CNN LATE EDITION WITH WOLF BLITZER
Levin, Hyde Discuss Latest Military Action; Amin Addresses Northern Alliance Efforts; What is the Outlook for the War on Terrorism?
Aired November 4, 2001 - 12:00 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.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington and New York, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 9:30 p.m. in Kabul, Afghanistan, and 10:00 p.m. in Islamabad, Pakistan. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this special three-hour LATE EDITION.
We'll get to Senator Carl Levin and Congressman Henry Hyde shortly. But first, the latest developments in the war on terrorism.
President Bush is preparing for a series of activities and major speeches this week that will focus on his two-front war effort.
CNN White House correspondent Kelly Wallace is near the presidential retreat in Camp David, Maryland, with the latest.
BLITZER: Kelly will be back in the third hour of LATE EDITION among our reporters. We'll be taking your phone calls and questions.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld arrived in Pakistan today, part of a four-day tour of five countries that have offered support for U.S. military operations in Afghanistan.
CNN's Bill Delaney joins us now live from Islamabad, Pakistan, with details of the secretary's trip.
BLITZER: And since the September 11 attacks, the United States Congress has focused largely on legislation designed to strengthen the fight against terrorism. But the debate over aviation security this past week underlined some serious differences on Capitol Hill.
Joining us now to talk about that, as well as overall war effort, are two powerful chairmen: in Chicago, the Illinois Republican Congressman Henry Hyde. He's the chairman of the House International Relations Committee. And here in Washington, Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin. He's the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Gentlemen, thanks very much for joining us. Senator Levin, let me begin with you. Four weeks ago today, almost at this very moment, the U.S. began the airstrikes against targets inside Afghanistan. Some are now saying it's time for a massive, much more serious, robust ground invasion, ground effort to try to wrap up the job before the winter months really set in, even before Ramadan, which begins November 17.
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: I think we have to just follow the advice of our military leaders in this regard and do this relentlessly and patiently but to do this buildup right.
The Secretary of Defense announced this week that there's going to be a significant increase in the number of special forces that are going in to Afghanistan. He visited Tajikistan this week in order to see if we could line up some very important airfields that could be used as staging areas, should there be ground forces that need to be put in there.
And it seems to me that the military leaders are saying, let them build up properly. We're sending in, apparently, now a plane called JSTARS, which is going to allow for tracking of vehicles on the ground, a very important component of a campaign, of a ground campaign.
We're sending in more unmanned aerial vehicles, as well, to track things that are going on on the ground.
We have got to buildup in a proper way. We got to get supplies in in order to sustain any ground forces that go in there.
So, I don't think any kind of public pressure is going to -- I hope no public pressure is going to change our plans to succeed in this war.
BLITZER: Chairman Hyde, as you know, some Americans, including a lot of critics, including even some conservative Republicans, are getting impatient with the way this war is being waged by the Bush administration. They think it's being waged because of overly important concerns for this coalition that the U.S. has put together.
Are you among them that would like the U.S. to be less concerned about the coalition, more concerned about getting the job done inside Afghanistan?
REP. HENRY HYDE (R), ILLINOIS: Well, I want to get the job done, but I'm very concerned about the coalition. I think putting together a coalition of so many disparate nations, many Muslim nations, is quite an achievement. And I think it's an essential ingredient if we are to stamp out terrorism, locate Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda network and the other networks around the globe.
So the coalition is a wonderful thing and a tribute to the diplomacy of the administration. And I don't think we ought to -- I agree with Senator Levin, these are military questions, not political ones. And I would leave it to the experts rather than have Monday- morning quarterbacking on Congress' part. BLITZER: A lot of Monday-morning quarter-backing always going on here in Washington.
Let me go back to Senator Levin.
General Tommy Franks, the commander of the central command, which is running this U.S.-led military campaign, he was TV earlier today. There seemed to be -- and I could be reading too much into it -- there seemed to be a little disconnect between his stance on the U.S. perhaps considering a pause in the airstrikes during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and what we heard earlier from the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, even from President Bush.
Listen to what General Franks said earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEN. TOMMY FRANKS, U.S. CENTRAL COMMAND: We want to take the views of the leadership in the region in, very much into consideration.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC'S THIS WEEK: So you're open to it?
FRANKS: Yes. I mean, I think we'd be awfully foolish to not listen to people who have joined with us in this campaign. And so what we're doing is we're listening to all the views, then we'll take a decision on whether to move ahead or not.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: He's suggesting that it's still open whether the U.S. might pause.
LEVIN: Well, he also is really focusing on just considering the views of others.
But when we look at those views of others, we presumably will look at history. In the Iran-Iraq war, no pause for Ramadan. The Syrians and the Egyptians attacked Israel in 1973 during Ramadan. It's called the Yom Kippur War in Israel, but it's called the Ramadan war in the Arab world. And there was no pauses during the Afghan war during the 1980s.
So I think that the views need to be considered, but what we heard from President Musharraf it seems to me pretty strongly is that, while they have some concern about it, which is understandable, that he is not strongly advising against it.
And I would think that we will and should continue during Ramadan and not be deterred by that, given the fact that Arab countries and Muslim countries have not been deterred throughout their history.
BLITZER: Do you agree with Senator Levin on that, Chairman Hyde?
HYDE: Yes, I do very much, Wolf, because what he says is accurate. And I've also heard that Turkey, which is a heavily Muslim country, although not an Islamic republic -- it's a secular state, but heavy Muslim population -- also has suggested that the terrorists won't observe Ramadan in terms of ceasing terrorist acts, and so we shouldn't either.
So I would think that the mind has been made up of the government and they're going to go ahead.
BLITZER: The defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, Senator Levin, wrote a piece on the op-ed page of the "Washington Post" this past Thursday. Among other things he said this, and we'll put it up on our screen.
He said, "Until seven weeks ago, an attack like the one we suffered on September 11 seemed unimaginable to most Americans. In the decades ahead, we will face other threats that seem just as unimaginable to us today. For this reason, adapting to surprise, adapting quickly and decisively, must be a condition of the 21st- century military planning."
The question is this: Why was it so unimaginable what happened on September 11, given the history of terrorist attacks against the United States building up to last September 11, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York?
LEVIN: I don't think terrorist attacks were unimaginable at all. I think the threat of terrorism is the real threat. That we changed our structure, for instance, on the Armed Services Committee in the last few years to have an emerging-threats approach, Emerging Threats Subcommittee, which Senator Roberts chaired, now Senator Landrieu. And so, we very much have focused on terrorists attacks.
But I think what the secretary maybe was saying was this particular form that was not foreseen, this particular attack using an airplane as a missile.
BLITZER: It's a pretty serious indictment of the U.S. intelligence community, the law enforcement community, that it was not foreseen.
LEVIN: I think that there were clearly some intelligence failures here, because this was an attack which was planned for years. And we need to refocus both our resources and the restructure our intelligence community, and those things are going on.
BLITZER: Chairman Hyde, what does it say to you? How concerned are you that the U.S., with the enormous resources at its disposal, both domestically in terms of law enforcement, internationally in terms of the intelligence community, was so terribly caught by surprise on September 11?
HYDE: Well, I think we've reacted appropriately to that disaster, but it is a shame that we had to react by modernizing our laws, our anti-terrorist laws, laws having to do with wire-tapping and surveillance and warrants and things like that. We have been anachronistic. We've been out of date. And we brought those things up to contemporary requirements now. You know, it's not so easy to penetrate some of these Middle Eastern terrorist cells composed of relatives, to get someone on in the ground who can provide human intelligence. That is a lifetime's work.
And frankly, we haven't felt that the intelligence services, the CIA and the rest, needed all the money they asked for. Now, I would rather think we are taking a more sober view of that.
BLITZER: All right. Gentlemen, we're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about.
When we return, we'll also be taking your phone calls for Senator Levin and Congressman Hyde. LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
We're continuing our conversation with the House International Relations chairman, Henry Hyde of Illinois, and the Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, Carl Levin of Michigan.
Chairman Hyde, let's go back to this issue of the war on the ground. A lot of people are now estimating that the U.S. was overly relying on the Northern Alliance, the anti-Taliban forces, in the north to move in, to take some strategic positions, like Mazar-i- Sharif, in the northern part of Afghanistan, maybe even Kabul.
Was there too much reliance on these anti-Taliban forces?
HYDE: Well, I'm not going to criticize those questions, because I don't have the information available from the field.
I think, as I said before, there are an awful lot of Monday- morning quarterbacks who think they're four-star generals. We have highly qualified people, from Don Rumsfeld on down, in the field, running the show. They know what they're doing, and I have confidence in their judgment.
BLITZER: On another issue, Senator Levin, there's a lot of concern out there that the U.S. may be losing what's called the propaganda war in the Muslim world, in the Arab world. Osama bin Laden made another appearance over the weekend with a videotape that he released through the Al-Jazeera, Arabic-language television station.
Why does the United States seem to be having so much trouble convincing the Muslim world, major chunks of the Arab world, of the justice, the rightness of its cause?
LEVIN: Well, I think we can do a lot better, and I think we're putting some pieces in place. As a matter of fact, in three different places to do a lot better, in terms of the war for public opinion, winning the hearts and minds of the Arab populations and Muslim populations, is important. We're going to be doing a better job of it. I don't think we've put enough resources into that.
We do have a -- by the way, a plane that flies near Afghanistan, that does connect to the radio stations. We actually dropped radios inside Afghanistan.
But I've got to acknowledge that we could be doing a much better job in this area. We've been dropping humanitarian assistance, so that should help.
By the way, I think bin Laden's most recent tape didn't help him one bit. It hurt him. He was attacking Arab countries. He was attacking Muslim nations. He was attacking the United Nations, which has won a Nobel Peace Prize. So his last tape, as propaganda, was pretty patently transparent.
BLITZER: Chairman Hyde, I know you have some hearings scheduled later this month on this very issue. Let me read to you an excerpt from a column that Tom Friedman wrote in the "New York Times" this week.
He said this: "Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein still have a great deal of popular support. It is no easy trick to lose a PR war to two mass murderers, but we have been doing just that lately. It is not enough for the White House just to label them evildoers. We have to take the PR war right to them, just like the real one."
You must be concerned about this propaganda war, as well.
HYDE: Yes, indeed, Wolf. We had a hearing in our committee on the 30th of October. We have another one scheduled for the 14th, I believe, of November. We're going to call in the top people in the country.
This is a country that invented Madison Avenue and Hollywood. And if we can't market our own virtues throughout the world, then we're pretty poor. I think we can do a lot better.
As Senator Levin said, we've got the experts here, people from Hollywood and New York and throughout the country. We're going to try to pick their brains. Jack Valenti is a friend of most of us up on the Hill. He's going to pitch in. And we're going to try to improve what we call, euphemistically, public diplomacy. But we have a...
HYDE: ... great message to tell people, and we've got to tell it better.
BLITZER: And Jack Valenti, to our viewers who don't know, is the Washington representative of the Motion Picture Association of America. And, presumably, he'll give you some advice, as well.
Senator Levin, on the domestic homeland security front, the president, in terms of public attitudes, is not doing well as, apparently, he's doing on the other front in the war, the attack war, the air war, in Afghanistan. A Newsweek poll this weekend asked the American public, do you think the Bush administration has a well-thought-out plan for fighting bioterrorism, which, of course, has been on the minds of a lot of people. Look at the numbers: 46 percent say yes, 46 percent say no, 8 percent say they don't know. The country evenly divided.
No 80 or 90 percent job-approval rating on this front.
LEVIN: Well, I think there's some real differences in the Congress on this issue, too. We have been very united in the terms of the war effort, but when it comes to domestic issues, whether it's the security of our airports, or whether or not it's economic recovery, there are real differences, for instance, between most Democrats and most Republicans. And that's reflected in these public opinion polls.
On the airport security, for instance, the president insisting that we have private contractors that do the airport security, instead of having public, federal employees do it, have federal employees protecting us. We have federal employees protecting at the borders, we have Customs officials that are federal. But when it comes to protecting people going through our airports, for some reason the president and most Republicans do not want any federal employees.
I think they're putting, frankly, a private profit ahead of public protection in doing this. They're wrong. I think the public senses it, and hopefully we'll work out some kind of a way to get this public protection into place within the next few days.
BLITZER: Chairman Hyde, you voted against having federal employees man those security checkpoints at all of the airports in the United States. Why?
HYDE: You know, I voted for the House bill, which I think was a superior legislation to the Senate bill. I think hiring 20,000 new federal employees -- and once you hire them, it's awfully hard to fire them. And this is the kind of a job where, if someone shows up intoxicated to screen baggage, they ought to be fired on the spot. So you have a lot more flexibility if you're the hirer and the firer.
Our bill, the House bill, which we passed the other day, gives the president and gives the Department of Transportation authority, the flexibility, depending on the airport, to hire federal employees, if that's deemed appropriate, or private contractors, but get people on the job doing it right away.
BLITZER: All right. Senator Levin, there's a House version which you disagree with. The Senate version passed 100-0 in favor of federal employees.
Is there common ground? Where will the common ground be for a final piece of legislation the president can sign? And when will that happen?
LEVIN: Well, perhaps we'll put federal employees at the largest airports first, and then move into the smallest airports. But it's really important that we have people who are properly trained, properly paid. These private contractors are in it just for the profit, for the bottom line. That means they pay as little as possible. Frequently minimum-wage people, stay just for six months, eight months. Inadequate training.
We've got to do better. If we can use federal employees to protect ourselves here in Washington, I don't see any reason why our people, the passengers going through our airports, should not have that same kind of superb, better, more-professionalized protection with training.
BLITZER: Are you ready for that compromise, Chairman Hyde?
HYDE: Yes, we can give employees federal training, federal screening, federal supervision, and they can do the job. And we can bring them on board right away.
Our bill provides for background checks, federal training. And so, I don't see why we should get hung up over whether or not would they have to be federal employees or they can be federally supervised private employees.
But I think we'll get that resolved this week.
BLITZER: OK, this week. We heard it from Chairman Hyde. Let's see if that happens.
I want to thank both of our guests, Senator Levin, Chairman Hyde, for joining us.
And up next, as U.S. warplanes continue to strike Taliban targets in Afghanistan, how is the allied front faring on the ground? We'll talk with the special representative of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, Haron Amin, when LATE EDITION returns.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Since the start of the U.S. military action in Afghanistan four weeks ago today, diplomatic efforts have been under way to try to craft a post-Taliban government in that country.
Joining us now is Haron Amin. He's the special representative for the Afghan United Front, also called the Northern Alliance, which is trying to topple the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
Mr. Amin, welcome back to LATE EDITION. Thanks for joining us.
HARON AMIN, NORTHERN ALLIANCE SPOKESMAN: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Why hasn't the Northern Alliance, after four weeks of steady U.S. bombing, been able to move beyond its positions in the north and take and for example, the strategic position of Mazar-i- Sharif or moved against Kabul, for that mater? Let's start off with Mazar-i-Sharif.
AMIN: Mazar-i-Sharif -- remember, when we made a move and captured the held points overlooking the airport of Mazar-i-Sharif, then there were no airstrikes by the international counterterrorism campaign. When we ran out of ammunition, that's when they had the air raids.
In terms of other parts of the country, I think that now we're in a phase when the military strikes really pound Taliban front lines. This is going to indeed pave the ground for the next phase, which is going to be engaging them on the ground.
But I think it's still a bit early. And a few more days, I'd say maybe up to a week of this, would be necessary for us to make that appropriate move, because the Taliban certainly have a larger number of fighters, but they're not significant.
BLITZER: So what you're saying is that the Northern Alliance will be able to begin its assault on Mazar-i-Sharif within a week?
AMIN: I can say that the preparations are being made, and it's going to be hopefully a multi-pronged attack in various parts of the north.
BLITZER: And will it also move towards Kabul, as well, the capital of of Afghanistan?
AMIN: We are also preparing to go toward Kabul, to invest Kabul, not certainly not to go into the city.
BLITZER: The last time I spoke with the foreign minister, the so-called foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah, of the Northern Alliance, he said that one of the reasons why the Northern Alliance was not moving on Kabul was the political constraints that have been put on the Northern Alliance, in effect, he was implying, by the United States, which didn't necessarily want the Northern Alliance to take Kabul because it might irritate other coalition partners like Pakistan.
AMIN: Well, we can say that I don't think that there has been any sort of grievance about us going into Kabul. Certainly, that's not the word, official word of the United States.
But we, out of our own desire, have tried to come up with a political road map before moving into Kabul. And that's why our United Front Leadership Council has discussed that in detail. Our delegation has been ready as of today to go over the exchange of names for the Supreme Council of International Unity, which is going to held in Ankara, Turkey, to exchange those names and go about hopefully with the (inaudible) people, the convening of the Loya Jirgah or prospects of that, the venue and site and so on and so forth.
BLITZER: The "New York Times" had a long piece, which you probably saw, today on the front page about the Northern Alliance. Among other things of the writers writes this.
He says, "They have been adept at training exercises staged for the benefit of foreign journalists, a kind of let-me-at-them posturing, but despite weeks of saying they would hit Taliban front lines hard, the Alliance's tanks and soldiers stayed mostly idle."
What else do you need in order to get moving and move beyond your current positions?
AMIN: Wolf, let me be very frank here. Certain promises were made about delivery of supplies.
BLITZER: Promises from whom?
AMIN: By various quarters to come through a specific venue, which I don't have to say, it's very clear.
BLITZER: It's not clear to me or my viewers. Spell it out.
AMIN: Yes, what we're -- you know, there was promises made by the international coalition that military aid in the form of tanks and APCs and heavy artillery, as well as ammunition, was to be delivered to us. That is not there.
Certainly airdrops of ammunitions here and there. That may actually give us the opportunity to make the move on the ground. But the enough (sic) material -- the material is not enough.
We're still not looking into that too heavily. We have got our own strategy. We will move when the time comes.
But remember, the latest phase of the military campaign, of the air campaign, is the kind of raids that we really wanted to see from early on.
BLITZER: When you say promises from the international coalition, you mean the United States?
AMIN: Well, I mean the international coalition of which the United States is the lead country.
BLITZER: There were reports the Russians were going to provide about 100 tanks to the Northern Alliance. Have they?
AMIN: No, not -- we cannot confirm. We have not received any tanks as of yet. But we hope it's going to come because, in the winter, with the closure of these passes in the north, it's going to really stymie the whole delivery effort.
BLITZER: The Taliban ambassador in Islamabad, speaking through a translator, had some tough words about the Northern Alliance, saying basically that you're not dependable, you're not reliable.
I want you to listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MULLAH ABDUL SALAM ZAEEF, TALIBAN AMBASSADOR TO PAKISTAN: Speaking of the Northern Alliance, there are many factions among them. The leaders are not of one common idea, so they neither are able to unite nor they can restore law and order. Their differences and disorders have been witnessed for all in the past.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What do you say to the Taliban representative?
AMIN: Well, certainly the Taliban can say whatever they want to say, and they've been saying it for quite some time. And they have said not only words against us but the entire international community. That's number one.
But, secondly, in terms of leadership, we have had our leaders. Our leaders are there, like Commander Massoud, like President Burhanuddin Rabbani. They have been there, they have been there, steadfast in the fight against terrorism.
Of course, diversity is something from which you gain strength, and that we have had, certainly, unlike the Taliban, which are the theocratic kind of entity, movement.
But we can say that, as of now, we are saying, let us work together with all of the Afghanistan's ethnic groups for the establishment of a broad-based government, multi-ethnic as well as fully represented, so that the aspirations of the Afghan people would be realized, and Afghanistan would manifest itself as a responsible member of the international community.
BLITZER: As you know, the criticism of the Northern Alliance, the United Front, is that most of the people of -- the largest ethnic group inside Afghanistan are the Pashtuns, but most of your supporters are either ethnic Tajiks or Uzbeks, not Pashtuns.
How do you put together a coalition that will bring in the Pashtuns to what they see as not necessarily a representative of their ethnic community?
AMIN: Politically speaking, let me get it very clear that we have permanent members of the Supreme Council of the United Front who are Pashtuns, like Hajik Kadir (ph), like Commander Arif Nurazai (ph), but even our former prime minister was Abdarim Rafuzai (ph), of the Durani (ph) tribe, which is one of the main tribes in Afghanistan, whose plane crashed in central Afghanistan in 1997.
But in the future, we're talking about hopefully with the military campaign and its successful liberation of northern parts of Afghanistan, that's going to trigger defection rates among the Taliban. And then you're going to have a lot of the Pashtuns who are going to be able to somehow offer themselves for this broad-based government in Afghanistan.
But with the Taliban having disarmed people in the southern parts of Afghanistan, that sort of thing on a continued basis, uprising is not feasible as of now.
But I think, in due time, you'll see that the international community is going to have a different perspective on the issues, and then it's going to really be a different kind of situation for our people in Afghanistan.
BLITZER: Haron Amin of the Northern Alliance, the United Front, thanks for joining us.
AMIN: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you. And when we return, just how well is the war on terrorism going? And what diplomatic moves should the United States be making? We'll talk with three former presidential advisers. LATE EDITION will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We face an enemy; an enemy the likes of which we've never seen before.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush talking about the daunting challenge of the war on terrorism.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
We now get three perspectives on how the war is shaping up. Joining us from Tulsa, Oklahoma, is the University of Oklahoma president and the former Senate Intelligence Committee chairman, David Boren. In New York, the U.S. international negotiator and the former Senate majority leader, George Mitchell. And here in Washington, the former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Robert Oakley. He's also a former State Department counterterrorism director.
Gentlemen, thanks for joining us.
And let me begin with you, Ambassador Oakley. Are you surprised about how this war, after a month of pretty steady U.S. airstrikes, how it's unfolding?
ROBERT OAKLEY, FORMER AMBASSADOR TO PAKISTAN: I'm not surprised. What surprises me is that people are so impatient. They're not listening to what the president and the secretary of state, secretary of defense had to say. This is going to be long war.
BLITZER: But why should it be such a long war? A lot of military analysts are saying the United States, with all of its high- tech military equipment, the most powerful nation on earth fighting what in effect is less than a third-rate military power in Afghanistan.
OAKLEY: The Russians tried it for 10 years and ended up having to go home because they didn't understand how to do it. It's as much political as it is military, and if we don't understand that, we're not going to win.
BLITZER: Senator Boren, you once served as the chairman of the Intelligence Committee in the Senate. Why does the U.S. have such a hard time understanding what's going on in that part of the world?
DAVID BOREN, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Well, it's a very complicated question. You know, it's easy to sit back and be an armchair quarterback. But we're talking about having to penetrate very, very small cell groups of 10 people, 12 people, many of whom are related to each other, very tightly controlled organization.
And so, you know, to use the word "war" sometimes, while this is a necessary part of it, the disruptive military actions that we've been taking to disrupt their command and control, to really in essence crush the command centers of the terrorist organization, that's part of it. But in many ways, this is as much like a detective action, a police action, police raids, carefully targeted, a lot of infiltration required.
And one of the things I learned -- I was chairing the committee during the Persian Gulf War. One of the things I learned is when we were having our greatest successes in terms of what was happening on the intelligence front, no one knew about them. That's the nature of intelligence success.
And I have strong reason to believe that the military action has disrupted their command and control. We've seen far fewer terrorist actions, not only in the United States but at American targets around the world over the last two or three weeks that I think we would have seen if we had not had these military actions.
BLITZER: Senator Mitchell, Charles Krauthammer, a columnist writing in the "Washington Post" earlier in the week, wrote this: "The war is not going well, and it is time to say why. It has been fought with half measures. It has been fought with an eye on the wishes of our coalition partners. It has been fought to assuage the Arab street. It has been fought to satisfy the diplomats rather than the generals."
That's what he says; a lot of critics are beginning to say the same thing. Are they right?
GEORGE MITCHELL, INTERNATIONAL NEGOTIATOR: Well, what is astonishing is that less than three weeks after a military action is begun, people are already pronouncing ultimate verdicts on it. Throughout history, war has been a constant, and I don't think, until very recently with 24-hour news coverage, have people asked just a few weeks after a war has begun, what's happened, why haven't we won already?
I agree with Ambassador Oakley. The president, the secretary of state, secretary of defense have all said repeatedly this is going to be a long, drawn-out conflict. And everybody seemed to take them at their word but, after just a few weeks, have gone the other way. I think it is going to be difficult, but I don't think it's going to be as long as some of the early statements suggested. But certainly just a few weeks after it's begun, there's no reason to be pronouncing the negative ultimate verdicts that some have pronounced.
BLITZER: Ambassador Oakley, you served in Pakistan. You were there. You know the situation in Afghanistan, as well.
Is the U.S. putting too much reliance on the Northern Alliance, too much hope that the Northern Alliance, the other anti-Taliban elements with inside Afghanistan, will be able in effect to get the job done with, of course, outside U.S. assistance?
OAKLEY: Wolf, we turned our back on Afghanistan and Pakistan about 10 years ago, and we lost a lot of knowledge. And we've been working with the Northern Alliance for the past two or three years in the hopes of getting Osama bin Laden.
But we've forgotten the fact that the Northern Alliance politically and militarily is not that strong compared to the country as a whole and compared to the Taliban, which had much more drive and much more popular support.
And all this has to change. We have to forge an alliance among Afghans which will include the Northern Alliance but also the others.
BLITZER: When you say the others, you mean the Pashtuns obviously...
OAKLEY: The Pashtuns, the...
BLITZER: But including elements of the Taliban?
OAKLEY: The Taliban is like an onion, you can peel it away. A lot of the commanders joined the Taliban in part because they wanted to get the Northern Alliance out of Kabul and in part because they saw the opportunity for victory. The commanders can change sides two or three times in a day.
Afghans don't really -- they're not very a coherent society, so you have to peel away the outside elements of the Taliban till you get down to the hard core. People like Mullah Omar, they're the fighters. But the rest of them can be swayed one way or another. They can be intimidated, they can be bought, they can shift.
And therefore, you have to distinguish there are degrees of Taliban. Put the true believers in the middle, put the others on the outside, and you can move them away by military force and by political action.
BLITZER: Senator Boren, you were in the Senate when the Soviets were defeated in Afghanistan, and then the U.S., as Ambassador Oakley just said, simply walked away not only from Afghanistan, but also began to walk away from Pakistan as well.
Obviously with hindsight, a major strategic error, right? BOREN: A major error. Any time we walk away we create a vacuum, a power vacuum. It's going to be filled, and it's very often in this kind of world filled with chaos.
And so we have to refocus. We have to get new strengths brought to bear. We're going to have to have a lot more human capability. And again, I go back. While the military has a very strong role to play in this, and while it's very necessary -- and it's necessary to bring about a political solution on the ground, it's also necessary in disrupting the terrorist organizations and their ability to function around the world.
Still, ultimately, the longer term -- and I'm talking now here the next three, four, five years in terms of bringing security back to the American people and the rest of the world -- that's going to depend upon how well we can train human beings and small groups to infiltrate these organizations, to shut off the financial resources to them, to penetrate their plans. That's where we're really ultimately going to win what we're calling this war on terrorism.
BLITZER: All right. That leads me to my next question for Senator Mitchell, but we're going to take a quick break before we get to it.
Senator Mitchell, when we get back, I'll ask about nation- building in Afghanistan.
A lot more to talk about with David Boren, George Mitchell and Robert Oakley. They'll also be taking your phone calls. LATE EDITION will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUMSFELD: There have been any number of conflicts between Muslim countries, and between Muslim countries and non-Muslim countries, throughout Ramadan. Needless to say, the Taliban and Al Qaeda are unlikely to take a holiday.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld addressing the issue of whether U.S. bombing would pause once the Muslim observance of Ramadan begins on November 17.
We're continuing our discussion about the war against terrorism with University of Oklahoma president and former Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman David Boren; U.S. international negotiator and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell; and the former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Robert Oakley.
Senator Mitchell, of course, as you remember, during the campaign last year, President Bush was very critical of then-President Clinton for engaging in what he called nation-building, which was disastrous, he said, to many U.S. initiatives around the world. But what is President Bush doing right now, looking ahead to a new regime in Afghanistan, if not nation-building?
MITCHELL: It is, of course nation-building. President Abraham Lincoln, one of the greatest of all American presidents, said when he entered office, "As the situation is new, so must we think anew."
President Bush has handled this situation well. He's strongly supported by the American people, in part, I believe because he has simply discarded almost everything he said on foreign policy prior to September 11.
What he said in the campaign simply doesn't apply anymore, because the circumstances are completely different. He's recognized that; so have the American people.
We clearly have to engage in the process of, however you want to define it, nation building or protecting our own interests -- another way of defining it -- in Afghanistan after this conflict, as we must do in other parts of the world. The president also said that he'd never commit American troops, without a clear-cut exit strategy. Well, obviously there's no exit strategy immediately apparent now.
The situation is different; it calls for different approaches. And to the president's credit, that's what he's doing.
BLITZER: Ambassador Oakley, you were very much involved in the situation in Somalia, as a representative of the U.S.
During the debate, one of the debates last year between then- candidate Bush and then-candidate Al Gore, I want you to listen to what the now-president had to say then about Somalia and the Clinton administration's policies.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Somalia, it started off as a humanitarian mission, then changed into nation-building mission. And that's where the mission went wrong. The mission was changed. And as a result, our nation paid a price.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is the president backpedaling from what he said then?
OAKLEY: No. I agree with Senator Mitchell. The situation has changed. Moreover, the real problem in Somalia was that, yes, the mission was changed, but while the mission changed, the United States pulled out militarily from a mission that had been expanded. We became much weaker militarily.
You have to adapt the means to the ends. And here, we're in a struggle, we're in a war. And with war, as the president said, you have to be willing to accept casualties, and you have to be determined. You have to show your will, and you have to show your ability to persevere. And all these things are there now. We just have to stick it with.
I think we're going to win. We're regaining our familiarity and our knowledge with the region. We're beginning to work with the Pakistanis. We're beginning to work with the Russians -- all things we weren't doing before. We can even bring in the Iranians because, in this particular war, they're our allies. We'd have to cobble a situation where they're all working together, and that way I think we can prevail. But it's going to take time, it's going to take some smarts.
BLITZER: It's an interesting situation, Senator Boren, strange bedfellows. You heard Ambassador Oakley say the Iranians right now are allies of the U.S., in terms of this war on terrorism inside Afghanistan. The Iranians, as you know, have had their own problems with the Taliban regime over the past several years.
But as you look at the situation right now, can the U.S. rely on some of these coalition partners, like, if you will, the Iranians?
BOREN: Well, some of these will be temporary marriages that are really marriages of convenience, that probably won't last.
But I do think we have a tremendous opportunity. If there's any silver lining in this terrible tragedy that we have confronted, it is that perhaps we have the best chance that we have ever had in our country to build a lasting coalition among the leading nations of the world to fight terrorism.
During the Persian Gulf, we put together an impressive coalition, but it was ad hoc. Once that operation was over, the coalition fell apart. I think now, especially with this new relationship, growing relationship with the Russians, where we obviously have a lot of common cause, other leading nations in the world can be drawn in.
And if we could form permanently a coalition, an international inspection team, backed up with a paramilitary organization to move against terrorism all over the world, we will have created something that the world so badly needed, in order to make this a more secure place to live.
So, there's a real opportunity here. We must institutionalize those members of the coalition that we think can really be permanent members, ongoing, after this crisis ebbs.
BLITZER: All right, gentlemen. Stand by once again. We have to take another quick break.
Coming up, the second hour of LATE EDITION. We'll check the hour's headlines, take your phone calls about this war with Robert Oakley, George Mitchell and David Boren.
Then we'll turn to the anthrax attacks. Among our guests, Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It's all ahead in the next hour of LATE EDITION. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
We'll return to our guests in just a moment, but first here's CNN's Donna Kelley in Atlanta for a quick check of the latest developments.
BLITZER: Now back to our conversation with University of Oklahoma president and former Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman David Boren; U.S. international negotiator and former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, and former U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Robert Oakley.
And let me begin with you, Senator Mitchell. You came up with the Mitchell plan on the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Israeli- Palestinian dispute. Doesn't seem to be much progress, although, as you know, this past week the Israeli foreign minister Shimon Peres did meet in Spain with the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.
BLITZER: Specifically in terms of this U.S. war against terrorism, how important is it to try to resolve the Israeli- Palestinian issue in order to generate support, I guess, for the U.S. position in fighting terrorists?
MITCHELL: It is important, although it's clearly not the primary motivating factor for bin Laden himself and many of his supporters. He, until this last statement, has skillfully seized upon it because it is of primary importance to people all across the Arab world. And I think that the emphasis that the administration's placed on trying to move that process forward to get back to negotiations and reduce the violence among Israelis and Palestinians is a wise thing.
But, Wolf, I think that bin Laden's latest tape is in effective for a number of reasons, not least of which is his attack on the United Nations. It's calling Kofi Annan a criminal.
Now, he claims to be sympathetic to the Palestinians, but, in fact, the Palestinians have been trying for a long time to get the United Nations into the process. Indeed, one of the major issues in our committee's deliberations was whether we should support a United Nations protective force in the region, which the Palestinians very strongly wanted.
So, I think it's quite clear that bin Laden is using the Israeli- Palestinian conflict as a recruiting mechanism and as a way of attracting support, not because of his legitimate concerns about it.
And I think we should be doing all we can to move that process forward in a fair and appropriate way.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take a caller from Oklahoma, Senator Boren's home state.
Please go ahead with your question.
CALLER: Hello, Wolf. I'm a big fan of your show.
I have two questions. One...
BLITZER: Keep to it one question. Just give us one.
QUESTION: OK. Are we not creating a monster by making a martyr of Pakistan, knowing how unstable it is in the long-term?
BLITZER: All right. Let me ask Ambassador Oakley, who served in Pakistan.
How much trouble, potentially, is President Musharraf in? And how concerned should the U.S. be about the nuclear stockpile in Pakistan, given the potential political unrest there?
OAKLEY: Well, we're fortunate, Pakistan is fortunate, the world is fortunate that he's there.
BLITZER: That who's there?
OAKLEY: Musharraf is there, as the leader at the right time. He understands this is a cancer eating away at Pakistan as well as a threat to the world. And he's determined to remove the cancer for the well-being of Pakistan. Pakistan doesn't want to go back to the Middle Ages, which is what you get if the Taliban, Al Qaeda took over there. And to think that they would take over with nuclear weapons is just really beyond the pale.
So, I think we're right to support Pakistan. We need to go back to supporting them the way we did during the 1980s. And this time we can't abandon them. It needs to be a long-term process. Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said you have to drain the swamp, and that means rebuilding it afterwards, whether you call it nation-building or something else, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take another caller from Arizona.
Please go ahead with your question. Arizona, go ahead. I guess we don't have Arizona.
Let me bring in Senator Boren.
Senator Boren, we did see this tape, as Senator Mitchell pointed out, from Osama bin Laden, another one this week. And we also saw some pictures of Mullah Omar, the leader of the Taliban.
Why does the United States seem to have such difficulty winning over the hearts and minds of people in the Muslim world and the Arab world on this issue in this war against terrorism?
BOREN: Well, I think they really use us as an outside target, as a scapegoat. And I think there's so many problems here to bear. I mean, it's not just the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It's the fact that the entire region has been left so far behind the rest of the world in terms of its economic development, for example, and opportunities.
And so I think this -- we've seen it again and again, people in a region, leaders in regions making an outside scapegoat.
But I think it's extremely important that we do what I think the president has done very effectively so far, continue to try to speak directly to the peoples in that region, to let them know that this is not a matter of a difference of opinion about religion. I think we're doing that very effectively at this point.
I would really like to see the president draw together a group of the best scholars in this country, best public relations experts in this country, in an informal group to share thoughts directly with him.
BOREN: I think we ought to be doing that across the board -- in essence, create a sort of external think-tank. People that are not going to come into government permanently, but people whose best ideas, the best minds in the country, bringing them to bear on the two or three top priorities that are involved in this situation.
And one of those priorities has to be how do we translate our message with greater coherence to the people on the Arab street?
BLITZER: Yes. That was a recommendation that was written in Maureen Dowd's column in the "New York Times" today, sort of what President Roosevelt did during World War II, bring the best minds together from outside of the government to help the government engage in the war effort.
We have another caller from Texas.
Go ahead, please, with your question.
CALLER: Yes, hi. My question is for the month of Ramadan. I would like to know, since Northern Alliance says that you guys can bomb the Taliban area, I would like to know if the United States will do that, because it's a holy month for every Muslim in the world.
BLITZER: Now, what about that, Senator Mitchell? Should the U.S. pause in its bombing campaign during Ramadan, which begins November 17?
MITCHELL: The administration has already made clear that there will not be a pause, and they've cited numerous cases in past years in which conflicts have occurred among Muslim countries and other groups during this period of time.
I don't think it will have a major decisive impact, although it will give ammunition to those who oppose our position there.
BLITZER: Ambassador Oakley, in your distinguished career at the State Department, among other things, and I knew you quite well in those years -- you were director of the Office of Counterterrorism. Put on that hat for a moment. How vulnerable are U.S. interests in the United States and around the world right now to additional terror attacks?
MITCHELL: I think that they've been tremendously disrupted, and I think that we can continue to disrupt them. There's always the danger of an incident. But as Roosevelt used to say, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."
And therefore, if we're resolute and we're determined and we protect ourselves as best we can, if there is another incident, well, we just keep on going, and that will put an end to it in the long run.
BLITZER: And just fight and fight and fight, is that what you're saying?
MITCHELL: That's right.
BLITZER: Unfortunately, we have to leave it right there. I want to thank our three distinguished guests, David Boren, George Mitchell, Robert Oakley. Thanks for joining us on LATE EDITION.
And just ahead, President Bush says the anthrax scare is the second wave of terrorist attacks against the United States. Is the government any closer to finding answers? We'll get some insight into this mystery from three guests, when LATE EDITION returns.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID SATCHER, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: We're used to dealing with infectious diseases, but we're not -- we don't have a lot of experience dealing with terrorists.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Dr. David Satcher, the U.S. surgeon general, discussing the challenge the U.S. government faces in dealing with the anthrax attacks.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Three guests join us now to talk about this aspect of the war on terrorism: In Atlanta, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Jeffrey Koplan. In New Haven, Connecticut, Dr. David Kessler, the former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, now the dean of the Yale University School of Medicine. And here in Washington, John Nolan, deputy postmaster general of the U.S. Postal Service.
Gentlemen, good to have you on LATE EDITION.
Dr. Koplan, let me begin with that lead headline today in the Sunday "New York Times," that you are about to begin offering the smallpox vaccine to a small group of people preparing for a possible, possible reintroduction of smallpox, a smallpox bioterrorist attack. Give us the background and the details. DR. JEFFREY KOPLAN, CDC DIRECTOR: This is not a recent preparation. We have been, for several years, trying to upgrade our capabilities for bioterrorism and those of state and local health departments. However, since September 11, we've certainly accelerated that.
And, as has been reported, we have increased the number of people we have who are capable, trained and ready to go out to investigate smallpox outbreaks should they occur.
BLITZER: Who is going start receiving these vaccines in the near future?
KOPLAN: We have a small cadre of staff who have received these vaccines, much like people who work in the laboratories with this virus receive.
BLITZER: And is it your intention eventually to make it much more readily available to reintroduce the smallpox vaccine to a wider population?
KOPLAN: Not at this time. Our intention and the Department of Health and Human Services' intention is to have enough vaccine available so, should we need to use it, anyone who would need it could get it.
BLITZER: Dr. Kessler, tell our viewers in the United States and around the world why a smallpox bioterrorist attack would make the current anthrax attack look like a relatively modest attack.
DAVID KESSLER, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: Wolf, the real difference is that smallpox is contagious. If I have anthrax, whether it's the skin form or the inhalation form, and you are I are in the same room, I can't transmit it to you. That's not the case with smallpox. The mortality rate with smallpox is about 30 percent. So the fact that it's contagious and has a high mortality are the reasons for concern about smallpox.
But I think it's very important, Wolf, as we talk about the smallpox vaccine, in getting a small cadre of CDC workers immunized, I don't think there's any real evidence yet that we're at risk for smallpox.
BLITZER: Is it your opinion though, Dr. Kessler, that maybe it's time to reintroduce, to bring back that vaccine, which of course went out in the late '70s when smallpox was erased from the world?
KESSLER: Certainly let's be ready, and that's what Dr. Koplan and the CDC is doing. Let's have enough vaccine on hand so we can immunize if we need. But I think the current recommendation of "let's get ready, but not yet immunize" makes a lot of sense.
BLITZER: John Nolan, where does the investigation stand right now, as far as the safety of the U.S. Postal Service is concerned, especially in the aftermath of this death by inhalation anthrax this past week, Kathy Nguyen in New York, who apparently had no connection with the postal service or media organizations? How safe is the mail right now?
JOHN NOLAN, DEPUTY POSTMASTER GENERAL: Well, as we've said a number of times, Wolf, we've delivered close to 30 billion pieces of mail since September 11, and three pieces of mail have been confirmed to have anthrax. There have been a few illnesses around the specified areas around the country, but we haven't seen any expansion beyond that at this point.
BLITZER: What steps are you taking right now to ensure that Americans who get their mail delivered will feel confident going to their mailboxes and opening up their mail?
NOLAN: Well, what we've been doing is a number of things. One is sending out a postcard to everybody telling them what might look suspicious to them and how to deal it with. But within our own operations, we've been taking a hard look at the collection mail that we're bringing into our facilities to try and isolate some of the handwritten mail and spot ourselves, be a first line of defense, if you will, for letters that look unusual to us or might fit a pattern that we've seen.
As you know, it's been widely broadcast, we're looking to some technology to be able to do some sanitizing of the mail coming forward.
The other thing we're doing is really tracing very carefully the mail that we have received, those three letters, to try and make sure we understand where in our facility it touched and to keep pulling that string to make sure we can learn as much as we can from it.
BLITZER: Dr. Koplan, do you have any better idea now how Kathy Nguyen got that inhalation anthrax, the more serious kind? She died in New York City this past week. Do you have any better clue of where she got it?
KOPLAN: We don't. We're working closely with New York City health department investigators, and that investigation is going on all the time since this event occurred. Every possible lead is being followed.
What does make it difficult is that patient lived alone, and thus it's very difficult to get an hour-by-hour register of what happened over the previous two weeks, but we are trying to get that.
BLITZER: There were some suggestions that they did find some traces of anthrax on her clothes. Can you confirm that?
KOPLAN: I think that was an initial suspicion, but it wasn't confirmed ultimately.
BLITZER: Dr. Kessler, many of our viewers remember you when you were commissioner of the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration, here in Washington, and they came to rely our expertise on a lot of issues involving these drugs.
The flu season is beginning now in the United States, indeed, in many parts of the world. Somebody gets some flu-like symptoms, they're going to begin to suspect anthrax. How do they differentiate between traditional flu-like symptoms, which affect millions and millions of people, and anthrax?
KESSLER: Wolf, it's not an easy question to answer. Certain physicians have said that if you have a runny nose or a sore throat, if the flu starts with those symptoms, it's unlikely to be anthrax.
But I think we have to understand that there's no bright line. CDC is recommending the flu vaccine for those who are at risk, and when there's enough supply, it can be more broadly used.
The most important thing, if you have a skin infection, if you have a flu-like illness, you really need to talk to your doctor.
BLITZER: Specifically, John Nolan, you know, a lot of people thought, when those two postal workers here in Washington died as a result of the inhalation anthrax, that there had been a double standard, one for members of Congress and their staff on Capitol Hill when Senator Daschle received that letter; a lot of slow action going into protecting postal workers.
You have a lot of worried and angry postal workers on your hands right now, don't you?
NOLAN: Well, we also have a lot of employees that understand exactly what we were doing and are working every day to try and make sure that the mail gets through. We've been working very closely with our unions and management associations every day.
The fact is that, when that first occurred, there was a clear and present danger, because the letter was opened in Congress. And that was very clear. At the time, there had never been any evidence of a contamination in the postal facility, that the spores had gotten out of the envelope.
And so that's the thing that's very different. Once anthrax was found in Congress, though, we began to suspect that there might be further problems, not from a scientific nature, but, frankly, from just an employer-relations standpoint, and wanted to begin testing. And the CDC helped us get that done.
BLITZER: How many postal facilities around the country now have tested positive for anthrax spores?
NOLAN: Oh, I don't know that off the top of my head, I don't know the number, but...
BLITZER: Give us a ballpark.
NOLAN: It's probably around 10 facilities, 12 facilities.
BLITZER: Do you believe they all came from one source or multiple sources?
NOLAN: We can't know for sure at this point. But there is certainly an argument, based on the flows that we've done through the facility, that -- and the power for the Daschle letter's anthrax, that it could have been one letter.
BLITZER: One letter doing all that damage.
All right. Stand by, gentlemen. We have to take a quick break.
When we return, we'll be taking your phone calls on anthrax for the CDC director, Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, the former FDA chief, Dr. David Kessler, and the deputy postmaster general, John Nolan.
LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're talking about the anthrax investigation with Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr. David Kessler, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration, now the dean of the Yale University Medical School; and the deputy postmaster general of the U.S. Postal Service, John Nolan.
Dr. Koplan, let me begin with you and play for you a soundbite from what the surgeon general, Dr. David Satcher, said only a few days ago, acknowledging the steep learning curve on this whole issue of anthrax. listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SATCHER: Clearly we know now that the risk of exposure to an envelope passing through a post office is real. We didn't know that before. We thought that it was the open envelope, and we certainly didn't think that just by merely passing through a post office people would be exposed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What else have we learned about anthrax that we didn't know only, let's say, a month or two ago?
KOPLAN: Well, as is indicated, we are learning things on a daily basis in this. We learned in Florida that an envelope, potential something in the mail could be a vehicle to disseminate anthrax.
We've learned that inhalation anthrax that previously was almost uniformly lethal to people, that by artful, modern treatment and using some new approaches, we can lower that mortality. We can have more people survive when they get inhalation anthrax.
We've learned that the public health system works and works well in instance after instance in this, and that's been extraordinarily positive and helpful.
We have learned some new laboratory techniques that help us in diagnosis. Hardly a day goes by when we don't pick up something. Yet, this remains a devastating and difficult problem to deal with, because, as both Dr. Satcher has said and Dr. Kessler and others, this is a bioterrorism event. This is not a routine, naturally occurring investigation.
BLITZER: And we've also, Dr. Kessler, learned something about the antibiotics that deal with anthrax. The conventional method was 60 days of Cipro, ciprofloxacin, the real name of Cipro, but now other antibiotics are supposedly just as effective. How do you convince the American public of that, though?
KESSLER: You're right, Wolf, and I think the initial recommendations to start with Cipro made sense until we really understood enough about the organism. Once the CDC was able to conclude that the organism was not a specifically engineered to be resistant to antibiotics -- and that's why Cipro was chosen initially, because it would work against certain forms of resistance. Once we knew this was a more ordinary strain of anthrax, then it made sense to go to a wider set of antibiotics, less side effects, more availability.
So right now, the anthrax in all the cases of anthrax that have been looked at have a wide range of susceptibility. That's good news, Wolf.
BLITZER: But, Dr. Kessler, as you know, the 60-day recommendation, that's a long time to take these antibiotics. That 60-day recommendation was based on scientific studies of many years ago. How confident are you that somebody who has been potentially exposed to anthrax really needs 60 days?
KESSLER: Wolf, that's a very important and good question. We have to distinguish between prophylaxis and prevention, and treatment. A lot of people are getting antibiotics because of potential exposure. Now, we need to have good protocols so we know who to treat and when to treat and for how long to treat.
There is a certain degree of arbitrariness in any of these time spans. But there's a very big difference. We need to, in specific instances, consult the medical authorities whether we're talking about prophylaxis or we're talking about treatment.
BLITZER: Dr. Koplan, you want to weigh in on that issue of the 60 days of taking these antibiotics?
KOPLAN: Sure. Yes. If you are exposed to anthrax in one of these situations -- for example, people who were in the surrounding area when one of these mail items was opened -- the person needs to take 60 days of antibiotics, not a day less. No compromise. Those people are potentially being exposed to a severe illness and they need 60 days.
For others, when they are told you that you no longer need to take this -- you may have taken it for 10 days or 14, and then that risk of exposure has been ascertained to be negligent or not exist at all -- those people do not need to take it.
KOPLAN: Some of them may decide that, for the sense of their own security, they want to. That's a decision they may make.
But there's a clear distinction between people who have been exposed and need to take 60 days and others. If you need to take it, you've got to take it for those 60 days. It provides a protective effect against serious disease.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take a caller from California.
Please go ahead with your question.
CALLER: Mr. Nolan, virtually all kinds of U.S. communications are traceable to its source, such as fax, e-mail, et cetera. Why not put U.S. technology giants to work on determining how we can make mail absolutely traceable to its source?
BLITZER: All right. John Nolan?
NOLAN: That's a good question. As a matter of fact, we have a team right now that's looking into just that. We were actually, about two months ago, looking at the value from a business standpoint of tagging mail, if you would, to know the status from a tracking standpoint. But now, from a security standpoint, it looks like it also could be valuable.
And we're examining a number of things right now, as we speak, that would enable us to have a better idea of exactly who the sender is and exactly who the receiver is, just from the -- well, obviously, we know the receiver from the address, but to send it through a barcoding technique.
BLITZER: How long would it take to implement that new strategy?
NOLAN: Oh, I'm not sure yet. I think aspects of it already exist, even with -- PC postage, for example, is paid by credit card, and there's a barcode on the mail piece right now that indicates who the sender is. Metered mail has a very good tracking capability.
It's the other stamped mail that we're looking at, and I'm not sure of the time frame at this point.
BLITZER: All right. We won't press you on that.
We're going to take another quick break. A lot more to talk about, including more phone calls on anthrax for Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, Dr. David Kessler and John Nolan. LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
We're talking about the anthrax investigation with Dr. Jeffrey Koplan, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr. David Kessler, the former head of the Food and Drug Administration, now the dean of the Yale University Medical School; and the deputy postmaster general of the U.S. Postal Service, John Nolan.
Dr. Koplan, is it time for Americans across the board to start thinking about receiving a vaccine for anthrax, as U.S. military personnel have been receiving for many years?
KOPLAN: Firstly, there's no vaccine available currently for the general population for anthrax.
Secondly, that existing anthrax vaccine takes six doses and they're given over a year-and-a-half period, so it's not an immediate solution to anything. And then they require booster doses after that.
So we are considering all options in trying to protect the American public, and certainly that is one that we'll be looking into. But it's not something that's immediately an option for us.
BLITZER: You did start giving some target groups, some groups that are of immediate concern, that vaccine in recent days and weeks, haven't you?
KOPLAN: There's only one group that currently has recommendations amongst the general population for anthrax vaccine, and that's laboratory workers who work with anthrax. They're exposed every day to potentially lethal doses of anthrax.
And because there are many more laboratories in the country that are currently unfortunately working on anthrax, we've wanted to protect those workers.
And that program hasn't started yet, but we are exploring how to provide some more vaccine to those workers in laboratories.
BLITZER: Is there any intention now that BioPort facility in Michigan which makes that anthrax vaccine -- and there hasn't been any really delivered in the past few years. Is there any intention right now to get some additional effort under way to make that vaccine more readily available?
KOPLAN: That facility is under contract with the Department of Defense, and the negotiations are taking place between Secretary Thompson and our department and the Department of Defense as to what type of cooperative activities might take place.
BLITZER: Dr. Kessler, as you well know, there are some members of the U.S. military, who have refused to receive that vaccine, saying it's not safe, that it could kill them or make them crazy or have all sorts of negative side effects. How safe is that anthrax vaccine?
KESSLER: Wolf, we have certain problems with that vaccine at the manufacturing plant with regard to what's called good manufacturing practices.
The fact is that there is no such thing as a vaccine with no side effects, and that is certainly is true here. I authorized the use of that vaccine during Desert Storm, and you are right, it was controversial. But in the end, if you're going to put troops in harm's way, you have to be able to give them some protection.
But I think Dr. Koplan is right. We have to look at all options. We have to make sure we have the capability for a safe and effective vaccine.
But right now, I think the last several weeks have shown that we can and are dealing effectively with anthrax with the therapies that we currently have available.
BLITZER: Let's take another caller from Missouri.
Go ahead, please, with your question.
QUESTION: Yes, thank you. I would like to know why the FBI is not testing all samples of white powder in suspicious packages coming through the mail in all states.
BLITZER: Mr. Nolan?
NOLAN: Well, in fact, local authorities and, in some cases, the FBI are examining packages or letters that have suspicion associated with them. That's one of the reasons why we're so frustrated by the number of hoaxes that are coming out every day and why it's so important that people stop that activity.
But in fact, mail is being tested in those in a number of circumstances, and we just haven't found anything else.
BLITZER: How available are this equipment to sanitize, if you will, the mail, the irradiation equipment that we've been hearing about? How effective is that going to be, and when will that happen across the board throughout the United States?
NOLAN: Well, it's a 100 percent effective based on every test that we've done -- or not "we," but the experts have done. However, it would take a very long time to have them deployed everywhere. We're still looking at a number of other technologies that would be able to be deployed a lot faster than the irradiation.
So what we imagine will happen is, it will be a combination of a number of things that will be deployed as rapidly as possible to provide that sort of extra control.
BLITZER: Dr. Koplan, what should Americans who are watching this program, indeed people around the world who are watching this program, be most concerned about right now from your perspective in this new war of bioterrorism?
KOPLAN: I'd say, one, I would agree with you. We're all concerned particularly after September 11. It's a different world for all of us in this.
In the area of bioterrorism, it's our job to try to anticipate what's going on, and we are trying to look into that, as you indicated earlier with your question.
At the moment, however, we're still dealing with less than two dozen cases of anthrax, or suspected anthrax, in largely four sites.
Folks in general need to -- we've used the word vigilance, or being alert, over and over. And I think that's important, both in terms of looking at suspicious packages or mail that they may receive at work or at home.
But also, as Dr. Kessler indicated, in recognizing early an illness that might turn into something else, whether it's anthrax or another disease, and seeking medical consultation from that, having a high degree of alertness for that.
BLITZER: Dr. Kessler, I want to just let Dr. Kessler wrap it up, but I want to bring in one additional ingredient, Dr. Kessler.
Senator Bill Frist has said that only 1 percent or so of imported food into the United States is actually inspected, and he's worried about that. As the former commissioner of the FDA, are you worried about that?
KESSLER: Wolf, there's no question if I were in my job as FDA commissioner, I would be worried about that. But that would be my job to be worried about that. To date, there is no evidence that the food supply is a target. But public health officials, they are worrying about it.
But I think the major message, Wolf, is that the last several weeks have shown that we do have effective mechanisms, certainly to date, to deal with what we've seen. The hardest thing to deal with is the fear.
BLITZER: All right.
On that note, let me thank all of our distinguished guests. Dr. Koplan, Dr. Kessler, Mr. Nolan, thank you very much for joining us, and good luck to all of you.
Just ahead, is the U.S. facing a crossroads in waging the war on terrorism? We'll go 'round the table on that and more with Jonathan Karl, Susan Page, Christopher Caldwell. LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Time now for our LATE EDITION roundtable. Joining me, Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief for "USA Today"; Jonathan Karl, CNN congressional correspondent, he's filling in for Steve Roberts; and Chris Caldwell, the senior editor for the "Weekly Standard."
Let me begin with you, Susan. This whole Gray Davis, the governor of California, declaration this week, warning of what he thought were credible attacks, potentially between November 2 and November 7, against some of the suspension bridges out in California.
He defended his decision to go public with that threat on "LARRY KING LIVE" earlier in the week. Listen to this.
All right. We don't have that.
BLITZER: But he did say that he thought he made the right decision. He thought he had an obligation to share that kind of information with the American public. He was criticized pretty severely for that, though.
SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": You know, it's been huge dilemma for officials at all levels. Tom Ridge has this dilemma and so does John Ashcroft, so do mayors across the country. If you know about threats but you're not sure about whether they're real or not, should you tell people? And I think that they've been erring on the side of telling people when there are threats, and it's made a lot of people pretty nervous.
But you have to strike some kind of balance between informing people when you know something, so they'll be extra cautious, and not scaring them to death so that they're paralyzed.
You know, Dick Cheney, the vice president, has talked about a new normalcy. And I think part of this new normalcy for the country is to be aware of some of these threats and prepared for them. And of course, we hope they don't become true.
BLITZER: And, Chris, as we're talking, the Marine One, our viewers can see, is now on the South Lawn of the White House. It's brought the president and the first lady back to Washington from Camp David. They've been spending the weekend over there. We'll watch as they go down the stairs from Marine One and go into the White House, see if the president stops and answers some reporters' questions, as we wait for the president to walk by.
Did Governor Gray Davis do the right thing?
CHRISTOPHER CALDWELL, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Yes, he did, for a couple of reasons: One, you want people to have a heightened level of vigilance, and two, you might actually wind up stopping an attack. And I think, in general, the president and other politicians want us to be on a permanently heightened vigilance level or, rather, the way they are in Israel.
BLITZER: You know, Jon, as you know, on the Hill, there was some criticism of the administration for the earlier announcement of an alert, a broader alert, undefined, unspecified, the criticism being that the administration is needlessly driving the American public crazy right now.
JONATHAN KARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And you heard some of that echoed with the Gray Davis situation. And one person who's handled this a little differently is Rudy Giuliani. If you look at the way Rudy Giuliani has handle the situation in New York, he has never gone down that route. His approach has always been, here we are on a permanent high state of alert, let's not go out there and needlessly scare people and let's not, you know, erode the credibility of government officials with threats that then turn out, you know -- maybe whatever happened was prevented because of a warning.
BLITZER: As we see the president walking with mother, Barbara Bush, and the first lady, just in front of him. Let's listen in to see if he stops and answers some question from a group of reporters who are always there waiting for him, as he walks into the White House.
BUSH: Whatever you do, don't tell Laura about the surprise party I'm giving her today. Today is her 55th birthday. I'm giving her a surprise party this afternoon, but don't tell anybody.
Come on, Barney. Come on, Barney. Hey, Barney.
BLITZER: Let's see if the president says anything else before he goes in.
BUSH: Every time he runs over to say hello to you.
Come on, Barno. Hey, Barney. Come on. Hey, come on. Come on.
Don't tell about the first lady's surprise party, guys.
BLITZER: Well, the president's not going to say anything else, but he did tell us not to anyone about the surprise 55th birthday party he is going to be having for the first lady, Mrs. Bush.
PAGE: I think his secret is safe with all of us.
BLITZER: I don't think anybody's going to know about that. What do you think?
PAGE: An interesting family seen there. You know, his mother, his sister, Doro Bush, you know, some people that were very familiar when his dad was in the White House.
BLITZER: He's obviously getting pretty close to that little doggie of his, as well.
PAGE: Yes, that's right. Well, you know, based on what Harry Truman said, "In Washington, you really need a dog if you want a friend."
BLITZER: He's got one.
If we take a look right now at how the president is dealing, there was some serious criticism that was leveled at administration this week, Chris, not necessarily on the way he's conducting the war in Afghanistan -- it's four weeks today, exactly, since the start of the air war -- but on domestic front, the homeland security. This Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge getting some criticism, as well.
CALDWELL: Yes, some of this criticism is fair, some is not.
As far as Ridge's performance, generally the PR side of it is going better.
Where it's been less fair, has been for instance on the security bill, where Bush's version, which is not to federalize airport security people -- Bush has been accused by Richard Gephardt in particular of pandering to lobbies.
In fact, the security company lobbies, which are mostly European, have not been playing the Capitol Hill campaign contributions game. You've got to look for Bush's commitment to a nonfederal solution elsewhere.
BLITZER: On this issue -- you covered it this week, Jon, the aviation security, whether they should be federal employees at those security checkpoints at airports, or whether they should be private contractors supervised by the federal government.
This week they're going to start a conference committee to try to see if there's some common ground. Is there?
KARL: Well, it's not easy to find. I mean, the two positions are pretty well-defined. And, if you listen to Democrats even today, talking on the shows, they are saying that their version passed the Senate 100-0. They're not, in the words of John Kerry, wanting to compromise people's security, so it doesn't look like there's a lot of ground for compromise right now.
But what's interesting about this, though, was that the influence of John McCain on the moderate Republicans in the House. McCain actually stood side by side with Richard Gephardt at press conferences over in the House side; pushed very hard, lobbied very hard to get moderate Republicans to vote for this bill. They did not. As a matter of fact, there were 14 cosponsors of the Democratic bill. In the end, only about half actually voted for it.
On the other side, Bush was very engaged and actually tried to pull in some moderate Democrats. And early on, I had Democrats telling me that at the most they were going to lose three or four people like James Traficant. In the end, they lost twice as many.
So, it was an interesting situation. John McCain's got a lot of influence outside the Beltway. It seems to end at the Beltway. Once you hit the Beltway, it's people like Tom DeLay.
PAGE: Well, Jonathan, I think the bottom line is, we're not going to have an airline security bill this year, because...
BLITZER: You don't think so? PAGE: I don't think so. I mean, if you saw Tom DeLay this morning on another show, he was quite unyielding as well. There's not much time left.
And I think most -- I think Americans could go either way, you know. I think they clearly want more federal -- a bigger federal role in airline security, but what they're going to end up with is, the president having to act on his own.
I mean, it's hard to see how Congress ends up with a compromise version that could go to the president this year.
KARL: I agree.
BLITZER: You know, I interviewed Dick Armey, the House majority leader, on Friday, and he thought that there could be a compromise worked out between -- within a week, which is what the FAA director, Jane Garvey, has said they need it very quickly.
And earlier this morning you heard Senator Levin on this program say that he thought that there was a compromise, maybe some of the bigger airports having federal employees, the smaller ones not having federal employees.
Can there be a deal worked out soon?
CALDWELL: I don't know. I think the moment for the deal would have been when the Democrats could have defused Republican opposition by saying that these workers would not have had to be unionized, or compromising somehow on the union question.
I don't see how it's going to get compromised, and, for the time being, I think Bush is in a very difficult political situation, because has to vouch for the absolute security of airports henceforth.
BLITZER: You know...
KARL: There's enormous pressure to get something done by Thanksgiving.
BLITZER: And the other big political issue that's going to come up to the old politics as usual is this economic stimulus package, which is turning out to be a mess.
KARL: It really is. And what's amazing is that you've got a classic left-right political battle of which we have not seen much of since September 11.
And you have the Democrats coming out, and not only, you know, proposing obviously extension of unemployment benefits and health benefits for those who have been laid off, but also an old New Deal- style public works program. Robert Byrd, $20 billion worth of infrastructure spending, on things like roads, and also on things directly related to the terrorist threat, like on bioterrorism.
But it's a classic debate, and there doesn't seem to be any middle ground there.
As a matter of fact, the moderates are upset. If you look at people like John Breaux and Olympia Snowe, they've got no horse in this race.
BLITZER: West Virginia does need a few more interstate highways right now.
PAGE: Yes, a few parts of West Virginia have not yet been paved.
You know, the question is, which will come first, the economic stimulus bill or economic recovery? You know, they may be racing there.
BLITZER: Is there anything going to happen on that stimulus package or economic recovery package or whatever they want to call it?
PAGE: Well, actually, I think, probably there's more grounds for -- since you're spending money, I mean, I think it's easier to see the possibility of both sides getting some of what they wanted and having a deal there.
There's certainly a lot of pressure. I mean, if you look at the potency of political issues, nothing is stronger than the economy as a political issue, which every member of Congress understands.
BLITZER: Have the bad old days of politics as usual returned to Washington, Chris?
CALDWELL: Yes, and, you know, the Republican stimulus package -- to be fair to Bush, the Republican stimulus package has more demand stimulation among the lower earners than people give it credit for. There are tax rebates in it.
But, in general, it looked pretty bad until the Democratic stimulus package came out. And while the Republican plan seemed to have nothing do with the economy as it exists, the Democratic plan has all this government spending that has nothing do with the war.
KARL: Well, even the Wall Street Journal editorial page slammed the House version, saying it was chock-full of corporate goodies. And when the Wall Street Journal editorial page is criticizing a tax cut, you know you've got an issue.
BLITZER: We did see the president this week at the Yankees game throwing out the first pitch. But we also -- you know, we didn't see much of Dick Cheney, the vice president. We saw him, in contrast, once again go into seclusion as a result of this imminent terrorist threat, undefined, unspecific.
The dual message that's being sent from the White House: On the one hand, go about business as usual, go on your trips, don't be overly concerned. At the same time, be concerned. PAGE: Well, and the other message there is that Dick Cheney, even though he's in hiding and that we see very little of him -- he's at some undisclosed secure location talking to the president via videoconferencing -- he continues to be the most powerful adviser to the president. With a full range of issues, he's the last voice that President Bush listens to when it comes to decisions on the war. He's a key link to Congress. And he's doing this from whatever underground cave he's living in now.
BLITZER: I guess they have no real choice to be sending this mixed message, do they?
CALDWELL: I think they might. I don't like getting the message, "You shop, we're going to hide." But I agree with Susan, maybe they should get Dick Cheney out to distribute videos to Al-Jazeera or something like that.
BLITZER: He's a pretty effective spokesman when they want to let him out and go on, for example, this show, which we'd love to have him on, on this show, if he'd like to be on this show.
I don't know if you saw the flow chart today in the "New York Times"...
BLITZER: ... Tom Ridge's flow chart. Let's put it up on our screen. Let's show our viewers.
This is the flow chart, this is the explanation of how the homeland security director operates in Washington.
Now, Jon, I'd like you to...
KARL: Makes sense.
BLITZER: I'd like you to explain it to our viewers in the United States and around the world.
KARL: All makes sense to me.
BLITZER: A lot of criticism on the Hill, on what's going on on this homeland security front, isn't there?
KARL: Yes, well, what's interesting is, with that chart right there, both sides used to it make the opposite point.
I mean, the administration was trying to say, look, you know, we can't try to get involved here, and make Ridge Cabinet-level and do all the things that the Democrats and many Republicans in Congress want to do, because you're interfering with so many different agencies. Whereas Joe Lieberman came out and said, oh my God, this means that we've got to streamline, we've got to make Ridge a real, not just Cabinet-level, but a real member of the Cabinet, give him budget authority and, you know, make him confirmed by the U.S. Senate.
BLITZER: Was it a mistake, Susan, for the president do this homeland security office as an executive order without any congressional legislation, without any input from Congress, to give it perhaps more definition?
PAGE: It's hard to expect an official with that kind of flow chart to succeed. I mean, his job is to coordinate agencies that have resisted coordination for decades. And you look at that chart, and it's just, you know, it was just laughable.
So, it seems to me that Tom Ridge has an almost impossible task. He would certainly have more standing and clearer lines of authority if things got defined in a different way.
BLITZER: Do you anticipate, based on what you're hearing, any changes, any of you, in terms of the personnel structure at the highest levels of the Bush administration, any time soon?
CALDWELL: I would think there ought to be more. And I would think there would have been some by now if they were coming. Tommy Thompson, for instance, has stuck his foot in it.
But, the only one I have heard so far is Andy Card, announcing informally that he is not going to be in the job two years from now. So, no.
KARL: Although we saw Paul O'Neill -- Trent Lott was asked if he thought that Paul O'Neill should go, of course, the treasury secretary. And he didn't say no, obviously. O'Neill has really clashed with Republicans on the Hill.
And he went on this little thing about how O'Neill has got to be more careful with what he says and, you know, discretion's the better part of valor. So, if the Republicans on Capitol Hill had any say, he would probably be first to go. But, you know...
BLITZER: We'll see what happens. Andy Card, he did hint that he may not be around that long, the White House chief of staff.
PAGE: Well, you know, he's an old Russian hen. He's seen that White House chief of staffs often don't have that long a tenure. I think 18 months to two years is about average for a White House chief of staff because it's a really tough job.
You know, there is already some speculation about his successor might be Mitch Daniels, the budget director, who has been a tough negotiator on the Hill. I think has earned trust from President Bush.
BLITZER: Well, remember Leon Panetta was the budget director. He went from being the budget director to the White House chief of staff. So, maybe that is the career path right now. Susan, Chris, Jon -- thanks for filling in for Steve.
KARL: Thanks, Wolf. Sure.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: There's no doubt in my mind but that the American people know it's going to take more than 24 days to deal with this very difficult problem.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The war against terror intensifies as bad weather sets in Afghanistan. We'll take your questions and phone calls for our military and terrorism analysts and reporters covering the conflict from around the globe. And Bruce Morton has the "Last Word" on a much needed virtue, patience.
Welcome back. This hour of LATE EDITION belongs to you. We'll be taking your questions about military operations, counter terrorism and the propaganda aspect of this war. We're going to also ask our panel of reporters what they're finding out.
We'll get to all of our guests in just a moment, but first here's CNN's Donna Kelley in Atlanta once again with a quick check of the hour's headlines.
BLITZER: Joining us now from Little Rock, Arkansas, CNN military analyst, the former NATO supreme commander, General Wesley Clark and here in Washington, CNN military analyst, retired Major General Don Shepperd of the U.S. Air Force. CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen.
Gentlemen, good to have all three of you on our program. General Clark, let me begin with you. I don't know if you were watching General Richard Myers, the Joint Chiefs chairman earlier today, but he insisted that the U.S. operation was going extremely well and he also said that that recent ground force operation involving special operation forces was almost perfect. Listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD MYERS, CHAIRMAN OF THE JOINT CHIEFS: When it came down it to, we were all very satisfied that we were ready to go in and in fact, we executed that exactly as we thought we would do. My view, it went flawlessly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: But as you know, there have been problems including a downed helicopter reportedly because of bad weather. Some U.S. military personnel injured, some apparently rather seriously. Have there been unexpected problems in the way the U.S. is operating in this war?
GEN. WESLEY CLARK, FORMER NATO SUPREME COMMANDER: I don't think so, Wolf. I think the operation is on track. I think these are the kinds of incidents that -- they occur in any military operation. We've got the best troops in the world and I think, you know, we've got to have confidence in them. It has been a relatively brief period of time.
Think back to the Kosovo campaign two and a half years ago. We did bombing for 78 days, everybody asked the same question. What are you doing, how can it possibly work. But it takes time. An air campaign is a race of destruction against reconstruction and that what's going on there and the rate of attack of the Taliban is increasing as we put special forces in. We've had a couple of accidents, mishaps. Those things do happen and I think the operation's going extremely well. I fully support, based on everything I've seen, what General Myers said.
BLITZER: General Shepperd, as you know Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War, he was pretty effective in rebuilding runways, having decoy's. Getting on and finding alternative methods to engage in command and control operations. Do the Taliban, the military that exists in Afghanistan right now, the enemies of the United States, do they have that capability to rebuild?
MAJ. GEN. DON SHEPPERD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: No, they don't. They're no where near as sophisticated as Saddam Hussein was in the Gulf War. On the other hand, they're tougher in another way. They are real guerrilla forces dispersed in the hills and also among the civilian population, it makes them difficult, difficult targets, difficult to dig out, Wolf.
BLITZER: You know the Taliban, Peter. You've been to Afghanistan, you've seen them up close. Are these the guerrilla fighters, the super men that some are now projecting them to be or can they be the bought off and can they be weaned away from their leadership?
PETER BERGEN, CNN TERRORISM ANALYST: Well, I think both things are true in the sense that if you look at the cabinet, the Taliban cabinet, half of them have war injuries. This is a pretty tough bunch of people. You know, Mullah Omar himself, the leader of the Taliban, lost an eye in the fighting with the Soviets. So these are people who are quite used to fighting and in fact, you know, it's really the only thing they do.
On the other hand, there are members of the Taliban who came to the Taliban alliance sort of late in the game. Those people could be bought off or could slip away if they really felt the tide was turning against them. But I think people running the Taliban are formidable adversaries.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take a caller from Canada. Please go ahead with your question.
CALLER: Hello. BLITZER: Go ahead.
CALLER: Hi. I was wondering, how do we know Osama bin Laden is still in Afghanistan?
BLITZER: Do you have any idea about that General Clark.
CLARK: I don't think we can be positive he is in Afghanistan, but we probably believe we would have had indications if he'd left, and so this will be a continuing problem. Any time you're trying to track a single person in a conflict like this it's difficult, and that's why everyone has said it's going to take a long time and got to be patient.
BLITZER: Peter, do you believe he's still in Afghanistan?
BERGEN: Absolutely. I mean, it's a country he knows very well. He's protected by the leadership. There's no -- as soon as he leaves Afghanistan, he exposes himself.
BLITZER: Why does the United States, General Shepperd, have such a hard time finding Osama bin Laden?
SHEPPERD: It is tough to find one man in a cave in a country the size of Texas, it's that simple. Now we have intelligence mechanisms all the way from people on the ground to sensors in outer space. I have confidence that eventually they will find him or his networks out there, but it's a very difficult target, Wolf. It's just simply not easy, it takes a long time.
BLITZER: General Clark, one of the points that the Pentagon has been making all week, the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Myers, is that they've been saying the Taliban have been deliberately placing themselves within civilian areas, near mosques, hospitals, schools.
Senator McCain was on one of the shows earlier today. And he said that should not necessarily be a factor in allowing the U.S. military to get the job done as brutal as it may seem to be. Listen to what Senator McCain had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: No, I don't think you should rule out any targets. One of the great tragedies of war is that civilians are killed and injured. But at the same time, we have to understand and all Americans and all people have to understand we are not the ones that intentionally kill thousands of innocent civilians. The people we are after did.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: General Clark, it's a very tough issue. How does the U.S. military balance the need to go and kill the enemy, while at the same time being aware that the enemy may, in fact, be placed near civilian targets? CLARK: Well, this is the toughest issue. And you have to have rules of engagement that tell the pilot what they can strike. And the way it's normally done is you would restrict certain targets like mosques and schools and hospitals, unless, and then if you were certain that there was force in there and it was important to take that force out, depending how important it was, and how critical it was, then someone up the chain of command authorizes you to deviate from those rules of engagement and attack that site. And depending on overall, the rate of progress in the air campaign, the point at which that decision is made goes up and down.
BLITZER: I've heard, General Shepperd, military people say to me that the U.S. is overly concerned about this. The other side isn't that concerned about it, witness what happened at the World Trade Center, witness what happened at the Pentagon if you will, that the U.S. sort of ties its own hand, at least one hand, behind it's back because of this concern.
SHEPPERD: Well, I'm glad that I live in a country that ties its hands and carefully considers before doing something like that. It's, of course, frustrating. But as General Clark said, if the target is important enough, it will be elevated to someone in the chain of command, maybe even up to the presidential level to decide to strike a target. But we're very, very careful about civilian casualties. We never kill anyone intentionally if we can help it.
BLITZER: Peter, I know you have studied the Al Qaeda organization, Osama bin Laden, the Taliban for many years. Do you think the Pentagon is right when they say these groups are deliberately putting their military in civilian areas like mosques and hospitals?
BERGEN: It's hard for me to know all the facts. But, this is a group of religious warriors. The fact they are in mosques should not be surprising. I mean, they're a group that emerged out of religious school. So, typically, they would be spending a lot of time at mosque, anyway.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take a quick break. We have lot more to talk about including phone calls for General Wesley Clark, Major General Don Shepperd, and CNN Terrorism Analyst, Peter Bergen. LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
BLITZER: We are continuing our conversation and taking your phone calls for CNN military analyst, General Wesley Clark, CNN military analyst, Major General Don Shepperd, and CNN terrorism expert, Peter Bergen.
We have a caller from Washington state. Please go ahead with your question.
CALLER: Hi, gentlemen. My question is that we have been told that the main source of income for the Taliban is their heroin trade and their poppy growing. And I'm just wondering, because we have yet to hear that he we have bombed any poppy fields or we have tried to stop them in that source of income.
BLITZER: Good question. Peter, how important is this opium or poppy income for the Taliban?
BERGEN: You know, the Taliban said that they did collect taxes based on the opium crop. And in fact, when we interviewed him for CNN a year ago, the foreign minister just openly admitted it. But since then, they have actually cut back on their opium production pretty significantly. And that's one of the good things that they've done. So, I don't think it's that significant for them at this moment.
BLITZER: General Shepperd, you know, I have heard many people say over the past few weeks the U.S. should target some of the warehouses where this opium and poppy crop exists. Is that a legitimate military target?
SHEPPERD: It is certainly a legitimate, military target. But it's not the most important military target right now. The forces in the field, the headquarters, the communications, the resupply, those targets may or may not be dealt with later on, depends on what the commander in chief, the CINC General Franks wants to do.
BLITZER: General Clark, you were in Europe and London earlier in the week. We spoke earlier in the week. You came back and you reported that the attitude among some of the Europeans and even some of the allies in London may not necessarily be fully consistent with public opinion here in the United States. Explain to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world what you meant.
CLARK: Well, the United States has been attacked and I think this nation is very unified in terms of wanting to go back at the attackers and take care of this threat. People in the U.K. are a little more objective about it.
Of course, they weren't attacked directly. And so, they are asking, well, how much of this can you do with bombs and bullets in Afghanistan? How much of it is a problem with Islam and the fundamentalists in Islam? How much of it is a problem of poverty? How much of it is a battle of ideas rather than a battle of bombs and bullets? And can't you do more with the battle of ideas? And so I think what you're seeing is the difference in perspectives across the Atlantic.
BLITZER: Peter, I want to put up on our screen some video. Osama bin Laden released yet another videotape this weekend. You can see it right now. he earlier also released a letter. Among other things, he said the Pakistani government has stood under the banner of the cross and God said tell the hypocrites they shall meet painful punishment. All right. He's going after the Pakistani government. In the videotape he went after the United Nations. What's his point right now?
BERGEN: Well, I think the letter was significant because he's trying to perhaps create a split in Pakistan. Obviously, you've got the Pakistani government very much on side with the United States and the coalition. There are elements in Pakistan who are opposed to that approach. And this letter was an appeal to them, to incite public opinion in Pakistan.
BLITZER: What's the point of attacking the United Nations and Kofi Annan, the secretary general as he does in this videotape?
BERGEN: I think it's somewhat perplexing. I mean, it seems a sort of strange target for him to go after. But one thing that he blames the United Nations for is some way the creation of Israel and the problems in Kashmir. Perhaps it's to do with that. But it does seem an odd target given the circumstances we are talking about today.
BLITZER: General Shepperd, President Bush was blunt in speaking about any potential pause in the bombing during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins November 17, earlier in the week. Listen to what the president had say on that front.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: The enemy won't rest during Ramadan and neither will we. We're going to pursue this war until we achieve objective. As to the specific times and dates, we will let military speak to that. They are in charge of this operation. This is not a political campaign. This is a war.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: I'm sure that the military does not want to pause.
SHEPPERD: General Franks was on earlier today remarking about this. And he basically said we will consider the views of the nations involved in this. Of course, he was talking about Pakistan and some of the other nations surrounding Uzbekistan, et cetera. He did not say that we was going to pause or not pause. It leaves the Taliban to wonder. I'm sure if there are significant military targets that need to be struck, it is like we will do it, is what I read from those words.
BLITZER: General Clark, General Tommy Franks, the commander of central command, which is in charge of waging this war against targets in Afghanistan, he also said that he would rather be in the position of United States right now than the position of the Taliban. Who is winning this conflict right now?
CLARK: Well, there is no question that the United States has the initiative. The United States has the preponderant combat power and it's a matter of time provided that we're are able to more or less seal the border with Pakistan, keep the Pakistani government in charge, and avoid general disintegration of that state. And so, Pakistan becomes a strategic theater. That's why Osama bin Laden is calling for the attack of the Pakistani government and United Nations, because he wants to enlarge the war.
BLITZER: Let's take another caller from California. Go ahead with your question.
CALLER: Yes, I'd like to know was prevents the United States from having an all out assault in Afghanistan? BLITZER: General Clark, you want to handle that one?
CLARK: Well, I think it's a question of what's the best means to get at the Al Qaeda network. And to stage an all out assault would take many, months. It would have untold complications. And it might not be, in the judgment of the military commanders right now, obviously would not be as effective as what we are doing. This is the most effective, practical, quickest means of putting pressure on the Taliban, breaking their support for Al Qaeda, and making Al Qaeda vulnerable to the United States.
BLITZER: General Shepperd, how you much of a factor is bad weather, including winter, which is approaching?
SHEPPERD: Bad weather is always a factor. It's especially a factor in flying airplanes. But remember, winter is also an enemy of the Taliban. We are able to operate in winter better than they are. We have better clothing, better equipment and better resupply. We can also, it affects our laser-guided weapons through the weather. We can drop satellite guided weapons through the weather. So, we are pretty well-equipped to fight in the winter, but winter does make things tough. Icing makes it tough to fly helicopters and fix winged airplanes in the weather if you have to resupply people.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to take another quick break. When we come back, more of your phone calls and questions for our guests. LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're taking your questions for CNN militarily analyst General Wesley Clark; CNN military analyst Major General Don Shepperd and CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen, he's, I guess, no general at all. Let's take a caller from Texas, go ahead.
CALLER: Yes, my question is both to the generals. In Vietnam we restricted targets both in North and South and now we're doing the same thing in Afghanistan, Wolf. We also said we were winning and we were ahead and we're doing that now. What's the difference between the two places?
BLITZER: General Clark, you served in Vietnam.
CLARK: Oh, I did and I don't see any restrictions, I haven't heard of any restrictions on these targets other than the normal legal restrictions that you have to avoid causing needless civilian casualties.
In Vietnam we restricts attacks on airfields. We restricted attacks north of certain areas, we didn't attack the enemy's capital. We continued to prune the target list for political purposes. There's no pruning of this target list for political purposes, this is military targeting, it's directed at the most effective, most important targets for the military objectives. It's fundamentally different than what was done in the early days of Vietnam, and I just want to underscore. I do think we are succeeding in this campaign. BLITZER: General Shepperd, is this another Vietnam?
SHEPPERD: Absolutely not. I absolutely agree with General Clark in his assessment there. I was on a lot of those missions with stupid restrictions against stupid targets chosen by people that should not have been involved. People squatting in the White House picking out targets for our commander in chief across the sea. We do not have that situation here. There is no comparison whatsoever.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take another caller from Florida, go ahead.
CALLER: Hi, Wolf. Hi, gentlemen. When this whole thing started, there were some United States Christian missionaries over there that were arrested by the Taliban for preaching Christianity over there and they made quite bit of fuss over it on the news for a few days because they were going to try them with a potential penalty of death and there was even some speculation that our military the might do something to rescue them and we never heard another thing about it unless I missed it. I wondered what the status was and whether the military would do anything to rescue these people if they were being held at a threat of death.
BERGEN: Those, Christian aide workers who were put on trial for basically trying to convert Muslims to Christian. That trial was suspended for some time and then it resumed and frankly right now, I'm not quite sure what the status is. There are two Americans that are still in Kabul being held on those charges, and about 20 others including mostly Afghans but some other Europeans and I think they are still in custody.
BLITZER: General Clark, as you know, there are plenty of commentators here in Washington who are saying, don't only focus on Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Afghanistan, but right now start a military offensive against Iraq, against Saddam Hussein. Militarily, what does that mean if the U.S. were to begin to try to overthrow Saddam Hussein right now.
CLARK: Well I think first of all, we have to recognize that the United States is only using a very small part of its military power right now in Afghanistan. A small part of it's air power and virtually none of it's combat forces on the ground and maybe a quarter of it's air fleets. It's not that significant a commitment yet. It could grow, but it's not that yet.
So there is adequate resources available to put pressure on Saddam Hussein, but how would we do this? There are three general approaches that I've heard discussed. One is some pinpoint raids on the ground such as we saw with the commando raids. Another is taking a small portion of Iraq and waiting for him to attack and then using that to finish off his forces. A third is to do a replay of Desert Storm, but I think the buildup to this is going to be diplomatic, it's going to be legal. Saddam Hussein's going to be told once again to admit the UN special commission to look at his sites and we're going to need the kind of coalition I hope with have the kind of coalition that we had in Operation Desert Storm. I hope the neighboring states will recognize the fundamental threat that Iraq poses with his continuing accumulation of special weapons. It's a very dangerous situation. It does have to be dealt with at some point.
BLITZER: General Shepperd, another Desert Storm, half a million U.S. troops requiring bases in Saudi Arabia, elsewhere in the Gulf. That's no easy chore.
SHEPPERD: No, it's not an easy chore at all and again I think the president has made it clear this is going to be a very long war in many places against anyone that is either a terrorist or who supports them. And of course we're very concerned now about weapons of mass destruction especially with the anthrax scare and the search for nuclear materials or even nuclear weapons by Al Qaeda and people like that. We will go after them over time wherever they are, but it may not be militarily. There maybe smarter and more effective ways of going after them.
BLITZER: Peter, you've spent a lot of time studying Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden network out there. Do you see his fingerprints on these anthrax attacks here in the United States?
BERGEN: No one really knows, right. I mean, I think that they have -- bin Laden is on the record repeatedly saying it's not a crime for his group to seek nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. And they've certainly experimented in an amateur way with chemical weapons and they certainly a lot of efforts to get nuclear materials of one kind or another. So it would be not surprising. On the other hand right now, it's quite clear to everybody that no one really knows the source of these letters.
BLITZER: I think you're absolutely right and they acknowledge it themselves, Robert Mueller, the FBI director said they basically don't know, they don't really have a lot of clues.
I want to thank all of our experts for joining us once again. Peter Bergen, General Shepperd, General Clark, always a pleasure to have all of you on our program. Thanks for doing it and we'll do it again.
And up next, reporters covering the war on terrorism. Among them, Hafez Al-Mirazi of Al-Jazeera television. They'll be taking your phone calls, your questions when LATE EDITION continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're now joined by a panel of reporters in Quetta, Pakistan. Nic Robertson, he just left Kandahar, Afghanistan. He's now back in Pakistan. CNN White House correspondent Kelly Wallace, she joins us from near Camp David. That's where the president was, till very, very recently. And also here in Washington, Hafez Al-Mirazi. He's the Washington bureau chief for the Arab-run television news network Al- Jazeera.
Good to have you all on our program. And Hafez, let me begin with you. Tell us how Al-Jazeera got to where it is right now, whereby, it is the channel for receiving these videotapes from Osama bin Laden and his press releases in effect. How did you guys manage to get this relationship with Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden?
HAFEZ AL-MIRAZI, AL-JAZEERA WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: As I said before on CNN, we were there two years ago. When Taliban government was trying to get international recognition two years ago, and they just managed to get their commission of three countries. They offered some international media access to open bureau in Kabul.
According to my information from my headquarter, both Al-Jazeera had been approached at that time and CNN -- CNN for the English, Al- Jazeera for the Arabic and for the Muslim world. We accepted the offer and we established a bureau over there two years ago and we found ourselves with a war inside the capital only -- I mean, by ourselves.
BLITZER: Nic Robertson, you've spent a lot of time in that part of world. Al-Jazeera has been called, by some, the CNN of the Arab world because of its reach. How important is that reach, from your perspective? What can you say about Al-Jazeera?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly, they're getting access that CNN was able to achieve during the Gulf War in Baghdad and certainly that is an advantage to their audience that has keen interest in how the situation develops in Afghanistan.
For CNN being able to get into Afghanistan is something we spent a lot of time trying to achieve in the recent months and, certainly, two years an ago, we met with Taliban with a view to how it would be and what the mechanics and modalities might be to establishing an office inside Afghanistan. A move over a year ago, to ensure that we did have a series of sources and stringers in place in the country, because we knew that there was -- the story was going to develop and become interesting.
BLITZER: Kelly Wallace, you've done some reporting. The White House is becoming very sensitive to getting its message out in the Arab World, in the Muslim world, and they're using Al-Jazeera to their own effect right now, to a certainly degree, aren't they?
KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. You've heard senior administration officials say they need to do a better job getting the president's message to Arabs and Muslims and that's why it was very interesting on Saturday, almost immediately after Al-Jazeera aired Osama bin Laden's videotape statement in full, you had the U.S. on the same airwaves with a response.
You had a retired American diplomat speaking in Arabic. Ambassador Chris Ross, former U.S. Ambassador to Syria, talking about the president's message, saying it is not a campaign against Islam, not a campaign against Muslims, but a campaign against terrorism. So you are definitely seeing stepped-up efforts by the administration to do interviews with Al-Jazeera and to reach out, again, to try and get the message out to the Arab and Muslim people, Wolf.
BLITZER: Hafez, how good was Ambassador Ross's -- Chris Ross's Arabic in that interview?
AL-MIRAZI: Well, he is wonderful. I mean, he's a friend to mine, so -- he did a good job, actually. He -- we contacted him, even two or three days ago. And the city department, in order to provide someone when we knew that we would have a tape from bin Laden and, just to sure that the U.S. point of view would be back to back with that tape. He had a written statement in Arabic for about 10 minutes. We allowed him to read it and then he participated in a discussion.
Of course, the rest of the panelists, one of them is former French ambassador, was with us in our headquarter and then Islamist from Kuwait. They criticized his statement or U.S. approach as missing the main focus point that bin Laden wanted to emphasize, is nothing goes about the Palestinian issue or the peace process.
And they considered that the U.S. was trying to avoid the main issue that creating this kind of tension and appeal for bin Laden message in the Arab world, by avoiding the Palestinian issue.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take a caller from Canada. Go ahead, please, with your question.
CALLER: Well, good afternoon, gentlemen?
BLITZER: Go ahead.
BLITZER: Yes, we have one woman here, too.
CALLER: Yes, good afternoon, gentlemen.
BLITZER: And lady.
CALLER: The United States is working closing with the Northern Alliance. Could you police tell me who's the most reliable commander in North Alliance and who is your contact in there? Thank you.
BLITZER: Nic Robertson, you want to handle one? .
ROBERTSON: Well, Wolf, I have been principally covering the Taliban sides of the front lines and certainly the main point of contact would, in the past, have been Ahmed Shah Massoud. Of course, he was assassinated just a couple of days before the September the 11th attack.
General Faheme (ph) has taken over as commander of the Northern Alliance, in military terms. Rabbani is the essential president of the ousted government and he still is a principal political contact for anyone doing business with the Northern Alliance, but it is still an assortment of commanders.
There is commander General Dostum. He has been based, or was based until 1998, just outside the key city of Mazar-i-Sharif. And he is also a key player on the field at the moment. Taking the city of Mazar-i-Sharif will certainly be something that he plays a major role in.
So, all of these people will be key contacts at this time, but, as I say, most of my reporting at this time has been done from the Taliban side.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take another caller, from Michigan. Go ahead, please.
CALLER: Yes. I would like to know how come the Soviets could not topple Afghanistan.
BLITZER: Well, let me ask Hafez.
The Soviets, of course, tried for many years to deal with Afghanistan, they failed completely. Some say that led to the collapse eventually of the Soviet Union.
What makes these -- what they used to be called, the mujahideen, the Taliban, the guerrilla fighters in Afghanistan so strong?
AL-MIRAZI: Well, first of all, the mujahideen title was given by Reagan administration to them, the holy warriors, and that could give us part of the problem of the perception in the Middle East and the Arab world, the double standards. Sometimes you call them good guys, and sometimes bad guys.
The Soviets, as the caller mentioned rightly, did control most of the cities. So, even if we get or the U.S. get Kabul, Kandahar, all of these cities, they could not for years even control Afghanistan, because the main support is in the villages, and by the local people. And, as long as the local people are supporting the -- whoever is fighting the enemy, or perceived to be the enemy, there is no way for you to do anything, and this is the problem, because of the terrain, the mountainous terrain, and many other factors.
And I think it's the same for the U.S., although we can say a lot about Taliban is hated, and so on, and so forth, but it is about the Pashtun, and this is the main ethnic group over there that, unless you get another Pashtun group to be the main counter for them, not Northern Alliance, it's going to take a long time.
BLITZER: Nic Robertson, is there someone of Pashtun ancestry who could come in and help the United States in its battle against terrorism, the Taliban, and Osama bin Laden? Is there somebody out there right now?
ROBERTSON: Well, Abdul Haq was out there, he was inside Afghanistan, and, when the Taliban found him a week or so ago, but he was assassinated. Hamid Hazai (ph), of the Populzai (ph) tribe, a very big tribe of ethnic Pashtun background is believed to be inside Afghanistan. And we've learned only in the last couple of days that he has come under fire from the Taliban. The Taliban at one time reporting he was arrested.
The Taliban are doing their best to try and catch up with him, they say, and probably mete out the same type of justice as executed on Abdul Haq.
There are people in the country, perhaps within the Taliban at this time, moderate elements within the Taliban who perhaps could, in Pakistan's view, form some part of that new government, representing the Pashtun ethnic group.
However, both Russia and the United States at this stage have ruled out any Taliban composition in any broad-based government, but certainly within the Taliban there are political leaders, political figures who are at this time essentially waiting their time, trying to stay out of the fray, and perhaps trying not to be tarred too much with the same hard-line brush that is tarring the rest of the leadership there, as they hunker down -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's take another call, from Nevada. Go ahead please.
CALLER: Thank you, Wolf.
Osama bin Laden preaches his version of the Islam -- Muslim religion so strongly and condemns all others, what credentials or authority does he have of -- to make the other people even believe him?
BLITZER: All right. Hafez, do you want to answer that?
AL-MIRAZI: Well, first of all, we have to, in Islam, and, in order to understand the Islam, especially Sunni Islam, the majority, it's very close to the Protestant church, not the Catholic Church or even the Orthodox Church in Christianity. There is no hierarchy. So you don't have someone to be the pope of the Muslims, that, once this person would issue a fatwa or a religious order, everybody got to agree with.
So there is a kind of an ishtihad (ph) -- you can try your best and say, this is what I want to say, and it's up to you. A local clerk, clergyman in a Protestant church in a village would be -- would have his own.
So, very close to the liberation theology that we had in Latin America, that is going on right now in some places of the Muslim world. People try to make their own opinion, it's more of a political leader, bin Laden, much more than a religious leader.
Bin Laden is not looked at as a religious man, but as a political leader who has a message regardless of how people like the message or even the tactics that are being rejected totally refuting or using terrorism as a means to get this message through. BLITZER: Kelly, is there a sense among your contacts, your sources at the White House, that they're getting frustrated by the way this war is being perceived by some of the commentators here in Washington and elsewhere around the United States?
WALLACE: There is a sense, Wolf, because many people we talked to say that most of criticism, again coming a lot from reporters and not from the American people. You have senior advisers saying look at the polls. The American people overwhelming so far supporting the presidents campaign. That most of the criticism again coming from reporters at the daily briefing.
Nevertheless, though, the administration knows the president needs to keep communicating to the American people and to the international community because, of course, there is some concern coming even from some European nations as you know, Wolf. Some people concerned about the progress of the military campaign. The fact that the Taliban's still very much in control of Afghanistan. The fact that Osama bin Laden obviously still out there in that videotape statement yesterday.
Just today, the president's top military advisers asked if they think they are any closer to getting bin Laden. They said they believe his days are numbered. That they're going to bring him to justice or bring justice to him. They know certainly that very much the success or failure of this military campaign very much will depend on getting bin Laden even though the administration has talked about this as a much broader war than any one person.
So, right now, you get the sense the administration not very concerned because of where the criticism is coming from, but very much trying to continue to get the message out to maintain strong support in the U.S. and abroad, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Kelly. Stand by. I want all of our reporters indeed, to stand by. They will be taking more of your phone calls and questions when we return. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continue to take your phone calls for CNN's Nic Roberts and he's in Quetta, Pakistan. CNN White House correspondent Kelly Wallace, she's out near Camp David, Maryland, and Hafez Al-Mirazi, he's the Washington bureau chief for the television network Al-Jazeera.
You were telling me, Hafez, that Al-Jazeera did not broadcast this time the entire 20 minute statement, video statement released by Osama bin Laden. In the past you have, why didn't you this time?
AL-MIRAZI: This time actually we wanted to be -- to be very cautious and sure that the Al-Jazeera is not used by any party in that conflict in order to instigate violence or to give messages to other especially for the Al Qaeda and bin Laden group.
So we did broadcast 20 minutes, but we took out about five minutes in which there were specific orders from him or calls on Muslims and his group to target some U.S. interests in some places in the Muslim world that I don't want to (OFF-MIKE) where and actually this one of the reason that we took it out. Also he was a little bit harsh on President Musharraf of Pakistan and U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan. Things that we consider slanders or libel that we didn't put on.
BLITZER: Nic Robertson, you were just inside Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, you did some excellent reporting from Kandahar. I was surprised and I'm sure many of our viewers were surprised in that Osama bin Laden videotape that was broadcast, 20 minutes of which was broadcast on Al-Jazeera. The attack against the United Nations and Kofi Annan. Do you have any instant explanation why he decided to go after them?
ROBERTSON: Well, I think perhaps it's been interesting if one looks at the Taliban's relationship with the United Nations inside Afghanistan. It's been quite an antagonistic one. The Taliban have been demanding over the last few years that the United Nations recognize them as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.
They've been demanding that they essentially all funding should be, should be channeled through government ministries rather than go directly into U.N. projects inside the country. It may be connected with that. Obviously there may be bigger and wider frustrations, but Osama bin Laden has been very, very close, rumored to be very, very close to Mullah Omar, the Taliban leader, and likely they've shared a common frustrations about the United Nations.
And certainly as far as the Taliban have been concerned, not having the United Nations signing up to their view of the country and channeling funds through their ministries so that they can put the funding into what ever type of education they want or whatever type of economic reform or food programs, has been a major frustration to the Taliban. And had in fact just prior to September 11, really been building to a major crisis with the Taliban and United Nations.
We saw it earlier this year when the Taliban demanded that women workers could no longer be involved in world food program. Food handouts in Kabul. Several hundred thousand people depend on those handouts and the world food program was forced to pull that program for awhile until the Taliban relented.
BLITZER: Kelly, in contrast to some of the other video statements, press releases, letters released by Osama bin Laden, this time the White House as you reported throughout this weekend was very quick, very fast in responding trying to get its message out right away. Why the change of heart?
WALLACE: Exactly, and that was a point we were making. Well number one, a part of the stepped up effort, Wolf, really the administration again thinking it may have fallen behind in sort of the war of words with the Taliban and bin Laden, so obviously a stepped up offensive. What was interesting yesterday is besides Ambassador Chris Ross appearing on Al-Jazeera, yet senior government officials, senior U.S. officials immediately seizing on bin Laden's condemnation of Arab countries which belong to the United Nations.
Senior U.S. officials saying that bin Laden may have really damaged himself and the Taliban in the Arab world criticizing leaders such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, clearly obviously a way for the administration to say, look, the president and his campaign against terrorism, he's supporting you. Now bin Laden is now criticizing Arabs and Muslims.
So it was obviously a way for both the administration to sort of point out something it thinks may have hurt bin Laden, but also to get its message out as well. It was interesting and clearly a new strategy by the Bush administration.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take a caller from Canada, go ahead please.
CALLER: Well, hi. I want to know whether Nic Robertson or somebody else might have an idea as to how precise the latest carpet bombing attacks have been because carpet bombing is one thing and (OFF-MIKE) is another thing, if he did?
BLITZER: Nic, did you get the question? How precise has the U.S. so-called carpet bombing been in Afghanistan?
ROBERTSON: Well, Wolf, I think as most people who follow our reports inside Afghanistan know that the Taliban have not allowed us to visit any military sites. Those carpet bombing has generally been in the front lines north of Kabul. We recently have been in Kandahar and Jalalabad but have not had access to those front lines.
But even if we had been in Kabul, it is very unlikely the Taliban would have given us permission to go any where close to what could be considered a military facility. So, I would have to say at this time we do not have an accurate assessment of just how accurate that bombing has been along those front-line positions.
BLITZER: In the Arab world, Hafez, who's winning the war, the propaganda war right now, the United States or Osama bin Laden?
AL-MIRAZI: Well I'm not sure actually if there is a propaganda war. I think that each party is trying to justify what they are doing. The problem in the U.S. side is that footage and pictures much stronger than words, as we all know. And the footage that is coming out, and Al-Jazeera puts, and sometimes CNN, with some reservations put out of civilian casualties, actually do not help the U.S. efforts.
BLITZER: So, what about the World Trade Center, 5,000 Americans, civilians, innocent people were slaughtered in that attack. Doesn't that have a powerful impact in the Arab world?
AL-MIRAZI: It had a powerful impact, very powerful impact and sympathy for the U.S. and condemnation. Again, I say up to the minute that we started to get on the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) after October 7, the other side of civilian casualties. And then this case, I did interview General Richard Myers just four days ago, and my question to him was is it an eye for eye and I will tell you the same. The U.S. should have the higher moral ground. The same debate on Ramadan. You say well, Iran did that to Iraq during Ramadan and so and so did that to the other, or Taliban did it during Ramadan, but the U.S. should have the higher moral ground. Do you like to be just the other side of the coin? I don't think you want to do that.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to leave it right there. Unfortunately, we are out of time. Hafez Al-Mirazi, Kelly Wallace near Camp David, and Nic Robertson doing some excellent reporting for us in Quetta, Pakistan. Thanks to all three of you for joining us.
And just ahead, Bruce Morton's "Last Word."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The hope is that the Taliban will be pushed out by other Afghans with American help, but without and kind of American occupying force. Will that lead to the killing or capture of Osama bin Laden?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Bringing Osama bin Laden to justice and the war on terrorism. Do Americans have the patience for more than a quick fix? Stay with us.
BLITZER: Time now for Bruce Morton's "Last Word" on what could be the most important ingredient for winning the war against terrorism.
MORTON (voice-over): A "New York Times" headline this past week must have made everyone of a certain age shiver some: "U.S.," it read, "Will Increase Number of Advisers in Afghanistan."
Advisers? Isn't that how we started in that other place, in Vietnam? Well, yes. Dwight Eisenhower sent the first ones, John Kennedy sent more, trying to convince Nikita Khrushchev he was a tough guy. Under Lyndon Johnson, the advisers turned into combat troops, half a million or so at the war's peak.
No one thinks the United States will go that way again. The hope is that the Taliban will be pushed out by other Afghans with American help, but without any kind of American occupying force.
Will that lead to the killing or capture of Osama bin Laden? One U.S. general says it's only a matter of time.
That's probably right, but bribes and/or betrayal may have more to do with getting him than bombs, and it could take years.
Remember Adolf Eichmann? He was a Nazi trained in terror, part of the elite SS. And in Hitler's Germany he wound up being the man in charge of implementing Hitler's final solution to the Jewish problem. This was of course to kill all the Jews.
And while Eichmann didn't succeed in doing that, he did kill many.
U.S. troops captured him at the end of the war, but he escaped from a prison camp in 1946, and in 1958 settled in Argentina. The nation of Israel didn't even exist when Eichmann was killing Jews, of course, but Israelis who'd come from Europe knew him and remembered him. And in 1960 Israeli agents kidnapped him and smuggled him out of Argentina into Israel.
Illegal? Of course, but Israel wanted Eichmann and finally got him. Then they put him on trial that lasted seven months, and then they hanged him.
You can argue about legality. All war-crimes trials are after the fact, come to that. But most Israelis thought hanging was about what Eichmann deserved, just as most Americans, I suspect, think hanging is about what bin Laden deserves.
(on camera): The point of the Eichmann story is simply that sometimes these things take time. Americans are not famous for patience, but may need to study it.
I'm Bruce Morton.
BLITZER: Thank you, Bruce.
And time now for a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines here in the United States.
"TIME" magazine looks inside Al Qaeda and bin Laden's web of terror with a shadowy picture of Osama bin Laden on the cover.
"Newsweek" examines Generation 911, terror, war, and recession hit home on campus, with a group of young Americans on the cover.
And on the cover of "U.S. News & World Report": "Altered states of America; coping with life after 9/11."
That's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, November 4. Please join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern. And I'll be back tonight 8:00 PM Eastern for a special edition of "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."
And remember, during the week, I'll see you twice a day, 5:00 and 7:00 p.m. Eastern, for two editions of "WOLF BLITZER REPORTS."
And until then, thank you very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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