CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With Heather Mercer and Dayna Curry; Interview with Sen. Carl Levin and Sen. John Warner
Aired November 27, 2001 - 21:00 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.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, in their first prime time interview, former Taliban prisoners Heather Mercer and Dayna Curry tell their extraordinary story.
And, as United States Marines join the hunt for bin Laden, how far will President Bush take the war on terror? From Kabul, CNN's Christiane Amanpour. In New York, veteran Middle East reporter and "60 Minutes" correspondent, Bob Simon. In Washington, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, Senator Carl Levin and with him the ranking member of that committee, Senator John Warner.
Plus, from Vancouver, singer Sarah McLachlan. They are all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
By the way, as we go on, U.S. war planes have hit a leadership compound near Kandahar. Taliban leader Mullah Omar may have been inside. Sources are telling us the strikes were ordered after the U.S. received intelligence reports that Omar was inside one of the buildings. No confirmation made and we will get more on that from Christian Amanpour in a little while.
We begin in New York -- we know their parents, they have been on the show -- Heather Mercer, the U.S. Christian aid worker freed from the Taliban; she's a native of Vienna, Virginia; and Dayna Curry, in the same position, freed as well; she is a native of Nashville, Tennessee.
What, Heather -- the obvious -- what were you doing in Afghanistan?
HEATHER MERCER, FREED TALIBAN PRISONER: Well, we went to serve the Afghan people through relief and development projects. We did different development projects, building homes for refugees, doing food distributions around the country. And then just Dayna and I personally trying to serve Afghan women and children outside of our home.
KING: Dayna, have you done this in other places around the world?
DAYNA CURRY, FREED TALIBAN PRISONER: Yes. I worked in Uzbekistan for two years and actually there, that is where I heard about the need in Afghanistan, all the different widows that were there and all the poverty and that made me want to go and serve there.
KING: Now, in serving, were you also, Heather, doing what might be termed missionary work? Were you converting people?
MERCER: Some people might use the word. But I would say it another way. Obviously, we are Christians. And who we are is people who love Jesus. And so it is a natural overflow of our lives when, in a culture where religion is of the highest priority, you come daily to conversations dealing with issues of faith. And it is just a natural progression in relationship, even -- and daily greetings, saying hello and good-bye. In the Muslim culture, they often use different religious blessings in that context. So, to discuss religion in their culture is not a strange thing.
KING: But, Dayna, you were charged with preaching Christianity. So we get this straight, is to proselytize a faith -- is that illegal?
CURRY: Yes. But their definition for proselytizing -- they really believe that giving aid to make people change their religion. That is what they consider proselytizing. And we are completely 100 percent innocent of that. We were just trying to love people and serve them and help them anyway we could.
KING: Dayna, you were surprised that you were arrested?
CURRY: Very. It was quite a shock.
KING: How did it happen? Tell us what happened, Dayna.
CURRY: We were just visiting an Afghan family. The beggar children, everyday, were on our street, asked us every single day to come and to visit their family and to -- so we just went that one day to visit them. And we had equipment with us to show a movie, if they wanted to, and they asked us when we went there if they could see it.
And so we showed the them the film. And when I left there, there were Taliban men waiting there to take us. So I don't know, we said -- we think it might have been a setup. We are not really sure.
KING: Heather, was the film a religious film?
MERCER: Sure, it was a film on the life of Jesus. Jesus in the Islamic faith is one of the four holy prophets of Islam. And Afghan people are fascinated with movies. This particular family is very interested to see the story of the life of Jesus. And so, on their request, we did show it to them.
KING: Now, Dayna, were you tried in a court?
CURRY: We initially started and we had a lawyer. And he had -- did the case for us and had a good defense for us, excellent. But then once the bombing started they stopped the court and it never finished.
KING: So you never did have a trial?
CURRY: No, we didn't.
KING: The person defending you, was he in the Taliban?
CURRY: No, he was from Pakistan. But he had -- he actually favored the Taliban. I mean, he didn't disagree with them and talked well about them the entire time.
KING: Where were you, Heather, on September 11?
MERCER: Well, of course, we were in our first -- one of four -- the first of four prisons. We were there, Massoud had just been assassinated the day before. And so we were sitting in prison just processing that the day we found out of the terrible tragedy that happened on September 11.
KING: Now, you had to know, Dayna, that there would be some sort of retaliation. Did you fear that your own country might well bomb you?
CURRY: Well, I mean, it was really scary when the bombs came close, and even there was a couple times our doors were flung open and the windows flung open from the bomb that was pretty close by. But we had some information, that I can't really explain, but we had some information that our government knew where we were. So that made us feel more secure.
KING: Were you able, Heather, to be in touch with your parents?
MERCER: We were. That was really one of the highlights of our whole time there. We had two opportunities to talk via satellite phone with our parents, one through the foreign ministry and the second through our lawyer. And that was really great. It was -- we needed to be able to stay in touch with our parents. And those were really special days during that time.
KING: How long were you actually, Dayna, in prison?
CURRY: For 105 days.
KING: How were you treated?
CURRY: Considering the circumstances, really well. If I would have known I was going to be in an Afghan prison, I would have expected it to be a lot worse. And they really did give us the best that they had and they treated us reasonably well.
Larry: They didn't question you at length? They didn't torture you in any way? Were you given good food?
CURRY: For their standards, it was pretty good. But, of course, what we are used to wasn't -- it was hard. They cook with a lot of grease and things like that. So we were not really used to that type of food. But they gave us the best they had. And we are thankful they treated us so well.
KING: Were all of you aid workers, Heather, together? MERCER: Yes, we were. The six ladies were together in one particular room in each of the four prisons. And then the men were separated on the men's side of the prison.
KING: Had there been a trial, Heather, and if you had been found guilty, what was the punishment?
MERCER: That's a good question. I don't think we know the answer to that. We heard rumors of all sorts of things. But there was no telling what the end result would be. So we are thankful that we are here today and -- we are just really thankful that we are here.
KING: Dayna, did you know that your parents were going on programs like this and that you were -- you and your friends were being talked about in this country?
CURRY: I didn't know it until they my mom came and visited us and Heather's dad came too. And so they were able to share with us some of the press and the coverage we were getting. And we were just amazed that anyone really cared about us or what we were doing and quite surprised and really touched that so many people were praying for us. And -- yes, we're just so thankful to the people for their support they gave us while we were there.
KING: Of course, each of your parents, Heather, were on this program from Pakistan. And therefore you -- your faces were seen around the world and you realized that you became world figures.
MERCER: Yes, it's, you know, really -- I don't we think we can take it all in. We just see ourselves as simple people that wanted to go and love the poor and trying to help desperate nation in a small way, in anyway that we could. And so, really, we feel it is a sovereign thing. This is something that God did. And the fact that we ended up in the middle of the world's attention, we couldn't have ever imagined it.
KING: Did you pray a lot, Dayna?
CURRY: Oh my, that is what kept us going. You know, I had my personal time with the Lord and then all of us would get together both in the morning and the evenings and sing for about an hour and pray together and that is what really kept us strong and kept our hope alive.
KING: We will take a break. And when we come back, we'll find out about the rescue and their life since and what's next, and then our panel.
Senator John McCain joins us tomorrow night. We will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Heather Mercer and Dayna Curry decided to go to help people who needed help. Their faith led them to Afghanistan. One woman who knows them best put it this way: They had a calling to serve the poorest of the poor and Afghanistan is where that calling took them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Before we ask about your rescue, girls, ladies -- sorry -- what were your impressions of how women were treated there, Heather?
MERCER: That is a good question. I mean, under the Taliban regime, of course, women have been oppressed. They have been denied just -- normal human rights. The right to have an education, the right to medical care, just really, the right to opportunities and the right to dream dreams.
So I'm really thankful that it seems like there is going to be a new day coming for the women of Afghanistan. And we really hope that the new government that is in process gets established and really is favorable towards the women.
KING: How did it affect you, Dayna, seeing -- you're a woman -- seeing how women were treated?
CURRY: It hurt. It was -- a lot of times it made me angry, you know. to see how they were disrespected and a lot of times we would have Afghan women over and they would just start crying and telling us how hard their life is, and it -- was hard to see.
KING: Heather Mercer and Dayna Curry are at our New York studios. How were you rescued, Heather?
MERCER: Well, as I think the story has been told, that special forces from the U.S. military came in with a helicopter, and did a phenomenal job.
KING: What were you doing at the time?
MERCER: During the time of the rescue?
KING: No. As they came -- when you first knew they were there, where were you, what was happening to you?
MERCER: Sure. We were just sitting out in a field waiting for them to arrive. And just praying like crazy.
KING: You knew they were coming?
MERCER: Yes, we knew they were coming.
KING: And how did you know that?
MERCER: Well, our government had arranged, once we were released from the prison in Ghazni, we made contact with them, and they let us know that they were going to come in that evening to take us out.
KING: What were those moments like, Dayna, waiting? CURRY: Wow, I think we were all just really so excited that this might be the day that we get to go home. It was also a tense moment because the city was really tense and we were waiting and it took a little bit longer than we thought it was going to take. But we were just so thrilled when we saw the troops coming and when we got on the helicopter it was just amazing. It was a complete dream come true.
KING: Is it true, Dayna, that you set fire to scarves and clothes to guide the choppers in?
CURRY: Well Heather is the one that started it, and we started adding our scarves as well, to make a fire, so the helicopter could see us better.
KING: How soon after that -- how long was that helicopter ride into Pakistan, Heather?
MERCER: It was several hours, actually, and in that intense of a situation time went extra fast. I am not sure exactly, but I believe it was several hours.
KING: When did the president talk to you, Dayna?
CURRY: He called around 7:00 that evening. We were at a party at the German embassy, just celebrating, and he called that evening and it was incredible to hear his voice, and just an honor to talk to him.
KING: Were your folks right there, Heather, when you landed?
MERCER: The first person I saw was my dad. He made sure that he was in front of the plane when it opened, the back of it opened up, and he was the first one I saw and we ran out and hugged each other.
KING: Boy, I guess there is no way to describe that, is there, Heather? It describes itself.
MERCER: Yes it was a spectacular moment, and really, it all happened so fast, and it really was a dream come true for sure.
KING: Dayna, what was it like for you?
CURRY: I think part of me was still in shock. This is -- we were finally released and our prayers were finally answered, but it was just incredible joy, incredible relief that it was finally over. It was just a wonderful day.
KING: Then you got see the other part, there are divorces involved here, so there are step parents, right? So is there a lot of parenting going on.
MERCER: Yes there is.
KING: But both get along very well, don't they, Heather?
MERCER: They do. I mean, I have, I think, some of the greatest parents in the world. And they have laid down their lives for me in the last 3 1/2 months, and I mean, I really couldn't ask for more. They have done a great job.
KING: Do you want to go back, Dayna?
CURRY: I mean, I have a lot of decisions to make. But I think it would be incredible to go back and see the women free, and see the little girls going to school, and just seeing a new Afghanistan, a rebuilt Afghanistan. That excites me, and I really hope I do get to go back.
KING: You going to continue the kind of work you have been doing?
CURRY: Sure, I want to continue working with the poor, and helping the widows there, and the children, and -- yes and any opportunity I can to share about Jesus when there is an opportunity, it would be great.
KING: You want to go back, Heather?
MERCER: I do want to go back. Like we have said before, I know my heart is in Afghanistan. The Afghan people are some of the most amazing people I have ever met. And it is going to be -- it is going to be a process. There is a lot to talk through, a lot of decisions to make, like Dayna said, but I do hope to be a part of seeing this nation rebuilt for sure.
KING: Do you have any anger, Dayna?
CURRY: Anger towards who or what?
KING: Talibans, people who imprisoned you?
CURRY: Really, no. I mean, because they really did treat us well, and even some of them told us we were like their sisters, and treated us -- exceptionally well, considering. I mean, I was angry at how I saw the Afghan women being treated. But I have fully forgiven them in my heart because I don't think they fully understand what they were doing.
KING: Do you like the Afghan people lot?
CURRY: I love them. They are the most hospitable people in the whole world.
KING: I have heard.
CURRY: Yes, you just walk down the street and say, come and have tea with me. Come over, and let's just talk. And they just love to spend hours talking and chatting, and they are just incredibly hospitable.
KING: What was it like, Heather, to go to the White House?
MERCER: That was a great day. It was really privilege and honor to see the president, to be able to visit the Oval Office, and then to be able to stand with him out in the rose garden. He is -- I'm honored to have a president like him serving our country.
KING: Was he interested in what happened to you? And did he ask questions about the Taliban, and your imprisonment?
MERCER: We really didn't talk about that. He just showed us around his office, and told us how good it was to see us, and we just -- we didn't really touch that subject. We were just rejoicing that we were out and free, and just had a good time.
KING: What are you going to do now, Heather? I mean for the immediate future?
MERCER: well, I think we are just needing to deal with the new situation we find ourselves in, and process all the decisions with different people that want to hear the story of the last 3 1/2 months. But I want to spend time with my family. That is really the top priority, and then eventually go back to Waco, Texas, where I went to college, and set up home base there for a while.
KING: Dayna, how do you like, or not like, being besieged by media? CURRY: Well, it is a completely new experience. I mean it is -- never slept in a more comfortable bed in my life than the Ritz Hotel, and the different, getting new outfits. This outfit is from Bloomingdale's and it was just a free gift. I could have never bought it for myself. So, those things are really fun, but at the same time I think we are a little overwhelmed, just all the people that want to hear our story. We want to tell it, but just -- I think, we just...
KING: Give you a break, a little.
KING: Are you going back home, too?
CURRY: I'm going to go to Nashville, and spend time with my family, and then I will probably go to Waco, as well -- and have my base there.
KING: You'll both be home at Christmas?
CURRY: Of course.
CURRY: Can't wait.
MERCER: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) families.
KING: Happy holidays to both of you, and Godspeed.
MERCER: Okay, thank you so much.
CURRY: Thank you. You too. KING: Thank you, and we love your folks.
CURRY: Thank you.
KING: Heather Mercer and Dayna Curry. And when we come back, Christiane Amanpour in Kabul, Bob Simon in New York, and in Washington, Senators Carl Levin and John Warner. You are watching LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: Joining us now for a major panel discussion are, in Kabul Afghanistan, Christiane Amanpour, who has been hosting programs preceding this one every night. In New York is Bob Simon, correspondent for "60 Minutes" and "60 minutes 2." In Washington, Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan. He is chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Senator John Warner, Republican of Virginia, ranking member of that committee.
They have just come back from a trip to Uzbekistan and Pakistan, where they met with United States troops.
Let's start first with Christiane. What can you tell us about this story we have been hearing about warplanes hitting a leadership compound near Kandahar and about the possibility that Taliban leader, Mullah Omar may have been inside. What's the latest?
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, very frankly, and very honestly, all of the information we are getting is out of the Pentagon. As you know, U.S. reporters and international reporters have not been able to get anywhere near U.S. forces, and so it is hard for us to confirm. We do have sources inside Kandahar obviously, that we are able to call, but so far we have not been able to get any specific details other than what our reporters are reporting from the Pentagon on this story.
And obviously, they are being told that this was a leadership target, that they believe that they were targeting members, not only of the Taliban hierarchy, but also alleged members of the al Qaeda network. And the question has been raised whether Mullah Omar, the leader of Taliban, was among those people suspected of being in that building or those buildings, and we don't have a definite word on that yet.
KING: Bob Simon, what's your reaction to the young ladies that we just heard from about the way they were treated and the, apparently contradictions of the way the Taliban women are treated and the way they were treated in prison?
BOB SIMON, CBS, "60 MINUTES": I think they are very lucky to be alive. I think it was a very dangerous thing for them to do. I admire their courage going to Afghanistan to try to help the poor people. I think going to Afghanistan under a Taliban regime, which they did, to proselytize Christianity was reckless. And I think that they are very lucky to be alive and I'm very glad that none of the soldiers who were called upon to rescue them got hurt either. KING: Senator Levin, what's your response to what they had to say and about the treatment of women?
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), ARMED SERVICES CHAIRMAN: Well, they are right about the treatment of women and it is something which is very, very important. I hope that image of women being liberated, those who want to, removing their burqas, being on the street, being able to appear in public, that important image of women being free, it seems to me, is critically important to go to the Muslim world, and we should do a much better job, it seems to me, in showing that kind of a liberating image around the Muslim world, so that they realize that this is not a war against Islam.
Quite a the opposite: These are the Afghan people liberating themselves here with the help of the United States and outside forces.
KING: Senator Warner, what's your response?
SEN. JOHN WARNER (R-VA), ARMED SERVICES CMTE, RKG. MEM.: Oh, Larry, I was greatly taken with how this generation is fighting the war. Their male counterparts, the same ages as the ones out there, the sergeants and the corporals, that Carl and I saw going in and out of Afghanistan.
And these two youngsters give a very pure factual version of what they saw. Let me say that the United States ambassador to Pakistan, Wendy Chamberlain, whom Carl and I visited and her staff, deserve great credit in standing by the cause to get these citizens out.
My office, together with Senator Fred Thompson's office, worked with the parents back here, and it was a great team effort.
KING: Christiane, how big is the difference now, the way the women are treated before you saw that, and the way it is happening now?
AMANPOUR: Well, I think there is a great deal of difference, obviously, but I think it is important to remember that the Taliban, and their extremely repressive regime was not just very, very difficult for the women, but also for many men who didn't want to go along with that kind of repression.
Obviously the women with the big focus of international attention, because their plight was even more dire under the Taliban regime in that they weren't allowed to work, they weren't allowed to have their children educated, and that caused you know enormous poverty as well as anything else.
But things are changing, although not as massively and rapidly and dramatically as you may want to imagine. It is not like the entire, you know, female population of Afghanistan has suddenly thrown off its burqas, because this is also a traditional society. It is one in which Islam plays an extremely important role. It is just that here, they have never, under their history had Islam forced down their throats and they don't want that for the most part. But they are traditional, and you will find quite a few people wearing the burqa for many years to come, although you will find the professionals who don't want to wear the burqa, they are looking for the day when they don't have to wear that again.
KING: Bob, as a guy who has covered wars and has been captured himself, what's different about this one? So far, I mean, we know that there is tough days coming, but so far, it looks like men and the boys, here.
SIMON: Larry, every war now has more reporters there. Covering a war is an important job and it is a dangerous job. And I respect reporters, such as Christiane, who go there to tell the story. More and more, I think these days, even though they have always been there, are reporters who go out, for the glory of it, for the guts of it to show how brave they are.
And, we see that sometimes on television, we see it more on television than we do in newspapers. And that is disturbing to me. I think the coverage, so far, has been pretty damn good. And it is a tough place to cover a war, obviously. In the Gulf War, it was a classic war in the desert. It was almost like a throwback to the days of Rommel and Montgomery.
Once again, we are in this morass where civilians are involved. There is no way to separate the civilians from the battle. It reminds me very much, in a way, though the foliage is completely different, of Cambodia, where you were never sure whether a road you were going down was OK, and who was at the end of it, and whose side they were on and what was going to happen to you when you got there.
KING: Senators Levin and Warner are just back with meeting with the troops, spent Thanksgiving with them. What, Senator Levin, is the morale?
LEVIN: Well, the moral is sky-high. Every place we went we found the troops very, very professional, very dedicated, very committed, very intensely focused on their goal, feeling well prepared, feeling as though they have the equipment that they need. But most important, I would think, in terms of that morale, is that they know they have the support of the American people.
The unity of the American people is essential to high moral in this kind of a situation. It hasn't been there, to the same extent, to put it mildly, in recent wars. It is there now. And the American troops that we saw, these incredible young men and women, who are out there, doing such great job, to try to reduce the threat of terrorism in this world and to America to try to free our children, from fear of terrorism and our grandchildren from that fear.
These young men and women sense very strongly that the American people are united and behind them. And that makes all the difference.
KING: We are going to break come back and get Senator Warner's views and more of our roundtable discussion with our four outstanding guests. We end each program each night on a up note hopefully for you musically. Sarah Mclachlan will join us later. Andrea Bocelli will provide in person performance here tomorrow look. And we're all looking forward to that as well as the appearance of Senator John McCain tomorrow.
We'll be right back with more on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Stay right there.
KING: Let's get to events as they're happening.
Senator Warner, you lobbied for the use of more troops, We got 1,000 ground troops in there now. Can we expect, as Colin Powell said on this program last night, that start to see some casualties, sadly?
SEN JOHN WARNER (R), ARMED SVCS. COMMITTEE: Every service person that's gone in thus far, whether it be the airmen or the special teams put in the north, other Americans not in uniform have gone in, have accepted those risks.
The American public are prepared to accept those risks. Carl and I were just reminiscing during the break about Vietnam. When I was Secretary of Navy in that period, how different the attitudes were here at home, compared with today.
Two reasons, I believe. One, it was a tragic blow against America in everyone's eyes. And saw the casualties here in our nation, upwards of the thousands. And secondly, the President has give brilliant leadership, together with his military commanders, and appropriate cabinet officers.
And indeed, we detected that our troops were very proud to serve under General Franks, and their respective officers. It's a wonderful team effort, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, And they're all pulling together.
One footnote, we were in a tent, briefed by the very persons that went in on Omar's house. And you recall that article stirred a lot of controversy back here. And some day, I hope those troops have their opportunity to tell the facts exactly what occurred. It's quite different than what was portrayed in a certain article.
KING: But you're not going discuss it here?
KING: OK. Christiane, what do you hear, if anything, about bin Laden? Are there stories? Are there are rumors? Do people come over to you and say "I think I know where he is?"
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, obviously, there's much story, much rumor, much speculation. And that's obviously something that many journalists are eager to get at. It's very hard to get at, as it is, for the American troops as well.
But can I just pick up on something that your other guests, the senators have said about U.S. morale.
I'm sure that is true because the war is going well for the United States. But I'm sure the American public don't know how high morale is what exactly is going on, because we aren't able to get to that story.
As you know, reporters are banned from bases in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and just about everywhere else, including on the ground in Kandahar, except for a small pool. And I think my point is that I believe the public in the end and especially the public record is poorer for not allowing experienced, responsible journalists and camera people to cover what they can of these military operations.
And I think if you look back over war coverage in history, some of the great historic documentaries, the great records, of the wars that have been fought, have been by the journalists on the ground, the camera people, and all those people whose job it is to do that.
And I do believe that it's very frustrating for journalists in this case. And I do believe that in the end, it's a net negative for the American public and indeed the world public. KING: Excellent point. I want to get the opinions of everybody else concerning that. Bob Simon, does it rile you?
BOB SIMON, CBS ANCHOR: It doesn't rile me as much as it would if I were in Afghanistan. And I know what it's like to want to get to a story when the Pentagon doesn't want you there, but at the same time, we have to, in all fairness, take account of the fact that we have changed the battlefield. And the battlefield has become such a more complicated place because of CNN, and CBS and all the others.
And the people who are -- I think it's easier to be reporter these days than it is to be a general. We know exactly what we want to do. And whether we get there or not depends on how skilled we are and how lucky we are.
But how do you run a war? How do you win a war when you're being subjected to such scrutiny? I often wonder what would have happened if we, television people, had been on the beaches of Normandy during the landing and brought home live to the American people the carnage on those beaches, whether it would have been possible for Roosevelt and Eisenhower to have gone on prosecuting the war.
It's -- I think that the people running the Pentagon now, the people running this war are trying to figure out how to handle this new battlefield. And it's not easy.
KING: Before I get the Senator's thoughts, Christiane, how would you respond?
AMANPOUR: Well, I agree with Bob. Obviously, the 24-hour news cycle has complicated everybody's lives, by the way, including the reporters. Because I believe that you know, eight journalists have been murdered now, killed in this war. And I believe a lot of it is because many, many more people on the ground are watching what we report in a live kind of situation, and they don't like it. They don't like reporters.
But on the other hand, I do agree that there are instances where we cannot expect to be able to report what's going on in real-time. But there are so many instances where we can be able to have access, and we can be responsible and trusted. Those of us who are experienced enough to understand the rules and regulations. And there are many, many journalists who do, to be trusted to report the story in a fashion that does not harm and that does not compromise whichever side we happen to be with.
I think the two are compatible, even though it gets harder. And I do think that the net result of not being able to cover this is -- causes, you know, is a net negative for the public record.
KING: Senator Levin, what's your view of this?
SEN CARL LEVIN (D), ARMED SVCS. CHMN.: I think there's always going to be a tension between a free press trying to get as much information as they can, and a situation like this, where they've got to run a war without interference. They can't worry about having the press to protect. They've got to not worry about shepherding the press to places where they might be safe. They're not safe.
They've got to be able to run a war, it seems to me. And how that balance is resolved has got to, in the first instance, be left out to those commanders. We can't, it seems to me, be second- guessing them in the middle of fire fight.
But I happen to have tremendous respect, for Christiane and those who are out there, trying to cover this for the purposes of bringing back, to the American people, and to the world, what is going on. That is what they are best at doing. And I admire them for struggling to do that, but there is a balance here that has to be respected.
KING: Senator Warner?
WARNER: Larry, I share Carl's views.
WARNER: Carl and I act as a view a team on this, and Christiane you have always been a bit of a hero to me we have met once or twice. But I'm going to give you my opinion, which is strictly a personal opinion.
Carl and I observed in our visit to those very bases, which you cannot get to, Christiane, and visited the troops. That was our job. As we're the custodians of the Armed Services Committee. And now, it is a function of that committee to look after the welfare of these men and women, see that they're properly equipped and the like.
But here's a point I wish to make. These men and women are often operating from bases in other countries. Those countries, and this is my own view, are very careful as to how they administer the facts of what's taking place there, because of their own particular and their different in each country, situations at home, politically, and with their populations.
And I somehow believe that the military has to take this into consideration, as they continue in a coalition of nations to help support the U.S., the British, and other forces, root out these terrorists in Afghanistan and return that nation to a people, who are fighting valiantly to get it back. And hopefully, to establish a government so that they can become a responsible and constructive partner in world order.
KING: Let me get a break. We'll come right back. We'll include some phone calls as well. Don't go away.
KING: Before we take some phone calls, Christiane wanted to add one thing briefly for the benefit of the senators. Christiane?
AMANPOUR: Just that I understand their point about balance. I just feel at the moment that the balance is way out of whack in the disfavor of the public record. But I also think, and I don't know what the senators think about this, but many, many times during these situations, the American servicemen and women, they like to get, you know, their point across or their views across or just the fact that they're doing their job.
We've had always very good cooperation from the troops on the ground. Certainly, when we go into these situations, we don't expect the military to waste its time and efforts protecting us. We want to do our job the best we can.
KING: Yes. Before the senators respond, Bob Simon, isn't that a good point? Don't a lot of these fellows and ladies want to go on?
SIMON: Oh, they love it. The soldiers always love it when we are with them. And indeed, I also take issue with Senator Levin's comment that the Army can't be expected to protect us or to shepherd us around. We've never asked the Army to do that.
I think it would be possible to have, frankly, and a certain amount of discrimination would be involved, to have the most important major American news organizations have a relationship with the military, so that we went along.
Remember, you know, in the second World War, the guys who were with the 101st were part of team, Well, I don't know whether that kind of relationship is possible anymore, whether it would be desirable.
But if you had the networks, the major newspapers, the major news magazines in the states, along with the military on important operations, we could be trusted. We've been trusted before. And it would work out in every one's advantage.
KING: I want to get a couple calls in. Senator Levin, you want to respond quickly and I'm going to get to some calls? LEVIN: No, I just think it's a very complicated balance and that they've got to be able to run a war. And that to the extent that you can do that, then have the media have access, that's fine. But to the extent that it interferes either in many ways, by the way, it can interfere.
For instance, even the location of our troops frequently has got to be held secret. The faces of our special operations forces have got be kept private. We have a lot of countries that simply do not want to have on public display the fact that we're even operating out of bases in those countries. That would jeopardize the safety of our troops.
KING: A call in...John, yes, I want to get a call in. We've only got a couple minutes.
WARNER: One word, safety of our troops while they're operating.
KING: Fort Campbell, Kentucky, hello.
KING: Go ahead.
CALLER: I just have a question to pose to everybody on the panel. Doesn't it seem that the U.S. and the Northern Alliance were kind of winning this whole thing a little bit too quickly? Because in matter of weeks, we have captured all but one of the major cities. When the Russians were in there for years, and they weren't able to do anything.
KING: Christiane, you want to comment on that? Was that just good work?
AMANPOUR: Well, I think -- look, you had a lot of the pundits in Washington complaining for a long, long time that nothing was happening. And the bombing was going on. And nothing was moving on the ground.
And then all of a sudden, things started to move. And in one week really, the whole situation on the ground turned.
I think there are two things. Obviously, I think the Taliban's strength was overly built up by certain reports before this war. The fact that the Taliban basically did not fight their way to power in Afghanistan was pretty much overlooked. And they were built up into this big impregnable tenacious enemy.
Clearly, they're still there in Kandahar. And there's going to be probably a very difficult fight to dislodge the final remaining thing and to go after Osama bin Laden.
But I think that the fact that the United States has been bombing, I think that is something that the Taliban have never obviously had to face before. And the facts on the ground and in the air, something that they are simply ill-equipped to deal with. KING: To Houston, Texas, hello.
CALLER: Yes, Larry. I guess my question is to the whole panel. This war that we're engaged in now, it's -- the President said it's a war against terrorism. And that seems like a war against something that's so ephemeral and ghost-like, that I'm just having a hard time getting a handle on it.
But my question is, is that unless we as a nation, as a culture, come away from this particular battlefield with a broader and more selfless Zeitgeist for a world view of things, as far as our foreign policy and our attitudes towards these different cultures in a smaller world, are we not going just be engaged in one more conflict, one more war?
KING: That's a pretty good question, Senator Warner.
WARNER: Yes. And I'm glad to answer it. First to the first caller. She said we have captured all but one of the cities. The "we" troubles me. You should understand that the people doing the fighting are the anti-Taliban people of Afghanistan. And the United States is supporting them with logistics, suggesting tactics, certain leadership, but they're fighting.
KING: I don't want to interrupt you, but we only have like a minute left. So you want to respond to the gentleman from Houston's question?
WARNER: Well, look here, he said we need a new strategy. Our strategy's been a good one. It was laid down by the President. The military plan is being carried out orderly. And again, I emphasize that we're there in support. We're not taking any of the territory. In other words, seizing it ourselves. We're there supporting the freedom fighters, trying to recover their land.
KING: Bob Simon, does the total he's asked the question war on terrorism seem rather ephemeral to you in that, you know, when does it ever end?
SIMON: The gentleman who asked the question was making a statement. And I couldn't agree more. America has felt itself in a luxurious situation for a long time now, that it didn't really have to pay attention to other parts of the world. Look at our news coverage. It's all been virtually domestic in its content. We didn't care. We didn't look. And now we realize that we don't have that luxury anymore. We're going to have to pay a lot of attention.
KING: Well said. I'm out of time. We thank you all very much. And we'll invite all these panel members back on frequent occasions.
When we come back, we'll close it out with the terrifically talented Sarah Mclachlan. Don't go away.
KING: Joining us now from Vancouver British Columbia in her studio is Sarah Mclachlan, who I understand is with child, are you not?
SARAH MCLACHLAN, SINGER: Yes, I am. Five months now.
KING: Boy or girl, do you know?
MCLACHLAN: Well everything leads me to think it's a girl.
KING: But you don't know-know.
MCLACHLAN: Don't know for sure. But everything else.
KING: Tell me about the song you're going to sing "Angel."
MCLACHLAN: Well it's sort of a song about feeling extremely lonely, and having something or somebody to take you out of the place you're in, to make you feel better.
KING: And by the way, this song has become a memorial song for firefighters all over the United States, and I imagine in Canada, too because of the comfort it hopes to provide. So here is the brilliantly talented Sarah Mclachlan in Vancouver and her version of "Angel."
KING: It's Tuesday. So I'm back in L.A. Tomorrow night, Senator John McCain will be with us and the musical close will be provided by the incredible Andrea Bocelli.
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