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Jesse Jackson Discusses Desicion to Not Meet With Taliban

Aired September 28, 2001 - 14:39   ET


AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: As you can see, Reverend Jackson has gotten to the podium.


REV. JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: ... to the White House, and secretary of state the official telegram of invite from Afghanistan. I'd like to read to you my response, and then we'll probably lead a question and answer discussion.

"This official invitation has measured significance. It is some attempt to reach out and to dialogue. However, questions still remain. the delegation from Pakistan today have sought to meet with the Taliban, aiming to convince them to turn over Osama bin Laden, open the camps for inspection, release the eight Christian aid workers, two of whom are Americans, their parents we talked with yesterday. It appears that the Taliban were not receptive to this message so far. This is a disappointing sign.

"As President Bush and Secretary Powell have stated, they must turn over the suspects, they must free the captives and join the global war on terrorism. The alternative is war and bloodshed, and the Afghan people have already suffered much too much. There are 500,000 orphans in that country, several million widows, infrastructure blown out, and maybe as many as seven million refugees headed to the borders of Pakistan and Iran.

"We have received reports that the Pakistan delegation was unsuccessful in its mission. This is an unhealthy sign. After all, they had been the host of Taliban, the only government in the world to date recognizing them. We are always anxious to help resolve conflicts and avert war, and nonproductive delay tactics will not assist the Taliban or the people of Afghanistan. We will continue to talk with ministers and clergy around the world, as we work and pray for a peaceful conclusion.

"I talked with ambassador Andrew Young yesterday, former President Bill Clinton, Kofi Annan. The delegation in the present environment may not achieve the desired results. We hope that the Taliban will see the wisdom of joining the global coalition of peace and not retreating into isolation and into war. They must choose the option of the world court over the deadly option of world war."

At this point, we are inclined not to go, but we will keep communicating. We are putting a particular focus on the humanitarian dimension and the role that clerics in play. I have been blessed to have been a part of a delegation on four different occasions to bring Americans home who are in difficult situations. There were four consistent characteristics. One, we did not have diplomatic ties with those countries, whether Iraq, or Cuba, or Syria, or Yugoslavia. Two, we did not have sufficient shared intelligence with them. Three, we underestimated the role of clerics in those cultures. And four, there was abundant poverty.

I hope that as we reach out to the Islamic Imams and the Russian Orthodox clergy that they will help us A, gain the release of the eight Christians, which should not be held as trophies, and their release would be a welcome signal. But it should help us convince the Taliban that their future is not in the hills fighting in isolation, but to seize this moment when they have the option to either fight and kill and be killed, or the option to release the suspects and entrust them to a world court process, which is what happened in the case of Libya.

Finally, the head of Libya made the decision to release the two suspects in Lockerbie trial to a world court process. I hope that we receive that wisdom exhibited by the Taliban. They will either choose the international judicial process and the world court, or choose world war. We hope that our communicating with these clerics will have that impact.

Lastly, we keep hearing there will not be negotiations. But let's think about that. Let's think about that. If the president said, "find the suspects, shoot to kill," there would be no negotiations. He said they are lying, that suggests that there will be kill and get killed. But the alternative is they have turned him over, he will not be turned over to be shot, they will be negotiations. If he is turned over, where does he and where do the suspects go? Who will hold them? What country will hold them? What will be the process of search for evidence? Who will be the judges? Who will be jury, as the case may be?

That involves negotiations. So I hope that the talks that are now going on will be productive in transitioning us from this (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

I think that we should congratulate President Bush and Secretary Powell and their team, really, Dr. Condoleezza Rice and that group, because in the face of our pain, 7,000 Americans killed with this ghastly terrorist act, friends beneath the rubble even now in New York and in Washington. With that deep pain, there could have been a reaction of blind revenge, but instead we saw disciplined presidential leadership. We chose restraint and reason and coalition building.

You cannot fight this terrorist war unilaterally. You must choose multilateral relations. You must not choose isolation, you must go toward coalition building. Even that is a delicate operation, because Egypt is our ally, they say, but not militarily. Russia is our ally, but not militarily. Pakistan, a staging ground, but not militarily. India and Pakistan will relate to you with diplomatic ties, share intelligence, and end economic sanctions. So, we are now into the second week of building a coalition, and if we are wise we will not just focus on one man and one country.

The global war against terrorism must also be a global war against hunger, and malnutrition, and poverty. In that world that we are now moving into, with these bridges rather than walls, five million people die a year from lack of drinkable water. A hundred million will have AIDS in five years. So I think that this idea of precise intelligence over-indiscriminate bombing and using patience and persistence and not reaction is a judgment that we all should embrace. I hope the Taliban can see the value of choosing world court and negotiation over world war and world bloodshed.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) decided against or if you are still considering it, what factors (OFF-MIKE) to make up your mind?

JACKSON: So far, we only have from them an official invitation. But beyond the invitation, it cannot just be an invitation to take a tour. It cannot be an invitation to be called up in a situation that shows no productive possibility and be used in the situation. If "use" means bringing the Christians home, that is of some value. If "use" means a commitment to turn over the suspects with some commitment by the affected governments to process the suspects into a court process and end the camps, then that would be good use.

I hope the government channels will achieve that. In the meantime, global religious leaders of conscience have a role to play in this. We must not understatement, because Taliban is a government, but the Afghanistan people -- those people and their pain must register deeply in our consciousness, they must be -- see us as their friends, they must not see us as ones with the fastest planes, the biggest bombs, but the ones with the most food, and medicine, and health care, arming their quest for self-determination.

If we choose that method of operation, we are going to gain -- we are going to win this victory, but in the by-product gain victories around the world.

QUESTION: What about White House, though? They have always said to you they don't want you to go. They say that that would be a sign that the United States is willing to negotiate with countries that (OFF-MIKE) to terrorist regimes. So, what is your response to that?

JACKSON: That is not quite what they said. First of all, we have an obligation as we fight war on terrorism to define what terrorism is. Often, it may be a state that uses means to suppress the right of self-determination, to maintain its power with greed, and maybe undemocratic. But maybe those who are locked out into desperation, and desperate people do desperate things.

So we must be against terrorism wherever and however it manifests itself. We should be the nation that chooses as a set of basic foreign policy principles extensions of our highest principles -- international law, self-determination, human rights, economic justice, and a concern for the least of these.

Whenever we have taken religious delegations on these missions, we have never done so in confrontation with our government. In cooperation with and respect for, we went to -- we went to Syria, Mr. Wiggins said, "I don't encourage you to go, I can't stop you from going, you do it at your own risk." In that delicate operation, we brought the naval lieutenant back home, and with him we were welcomed.

Now, when we brought him back, the press asked who paid the hotel bill, it seemed like they missed a point. We've been saying we shouldn't go and talk with Saddam Hussein, he couldn't be talked with. The 600 (UNINTELLIGIBLE). As a matter of fact, we went there and we brought them back home. We had three soldiers in Yugoslavia, and it was said we couldn't talk with Milosevic. Well, we did, and we have been able to bring them back home, without doing any violence to our own government.

So walking that thin line between revenge and remedy, we walked that line before, and we should each time we have a contact, we contact Secretary Powell, Dr. Rice, we'll maintain communication with the White House in a mutually respectful way, but we are committed, all committed, to fighting a global war on terrorism and the global war to end poverty, illiteracy and disease.

QUESTION: Reverend Jackson...

QUESTION: You stressed the importance of opening up dialogue with these isolated nations. Why not accept the invitation?

JACKSON: Maybe timing is a factor. Today, for example, the Pakistani delegation -- the only nation that recognizes them -- was turned away. That suggests that they are not -- if they will not talk to Pakistan, it is suggested they may not be ready to talk with us. That is a signal I find to be unhealthy.

We will not stop mobilizing global leaders. I talked with Kofi Annan yesterday, I urged him to consider going. U.N. secretary should go to Afghanistan, talking with Afghanistan and the Taliban, for example. Former Ambassador Andrew Young, talked with President Clinton yesterday.

I think that even as we call for the success of the mission that is now taking place, we must keep finding whatever means we have -- and I would say again, don't underestimate the rule of clerics in this situation. The Taliban has not had a big press conference yet, just the press releases, but the clerics had a big press conference. They said, A, they could have hurled invectives at us, and they did not. They could have led a defiant demonstration. They did not.

Instead, they said, "show us the evidence." That suggests some willingness to cooperate. We should not miss that window. Our other allies didn't said, "show us the evidence." Then, Secretary Powell said, "we will show you the evidence." And President Bush said, "but most of it is classified." Well, if you are going toward world court, if he has handed over, evidence will be critical, to, in fact, to maintain this coalition.

BROWN: Reverend Jesse Jackson speaking outside of Orlando, Florida now, talking about his invitation to go to Afghanistan. That invitation came in the form of a letter from the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan to Reverend Jackson. The letter says there -- from the Taliban side, "there is more need for prudence, sagacity and patience to solve the issues between Afghanistan and America through peaceful means. And we, the Taliban, welcome your mediation to meet high- ranking Afghan government officials in Afghanistan."

Reverend Jackson said he is not inclined to go now. And if I heard him correctly, and I'm pretty sure I did, he is proposing -- and this is part of the reason I think the administration is so very cool to all of this -- that bin Laden be turned over to the world court. Bin Laden is under indictment in the United States already quite a apart from September 11, and I -- I'm going to venture a guess here that the Bush administration does not at this moment want the world court involved. They want Mr. bin Laden brought to the United States to stand trial, and his associates to come with him.

CNN's coverage of "America's New War" continues in just a moment.




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