The U.S. invasion of Iraq was among the "dumbest moves of all time" that ranks with the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor and the German invasion of Russia, billionaire philanthropist Ted Turner said on Tuesday.
The founder of CNN and unabashed internationalist also defended the right of Iran to have nuclear weapons and the effectiveness of the United Nations and, in a jocular mood, advocated banning men from elective office worldwide in a Reuters Newsmaker appearance.
Alternately combative and humorous, Turner spoke nine years after his pledge to donate $1 billion to the United Nations over 10 years and on the same day President Bush addressed the U.N. General Assembly a mile away.
U.S. invasion of Iraq has caused "incalculable damage" that will take 20 years to overcome "if we just act reasonably intelligently."
"It will go down in history, it is already being seen in history, as one of the dumbest moves that was ever made by anybody. A couple of others that come to mind were the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor and the German invasion of Russia," Turner told the forum.
"It literally broke my heart. You don’t start wars just because you don’t like somebody. ... I wouldn’t even start a war with Rupert Murdoch," Turner said, referring to his onetime cable network rival.
Often contrarian, Turner called it a "joke" that Bush demanded that Iran abandon any ambitions for nuclear weapons while at the same time hoping to ban all such bombs.
"They’re a sovereign state," Turner said of Iran. "We have 28,000. Why can’t they have 10? We don’t say anything about Israel -- they’ve got 100 of them approximately -- or India or Pakistan or Russia. And really, nobody should have them.
"They aren’t usable by any sane person."
POWER TO THE WOMEN
One way to reduce such dangers in the world would be to leave women in charge, said the former husband of Jane Fonda.
"Men should be barred from public office for 100 years in every part of the world. ... It would be a much kinder, gentler, more intelligently run world. The men have had millions of years where we’ve been running things. We’ve screwed it up hopelessly. Let’s give it to the women."
In the meantime, the United Nations represents the best hope, Turner said.
While the world body is ridiculed as ineffective and irrelevant by its harshest critics and often criticized by its strongest advocates, Turner offered what was then one-third of his net worth to the world body nine years ago.
"I am absolutely certain we would not have made it through the Cold War without the U.N.," Turner said. "When Khrushchev at the U.N. took his shoe off and hit podium he was so mad, but he had a place to let off steam. If the U.N. hadn’t been there, that would have been war right then."
When a questioner from the audience challenged Turner on the United Nations’s value, Turner shot back.
"The war between Lebanon and Israel and Hizbollah would still be going on if it hadn’t been for the U.N., and that’s only in the last two weeks, Bubba."