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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 February, 2003, 12:58 GMT
Jesse Jackson interviewed
Rev Jesse Jackson, civil rights activist
Rev Jesse Jackson, civil rights activist

Breakfast With Frost Interview with Rev. Jesse Jackson, American Civil Rights Activist, 16 February 2003

Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used

DAVID FROST: Now it's not only in Britain of course where anti-war feeling seems to be running high. Yesterday was a day of protests - smaller protests obviously - in some 300 cities around the world, beginning in Melbourne where thousands joined a march against the Australian government's support for possible military action.

In the United States, the crowd which gathered in Manhattan, much smaller than in London but larger, they say, than expected. But it's that huge demonstration and rally here which will probably come to symbolise opposition to the war in Iraq.

And it attracted some internationally known figures as well, including a veteran of the American protest movement and a veteran guest of mine going back almost 30 years or more -

JESSE JACKSON: Good morning.

DAVID FROST: Very good to have you with us Jesse. Tell me what would be success as an outcome of this rally yesterday - what would you view as success?

I mean if, for instance, as Tony Blair touched on, if he's left in place the repression, the torture, and all those things will go on. If the cat and mouse game continues with the inspectors, and we will never see the victims as we saw the people in the march, but, but I mean that - Saddam staying on unchecked, that's not ...

JESSE JACKSON: Success is continued to apply the pressure, to make the government of Iraq more transparent. At first we said he won't let the UN inspectors in, he's letting them in, seemingly with more room to operate. And now the U2 planes and so on, success is a presence there to protect people from repression. First Mr Bush ... will attack Iraq because they have weapons of mass destruction - we couldn't determine that.

And then potential for weapons of mass destruction. Now we're saying our troops are getting weary, let's have deadlines. The issue's not deadlines, it is conflict resolution, that does not kill and be killed, in a way that in the end maybe it hurts the US and Britain more than Iraq.

DAVID FROST: But there's no doubt, is there, at the moment, that the only reason that Saddam has made these last minute concessions is that the threat of force was there. Without the threat of force we'd be in the same position with Saddam as we were a year ago.

JESSE JACKSON: Well peace through threat is not a bad proposition. After all, we know the weapons that Saddam has, Britain and the US has the receipts - we sold them to him.

Or we gave him them, he was, he was our guy. And what we focused so much on Saddam Hussein, which nobody did because we were allies when he did, are, the reason why Heathrow has been shut down this morning, and Kennedy in New York, because of al-Qaeda and Bin Laden, who also was our guy, he's threatening and has already struck.

Then there's North Korea - desperate, dangerous and fully armed. And there's the unresolved Middle East crisis which suffers from lack of attention and we fast forward to Iraq which is under a glass.

We know where Iraq is. The US military and Britain have them on their air patrol for the last 12 years. It's not the going - so he's a dangerous force but at least we have a grip on him but not on al-Qaeda and not on North Korea.

DAVID FROST: I don't know about a grip on him quite, because talking to Iraqi exiles here and you here may not have time to talk to them here, but in the States and so on, I mean they are all saying how desperate for the conditions of humanity in Iraq is a regime change.

JESSE JACKSON: Well are we likely to go to war based upon that? We didn't in South Africa, for example. We didn't in Rwanda, for example. Are we - we say we go to war because our national security is threatened.

Now, ... today, people of Britain and people of the United States or in Rome or in France or Germany, they feel more threatened that Saddam is coming or al-Qaeda's coming, for example. And the issue is not security, it is in fact personal. Is it the oil, is it the fast contract, is it hegemony over the region?

Most people seem to think so and that case has not been made to change people's minds. If only Mr Blair would embrace the sentiment of Brit and begin to lead Britain and not follow Mr Bush blindly.

In a moral sense it, it is the right thing to do but in a political sense, as Mr Bush pushes the envelope, his ratings go up because he's leading the right wing of his country.

The case for Mr Blair, his ratings are going down because he's going against the flow of his own constituents.

DAVID FROST: Well that of course ... raises a fascinating point, that in fact by doing right wing things, as you put it, George Bush can get more and more popular, which raises the question that the left in America, as you probably deplore, seems to have shrivelled really, that there's no real support on the left, there's no opposition on this scale on the left in America - so why is that - what happened to the left and was it the Democrats own fault?

JESSE JACKSON: There's growing opposition - number one, the Democrats did beat George Bush in the last election, a, he won with a reduced number of votes.

But having said all of that, the American media now is so corporately controlled - I mean GE owns NBC, so when Bush has a massive tax cut, GE benefits, when they have a massive war build up they sell war machinery, so one senses that the American media is not as vigorous nor as diverse say as British media. Most Americans do not associate the fact that we funded and propped up Bin Laden - he was our guy in Afghanistan, and we shot, we taught the Mujahadin how to shoot down jets, now we're afraid they'll shoot down ours.

That we funded and backed up Saddam. We kind of figure them out of context, that people come aware and come alive - people say somehow this would have not passed a smell test. Today, David, the US on what they call orange alert - full alert that something might happen, not from Saddam but from al-Qaeda, maybe even from North Korea.

And so I sense the peace movement in America and reconciliation because I think that Mr Kofi Annan ought to form an imminent persons group, maybe led by Nelson Mandella to go to Saddam and try to convince him that his power will be in more transparency, not in closed doors.

His power will be in less weapons not in more. And maybe someone who can challenge him to do that without taking away his dignity maybe successful.

DAVID FROST: And what about you going back to Baghdad? You were there last time, a controversial visit, but you met Saddam. Are you thinking of going back again this time?

JESSE JACKSON: Well maybe within the context of a group such as that. I'll, we went there 12 years ago and the citizens were there from Britain and from the US and Canada and from, and from France.

We convinced him to let the 600 citizens go, including a little kid here from Britain who he rubbed on the head, but we convinced them to let them go - I couldn't convince him at that time to come out of Kuwait, which he should not have gone into in the first place. He was driven back to the border, as it were, but I was able to convince him to move.

That's why I hold out the hopes that a, that we can use our war build up and use the strength of that to negotiate a more open society, relieve that pressure and take, and free us of the burden, they will lose the moral authority.

When we, the night that we attack Iraq, militarily, that night with the pre-emptive strike, we lose moral authority because we, if we pre-emptively attack them, if China hits Tawain or India and Pakistan hit each other, or Israel, God forsake it, drop ... the other nation, we'll lose the capacity to spread judgement to stabilise the world.

DAVID FROST: Thank you very much Jesse, thank you for being with us. All the best.

INTERVIEW ENDS



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