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America's New War:

Aired September 18, 2001 - 08:08   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.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go back to John King, who is standing by in Washington.

John, before you get about the business of talking about what you need to talk about, just a question about your interview with Commerce Secretary Evans. He was talking about the potential of sanctions.

Aren't there, in fact, a number of sanctions in place with some of the countries that the administration is going to be having conservations with in the next couple of days?

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We have sanctions in place against some countries, but what the secretary was bluntly talking about is putting in the public domain information the administration has been using privately in very difficult conversations with allies.

Take, for example, the French. The French president, Jacques Chirac, will visit President Bush tonight to discuss the military planning and the diplomatic effort to build an international coalition against terrorism.

Prior to that meeting, the French foreign minister will sit down with Secretary of State Colin Powell -- France, of course, a key ally of the United States. But the United States for years has voiced displeasure with the French government, because we see pictures periodically of French businessmen going into Iran and cutting big business deals. The United States, of course, blames Iran for sponsoring some terrorism. We see pictures even of French businessmen going onto Baghdad and starting to do business with the government of Saddam Hussein.

So we are told in very blunt terms today the administration will tell the French government public statements of support are not enough. We need you to stop these practices to prove that this is truly an international coalition committed to putting the vice, if you will -- the economic vice against those who sponsor terrorism and harbor terrorists.

Now, as those conversations take place, we know as well the president beginning to narrow his military options; meetings at the Pentagon yesterday to discuss the call-up of the reserves and the National Guard; more national security meetings today to discuss military options. Senior officials saying they would not say that anything is imminent. They will, of course, keep much of this secret, but they do know that Pakistan gave the Taliban a 72-hour deadline to turn over Mr. bin Laden. They say that it is very unlikely the United States would take action in that time period.

But there is a great deal of planning going on, and because of that, we want to bring in now Brian Cabell, who is standing by in Kentucky at a military base.

One of the big questions, Brian, is: Is the U.S. military ready for a sustained campaign? And as the president mulls his options, what are they doing out there on the ground at key bases around this country and around the world to prepare?

BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, there has been no word here yet at Fort Campbell. We talked to a major just about a half hour ago. He was calling in every 15 or 20 minutes to see whether the Pentagon had come in with an alert yet. So far, no orders yet to deploy, but when the word does come in, they have a contingency force that can deploy within 36 hours.

The commander of the post here spoke to the troops a few days ago on closed-circuit TV, also at a town hall meeting, and told them essentially be ready, but don't spread any speculation; also please put up with the increased security measures.

You can see behind me there is a lot of traffic back there. They are checking -- they have been checking very carefully ever since last Tuesday.

The 101st is the unit from which the "Band of Brothers" came from -- that's the HBO film, of course, that's been on TV for the last few weeks. It has a storied history here, not only in Normandy, but also they fired the first shots in the Persian Gulf War. This is a helicopter assault unit, which means the Blackhawks, the Chinooks and the Apaches actually fly onto the battlefield and drop off the infantry.

So once again, the expectation is high that if there is a deployment, these folks will be among the first to go -- 24,000 strong. And I'll tell you, we saw people drop -- wives and girlfriends dropping off husbands in the parking lot just a little while ago. There seems to be, John, a greater sense of anxiety on the women's faces than you might have expected. The hugs seem to be a little tighter as well. But again, no word yet -- back to you.

KING: Brian, you mentioned the 101st role in the Persian Gulf War. I was fortunate to cover that conflict, spent a great deal of time in the desert with the 101st during the months of the military build up -- a great deal of training under very difficult circumstances -- difficult weather, difficult terrain.

Any sense that there is training going on at Fort Campbell there or at any forward deployments around the world?

CABELL: We had heard that there were some so-called packing exercises -- packing the helicopters in rapid fashion in recent days, but beyond that, no. In fact, they won't even let us on post right now, because they don't want to feed that speculation. So we don't know precisely what is going on, but as I tell you, this major was checking every 15-20 minutes to make sure that no word had come in from Washington.

So clearly, the expectation -- the anticipation is high that word might be coming down anytime soon.

KING: All right. Brian Cabell standing by at Fort Campbell, Kentucky -- we thank you for that.

And as Brian noted, one of the new trends we see in this is under Donald Rumsfeld, the defense secretary, this Pentagon being very careful ordering bases around the country, ordering officials at the Pentagon to clamp down on information. The Pentagon even saying that if it deploys troops forward, it will not tell reporters about it, and it will not send reporters with them. All that another one of the dynamics the Bush administration dealing with as it prepares for what the president calls a war -- Paula.

ZAHN: A very complicated dynamic indeed. John King, thanks so much.

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