Rep. Mike Pence: International cooperation on anti-terrorism
Congressman Mike Pence has been on Capitol Hill, representing Indiana's second Congressional district, since 2000. He is the only freshman member of Congress to chair a subcommittee this year, and is the only member of Congress attending the Conference on the Threat of International Terrorism in Berlin, the first to be held since the attacks on September 11. He joined the CNN.com chat room from Berlin, Germany.
CNN: Thank you for joining us today, Rep. Mike Pence, and welcome.
REP. MIKE PENCE: Delighted to be with you, and everyone joining us over on CNN.com.
CNN: What are the goals of the conference?
PENCE: I believe the intention of the organizers was to bring together officials and representatives of European, Middle Eastern and Eastern nations most likely to be involved in our international coalition against terrorism, for nothing more than a conversation about the issues to be raised, and the perspectives of the participants.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Why is the first conference just now being held?
PENCE: I think it's important to note that this is a conference sponsored by two non-governmental organizations, the Aspen Institute, and the New Atlantic Initiative. It is not an official gathering, but rather an unofficial get-together of leaders from many of the nations that will be critical in this coalition. It should not be confused with formal diplomatic negotiations, which have been underway since the afternoon of September 11.
CNN: How do the European countries feel about U.S. action?
PENCE: The most surprising thing to me, as a congressman from the midwest, is the overwhelming sympathy from virtually every nation represented at this conference. Even here in Berlin, in meetings with our ambassador, I have personally witnessed emotional encounters between ordinary citizens and American officials that were very meaningful to me. Our allies grieve with us over these cowardly attacks.
Recently 200,000 Germans gathered for a candlelight vigil at the Brandenberg Gate here in Berlin, as a testament to this sentiment. So, my first observation is one of being enormously moved by the sympathy and compassion of the people of Berlin and the diplomats represented here. With regard to formal support, I am also pleased to report that there is broad and largely unqualified support for a strong military retaliation by the United States and its coalition partners. I also sensed finally that attitudes about President George Bush have turned 180 degrees in Europe in the weeks following this attack.
CNN: What about the Middle Eastern countries?
PENCE: I had the privilege of sharing a panel discussion with His Royal Highness Prince El-Hassan bin Talal of the kingdom of Jordan (who is the brother of the late King Hussein). I was deeply moved at the Prince's expressions of sympathy, and what is obviously a heartfelt desire to be a bridge-builder between the East and the West during this time of crisis.
The Prince spoke eloquently of the arc of crisis, which runs geographically from the Western Sahara of Africa to India, and called for the development of a new framework for problem-solving within that region, and for compassionate intervention. Finally, Prince Hassan made the extremely important point that terrorism has no ethnicity, that terrorism is against Islam, and that suicide is abhorred by Islam, and urged all participants to attack terrorism, but not to associate it with any religion or any ethnic group.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Do you think the sentiment would be as strong had the events not been so catastrophic?
PENCE: I think that is a very important question, and one which is difficult to answer, because I did not expect the sentiment from leaders from Japan, Germany, Great Britain and the Middle East to be as powerful as it was. In the case of Tadashi Imai, who is with the intelligence department of the Japanese foreign ministry, he spoke of the experience of the Japanese people watching these events occur on television at 11 o'clock at night, and spoke of the "very big" impact and the sympathy and support that was generated among the Japanese people as a result. So, had the events been less catastrophic, would they have derived the same reaction? That's very hard to say.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Are there any countries that refuse to join the coalition?
PENCE: None that were in attendance at this gathering.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Mr. Pence, don't you think the U.S. is suffering a backlash from its foreign polices?
PENCE: Quite the contrary. I was truly amazed as I heard many European representatives speak from across the political spectrum about how badly they felt about our foreign policy before September 11, and how impressed they are with our foreign policy since September 11. As I said before, the image of our President and our government has forced those in attendance to re-evaluate and re-assess our nation and our leadership in the world.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: I understand that you met with [U.S. ambassador to Germany] Dan Coats of Indiana, what was his reaction to this conference?
PENCE: I know that the Ambassador was delighted to have the conference taking place in Berlin, and was most gracious to escort me to a meeting the night before the conference, with over sixty members of the Bundestag, where we both saw with our own eyes the enormous sympathy and affection of the representatives of all the people of Germany. As a personal note, I was honored to be Ambassador Coats' first official visit by a member of Congress, and that was especially meaningful to me as a fellow Hoosier.
CHAT PARTICIPANT: Do you think it is also important to have China's cooperation since they border Afghanistan as well and could intervene in the event of a ground war?
PENCE: I feel very strongly after this conference that the President's vision for an international coalition, which could well include China, is without a doubt the right approach to responding to these tragic events. The unqualified enthusiasm of every member of the conference for the administration's approach convinces me that to the extent that we can enlist nations in the cause of defeating world terrorism, we should enlist any nation that would be willing to join us. My only caveat would be, as discussed at the conference, that no nation be permitted to limit our tactical and military options as a precondition of their membership in the coalition. But every nation that is willing to assist us in destroying world terrorism wherever the evidence leads should be welcome in this coalition.
CNN: Do you have any final thoughts to share with us?
PENCE: My only closing thought would be that I hope that you will carry away from this conversation the profound humility that I feel, standing as I am and looking at the skyline of Berlin, and knowing that the people of this nation and this city have broken hearts over the tragic events in our nation. I would also add that the sympathy and genuine human compassion of leaders from countries across the world represented in this conference was deeply moving to me, and as we go forward, and do what needs to be done, it is my judgment that a new era of cooperation and affection with the countries who have come to stand with us may have arrived.
CNN: Thank you for joining us today.
PENCE: Thank you very much. Goodbye
Rep. Mike Pence joined the CNN.com chat room by telephone and CNN provided a typist. This is an edited transcript of the interview which took place on Friday, September 28, 2001.