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The Nation’s Katrina Vandenheuvel tries to explain Iraq as the worst foreign policy disaster even in U.S. history.

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HH: Katrina Vandenheuvel is the editor and publisher of The Nation, and Katrina, you’ve got a really, this is like the worst act to even have to follow. You have to follow Julie Andrews.

KV: I have to follow Julie Andrews?

HH: I just got done talking to Julie Andrews. That’s really awful.

KV: Oh, but I have to admit, I’ve watched The Sound of Music maybe thirty times.

HH: I know. We can agree on this.

KV: Do the sing-a-longs. That’s a tough one. Thank you, Hugh. That shows your partisan stripes.

HH: Never ever come after the elephants at a circus, or after Julie Andrews has been charming. She’s just so wonderful. Katrina, it’s great to talk to you, and thanks for joining me.

KV: Thank you.

HH: I wanted to get your sense of the big press conference, really, the joint press conference down in South Carolina last night. As you kind of channel the netroots over at The Nation, what do you think you saw last night? Who came out ahead?

KV: You know, let me begin that I don’t think the country came out ahead. These formats, this sort of gotcha, almost quasi-Miss America beauty pageant questioning doesn’t really get us that far.

HH: Now we’ve just agreed twice in two minutes.

KV: Have we? No, I mean, when Brian Williams also posed a question about something I know quite a bit about, he asked about U.S. policy toward Russia, and he said well, what do you think of Russia pulling out of the conventional forces in Europe treaty, or the new treaty, over a squabble. I mean, it’s just making everything very petty. On the other hand, you know, Mike Gravel emerged, this magazine’s written about Mike Gravel, and he should be praised for what he did in 1971, putting the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional record. But you know, I have to say, I listened to the MSNBC pundits after watching the debate, and I felt like I was in a parallel universe. I have to say I did not think Hillary Clinton was also presidential, because she moved to say let’s retaliate also quickly. And I thought that there wasn’t enough discussion of the huge challenges facing this country. And poor John Edwards had to sort of devote a little time to repentance for his haircut, instead of speaking as forcefully as he might have about the extraordinary inequality this country’s facing, and what can be done.

HH: So what’s a liberal or a lefty going to do? Because it was rally pablum.

KV: Well, I think, again, I come back to I think the format diminishes, almost demeans, and I think what we need to do is you keep pushing away at the issues you think need to be addressed, if this is going to be a stronger, healthier country, and I think to some extent, outside of that debate process, there is some movement on national health care, and an understanding, by the way, across the board, in different degrees last night, that this war is a disaster, the greatest foreign policy disaster in our nation’s history. And we have to find a way out.

HH: Come on, you’re not buying that, Katrina, are you?

KV: I do.

HH: The greatest foreign policy disaster?

KV: I believe that.

HH: In our nation’s history?

KV: You know why? I do, because I think Vietnam, more lives were lost, and that was a huge tragedy. But I think in the end, you ended up with a kind of détente after that was over. It’s a different world.

HH: Well yeah, after two million Cambodians were genocided out of the door, and not involving ourselves in Rwanda?

KV: No, no, no. I mean, listen, we involved ourselves in Kosovo, and the Republicans criticized Clinton for that, but I didn’t, I do think that this, Iraq is going to destabilize the region, and it has destabilized the United States position in the world, in relationship to both the reputation it should have, what it’s possible to do, alliances, in a way that Vietnam did not. I’m focusing…

HH: But the greatest foreign policy disaster?

KV: I do.

HH: I mean, Pearl Harbor, and not stopping Hitler in the 30’s…

KV: Well, we moved, I mean, this nation, the nation was at the forefront of that fight in World War II, but that wasn’t, America emerged strong. I’m talking America emerged strong after World War II. I’m talking about foreign policy, national security disasters for the United States. I’m not talking about the horrors of Cambodia or of the Holocaust. I’m talking about national security.

HH: Well, how about the League of Nations? I mean, we, when Wilson fails, arguably, collective security fails with him, and Hitler’s allowed an entry into the genocidal maniac, and the launch of the Soviet expansion into Eastern Europe. It’s crazy, Katrina.

KV: Yes, but Hugh, Hugh, this whole bit about Islamo-fascism and drawing parallels with Soviet communism, we were very strong, and the Cold War, I think we squandered resources in both countries that could have been used for better purposes. But we were not, our national security was not undermined in the way that Iraq has undermined our national security, stretching our military, and destroying the United States’ wonderful, what should be, a strong reputation. I think all of those other things you talk about are disasters in their own terms, but not national security disasters on the same scale.

HH: Well now, I spoke earlier this week with one of the authors here at the Festival of Books, Lawrence Wright…

KV: Right.

HH: …about his book, The Looming Tower. Do you think Lawrence Wright knows what he’s talking about?

KV: I have not, I regret that as an editor of a weekly magazine, I read much, but I don’t read as much as I would like, and I don’t know enough about the book. I’m looking forward to coming to the L.A. Times Book Fair, perhaps meeting him. I don’t know…what I do know is that we have a number of people who have written about 9/11, and about the United States’ response, and where we go now with the “war on terror,” and I think they’re wise, and a few of them will be out there with The Nation group at the L.A. Times Festival.

HH: How do you think we’re doing vis-a-vis al Qaeda in its various entities, Katrina?

KV: Well, here again, I think you come back, I do think Iraq, which never had ties to al Qaeda, has now, the war, the occupation, and Lawrence Wright may know more about this, has fueled a new form of al Qaeda, decentralized, but virulent and dangerous, and the way we are fighting terrorism, and this idea that we’re fighting terrorism in Iraq is more detrimental to our security, and fuels more terrorism and radical Islamic jihadists than it…

HH: What do you think would happen…if the left got its way and we just pulled out, Dennis Kucinich, you know, now…

KV: Oh, I think…

HH: What would happen?

KV: I think that one cannot be rosy about what would happen in Iraq, but you would do everything possible with a regional diplomatic offensive. And those countries around Iraq don’t want turmoil and turbulence streaming out of Iraq. You would do everything possible through international peacekeeping, regional, diplomatic offensive to contain the sectarian war we’re seeing in Iraq, and that you would bring more stability to the people who are now being occupied by those they fear. They call us occupiers, not liberators, that we would do better for out stability, and for the well-being of our troops and the Iraqi people…

HH: Quickly, Katrina, did you read Fred Kagan or…

KV: I don’t read Fred Kagan, because I think people like that…

HH: Max Boot?

KV: They should be held accountable for having misled us along with this administration.

HH: All right. Katrina Vandenheuvel, thank you so much. We’ll catch up with you again. I’m sorry to make you come after Julie Andrews.

End of interview.


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