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Eagleburger Discusses Terrorist Attacks on United States

Aired September 11, 2001 - 17:48   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.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now from Charlottesville, Virginia, former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger. He was secretary in the administration of the first President George Bush. I want to ask you, Secretary Eagleburger, so many people -- we have been talking to a lot of people today -- but it seems to me that many Americans now are going to want to strike back, to get back as soon as we can and as hard as we can at whoever was behind this. How realistic is that?

LAWRENCE EAGLEBURGER, FMR. SECY. OF STATE: Oh, boy. That is a very tough question. It wouldn't be quick, I think. It will take us some time to organize ourselves and try to figure you out who was responsible for this, although, I must say, by the way, that's less of a concern to me than it will be to a number of others.

We know who most of the terrorists are. We may not know who did this, but they must have been very, very well organized and very well financed. But "getting back at" is almost the wrong way, I think, to put this. Though that's what a lot of people will want. What I think we need now to understand is, these really is a war with terrorism, and we need to be prepared to act as if we are at war. And that does not necessarily mean that you have to strike back only at those that you know were the perpetrators of this thing.

WOODRUFF: What does it mean?

EAGLEBURGER: We know a lot of terrorists around the world and we know a lot of governments that have financed and supported terrorism. And you start with Osama Bin Laden, I suppose, and you start with the Afghans...

WOODRUFF: What can you do, Mr. Secretary?

EAGLEBURGER: What you do -- what you do is you strike at them militarily, I mean, I know this is going to sound awful, but my point is there is only one way to begin to deal with people like this, and that is you have to kill some of them even if they are not immediately directly involved in this thing.

We do know that the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan has mothered Osama Bin Laden for years. They need to be hit. Either they need to be hit, or they need to understand very quickly that they have got to stop supporting terrorism, and ten make it evident they are stopping the terrorism. WOODRUFF: So you are not talking about a long, drawn out investigation as we had with Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie.

EAGLEBURGER: I hope not.

WOODRUFF: Or a long, drawn out effort to extradite possible suspects? EAGLEBURGER: I hope not, because if it's the case, you saw what happened with Pan Am 103. By the time it was all done, first of all, many people had lost all interest in the subject. This is an act of -- when they compare this to Pearl Harbor, I don't think they are wrong in the sense that it is a surprise attack. And I suspect, if we are wise about this, Pearl Harbor brought the American people together and made us recognize we had something we had to deal with. Perhaps this will do the same thing for all of us.

WOODRUFF: All right. Former Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger. EAGLEBURGER: Can I make one more point?

WOODRUFF: Yes, Mr. Secretary, you may.

EAGLEBURGER: We need to find out what happened that these planes could be hijacked. That to me is the most critical question of all. How was it possible to hijack these aircraft? I thought we had dealt with that problem before. If, in fact, they had not been hijacked none of this would have happened.

WOODRUFF: We did hear just from a fragment of information, Mr. Secretary, reportedly from Barbara Olson, a conservative commentator, the wife of United States Solicitor General, told her husband and others in a phone call, these were men who had hijacked, this was the American Airlines flight that left Dulles, that these men. as far as she could tell, only had knives and paper or cardboard cutters on them as weapons. We want to thank Secretary Lawrence Eagleburger for joining us -- Joie Chen in Atlanta.

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