CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With Pervez Musharraf
Aired October 22, 2001 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, exclusive one-on-one with General Pervez Musharraf, president of Pakistan. His country is the key in America's anti-terror coalition.
And then two D.C. postal workers are dead. Officials say anthrax the likely cause. Two others are hospitalized with the inhalation form of the disease. Is the worst yet to come?
Joining us from Washington, Senator and Doctor Bill Frist, ranking member of the public health subcommittee. With him, former Senator Warren Rudman, co-chair of the commission on national security of the 21st century.
And fresh from a briefing at the CDC in Atlanta, Congresswoman Jane Harman, ranking member of the subcommittee on terrorism and homeland security. And the chairman of the intelligence subcommittee, Congressman Saxby Chambliss.
Also in D.C. the postmaster general, John E. Potter. Plus, from Perth an exclusive interview with the prime minister of Australia John Howard. And to close it out in Orlando, Randy Travis. His musical message: America will always stand.
They are all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening. Welcome to another edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We begin with an exclusive interview with President Pervez Musharraf.
President Musharraf is president of Pakistan, a nation of 140 million strong. And this is an exclusive interview and a pleasure to have him with us. We begin by asking Mr. President, the other day the security chief of the Taliban said that Musharraf is our enemy and the next target in due time. Does that give you cause for concern?
We welcome to Larry King President Pervez Musharraf. He is the president of Pakistan. This is an exclusive interview. He leads that formidable nation of 140 million people.
Mr. President, first about your own concerns, an interview published yesterday, the security chief of the Taliban said that Musharraf is our enemy and the next target in due time. Does that cause you some concern? PERVEZ MUSHARRAF, PRESIDENT OF PAKISTAN: Well, it does cause concern, but not much. We have joined the coalition as a matter of principle, and we'll stick to our decisions.
KING: So nothing they say would affect you or fear for you or your family?
MUSHARRAF: No, I don't think so. As I said, it is cause of some concern, but it is not facts that one should worry over about it.
KING: Was it a difficult decision for you, Mr. President, to support the international anti-terror campaign?
MUSHARRAF: Yes, it was, I'll have to admit because of the domestic sentiments and as opposed to the requirements of action in Afghanistan, yes, there are risks. But it took a very considered opinion, and I know that a vast majority of the country is supporting whatever decision I took. Therefore, although it was a difficult decision, but we took the right decision.
KING: You previously had supported the Taliban, Mr. President. What changed?
MUSHARRAF: Well, the environment changed. As I've always been saying, policies are made in accordance with environments prevailing. Before the 11th of September, the environment was totally different and after the 11th of September, the environment drastically changed; and, therefore, the requirement of adjusting the policy in accordance with the ground reality.
KING: Well, what, Mr. President, is the extent of your country's support for the United States' effort? We have air bases, airspace, intelligence. Are United States troops welcome in Pakistan?
MUSHARRAF: Well, as I have enunciated a number of times, we have assured our participation in the coalition in as far as exchange of intelligence information. Secondly, use of our airspace; and, thirdly, providing logistic support. Now, within this, we are operating within these parameters and giving support as promised.
KING: Would Pakistani troops, do you think, have to be involved?
MUSHARRAF: No, I would not like Pakistani troops to get involved across the border in Afghanistan, and they are not involved at all.
KING: And the meeting with Secretary Powell last week, would you call that meeting successful?
MUSHARRAF: I would call it very successful.
KING: And you've agreed to work a new broad-based government in Afghanistan. Will you give us how you view that government?
MUSHARRAF: Well, I have been laying down four parameters for such a government. First, that we must ensure the unity of Afghanistan and its stability and bring peace into Afghanistan. The second parameter is to have a broad-based multiethnic government representative of all the ethnic groups and taking into account the ethnic composition of Afghanistan.
Thirdly, that we must not ever be seen to be imposing a political solution. We should be seen as facilitating a solution; so, therefore, a solution needs to be in accordance with the wishes of the people of Afghanistan.
And lastly, being a Pakistani, I would certainly like to have a friendly Afghanistan on our western border.
So within these four parameters, one needs to crystallize the political dispensation that one would like to have in Afghanistan.
KING: What role do you see for the Northern Alliance?
MUSHARRAF: Well, they are a part of Afghanistan, certainly. They are a composition of Uzbeks, Tajiks, Hazaras and also Pashtuns. So they are very much a part of Afghanistan and they have a role in as far as their ethnic goes. So as I said, we are for a broad-based government and a multiethnic government in accordance with the ethnic composition of Afghanistan. So certainly, every Afghan has a role to play in a future government in Afghanistan.
KING: What has the United States, Mr. President, promised you in return? I know they lifted sanctions, and they're helping you pay down some debt. Any other thing?
MUSHARRAF: Well, first of all, let me say that we didn't get involved in a deal initially when we decided to be a part of the coalition. There was no such deal that was agreed upon.
But, however, being our coalition partners, they do understand our problems and our difficulties and our requirements. So to that extent, the sanctions have already been lifted, and we are grateful for that.
We are also in the process of negotiating the economic assistance that Pakistan can get, not only from the United States, but from the European Union and all our other countries who have been assisting us in the past also. So we are into negotiating an economic package to assist Pakistan out of its problems. KING: How would you describe, Mr. President, the relationship right now between your country and the Taliban government? You have diplomatic relations. How would you describe this balance?
MUSHARRAF: Well, we do have diplomatic relations with Afghanistan, and there's the Afghan embassy there, representative of the Taliban. So, to that extent, we have diplomatic relations and contact with them.
But, however, I would like to say that under the present circumstances, physical contact is not there at all, so our relations are totally in cold storage at the moment. KING: In the press conference with Secretary of State Powell, you said you hope the operation in Afghanistan is short -- doesn't last a long time. Do you think it will be short?
MUSHARRAF: Well, the duration of the operation is dependent on achievement of objectives. So any military operation has to identify clearly what the military objectives are, and one has to achieve those objectives before bringing the operation to an end.
But one does really wish and hope that the objectives are achieved and the military operation is short. That is what one would like to hope, and I, again, would like to say that we really hope and one should attempt at achieving the military objectives as fast as possible, so that the military operation comes to an end soon.
KING: Are those objectives clear to you?
MUSHARRAF: Well, they are, to my military mind, although I haven't really discussed it in such detail, but to a military mind, yes, I think they are pretty clear to me.
KING: You have said that the United States should first take out the Taliban leader Mullah Omar. You said first that would be before bin Laden?
MUSHARRAF: Well, this is given to me in one -- as a supposed interview that I gave. This was not an interview at all. This was an informal discussion where I did discuss the military aspects. I was just informally discussing that. And let me again say, any military operation has to identify the center of gravity first and then set military objectives to achieve that center of gravity.
So, to that extent, one would like really to discuss whether Osama bin Laden happens to be the center of gravity of the operation in Afghanistan. To that extent, I did informally voice my views, and those still are there.
KING: By the way, have you ever met bin Laden?
KING: We'll be right back with the president of Pakistan on this edition of "Larry King Live." Don't go away.
KING: We're back with General Pervez Musharraf. He is the president of Pakistan, and we thank him very much for joining us on this edition of "LARRY KING LIVE."
What effect, do you think, the Muslim holy month of Ramadan will have on this campaign?
MUSHARRAF: Well, it should not have any effect on the campaign as such, but it may have some effects in the Muslim world, so one would hope and wish that this campaign comes to an end before the month of Ramadan, and one would hope for restraint during the month of Ramadan because this would certainly have some negative effects in the Muslim world.
KING: In all of the Muslim world, right? They would have a tough time handling it during this holiest part of the year.
MUSHARRAF: I think so. It will certainly have some negatives.
KING: Have you received any assurances that there wouldn't be any action during Ramadan?
MUSHARRAF: Well, I haven't gotten any such assurances. But, as I said, the month of Ramadan is more than a month away -- about a month away, slightly less than a month I would say -- and one hopes that the military objectives, as I said, do get achieved within this duration so that the operation comes to an end.
KING: What's the feeling, Mr. President, in your country about the United States? I know there have been some sizable protests. We've seen them. There's a militant group very opposed to the United States. So what's the general feeling in Pakistan about America?
MUSHARRAF: Well, if you want a really frank answer, the feelings were good before, I would say, when we were together fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan.
But after the Soviets were defeated in Afghanistan, we were left in the lurch. Pakistan was left in the lurch, everyone left us alone, and that, I would say, led -- there was a feeling of a sense of maybe, in the harshest terms, a sense of betrayal or a sense of abandonment which was felt in every Pakistani here in Pakistan, and we are trying to -- it will take some time to overcome this feeling that exists in Pakistan commonly.
KING: Therefore, does that cause you problems politically supporting the United States since there is this feeling of betrayal?
MUSHARRAF: Yes, it does cause -- that is the cause of the problem. I know that a vast majority of people have support for me, but my problem arises when the same feelings -- fraternal feelings do not exist with the United States as they existed in the '80s when we were fighting a war in Afghanistan together.
So that feeling is not there, and that is causing a bit of confusion in the Pakistani mind. On one side, they are with me, with my government. On the other side, this support the United States action in Afghanistan is being expected out of them. So I would say they are confused at the moment, how to reconcile these two elements.
KING: Have you discussed any of this with President Bush? And, by the way, do you speak to President Bush on a regular basis?
MUSHARRAF: Well, I've spoken to him twice. I don't speak to him on a regular basis. I have spoken to him twice, and I have given him the reality on ground here in Pakistan, but not in such great detail. But I did give a lot -- a great amount of detail to the Secretary of State General Colin Powell.
KING: Do you have, therefore, the fear again -- if you had abandonment once -- that if the operation ends in Afghanistan and they go to other places, you might have this happen again?
MUSHARRAF: Yes, indeed, that is one of the prime topics discussed all around in Pakistan, that are we going to be abandoned again after our support to the U.S. coalition? Well, I feel and I really very sincerely hope that this does not recur, and the promises that we've got from the United States appear that they have realized the follies of the past, and I'm very hopeful that this will not recur.
It will not be in our interest, in Pakistan's interest, and the larger interest of the United States, especially in relation to all that your strategic importance of this entire region.
KING: A few other things: What would you think if America took it further and went into Iraq?
MUSHARRAF: Well, frankly, at this moment, as with the sentiments around in the Muslim world, I don't think it will be very productive. It will certainly increase the opposition to the United States.
KING: The refugees, how are you handling the problem? How many are coming over the border?
MUSHARRAF: This is causing a great concern to us. Hundreds of thousands of refugees want to cross over into Pakistan, and our dilemma is that we already have about 2.5 million refugees here in Pakistan. And you can compare this when you think of Australia not accepting even 200 refugees. So what does a poor country, an economically weak country like Pakistan cannot really accept refugees over this great figure of 2.5 million.
Now, the problem that arises is how to accommodate more, and we have been dealing with the UNHCR, and our point-of-view has always been that we must establish camps across the border in Afghanistan and all assistance to the refugees must be given there, so that people go back to Afghanistan instead of making them comfortable here in Pakistan so that they don't go back to their own country.
So our country is already 140 million strong, and we cannot accept such a large influx of refugees coming in. So we only hope that with efforts, combined joint efforts with UNHCR, we can resolve this problem. Pakistan is prepared to accept people who are old, injured, children, some women. But we cannot open the flood gates for all refugees flowing into Pakistan.
KING: Pakistan and India both have nuclear weapons. We know that. Do you fear if fundamentalists took control in your area of the world that they would have use of those bombs? And how well are they protected?
MUSHARRAF: These thoughts are around the world, in the West. But let me tell you, these thoughts are with those who don't really understand the reality of Pakistan internally.
First of all, let me say that all our nuclear assets, all our strategic assets are in very, very safe hands. We have an excellent command and control system which we have evolved, and there is no question of their falling into the hands of any fundamentalists.
But let me also tell you that Pakistan is a moderate Islamic country, and I mean every word when I say that. No extremist -- religious extremist party has ever won any high number of seats in any election in Pakistan. Even now, when we had this local government election, let me tell you that the candidates who had support from religious parties are not even 2 percent of the total number elected. So, therefore, there is a moderate -- Pakistan is a moderate Islamic country, and there is no question of any fundamentalist getting a hold of our strategic assets.
KING: And do you expect to resolve the dispute between you and India and Kashmir?
MUSHARRAF: Well, you can't clap with one hand. I'm trying my best. You need to ask that question across the border, from the Prime Minister Vajpayee.
KING: What can you tell us about the helicopter crash in Pakistan in which two U.S. soldiers were killed and three others injured?
MUSHARRAF: Well, this happened at one of the bases which we had provided for logistic support, and this was a routine accident. It had nothing to do with any reaction or any action from any side. It was a routine accident on the airfield.
KING: And, Mr. President, finally, are you optimistic or pessimistic about this whole terrorist situation? Do you think the coalition can succeed, or do you have genuine worries?
MUSHARRAF: Well, really, action against terrorism does not start and end in Afghanistan. To that extent, I would agree with President Bush when he says that the operation is going to be prolonged. I presume he's talking of the action or the operation or the campaign against terrorism in its entire complexity. That will not end with the end of operations in Afghanistan. One has to persist to eliminate terrorism from around the world.
KING: Thank you so much, Mr. President. Thank you for the time. We appreciate it a great deal.
MUSHARRAF: Thank you very much, Larry. It was a pleasure talking to you.
KING: My pleasure.
From the president's office in Islamabad, our guest has been President Pervez Musharraf. He is the president of Pakistan.
You're watching "Larry King Live," and we'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KING: Let's now meet our panel. They're all in Washington. Senator Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee, the Senate's only medical doctor. He has placed loads of anthrax information on his Web site, frist.senate.gov. He's the ranking member of the Public Health Subcommittee, a member of Foreign Relations as well. Also with him is former U.S. Senator Warren Rudman, co-chair of the U.S. Commission on National Security for the 21st Century; Congresswoman Jane Harman, Democrat of California, ranking member of the new House Intelligence Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security; and Congressman Saxby Chambliss, Republican of Georgia, chairman of the New House Intelligence Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security.
Senator Frist, first, on the statements of President Musharraf, when he said that there would be problems in the Muslim world if the United States goes to Iraq. What are your concerns?
SEN. BILL FRIST (R-TN), MEMBER, FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE: Well, Larry, what he said was clear, when you covered a whole range of issues. That is one of the statements I listened to quite carefully. Clearly, we're going to have to take this step by step. We're going to have to listen to the advice and the counsel of many people, the many coalition members. I think that he made his statement loud and clear, and I think we need to take that into consideration.
On the other hand, the president of the United States has made it very clear that this a war, it's a war on terror, and we're going to win this war, and we're going to do whatever it takes to accomplish that.
KING: All right. Now, to move to the anthrax issue, we'll start with Senator Frist and go around the horn. Senator, we've got two postal workers dead and they don't open envelopes. What do you make of this?
FRIST: Larry, it's unprecedented, unprecedented. Eight days ago, if you had told me that we would see on the following day, anthrax on Capitol Hill, two days after that that we would have documented 28 staff members with documented exposure, I wouldn't have believed it. Two days ago, if you'd said we're going to see inhalational anthrax in an unrelated postal worker, who possibly didn't even handle that mail, I would have said impossible. And if you had said yesterday, we're going to see a death, unprecedented.
What we are seeing today is unprecedented in the history of the world. And by that, I mean using aerosolized germs, bacteria, as an instrument of war.
I will say that when you see as many people exposed here on Capitol Hill from one incident, and possibly, in a totally unrelated incident -- we don't know -- an offsite worker exposed, who possibly didn't even handle the mail, this is very suggestive of anthrax that is -- has been manufactured, altered, played with, in a fairly sophisticated way, a way that it can be aerosolized and inhaled. It can't be seen. KING: Senator Rudman, what does it say to you?
WARREN RUDMAN, FORMER U.S. SENATOR/COMMISSION ON NATIONAL SECURITY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY: Well, Larry, unfortunately, as you know -- we discussed it the other night -- the reason our commission came to the conclusion that terrorism was the No. 1 threat -- we talked about chemical, biological and nuclear -- and the reason we came to that conclusion is we had information, intelligence and other, over the last 3 1/2 years that indicated to us that efforts were under way to manufacture a number of instrumentalities that could be delivered to this country to cause mass destruction, which is what this is doing, as opposed to mass destruction, which is what would happen with certain types of chemical and certainly nuclear weapons.
I must say that this now gives us a terrific wake-up call. No one should assume that these so-called "terrorists" are not supported by some very sophisticated people, and possibly other countries. And we're going to have to look at it very, very closely, because this is a serious threat.
Having said that I think the most important thing for the American people to do is to understand that the risk to any individual person is not that great. Most of these cases probably can be dealt with. And the worst thing we can do is to panic, or as President Roosevelt said, is to be overcome by fear.
But it's a real threat, and I think Bill Frist has cited it very accurately. And this is why we wrote what we wrote almost a year ago.
KING: Congresswoman Harman, did we not pay attention to what the Rudmans and others were saying?
REP. JANE HARMAN (D-CA), SELECT INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, and the Harmans. I was on the commission on terrorism, as you know. We were all saying it.
But I would second what Warren just said. These are targeted attacks against our news media and our politicians, and people out in the country should understand that their risk of getting this is quite low. We should try to reduce our level of panic, and I would call on this administration to increase the coordination of information. The communication system is still faulty, and five or six different people are addressing issues. Senator Frist is one of our best.
But we need now I think Governor Ridge to step up and exercise full power as the director of the Office of Homeland Security. I think he needs legislative authority to do this.
KING: And Congressman Chambliss, are you going to give it to him?
REP. SAXBY CHAMBLISS (R-GA), SELECT INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, Larry, I think that Governor Ridge still needs to settle into his office, find out really what his duties are, and how he needs to carry them out. If he needs legislative authority, then we're prepared to give it to him. But you know, this office was set up by an executive order of the White House. The White House has defined what duties they want Governor Ridge to carry out. And I think it's critically important that we give that time to work itself.
Now, there are two things that Governor Ridge has got to have. First of all, he's got to be able to control the vast amounts of money that we as members of Congress allocate to terrorism. And secondly, when Governor Ridge speaks he's got -- everybody has got to know that he is speaking as the president of the United States. He's speaking for the president and everybody needs to listen.
And I think that type of authority is going to be there for the governor.
KING: Senator Frist, "The Washington Post" headline today: "Bioterrorism Preparations Lacking at the Lowest Level: Despite Warnings and Funds, Local Defense Comes up Short." The executive director of the American public health association says confusion reigns at lowest levels. If that is true, how can we say not to worry?
FRIST: Well, it is communication and it is coordination, it is surveillance and it is improving our laboratories. We have about 20 agencies and this has been documented in both the Rudman report as well as by recent GAO report, General Accounting Office report, 20 different federal agencies and programs that have, as their responsibility, bioterrorism.
We need to better coordinate those agencies, and clearly that is what Governor Ridge is setting out to do. In addition, and maybe even more to the point, we are seeing it play out right now, here in Washington, D.C., is the importance of more vertical integration of federal interacting with state, interacting with local.
Yesterday, the diagnosis was made here for this inhalational anthrax case, about 9:00 in the morning. Within five hours the national stockpile had been sent and was being delivered into the field, within five hours of the diagnosis. I had the opportunity to go by the testing center five hours after the diagnosis, about 150 people had received their antibiotics, were getting appropriate cultures.
There were about 45 uniformed public health servants on the field then, five hours after diagnosis. That shows the system is working. Yet we do have gaps nationwide in preparedness and in our public health infrastructure. We've got to support that.
KING: Senator Rudman, are we going to vaccinate the population against smallpox?
RUDMAN: Well, I think I'm probably wrong panelist to ask. I think we have a medical doctor here who could answer it better, but from what I understand and I have talked to people about it, I think the public health officials have to first assess what that threat is before we start mass inoculations.
Obviously if this were somehow spread by terrorists and some sector of the country, I think the government would obviously have little choice. But my sense is that this is another thing that we have to be concerned about. And that is panic and fear. I mean, Larry, you have talked about anthrax, we have talked about smallpox. I will give you seven others that are probably just as bad and Bill Frist could probably give you 20.
So I think we kind of have to stand down, kind of calm down a bit and understand as Jane says, that most Americans are not in danger from this. That is no solace to those that are, but you know it is a lot like the English, the British in World War II when they started bombing London. Nobody liked it but people sucked it in and said we are going to be tough and we are going to get through it, and we are going to get through it.
KING: Not in our lifetime, though, are we.
RUDMAN: Probably not.
KING: According to the vice president.
RUDMAN: Probably not, but let me say, Larry, he is absolutely right. This is going to be a long, tough battle. But as soon as you start taking down these terrorist organizations, there effectiveness is going to start to be reduced. And as Vince Lombardi once said, the best defense is a good offense. And that is exactly what President Bush has said, and I couldn't agree with him more.
KING: We will take a break and be right back with more of our panel. We are also going to meet the post master general. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY DIRECTOR: The president said it quite clearly, that we are waging this war, it is one war, but there are two fronts. There is a battlefield outside this country and there is a war and a battlefield inside this country. And these men leading their troops and their membership, as aggressive and positive way as they possibly can to respond to their challenge, their threat, and that is the threat of anthrax.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We are back.
Congresswoman Harman, are you convinced that this homeland security concept is going to work?
HARMAN: It has to work, Larry.
We don't have an option. We are doing a great job of communicating about our international campaign. We're not doing a good enough job yet communicating domestically. But we have to have a more coordinated intelligence effort so we prevent attacks. And we have to have a much better coordinated responder system so that we can deal with the tragedies like the deaths of the two postal workers and prevent them in the future.
We are making a good start. Our big cities are protected. But there's a third of America that isn't protected because it's not all connected to the Centers for Disease Control, etcetera. And those are the problems that Governor Ridge has to get on top of in real time, right now.
KING: Any thoughts, Congressman Chambliss, as to why this has been just Florida, Washington, New York?
CHAMBLISS: Well, not really.
We just hope it's confined to that. Certainly, nobody anticipated what would happen on September 11 being confined to where it was. But, you know, the good news in all of this is that, as Bill said earlier, once we found out that these were anthrax cases, the CDC got on top of it. They got the antibiotics delivered to the people and were treating people. And with few exceptions, we are going to win this battle in the short term here.
KING: Is it possible -- you are the doctor, Dr. Frist -- that certain cures are as bad as the problem, that antibiotics and vaccines have a very harmful side?
FRIST: Larry, absolutely.
And I think, in our reaction to what we are seeing today, we do need to increase the stockpile. We need to increase the antibiotics. But we also need to make sure that we plug the gaps in our public health system today, so that we are prepared for tularemia, the plague, botulinum toxin, because terrorists can simply jump from one of these to another.
Now, the treatment itself, clearly, right now, we are at risk from a public health standpoint of the overuse of antibiotics, because people feel this fear. They feel like they are doing something by taking doxycycline or penicillin or Cipro. That can create resistance. These bugs are a lot cagier than we are. They are changing 100,000 times faster than we are. You develop resistance to antibiotics, which can hurt you as an individual, but hurt the public health itself.
We won't have an antibiotic to treat the resistant microorganism which we are selecting out. Vaccination -- I'm against widespread smallpox inoculation, because if you go ahead and immunize 300 million people, about 25 out of 100,000 will have a side effect. Probably 500 people will die. And you should not do that until you have an identifiable risk.
KING: Senator Rudman, we've got 30 seconds. And we are going to have all of you back on a number of occasions. Are you optimistic?
RUDMAN: I'm very optimistic. I think we have got a tough year ahead of us. I think people like Bill Frist are doing a great deal to make everyone aware of what the public health system needs. I think the president and his national security team have their eye on the target.
This is only a month, five weeks old. It is going to take time. This is a great country. It's a strong country. This country has always proven it could stand up to anything. We will do it again. It's different. It's tough. People are afraid. But we will get through.
KING: We thank Senators Frist, former Senator Rudman, and Congresswoman Harman and Congressman Chambliss. We will have them back all back again.
Tomorrow night, the secretary of health and human services, Tommy Thompson, will be a featured guest.
Joining us now in Washington is John Potter, postmaster general of the United States. Boy, did he step into a job.
What do you make of what happened in your bailiwick, John?
JOHN E. POTTER, POSTMASTER GENERAL: Larry, this is probably the saddest day in the history of the Postal Service. We have lost two of our employees.
You know, we are on the frontline. We wear uniforms. This is a very sad day for us. And our condolences go out to the families, and I know our prayers. But, I tell you, the Postal Service employees are united. They are committed to the American public. We want to be out there delivering the mail. And, you know, this is going to bring us together.
KING: Many workers are saying they are upset because they weren't tested more quickly, that they weren't kept informed to take precautions.
POTTER: Larry, we have been working very closely with state health officials, city health officials. And we have the CDC in, helping us in locations throughout the country. The CDC is with us in New Jersey and New York. They were here in D.C. and down in Florida we have CDC people domiciled in our headquarters facility. We are working as closely as we can with the health officials.
But I want everyone to understand, this is a very fluid situation. This is not something that we have a textbook that we can go back and look at and follow those procedures. So it is the fluidity of the situation. We are learning as we go. We are going to take every measure that we can now to protect our employees because we are learning. We are learning every day.
KING: We understand that gloves and face masks are available but not mandatory. Should they be mandatory?
POTTER: Larry, 23 years ago, 20 years ago I was on the work room floor and I was handling mail and depending on the operation I was in, I would wear gloves. It's never been mandatory because we never had to deal with a biochemical agent before.
Now, we are reviewing that with the CDC health officials and with other health officials. We are looking at the type of masks that are effective against anthrax and the types of gloves that are effective against anthrax. And we are going to make those available to our workers as soon as we know that we have something that will be effective and safe for them to use.
KING: Once you know what is effective, Mr. General though, you will require them to wear it?
POTTER: We will require them to wear it as long as there is a threat on the work room floor.
KING: What about the technology for protection against future problems? How hard are we working on that?
POTTER: Since day one, we recognize that there is a vulnerability in our system and there are vulnerabilities in systems throughout America. And we have worked and are working feverishly to try and get equipment that will shore up those vulnerabilities.
We basically want to set up a process and we have a process in place in terms of the schematic on how we can sanitize mail. It is a matter of now of getting the right equipment in there to do it.
KING: When do those postcards go out?
POTTER: Those postcards are on their way this week, Larry.
KING: Every American will have it by the end of week?
POTTER: Every address in America will have a postcard, every mail room in America is going to get a poster. We have videotapes available. We have much information on our Web site, www.usps.com.
Today is a day though, that we are in mourning, and we are going to rally around those families that have lost their loved ones and for those employees that are ill, we are going to work very hard to make sure that people get tested and treated, and we are encouraging every employee in Washington, D.C. to make sure they get tested and that they take their full medication.
KING: You have condolences of all of us. Thanks, Postmaster General.
POTTER: Thank you and thank you, America, for praying for us and staying with us.
KING: Postmaster general, John E. Potter, of the United States. When we come back we will meet the prime minister of Australia, the honorable John Howard. That's next. Don't go away.
KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE from Perth, Australia the prime minister of Australia, John Howard. John is just back from meeting with President Bush and others in Singapore. And he is in Perth to bid farewell to Australian troops joining the war on terrorism. Appearing there with Kim Beazley who is running against him in the election. I guess this is a popular move in your country to send these troops, is it not, Mr. Prime Minister?
JOHN HOWARD, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: Well, there is very strong support throughout the Australian community for this country joining the United States and others in the fight against terrorism, because we saw the attacks on the 11th of September as not only an attack upon the United States, but also an attack upon countries such as Australia, and that's not just because more than a score of Australians died in the World Trade Center.
That was sad enough, but the way of life we have is shared in very large measure with the way of life that the people of United States and other free countries have, and we don't have the naive view that if we just roll ourselves in a little ball and go away in a corner, somehow or another this challenge will pass us by. It won't. And this is occasion for free people to stand together and to present as united a front as possible against terrorism.
KING: This is an enactments of a treaty that was signed right after World War II, right?
HOWARD: Yes. This -- what we have done is to invoke the Anzus Treaty and that, as the acronym suggests, was a treaty signed in San Francisco in 1951 between United States, Australia and New Zealand. And that treaty commits the parties to, in the event of an attack upon the metropolitan territory of any signatory, to consult and to regard that as an attack upon one's own territory.
And we have invoked the Anzus Treaty, and that has been invoked in the name of all the things the Anzus Treaty stands for.
KING: What is the extent of Australia's military help, Mr. Prime minister?
HOWARD: We are sending in all about 1,550 personnel. That is about 150 special forces. We are sending four FA-18 fighters which are going to be based in Diego Garcia. We are going to have some reconnaissance aircraft, some Orions, and we are also going to have some refuelers and we are going to have a command vessel which will have a frigate escort and we already have in the Gulf, we have a vessel there.
It's quite a significant commitment. There is nothing nominal or token about it and it is very commensurate with our size and there is a very strong commitment in Australia to joining Americans and others in this campaign against terrorism.
KING: One of the world's great friendships is the United States and Australia. We understand you had a little anthrax anxiety of your own last week.
HOWARD: Well, there has been a very serious anthrax scare. Thus far there have been no examples of a potent substance being sent through the mail, but there have been quite a lot of hoaxes. We are naturally watching with some concern and care and anxiety what is occurring in your country.
KING: You met with President Bush in Shanghai and the other leaders. We didn't -- did you condemn bin Laden or not? Have you condemned him by name?
HOWARD: Well, he was not named in the resolution, but there was little doubt that the mood of the meeting -- although response in the contribution of different countries varies -- there was a very strong view amongst all of the leaders about the need to cooperate very strongly in fight against terrorism.
I thought the strength of the criticism of it by the Russian president was very significant. Naturally when you get a group of countries like that you are going to have a variety of responses, but they are all highly critical. I think President Bush was entitled to go away from that meeting as I did, feeling that it was very important statement. Everybody turned up. And it is very important that world leaders go to meetings and demonstrate unity and a sense of purpose at a time like this.
KING: Thanks for spending these moments with us, the prime minister of Australia, who, by the way, met with President Bush on September 10, one day before a day that will live forever in infamy, to quote a past president.
Randy Travis will provide the entertainment to close things out tonight. He's next. Don't go away.
KING: Every night we've been closing our show with an uplifting musical number. Joining us from Orlando is the terrific singer, songwriter and actor Randy Travis. He's going to do "America Will Always Stand." He co-wrote it two days after September 11. The proceeds from the CD sales will go to the American Red Cross. He's going to perform it at the Grand Ole Opry in October, and live in front of first lady Laura Bush at the Veterans Awards Banquet on November 30.
Randy, how did you come to write it? Did it hit you right after the World Trade Center?
RANDY TRAVIS, MUSICIAN: It happened like this. A friend of mine, Mike Curtis, and a couple of friends of his down in Alabama started writing this song just a couple of days after the 11th. And Mike faxed the lyrics over to me and told me to -- and then called me and said, read these, and if you like what's there, then maybe you can finish it and write a melody for it.
And so I did. I read, and liked what I read. And I did. I started working on it, and then that night, about 11 or 12 o'clock actually, finished, did whatever finishing touches to it, and then got it recorded. KING: Here it is, Randy Travis and "America Will Always Stand."
(MUSIC, RANDY TRAVIS SINGING "AMERICA WILL ALWAYS STAND")
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