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Violence Erupts in West Bank and Gaza; USS Cole Attacked in Yemen

Aired October 12, 2000 - 2:20 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS: Joining us from New York, Lawrence Korb was assistant secretary of defense under President Reagan. Welcome, Mr. Secretary.

What was your first thought this morning when you heard about the USS Cole?

LAWRENCE KORB, FORMER ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: Well, it was a continuation of something that's been going on in that part of the world for the last five years. Remember in 1996, we had the barracks blown up in Dhahran, 19 Air Force people were killed. We had the attack on the embassies in West Africa in 1998. And this was unfortunately another target of opportunity to send a message to the United States about our policies in that part of the world.

WATERS: If it has been going on in that part of the world, a lot of folks are wondering why was USS Cole a target of opportunity. Shouldn't there have been -- well...

KORB: Well, obviously, we should have been on heightened alert with our intelligence services knowing how volatile the situation is. But this obviously had been planned for a while, because these people who were able to get involved with the people providing the fuel obviously had worked their way in and had smuggled some employees in.

It was very well-planned. It might have been something that would have occurred even if you didn't have the trouble in the Middle East. Remember that Mr. Bin Laden, who we attacked there after he went after our embassies, 1998, said he would get back at us. And this is the first time that they've ever done anything like this. And so we were probably not looking at the ships like we were, for example, at our embassies or our barracks on land.

WATERS: Would it be your guess that this would have been planned for a while since our military affairs correspondent just reported that there's no announcement that a U.S. ship is coming into port? Of course, when it begins approaching the port, a lot of people know about it.

KORB: Well, it's more than that. I mean, they have to have the fuel on hand. I mean, so this is something that's known for a while, because it takes an awful lot of fuel. So obviously, this local company -- and that's what we do all over the world, all over the world contract with local companies, they probably had an inkling and knew that this was going to happen eventually, because when those ships come from the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal into the Persian Gulf, this is the route that they go through, and they have to refuel at some point during this journey.

WATERS: We've heard from the secretary of state, and of course, the president, and we always hear after an incident about how those responsible will be tracked down and punished. How will that be accomplished?

KORB: Well, you're going to have to do it like you did after the bombing of the embassies in 1998. We got pretty good evidence of who did it and we were able to launch cruise missile attacks in Afghanistan at their bases.

But don't forget, we still haven't found anybody responsible for blowing up the barracks in Dharan, which happened about four years ago. So there's no guarantee you're going to find out who it is, because these people that do these things are stateless. They're not agents of a particular country. They have an ideology they believe in, and it's really a transnational movement.

WATERS: You've been following events in the Middle East and during the rock throwing, then Israeli retaliation for the rioting in the West Bank, and then the -- the anti-American demonstrations in Yemen just prior to this attack. What do you make of all this?

KORB: Well, basically, even though the United States is evenhanded in this situation, the fact of the matter is people -- some people think that evenhandedness is pro-Israel. And there's a long history of the United States relationship with Israel, and the fact that we didn't vote to condemn Israel but rather abstained in the United Nations I think people took as the wrong -- as the wrong signal.

So they were -- this is a way for them to send a message to us.

WATERS: What does the U.S. do now?

KORB: Well, I think you're going to have to be very careful. I think the president is right to get all the ships out to sea, increase your security at the -- at the embassies and other fixed facilities in that part of the world, and you're going to have to get your intelligence communities to work to deal with these people. And I think we need the cooperation of our allies in that area: There are countries -- for example, Saudi Arabia -- that depend on us for security, and we're going to have to work with them to get information to head these things off before they start.

WATERS: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Lawrence Korb, assistant secretary of defense under Reagan -- Natalie.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: As we've mentioned, there have been demonstrations in other Arab countries since this violence broke out in the Middle East in the past few days. Well, today, the demonstrations now have reached New York City. There is a pro-Israel demonstration going on right now outside the Israeli consulate, and CNN's Richard Roth is there covering it for us -- Richard.

RICHARD ROTH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, the rally has broken up, just a short time ago. It went on for several hours, and there were at least more than a thousand people jammed on to New York's 2nd Avenue on the east side of Manhattan. It stretched back about a half mile. Some people complained they weren't allowed in to the general area.

All of these people gathering here to show solidarity with Israel. Some, despite political differences, said they were here putting them aside, putting the divisions aside to rally in support of the Israeli government and the Israeli people.

Included among the speakers here, the first lady of the United States, Hillary Clinton, running for the Senate in New York state. Hillary Clinton talked about the violence that occurred and the terrorism incident in Yemen.


HILLARY CLINTON (D), NEW YORK SENATE CANDIDATE: I also want to express my shock and sorrow at the attack on the United States ship in Yemen. My heart goes out to the families of the brave sailors who have lost their lives.

This appears to be a terrorist attack, although no final determination has been made, and we must say clearly that terrorism of any kind must not be tolerated. It is not an acceptable negotiating tool, and the United States stands with those who stand against terrorism. And the United States will hold those accountable who have committed this act of terrorism.


ROTH: Mrs. Clinton also criticized Chairman Arafat for the upsurge in violence and what she called unprovoked violence in the Middle East.

However, when she was referring specifically to the Security Council abstention by the United States over the weekend regarding a Mideast resolution, which condemned Israel for excessive use of force, many in this crowd, several hundred booed Mrs. Clinton. There was jeering, thumbs down by several protesters. And when she criticized the resolution, which she said should not have happened, that there shouldn't have a U.S. abstention, many people in the crowd were yelling, tell your husband.

As for Mrs. Clinton's opponent in the U.S. Senate race, Rick Lazio, congressman from Long Island, he said, addressing remarks to President Clinton, he said: "Mr. President" -- referring to Israel -- "is this any way to treat a friend?" He also says Israel doesn't need a broker now, an honest broker, but an ally.

Back to you, Natalie and Lou.

ALLEN: And Richard, was this demonstration today planned prior to knowledge of today's developments?

ROTH: Yes, this was planned. There are demonstrations, rallies, protests in many cities, dozens across the United States. And there have been rallies all through the week. But the timing certainly very key today in light of the terrorism incident in Yemen and the developments, the killing of Israeli soldiers in Ramallah.

ALLEN: Richard Roth covering that angle for us in New York City.

We'll continue with developments. We'll have more for you right after this.



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