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America's New War: America Speaks Out

Aired September 19, 2001 - 15:28   ET


BOBBIE BATTISTA, HOST: Good afternoon everyone, and welcome to TALKBACK LIVE: "America Speaks Out." There are new developments this hour on the military front.

Joining us first with the latest now, CNN military affairs correspondent Jamie McIntyre.

Jamie, what's new?

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well Bobbie, Pentagon sources tell CNN that deployment orders have been signed for more than 100 war planes to move from the United States to forward bases in the Persian Gulf region. This, the initial part of the buildup in an operation that sources say has been dubbed Operation Infinite Justice. The working name the Pentagon has put on President Bush's campaign, what we've been calling the new war against terrorism.

Now, these deployment orders have gone out. That means planes from the United States will begin to move over to the Persian Gulf region, although their exact destination is not going to be disclosed. Pentagon sources say that the units involved will be able to acknowledge to the local media and to the public that they have been deployed, but they won't be saying where they're going.

Sources say that these planes include F-15 strike eagles -- air- to-ground fighters that are capable, obviously, of dropping precision- guided bombs on targets. Also F-16s, also B-52s, long-range bombers may be moved to bases in the Indian Ocean. Also, support planes such as refueling aircraft and airplanes such as AWACS, airborne reconnaissance, and JSTAR ground surveillance aircraft will also be moved as part of this.

Now, part of the first procedure for this is to set up what's known as an air bridge. That means pre-positioning refueling plans along the route so that these fighter aircraft can fly all the way across the world to the other side. And again, sources are not saying where the planes are going, but it appears that they are going to the Persian Gulf region. That would be logical for them to go in places where the United States all ready has bases and support facilities set up for them.

In addition, of course, the United States all ready has two aircraft carrier groups in the region. The USS Carl Vinson and the USS Enterprise are in the region. And the USS Theodore Roosevelt departed today from Norfolk. It could also be headed to the area. Each one of those has 75 aircraft on board, about 45 of those attack or combat aircraft -- Bobbie.

BATTISTA: All right, Jamie, thanks very much for bringing us up to date.

Joining us now is retired Army Captain Wade Ishimoto. He is a former Green Beret, and is now the director for combat and terrorism with the Titan Corporation.

Captain, let me ask you this: What does this movement signal to you?

CAPT. WADE ISHIMOTO, U.S. ARMY (RET.): I believe what it signals is preparation in anticipation of a variety of potential military actions.

BATTISTA: None that you want to speculate on at this time?

ISHIMOTO: No. It would be useless speculation at this point.

BATTISTA: If special operations is -- may have not been called into this operation yet -- but if they are called in, what would be their role?

ISHIMOTO: Special operations could play a variety of roles, ranging from combat, search and rescue. In the event our action is limited to air action, they could go in after downed pilots. It could range from strategic reconnaissance, where they're put on the ground to see seek targets and perhaps designate them for bombing attack. And it could consist, also, of direct action where they, in fact, try to go in and do some sort of surgical action to meet the terrorists eyeball-to-eyeball.

BATTISTA: One thought that's out there is that any early military intervention might include abductions and assassinations. Who would carry those out?

ISHIMOTO: If those were carried out, they would be carried out most likely by special mission units within the special operations command. But also that includes the conventional side of the Navy SEAL community, as well as the Army Rangers and the special forces community.

BATTISTA: And how would they be carried out? For example, who would you get in-country? And more importantly, how would you get out?

ISHIMOTO: That is a very key question, because special operations has a modest air force if you will, and modest means of infiltrating using watercraft. So they are dependent on, as an example, the pre-staging of combat aircraft to provide combat air cover as well as other kinds of aircraft that may be required to insert the force. The force can be inserted in a variety of clandestine, covert, or even overt means. BATTISTA: Let me bring Eric Margolis into the conversation with us as well. He is author of "War at the Top of the World."


BATTISTA: Margolis, thank you for correction me.

He is a former instructor in strategy and tactics in the U.S. Army, and a member of the International Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad, Pakistan. And we also add that he has met Osama bin Laden.

I think what Americans are having a hard time wrapping themselves around is the fact that this is not going to be like any other war. This is not Vietnam; this is not the Gulf War. This is not a conventional war in any sense, agreed?

MARGOLIS: I'm sorry, we shouldn't be using the word "war" for these impending operations. This is really a raid, or a commando raid, or a large intelligence operation. "War" suggests capitals and armies and flags and all of that kind of stuff, and it's not the case. There's no target in Afghanistan. The U.S. is really fighting at smoke. Bin Laden's men -- there are only a few hundred of them -- have long ago slipped away. Afghanistan is covered with caves, and shelters built during the war, when I was there, against the Soviets.

So -- and then the operations are conducted in the midst of a civilian population that is entirely armed. And how Americans are supposed to distinguish, when they've shown a record of extremely poor intelligence for this area for many years, is beyond me.

BATTISTA: Let me get a quick commercial break in here, and then we'll continue right after this.


BATTISTA: An e-mail to TALKBACK. Ray (ph) in Alabama says: "This war must be fought on a new dimensional battlefield, politically, economically, militarily and religiously. This enemy uses religion to their advantage. The U.S. must gain the support of the more moderate Islamic religious leaders to condemn these attacks aggressively in their nations.

Mr. Margolis, you had a couple of people in the audience who disagreed with you when you said that you don't think that U.S. officials should refer to this as a war. Brad (ph) go ahead.

BRAD: Well as I said, I disagree with the gentlemen earlier -- who spoke earlier because this is, absolutely, a war. We've been attacked on our own soil; and we can't just call this a small operation. We have to defend our soil and our people; and I call that a war.

BATTISTA: Are we just arguing over semantics, or are people not understanding what's going to constitute this war? MARGOLIS: Both, because we're talking about the semantic question of size of military operation -- its dimension and its length. But I don't think most Americans understand what getting into a war in Afghanistan involves. You know, every foreign invader that's gone in there has been defeated, starting with Alexander's Macedonians, and the British and the Soviets.

And I would say that, you know, I'm corned that America is tending to act like an enraged bull right now in a nuclear China shop. It is suggesting to interpose itself militarily and fight a war in Afghanistan -- a very volatile and strategic country -- that is just on the northern borders of India and Pakistan, both of whom have nuclear weapons and both of whom only almost went to war two years ago -- and I'd say a nuclear war.

The United States has invoked Indian power and used India to threaten Pakistan. And just today the president of Pakistan, who I interviewed last year, announced that the Pakistani air force as going on full combat alert. And I assume that means nuclear forces.

BATTISTA: Let me ask Captain Ishimoto if the U.S. forces are trained to encounter and overcome the obstacles they may face if they're called into Afghanistan.

ISHIMOTO: I agree with Mr. Margolis in terms of the difficulty of operating in Afghanistan. Our special operations forces, indeed, undergo very rigorous training in all climates, terrain, and everything that they might encounter in Afghanistan. But the enormity of the problem in this -- the potential for success has got to be considered. And that is a very tough environment to operate successfully in.

BATTISTA: Phil (ph) in the audience, you want to make a comment? You're a veteran.

PHIL: Yes, I'm a veteran. And I agree with Brad; I think this is a war. I think this is a war we could fight many different ways. If we had to put troops on the ground, we could do that. It might not be the right thing to do, and I trust that, you know, we have the right people in place to answer those questions in Dick Cheney and Colin Powell. So we can fight this in many ways. It is a war. We're not defending our territory right now, we're started to aggressively attack the opposition.

BATTISTA: Mr. Margolis -- go ahead.

MARGOLIS: It takes two to war. And right now we don't have any targets. And I'm a military veteran, too, of the U.S. army. And I can tell you that you don't start a war and you -- until you have two things. First of all, is intelligence about the enemy and a plan of what you're going to do. And the second is, you don't start a war until you know what kind of peace you want to come out of it.

And right now, the United States has neither. It has -- does not have good intelligence. It doesn't know what it's getting into. And in 1979 when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, the American military said it would take six months to transport a substantial number of troops to Iran. Today the American military is far smaller than it was then. And the logistics of this is (sic) absolutely overwhelming. It took us six months to get troops just to the Gulf.

BATTISTA: Andrew (ph) in New York says: "In my opinion, bin Laden has been given too much credit for being this clever, calculating, sophisticated terrorist, when in reality he's nothing more than a glorified serial killer."

When did you meet bin Laden, and under what circumstances; and why is he still around?

MARGOLIS: I met Osama bin Laden in 1992 inside of Afghanistan. And this was at a time when he was an American ally. He was considered a freedom fighter. He had been helping bring thousands of Arabs from across the Middle East to fight in Afghanistan, paid for, largely, by the United States and Saudi Arabia. And he was considered a hero inside Afghanistan for his -- he fought very bravely against the Soviets, built hospitals, orphanages, shelters, roads, military facilities, et cetera.

So I met him before he became a terrorist. And he become a terrorist when he announced that after throwing the Soviets out of Afghanistan, he was next going to quote, "liberate," unquote his homeland, Saudi Arabia, from American domination.

BATTISTA: I do have to take a quick break here. Let me take a comment from Ralph (ph) as we do. Go ahead, Ralph.

RALPH: I'm pleased that the United States has made a response to this entire incident. And I feel like that (sic) we should all support the government in that action and be fully behind our president as we go forward.

BATTISTA: All right. Captain Wade Ishimoto, thank you very much for joining us today.

When we come back: How's New York coping? We'll talk to two former mayors and a congressman. Stay with us.


BATTISTA: We'll get to some more audience comments in just a moment. But joining us now, former New York City Mayors Ed Koch and David Dinkins, and New York Congressman Peter King.

Mayor Koch, let me start with you. You wrote an editorial recently where you said you felt that the -- we should give the -- that the United States should give the people responsible for these terrorist acts an ultimatum. What was that?

ED KOCH, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: Well, what I said was that what we should do is to say to each of the six countries that have heretofore been designated as countries harboring terrorists -- the State Department has done that over the years -- Libya and Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, the Sudan and say, these are the terrorists that we've identified from different actions of terrorism that you are harboring. And you have five days to turn them over.

And if you don't, then we will attack some of your major cities. And if you've decided that you're not going to turn them over, then tell your people within the five days to evacuate so as to reduce the casualties.

BATTISTA: Will that work Congressman? I mean, we heard the defense secretary say yesterday that it's almost not worth bombing Afghanistan, as the country is so war-torn and devastated already.

REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Obviously there's things we can do in Afghanistan. But I agree with Mayor Koch; I think that this network that we're talking about extends to a number of countries, and those countries -- in some ways, they've been paying off this extra money to bin Laden and other terror groups, and they are providing sanctuaries; in some cases training. And we have to tell them it's time to be with us -- either with us or against us.

And if they don't comply, then I think we have every right under international law and every set of moral precepts to take full military action against them.

As Mayor Koch said, they can have time to evacuate the civilians. There's no reason why we can't bring some of those cities to rubble if they are working with our enemies.

BATTISTA: If the civilians are evacuated, wouldn't the terrorists evacuate also?

KING: Well, we're talking about two different things then. One is, I think that most of the terrorists we get are going to be gotten through intelligence operations, through commando raids, through people on the ground giving them up. But also to destroy the network, I think we have to destroy the power structures, the infrastructure of countries that are providing sustenance to those terrorist groups. So it's really a multi-pronged operation.

BATTISTA: Mayor Dinkins, what are the people of New York saying? There's a lot of talk going on; are they just waiting for action?

DAVID DINKINS, FORMER MAYOR OF NEW YORK: Well, I think first off that the leadership in New York City and our mayor and our governor, as well as the president, should be commended for the leadership they're providing. And I think you'll note -- the world is noting that all of us, we've come together irrespective of backgrounds, or religion, political philosophy or party.

And I think the people of the city are the same way: They're behind the leadership. And they're angry. They want, not what I would call revenge -- and I don't think they want sort of tit-for-tat. I think they want to bring about an end to this kind of threat for the future.

BATTISTA: Beth (ph) is from New York in our audience -- Beth.

BETH: Hello. I witnessed the second plane going into the World Trade Center, and my heart just went out. I just can't get over from working on the Upper East Side of Manhattan and coming back into the city after two days, the strong unity from the New Yorkers and how we're all going to cope together with this tragedy.

BATTISTA: Livingston (ph), on the phone from California -- Livingston.

CALLER: Yes, I'm a two-tour combat veteran. And I fought in a war that lasted 10 years that was winnable, and we didn't. There's a drug war going on. It's been going on for over 30 years, and we're not winning it, and it won't be won.

This war that we're getting into is going to be very similar to a drug war, because you can't find these people. And once you do, there's just more people to take their place. And it's going to be hard-fought, and I think that we should fight. But I think American people's attitude and I think a change in America is needed to help win this war.

KOCH: Let me just tell you why I think this is nonsense. If you took his point of view, you would have said the United States should just have surrendered to Nazi Germany. He is saying, in effect, that there's nothing that we can do vis-a-vis these countries that are harboring terrorists and the terrorists themselves. I believe he is dead wrong.

I think that if we sufficiently punish the countries that are harboring terrorists, they're going to expel those terrorists. And the way you sufficiently punish them is to say to the people there, we are going to destroy the infrastructure of your country. And when you get such pain as to cause you to throw your own government out as, for example, in Iraq, we're going to stop bombing you.

BATTISTA: Let me have Eric Margolis weigh in on that. Eric, you also said that there have been at least four attempts, you think, on the life of Osama bin Laden already.

MARGOLIS: Yes, that's right. As I understand, they have. They were not mounted by American troops, but they were mounted by people hired by the Americans. All of them failed.

There were also two American assassination attempts that I'm aware of, of Afghan -- the Afghan Mujahideen leader Golvadeen Hickamijar (ph), or so he told me. Let's say that even though assassination is against U.S. law...

KOCH: No, it's not against the law. It is not against the law.

MARGOLIS: The United States has used it more -- quite a few times.

KOCH: Let me just say, you're being very negative here. It is not against the law. It is an executive, presidential order which can be, and has been waived legally. And I think it's terrific that we send in somebody to assassinate bin Laden.

BATTISTA: It sounds like we've been -- it sounds like we've been ignoring the directive already.

But I have to take a quick break here, and we will talk to CNN's Christiane Amanpour in Pakistan in just a moment. Stay with us.


BATTISTA: We will get back to our discussion in just a moment. But first, joining us from Islamabad, Pakistan is CNN's Christiane Amanpour, where earlier today the leader of Pakistan addressed his people about this situation.

Christiane, what was the gist of that speech?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was a speech specifically aimed at the Pakistani people, and aimed at rallying them around a quite difficult decision. That is the Pakistani decision to stand with the United States.

Basically, President Pervez Musharraf said: We had no option; we had to rally with the United States because the cost of standing against the United States was too high.

This is an instance, he said, in which we have to be wise, we have to be intelligent, we must not react emotionally; and the right decision for us is to stand with the United States in this global war against terror, because if we do perhaps we will emerge as a great nation, and if we don't we will be isolated forever with just the Taliban and Osama bin Laden as our allies.

So he invoked Islam, he invoked the threat from neighboring India, with which Pakistan has a conflict. He invoked the possibility of having all their military, including their nuclear assets, destroyed, their economy further destroyed, and total destabilization in this country.

So it remains to be seen whether the people buy this. But the majority of Pakistanis, he believes, do support him.

BATTISTA: A couple of questions form our audience. Sofi (ph) is from Afghanistan.

SOFI: Hi. Are people allowed to leave Afghanistan from, basically, sections that Taliban rules? And there's a lot of civilians live there (sic); are they allowed to leave the country, and to be immigrants of neighbors (sic) or some other place?

AMANPOUR: Well, people from Afghanistan have been fleeing to Iran, which is on one border, and to Pakistan which, as you know, is on the other border.

Both of those countries have now closed their borders. They are afraid of any kind of destabilization on those borders. But as you know, if you're from Afghanistan, the borders are exceptionally long...

BATTISTA: Christiane, forgive me for interrupting; I'm terribly sorry. We do have to break away for a moment to a development in New York, where Mayor Rudy Giuliani is speaking now.


BATTISTA: New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, his afternoon press briefing. Once again, giving us some disheartening numbers to report: 5,422 people are still missing, 4,201 victims have been reported as dead to the family center in New York, and over 4,000 truckloads of debris have been taken from the site.

Let me ask Mayor Koch and Mayor Dinkins: It's universally thought that Mayor Giuliani has been a rock through this whole thing. You guys are in the midst of an election; a lot of people would like to see Mayor Giuliani retain that seat for a while.

KOCH: Well, let me start it, perhaps. I supported term limits originally, but I wanted three terms and not two terms. Lots of people have said that they'd like the major to have the opportunity to run. And while initially I thought, well that doesn't make any sense in the middle of an election, I've changed my mind.

And I have concluded that the people's will to have the opportunity to vote for an additional candidate, which would be Rudy Giuliani, is merited.

BATTISTA: Mayor Dinkins, think it will be a write-in?

DINKINS: No, I don't agree with Mayor Koch. I think that Mayor Giuliani has done a magnificent job, but his term ends December 31. There are six or seven candidates seeking to become mayor; one of them will become mayor. And that person will build upon that which has already been done.

We have an election process, and I think it ought to be continued. I might add that it's highly unlikely -- highly unlikely -- that the state legislature will take the action that would permit mayor Giuliani to succeed himself, as it were.

BATTISTA: All right. Ed Koch, Congressman Peter King and David Dinkins, thank you all. Eric Margolis, thank you very much for joining us.

We will see you again tomorrow for another addition of TALKBACK LIVE. We thank all of you for joining us. Stay with us now for the closing bell.




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