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CNN SATURDAY MORNING NEWS

Laura Bush Delivers Radio Address

Aired November 17, 2001 - 10:04   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.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: In the U.S., the White House today launches an attack in the public relations battle against the Taliban and the first lady is firing the first shot.

CNN's Major Garrett joins us live now from Crawford, Texas with more.

Hi, Major.

MAJOR GARRETT, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And good morning, Kyra.

That shot from the first lady will come in the form of the nationally broadcast radio address, the very first time a first lady of the United States will deliver the entire radio address. In times past, first ladies have occasionally shared the microphone with their spousal presidents to talk about a topic of interest, but this time, the first lady carries the message entirely herself.

What is the message? Well, it's about women's rights in Afghanistan and it central to the ongoing international debate about exactly what kind of government will take the place of the Taliban and what will its orientation be toward women.

Now, before the Taliban seized control of power in Afghanistan, women fared generally well, according to a State Department report CNN has obtained, talking basically about the fact that many women in Afghanistan held jobs and government positions, were university students. Seventy percent of the nation's schoolteachers were women, 40 percent of the nation's doctors were women.

But after the Taliban seized control, things turned worse very, very quickly. Women were prohibited from working, prohibited from obtaining any higher education, in fact, even beaten for laughing out loud. So all of these things come under the rule brick of harsh, Islamic rule from the Taliban against women, a rule that the White House and its coalition partners believe has come to an end. Mrs. Bush will help carry that message -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, Major Garrett, thank you very much. And in our next hour, we'll speak to Mrs. Bush's press secretary, plus, we'll talk to the author of "Hidden Power." It's a book that takes a look at how presidential marriages have shaped our history. And this afternoon at 2:00 Eastern, "CNN PRESENTS" will air an encore presentation of "Beneath the Veal -- Veil," rather, which exposes the brutal realities of women under the Taliban.

Now, to the first lady's radio address.

LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm Laura Bush and I'm delivering this week's radio address to kick off a worldwide effort to focus on the brutality against women and children by the al Qaeda terrorist network and the regime it supports in Afghanistan, the Taliban. That regime is now in retreat across much of the country and the people of Afghanistan, especially women, are rejoicing.

Afghan women know through hard experience what the rest of the world is discovering the brutal oppression of women is a central goal of the terrorists. Long before the current war began, the Taliban and its terrorist allies were making the lives of children and women in Afghanistan miserable. Seventy percent of the Afghan people are malnourished. One in every four children won't live past the age of five because health care is not available. Women have been denied access to doctors when they are sick.

Life under the Taliban is so hard and repressing. Even small displays of joy are outlawed. Children aren't allowed to fly kites. Their mothers face beatings for laughing out loud. Women cannot work outside the home or even leave their homes by themselves.

The severe repression and brutality against women in Afghanistan is not a matter of legitimate religious practice. Muslims around the world have condemned the brutal degradation of women and children by the Taliban regime. The poverty, poor health and illiteracy that the terrorists and the Taliban have imposed on women in Afghanistan do not confirm with the treatment of women in most of the Islamic world, where women make important contributions in their societies.

Only the terrorists and the Taliban forbid education to women. Only the terrorists and the Taliban threaten to pull out women's fingernails for wearing nail polish. The plight of women and children in Afghanistan is a matter of deliberate human cruelty carried out by those who seek to intimidate and control.

Civilized people throughout the world are speaking out in horror, not only because our hearts break for the women and children in Afghanistan but also because, in Afghanistan, we see the world the terrorists would like to impose on the rest of us. All of us have an obligation to speak out. We may come from different backgrounds and faiths, but parents the world over love their children. We respect our mothers, our sisters and daughters. Fighting brutality against women and children is not the expression of a specific culture. It's the acceptance of our common humanity, a commitment shared by people of good will on every continent.

Because of our recent military gains, in much of Afghanistan, women are no longer imprisoned in their homes. They can listen to music and teach their daughters without fear of punishment. Yet, the terrorists who helped rule that country now plot and plan in many countries and they must be stopped. The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women. In America, next week brings Thanksgiving. After the events of the last few months, we will be holding our families even closer. And we will be especially thankful for all the blessings of American life. I hope Americans will join our family in working to ensure that dignity and opportunity will be secured for all the women and children of Afghanistan.

Have a wonderful holiday, and thank you for listening.

PHILLIPS: Strong words from Laura Bush, the first lady, in her first radio address. Let's bring our Major Garrett back in to talk a little bit about this very -- quite a speech on rights -- with regard to human rights on behalf of women -- Major.

GARRETT: Kyra, you know, when this campaign was first drawn up by the White House and its collation partners, the British government and others, the idea was to intensify world condemnation of the Taliban. It was being drafted in a context where the war on the ground wasn't going as well. There was some sense that support for the war in Europe was not as strong as it might be.

So the idea was to really focus the world on some of the other parts of the Taliban regime that are, in fact, cruel, oppressive and create misery for their own citizens. And the idea was to focus on the treatment of women and children in particular.

Well, as the first lady -- we talked about, the campaign on the ground has worked so fast and so well against the Taliban that they are, in fact, in retreat. Nevertheless, the first lady said the Taliban pose an ongoing threat as to their terrorist al Qaeda supporters and that has to be dealt with by the world community as well -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: All right, CNN's Major Garrett live from Crawford, Texas. Thank you so much.

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