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How Will The U.S. Proceed Against Countries Involved With Terrorism

Aired September 12, 2001 - 05:09   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.
CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Of course the hunt for suspects does go on. Last night, President Bush in an Oval Office address promised to hunt down those responsible, denounced this failed attempt, as he called it, to scare the United States.

But what are the administration's options? Former State Department spokesman, and former Assistant Secretary to the State Department James Rubin joins us now from our London bureau. Good morning, James.

JAMES RUBIN, FMR. STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: Good morning, to you.

LIN: Well certainly Americans will be waking up this morning, asking how could this possibly happen. We have learned that just last month, security officials had warned about Osama Bin Laden's threat to American installations overseas. Just last Friday, the State Department issued travel warnings to Americans.

So, how is it that the American intelligence community failed to detect that something like this could happen?

RUBIN: Well, I suspect that is the $64,000 question that's going to be examined day after day by the committees of Congress, by the intelligence community itself, and by the administration.

Clearly, what we've seen is an attack not just on the United States, but on the nerve center of the civilized world, which is what the World Trade Center is. And I think in terms of the administration's options that you mentioned earlier, I think first and foremost they're going to have to nail down if this really was Osama Bin Laden.

It certainly has all the fingerprints of an Osama Bin Laden or his followers' attack. It follows closely on ideas that were discussed in previous attacks, mainly to take over jetliners and crash them into American facilities. It follows on their attempt to destroy the World Trade Center before. So it has all of the fingerprints of Osama Bin Laden.

I think the important point that President Bush stressed last night is that we are not going to allow governments to come up with ridiculous arguments, such as the Afghanistan argument, that somehow Osama Bin Laden, who's masterminding these attacks, is a guest of their country, and therefore can't be turned over.

We're now at war, the lower part of Manhattan is a war zone. The United States has never been attacked like this before, it looks unfortunately like it may be on the scale of Pearl Harbor, in terms of the deaths of Americans by surprise. And Americans are going to respond to that war.

The key question is, is whether the president of the United States is going to be able to gather the civilized countries of the world, all of them, one by one, putting the question to them: Are you on the side of the civilized peoples, the peoples who believe in not just freedom but in safety and security; or are you going to be on the side of these evil terrorists?

That diplomatic campaign has already begun, and it's going to be an enormous challenge, because there's no way to combat this kind of terrorism and prevent it from happening again without the support of large, large numbers of countries in the world.

LIN: Which raises another question, Jamie: How far should the United States go in going after sympathetic governments who might be supporting Osama Bin Laden? Of course you know that it's thought that he's being harbored by the Taliban in Afghanistan. So, even with a united front, what options would the administration have in going after the Taliban?

RUBIN: Well, I don't think there's any question that the Taliban are harboring Osama Bin Laden, they've been doing so for some years now. I don't think there's any question that there are other individuals around the world who have been part and parcel of his fundraising apparatus, and who have given aid and comfort to this enemy of the United States.

In terms of military options, economic options, diplomatic options, at this point I think it would be premature for me to say, except to say that when people talk about military action it should not be thought about as retribution. It should be thought about as preemption.

This organization has acted before time after time against the World Trade Center, against the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, against the USS Cole. If indeed they acted yesterday, as it looks like they did, they are going to act again. The use of military force is not for some retribution or revenge, if it comes to that, it's to deter and preempt them from acting another time and killing even more people than we've seen in the last 24 hours.

LIN: So, Jamie, take us into the process then, take us into behind the scenes of the national security operation, and at the State Department. What discussions are being had today? Who is sitting at the table, and what decisions are likely needed to be made in the next 24 to 48 hours?

RUBIN: Well, I think on the domestic side, obviously the emergency system is going to be put in place to try to help the city of New York and the state of New York deal with its tragedy in lower Manhattan, and obviously the tragedy at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.

On the foreign policy side, the national security side, I think the first order of business is to determine if there are any other potential capabilities for these terrorists to take over aircraft again, and I think by stopping the flights and changing the security apparatus by which pilots operate, will be prime on the agenda.

On the diplomatic side, I think what will be happening is the Secretary of State, or his representative now, because I gather he's flying back from Peru, will be asked to canvas the world's governments to try to ascertain the level of support we're getting from all of the key countries.

We need a coalition against terrorism, and that coalition has to be more than just our NATO allies who are committed by treaty to defend the United States if it comes under attack. But also countries like Russia and moderate Arab states and other countries, perhaps even the Chinese, to commit with us in this battle against terrorism.

So if the Osama Bin Laden organization is proved to be responsible, that those countries support us in whatever measures we need to take, not to act in revenge, but to act to prevent them from doing it again to another civilized country. This is just the beginning of what they see as a permanent campaign against the United States and the civilized world.

So I think all of those steps are being taken. And finally, there is a reassurance that has to take place, and I think President Bush has done a good job so far. But he and his administration need to do an even better job today, tomorrow and in the weeks to come to reassure not only the American people that all these steps are being taken, but to reassure the financial markets, to make clear that the United State's nerve center of commerce and Wall Street may have been attacked, but our nerves are made of steel. We're going to go forward and continue our daily business and the business of America, because that's what these terrorists are trying to prevent.

He needs to convince every American citizen that they need to get up in the morning and do all of the things they used to do, and do them perhaps with more care and more caution, but to not let the terrorists win by changing our freedoms or changing our habits.

LIN: James Rubin, former State Department spokesman, from London. Thank you very much for joining us this morning.

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