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Bombs in Kabul

Aired September 11, 2001 - 18:22   ET


PAULA ZAHN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right now we're going to have Senator Orrin Hatch join us to provide some insights as to what might be going on. Senator Hatch, I don't know how much of our coverage you've been listening to, but there seems to be a conflict of opinion as to whether we would be capable of pulling off this kind of attack, if indeed that is what we are witnessing.

What do you suspect is going on in Afghanistan right now?

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Well, let's understand, we're capable of pulling it off, if that's what it is. But it's probably more likely the followers of Shah Massud, who was deliberately bombed just yesterday, and who was seriously injured if not killed. His representatives say he was injured but he's all right, but there is some indication that he may have died in the attack, and he was, of course, the to the Taliban over in Afghanistan. So it's a very serious situation over there as well.

ZAHN: But what about what Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen just mentioned, that you would want to know who actually carried off these attacks before you planned any kind of retaliatory strike, if this is not a result of some conflict within Afghanistan?

HATCH: Well, I agree with Secretary Cohen. We have to be very cautious. On the other hand, I thought Secretary Eagleberger was very honest when he said that, look, these -- the Taliban have been harboring Osama Bin Laden. Osama Bin Laden has said that it is a duty of every Muslim to kill Americans. There is every indication that he has been behind some of the attacks against American installations, and we happen to know just today, that we've got information that indicates that representatives who were affiliated with Osama Bin Laden were actually saying over the airwaves that -- private airwaves, at that -- that they had hit two targets.

If you go back to the millennium problem, scare that we had, before the year 2000, Osama Bin Laden was in the middle of all of that, and the people associated with him and affiliated with him were in middle of that. So this is a very serious situation. So they should not be harboring this criminal, and we've got to, it seems to me, go after him. And it does look, although the evidence is fragmentary, as though he's had a major role in what's happened here today.

ZAHN: Secretary Cohen, are you as convinced as Senator Hatch is, that Osama Bin Laden played some role in this tragedy here today?

WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think if you were to cast the searchlight of probability on these footprints, they would lead to Osama Bin Laden, but I still think that we have to get more evidence. This is not evidence of a -- that you would need in the prosecution of a criminal act. I distinguish between terrorism and a criminal act, and so I would think you just need more evidence than we have right now, but that doesn't have to be something you can use in a court of law.

I think that the probability is that it points to Osama Bin Laden himself, or the groups that he supports. And therefore, I think we ought to keep our focus very much on him, but not exclude others. And so I think a little more time is necessary, but I don't disagree with Secretary Eagleberger, that we need to respond swiftly and very strongly to those who have inflicted this great tragedy upon the American people.

AARON BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Secretary Cohen, it's Aaron Brown. We have heard in a number of conversations that we've had today that the United States needs to be more aggressive, or more proactive in its counterterrorism efforts, that you can't wait until something has happened and you have to stop it before. And it may be that some innocents will suffer because of it. That's a political problem, isn't it?

COHEN: It is. And the thing we have to keep in mind is we do not want to allow terrorists to strike such terror in the hearts of the American people that we become like them, that we become indifferent to how many innocent people that we might kill. That is what separates us from terrorism, and from the terrorists. We have a higher standard.

So we have to be very careful in how we respond and how we take action against those who are planning further acts of terrorism against the American people, so that we don't become drawn down into that level of evil that they have perpetrated. So that's what distinguishes the American people and our ideals, and we ought to adhere to those.

BROWN: And, Senator Hatch, do you think that the political equation on how the United States deals with this has changed because of what's happened today?

HATCH: No question about it. We can't take this kind of action without a very heavy response. And we have some information, it may be fragmentary, but the fact is, we have some information that indicates that Osama Bin Laden and many of his affiliates and associates -- he's certainly the motivating force behind these people, he certainly has the money. And he certainly has the ability to motivate antagonistic forces against the United States, and he said he wants to do that.

So it looks it looks very much like that, although, we're not absolutely certain at this point. BROWN: Senator, what -- what Secretary Eagleberger said a little while ago, others have said. It's not that we, as a country, not that the United States responds all the time, that at some point it needs to take a proactive -- it needs to strike before the attack itself, before the terrorists attack. And if some innocents are hurt, if mistakes get made, that is an unfortunate reality. That's a political problem and I want to know, I guess from you, if you think the country, which has been reluctant to do that ,will be less so because of today?

HATCH: Well, this is an act of war. As far as I'm concerned, war has been declared against the United States. We ought to act accordingly, and we should have a very stiff response to that. And to be honest with you, it looks to me as though what's happened in New York -- just think about it. There are literally, there must be thousands people of killed here. Probably more than at Pearl Harbor, by far.

And there is evidence, there is indication that there were people who have been affiliated with Osama Bin Laden whose communications have been intercepted, that basically have said that they got two targets. There is a lot of other information that is coming forward, although it's fragmentary and nobody can absolutely be guaranteed an "assurety" of it. But we all know that Osama Bin Laden is doing everything he can to antagonize American forces, to try and hit against Americans. He's called for the death of Americans, and we ought to respond forcibly.

ZAHN: General Wesley Clark was a guest earlier today on CNN, and he began to express what most would interpret as a sense of outrage that we didn't know this was about to happen. There is a feeling that perhaps even during the last administration, too much emphasis was put on technical intelligence, and not human intelligence.

HATCH: You got that right.

ZAHN: Do you buy that analysis?

HATCH: Well, I surely do. As a matter of fact, we haven't been putting enough money into the intelligence community, and we certainly haven't been putting enough human on the ground, that means human intelligence on the ground. And we've got to start doing that. We've got to do a lot of other things. I reported last Sunday with Wolf Blitzer here, that it's amazing, with all of the economic difficulties that they have, that the Russians have a better tactical fighter than we do -- that it's more maneuverable, it is faster, and our pilots can fly it better than our F-15, which is becoming quite old. And we've been allowing our military to deteriorate.

But not only that, our intelligence -- we haven't been beefing it up like we should. And we know that terrorism is a reality out there, especially against the United States. And we also know many of the people who are doing it. The people who are excited about this over in the Middle East, who are dancing in the streets, who are making fun of the United States, we ought to remember who they are, because they're enemies of our country. ZAHN: All right, Aaron and I would like to come to you, Senator Hatch and Secretary Cohen.



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