Skip to main content
CNN.com /transcript

CNN TV

EDITIONS
SERVICES
CNN TV
EDITIONS

CNN BREAKING NEWS

Ramifications of Planned Attack on the U.S.

Aired September 11, 2001 - 13:03   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
AARON BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joining us on the phone: Richard Holbrooke, former American Ambassador to the United Nations, Robert Gates, former head of the CIA. Mr. Gates, let me start with you, because I suspect -- I suspect that millions of Americans right now are asking, "How could something like this happen? How could it happen?"

ROBERT GATES, FORMER HEAD OF C.I.A.: I think that we have to start by acknowledging that we've been both fortunate and capable in the past. This is not the first major attack like this that has been planned. Several years ago there was a plot to bring down 11 American jumbo jets in Asia that the FBI and U.S. intelligence thwarted. And there have been some other major attacks . And I think that when you have free and open country as we do, we are vulnerable to this sort of thing. And it is the face of this term that people have been talking about for several years, of asymmetric warfare. And it is a way of getting at us, the most powerful military nation in the world in ways in which we're vulnerable.

BROWN: So we heard -- and perhaps given the proximity to events it's a little bit unseemly. We heard a member of Congress not but a few minutes ago essentially say that the American government failed its people. Is it fair to say that this is a failure or are we just can't -- can't know it all?

GATES: Well, personally, I believe that for people to start blaming people and organizations at this point is highly premature. And I think that we need to find out just exactly how bad this situation is and deal with it. The idea of starting to cast blame within hours of having happened is in fact unseemly.

BROWN: Ambassador Holbrooke, does the United States in a situation like this go it alone or does it gather the international community together as one -- or as much of one as it can -- and try and respond in that form?

RICHARD HOLBROOKE, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: Well, first of all let me say that at this moment, we have to find out what happened down there. I used to work in that building and was there when the -- when it was attacked a few years ago. I know that area. My assistant has a cousin who now missing in the building. My thoughts are first for the enormous unbelievable loss of life and tragedy that's going on in Lower Manhattan. Beyond that, on your question, this requires a unfied, international response by all the key member states of the world community -- including very importantly Russia -- and as for the interview you just broadcast by the foreign minister from the Taliban, let's be clear on his attempts to disassociate himself from the Osama Bin Laden.

We don't know at this point who did this. But it was well coordinated, and done with a degree of skill which exceeds anything. I think Bob Gates will know better than me, but I think, Bob, this is the most skillful murderous attack ever in terms of coordination. And I want to be very clear on this.

Bin Laden himself, as you just suggested -- Bin Laden has said that the Taliban leader Omar Mohammed Omar, is the true spiritual leader of the Muslim world. He said that Afghanistan is the purified Islamic state, equivalent to Mecca and Medina. And in a tape that the "New York Times" wrote about two days ago, he urged Muslims everywhere -- and I'm quoting the "New York Times" -- to migrate to Afghanistan to support the Taliban, saying it's their duty to God, and saying there's now finally a Muslim state that destroys falsehood and does not succumb to the American infidel and is led by a true believer, Mullah Mohammed Omar, and so on and so forth.

What I want to stress here is that any nation -- and this goes for the Taliban and their henchmen in Afghanistan -- any nation in the world that harbored anyone associated with this must be treated as though they were part of what is effectively an act of war against the United States. And they cannot hide behind the traditional definitions of difficulty. In the past we've tried to get Osama Bin Laden. He's evaded capture. He almost got killed by a bombing raid two or three years ago. I think starting with Afghanistan, we're going to have to hold everyone, everyone accountable on the -- who might have sheltered anyone associated with this act.

GATES: We don't simply in this conversation -- we don't simply hold the group itself -- whoever it is -- the group itself accountable. We hold anyone accountable -- any country, any government accountable if they did nothing to stop it.

HOLBROOKE: Any country which shelters, obeys or helps these people and their cohorts evade, capture and the retribution they deserve is in my view functionally culpable of the events that took place in New York and Washington and elsewhere today. And must be so warned. I am not accusing the Taliban specifically at this point because we don't know who did it.

All of the evidence points to a connection between Osama Bin Laden and Taliban leaders, and an attempt on the Taliban's part to -- as the "New York Times" put it two days before this attack -- call as a ploy. That is a quote from the "New York Times" before this happened. I just want to underscore again, we are going to need the support of all our allies in Europe, the Russians, the Chinese and any other country that might have in the past flirted with playing both sides of the street. Nothing like this has happened in American history. The full dimensions of it are still not clear to anyone. I think we all can imagine it's going to heart wrenching in its dimensions as it becomes fully apparent. We are not going to be able to leave it -- leave countries playing two sides here. I'm sure my friend Bob Gates wouldn't disagree with that.

BROWN: Let me, Mr. Gates -- I want to come back to you. Mr. Holbrooke, stay with us for a minute. I believe, now, we have the president -- this the president on tape a few moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: (AUDIO GAP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: Well, obviously, we're having technical problem. Let me just tell you what again the president said in what has been second statement. His first statement came after the first attacks here in New York. Short time ago the president said "We have taken all appropriate security precautions to protect the American people." He added, "Make no mistake," said the president, "the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible." I think we're going to try and hear the president again. Here we go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

(AUDIO GAP)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BROWN: This is coming to us from the broadcast pool. It's traveling with the president. Obviously we're getting -- it's a very chaotic day, as you can imagine. A horrible tragedy has taken place. People are working very hard to get stuff done and get it down right. Obviously the pool is having trouble feeding the tape. But again, the president said, "Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts."

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

 Search   


Back to the top