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Target Terrorism: The U.S.-British Relationship

Aired October 12, 2001 - 19:30   ET



GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If you want to join the coalition against terror, we welcome you in. If you say you want to join us militarily, like Great Britain does, do so. And they have done so in a fashion that should make the people of Great Britain proud.


BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: But does the United States need Great Britain to fight the war on terrorism? This is CROSSFIRE.

Good evening. Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Ever since September 11, Americans had been singing two songs: "God Bless America" and "God Save the Queen." President Bush went out of his way to praise British Prime Minister Tony Blair last night, and Blair is always quick to say, "back at you."

Nobody is a stronger member of the coalition. British war planes joined American war planes bombing targets in Afghanistan. England and America have joined forces to fight terrorism the way they joined over 50 years ago to fight Hitler.

But how long will this buddy system last once the Taliban is defeated? Will Bush answer Blair's call for nation building? Will Blair follow Bush's lead on missile defense, and will either take the war next to Iraq?

Debating tonight just how far the U.K. will follow the U.S., former assistant defense secretary Frank Gaffney, and the honorable Winston Churchill, grandson of the great one, and a former member of the British House of Commons.

Bob Novak?

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Mr. Churchill, the special relationship between the United States and Great Britain really goes back to World War II. In the early stages, there were more British troops in the field than there were American troops.

But in this operation, there's just a very small British contribution. Wouldn't you say that this is really a token alliance right now? Glad to have some help from the British, but it really doesn't amount to that much, does it?

WINSTON S. CHURCHILL: I think it's a bit more of a token -- bit more than a token. At the moment, we've have 24,000 Army, Navy, Air Force deployed to the Arabian peninsula, currently in Oman. And they are available for the United States joint tasking to cherry pick what assets they would like to use. They have used some already. And they will be using more.

NOVAK: Now, there has been a lot of talk, sir, about your grandfather in these days. A lot of memories of his great leadership. And of course America is very grateful that Tony Blair has joined and been so steadfast a supporter. But when people start comparing Tony Blair to Winston Churchill, isn't that a little much?

CHURCHILL: Well, I certainly don't do that.


NOVAK: How do you think Tony Blair is doing?

CHURCHILL: I think he's doing remarkably well. And I think he's helping in all sorts of ways, rallying support in western Europe, in certain Middle Eastern countries where maybe we have a better relationship than you do -- there are others where you have better a relationship. And so it's complementing what the president is trying to do.

PRESS: Frank Gaffney, I want to get your comment on that, because I'd have to say -- and I've said this before, I'll say it again -- I think so far in this campaign, President Bush has done very, very well in leading the nation. But I think Tony Blair has been superb, and I come back to that speech he gave on October the 2nd, where I thought he laid out more clearly than anybody else has done what it's all about.

Here's this one little clip we've seen over and over again. Let's one more time, Tony Blair.


TONY BLAIR, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: And I say to the Taliban, surrender the terrorists or surrender power.


PRESS: Couldn't say it any more clearly. But I want to ask you is, secretly, when you've watched Tony Blair and you've listened to Tony Blair, haven't you said to yourself, "I wish he were president of the United States"?


PRESS: Come on, Frank.

GAFFNEY: No. Look, I think the president of the United States is doing an absolutely superb job. There's no need for a British stand-in. Now, we did try British government once upon a time, and (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

PRESS: We're not going back there.

GAFFNEY: We're not going to pick any fights on that score.


GAFFNEY: But I do think that the point is well-taken. The British prime minister has been an admirable supporter, rhetorically, that has helped, I think, create an impression that is very much in all of our interest to create, which is that this is not just a United States fight.

And there are contributions that the British military are making as well, and we welcome them.

PRESS: Well, maybe we can agree on this, because Tony Blair not only gave that magnificent speech, he was the first one -- he laid out on the Web site the evidence that links Osama bin Laden to the terrorist attacks of September 11th, which we Americans never saw.

We saw it, thanks to Tony Blair. He just came back from a trip to the Middle East where he went to India, he went to Pakistan, Oman, United Arab Emirates, went to Egypt. Wouldn't you have to say that we could not do, we could not conduct this war of terrorism without Britain and without Tony Blair?

GAFFNEY: I think you meant to say war against terrorism.

PRESS: Against it.

GAFFNEY: I don't think that's true. I certainly hope it isn't true, because I think the moment you get into a situation where the United States can't fight the war without allied help, you are almost certain to find it can't fight, because you wind up having lots of people say, "well, don't do that, don't do that," and, "you can't do that without our help."

I think what we have is an effort being made, both by our president and by the British Prime Minister, to rally support. And the fact that the United States can do this fight by itself, almost ensures that you are going to get other people helping. And we're very glad to have the help.

NOVAK: Mr. Churchill, the prime minister of Israel, General Sharon, made a remarkable speech a couple weeks ago, in which he compared the coalition-building efforts of the United States and the United Kingdom with the appeasement by the western democracies, Britain and France, toward Hitler in 1938.

Do you think that there's any validity -- he's saying that they were selling Israel down the river like Chamberlain and Daladier sold Czechoslovakia down the river. Do you think there's any merit to that argument at all? CHURCHILL: No merit at all. It was clearly intended by Mr. Sharon as a preemptive strike to safeguard against that thing happening. But I think we're talking about something totally different, because what the French and British governments, before the second world war, did was to sell out the entire Czechoslovakia nation, in the hope of appeasing Hitler and satisfying his appetite, which, of course, it didn't do.

I think at the maximum that could happen under present circumstances would be for the United States to reconsider its blank check approach to Israel and to reign in its more forward policies, in terms of settlements on the West Bank, which is highly controversial and is the cause of a great deal of bitterness.

And I think it is that he's concerned about -- not that the United States is going to sell out Israel itself. But that it is no longer going to give the blank check to whatever the Israeli government at the moment may care to be doing on the West Bank.

GAFFNEY: I have to disagree with that. I think what the Israeli prime minister is concerned about is a situation emerging very like that confronted Czechoslovakia before World War II. You had great powers deciding to try to arrive at some condominium with other powers, at the expense of a third party. In the case of Britain and France, it was Czechoslovakia. In the case of the United States, it's Israel.

And in both cases, the cost of that condominium could be creating conditions on the ground that would make it impossible for that third party to survive. Czechoslovakia couldn't survive. Israel, if it is forced to make territorial concessions to terrorist-sponsoring regimes like Yasser Arafat's, I suggest may not be able to survive in the future as well, and we certainly don't want to see that happening.

CHURCHILL: Well, I certainly don't share your point of view there, because the last Israeli government under Prime Minister Barak was willing to give back 92 percent of all the territory taken in the Six-Day War.

GAFFNEY: It was a terrible mistake, and the government of Israel fell as a result of the Israeli people repudiating it.

CHURCHILL: Well, it was actually Arafat who repudiated it, because he wasn't strong enough, either morally or politically, to give it his approval.

NOVAK: Mr. Churchill, we've had a lot of veneration of Prime Minister Blair tonight, so I'd...

CHURCHILL: A bit much, I say.

NOVAK: Yes. I take out a different quarter heard from, and that is that Mr. Jeffrey Donaldson of the Oscar Unionist party, I believe your grandfather and your great grandfather had a lot to do with you (UNINTELLIGIBLE), if my history is correct. But the other day Mr. Donaldson said -- quote -- "I and others find it sickening that a British prime minister would on the one hand be declaring war on international terrorism, but in his own back yard is offering a sordid deal to the IRA," the Irish Republican Army. Is that a good point?

CHURCHILL: Well, there is certainly the basis for that argument. And particularly, while the real IRA is still in the field, is still intent on...

NOVAK: They are terrorists.

CHURCHILL: They are terrorists. There's no question. And don't let's forget the contribution to the Gulf War of the IRA itself. They tried to assassinate the British prime minister and the entire cabinet by lobbing a mortar bomb into Downing Street, and luckily, it landed in the backyard about 80 yards off target.

PRESS: I want to ask you, Frank, about another person we know, I guess we could call a terrorist. The president last night repeated the fact in his news conference that we're not just after the terrorists themselves, we're after nations that support it. He called Saddam Hussein an evil man. Do you believe that means that after the Taliban is defeated that the United States should go next to bomb Iraq and try to topple Saddam Hussein?

GAFFNEY: Well, what exactly we do, I think, is a matter of tactics. But the question of whether, strategically, we have to finish a job that was left undone at the end of Desert Storm, I think there's no doubt about it. I believe that when the president talks about the problem being larger than Osama bin Laden and his network, and larger than Afghanistan and other terrorist networks, and talks about state sponsors of terrorism, the list has to start with Saddam Hussein, given what we know about his use of terror at home and abroad.

PRESS: I'm sorry, I hate to interrupt you. We're going to go back to CNN's Wolf Blitzer for some breaking news right now -- Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Bill, we're developing a story -- confirming a story out of Carson City, Nevada, where state health officials are now saying that they have preliminarily tested a letter which appears to be positive for anthrax. They say more tests are required. Those tests will be completed by Saturday, by tomorrow, but Dr. Randy Todd, the state epidemiologist, says the Washoe County Health Department and the FBI are involved in the investigation.

They say that this investigation began after one employee at a company that has not yet been identified appeared to have received a letter that -- quote -- "just didn't look right." The press secretary to Governor Kenny Guinn won't immediately identify the name of the company. But once again, preliminary tests show that it does indicate that it is positive for the anthrax bacteria. Initial tests were positive. Once again, more tests are required.

More details as they become available, including at the top of the hour on "THE POINT WITH GRETA VAN SUSTEREN." "CROSSFIRE" will return right after this break.


BLAIR: Today, conflicts rarely stay within national boundaries. Today, a tremor in one financial market is repeated in the markets of the world. Today, confidence is global -- it's presence or its absence. I have long believed that this interdependence defines the new world we live in.


NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. There is only one superpower, but the U.S. values its allies, especially its closest ally, Britain. Does that mean President Bush should take advice on lots of issues from Prime Minister Tony Blair?

We're talking to Frank Gaffney, former assistant secretary of defense, and to Winston S. Churchill, grandson of the wartime prime minister -- Bill Press?

PRESS: Mr. Churchill, I think we have found a point where the great British-U.S. coalition may fall apart on the topic we were talking about, Iraq, just before we broke for breaking news there.

And I want to get your comment by reading to you first a comment that was in this morning's "New York Times." A senior British official close to Prime Minister Tony Blair who is quoted as saying -- quote -- "I know it's a common right-wing view in Washington that Iraq must be involved, but it's a big jump in logic, and to go bomb Iraq for this attack would be daft."

That's a word which don't use very much in this country, "daft." Do you think it would be daft?

CHURCHILL: Means nutty.

I think it's very important that we take things one at a time. The principle objective, the immediate objective, is Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Of course you can make all sorts of scenarios: Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Iran. If you do, if you set it out like that, it really does appear to be a -- quote -- "crusade" against Islam. That plays directly into the hands of bin Laden. That is the last thing we need.

Let us deal with what we've got on our plate. Looking beyond that, I think there's no question that we do need to address the separate problem of rogue states developing weapons of mass destruction.

PRESS: But before we get there, back to Afghanistan, please.

One thing that President Bush says as president, he said it as candidate -- quote -- "we don't do nation building." Yet Tony Blair is saying very strongly, if we're successful together in toppling the Taliban, the United States and Britain and the United Nations have to be involved in set -- I wouldn't say setting up, but overlooking what kind of new government appears and takes over.

CHURCHILL: Of course.

PRESS: Do you agree on nation building?

CHURCHILL: Of course. We can't leave a power vacuum, because that's essentially what allowed the Taliban to be moved in there with Arab arms and Arab money. It's essentially an alien organization.

NOVAK: Speaking of nation building, Mr. Gaffney.


NOVAK: Let's listen to what President Bush said on that subject at his press conference last night.


BUSH: It would be a useful function for the United Nations to take over the so-called nation building. I would call it the stabilization of a future government, after our military mission is complete.


NOVAK: Does that make sense?

GAFFNEY: I'm not too keen on the United Nations myself, as an arbiter of future governments of anyplace. But I do think that the idea, as Mr. Churchill has put it, is that you don't want at the end of this effort to have it revert to the same sort of chaos that produced this problem in the first place. It is a point well taken.

I think that what ought to be different from nation building, as we witnessed it pursued by the Clinton administration, is we ought to be focusing not simply on installing individuals, but in encouraging the development of institutions that can give people of the countries affected both greater freedom themselves and opportunity for economic prosperity, and posing less of a threat to us. That seems to me to be both worthy and necessary.

NOVAK: Mr. Gaffney, I gather you are one of the daft right wingers that he was talking about.

GAFFNEY: I guess I am. If the shoe fits, I guess I must wear it.

NOVAK: Let me ask you -- Mr. Churchill says we ought to get done with Afghanistan before we take on something else. Would you, before the operation is done in Afghanistan, which I don't think is going to be done immediately, but would you start sending planes and bombing Baghdad?

GAFFNEY: Well, as I said, in answer to the earlier question, I don't think this is about tactics right now. I think it's about the strategy. I think the president has said, and I think I've heard Tony Blair say, this is a war against terrorism, on a global scale. What we do next and when we do it, I think has to be determined on the basis of the individual countries affected.

NOVAK: You're saying eventually we have to go after Iraq.

GAFFNEY: I personally think it may not be necessary to bomb, or it might be necessary to bomb in Iraq. But what we want to do in all of these countries is work with the people who are most immediately affected, just as we're doing in Afghanistan right now. They have the troops on the ground who have at least as much an interest in liberating themselves from these horrible regimes as we do in having them liberated. And that's especially true in Iraq.

CHURCHILL: Mr. Gaffney, I'd like to ask you a question following up on what you said earlier. You said America doesn't need allies. America can do it by itself. Of course, you have massive power and capability. I'd just like to ask you, who do you think is refueling the U.S. Navy fighter jets that are tonight bombing Afghanistan?

GAFFNEY: Well, I'm pretty sure that at least some of them are being refueled by American aircraft. I didn't say that we don't need them.

CHURCHILL: Actually...


CHURCHILL: I'd say I think it's preferable -- to answer your question, I think it's preferable for us not to need allies. We get much better results when we don't need them. But it is certainly nice to have them.


CHURCHILL: Maybe I could tell you that there is no compatible between the U.S. Navy refueling capability and that of the U.S. Air Force. And therefore it is Royal Air Force tanker aircraft that are providing the tanker requirement for the U.S. Navy fighter jets.

GAFFNEY: The last time I checked...


GAFFNEY: With all due respect, we have U.S. Navy assets that do have refueling capability. They're probably being used as well. I'm delighted that's available.

CHURCHILL: The carrier-born ones are much smaller, as you appreciate it, you've been on a carrier. But where do you think the B-52s are coming from? They're coming from Diego Garcia.


CHURCHILL: That is a British base.

GAFFNEY: It is a British base, but that's not where they're being refueled from.

CHURCHILL: This is a joint effort.

GAFFNEY: It is a joint effort and I'm delighted to have a joint support here. I'm just saying I think it's preferable to get joint efforts by virtue of American leadership when you don't need them, rather than hoping that everybody will rally around you when you do need them.

PRESS: I want to come back to that statement. Isn't it the height of American arrogance to state here on this show that we not only can do it alone, but we're better off doing it alone without any coalition partners, when you're talking about a global threat of terrorism?

GAFFNEY: Well, that might be arrogant if that's what I said. But of course, that's not I said.

PRESS: That's what I heard.

GAFFNEY: No, but you didn't hear me for real. Let me try it again. The United States should be the leader of the free world. It has the ability to amass coalitions credibly, when it is willing and perceived to be willing and able to exercise power all by itself without allies.

As Margaret Thatcher, a great British prime minister once said, "There is no such thing as leadership by consensus." And if you have to have allies in order to do anything, chances are you may not be able to do anything.

PRESS: Mr. Churchill, are you happy then? You're along for the ride, even though we don't need you.

CHURCHILL: Well, luckily this isn't the received view here in Washington, let alone within the administration. And you know, there are assets which the United States has, which are overwhelming. There are other assets that we have: special forces, intelligence, which brings something different to bear.

GAFFNEY: We welcome them. We're delighted to have them. It's very nice of you to offer them.


GAFFNEY: Let me thank you personally for bringing them to bear.


GAFFNEY: It's just that I don't want to rely on them.

PRESS: I think you've got him. Let's just...


CHURCHILL: What you've got to realize, we're all in the same boat together. We have to defeat terrorism together.

NOVAK: Let's restore the special relationship.

PRESS: We did it in a half-hour.


PRESS: God bless America and God save the Queen. And God save Tony Blair.

Thank you, Frank Gaffney, for joining us. Mr. Churchill, honor to have you here. Hope to get you back.

Bob Novak and I will have a final word on the U.K. and U.S. relationship in our closing comments.


NOVAK: Bill, I am delighted to have our British cousins fighting and flying with us. I wish we had a lot more other countries involved in this coalition, and I'll tell you why.

It is a restraint. It is a restraint, that the United States is not going to go off bombing every Arab country in the world and standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel against the rest of the world.

PRESS: Believe it or not, Bob, I agree with every word you say. Now, I want to see if you will agree with me. You know that Tony Blair had made a real contribution here, I believe, and he can make an even greater one because I think he's right about global warming and Bush is wrong. He's right about missile defense and Bush is wrong. He's right about nation building and Bush is wrong.

If President Bush follows Tony Blair even further, we'll be even better off, won't we, Bob?

NOVAK: You know, I was willing to give Tony Blair a lot of credit for being a good war leader and putting aside his socialist doctrine, but you can sour me on anybody, Bill, and you just have.


PRESS: Go, Tony Blair! From the left, I'm Bill Press. Good night for CROSSFIRE. Have a good weekend.

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.




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