis would have protection that the ruins of the temples underneath would never be destroyed. They did agree on that, they just couldn't agree on the language to describe it. There was no agreement about how long the Israeli Defence Forces could stay along the Jordan River because of the threat they then believed was posed by Saddam Hussein, but we had a good way to fix it by bringing in American and other international UN forces so the Palestinians no longer felt occupied, and then they never agreed on the language on the right of return, although Mr. Arafat and the others knew perfectly well that there wasn't going to be an unlimited right of return both to the new Palestinian state and to Israel because then they would run the risk that there would be two majority Palestinian states, and that was the whole implication of the Oslo Agreement was, when they signed in '93, that there would be one majority but not exclusively Palestinian/Arab state and one majority but not exclusively Jewish state in Israel, and they would split the land and basically become partners. There were a lot of Palestinians in the Arafat delegation who wanted to accept the deal. The Israeli government, Mr. Barak, accepted my proposal, and Arafat never said no, he just didn't say yes and so as a result, he destroyed any possibility Barak had of being re-elected and any possibility of pursuing the peace. He guaranteed a big majority for Ariel Sharon and he rewarded the whole conflict that had started with the Temple Mount incident.
TIM SEBASTIAN
How sad is that, to see the loss of momentum there?
Audience questionBILL CLINTON
Well, I mean, of course it's sad, but I mean, you have to live with this and you know, you make decisions, you accept leadership, responsibility. You can't go around and complain that you know it wasn't perfect and you didn't like it, you have to accept responsibilities for the consequences of your actions, they were perfectly predictable, this whole thing that's happened. So a year after I left office, unbelievably Yasser Arafat said he wanted the deal, he was now prepared to accept the deal he had refused to accept when I was there, and by then he had an Israeli government that wouldn't give it to him and an Israeli public that didn't trust him. Mahmoud Abbas, the current leader of the Palestinians, also said he would take it. Now, we have the withdrawal from Gaza and finally some reasonable terms that will allow the Gazans to actually make use of the land and sell their crops and get some investment in there and have ingress and egress, and maybe we can start again, but in the end, they're going to have to have a deal that looks pretty much like the one that I offered before. I don't see how Mr. Abbas can accept less from Israel than was turned down before, and I think the Israelis would go that far again. The public would, I don't know if they'll elect a government that'll go that far but the public would. When I went there for the 10th anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin's death the other night, we had a rally in the same place where he was killed 10 years ago by an angry young Israeli who said he had betrayed his faith and his country by agreeing to share the Middle East with the Palestinians, the Holy Land. Instead of 100,000 people they had 10 years ago, there were 200,000 people this time, and they were just as quiet as all of you are. I've never been in a crowd of 200,000 people where you couldn't hear anything. It was a sacred moment, so there are a great number of people who live in Israel who want to be partners with their neighbours, and share the land and share the future, and I hope eventually we'll get back to it, and I hope that this latest agreement is a big first step in that direction.

^ back to top

US military action in Iraq

Audience questionTIM SEBASTIAN
But the audience doesn't want to stay quiet. In fact they've got a lot of questions for you, Mr. President. First one is from Sahar Hassan Saad, if you could stand up and give us your question, please, to Mr. Clinton.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Good evening. Mr. President, if you were still in office, would you have ordered military action against Iraq?
BILL CLINTON
No. Not in the way that it happened, but I have a position on that that doesn't really satisfy anybody if you think you have to be pro or con. Let me back up and say why. After September 11th, when President Bush and others, the whole world, went up to the United Nations and insisted that Saddam let the inspectors back in, I strongly supposed that because in 1998 when he kicked the inspectors out, according to all the documents widely accepted by everyone, there were unaccounted-for stocks of chemical and biological agents, that is, let me back up. At the end of the first Gulf War in 1991, the United Nations certified the quantity of chemical and biological materials that Saddam had, the state of the laboratory facilities and the unaccounted-for scud missiles or missile kits, and this inspection regime was set up to account for and destroy those so that Iraq could have the sanctions lifted, and the inspections proceeded along and we destroyed far more weapons or materials when I was President than had been destroyed in the first Gulf War. The principal destruction came when two of Saddam's sons-in-laws defected from Iraq to Jordan. One of them was in charge of the materials programme. He said, 'They've been lying to you, here's the stuff.' We confronted them with the charges. The Iraqis said, 'Yes, we've been lying to you, here's the stuff,' and we destroyed huge amounts of things. Then those two guys foolishly were lured back into Iraq and they were murdered within a month of going home, but we did destroy a lot of things. Now, in '98 when he kicked the inspectors out, the United States and the United Kingdom bombed the suspected weapon sites for four days, but we did not know if we had destroyed them. So, 9/11 occurs, and the first thing you want to do is to make sure you don't have any known chemical, biological or nuclear materials floating around that can easily fall in the wrong hands. At that moment, there were unaccounted-for stocks of two biological agents, botulinum and aphrotoxin, and two chemical agents, VX and ricin. I never saw any intelligence that indicated he had a substantial nuclear programme, nor did I ever see any intelligence to indicate he had anything to do with al-Qaeda, so yes, I would have insisted on the inspections, everybody agreed on that. If I had been a United States senator, I would have voted for the resolution that the President asked for giving him the authority to use force because Saddam never co-operated with anybody without the threat of force, but I answered no to you for this reason. We started a pre-emptive military action against him without a big international coalition, and before the United Nations inspectors finished their jobs. I think it was a mistake to ask for the authority to use force to make sure the inspections went forward, and then to go to war in effect to depose him before the inspections had been finished, and I think it's clear that the government didn't care whether he had the weapons or not, they wanted to get rid of him regardless. I would not have done that. I would have instead put all my troops into Afghanistan and into the search for Osama Bin Laden and Dr. Al-Zarqawi, and into the effort to stabilise the government of Mr. Karzai so that he wouldn't have to make bad deals with warlords who would insist on being able to increase their opium production. And then at the conclusion of that effort in Afghanistan, if I could build a coalition to have a new start in Iraq, then we could have done that, but there was no immediate emergency. There was also clearly no plan for what to do after Saddam was deposed. It was easy to depose him, and as we see, difficult to build a new country, so I would not have done it. Now, having said that, I want to be perfectly candid. He did a lot of terrible things, and 58% of the Iraqis voted in the first election. That's a higher turnout than the United States had in the last presidential election, and they were risking their lives to do it, so we have heavy responsibilities to the people of Iraq now because we did induce this chain of events which have unfolded. They did vote, they did adopt a new constitution. Even the Sunnis who voted against the constitution are now considering whether to participate in the parliamentary elections. If they do, they may be able to make an agreement with the Shia and the Kurds that will enable them to participate in a new Iraq. If they do that, then we should be able to begin to bring down our troop levels, but I do not favour, even though I would not have launched the invasion when it was launched under the circumstances under which is was launched, I think it would be a bad mistake to have a unilateral withdrawal now and leave all those people at the mercy of the forces which are now operating in Iraq, among other things, the Zarqawi group that murdered all those people in Jordan the other day. I just wouldn't do that. I think we owe them the right to build a self-governing country and we need to try to stick it out and help them do that, but I think it was an error to do what we did when we did under the circumstances in which we did it, but we've got to try to make it work now, that's what I really think.

^ back to top

US credibility in the Middle East

Audience questionTIM SEBASTIAN
We have another question which follows on from that. Anfal Mubarak Berair, lady up there, if we can get a microphone to you.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Mr. President, do you believe the United States can still act as an agent of peace in the Middle East considering the current level of animosity the Middle East has for the United States?
BILL CLINTON
Well, I think it depends entirely on the Palestinians and the Israelis. I mean, when I was there, we were the only people that both sides trusted to shoot straight with them, to work with them. In 1998, for example, we had such extraordinary co-operation between the Israeli and the Palestinian security services working with the Americans that it was the only year in the entire history of the State of Israel when no-one was killed, not a single person, by terrorist attack, and the violence was way down among the Palestinians as well, so it depends entirely on whether both sides want us to, but it's complicated if the United States' position is compromised in other parts of the Arab world and other parts of the Muslim world, but I don't see how they can ever get to peace unless there is an interlocutor trusted by both sides. For example you just take this last agreement we had, which is a tiny agreement but a very, very important one, that the Secretary of State brokered on the terms and conditions of Gaza. If it hadn't been for her intervention The special envoy, Jim Wolfenson representing the United Nations, had been trying for four months to get this basic set of agreements for use of Gaza by the Gazans, arguing to the Israelis that, 'Look, you can't get out of Gaza and then turn it over to the Palestinians and say "Now be happy in Gaza, but you can't get in and out, and we're going to let your crops rot in storage and you'll never be able to sell them, and nobody will ever be able to come in here and invest any money." You have to make getting out of Gaza work for the Palestinians that are in Gaza if you want us to be the part of a peace.' He had been arguing that for four months, he'd gotten nowhere, and you know, maybe all these celebrations around, there have been deaths, maybe all the changes in the Labour Party, maybe a lot of other things contributed to the willingness of the Israeli government to make this agreement, but what really sealed the deal was the American Secretary of State came there, stayed up all night and basically said, 'This is a test of our relationship with you, we've got to have this agreement and the people have to be able to use Gaza.' So yes, I think it's really important and I'm glad she did it and I think she did a good job.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Do you want to come back? Are you happy with the answer? Did you want to come back and say something else? Please go ahead if you do.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
My question is, after the occupation that happened in Iraq, do you think still the United States can ever be an agent of peace in the Middle East?
BILL CLINTON
First of all it depends on whether the Iraq enterprise succeeds, if they are a self-governing representative country, and if we then get out, like we said we would, and not make ourselves permanent occupiers but really we do what we say we will, we facilitate their ability to defend themselves and then we leave. There are a lot of people I guess who agree with what we did because Saddam was a bad man, but you know, we'd never lost a pre-emptive attack before. I attacked Milosevic in both Bosnia and Kosovo, it's important to remember, without a UN Security Council resolution because the Russians were too closely tied to the Serbs. They couldn't be seen to be going along with it, and the Chinese had a strict principle of non-intervention, but that principle of non-intervention had given us a quarter-of-a-million dead Bosnians and 2 million Bosnian refugees, and it was disgraceful what was happening. So the first call I got from the King of Saudi Arabia and from any number of other Arab Muslim leaders was, 'Please go in and do something about Bosnia and it's too bad if the UN won't go along with you. You can't let the innocent die.' So I think, the question is, how much of an emergency did you have? Now, Saddam killed a lot of innocent people but a lot of them he killed in the 1980's with the full support of the American government because he was opposed to Iran, so the facts were different here, and I just thought we should not have done it without more support and in a way that diverted our efforts from Afghanistan where we did have total support from the world community. But yes, I think we can regain our role as a peacemaker if we do the right things in the right way, because there's still a moment in world history, it won't last forever, but there's still a moment when we have an enormous amount of political and economic and military capacity, and if people see us using that for peace, then it'll be a positive thing. I'll give you just one example that goes specifically to your question. As you may know, former President Bush and I were asked by the President to go raise money to help the tsunami-affected countries, and the biggest damage was in Indonesia, the world's biggest Muslim country. So there was a poll done in Indonesia before and after the tsunami about attitudes toward America, and Bin Laden. Before the tsunami, 36% of the people in Indonesia had a positive view of America, and 58% had a positive view of Mr. Bin Laden. After the tsunami, 60% had a positive view of America, and 28% had a positive view of Bin Laden. Now, he didn't do anything to hurt anyone as far as I know in Indonesia after the tsunami, but he didn't do anything to help anyone either, and all of a sudden they saw the American military were there trying to save lives with the American civilian workers and the non-governmental organisations and all of that. We related to the people of Indonesia as human beings and we were there for no political purpose, only in a human way, and it changed their estimation of what kind of people we were and what we were about. So that's my answer to you. If we still have the means to have an influence and we do it in a way that people think is genuine and not designed to hoard oil or power or money or anything else for ourselves, even no matter how much people disagree with what we did in Iraq, I think we can recover that, and I think that if the Iraqi enterprise succeeds, the fact that they wanted to be free of Saddam will help us recover from that. If it doesn't and if it becomes a terrorist infected area as much of the Sunni section of Iraq is today, it will be more difficult.

^ back to top

The role of youth in addressing social problems

TIM SEBASTIAN
Let's take a question from Fardan Al-Fardan please.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
Mr. President, how do you suggest the youth of the Middle East address important social problems?
BILL CLINTON
The first thing I think you should do is more things like this. I think there should be a decided effort of young people in the Middle East to talk to one another in a respectful and honest and open way across various lines of division. I think that's important. And the second thing I think is that what I would do if I were your age now and I were thinking about this, I would try to get a lot of like-minded young people to say, 'Look, all this money that's going to flow into the region in the next ten years, because of the dramatic increase in the price of oil, we should use this money to diversify the economy, to invest in education, to reduce the poverty levels, to find a way to liberate the potential of all of our people.' Among other things, this may seem counter-intuitive to some of you, but if I were running an oil-producing country today, or if I were running a big oil company today, my goal would be to transform it from an oil country to an energy country. If I had the money, I'd buy half the solar manufacturing capacity in the world and I would start in the Middle East and the equator and I would just work out. I would say, 'We're going to fight global warming, we're going to create jobs, we're going to create clean energy and it's going to be good for our oil because we have the lowest cost of extraction in the world, so we'll still be able to sell our oil, but we're also going to help the world and the region with solar energy, with wind energy, with new forms of economic activities and the kind of things you've done here with the university.' I would be trying to build a different more diverse, more open Middle East in a way that reduced poverty and inequality and integrated this region with the rest of the world more, that's what I would do. And I would disavow any political strategy that included blowing up innocent people, and I think you have to be in a position to condemn the unacceptable. I mean, what Zarqawi did in Jordan the other night was unbelievable. He made a deliberate attempt to murder only Muslims just to show King Abdullah that he was still after him and wanted to overthrow the Hashemite Kingdom. So he murdered all these people at a wedding, all Muslims. As far as I know, it is the only act of terror in recent history that was directed entirely against Muslims without any allegations of complicity or something. You know, there have been some people killed in Iraq for co-operating with the United States, a large number, but I cannot remember anything like this where people just showed up at a wedding and got blown to smithereens, just so that guy could tell the King, 'I'm still coming to get you.' I think you should speak out against that, but I think you should have a positive vision of the future, and I think you ought to try to establish dialogue across all these lines of division. I think you ought to have a bunch of students from an Israeli university to come here and ask them what they think they're getting out of holding on to the West Bank, and talk to them about it. You never go wrong talking to people. I think there ought to be a debate with the Iranians about whether they really want to undertake the cost and the risks of having nuclear weapons, and whether that will really help make any Iranian child more secure or make the country wealthier. I think you should talk about what is the meaning of a great country in the 21st century, how would every nation or region define its greatness? If I were your age and I was thinking about the world I live in and the world I would like to bring children into, and the world I would like to leave for my children and grand-children, these are the kinds of things I'd be thinking and working on.
TIM SEBASTIAN
But you're asking them to be pretty brave, aren't you, to stand up in some of these societies and speak out openly against the prevailing views?
BILL CLINTON
Well, no, I mean, he may agree with the prevailing view, but at least he ought to throw himself into it. I think that what I'm asking you to do, here's what I think. I think that if I were in this region and I were looking at the future, I'd say, 'What are the threats to this future? What are the threats to my future, to my ability to establish a normal life, have a good family, bring children into the world, die a happy old man, 60 years from now, 70 years from now?' I thought about such things when I was your age, I did. I remember telling my wife once when I was 25, she said, 'What do you want out of life?' I said, 'I want us to be in our late 70's, sitting on a park bench somewhere, watching young couples walk by and I want us to feel no resentment that they are young and we are old, and they have all their time left.' I thought about that when I was your age. You should think about such things. It doesn't take long to live a life, it doesn't take long, so what I'm saying is, 'Here's what I think your problems are. If you allow this region to be dominated by people who think they can take other people's lives who are non-combatants, because they are in possession of the truth and they can turn it into a political programme and anyone who rejects it deserves to die, then you are going to have a very unhappy life.' One of the things that Abdullah did in Jordan that I really liked is, he brought in the leaders of all the different schools of thought of Islam, and they talked about, you know, their learned scholarship, but the implicit thing, they all explicitly disavowed terror, but underneath that, the very idea that any faith has different schools of thought means that no-one is in full possession of the truth and therefore you can't turn it into a political programme that is completely true, and therefore it's not legitimate to kill people just because they disagree with you, because they're not sub-human. So I think you have to deal with that. The other big issue you have is what are you going to do with this, one more time you're being given a chance to make maximum use of oil wealth. The price of oil has gone way high, and therefore there'll be a premium coming into this region probably somewhere round the order of a trillion dollars or more in the next, you know, several years. What are you going to do with that? Are you going to just spend it and have a good time or are you going to create more university settings like this and more students and educate more men and women? And once you get all these educated people, what are you going to do with them? How will you build an economy that you would like to be a part of, no matter what happens to the price or supply of oil, and how will you build an economy that will work for you if the climate of the globe keeps warming up and we have drastic changes in economy and agricultural production patterns in the world and things like that? These are things you should be thinking about. This is a great gift for you, this high oil price, but only if you use it right. For many people, great gifts are a curse because they use it in the easiest, most self-evident way and then when it's gone, they wonder what happened to the good times. So these are the things I would do. If I were your age, that's what I'd be thinking about.

^ back to top

If Hillary Clinton became president

Audience questionTIM SEBASTIAN
OK, let's take a question from Ibrahim Sultan, on a completely different tack.
AUDIENCE Q (M)
Good evening, Mr. President. How would you envision your role as the first gentleman, if you may, if Senator Clinton decides to run and wins the White House in the next presidential elections?
BILL CLINTON
Well, first of all, she's got to get re-elected to the Senate in New York, and therefore I'm trying not to even think about that. I don't know if she will run for president. If she did run, I don't know whether she'd win. I know one thing, if she did run and she did win she would do a magnificent job, I do know that. I've never met anybody, and I'm good at this politics stuff, I understand it, and you can say that I have a biased view, which I do, but I'm also a good judge of people's capacity to serve and to lead. I've never met anybody in all my years in working in politics in the United States, that I thought had a better combination of mind and heart and strength and compassion, kind of understanding and ability to get things done than she does. I think she would be, in some ways she would be better than me too because she had the eight years that we were there together, and she learned from my early mistakes and just how to do things, and she'd had that experience in the Senate. I've felt this way since I first met her actually, when we were young and going out together, I felt ambivalent about whether we should marry because I was afraid if she married me, it would take her away from having a career in politics. At the time she thought it was crazy. She said, 'You know, I could never do all the stuff you do. You go round and shake hands and give speeches and it's not my life, I could never do it.' But I knew she should be in public life 20 years before she did, or 25 or 30 years. She is an extraordinarily able person with a great mind and heart, so it'd be good for the world if she got elected and good for America, but I have no idea if she'll run, and she can't even think about it till she gets re-elected. Now, so having said all that, if she did run and she were elected, I would ironically be for her, my approach to her would be the same as it is to the current President with who I disagree on so much, that is, I believe if you've been President of the United States and the President asks you to do something, no matter who the President is, if you can do it in good conscience, you should. So in the areas where President Bush and I agree and he asked me to help in the tsunami areas, I did it. He asked me help in the Katrina area, I did it. I've supported him in Colombia where we worked together on trying to liberate our oldest democracy in South America from the grip of the narco traffickers, and we're winning, by the way, they're winning. I did it. So my answer to you is, if Hillary were the president, I would do whatever she asked me to do, if I could do it in good conscience, but it would be her decision, not mine. She's got enough problems without me trying to tell her what I should be doing. It's a big job, so I would do whatever she decided to ask me to do, unless I could not do it in good conscience, I would do it. I would salute and say, 'Yes, ma'am,' and do it, which is what I've often done in my life already.

^ back to top

Talking to Osama Bin Laden

TIM SEBASTIAN
Sara Al-Khoori, you have a question for the President.
AUDIENCE Q (F)
Mr. President, if you had the chance to meet Osama Bin Laden in person, what would you say to him?
BILL CLINTON
It would depend upon the circumstances obviously, but if we were alone in a room together, first I would try to prevent him from getting away, I would try to effect a citizen's arrest, because I know people who died on September 11th, and I don't like it when people wilfully kill innocents, but I would really seize the opportunity to talk to him. I've studied him very closely and I began a long time before, even before he began, the way he killed all those people in Africa and before he killed all those people on the USS Cole. I knew that he was a very, very formidable person, highly intelligent, deeply convicted, determined he wanted to replace the House of Saud in Saudi Arabia, he hated us for staying behind after the first Gulf War. He once sort of liked us when we were helping him fight the former Soviet Union in Afghanistan, and we, America, we made a bad mistake after that war actually, the way we walked away from Afghanistan, it was a mistake. That happened a long time before my time but it was in the early 80's and we almost guaranteed the result that happened in Afghanistan with the Taliban and all the things that happened, but I would try to kind of confirm what I think I know about Osama Bin Laden and I'd give him a chance to talk to me, I'd listen to him, and I would tell him why I thought he was not right, no matter how smart he is and how clever he is. You know, the leaders of all these movements, they're always happy to have other people strap on the bombs and the belts full of ball-bearings and tacks and go in and kill a load of kids as they blow themselves to smithereens. They're still up in the caves somewhere. I just would try to persuade him, and I would fail of course, but I would try to persuade him that I did not represent the devil and he did not have the whole truth, and that the world would never, ever survive if we resolved our differences that way. I also think it's terrible for the whole culture of Islam, the whole history of the Arab world, and the wider Islamic world, for us to be resolving our differences this way. Look at the Arab Human Development Report. I would ask him to respond to the Arab Human Development Report written by Arab scholars for the United Nations. It basically says, 'We need more people like you and fewer people like Osama Bin Laden,' and you know, he could tell me, 'Well, look how the Muslims are discriminated against in Europe,' or he could tell me a thousand things, and I could say, 'You know, people have always had problems throughout history but we would never make any progress if we went around blowing each other up,' and I would have this discussion, but I would love to ask him, I would ask him a lot of questions, but if he tried to get away, I'd try to stop him.
TIM SEBASTIAN
President Clinton, you've talked a lot about following instructions, particularly on the home front. I have instructions now that we've run out of time. Thank you very much indeed for sparing some time with us.
BILL CLINTON
Thank you all very much, thank you, thank you.
TIM SEBASTIAN
Thank you very much.
BILL CLINTON
Thank you all very much. Thank you for having me. Goodbye.

^ back to top

Watch online