Skip to main content /transcript



America's New War: America Speaks Out

Aired September 26, 2001 - 18:30   ET


BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Good evening. Welcome back to the George Washington University here in downtown Washington in a special CROSSFIRE town meeting tonight, focused on the U.S. military response to terrorism. It's a new kind of war. Do we know how to fight it?

We'll find out from two former Green Berets. But first, a quick recap of today's events from Frank Sesno -- Frank.


Here's the latest in "America's New War" on terrorism. President Bush is calling for tough new steps to make air travel safer. Sources say the measures include armed marshals on most U.S. commercial flights, a greater federal role in airport security, and improved cockpit security. The President will formerly unveil the proposals in Chicago tomorrow.

The FBI is conducting a huge, nationwide records check of truck drivers who carry hazardous materials. This, after the Attorney General said several individuals linked to the terrorist hijackers tried to get licenses to haul dangerous cargoes.

For the second straight day, the Pentagon calls up more reservists. In this group, about 635 members of the Naval Reserve. The total number called up so far, nearly 16,000. President Bush authorized the mobilization of 35,000 reservists and guardsman after the September 11 attacks.

Thousands of Afghan supporters of the Taliban stormed and set fire to the deserted U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. The State Department says the U.S. will hold Afghanistan responsible for damages. All U.S. diplomats and staff pulled out of the country in 1989.

Back with a lot more on our show at the top of the hour.

But for now, to Tucker and CROSSFIRE.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Thanks, Frank. Good evening and welcome back to our special CROSSFIRE town meeting from the George Washington University here in the throbbing heart of Washington, D.C.

President Bush says we're at war, but it's not yet clear what that means. Will we send ground troops to Afghanistan? Have we already? Will the military be able to catch Osama Bin Laden? Tonight, some answers -- Bill.

PRESS: Yes, we have to get those answers. And tonight's guest, first, retired Army General David Grange, who's former commander of the First Infantry division, and is also one of our CNN military analysts during these troubled times. And our second guest, Michael Vickers, also a former Army Green Beret and a former CIA officer.

And of course, we are joined again by perhaps the most intelligent and most informed studio audience ever assembled in the history of humankind.


That's what we call shamelessly pandering to the audience.

CARLSON: Even by your standards, that was pretty shameless.

PRESS: General, I'm going to begin by asking you, as a former Green Beret, because from everything we're told, we're told this is going to be different kind of warfare. We're talking about not so much bombing from 20,000 feet high, as sending special commando teams on the ground into Afghanistan, to try to hunt down and kill, dead or alive, bring back dead or alive Osama Bin Laden.

You, a former Green Beret, are we equipped to fight this kind of war? And what's it going to mean for Americans?

MICHAEL VICKERS, FORMER ARMY GREEN BERET: I think we're definitely equipped. We just have to have the will to carry it out. You're not going to see a ticker-tape parade and of a fight like Desert Storm marching through the streets in our cities.

It's going to be protracted warfare for the near foreseeable future. And it's going to be continuous, just like fighting crime.

PRESS: We have teams who are trained to do this and know the ground in Afghanistan and know the language and can infiltrate that country?

VICKERS: Well, we have teams that are trained. How well we know that terrain is to be determined. I'm sure they're studying it very hard right now. But we're going to also get some support from others, that have been in that terrain so we know it better.

CARLSON: Michael Vickers, the belief is that we're sending forces to Afghanistan. Do you think we have forces there already?

VICKERS: There have been some reports about British special air service forces, but I don't think so, but could come at any time.

CARLSON: So when they do come, when they arrive, what will they be doing?

VICKERS: Well, basically, three potential tasks for our special forces. The first is what's called special reconnaissance or covert reconnaissance, sending in teams in very small groups that can disperse into even smaller groups and help in the hunt for the terrorists, who are presumably dispersed at various locations. This a mission that they performed very, very well, our special forces in the Persian Gulf War, being inserted into Iraq.

The second mission might be a raid, for example, on a terrorist stronghold that requires tremendous intelligence and is more high risk. And if we could do that with air power, we would prefer to do it that way, of course.

And then the third mission might be to work with the regular forces. For example, there's still a civil war going on in Afghanistan. And there's this northern alliance or united front and perhaps some disaffected posturing commanders that could put a lot of pressure on the Taliban regime.

PRESS: So, general, we're not the first ones to consider some kind of warfare inside of Afghanistan. The British tried it in the 19th century, broke their pick. The Russians tried in the 20th century, did not succeed. Why do we think we can do it?

DAVID GRANGE, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, I don't think we're going to take on Afghanistan in that context. We're not going into to occupy Afghanistan and set up a puppet government or anything like that.

We're going in to break the structure of a terrorist organization, al-Qaeda. And that al-Qaeda organization is in a cocoon of the Taliban. So we have an inner circle. We have an outer circle. And we have a structure that's connected to money, connected to crime, connected to paramilitary organizations. We're not going in to occupy the nation.

CARLSON: Now Michael Vickers, Osama Bin Laden has apparently killed Americans, servicemen and civilians before at the two embassies in East Africa, Khobar towers, the U.S.S. Cole. Former Senator Bob Kerrey this weekend said he was frustrated that it's taken this long for sustained American military response. Are you frustrated by that?

VICKERS: Yes, to some extent, although it's a different climate. They really crossed a threshold this time, with this attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. And it's witnessed by the tremendous diplomatic success we're having around the world and the access to bases with countries that would normally be very skittish about giving us bases or cooperating in a number of other areas, intelligence. And so I think, Taliban's days and Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan...

CARLSON: Wait, but he knew he did it. We roughly knew where he was. I still don't understand why Osama Bin Laden wasn't killed or brought to justice before this.

VICKERS: Well we tried a missile strike of course, in 1998, which really wasn't the best response. And lacking intelligence, there were a number of potential operations that might have been done. But again, these things really require great intelligence.

Now we're going to have a lot more assets available, including perhaps different Afghan coalitions to bring to bear on this problem that just weren't available before.

PRESS: But that brings me to my question, which General, I'll throw to you but either one you want to comment on. You know, terrorism is not new. I mean, terrorism has been around since at least the 11th century, the days of Marco Polo. It's really about philosophy. It's about theology. It's about different set of ideas. Is this really a battle that we can win militarily?

GRANGE: We have to take on a little different than an industrial age military would. It's not -- this is not tank on tank, troop on troop. We have to really get into what's known as the information operational domain.

And right now, Bin Laden and other terrorist groups are experts at propaganda, disinformation, turning the media around against a just cause, which I think our actions to take on terrorism is quite just.

And so we have to fight this a little bit different than we have in the past. We have to get that mindset right now, just like the propaganda he put out other day with the supposed fax that he sent about crusaders against Muslims. He's going to try to not unite Muslim nations, that this is about the United States or Israel or whatever against the Muslim nations. That's not the case. We have to watch that. We have to fight that.

PRESS: So Michael, different kind of war and we're ready for it?

VICKERS: Very different kind of war. And a lot of it nonmilitary. One of our best tools in Afghanistan might actually be food and humanitarian aid because the Taliban are starving their people. And tremendous refugee flows.

And outside Afghanistan in the war on this network a lot of it will be diplomatic and intelligence and law enforcement and very little military action. This war will be characterized by a lot of what you don't see, as well as by what do you see.

CARLSON: OK, we're take this show into an entirely new terrain and throw it open to what Bill characterized as the world's most impressive studio audience. Buckle your seatbelts when we return with our special CROSSFIRE town meeting. We'll be right back.



CARLSON: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE special town meeting live from George Washington University. We're asking questions about war to two men who fought war. The first question comes from Caitlin Mason from Cambridge, Massachusetts. CAITLIN MASON: Yes, it seems to me that a war against terrorism is going to be about as inefficacious as a war against drugs has been. I was just wondering if maybe it would be, more effective instead of sucking more money out of American taxpayers to support the military industrial complex and Bush-owned oil companies, that maybe would it be more effective to look at American sponsored terrorism that has incited these attacks.

CARLSON: OK, general.


I told you about that seat belt. Would like to respond to that?

GRANGE: Well, what was the last -- I didn't hear -- with all clapping, I didn't hear last part of the question.

CARLSON: I think it was about American sponsored terrorism, not clear what that is, but give us your take.

GRANGE: What's American sponsored terrorism?

MASON: No, you know, why don't we instead look at American sponsored terrorism that has incited these attacks, you know, that has made people so angry that would result in this.

GRANGE: OK, I don't know of any American sponsored terrorism. Are you talking about...

MASON: You know, American money to Israel that has supported them, supporting settlements in the West Bank, taking out F-16s over civilians and the West Bank and Gaza.

GRANGE: OK, well you know, we provide funds the United States of America to Israel, to Egypt, to countries throughout Middle East. In fact I think the last figures I saw on foreign military assistance was about equal to Egypt and Israel, as an example, just like Greece and Turkey.

I think we'll continue to do that. But this is not against a specific country unless they harbor terrorists. And if they do, then the President said we would take action. I think our fight is against terrorist organizations wherever they may be.

PRESS: OK, thank you, general. And a question here.


Martha is from Silver Spring, Maryland. Question for Michael Vickers -- Martha.

MARTHA: Yes, good evening. It's actually sort of a follow up to Caitlin's question. This week Congress is on the brink of appropriating $340 billion for the U.S. military. This is more than twice as much as any of our potential enemies combined, Russia, China and any of the rogues and more than all of the NATO allies combined are spending.

I'm wondering how much does the U.S. really need to spend for real security, and don't we really need to look to get real security at some of our foreign policies, particularly in Middle East?


CARLSON: Michael?

VICKERS: Well, the question about $340 billion versus other militaries really revolves around what's the mission of those militaries. Other countries typically have much narrower focus.

We're really the only global power that has major interests in a number of regions and has to protect those interests. And countries in those regions depend on us. China, for example, is very much focused on China-Taiwan conflict and then peripheral things elsewhere. And their defense investment is a lot more focused than ours is. I would add their defense investment is growing a lot more rapidly than ours is right now.

GRANGE: May I add to that?

PRESS: Please do. Jump in.

GRANGE: May I add to that? Because I want to capture...

PRESS: Speak to the second part, perhaps, because he addressed the military spending. The second part was are there policies, such in the Middle East or other places in the world that we should be looking at, I think was the second part.

GRANGE: Yes, I think there's definitely other places in world we should look at. I mean we didn't react to some places in Africa, as we did, let's say the Balkans.

MARTHA: The Middle East.

GRANGE: Or the Middle East. Sure. I mean, I think we should be there right now at the pass, coming out of Afghanistan, the Pakistan, with humanitarian assistance, just like we did in Albania and Macedonia to support Kosovo, the Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

But first of all, on the money, I just want to say this because it's important. The money for military is not about comparing how much we spend to other countries. We're not trying to be equal or even. We're in it to win. And if it costs more, then we ought to pay more. Second, you should help congressionally...


... you should help congressionally to make sure the money does go to what the military needs for the strategy and not to pork barrel programs.

CARLSON: OK, Mr. Vickers, you have a question here from Alex from Springfield, Virginia.

ALEX: Hi, I'm wondering how plausible is the idea of executing a snatch operation to apprehend Bin Laden?

VICKERS: Well, those operations are among the most difficult for special operations forces to do. They're highly trained at it, but they depend on tremendous intelligence.

And of course, it would depend on very much the local conditions. Does he have a very, very large contingent around him, as some have reported several thousand troops perhaps or at least several hundred? And then the efficacy of a special forces raid begins to be problematic, but other forms of military power can be brought to bear.

The key to this in a lot of cases is really intelligence. And a lot of other countries, if you can identify the terrorists, you can arrest them. And that's really why so much of it is diplomatic and intelligence and not military action.

PRESS: OK, we have a question here, please, from -- gentlemen hold on to your seats, I'd like you to meet Osama. Osama is a student at the University of Maryland and has got a question for the general.

OSAMA: Well I'm concerned of course about the accuracy of intelligence, obviously with someone with my name on it. I should be, so.


OSAMA: I'm concerned about if you send in troops or Green Berets anywhere or send in cruise missiles like it happened in Sudan and Khartoum. This factor was a pharmaceutical factory that was hit. Either that was intentional or it wasn't intentional. In both cases, which are...

PRESS: Do you have a question.

OSAMA: My question is how much confidence do you have in intelligence to hit the right target?

GRANGE: That's great question.


First of all, Osama, I know a lot about -- I've trained with a lot of soldiers with your same name. So don't worry, you're OK. I would say that first of all, we're focused on the physical aspects of an attack. The physical domain is only domain of how we're going to attack terrorism. That's again, capturing and killing someone.

You also have an organizational domain that you attack. Breaking an infrastructure, the links between terrorist cells, funding, money, supply, communications, et cetera.

Then you have the moral domain. And the moral domain is the one that you can cause capitulation of an enemy the quickest. And that's breaking the morale, breaking the spirit, breaking the cause. And you're going to see attacks hopefully in all three of those domains. So I think it's going to be much better than some of the examples maybe you just expressed from the past.

PRESS: All right, general, thank you very much. This is a special CROSSFIRE town meeting from the George Washington University. More questions from the studio audience on how America responds to terrorism coming up next. We'll be right back.


PRESS: America gears up for war against terrorism. What might it look like? We're trying to find out tonight in a special CROSSFIRE town meeting live from the George Washington University. Two former members of the Green Berets on our panel. Question to the one of them from Steve. Steve, let's see, Steve you told me, East Meadow, Long Island.

STEVE: That's right. My question is regarding foreign support in the international coalition. How important is it to get the support of nations like Pakistan and Uzbekistan, where the United States could set up logistics bases and supply routes to aid our troops on the ground in Afghanistan?

PRESS: And are we doing that, Michael?

VICKERS: Yes, we are. And it's very important, both for diplomatic reasons and for practical military reasons. For example, to increase our intelligence capabilities over Afghanistan, which is a country the size of Texas, we're able to fly, having neighboring bases, we're able to fly predator unmanned vehicles, drones that can basically stay aloft over an area for 24 hours or so.

Our satellites pass by typically once or twice a day. And that gives us a little more depth of coverage. There are other things one can do when one base is closely. But you also have to worry about the size of footprint and the stability of governments in this region.

Pakistan is particularly important. They bore a real burden for us in the Cold War and have been in a lot of turmoil, as has Afghanistan, since -- through the 1990s. And it's something we have to pay a lot of attention to.

CARLSON: OK, we have a question from Commer from Silver Spring, Maryland.

COMMER: My question is that we have gone after Saddam Hussein long time ago. And so many years later down the road, Saddam Hussein is apparently doing very well, whereas the people of Iraq are the ones who are suffering.

What guarantees do we have that we go through the current scenario, and we would be able to really hit the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists, and not in the long run, it's the people of Afghanistan who would suffer? (APPLAUSE)

CARLSON: Yes. General, if you were running this, what would you do to make certain that civilians didn't suffer more than they needed to?

GRANGE: Yes, well some civilians will suffer. I mean, it's going to happen no matter what war or type of war you are in. But it's no doubt in my mind United States of America will take every effort not to let that happen.

We did that in the war with Iraq. I don't -- I'm not talking about military. I'm talking about civilians. Yes, some, but where were the enemy command and control nodes? Where do they hide them? It's very difficult to attack certain targets.

The one reason maybe we haven't seen a strike is because maybe they have command and control nodes, as an example, under civilian establishments and we don't want to hit that way with a Tomahawk missile or something. Maybe we want to put troops on the ground to make sure we do it in a more accurate manner.

PRESS: If I may just follow up on that with a question from Nicholas here, who's from Washington? Correct?

NICHOLAS: Yes, sir. All right, pretty basic and straightforward. Everyone here I'm assuming has played a game of chess at some point. And the obvious and very predictable move would be for the United States to strike back. It's pretty obvious and pretty predictable.

Wouldn't it be an unpredictable move if we flew over to Afghanistan and dumped food lumber on a destroyed country? And all of a sudden everyone was like, "Hey, they're giving us food and stuff and all of a sudden they are not so fired up against us?"

It's a lot cheaper, half a billion dollars in food would be a lot cheaper than billions in military.

PRESS: Michael?

VICKERS: Well, believe it or not, we already are the largest aid donor to Afghanistan For the past several years. And we just shipped several bushels of wheat to the Pakistan border, where there are I think 1.5 million Afghan refugees.

But you raise a very good point in the sense that Afghanistan's plight right now is really a tragedy of American foreign policy. There were a million dead fighting the war against the Soviets, a very heroic struggle.

And after the Cold War, when we had this tremendous victory, basically, turned our back on them for a couple of years, and then ended up with the Taliban.

It may not be exactly our kind of government. But these people paid a great debt and a lot are starving today. And I think the food component or humanitarian aid is just as important in really making this a war against Osama Bin Laden and his network and the Taliban regime, if necessary, and not the Afghan people. I mean that would be worst thing we could do in this context.


CARLSON: General, in the 10 seconds we have left, are you for Wheaties rather than guns?

GRANGE: I am. In fact, I'll tell you that, what was just said, the civil affairs, the helping the people aspect is about winning hearts and minds. And that is a big part of this campaign.

CARLSON: Thank you, both of you.


CARLSON: We are almost at the end of our CROSSFIRE special town meeting, but we have one more segment left. We will return to that in a moment. We'll be right back.


SESNO: I'm Frank Sesno from Washington. Coming up on "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS," target terrorism. New information about how the U.S. tried once before to capture Osama Bin Laden and failed.

Also, we'll get reports from inside Afghanistan and Pakistan about what life is like in a region that's the focus of the world. And CNN's Miles O'Brien goes along on a training flight aboard an F- 15. All that and more right after CROSSFIRE. Back to Bill and Tucker.

CARLSON: And that's it for us here at the George Washington University. We want to thank both of our guests and our fantastic studio audience.

PRESS: And we thank all of you for watching. We'll being back tomorrow night with a special panel talking about how we reunite America. That's it tonight for Bill and Tucker. And now to "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS" on CNN. Thanks, everybody. Have a good evening.



4:30pm ET, 4/16

Back to the top