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International reaction and NATO's stance

Christiane Amanpour: 'Profound sense of shock'

CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour
CNN's Christiane Amanpour reports from London on world reaction and NATO's commitment to back the United States. And she talks with Gen. Wesley Clark about the task of responding to the attacks' perpetrators.  

By Christiane Amanpour

(CNN) -- All day, people have been describing this as "a day that will live in infamy." The shock is growing, and it is a profound sense of shock.

People and nations across the world have been shaken to the very core: If the once-impregnable fortress, America, can be attacked in this unbelievably appalling manner, they say, then which nation is safe?

In an unprecedented act, NATO has met and invoked a Cold War-era treaty clause that says, essentially, that when one member is attacked, then all members are attacked. That's NATO saying, in essence, that should the United States decide that it needs to take a military response, NATO will stand foursquare behind the United States and help it militarily or politically.

Amongst the U.S. allies around the world -- particularly here in Britain -- outpourings of sympathy and solidarity. People here really believe the momentum is gathering for some kind of retaliation -- some kind of attempt to, as British Prime Minister Tony Blair says, defeat and eradicate these terrorists.

People here are saying that while cool heads should prevail, that while leaders should make sure they do not act under impulse, they should neither ignore the scale and the magnitude of what has happened, not just to the United States but to the entire civilized world.

Flags are flown at half-staff in England and around Europe. Flowers pile up at U.S. embassies. Sympathy and especially shock are growing. In the wake of the worst terrorist attack anywhere -- on a scale Western leaders say they had never even contemplated -- newspapers talk of a "declaration of war" on America. Politicians from the world's democracies say that today everyone is American.

European bourses and brokers suspended trading for a minute Wednesday to show respect for the dead. European leaders have called emergency security meetings.

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One after the other, world leaders stand up in sympathy and solidarity -- President Vladimir Putin saying that Russia will observe a moment of silence Thursday. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder says that Germany stands with America and everyone who's for peace and freedom around the world. The same messages came from all European capitals, from Japanese leaders and the Chinese president as well.

There were sour notes sounded, too. Some people in some countries said the catastrophe should be a warning to the United States and the Bush administration not to make policies that bully other countries.

In Britain, one of America's strongest and closest allies, Prince Charles came to offer condolences to the U.S. ambassador, mindful that many Britons working in New York are likely to be among the victims.

America's Arab allies -- moderate Arab states -- have also unanimously condemned the terrorist attacks against the United States. The 57 Islamic nations that make up the Organization of the Islamic Conference have also condemned the attack, saying it stands against Islam.

Countries we might not expect sympathy from -- countries like Libya which has a history of antagonism with the United States -- have also expressed sympathy and support. Countries like Cuba have also done the same.

There have been some isolated incidents -- for instance, among some of the Palestinians in refugee camps and in parts of Israel and the Occupied Territories, who have celebrated what happened in the United States. And there is, it has to be said, an increasingly anti-American feeling on the streets of the Arab nations, particularly in the Occupied Territories, since the 11 months of the intifada, the Palestinian uprising.

But overwhelmingly, the feeling around the world has been one of support, sympathy and solidarity, not just for the United States but for the values, they say, the common values that make everyone in the world a target.

We're now joined by Gen. Wesley Clark, who is in Little Rock, Arkansas. Gen. Clark was the commander of NATO forces, and he's now a CNN military correspondent.

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR: Gen. Clark, we've been speaking about NATO invoking this clause. Can you explain to us exactly and precisely what that means and what action NATO took tonight that's so important?

Gen. Wesley Clark, CNN military analyst
Gen. Wesley Clark, former NATO commander and now a CNN military analyst: "A very clear signal to those around the world that the United States is supported completely by its NATO allies."  

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: This is essential political action taken by the NATO members acting together to say that they stand with -- and will stand with -- the United States in taking whatever actions might become necessary to deal with this attack on the United States. So it's the precondition that will make everything else possible.

AMANPOUR: Is this important in the speed with which it was done? -- You remember from building the coalition for Kosovo that it took a long time, relatively, to do so. Is this an important timeline that we see here?

CLARK: I think the timeline is highly significant. Of course this is in response to an attack on a NATO member state. It's the first time, to my knowledge, that Article 5 (of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization charter) has ever been invoked. It's the first time we've had an attack on a NATO member state. And I think that NATO scholars and diplomats from previous eras would never have suspected that the state to be attacked first would be the United States. So I think this is a very clear signal to those around the world that the United States is supported completely by its NATO allies. And I think that's a very powerful weapon to have in our arsenal.

AMANPOUR: This is an unprecedented attack not just against U.S. interests and territory but against any interests that we've seen in recorded memory. There has not been this kind of act of terrorism that anybody I've talked to can remember. Does the United States have to take military action? Not in revenge but to deter any further terrorism such as this?

CLARK: The first thing the United States has to do is determine precisely what its objectives are. And, as we've heard the president articulate over the last couple of days, it seems pretty clear that the objectives are beyond revenge. They're certainly beyond retaliation. He wants, and has directed, it seems, that we're going to go after and destroy these terrorist organizations and that we're going to hold any states that support them equally responsible.

This is, thus far, the most sweeping interpretation of the objectives. What it means is that we're in for a relatively long campaign. We've seen some of the opening moves by the United States.

Today, we've seen the FBI extraordinarily active and very, very effective, by first reports -- we've had the word from Attorney General (John) Ashcroft and the FBI director (Robert Mueller) about their activities and what they've found in the Boston area, for example, and they're following up leads in Florida. And, presumably, other nations are taking, right now, the same or similar activities -- either in response to this or other chains of evidence that might be available.

So the first step was to gather the information and then to follow it through -- and take this organization and people out.

And Christiane, if I may just say, there may well be a military strike associated with this. But let's remember that the targets here aren't buildings -- these are the people who masterminded this, and all their supporters. Striking in revenge at an isolated training camp or whatever, that's not likely to be the objective here. Not now.

AMANPOUR: So what is, Gen. Clark? We're talking about a faceless, maybe nameless terrorist organization, potentially -- if they decide that it is Osama bin Laden, this is an organization apparently that has successfully morphed into semi-autonomous operating cells around the world. Can you tell us how you take these people out?

CLARK: I think we're seeing the first evidence of that right now by the FBI and the local police in Boston. I think you take them out, face by face. It is an organization of faces, and they can be identified and removed.

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