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Interview With Donald Rumsfeld

Aired April 12, 2002 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on escalating Mideast turmoil and its impact on America's war against terror.

And then perspective from Bob Woodward, assistant managing editor to the "Washington Post"; Ann Compton, ABC News White House correspondent; and in Jerusalem, "Newsweek's" Mideast regional editor Christopher Dickey, all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

A grim day in the Mideast with another suicide bombing rocking Colin Powell's shaky peace mission at its core. Earlier today and shortly after a Palestinian woman blew herself up near an outdoor market in Jerusalem, we sat down with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at the Pentagon. The deadly bombing and its aftermath were still a very much developing story.


We welcome a return visit from Donald Rumsfeld here at the Pentagon. Lots of areas to touch.

You were the youngest secretary of defense ever.


KING: You're not the oldest.

RUMSFELD: Almost, not quite.

KING: Who was older?

RUMSFELD: I think Cap Weinberger was.

KING: What's the biggest difference in the job now to the job when you had it then?

RUMSFELD: Oh, it's such a different city. Washington, D.C., has changed so much. I supposed the Vietnam War and Watergate and the coming of age of television, the growth of government, it's just a very different place. It was a much more collegial and small town...

KING: Is the job tougher now?

RUMSFELD: Well, with a war going on, it's a pretty tough job, yes, sir.

KING: And how involved are you with the Mideast situation? I know we're going to talk a lot about Afghanistan, how's it going. It's like a six-month review we're going to do here. How involved are you in the whole structure and discussions?

RUMSFELD: I'm involved, in the sense that I just came from a National Security Council meeting where the subject was the Middle east, for the most part. And I talk to the president, the vice president, the secretary of state on those subjects.

The department is not involved directly because it is essentially a foreign-policy issue. And as a result, the president, the vice president, the secretary of state have the action, and they'll working very, very hard and on a terribly difficult set of issues.

It's the kind of thing that is not going to get solved in five minutes. I was Middle East envoy for President Reagan close to 20 years ago, and there have been many Middle East envoys who've wrestled with this problem, the same -- the problems that Secretary Powell is dealing with.

KING: In many administrations.

RUMSFELD: In many administrations, in both political parties, dating back to President Truman.

KING: Is it soluble?

RUMSFELD: You have to have hope and say yes that ultimately something is going to happen so that people are going to decide that they're better off living in peace than continuing to kill people.

KING: Which seems so logical.

RUMSFELD: It does. On the other hand, there are countries where people have gone on for an awful long time killing each other. One would hope that that won't be the case in the Middle East.

KING: What is the secretary of state's mood?

RUMSFELD: His mood?

KING: Yes.

RUMSFELD: Oh, he's an optimistic person, and you have to be when you're dealing with difficult situations like that. And he is really going to be doing everything humanly possible to try to see that the parties are able to find some way to re-establish a security situation.

KING: Is he going to stay?

RUMSFELD: Oh, I think I'll let the president and the secretary announce their travel plans.

KING: Do you agree with his meeting with Mr. Arafat?

RUMSFELD: I don't think he has met with Mr. Arafat.

KING: No, he's going to. And there's been criticism of that.

RUMSFELD: I don't know that he is. I just -- I think until something like that happens, it may or may not occur.

KING: May not occur?

RUMSFELD: I have no knowledge. I was just looking, before I came down to be with you, that there has been another suicide bombing in Jerusalem.

KING: This morning.

RUMSFELD: Yes. And I have no idea what effect that could have. It's entirely up to the secretary of state.

KING: How do you fight something like -- now you've been fighting it, Israel, many countries (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Great Britain. How do you fight people who kill themselves to fight you?


KING: Kamikazes, you know?

RUMSFELD: Free countries have a wonderful advantage, that the energy and the vitality that comes from freedom and opportunity is just a great advantage. And as a result, countries that have free political institutions and free economic institutions tend to be the most successful countries on the face of the earth.

We also have a disadvantage. Because we're free, we want an open society. We don't want to spend our time living in basements. We don't want to spend our time going around carrying weapons and looking around the corner to see if someone is going to throw a hand grenade or blow up the bus we're on, or that we can't go to a peace parlor. So free people are vulnerable.

And there is no question but that a terrorist that is willing to kill themselves and is determined to kill innocent men, women and children can in fact achieve that.

KING: And fighting it is very difficult for a democracy too, because it wants to remain a democracy.

RUMSFELD: It does.

KING: So when Mr. Netanyahu, the other day, says, "What you're doing in Afghanistan is what we're doing now," how do you counter that, that Israel is doing what you're doing, fighting terrorism the only way it knows how by retaliating back?

RUMSFELD: Well, as the president has said, a terrorist can attack any place at any time. And it's not physically possible for free people to defend at every place at every time. And therefore, you really don't have much of a choice. You simply do have to decide that you're going to put pressure on terrorists and terrorist networks and countries that harbor terrorists and try to rout out those terrorists and prevent them, dry up their funds, arrest people who do that, and create a situation that's so inhospitable for terrorism that it eventually does down.

Now, it's never going to be gone completely. There are always going to be people who are going to do things like that. But in terms of major global networks of terrorism, I do think we can be successful if we keep the pressure on them.

KING: And isn't that what Mr. Sharon says he's doing?

RUMSFELD: I think that it isn't Mr. Sharon, it's prime ministers of Israel from the beginning of the country have had to deal with terrorist problems.

KING: And now we're trying to stop them, right? We're saying, don't do this.

RUMSFELD: Oh, I don't think it's quite that way. I think the president has said that anyone dealing with terrorism has to make a judgment and balance things as to how they do it and in what degrees they do it and where they do it and when they do it.

Having been a Middle East envoy, I am sensitive to the importance of allowing a relatively few people talk about something this sensitive. There are people being killed in the region. And my instinct is to let the president and the vice president and the secretary of state, all of whom, in my judgment, are doing a very good job on this and investing a lot of time, and not have other Cabinet officers opining on it in a way that someone could take, oh, just a shading of how I might say something slightly different from the president, slightly...

KING: In other words, you might have some disagreements, but that's in house.

RUMSFELD: It might even just be in the words one uses, and then someone could then say, "Oh, my goodness. He thinks this, and someone else thinks that." So I stay away from the Middle East and leave it to Secretary Powell, who I think is doing a good job.

KING: Mr. Secretary, is this a regional question? Bahrain, a friend of ours. Demonstrations in Bahrain against us. Is this going to -- by natural, what happens here is going to affect what happens there, that you have to think of it regionally?

RUMSFELD: Well, the United States has a wonderful record of humanitarian assistance and caring about people and participation in funding of medical activities and food programs for people. And we're not against any religion. As a country, we're not against any race. We're not against any country or any people. We're against terrorism, in this case. And we're against people who try to impose their will on their neighbors as a country. There have always been demonstrations in most parts of the world. There are demonstrations of various types in this country and other countries all the time. I think the fact that there may be demonstrations in some small numbers of people in different countries who look at things one way differently from other people in their government or other governments, is acceptable.

KING: Is this a difficult, as a former envoy, difficult balancing act when, let's say, we would like to see Israel do something, and they do something, yet the Arab states support -- Saudi Arabia had a telethon yesterday to raise money for the Palestinians.

RUMSFELD: If you think about the Palestinian people, they have had a tough life. I don't know what the gross national product per capita for the Palestinian people is, but...

KING: Maybe the lowest in the region.

RUMSFELD: For the sake of argument, say it's $2,000, and in Israel it's $20,000. Israel's a free country. They've got good leadership. They have energy and vitality, and they trade, and they make things, and they look forward, have freedom and opportunities, they have political elections.

Palestinian people don't. Except for Sadat and Menachem Begin, the only time any real estate has changed hands, that was the Sinai back when President Sadat was there. The Arafat leadership has not been able to deliver any land, it's not delivered any economic prospects to the people.

KING: So you understand the Saudis helping them?

RUMSFELD: Well, yes. I mean, we've provided help to the Palestinian people. I think that the people in the region and around the world ought to provide help. I don't think that people like Saddam Hussein ought to offer $25,000 a family every time some suicide bomber blows themselves up and kills a bunch of innocent people, and that's not the kind of help.

KING: So because -- you're saying, then, because you helped the Palestinians doesn't mean you're helping terrorists.


KING: We'll get a break. We'll talk about the war in Afghanistan and how it goes in this sixth-month juncture. Don't go away.


KING: All right. How goes the war -- your war?

RUMSFELD: Clearly, no war is ever perfect, and there's no road map for this one, that's for sure. We didn't have a war plan for how you do this. We've had to fashion it as we've gone along.

But it's going pretty well, if one thinks about it. No one dreamt that the Taliban would be out of power in Afghanistan as rapidly as it happened. And the Al Qaeda are no longer training terrorists there, hundreds of terrorists, as they were six months ago. They're on the run.

And a lot of them have been killed. A lot of them are in jail. A lot of them have been arrested around the world. And they're having more trouble raising money. They're having trouble transferring money. They're having trouble for their members, their terrorists to move between countries. They're being checked much more carefully. And we don't see a lot of Osama bin Laden's videotapes coming out, so we must be moving too fast to do that.

It seems to me that there has been good progress. Does that mean there won't be another terrorist attack? No. I suspect there will be. There's no question there are people who were trained two, three, four years ago who would love to do it and are anxious to try to kill more innocent people.

KING: Does that set it back a lot, if that happened?

RUMSFELD: Would that set what back?

KING: The whole concept of this war...

RUMSFELD: Oh, not at all. Not at all. In life, nothing's perfect. I mean, what you do is you go out and do the best you can. And we'll stop a lot of terrorist attacks and we'll make it difficult for them. But that doesn't mean we'll stop them all, there'll still be some.

KING: Has this war gone as well as you thought it would, better or less?

RUMSFELD: You know, I really didn't have an expectation, because it is so different, it is so totally different from anything this country's ever had to do that there wasn't any bar to measure ourselves against. What we knew we had to do was hard.

KING: Wasn't like you could compare it to the War of 1812.


RUMSFELD: You can't. It wasn't a civil war or a World War II or Korea. We knew what we had to do was hard.

KING: So it's your own expectation?

RUMSFELD: It is. And we knew it was hard to try to find individuals. If there were an army or a navy or an air force that the Al Qaeda had or the Taliban or any worldwide terrorist organization, this institution, the Department of Defense, knows about that. We could go out and do that. We could find that army, that navy, that air force and take it on and do something about it. This is different.

These terrorist networks don't have armies, navies and air forces. They work in the shadows, in the caves, in the tunnels. And they use an anonymity. And they don't attack our Army, Navy or Air Force, they tackle innocent civilians. They try to kill men, women and children. And they try to terrorize.

I mean, I think it was Lenin who said, the purpose of terrorism is to terrorize. And it works. A single terrorist act has the effect of killing innocent men, women and children. But it has another effect, it terrorizes everyone who wasn't killed.

KING: So therefore -- it's a perverted word -- it succeeds.

RUMSFELD: It does succeed. And it forces people to behave differently. And if you're a free people, it forces you to behave sufficiently differently that it impinges on your freedom, to a certain extent.

KING: You have to put people in places where you normally might not put them.

RUMSFELD: Exactly. I mean, think. Everyone in this country is willing, and God bless them all, to take an hour to get through security at an airport. We didn't use to do that. But why are we doing it? We're doing it because everyone has made a calculation that that makes sense.

KING: All right. Since you had nothing to go on, Mr. Secretary, what has surprised you?

RUMSFELD: A lot of good surprises. The number of countries that have just almost spontaneously come forward and cooperated has just been breathtaking.

We like to say that we've put together a wonderful coalition. In fact, we didn't put together a wonderful coalition so much as it put itself together. The NATO allies, without hardly even being asked, for the first time invoked the treaty and said, "An attack against one is an attack against all," sent AWACS airplanes over here to help guard the United States of America. Countries all across the globe have started sharing intelligence; they've started allowing people to share this information in a way that they can improve their law enforcement.

I asked General Tom Franks, the combatant commander for the Central Command, the other day, I said, "How many ships do we have in your command right now?" And I think he said 101. And I said, "How many are U.S.?" And he said less than half. So think of that. These ships are from all over, they came from Japan and Australia...

KING: There's no way you could have expected that?

RUMSFELD: Well, it's just a wonderful response. And I think it reflects the reality that this is a terrible problem. And there were people from 80 countries killed on September 11 in this building and the New York Trade Center -- 80 countries, of every religion.

KING: What, Mr. Secretary, surprised you on the negative side? Anything in the past six months that you said, "This hurt"?


KING: Minimum loss of life, but any loss of life hurts.

RUMSFELD: Any loss of life hurts. There isn't an instance where these wonderful young men and women in uniform for our country and for our coalition partners, when they get killed, that your heart just doesn't break.

They, every day, put their lives at risk. And you think about that and you say to yourself, that's amazing. It's wonderful. They've decided that they're going to volunteer...

KING: They don't have to.

RUMSFELD: They don't have to do that, there's no draft, there's no conscript military in the United States. And they put their hands up and say, "Well, I'll do that." That's admirable.

KING: Do you have a timetable in all of this? Where goest next?

RUMSFELD: Well, the timetable is, you keep at it until it's done. And you can't know how long it will take, and there won't be a brilliant sunset when the whole thing...

KING: No VE Day?

RUMSFELD: No VE Day or VJ Day or signing ceremony on the Missouri. What'll happen is that we'll, at some point, feel that we have put so much pressure on terrorist networks and have had so much cooperation and helped to strengthen other countries' anti-terrorist capabilities by training and financial assistance, that things are pretty good and that we can say to ourselves, "We're been on a heightened state of awareness, we don't want to go down to no awareness because it's still a dangerous and untidy world, but, by golly, we can go about our business and we can send our kids to school and expect them to come home."

KING: We'll have our remaining moments with Secretary Rumsfeld, touch some other bases, right after this.


KING: We're back with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Is Iraq inevitable?

RUMSFELD: Hard to know. You know, expecting good things out of that regime would be really excessive hopefulness. He has behaved so badly. He has killed so many people.

KING: So therefore it is inevitable we're going to go?

RUMSFELD: Oh, I don't know about that, but...

KING: What's the other alternative? RUMSFELD: The policy of our country and of many countries is that there should be a change of regime, that in fact he is so repressive to his own people -- he's killed so many of his own people, he's used gas on his own people, chemicals, he's invaded his neighbor, he's developing weapons of mass destruction, he's a person who threatens his neighbors and describes them as illegitimate repeatedly.

You know, you could live with that in an earlier era, where a person was a dictator and a vicious, repressive person, as long as he was basically harming his own people and didn't have weapons of mass destruction. The world kind of set it off to the side and said, "Well, that's not right, and we recommend against it, but we're not going to do anything about that." And they would not use diplomacy or economic sanctions or military power to change it.

With weapons of mass destruction on the horizon, I think people do have to use diplomacy and economic power, as well as military power.

KING: Does this conflict in the Middle East, and the attention it gets, prevent your doing something with regard to Iraq you might have done?

RUMSFELD: Well, it hasn't thus far. I think there's no question your heart breaks to see people being killed every day in the Middle East. And thank goodness that the president and the vice president and Secretary Powell are working as hard as they are to try to do everything humanly possible to see that the violence is tamped down and a process is started.

But, no, it seems to me, if what you're dealing with in the war on terrorism is terrorists who are going to kill a lot of innocent people, we can't let up. We have to go find them; we have to deal with them.

KING: And Iran is a haven for it, is it not?

RUMSFELD: Iran has been helping the Al Qaeda, there's no question. They have a long border with Afghanistan, and there is no question but that Al Qaeda have moved in and found sanctuary -- some have stayed there, some have been in transit -- and that Iran has not been helpful to the war on terrorism.

KING: Can you cross that border to get Al Qaeda?

RUMSFELD: We haven't.

KING: Might you?

RUMSFELD: Oh, that's not for me to decide.

KING: If you had input, what would you recommend?

RUMSFELD: Oh, I give my...

KING: Oh, you do have input. RUMSFELD: ... I give my advice to the president. As much as I like you, Larry...


KING: How about the complaints by the media that you really are controlling things in all of this in Afghanistan, that they can't get anywhere, that this is a Rumsfeld concept here?

RUMSFELD: Well, that's just not true. The reality is that any reporter who wants to can just go into Afghanistan anywhere they want, anytime they want, any time of the day, day or night. Right now, they can go. They do. They're all over the place. Some of them are killed...

KING: So what...

RUMSFELD: It's a dangerous place.

KING: What's the basis for their...

RUMSFELD: Oh, I think it's genetic.


I think that throughout the history of warfare, the press and any country with a free press has always believed they didn't have enough access. It was true in World War II, it was true in Korea, it was true in Vietnam, it was true in Desert Storm, and it's been true here.

On the other hand, we've given incredible access. The folks here in the Pentagon understand the importance of the American people having access to what's taking place.

We draw the line -- I do. I draw the line. I'm darned if I'm going to tolerate people giving classified information to anybody, whether it's the press or other people, because it puts men and women in uniform's lives at risk, and that's wrong. And I'll be darned if we're going to talk about operations and put people's lives at risk.

On the other hand, we've put press people embedded right with the Special Forces groups. And they've had access to see what's going on. They've been on ships, they've been in direct action programs that the Special Forces have conducted.

I accept the world, that the appetite of the press is insatiable. There is no amount that they could be fed that they would not want more. My job is to see that they get the maximum amount that's responsible and, by golly, not anything that's irresponsible.

KING: And still retain the fact that you're a republic employee.

RUMSFELD: You bet. You bet we are. And the things that are classified ought not to be given to anybody accept those that are cleared for classified information.

KING: A could of other things. Should the secretary of the army think about resigning over the Enron situation?

RUMSFELD: Oh, goodness. I don't think I'm going to get into that subject. Here's a person who's had a wonderful career and done a fine job for the country as an army officer, as well as the secretary of the army. Insofar as I'm aware, I have every confidence that he has provided all the information that he's been asked for.

You know, the way you cast the question, for the good of the army. And those are tough calls for him.

KING: Have you spoken to him?

RUMSFELD: Oh, we've talked a number of times, and he's a fine person. But he has complied with every request that has been made, and there hasn't been, to my knowledge, an allegation leveled against him that...

KING: Warrants his leave.

RUMSFELD: ... suggested any impropriety.

Now, these are complicated, and of course someone can say, "Well, yes, but the charges alone are enough to make it a problem." We've talked, and I've told him that at that point where he's not able to do his job, he's too busy defending himself, that he ought to make a good judgment about taking a leave of absence or making it a decision. He said, "Look, that's exactly what I'll do. If I think I can't do that job, I'll do that."

But I think people are pecking away at these things. They seem to have a life of their own.

KING: One other quick thing. The Washington Post has an article today that the Pentagon missed steps, stalled on new vaccines. Do you know what that's about?

RUMSFELD: I don't.

KING: Contends that military planners repeatedly ignored warnings that the Pentagon's vaccine program was inadequate.

RUMSFELD: Oh, on anthrax?

KING: Yes.

RUMSFELD: Oh, this is an issue that's going on for years. There's no question but that there -- it turns out there was only one supplier in the United States, and the company could not get its product cleared through the Food and Drug Administration. And as a result, the anthrax vaccinations, which had been under way two, three years ago for any number of people, had stopped because there was a very limited amount left.

KING: There was nothing you could do in that.

RUMSFELD: And now it's back, and it has been approved, and it is now producing vaccines. And that issue, as to who ought to be given the vaccine first, second or third is something that's very close to being brought up to me.

KING: Always good spending time with you.

RUMSFELD: Thank you. I enjoyed it. Appreciate it.

KING: Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

LARRY KING LIVE continues right after this.


KING: And now the vultures of the press, those genetically inclined to do what they do, join us. Bob Woodward here in Washington, assistant managing editor of "The Washington Post." He won a Pulitzer in the past, and "The Post" has just won a Pulitzer for its national reporting of comprehensive coverage of America's war on terrorism. Some of which was discussed on this program when they were covering it. Ann Compton, the ABC News White House correspondent, always on top of her game. And in Jerusalem, Christopher Dickey, the Mideast regional editor of "Newsweek" magazine.

We'll start with Bob Woodward. Overall impressions of Mr. Rumsfeld tonight?

BOB WOODWARD, "THE WASHINGTON POST": A couple of things. I've never seen anyone so comfortable in his job and in his skin. There is no sense of -- that you're going to throw him a question that will send him screaming from the room. Second thing is that he's saying, and I think quite correctly, that the war on terrorism is not over, that there's been lots of good news but bad news may be coming. The Pentagon and CIA people have made it very clear, as has the White House, that they expect some Al Qaeda or Taliban in Afghanistan or in Pakistan to conduct hit and run operations on our troops.

And so those are grim expectations. I also think that he left something out about saying, oh, he's just let reporters in and they can go anywhere in Afghanistan and so forth. That's not quite correct, in the beginning months of the war, the Pentagon blocked reporters from going with American troops.

KING: What about his thoughts generally on the Middle East then?

ANN COMPTON, ABC NEWS: Well, when was the last time that you heard a member of anybody's cabinet say, oh, that's not mine? Usually they want a piece of everything. Very interesting that he is going to let this nightmare be handled by the president and the secretary of state, and the vice president.

KING: Do you get a feeling he may have some differences?

COMPTON: You know, at this point, with what went on today, why would any cabinet member even venture that he has any difference --

KING: Nothing he says could --

COMPTON: Nothing can come back and nobody can accuse him of being disloyal. You know who else has been quiet this week? George Bush. As soon as Colin Powell -- the closer he got to Israel, the closer the Middle East, the president stopped -- I think the last time we talked to him was on Tuesday when he spoke out on the Middle East.

And I think they really are coming to the fact of not throwing a monkey wrench just when Colin Powell gets on the ground, trying to talk to both sides. Remarkable restraint for any administration.

KING: Christopher Dickey in Jerusalem, what's the latest? Now are they definitely going to meet, Arafat and Powell on Sunday?

CHRISTOPHER DICKEY, "NEWSWEEK": No, I don't think it's that definite at all. I think they're still thinking it over. They could stall a little bit longer. Maybe they won't meet him at all. I think there's a lot of pressure being put on Powell. I think one of the reasons that everybody's happy to let him carry the ball is because it's a very, very difficult job that he's doing. And politically very risky, I think if he meets with Arafat, he's going to hit a real storm of opposition in Congress and a lot of people will be critical of him, just for the act of trying to negotiate an end to this madness.

KING: But, Chris, if he does not meet with him, how can the trip bear fruit?

DICKEY: Well, it could be a terrible failure. It may not bear fruit. He may have come out here -- he's certainly expecting something from Sharon that he didn't get, some kind of commitment to withdraw from the territories in a limited time frame. Certainly he expected that in offering to meet with Arafat, he'd get more cooperation than he's had. He wouldn't have expected that a suicide group directly connected to Arafat would have carried out a bombing in the heart of Jerusalem today, his first day on the ground.

I think he's really in a difficult position diplomatically. And it's very hard to see how he's going to pull any kind of settlement out of this trip, or any kind of advance out of this trip.

KING: And the White House today, Bob, are now calling these homicide bombings.

WOODWARD: Yes. The language in a sense doesn't matter. But the president has sent Colin Powell out on a peace mission, a peace making mission. And for Congress or anyone to criticize him and say, oh, you're talking to both sides, how dare you? That's absurd. He's not -- you don't know what's going on in those sessions. You don't know what his instructions are. You don't know what latitude he has. He brings immense stature to that job. I suspect in his stomach and heart of hearts he dreads this mission because he's a cautious man. He likes to do things when success is guaranteed, and it's the opposite in this case.

COMPTON: Look at the way President Bush has hammered Arafat all week, has made it absolutely clear this man hasn't performed, this man hasn't lived up to past promises. And a briefer at the White House, this week, when the president made that tough statement in the Rose Garden a week ago, saying enough was enough. A briefer of very great stature came in and spoke to us on background and said, we don't have to talk to Arafat all the time. There are others we can talk to.

I wonder if the White House hasn't been setting up the building blocks all week long to say let's talk to those other moderate Arabs, let's talk to -- and maybe this is just what they needed to get Arafat out of the picture, despite the fact that they see Arafat's popularity soaring as he stands up and sits in that bunker no electricity and no water.

KING: Chris, you were going to say something?

DICKEY: Yes, I think it's exactly the other way around. I think they started at the beginning of this intervention into the territories, thinking that there was somebody else to talk to but Arafat. I think they looked around a lot. I think they expected somebody else to come forward.

I think part of the reason that Powell hit so many Arab capitals on the way here, was not just to give Sharon more time to operate, but also to see if any of those Arab leaders had ideas about other people to talk to but Arafat. And the message he got everywhere he went, was there is no other address. You've got the talk to Arafat. That's the bind he's in now. Nobody else will come forward and talk to him in the world of the Palestinians or the world of the Arabs but Yasser Arafat.

KING: Let me get a break and we'll be back with more. We will tell you about an exciting thing we'll do over the weekend. Don't go away.


KING: It's hard to believe with what you see now that there was peace very close once in Israel. And it happened in Jerusalem, in the Mideast in June of '95. And we did a program. It seemed on the eve of peace. Warren Christopher had just arrived for another trip, and the program was with Yitzhak Rabin, King Hussein and Yasser Arafat. They were all on together for the full hour. It was the 10th anniversary of this program. We're going to repeat it tomorrow night to show you when there was hope. That program will be repeated tonight. And there will be a live edition of LARRY KING WEEKEND on Sunday with Senator George Mitchell and others.

Today, Bob Woodward, in a TV interview with CBS, Prime Minister Sharon said no peace is possible with Arafat. That's crossing the -- dotting the I's.

WOODWARD: Well, that's the rhetorical end of this. Then you look at the operational end, what's gone on in the West Bank. I mean, it is bring in Mel Gibson. It is "Road Warrior" in many of those areas. And how you get this back, you know, no one knows. I was talking to some people in the Pentagon who know what is being thought of. And we have 150,000 troops deployed around the world, various places like Korea, Afghanistan. This is the real wound, if you have all that capability, at some point, you are going to have to put American troops at that wound.

KING: What will that do in America to the public?

COMPTON: Well, the debate just unimaginable. The White House has gone out of its way this week to say, we're not talking about any American combat troops here. They're talking with the Europeans since last summer...

KING: Kofi Annan has said send some.

COMPTON: He has indeed. And what the White House has said is that as far as American participation for any kind of force, and of course it is premature because there is no cease-fire, is that there would be some kind of observer status, some kind of monitors, whether they're civilian, whether they're armed. I mean, it is hard to imagine sending anybody in and standing along there right now.

WOODWARD: But remember, a couple of weeks ago, they were saying we're not going to get involved in the Middle East. We are certainly not going to send Colin Powell over there and that's exactly what they've done.

KING: Chris Dickey, what is Sharon's support at home?

DICKEY: It's very high now. It has skyrocketed. It was down in the 30s. Now it's up around the 70s. People want to see him get tough. They want to see him move in on the Palestinians. They want to see him stop the suicide bombings. And they thought for several days that his strategy had worked.

Now, it's looking pretty doubtful. There was a bus bombing in Haifa a couple of days ago and of course the bomb today in Jerusalem. So we don't know. He's been on a roller-coaster ride as far as the polls are concerned throughout this crisis. And it's hard to say whether he'll have the enduring support of his people in this kind of confrontation.

KING: Ann Compton, according to Secretary Rumsfeld, more terrorism is going to come. And it's impossible to stop. I mean, what can anybody do to stop a suicide bomber?

COMPTON: Well...

KING: Or a homicide bomber.

COMPTON: And they've changed that. The White House does think that's a significant difference in terms of...

KING: But what can you actually do to stop a crazed person?

COMPTON: What can you do in the United States of America to make everybody 100 percent safe from anybody who is going to be -- the fact is that's one of those questions there isn't an answer to.

KING: So Arafat couldn't stop it, could he, Bob?

WOODWARD: Well, you know, that's unclear. And, of course, what he said and I think one of the things that we're waiting to see if Arafat will say anything about the latest bombing and perhaps condemn it.

KING: Why doesn't he condemn it?

WOODWARD: Well, I don't know. I don't know what's going on. You know, one of the things you got to say what...

KING: Chris?

DICKEY: Well, he doesn't condemn it because it's very popular in Palestine to be a suicide bomber or a homicide bomber, if you will. Because the people in Palestine or in the Palestinian territories feel themselves to be under occupation and basically living as if they're locked down in an enormous prison. And they are acting out their resistance to what they see not only see as an occupation, but to the occupation. And down to little kids, five years old, six years old. You talk to them and you say, what do you want to be when you grow up. And they'll say, they want to be martyrs, as they put it. And it's a pretty frightening situation.

You know, if you think about al Qaeda, tens of thousands of people went through bin Laden's training camp supposedly. How many suicide bombers did he actually produce? Not very many as far as we can tell. Maybe 30, maybe 40, not a whole lot. In the Palestinian territories, you now have going on hundreds of suicide bombers. It suggests that there's a certain different kind of environment. And the difference is that those people think that this horrible tactic that they're using is in some way restoring their dignity and defending their homes and their hearts. And that's what you get when you go out to the territories and you talk to the people there.

KING: We're going to take a break and come back with more with Bob Woodward, the assistant managing editor of the "Washington Post" -- congratulations on the Pulitzer there, rack them up -- Ann Compton, ABC News White House correspondent. Christopher Dickey, the Mideast regional editor for "Newsweek."

Tomorrow night: Rabin, Hussein and Arafat, a repeat of the broadcast from June of '95. George Mitchell on Sunday in a live program.

Back with more after this.


KING: Kind of weird to say this, Ann Compton, but how much of this is personal, Sharon and Arafat?

COMPTON: Don't you think with a history that goes back for two veteran leaders like Yasser Arafat and Ariel Sharon who have crossed swords for decades and both of them are at the, what, both close to 70 years old, with kind of a visceral feeling about each other, when Ariel Sharon says that there can be no peace with Arafat, you wonder whether Arafat isn't saying exactly the same. And of course it is personal and emotional.

WOODWARD: But I think the word should be used, hate. They hate each other. And it was Richard Nixon on the day he resigned who warned people, "if you hate your enemy, you destroy yourself," that hate is a kind of poison that eventually gets you. And we see this kind of battle to the death between these two leaders.

KING: Is that, do you think, why Arafat turned the deal down?

WOODWARD: Well, I thought Chris Dickey made a very good point, that the suicide bombing is very, very popular and -- but Arafat's the leader. And he's got to find some way to dig himself out of a hole. And he's literally in a hole now.

KING: Chris Dickey, what end-game do you see?

DICKEY: Well, I think the best hope is for people to start focusing again on -- ironically, on what a final settlement would be like. I think this incrementalism, this trying to get a cease-fire, three days, five days, 10 days, three weeks is not very good. Neither side was able to make that work. At one point, in December, there was a cease-fire on Arafat's side for about three weeks. Then all of a sudden, the Israelis blew away an operative that they thought was going to stage a bunch of suicide bombings and everything blew up.

So I think the idea should be to look to the future, say, look, you were so close before. Let's get back there. There's got to be some way to claw our way back to a situation where there's going to be two states living side by side in peace, exactly the kind of vision that the president and Secretary Powell have been articulating. But it is going to be a long, tough road to get there.

COMPTON: I think Chris is exactly right, and that fits exactly with what the White House has been saying all week, two states side by side. And the idea that Mitchell and Tenet and all these procedures, what comes first, the chicken or the egg. The fact is that all of it is going to have to move. And I believe Powell himself has said just within the last day or so that let's get looking at the political side of this because we're never going to get to the end of this through military or violent conflict.

KING: Maybe this is simplistic. (AUDIO GAP) mother that wanted to lose her son. No mother is happy tonight in the Middle East.

WOODWARD: Yes. I think that's right.

KING: Why don't they stop? I mean, it seems so -- why don't you just stop! Stop killing!

WOODWARD: But this is a classic blood feud that goes back -- as Ann was saying, it is personal. It goes back God knows how many decades and years and centuries. And so you reach a point where -- and that's why I say, the U.S. military has got to think about some sort of perhaps minimal role that people are talking about it, to literally go out there and pull the two sides away from each other's throats.

KING: You see that happening, Chris Dickey? You see military on the ground there?

DICKEY: Oh, I think that you can see it. You can see people talking about it. But if ever there was a place where we need to study history, it's on this one. In 1982, that's exactly what the Americans did. They went in to try to create order out of a situation, the chaos that had been created by who, by Ariel Sharon and Yasser Arafat. And as a result of that intervention, we lost hundreds of Americans, hundreds of American soldiers and a lot of American diplomats killed in Lebanon in 1982, '83 and '84. So I think we really have to think very carefully. We get into the middle of this one, we could very easily wind up being the enemy of both sides, and that's a real dangerous position to be in in this part of the world.

WOODWARD: The difficulty with the 1982 analogy is that if you look at what we did, it was not done very well. And we apparently have done very well in Afghanistan and you can't kind of say, well, the Vietnam analogy applies there. And so, it's possible to take the lessons learned...

KING: But we're not in a peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan.

WOODWARD: No. That's right. But we have to -- you know, this is what people whose business it is in the government are considering and talking about, because you need some solution. Why do you need some solution? The worst case scenario is frightening. You're talking about a war there where Arab countries get involved, others get involved. What would happen to the oil supplies in this country and the world? Chaos.

COMPTON: And that leads exactly to what the White House, I think, seems to be doing, after Powell got a very chilly reception in Morocco. The first thing the United States does, President Bush invites the King of Morocco to come to the U.S. The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia is coming. The prime minister of Lebanon has just been invited to come to Washington to the White House.

By looking to those moderate Arab states, they may not find a leader, as Chris Dickey I think absolutely rightly points out, that Arafat is the man right now. But if the United States can play to and appeal to those other moderate states, that other factor the White House now calls in this whole equation, that is their best game at the moment.

KING: Thank you all very much, Christopher Dickey, Mideast regional editor of "Newsweek" on the scene in Jerusalem. And here in Washington, Bob Woodward, assistant managing editor of the "Washington Post", has got a new book coming this fall on George W. Bush. We look forward to that. And Ann Compton, ABC News White House correspondent.

I'll come back to tell you about what's ahead right after these words.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Don't forget to watch tomorrow night when LARRY KING WEEKEND presents a repeat of a broadcast of June of '95. We were celebrating our 10th anniversary on CNN. The guests were Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin of Israel, King Hussein of Jordan, and Yasser Arafat of the PLO. That was 1995, when peace was at hand.

And we'll do a live edition of LARRY KING LIVE on Sunday night with Senator George Mitchell and others.

Right now, we go to New York, "NEWSNIGHT" and Aaron Brown.




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