Skip to main content /transcript



Special Edition: America's New War

Aired September 22, 2001 - 21:00   ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight: Americans go back to weekend games, but their stadiums are now no-fly zones. And for members of the U.S. military, more orders to mobilize. Joining us from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, the former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto.

In Washington, Democratic Senator John Kerry, member of the Foreign Relations Committee. And with him, Republican Senator Jon Kyl, member of the Select Intelligence Committee. Plus, GOP Senator Pete Domenici, ranking member of the Budget Committee, and Democratic Congresswoman Jane Harman, ranking member of the new Intelligence Subcommittee on Terrorism and homeland security. And in Dallas, former U.S. fighter pilot Scott O'Grady.

Plus, Heather Mercer is one of two American aid workers jailed in Afghanistan by the Taliban. Her anxious parents are in Pakistan, and they're going to share their story.

And they're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We begin with the former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto; she joins us from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. It's a return visit for her to this program; we thank her very much for being with us.

Madam Prime Minister, what do you see your country's role in this current situation? How far does it go vis-a-vis the United States?

BENAZIR BHUTTO, FORMER PRIME MINISTER OF PAKISTAN: I see my country standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the fight against international terrorism. Terrorism is a global issue, but it's also a very live issue for people in Pakistan, where many are falling victim to bullets fired by terrorists.

So I'm sure that my country will do its best to contribute to peace.

KING: Would it allow every -- I know it allow bases -- will it allow troops to go in there? Will it give the United States full support in a battle against bin Laden in Afghanistan?

BHUTTO: I think the government itself will give its full support. But it's noted that there is a lot of sympathy amongst those who fought the Afghan jihad. So there is a possibly that information may leak out during this effort.

The U.S. has not yet asked for troops, but they have made requests for intelligence sharing and airspace. And whatever they've asked for, Pakistan has given.

KING: What did you make of the speech by the current president the other day?

BHUTTO: The president went to the public and appealed to them to support the decision. My own party has kept away from the streets because we support this decision. And the demonstrations against the support given in the battle against terrorism have been very small.

I do think it's important for Pakistan to be stable. And a stable Pakistan can better contribute in the battle against terrorism.

KING: All right. Pakistan really is the only nation with full recognition of the Taliban, right? I mean Saudi Arabia has recognition, but it's scaled back. And the country you're in right now, the United Arab Emirates cut off that yesterday.

BHUTTO: Yes. The UAE did the right thing in cutting off the relationship. I'd like to see my own government do the same. In fact, back in 1998 we called upon the government to sever the ties with the Taliban. The Taliban are a major problem. They are determined to go it alone, and I think that we really have to look at the others -- other players within Afghanistan. And I think that a change within Taliban leadership is also possible.

So there are many different factors that have to be played out. Mullah Omar is not going to cooperate. He is related to bin Laden. But I know that there are many Afghans who want to see a peaceful resolution of this, and that's very difficult for the Taliban there.

KING: So you would cut off relations? What -- does not bin Laden have a lot of popularity in your country?

BHUTTO: Well, he's got sympathy amongst those who fought the Afghan jihad. But he doesn't have sympathy amongst ordinary people, because the Afghan jihad led to a proliferation of weapons in my country, the rise of religious groups, religious militants. We find professionals being shot down on the streets, simply because they happen to be Shias rather than holding another fate.

So the people of Pakistan are very much standing in the battle against terrorism, but we need also to make a distinction between the battle against terrorism and between Muslims. Muslims are very concerned at some of the coverage that is being used which sometimes fails to make this distinction.

The militants would like to show this as a battle against Islam. And I would like to caution that's something we need to avoid.

KING: What do you think the United States is going to do?

BHUTTO: Well, I understand this is going to be a nonconventional war, and the United States is probably going to try and get intelligence through special commando units, and that these commando units will be used to nab those who are on the wanted list.

But I think there is a larger picture, and the larger picture involves -- and I would advise and suggest to my friends in Washington, the larger picture involves a broad-based government in Kabul, perhaps a change of leadership within the Taliban themselves, an agreement with the Northern Alliance with the more moderate forces within the Taliban, and it also means democracy in Pakistan, to ensure that Pakistan remains stable.

KING: Was it your regime when the Taliban came to greater power in Afghanistan?

BHUTTO: Partially. Partially. But they were handcuffed to Kandahar, if I can use that phrase. They were handcuffed to the south of Afghanistan, and we had persuaded them to enter into an agreement with the Northern Alliance. This was just days before my government fell. Because we very much wanted a broad-based government, and so long as my government was there, and my influence was there, we persuaded the Taliban to stick to Kandahar.

But when my government was going, they went into Kabul unilaterally, and since then they fought with every other single group. They just refused to accept anyone else in the power equation.

KING: What do you think the United States needs to do for your country?

BHUTTO: For my country, the United States needs to assist us and support us in the battle for our own terrorists, because we've got terrorists on our soil. These were schools that were set up during the Afghan jihad, and today there are private militias. These private militias are spreading fear within my country.

So, political support for putting an end to private militias. Economic support so that my people see that supporting the battle against international terrorism is leading to the country's security. And then, a support for political freedoms. General Musharraf has promised elections next year. We have accepted that in good faith, and I hope that he will keep his promise.

KING: And are you going back?

BHUTTO: I'd like to go back, and I hope that given this new situation, given the fact that my party did very well in the recent local elections, Islamabad will reach out to myself and to other political dissidents to create the kind of unity that is needed for a stable Pakistan to back the battle against international terrorism.

This is not a battle just for America. This is a very real battle for the people of Pakistan.

KING: Thank you, Madame Prime Minister. Good seeing you again. The former Prime Minister of Pakistan Benazir Bhutto. We thank her very much for being with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We now welcome our panel to LARRY KING LIVE. In Washington, Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, a decorated Vietnam Veteran. Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, member of the Select Committee on Intelligence. Senator Pete Domenici, Republican of New Mexico, ranking member of the Budget Committee, member of Governmental Affairs Committee. And in Washington as well, Congresswoman Jane Harman, Democrat of California and a ranking member of the new House Intelligence Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security.

That had been a working group, but the speaker converted it to a full subcommittee last Thursday.

And, in Dallas, a true American hero. We've seen a lot of heroes in the last two weeks. Here's another one: Scott O'Grady, a former U.S. Air Force Pilot, shot down over Bosnia June 2, 1995 while helping enforce NATO's no-fly zone; rescued six days later.

I want to start with Scott first, because you told me off the air that you've been flying commercially the last few days, right?

SCOTT O'GRADY, FORMER U.S. AIR FORCE PILOT: That's correct. I've actually been out flying for the last three days, and tomorrow I'm going to hit the road for another four days of flying. Flying in the United States of America is as safe as it's ever been, and I feel very secure.

KING: You feel very secure. Have you noticed tighter security?

O'GRADY: Actually, I think it's a lot easier getting in and out of the airports right now. And the security measures are that only ticketed passengers can go through security to the gates. But I found that it's very easy to go in and out and to travel now.

KING: We'll be coming back to you Scott. Stay right with us.

Senator Kerry, let's get to some current events. The Taliban says they knocked down an airplane, not a manned airplane, but a spy plane. The United Arab Emirates severs ties with the Taliban. President Bush is meeting with advisers at Camp David. The Pentagon is ordering more ships and planes to the Mideast. Are we getting closer and closer to something happening here?

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, Larry, I think it would be inappropriate for me to say if we were. I think that the point is that we're going to pick out moment. The president will make that decision, and we'll do what we do when we are ready to do it.

I think what's important is -- I thought Benazir Bhutto had some great wisdom this evening. And two of the most important points were, what we want to do, we must choose very, very carefully. The targeting here needs to be very selective, very strategic, in order to achieve the real goal, which is eliminating terrorists; and specifically not stirring up the potential of a great divide with the Muslim world. That will make life far more difficult for Pakistan, far more difficult for other Arab countries, and ultimately far more difficult for us.

I think the president is on the right track. I think he and his team are working diligently at this. We've been briefed. We've got a pretty good understanding, I think, of the lines they're trying to draw in this. And my sense is that we will do what is right when the moment calls for it, and I think Americans need to understand.

As the president has said and as other have said, this is not a one-strike event. This is not a one-moment event. This is going to take time to focus on terrorism.

KING: All right.

KERRY: There is much we have to do at home, incidentally, to prepare for that.

KING: Senator Kyl, do you think Americans are quite prepared to extend that time and patience?

SEN. JON KYL (R), ARIZONA: I think they are, Larry. I think they understand this is going to take a long time. There was just a survey of Americans on this very question that was in the media today, and apparently over 70 percent of the people understand that this is going to take a long time.

In fact, I actually would compare it to fighting and winning the Cold War, because like the Cold War, this is a war over an idea. The other side believes in a radical form of Islam. Our idea, of course, that won in the Cold War is a democratic, free market, pluralistic kind of society.

And in addition to the kind of military action that Senator Kerry just talked about, I think we're also going to have to be very sure- footed here in our approach to this war because, essentially, we're going to have to win the war over ideas. And that means that the American people are going to have to remain true to our own ideals during the process.

KING: The Cold War was a long time, Senator Domenici. Is this going to be a long, long time?

SEN. PETE DOMENICI (R), NEW MEXICO: Yes, it will; but it surely will not be as long as the Cold War.

I would like to shift to another subject in terms of, are the American people ready? And I want to talk about consumer confidence in the American economy, because we have two very, very important events side by side: a new war against terrorism, but we have an economy that is in recession. We'd just as well use the word because it's a tiny way away from it, but in a month or so we'll be in recession.

That means that the American people have to make some decisions. Are they so frightened over terrorism that they will not become ordinary, average consumers, returning to the way they acted before the terrorism? If they hold back, the recession's going to last a lot longer. If they plan to buy a pickup truck, they ought to buy it. If they plan to buy a house, they ought to buy it. If they had some money saved up to buy clothes for the children to go to school, buy it.

The American economy needs the American consumer in order to have staying power in this war on terrorism, turn the economy around, and start it growing again and building jobs back.

KING: I want to pick up on that with Congresswoman Harman after this break. We'll be right back. Don't go away.


KING: Congresswoman Harman, what do you make of this new, I guess, Office of Terrorism and Homeland Security?

REP. JANE HARMAN (D), CALIFORNIA: I think it's a good idea. Many of us who have served on terrorism commissions in the past in Congress have suggested that there needs to be a White House level, Cabinet-level function to organize all the different intelligence and terrorism spending activities of the government. Forty-two different departments spend about $12 billion a year.

The key will be what power Governor Ridge has. He needs budget authority. He needs the ability to compel other departments to do things or not to do things. He doesn't have that authority yet; and I think, and many of us think it will take legislation and a Senate confirmation process to give him the power and authority that will make him effective.

I wish him good luck. It's a huge job. We need it done well right now.

KING: Senator Kerry, does he need a confirmation process if it's a presidential thing, appointed, not Cabinet?

KERRY: Well again, it depends on the power; and I agree completely with Jane.

Look, we've had czars and regrettably too many of them have failed because of the turf struggles. There's nothing harder in Washington than rearranging the deck chairs. And if you don't give him the authority, this is going to fail. So I think it would require that.

But let me echo something else, Larry. The first line of defense against this terrorist activity is really having a strong economy. And I want to echo what Pete said: We have got to get this country moving again. And I think many of us would have said several months ago that we needed a stimulus package of significant proportion.

Now I think we need it more than ever. We need to respond to the economic needs of the country. We've got workers -- we've got people, you know, by the tens of thousands who last week were working, and this week will not be. And these are folks who were once a sky cab and they're not anymore, people behind the desk at an airline, they're not anymore, flight attendants and so forth. And we've got to help put some money in their pocket and keep it in their pocket. They've got to have health insurance and so forth as we go forward.

KING: Senator Kyl, though, is this a double-edged thing? Are you saying to people, watch out, look out, be careful. We got this big thing, it's going to take a long haul. Be patient, but go out and spend and be normal?

KYL: Well, I think those are consistent. What we're saying is, we're in this for the long haul. And I really do believe this is going to be a decades-long conflict, like the Cold War was, because you've got literally millions of young people, particularly boys being educated in these countries to hate the United States and everything that the West stands for.

Until we win this war of ideas, they are going to be susceptible to recruitment to continue to act in a terrorist capacity against us. And so I think Pete Domenici and John Kerry are right. We do need to try to get back to as normal as we can as a society. That means investing and purchasing and all of the other things that will help us create wealth.

KING: At the same time, we're in fear?

HARMAN: Well, no.


KERRY: We have to get out of fear.

HARMAN: There's something very positive here, Larry. Everyone is flying a flag. Lots of people are giving blood. Congress on a bipartisan basis is having real conversation, and doing things almost unanimously -- not everything, but many things unanimously.

What has changed is all of a sudden we're focused on what the big challenge is in the world. The Cold War focused us against the communist enemy. This war against terrorism focused us against what our common enemy is. We're building a global alliance here to fight terrorism...

KING: All right.

HARMAN: ... it's really very uplifting.

KING: I want to get a citizen's point of view. Scott O'Grady, what do you think? Do you think the public is confident of this or scared at the same time we're asking them to be calm?

O'GRADY: Well, I have to agree with what everyone's saying, is that we can't live in fear. You know, we're the home of the brave, and we have to go back to our lives and go back to the way we've been living in the past. And yes, this is going to be a long, drawn-out process. But if we give in to giving up our freedom and our way of life, then the terrorists win.

KING: You agree Scott, though, it's hard to get September 11 and that scene out of your mind?

O'GRADY: Well, September 11 will definitely be a day that I will never forget, as well as many Americans and people around the world. It's a day when we lost our innocence.

But even still we will, as the president said, win this war. And it is a war against freedom, against fear; and we can't give in to the fear. We have to go back to our way of life.

KING: We'll have more and we'll be taking your phone calls. The panel remains with us. I'm Larry King. We'll be right back.


KING: The president signed into law this afternoon the approval of the aid to the airlines, $15 billion total, $5 billion right now, and $10 million in guarantees.

It's going to help a lot, Senator Domenici?

DOMENICI: Well, it ought to help a lot. As a matter of fact, it's part of this confidence building. One of the most important things that we should do is build confidence back into air travelers. One way is for the government to do its share to make sure that they don't go broke, and that they kick in with reasonable activities.

This is a very big package. I think it's needed. But let me also remind everyone, we are busy as a nation addressing the issue of the recession. We have put $40 billion in for New York. I hope that gets spent now rather than 10 years from now.

We put more money in for defense. I hope much of that gets spent now. And if Americans will then say, "it's our responsibility to spend out money for things that we need" and I hope our president would get on the television and ask Americans to do that. The economy needs people buying with their money, not acting out of fear.

KING: Let's take a call. Louisville, hello.

CALLER: Hello Larry, thank you for this opportunity. This is a question for any elected official on the panel.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: We are going to spend. I certainly believe we should take military action, and we will spend a lot of time and resources doing so. But will we spend a lot of time and resources on diplomacy? On finding out why this group of people hates America so much? And are we going to do something about that from a diplomatic standpoint in the long run?

KING: Senator Kerry? KERRY: Well, let me correct something that a lot of people are focused on, which is this issue of hate American, specifically, and values. They do, but it's not the primary target of their efforts. Osama bin Laden's goal is to have a radical Islamic state from Tajikistan all the way down to Saudi Arabia. That's his goal, and he views himself as the leader of that.

So anything we do that plays into his hands of radicalizing and of empowering people to overthrow legitimate governments and make it difficult, in fact helps Osama bin Laden accomplish his goal.

Now, are they directing their anger at our participation in the Gulf War and in our presence in the Gulf, our support to Israel? Yes, absolutely. No one can deny that. That's a component of it.

What we need, and you are absolutely correct, there needs to be a huge sea change in American thinking about the role of diplomacy in all of this. We need to think hard about our relationships around the world. We need to think hard about why that hate builds up and the things that we can do to minimize it.

There's been a lot of talk in the last years about the impact of globalization and technology, and the great divide, digitally, in the world. We have got to summon, at the same time as we do the targeted things we do against terrorists specifically, we need to, you know, suck the capacity out from under them for any kind of basis to appeal to people by building a much stronger diplomatic effort.

KING: Congresswoman Harman, does that, therefore, mean a kind of war on two fronts?

HARMAN: Well, I think more than two. The diplomatic effort has to isolate the terrorists and those who harbor them, and I think not only do we have to go after Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda network he's built, but other terrorist cells around the world. And I think it will probably take a regime change in Afghanistan before we're truly rid of him. That would be one thing. So we have that diplomatic effort to isolate the terrorists.

Then we have surgical military action along the lines of what John Kerry's talked about. But the third piece, I think, is really renewing our whole intelligence effort so that we have a digital intelligence system to meet the digital threat of the 21st century. We have old tools; and one of the things Congress is going to be doing in the next several weeks is revising the legal authorities that the Justice Department has for conducting surveillance. And those revisions have to be done very carefully so they don't throw out civil liberties in the process.

KING: We'll take another break, and we'll be back with more. I also want to ask Scott O'Grady -- he felt it -- what it must be like -- to feel like to be these boys going over into what may be a lot of danger.

We'll be right back. Don't go away.


KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE.

Let's reintroduce the panel. In Washington, Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts; Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona; Senator Pete Domenici, Republican of New Mexico; Congresswoman Jane Harman, Democrat of California; and in Dallas, Scott O'Grady, the former U.S. Air Force pilot shot down over Bosnia.

What's going through the minds of these young boys, Scott?

O'GRADY: Well...

KING: ... and ladies.

O'GRADY: Yes. The young men and women of the military, Larry, are very well trained. They're professional. They'll go out there and do the job, and I have full confidence in them to be able to accomplish any mission that they're tasked to do.

The crucial thing here is that we need to stay united behind out men and women that are going to go into harm's way. I can tell you from my experience, one of the greatest things that inspired me to get the job done was by having the support of the American people behind me.

American must support their military service members.

KING: And you felt that while you were flying over -- felt it even while shot down?

O'GRADY: When I was over in Bosnia over six years ago, I had the inspiration that I had a team that was there supporting me, and that was a team back here in my home country, an American team that really inspired me to get through that difficult time.

We've seen our history, especially if you go back to Vietnam. If we're going to be in this for the long haul, which I am for; I mean, I'm standing behind the president and the government. We have to have the resolve to stay united to the very end in this. And at least we have to look at the fact that we're going to have men and women in our military going into harm's way. And it should be at least as a minimum that we should show our gratitude for them that they're going to be there risking their lives so that we can preserve our freedom.

KING: Let's take a call. Maumee, Ohio hello.

CALLER: Hi Larry, thanks for taking my call.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: All the talk that's on TV lately about germ and biological warfare really scares me to death. I'd like to know if they can tell us anything about it. Is it something we should worry about? And is there any defense for it?

KING: Senator Kyl, why don't you go first on that.

KYL: It is a matter of concern because the terrorists are associated with countries that have these kinds of weapons, Iraq and Iran, for example. And they could acquire them, and they could understand how to use them.

Now fortunately, it's not real easy to disperse agents chemically or to disperse an aerosol -- biological aerosol. But we believe that that will be a method by which terrorists will strike Americans and America in the not-too-distant future, or will try to do so. We are not totally prepared to deal with that.

Again, the best way to deal with it is good intelligence to prevent it. And that's why one of the key things that we're trying to say here tonight is, the American people have to support our intelligence effort.

We need more resources. We need more human intelligence. We've got to be able to stop these kinds of attacks before they occur, because after a biological attack has occurred, it's too late.

KING: Congresswoman Harman, paranoia is fear of the unknown, and biological warfare is certainly that. But how do Americans deal with the fear of that?

HARMAN: Well, through learning how capable we are to handle it. I agree with John Kyl that many terrorist organizations have access to biological agents, but they don't know how to weaponize them.

And your new hometown...

KING: Now.

HARMAN: Now. Your new hometown Larry, Los Angeles, where I live also, is one of the best prepared counties on the planet. The first responders there know how to recognize the agents. They are trained. They have all kinds of technology. And they know how to treat large numbers of people who might be exposed to them.

Obviously, John Kyl is right. We should prevent the attacks. That's much better than responding to them. But I do think there's a high level of knowledge in the United States about how to respond to these attacks, should they come our way.


KING: By the way, I just want to let you know that I will be back East for one week, the first week in October. I'm going to New York and Washington, both cities. It will be nice to see our old friends there again.


KING: Yes, I'm sorry. Who was saying something?

DOMENICI: Could I comment on this? Actually, I'd like to inform the citizen that called that we do have a basic law that deals with this. It has a nickname. It's call Nunn-Lugar-Domenici, three senators got it passed. And essentially it develops the capacity in each major city to, we call them first responders. That's the firemen, the policemen -- we're training them to be prepared for just the kind of thing that you are asking about.

We have to do better. We have to add more intelligence to it. And this act of terrorism, I am certain, will put this concern and the lack of resources and dedication on the front burner, and we can do a lot more.

KERRY: I just wanted to mention also, and I thank my wife for having told me this yesterday and giving me the information. It was a result of a meeting she was at. Of the five major bio-threats that we know of today, four of them are actually subject to being resolved by antibiotics. I think it's the Tetracycline family. So we have the capacity to deal with it if, in fact, somebody were infected. And only in the vicinity of an actual attack. People aren't infected by people passing that particular set of diseases. So there's no epidemic concern.

And secondly, small pox is a concern because people aren't being vaccinated. So one of the things we need to begin to educate people about across the country is the importance of children getting small pox vaccinations.

KING: Is the vaccine available?

KERRY: Oh yes, absolutely. But we have to get back to doing that. And that can really deal with a lot of it.

I think people hearing this must say, oh my gosh, you know, these people are talking about not being afraid. I really believe, and I think my colleagues will all share this with me, that there is not an imminent threat of something like this happening now, particularly...

KING: Good to know.

KERRY: ... if we wage -- if we wage the kind of aggressive effort against terrorism, these folks re going to so busy and so on the run and we can do so much damage to their capacity to retaliate that we could at least minimize the capacity of these threats and to -- sorry, go ahead.

KING: Yes. Hampton, Virginia, hello.

CALLER: Hello Larry King. Good evening panel. Thanks for taking the call.

I'm an airline captain lucky enough to be on vacation this week, but my wife is a flight attendant now flying, and I have a lot of concerns that I'm sure a lot of other airline crew have.

What about the other side of the airport, not the side that passengers going through metal detectors, but caterers, people like that that go to do their jobs and they don't go through screening. It would be so easy for them to place something on an airplane.

KING: Let me get a break. That's a great question. I'll have Ms. Harman tackle it when we come back. We'll be right back. Don't go away.


KING: Welcome back.

OK, Congresswoman Harman, how do we respond? What about all those people that go into the airport and don't get cleared?

HARMAN: Very important issue. LAX is in my congressional district, and I spoke to the general manager last week. And she says that screening employees at the airport who do anything at all -- the cleaning crew, the food crew, et cetera -- on a daily basis is imperative.

We have technology called biometrics that enables you to know the identity of a person even if that person is disguised. And that's the kind of technology we need in every single airport in the United States. We also need stronger cockpit doors, which the FAA is working on. And we need all the other reforms that passengers are already learning about.

But let's remember these terrorist attacks are asymmetric. Terrorists strike where you least expect it. So we may not have another airplane attack; it may come somewhere else. We need to work on much more than just airline and aircraft safety.

KING: What about, Senator Kyl, this desire of the public for, if not revenge, retribution -- something?

KYL: Well, you don't strike out of anger, and you don't strike at somebody that wasn't involved in the issue. And that's why the president has urged a little bit of patience here, to make sure that we identify who was responsible, so that when we do strike at them, not only do we know that we've done the right thing, but also that others around the world know it; and that we're not vulnerable to an attack by others around the world that somehow we're being unfair in our actions.

Another point I want to make, Larry. I was in Pakistan less than a month ago for the Intelligence Committee. Met with the president, the head of their security and others. And the thing that struck me there is that the United States also has to be a good ally. When we ask countries like Pakistan to stick its neck out the way that we've asked, and they've said that they would help us, we've got to follow through and help them as well.

We have to reestablish a lot of contacts that have been missing. We have to remove some sanctions that have been imposed. And frankly, as all of us around this table have said, the health of our economy is going to make it possible for us to help a lot of people financially; and that's going to be a big part of this war as well.

KING: All right, I'm going to get some final thoughts from each of our panel members. We'll do that right after this.


KING: All right, Senator Kerry, optimistic or pessimistic?

KERRY: I'm very optimistic; extraordinarily optimistic. There's no question in my mind, if we will focus on our own economy in a significant way and bring it back as rapidly as possible with a major stimulus package; if we will then focus on building the relationships we need internationally and stay carefully targeted in this, we're going to be successful, I think, in many ways we never dreamed of.

And one very important thing Larry, quickly, right now the most important weapon of all for the United States, unlike Vietnam, where we had troops and helicopters; or Haiti, where we overwhelmed them; or Kosovo, where we had the airpower -- most important weapon in this is intelligence. And it is, perhaps, that in the greatest need of strengthening of all the things we do. And we're going to have to focus on that intensely in the next days.

KING: All right, we're running short on time. Senator Kyl, are you optimistic?

KYL: Very optimistic, again, because at the end of the day this is a way about ideas. We know that we have the best idea in this wonderful society, this democracy of ours. We know that their idea is wrong. And eventually we'll win that war.

KING: Senator Domenici, September 11 doesn't make you pessimistic?

DOMENICI: Very optimistic. What's most optimistic about it is that we are working together. I have never seen the unity of purpose in House and Senate, Democrat and Republican, and the president -- incidentally, who's doing a great job. But the unity will bring the American people great confidence and hope.

KING: Congresswoman Harman, up or down?

HARMAN: Optimistic; up. But the end game is not eliminating terrorism. The end game is using our new global coalition to fight poverty and give hope to kids all around the world so the only option they have isn't joining some fanatical group.

KING: And Scott?

O'GRADY: Oh, I'm very optimistic. For the last 11 days we've seen the best of America. People coming together, uniting and helping each other; and we're going to get through this.

KING: Thank you all very much.

We're going to take break and come back and meet a couple in distress. They are in Pakistan; their daughter is in Afghanistan. She can't get out.

Don't go away; we'll be right back.


KING: Joining us now from Islamabad, Pakistan: John Mercer and Deborah Oddy. They are formerly married, but they are the parents -- Deborah has remarried, and so she has a different name than John. They're the parents of Heather Mercer, who is under arrest in Afghanistan along with another American woman, Dayna Curry. Those two friends are there under arrest, and the parents of Heather are trying to get her out.

John, what was Heather doing there?

JOHN MERCER, DAUGHTER JAILED BY TALIBAN: Larry, she was working there in relief work. She arrived in March of this year.

KING: And there we see a picture of her.

And why, Deborah, was she arrested?

DEBORAH ODDY, DAUGHTER JAILED BY TALIBAN: Well, she's been accused of proselytizing, although she has not yet been formally charged; and we're awaiting for the investigation to continue and a trial, and finally a solution.

KING: Proselytizing, John, meaning -- what, was she discussing, trying to convert Muslims to Christianity? Is that what she was doing?

ODDY: This is, in fact, what she has been accused of. But, once again, it's just an accusation at this point. We have visited with our daughter, and she denies this. So it's up to the Taliban to prove her guilt.

KING: Now John, help me with this. It's a crime to preach Christianity to Muslims in Afghanistan?

MERCER: According to the Taliban, trying to convert Muslims to Christianity is a crime. But our daughter, as well as the other detainees, were not preaching Christianity. They are very devout Christians, but they were there in a humanitarian role, doing relief work; building houses, helping the street children. My daughter was visiting in a hospital some of the patients that didn't have a family; and she was also studying the language, Dari.

KING: Boy, and there are other -- six other aid workers are there, four more women, two men. Others are German and Australian.

Deborah, what are you doing to try to get your daughter out?

ODDY: Well, we had initially gone into Kabul in September -- September the 11th, actually. And we visited with Heather there. We were evacuated from Kabul on the 13th of September, and since that time we have made three calls on the Taliban embassy here in Islamabad. We are -- we have applied for visas. We are hoping to get back into Kabul as soon as it's determined that it's safe for us to do so. And we'll continue our efforts here in Islamabad, and once we get back into Kabul we'll continue there.

KING: What was it like, John, when you went to Afghanistan?

MERCER: Well, Nancy Curry, Dayna's mother, and I arrived in Kabul on 27 August. And it was almost surreal, Larry; the majority of the city has been completely destroyed from fighting in the mid-'90s. The people are very poor. The Taliban were gracious hosts, and they assured us that our daughters were well and, in fact, that proved to be true. And they have assured us that they will keep them well and safe, and I do believe them.

Of course, the situation now is obviously very complicated, so hopefully everything will work out.

KING: Now, with the threat of possible American action, Deborah, are you concerned about your daughter's safety from friendly fire?

ODDY: Certainly. I hope that they've been moved to a safer place. You know, we have no confirmation of that, but that's my hope. And I continue to hope that if there are any sort of strikes that it won't be in populated areas such as Kabul.

KING: Deborah, has the government -- the American government -- taken any formal action on your daughter's behalf?

ODDY: Absolutely. We couldn't ask for a more responsive U.S. embassy here in Islamabad. Of course, you realize we don't have diplomatic relations with Afghanistan...

KING: I know.

ODDY: ... and our girls knew that going into Afghanistan. However, our U.S. embassy has made -- they've spent about five weeks actually in Kabul, on the ground, trying to work with ministry of foreign affairs, Department of Justice and the Taliban for the release of our two girls as well as the other six detainees.

KING: John, why did your daughter choose to go to such a remote place?

MERCER: Well, Larry, she had always been, from college days and high school, interested in humanitarian work. And she had, in fact, traveled around the world quite a bit and had been to Afghanistan twice before she went permanently in March. And she loved the people, she loved the country; and she often told me this is where she wanted to spend her career helping people was in Afghanistan. I frankly hope that she doesn't have that chance to stay.

KING: This crime, as I understand it, if convicted carries the death penalty. Deborah, is that right?

ODDY: We have heard that, but then we've heard that that is not correct, either. There are a lot of possibilities that have been put out there. That's certainly one of the possibilities that's still out there, but it's not one that we choose to dwell upon. We're still hoping for the expulsion, should they be found guilty. KING: John, are you more than hopeful? Are you confident, or are you betwixt and between?

MERCER: Well Larry, I tell you, ever since 3 August, when I found out my daughter was arrested I've been on a real emotional roller coaster. And I'm very hopeful, actually. All the prayers and thoughts from everybody in the United States, my family and a very special lady friend in my life have been giving me the strength to ride this roller coaster. And I think the stop is coming up, and I think it will be a favorable solution.

KING: Deborah, do you feel the same?

ODDY: I continue to have that as my hope. You know, we have some really tough days ahead of us, and we've had a lot of tough days behind us. I just don't know. But I will continue to hope as long as she has breath.

KING: And we wish you the best of luck. John Mercer and Deborah Oddy, their parents of Heather Mercer under arrest in Afghanistan along with another American woman, Dayna Curry and other non-Americans under arrest as well.

Well, tomorrow Americans will raise their flags up from half- staff. It will be a symbolic end to a period of very deep national mourning, although the grieving did continue today. So did the process of getting on with the American way of life. Watch and listen.


MAYOR RUDOLPH GIULIANI (R), NEW YORK: You can go back to your normal way of life. And I think you would honor the people who are missing and the people who died; after all, they died to protect our normal way of life.





4:30pm ET, 4/16

Back to the top