Skip to main content /TRANSCRIPTS



America's New War: America Speaks Out

Aired September 27, 2001 - 18:30   ET


BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Good evening. Welcome back to a special CROSSFIRE town meeting coming to you live from the George Washington University in downtown Washington.

Tonight, after the attacks on our homeland, will Americans respond as one people? Will they come out of it more tolerant or less? We put the soul of America in the spotlight tonight after we first check in with CNN's Wolf Blitzer for the latest headlines.


TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Welcome back to our special CROSSFIRE town meeting we're conducting live from the George Washington University in downtown Washington, D.C. America has, for the most part, come together since the attacks on September 11, but some Arab- Americans say they've been left out, targeted for suspicion, abuse, even violence.

Debate's broken out over racial profiling and what it means to be an American. Can a country hang together as it battles a common enemy? That's our debate tonight -- Bill.

PRESS: And we have an outstanding panel to address that question. First, Mr. James Zogby, who is president of the Arab- American Institute based here in Washington, D.C. Also joining us from New York City, the Reverend Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network and possible candidate for president of the United States. And also joining us, Ms. Cherry Tsutsumida, who's executive director of the National Japanese American Foundation and who spent four years in a Japanese internment camp.

And of course, we have with us tonight a huge, a well-informed, and a lively studio audience. There they are. You've never seen a better audience.


It always works to suck up to the audience. They like you better after that.

Jim Zogby, I hate to ask you this question, but I feel compelled to. As Wolf Blitzer just reported, the photographs of the 19 terrorists of those horrible accident September 11 were released today. When you look at them, they all look very much alike. And if I get on a plane today and a couple of men who look like they're from the Middle East get on that plane, is it racist of me to be nervous about their presence on that plane?

JAMES ZOGBY, PRESIDENT, ARAB-AMERICAN INSTITUTE: Sure is, and it's wrong. And the fact is that we have laws that protect those people from you, not the other way around. And that's the right thing to do.

The fact is that you do not use the remedy that is not a solution. That is, kick those people off the plane. What you do is you create the security for the people on the plane to ensure that nothing untoward can happen to the plane.

The fact is that we've tried this before. It's not good law enforcement to racially discriminate. It's also against the law. It also harms, for the most part, innocent people. And what it does is it feeds the hate crime climate that we have right now.

You can't on the one hand say, "Don't commit hate crimes against this people, that is assume them collectively guilty," and then have law enforcement assume them collectively guilty by singling them out.

And the fact is, I looked at those pictures, too. And you know, they looked like a whole lot of people. They looked like Arabs. They looked like Hispanics. Some of them looked like they could have been from Greece or from Italy. They looked like about 40 percent of population, including South Asians, etcetera.

So the fact is it simply doesn't work. And we don't as a nation want to go down that road where we begin pointing fingers, singling out, and hurting innocent people as we attempt to stop those who may be guilty.

CHERRY TSUTSUMIDA, JAPANESE AMERICAN MEMORIAL FOUNDATION: Well, I want to talk as someone who's been there, done that. And I really do feel that my concern is I am concerned about the security of this country. And the thing that I think we're doing is wasting a lot of time looking at people in a funny sort of way and trying to do this in an amateurish way.

Security takes professional people. We need the FBI and the CIA to get on this and to move on it. You know, the one thing about Mr. Herbert Hoover, bless his soul, you know I never agreed with most of the things he said, but he said, you know, it's a waste of time to arrest all the Japs.

And you know, there was a little truth to that. But basically, the 90 so-called subversive organizations that were used to intern us, well you know, like the Imperial Judo Club, the Empress' Cooking Club. Now you know, what we need are professionals to look at our security, And let's quit wasting our time scapegoating people just because they look different.


AL SHARPTON, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ACTION NETWORK: I think that they're scapegoating because they have not done a professional job. They're not explaining to the American people what happened to the intelligence in this country.

So rather than do that, let's put up photos. Let's start profiling people. First of all, it's racist because we didn't have that reaction when Timothy McVeigh blew up the building in Oklahoma.


No one had to have special congressional sessions or special trips from the president to tell us not the look at young white Americans as potential terrorists. So the fact that we even need to do this, shows the problem with race in this country.

ZOGBY: Wait a second.

SHARPTON: Second of all.

ZOGBY: No, no, let me ask you a question.

SHARPTON: As soon as I make my next point.


Secondly, how can you ask all of us to fight for America if America is not going to be America for all of us? If we're going to say, as just reported, we're going to bring in the Reserves that come from every community and we're only going to fight for justice and fairness for some in America. That's absurd.

CARLSON: I have no idea what fantasy you're referring to, but the fact is that these 19 people weren't Americans, actually. They were -- hold on, let me -- settle down.

SHARPTON: We profiled them.

CARLSON: These were all people -- they were not American citizens -- from other countries. And they all shared common characteristics. They were all Islamic and I think they were all Arabs. Now, it doesn't, of course, mean that everyone who practices Islam who is an Arab is guilty of anything, but it does mean that you're looking for their accomplices, they're much more likely to be both Arabs and practitioners of Islam. So why is it...

SHARPTON: The fact is Tucker...

CARLSON: Well, what do you mean why? Because they belong to -- rooted in religion and ethnicity.

ZOGBY: My friend, that's not true.

SHARPTON: Absolutely.

ZOGBY: What is the case is -- and if you want to do that, if you want to do that, you can go after about 300,000 or 400,000 who might fit that category. But what law enforcement ought to do, if it were good, is to have better intelligence, which is one. They didn't. How these 19 guys slid under the radar screen after being here for a year and a half, two years, ought to bewilder all of us.

Secondly, they did not integrate themselves into the community. So they did not become part of our community, our religious institutions, et cetera. But they did fit other profiles. We are now learning the other profiles. They used cash. They didn't use credit cards. They bought one-way tickets, $4,500 ticket, one way, first class. Now that ought to make somebody say, "Oh, something weird going on here."

SHARPTON: Profile, Jim, they were young black guys in baggy pants with $4,000, they would check...

CARLSON: You know, that's ridiculous and irresponsible to say that, that they've used that profile unfairly with African-Americans, but with terrorism?

ZOGBY: In this case what they did was, these guys slid under the radar screen. And law enforcement ought to answer for how they were able to miss this completely and not target a couple hundred thousand people, all of whom are innocent, simply because they happen to be Muslim or Arab or maybe both. That would be the wrong thing to do.

SHARPTON: And many of them were American citizens, by the way, they would be profiling now.

PRESS: All right. The debate is just starting and is going to heat up even more when we turn to our studio audience, which we will do, the members. When we come back, it's a special CROSSFIRE town meeting from the George Washington University, how America responds to terrorism and pulls back together. We will be right back.



CARLSON: Welcome back to our special CROSSFIRE town meeting. The terrorists who attacked this country on September 11 sought not just to break the World Trade Center, but fracture American society. Are they succeeding? Those are the questions we're asking tonight.

Our first question to the panel comes from Sameera from Maryland.

SAMEERA: There's no justification of the terror that happened in this country. And I would like to know, what promotes such hostility against America? It's definitely not the freedom it stands for.


CARLSON: Mr. Zogby, do you have an answer to that?

ZOGBY: Yes. You know, at the end of the day, there's nothing that justifies it at all. The fact is that they may claim that they have certain ideologies. I believe in some ways that this is a -- almost a suicide death cult that cannot be explained as a political movement. I think it's psychological, one.

Two, I think that they certainly abuse causes, causes that are felt deeply by people throughout the Middle East. But I don't think that at the end of the day, if you ask them when they did that act, if they actually thought that they were going to advance a cause, they were deadly wrong on the one hand. And two, they took just a whole lot of lives.

And I think that they set those causes back, which leaves many of us to pick up the pieces of our lives and the lives of those in our country to have to deal with. And so, no, at the end of day, nothing justifies. And I don't actually think that they sought to advance a cause. I think they simply sought to kill a whole lot of people, which is very wrong.

TSUTSUMIDA: Well, I think that we've gone through a period where most of the world has seen the United States as a very rich nation, and a nation that doesn't even know that there's a difference between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

I think this is a whole world which see that's the United States has a degree of arrogance, at times, in the way they treat foreign policy.

For example, I remember going to the University of California studying political science and we were studying China. And one of the chapters was the slicing of the great melon, which was China. And I saw all these Chinese scholars from China coming in. And you know, they kind of felt very bad.

And I think that somehow, we as Americans must be sensitive to the rise of a kind of nationalism. This does not in any way excuse or justify bombing civilians, but I think on the other hand, we Americans can afford to be a little bit more sensitive to what the rest of the world is saying.


PRESS: Reverend Sharpton, a question directed to you from Ryan, who lives nearby in Frederick -- Fredericksburg, I'm sorry, Virginia.

RYAN: Reverend Al Sharpton, do you believe Jesse Jackson should go to Afghanistan?

SHARPTON: I think that if he can help bring peace, if he can help release the prisoners or if anyone else can, that they should go. And I think that we should support any effort that would lead toward trying to resolve this.

I think that we have a responsibility to try the save lives. And I think that there is nothing wrong with any peace initiative. I clearly feel that when we are at the verge of war, if anything can be done, even if it doesn't work, we ought to be able to say in history that we tried.

(APPLAUSE) CARLSON: OK, Al Sharpton, let's be more specific. Here's a question from Peggy from Mount Rainier, Maryland.

PEGGY: Hi. Scapegoating is a byproduct of fear. And people have a lot to be afraid of in this country, in terms of whether or not we're being set up for another attack. What diplomatic steps so you think this country should take to prevent another attack from happening?

SHARPTON: I think we should start talking to everybody. I think the fact is that most of our foreign policy excludes a lot of people that we ought to be talking to. You cannot say that you have no dialogue with people and then don't understand why your intelligence does not work.

Example, if someone living in my home is planning to poison me at dinner, I can have all of the exercise I want in my exercise room, and build myself up, but my problem is no one in the house told me don't eat dinner.

Our problem is, we've not made enough allies around the world, that feel that we respect them enough to expand our intelligence. And we need to deal with that. That doesn't justify what happened, because let's not forget, the people that were killed in that building were working-class people.

No one told the blacks, the Arabs, the Hispanics, nobody to get out of building. We all died, but we clearly need to deal with a foreign policy that makes alliances and at least opens the door of dialogue all over the world. And we're not doing that.

CARLSON: Mr. Sharpton, do you agree with that, that just in the 30 seconds we have, that part of this is because America is arrogant and hasn't reached out to countries that we didn't know it was coming?

ZOGBY: Look, I don't think that that explains why these individuals did it. I think what it does is, it raises questions at this point for how we are building a coalition to confront it. And that is what the administration is dealing with right now, is how do we build the broadest-based and firmest coalition with countries all over the world.

And as we're confronting this problem, dealing with countries in the Middle East, Egypt, Jordan, for example, Saudi Arabia, key allies of ours in the past, they're saying to us, many of the things that are being said here.

They're saying we want to be with you, we want to work with you, but there's are outstanding issues that make our lives difficult. And you have to address the suffering of Palestinians. You have address the fact that the people of Iraq have paid a bitter price for over 10 years.

You have to address the fact that we have haves and have-nots, and that you're not helping us build the relationships we want with you. It does not deal with the act itself, which I believe would have happened, even if the Palestinians had an independent state. That's not it, but it does mean that as we build a coalition to confront it, we have to have friends in the Middle East, friends that we may not have because we're having difficulties right convincing them of our goodwill.

CARLSON: All right, thank you. We have outstanding issues here on CROSSFIRE. And we'll be back in a moment to address them on our special town meeting here at George Washington University returns. We'll be right back.


PRESS: It's a special CROSSFIRE town meeting from the George Washington University, looking at how Americans are pulling back together after those terrorist attacks of September 11. Our panel, a question from the panel, from Brendon who lives here in Washington, D.C. -- Brendon.

BRENDON: Hi. All three guests have said we shouldn't discriminate by appearance. What do they think about discriminating by country of origin in our immigration policies, which is something we do in favor of the Cubans, for example?

ZOGBY: Well, of course, I would oppose it. We got zeroed out, you know, from the '20s all the way to the '50s, people of Arab descent. We were actually considered Asian. And Asians generally got zeroed out.

Look at the contributions Arab-Americans have made to this country in entertainment, in social life, in politics. Two members of the president's cabinet are Arab-American.

The fact is, is that each ethnic group brings to this country its own unique treasures. And I just want to say something, while we're on it, that I think most Americans understand that and respect it.

We are seeing some backlash, to be sure, but we are also seeing uncommon acts of kindness and goodness that are the real America everywhere across the country: Muslim women who are being escorted because they want to continue wearing hijab, volunteers from churches coming to the mosques and saying, "We'll escort you to mosque" or "We'll escort you to your schools." Schools offering protection.

Schools asking us for educational materials on Islam and on Arab culture because they realize now they have a problem. They don't know anything about it. So the fact is, is that really good things are happening. Not just the president speaking and the attorney general speaking, but Americans in their every day walk of life saying, we want to show you we care about you. And welcome you with your diversity to our great country.


CARLSON: OK, we have a question from Meetra from Raleigh, North Carolina. MEETRA: Hi. There are countries across the globe that fund terrorism. And it's been documented and proven many times. A country that does this is Iran. According to a Reuters news release recently, Iran funds terrorist organizations in the Middle East $100 million a year. And America is still in dialogue with such countries.

And recently, the prime minister -- not prime minister -- the foreign secretary from England went to Iran as well for a dialogue. How can we fight terrorism when America is still in dialogue with such countries? And the condolences received from the Iranian government, isn't that just a shield that they're hiding behind?

SHARPTON: I think that's the problem. We're being very selective in our foreign policy. We deal with some people, who have outright supported terrorism and engaged with it. And we don't with others.

And I think we have to have one standard. I think that's the problem. And I think that we can now try and scapegoat with immigration policy changing and other things. None of that is what caused people to be sick enough to what was done.

We need to again deal with our intelligence community. We need to deal with our ability to make allies and quit looking for easy ways out.

I agree with Jim that positive things was done. I salute President Bush for setting a tone going to the mosque. But we should not do that as a reaction. We ought to have a proactive way of trying to relate to the majority of the world and those that are biased, including African Americans that are now profiling Arabs. We ought to denounce that, because no matter who does it, discrimination and bias is wrong and will not stop here.


ZOGBY: Let me just say on the politics of this issue. The president is doing a very smart thing in trying to construct this coalition. From what we understand so far, reaching out to countries that might be able to help, a very focused effort on dealing with a particular network of people that are problematic.

Look at the list that was created. We didn't include Irish or Colombian. There are terrorist groups all over the world, but we didn't focus on them. We focused on the ones we need to focus on, to get a particular job done. And in the process, are beginning to open a dialogue that we've never done before.

When did the British prime minister go to Iran and engage them in a conversation before? That is a good thing, not a bad thing. And so, I think that we're learning some political lessons in this process that are very important, I think, for the future of our relations with many countries around the world.

(APPLAUSE) PRESS: Members of our panel, we thank you. And we'll be right back here to George Washington University to close up tonight's special CROSSFIRE town meeting. Be right back.


CARLSON: The curtain is rapidly descending on our CROSSFIRE meeting tonight. We want to thank a terrific panel, and of course, our studio audience, the best in America. We say that with confidence.

PRESS: And we'll be back tomorrow night. Tomorrow night, we're going to take a special look inside of Afghanistan with author Sebastian Junger, written a new book on Afghanistan, and also author Laurie Mylroie, who says you've got to look at the connection between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. That's tomorrow night's special town meeting at our special time of 6:30.

For now, good night. Thank you for watching. Thank you for being here, everybody. Have a good evening. Good night from CROSSFIRE.

CARLSON: See you tomorrow night.

PRESS: See you tomorrow night.




Back to the top