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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

America Strikes Back: Interview With the President of Afghanistan

Aired October 26, 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, President Bush signs a sweeping anti- terror bill into law. Will it make Americans more secure?

And on day 20 of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Taliban say they have captured and killed a key opposition leader.

Joining us from Jabal Seraaj, the man the United States and other nations still recognize the president of Afghanistan. In Washington, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee and Foreign Relations Operations Subcommittee. He was with the president at the signing today, Senator Patrick Leahy. In Louisville, Kentucky, the ranking member of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee, Senator Mitch McConnell.

In New York, Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, U.S. Army retired, author of "Generally Speaking." From Missoula, Montana, former Democratic presidential candidate, World War II hero George McGovern. He opposed the Vietnam War and he supports U.S. military action in Afghanistan. And from Phoenix, the former anchor of ABC's "20/20" Hugh Downs. Plus a solo from one of the great Irish tenors, Ronan Tynan.

They're all next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We begin tonight with President Burhanuddin Rabbani. He comes to us from Jabal Seraaj in Afghanistan. He is the internationally recognized president of Afghanistan. As its head of state, he holds Afghanistan's seat in the United Nations.

We thank you, Mr. President, for being with us. What is your reaction to Taliban's execution of Abdul Haq in Kabul?

BURHANUDDIN RABBANI, PRESIDENT OF AFGHANISTAN (through translator): This is a very tragic event, and it is very telling of the cruelty of the Taliban and how unforgiving they are.

KING: How much does he fear for his own life?

RABBANI (through translator): Of course, once we took the path of resistance and the cause of our homeland, we have taken all the risks involved and we are prepared to make all the sacrifices.

KING: We were told, Mr. President, that you planned to visit the front lines of the Northern Alliance right before doing this interview. Did you do that? And when do you expect an offensive to begin?

RABBANI (through translator): Of course, this is a very busy schedule I had today. I was unable to visit the front. But this is still in plans. And as for the attack -- due to the change of political situation, it is still undecided.

KING: Do you expect to see, Mr. President, fighting during Ramadan?

RABBANI (through translator): The Taliban have traditionally not shown a whole lot of respect for our religious holidays, and so forth.

KING: Meaning that, therefore, fighting would continue during the holiday? Does he mean that?

RABBANI (through translator): As I mentioned, traditionally the Taliban has not refrained from unleashing terror on people for any religious circumstance or holiday. So of course, if they are going to be any attacks, we will do everything to defend our people.

KING: Mr. President, Russia has sent tanks to the Northern Alliance and military hardware. Knowing of the past problems with the Soviet Union, do you expect in the future to have political problems because of this?

RABBANI (through translator): Of course, as you know, Afghanistan had a history of a long war with the Soviet Union. But today, we are clearly no longer dealing with the Soviet Union. Now we are dealing with the Russian Federation, and their politics clearly differ from that of the Soviet Union.

KING: Do you expect, Mr. President, when this is all over, to lead the country once again?

RABBANI (through translator): We are -- myself and my colleagues are fighting to end the war in Afghanistan. And it would it be up to the people of Afghanistan to choose their leader.

KING: Thank you, Mr. President, thank you for the time, from Seraaj, Afghanistan -- Jabal Seraaj, Afghanistan, the President Rabbani. He holds Afghanistan's seat at the United Nations.

You are watching LARRY KING LIVE, and we will be right back.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We are at the beginning of what I view as a very long struggle against evil. We are not fighting a nation. We are not fighting a religion. We are fighting evil. And we have no choice but to prevail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE: In Washington, Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, chairman of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee. He was with the president when that now historic terrorism bill was signed today. And in Louisville, Kentucky, Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky, member of the Judiciary Committee and a ranking member of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee.

Senator Leahy, Senator Feingold was the only senator to oppose that terrorism bill. Were his points off mark?

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: No, I think that Senator Feingold was concerned about whether we were protecting our liberties -- liberties we all hold dearly, everyone of us, Republican or Democrats, in the bill.

And unfortunately, you are not going to write a perfect bill. None of us -- none of us could, there were enough conflicting opinions here. I felt that we wrote a bill that dramatically improved from what had been originally proposed by the attorney general and the administration. We had Republicans and Democrats who worked together for over a month to craft something that would have checks and balances, would protect our liberties, which we all hold dearly, but would also give us the tools to go after terrorists, go after a threat to the United States that is different than certainly anything that we faced in my lifetime.

KING: Senator McConnell, did you have any problems with it at all?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: None whatsoever, Larry. I don't think it came anywhere close to violating anyone's civil liberties. It has sort of evened up the law. I mean, the law made it prior to this enactment -- made it easier for us to go after gamblers and drug dealers than it did terrorists, and all this did was sort of balance the tools available to law enforcement. And no one's civil liberties in the United States are going to be infringed upon by enactment of this legislation.

KING: Senator Leahy, are Americans safer tonight?

LEAHY: Well, you know, we can give law enforcement and we give our intelligence people all the tools in the world -- we have given them considerably, but then it's how you use those tools.

We do face threats. We are seeing this in the anthrax. We don't know whether that's domestic or foreign. We do know that people like Osama bin Laden are plotting every minute of every day to how can they strike us again. They would love to do something like the Pentagon and the World Trade Towers again. They want to do that.

But I think they misinterpreted the United States if they think that we are simply going to sit back and let them do that. We are going to bring to -- we have given the president, we have given the attorney general and the intelligence agencies some new tools here, but it's how they use them. And I think in many ways, they are still learning how to fight this kind of a battle.

KING: Senator McConnell, there have been news reports in some areas that law enforcement officials because of frustration might use pressure tactics on detained terrorist suspects. Do you go along with that?

MCCONNELL: No, I don't think there is any chance we are going to alter our standards for interrogation, as simply because these are terrorists. This is a very civilized country. We are not going to become like our enemies in order to pursue these suspects. So, in some way they are fortunate that they were detained in the United States of America.

There is some chance, however, if there is never any cooperation that, as a number of newspapers have suggested, that they could, you know, be extradited to other countries. But we are going to keep an eye on these people even if they don't talk, and one way or another hopefully, at some point get their cooperation in pursuing, as the president put it, the evil-doers.

KING: At that signing today, Senator Leahy, was the mood upbeat?

LEAHY: Well, I think the mood is very serious. I have been to, just like Senator McConnell, we have both been to dozens upon dozens of bill signings. You usually come in there, everybody is kind of clapping everybody on the back and all. This was a lot more serious. In fact, I took a photograph of the president's signing, because you usually don't see the hand going down from that angle, just because I thought it was a different type of thing.

And we were relieved to have the bill go through, and a lot of people worked very hard -- Senator McConnell did -- but we realize that this only one part of what we have to -- what we have to do. And you know, there are so many other things beyond this. Senator McConnell and I led a piece of legislation on the Senate floor this week to -- on foreign aid that seats a number of priorities around the world, which in many ways are also going to help us in trying to eradicate disease, eradicate poverty in other parts of the world, remove some of those things that are breeding grounds for bin Laden and to show the real nature of the United States.

In the long run, a lot of that will help us in the same way that President Truman's efforts with the Marshall Plan after World War II helped stability.

KING: We keep hearing, Senator McConnell, about confusion, interagency not reporting to each other. Do you expect that to improve?

MCCONNELL: I think it is going to improve, Larry. Tom Ridge was a superb choice by the president. He is going to have the authority given to him directly by the president to try to coordinate the homeland defense, and the president could not have picked someone better to do that.

If I may just add to what Pat said, I think an important part of this war is going to be what we are doing obviously overseas, not just on the military front. But he and I have been jointly involved in the foreign assistance package each year. We are going to help the people of Afghanistan -- our war is not against them.

We are going to help not only feed them but help rehabilitate them and get them a chance at having a normal country after all of these years of war, so that is an important tool as well.

KING: Let's take a call for our senators. Dallas, Texas, hello.

CALLER: Hello. If we attack Iraq, what's it likely that Saddam would fire SCUD missiles at Israel and all the chemical and biological weapons he has got? Is that like a real concern or?

KING: Senator -- well, that's for both of you. What about Iraq?

LEAHY: Well, we have attacked Iraq before, and we know they withheld any major attack against Israel. I mean, Israel is the most powerful nation in the Middle East, and I'm sure they are concerned about what type of massive retaliation might come back from Israel.

KING: And senator McConnell?

LEAHY: But I haven't seen plans that we're going to attack Iraq at this point.

KING: Senator McConnell?

MCCONNELL: Larry, I do think we've got to -- we've got to finish the first job, which is to topple the Taliban and catch and bring to justice as many of the al Qaeda as we can find.

Certainly, in my judgment, Iraq is to be dealt with down the road. It has been like a nagging toothache ever since the end of the Persian Gulf War. Saddam is saying -- his fingerprints are all over a lot of things that are evil. So we may have to deal with that another day. And my prediction is, we'll have to deal with it another day, but first we must finish the job in Afghanistan.

KING: What do you make, Senator McConnell, of the killing of Abdul Haq today by the Taliban? He was the Afghan opposition leader.

MCCONNELL: Well, it certainly illustrates the nature of the regime there. They have not only mistreated women, they have mistreated their own citizens. Beyond mistreatment, they kill people with impunity. It is an outrageous regime that has been very bad for Afghanistan, and it will not stand once this conflict in Afghanistan is over. The Taliban has to go, as the president made clear. I don't think there is any chance that they are going to cooperate with us in finding bin Laden and the al Qaeda. So I think they are going to have to be toppled, and they will be toppled.

KING: Senator Leahy, do you buy any of the criticism that internationally the team is excellent, but domestically it suffers some?

LEAHY: I'm not sure I know what you mean.

KING: Well, the domestic team -- the Bush team seems that they keep, you know, unchartered territories, obviously mistakes were made with telling postal workers go back in and the like.

LEAHY: I don't fault President Bush on that at all. I mean, the fact is we are doing something that nobody knows what to do. I mean, this is not like when you have a flood or a natural disaster, we -- the administration after administration have handled those, you have some kind of benchmark, you say what's the right way to do it.

I think it is such a fast learning process, and obviously we have to do more, and certainly we know that our postal system is, in the short term at least, is going to be crippled. And in the long term, we are going to spend a great deal of money to make it safe. We will make it safe.

But we are still learning this as we go along. We saw that at the -- here at the nation's Capitol. We have kept the Congress open, but we have been hampered and hobbled for a week and a half at least, because so many of our staff can't get back into their office buildings -- members can't get back into their office buildings.

So we are learning as we are going along. No, I don't criticize the president. I think he wants to make sure we do the right thing. I think Tom Ridge -- I agree with Mitch McConnell -- Tom Ridge is an excellent choice. But this is -- we are learning, and people are putting in 20-hour days trying to learn.

KING: Is it, Senator McConnell, that we have no history with anything like this, there is no prerequisite to deal with?

MCCONNELL: Yeah, that is precisely the point. Pat has got it right. I mean, we have never had an anthrax attack before. And we are sort of learning as we are going along. So I think it's pretty easy to be a Monday morning quarterback here, but in fact I think everybody has handled this very well. We will not make the same mistakes twice.

And with regard to the safety of the mail, let me just say that -- to the people who are watching your show, we are going to figure out how to make the mail safe. I think we are going to figure out how to do that very quickly, and restore the confidence of the American people that their mail will be in good shape.

KING: Neola, Iowa, for Senators McConnell and Leahy. Hello.

CALLER: Yes. Thank you very much for taking my call.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: What do you think about the United States doing more drilling for oil in the protected areas so we aren't dependent on foreign oil?

KING: Senator Leahy? LEAHY: If that all there was to make sure we wouldn't be dependent on foreign oil, it would be one question, but it's not. We could equal that amount just by conservation measures. We saw what happened in California when they had a huge crises, and they just took the kind of conservation measures everybody said that we should be taking all the time. And immediately, they cut substantially their use of energy.

The practical matter, though, if we were to agree, the Congress were to agree today to allow drilling in ANWR, for example -- something the Congress is not going to do -- it would be years before we would see the results of that.

KING: Senator McConnell, you might disagree.

MCCONNELL: Well, the caller is talking about opening up a very small portion of the Alaskan wilderness, about the size of Dulles Airport, for further exploration and drilling. That is something we ought to do, and I think given all the problems that emanate from the Middle East and our dependence on oil from that part of the world, it would really be quite foolish not to pursue that -- those oil fields.

And I -- I think at some point we will do that. Pat and I are probably on the opposite side of that issue, but I think that's something we ought to vote on this year, and I hope we will open up at least that tiny little portion of the Alaskan wilderness so that we can better meet our domestic needs for oil.

KING: Valiant, Oklahoma, hello.

CALLER: Hello. My question is: Do we have a plan to defend ourselves against something that is contagious and horrific as the ebola virus, if it were used?

KING: Or smallpox. Do we have a plan? Senator McConnell, you start with that one.

MCCONNELL: Well, I think we are well under way with not only spending more money but laying out plans not only to deal with something like ebola, but obviously there has been a lot of discussion about smallpox. We are rapidly trying to get the vaccines in place to deal with all of these potential threats.

KING: What's victory to you? Senator McCain wrote an op-ed page article in "The Wall Street Journal" today, saying, "we can't fight the war in increments or half-measures. We have to fight to win." What is victory to you, Senator Leahy, in Afghanistan?

LEAHY: Well, I think initially, of course, victory would be if we were to get Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants and wipe that out, and then to help the Afghan people restore some semblance of democracy, at least to the extent that they could, given some hope for the future. You have people who are starving to death, you have people who have absolutely no hope.

When after the former Soviet Union invasion when that was over, the big mistake made by democracies was not to go in there and help the people to re-establish a life, so that would be the short term victory. But I'm -- understand, we are going to face these kinds of threats for a long, long time to come, probably long after any of us are still in office, and there are long term things we have to do and help a lot of countries develop the kind of democracies and diversities where you don't have people just develop by hatred, what is the world's leading democracy.

KING: Senator McConnell, what's your read on the bipartisanship so far? You and Senator Leahy are classic examples of it working. Is it working generally?

MCCONNELL: Yeah, I think it's holding up very well. Let me just say quickly about John McCain's op-ed piece today -- he had it exactly right. We need to win. And the way you win in Afghanistan is to topple the Taliban, capture and bring to justice as many of the al Qaeda as possible, hopefully including Osama bin Laden. I think that is what the Islamic world is going to respect more than anything else, is success.

We've got a number of our erstwhile allies, the Egyptians, the Saudis, who are sort of with us and sort of not. I think they are waiting to see, Larry, whether we are going to finish the job in Afghanistan, and I think if we do, they will be emboldened to work with us more closely to get rid of these gangs wherever they may be found.

KING: Thank you both very much.

LEAHY: Mitch is right on that, there are going to be a lot of people who are with us if we win.

KING: Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator Mitch McConnell, thank you both very much.

When we come back, Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, United States Army, retired, served as deputy chief of staff for intelligence. We will get her read on the war after this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: As of today, we are changing the laws governing information sharing. And as importantly, we are changing the culture of our various agencies that fight terrorism. Countering and investigating terrorist activity is the number one priority for both law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE from New York Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, United States Army, retired. She was deputy chief of staff for intelligence, has a forthcoming book, "Generally Speaking," a memoir by the first woman promoted to three-star general in the United States Army history. First, on a breaking item that CNN has learned through our military affairs correspondent Jamie McIntyre, that according to a U.S. official telling CNN that Abdul Haq who was killed by the Taliban today used his cell phone to call a friend in Pakistan who called a friend in Washington asking for help. And according to this official, the only weapon handy was an unmanned predator drone armed with Hellfire missiles which fired at the Taliban forces but apparently not enough to save Haq. Do you have a comment on that, general?

RETIRED LT. GEN. CLAUDIA KENNEDY, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF FOR INTELLIGENCE: Well, that is the classic use of not only conducting a terrorist attack against this man in this inhumane and brutal way, but also to try to spread the word of how painfully he must have died. And how...

KING: So, we were not in a position to do anything that quickly then, right?

KENNEDY: Well, that's right.

KING: What's your assessment thus far of this -- of this military operation 20 days in?

KENNEDY: Well, we have done what we needed to do about gaining air superiority. We dominate the skies now over Afghanistan. So that makes it possible for us to conduct additional phases of this war against these terrorists.

This will make it possible for us to not only deliver food to the people who have been systematically and deliberately starved by their Taliban leadership, but it will also make it possible for us to gather additional intelligence in greater detail by lower-flying collectors.

KING: And what about ground forces? Do you expect to see a lot more of that?

KENNEDY: You know, Larry, this not a war like the one we saw in the Gulf War. This is a very different approach. It is different from what the Russians did when the Soviets were in there 20 years ago.

The ground troops we'll see in Afghanistan will be similar to the past raid that was conducted by special operations forces. We'll go in, we'll conduct the mission and we'll go back out. It will be in small numbers, conducted by elite infantry.

KING: Now, the Pentagon seems to be indicating -- not saying so in so many words -- that the Taliban is tougher than we thought. Is that true?

KENNEDY: Well, I'm not sure they are tougher that we thought. I think we have always known how tough the people are in that country. They have lived under very austere, very hostile conditions, and those that are there -- on whether it's on the side of the Taliban or on the side of the Northern Alliance -- are operating under the worst possible living conditions, and have for decades and decades. I think that what we are going to be doing is we are going to be giving our support to those forces who will fight the Taliban.

KING: The effort to try to get tribal leaders to defect apparently didn't work, and some people think that one of the problems with bombing -- there are pluses -- one of the minuses is when you bomb anybody you bring them together.

KENNEDY: See, I don't agree with that, Larry. I think that what your last two guests had to say at the very end, the two senators, I thought they were exactly right. If we act definitively and decisively and aggressively, this will show not only the Taliban but everyone around them in that region that we are totally committed.

You know, when people say, "well, what is it that we can do?" The most important thing Americans can do now is show enormous resolve and great, long-term political will to deal with this. And the way you demonstrate that is by being aggressive and getting in there, being very precise about the targets we hit, but we need to go ahead and fight this war as though we mean it, and fight it to win.

KING: Therefore, you agreed with the McCain op-ed piece in "The Wall Street Journal" today about being tough and resilient and being aware that we are going to lose some things in this?

KENNEDY: Yes, I do. I do agree with that -- that letter that he wrote, and I think that all of us are very realistic about the fact that there is no such thing as a war without loss. But the losses we'll suffer if we don't fight this war decisively, if we don't fight this war with great determination and a long-term sense of this will mean not only that will we suffer greater losses ourselves, but for generations to come our children and grandchildren will be forced to fight the war repeatedly.

KING: How about the coming Ramadan holiday? Do you fight through that?

KENNEDY: You know, Larry, for eight straight years, Iran and Iraq fought through Ramadan. Muhammad himself fought through Ramadan when he was building the Ottoman Empire. This is not a holiday that needs to be observed when we are conducting business that must be fought for our country and for the rest of the free world.

KING: You are optimistic.

KENNEDY: I believe that this country is strong. We've got the political will. We just need to keep ourselves resolved in that way. We certainly have the economic resources, and our military is trained and ready. And we can do this job. We need to be willing to do it in phases and we need to be willing to do it globally.

KING: Thank you, General. We look forward to calling on you a lot.

Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy, United States Army, retired. When we come back, one of the great heroes of World War II. In fact, he's part of a new book, "Wild Blue Yonder," that's fantastic. Senator George McGovern will come to us from Montana, right after these words. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. To learn more about upcoming guests, you can log on to my Web site at cnn.com/larryking.

Tomorrow night on LARRY KING WEEKEND, we'll take a major look at the World Trade Center, before and after. And Sunday, scenes from ground zero, memories that we'll never forget.

We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, from Missoula, Montana, Senator George McGovern, former United States senator, former Democratic presidential candidate, now serving as a roving global ambassador on hunger for the U.N.'s World Food Program. The first chance we've had to discuss with him all -- what do you make of the events of September 11th and since?

GEORGE MCGOVERN (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first of all, Larry, it is unprecedented. No administration has ever had to deal with anything quite like this. And I want you to know I support President Bush and his team. I think they've done a good job beginning with day one, coming right down to the president -- present time. And I support what they're trying to do in going after the Taliban and the terrorists that kill 6,000 innocent Americans on our territory.

KING: You were a strong opponent, as everyone knows, of Vietnam. Is this apples and oranges to compare it?

MCGOVERN: Yes. There's no comparison at all. In this case, these terrorists came to the United States and killed thousands of our citizens, innocent citizens, while they were at work. In the case of Vietnam, tragically, we were the only foreigners in Vietnam. The rest were all Vietnamese people.

We backed a side that had very little popular support in that contest, and as a result we lost. So, that's an entirely different situation.

I wish that I'd been even more effective in speaking out against the war in Vietnam. I can't look at that monument in Washington that marks death of 58,000 young Americans without tears coming to my eyes. It's a tragic national mistake.

KING: Yourself, you're no stranger to bombing, as everyone knows about your, or has since learned, about your heroic exploits in World War II. Does bombing work?

MCGOVERN: Yes, it does. I think it worked in World War II, where we knocked out Hitler's oil refineries. That was the specific function of the 15th Air Force with which I flew. I put in 35 missions, most of them against oil refineries, some against tank and airplane factories, some against railway yards. They worked very well.

Now, it's going to be more difficult in the case of Afghanistan. I've flown over that country several times, once or twice, low enough to see the terrain. It is going to be very difficult for bombing to be as effective there as it was against industrial targets in World War II.

But I think with General Powell sitting there beside the president, I think they're proceeding just right. They're trying to avoid needless civilian casualties and to concentrate their bombs on the areas of Taliban military support.

KING: Let's take a call. Taos, New Mexico for Senator McGovern. Hello.

CALLER: Hello, Mr. McGovern. I voted for you, sir. You have my respect.

MCGOVERN: Thank you.

CALLER: I'm concerned about the eight ladies that are in prison in Afghanistan. I'm wondering if it might not be a great morale boost if we'd go in there and bust them out.

MCGOVERN: Well, if that could be done with reasonable risk, it would be something that would be a good, at least symbolically, a good indication of what we're interested in doing, which is not to punish the people of Afghanistan, but to try to liberate them from this monstrous Taliban hold that has seized that country.

KING: What do you like, do you like the idea of dropping food?

MCGOVERN: I do indeed. I noticed that the president asked for $20 billion to fight terrorism, and the Congress responded with 40 billion. I'm not against that, as I said. But I wish we'd designate about 5 billion of that $40 billion and use it to reduce hunger, not only in Afghanistan, but in other desperately hungry parts of the world.

I'd like to see us spread that out over the next five years, about a billion dollars a year. I can't guarantee that that will reduce terrorism in the world. Neither can we guarantee that anything else we do is going to reduce terrorism. But I think this is the kind of thing that's in the American tradition. I think the American people would support that. Every religion in the world commands its adherence to feed the hungry, and we know how to do that better than any other country in the world. And we have the surplus foods that can enable us to do that better than anybody else in the world.

KING: Let's take another call for Senator McGovern. Hoosick Falls, New York, hello.

CALLER: Hello. Once our military succeeds in overthrowing the Taliban, what kind of government do you think will fill the vacuum left by the Taliban's absence?

MCGOVERN: It may not be a Jeffersonian democracy. We don't know what is going to happen after the Taliban is gone.

I can only say this to you: I can't imagine a group coming to power that's any worse than the ones that control that country today. I recognize there are some elements in the Northern Alliance that wouldn't face all the standards of the American Civil Liberties Union successfully, but they're certainly a more moderate and reasonable group than these fanatics that we know as the Taliban.

KING: Do you think the will of the American people, the resolve will stay strong?

MCGOVERN: I think it will. I think this tragedy has shaken this country more than anything I can recall since the Pearl Harbor attack.

You know, Larry, sometimes good things can come out of terrible tragedies. Already, this country is more united than it has been at any time in the last half century. Secondly, countries that were knocking on us six weeks ago are now offering their cooperation.

And I think the third thing that has happened is that I believe the American people want our government, our Congress, and our administration, and themselves to take a more careful look at the kind of a world we live in. We ought to know that half the people on this planet do not have enough to eat. They are desperate in many cases. And those are the fertile recruiting grounds for the Osama bin Ladens of this world.

KING: Kirksville, Missouri for George McGovern, hello.

CALLER: Hello there. Thank you for taking my call.

KING: Sure.

CALLER: I had the privilege of talking to a Pakistani student in our area, and he said that it's going to take, after we get rid of all the Taliban, 20 to 30 years of assistance to educate the people so they can go on with a decent life. Are we prepared to stay there that long to help them?

MCGOVERN: Well, we don't have to stay there alone. The United Nations is involved in Afghanistan right now, and they will continue to be involved. But I think the United States should stay for whatever length of time it takes to help create a better opportunity for life in that country.

Afghanistan has suffered terribly. First, 10 years under the Russian occupation, and then along comes the Taliban -- I regret to say people that we helped arm against the Russians, we didn't intend them to take over the government in the way they have -- but I think we ought to stay the course. We ought to have an intelligent aid program, in cooperation with other countries through the United Nations.

I think that will be better received than a unilateral effort by the United States alone. KING: Allow me a personal note. You won't read a better book around than "The Wild Blue, the Men and Boys who Flew B-24s Over Germany" by Stephen Ambrose. A major part of that book concerns George McGovern who flew 35 missions and earned the distinguished Flying Cross. It's going to be made into a film. A great American! Thank you, Senator McGovern, always good having you with us.

MCGOVERN: Thank so you much, Larry.

KING: When we come back, one of my favorite journalists, Hugh Downs joins us. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TOM RIDGE, HOMELAND SECURITY DIRECTOR: The president is passionate about planting the flag of freedom, in its freedom from fear. That is what we have to defeat, because terrorism is out there in all kinds of forms. We have to feel a lot more secure about our ability to respond. And with the help of you, I'm absolutely convinced we can get that done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We are back. The firm of Cantor Fitzgerald lost more than 700 employees in the World Trade Center. One of them, Donald Givogian (ph). His widow, Jackie Givogian (ph), gave birth to a little boy Tuesday at New York University Hospital. The baby's name is O'Connor (ph). We wish them well.

Joining us now from Phoenix, his home, Hugh Downs, the former anchor of ABC's "20/20." He has witnessed and covered many news events in his lifetime, but you have no perspective for this one, right, Hugh?

HUGH DOWNS, FORMER ANCHOR, ABC'S "20/20": None, like everybody else.

KING: What do you make of it from a -- how is journalism doing?

DOWNS: Well, journalism I think is doing fine. You know, this criticism of journalism, its foibles, are still here. And just as there is criticism of the government which wants to keep secrets. That is all surface stuff. That is -- that is natural.

But by and large, I think journalism is doing a very good job of keeping the public informed about what is going on to the best of their ability, just as the government is doing to the best of its ability in a unique situation that never existed before -- I think the administration has not fallen into the trap of mere retaliation and has got as much of a plan as is possible in total unknown grounds so far.

KING: Compared to other crises, how do you think the public is doing? DOWNS: The public is -- I don't remember seeing this much unity right after Pearl Harbor, to tell you the truth. We -- this nation instantly got unified. Partly because one of the differences was that you've got, you know, thousands of people killed who weren't military people, and it wasn't a nation going against us, it was some secret, sinister evil -- and we needed to feel unified, and we got unified. And I think that's a good thing.

KING: Is there any -- do you find a historical reason for optimism here?

DOWNS: I sure do, Larry.

KING: I figured you would.

DOWNS: Let me give two examples I think of why the forces that represent our desire to have civilization, that is the human values that we cherish, always in the long haul prevail over forces that are purely destructive. When Sparta was fighting with Athens, Sparta was a militaristic culture, and -- does this sound familiar? They took 4- or 5-year old boys away from their mothers, put them in military barracks, and it was the manual of arms, and their whole life was devoted to destructive military action.

Athens was a democracy. And it cherished a lot of the values that built our civilization as we know it now. One would have thought that Athens could have been steamrolled by Sparta. But Athens won.

And the other example I think is the American Revolution. Liberty and freedom were much more important and more -- and gave more motivation to the humans involved in it than the tyranny of George III. So I think we will win this. We have to win it. And I am optimistic on that basis.

KING: Question for you, Downs, from Quebec, Canada. Hello.

CALLER: Hello. Larry?

KING: Yes.

CALLER: You have a wonderful show.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: But my big worry is that too much classified information is getting through the media to the enemy, and you know, it is wartime. There should be more of a censorship, I find.

KING: Hugh?

DOWNS: Well, this is the big thing. The government has a right to have some secrets in wartime, but is the duty of the press really to be sure that things that go to the world are not withheld from the American public.

It was like the bombing in Cambodia. You know, for a long time we were -- we were the only ones not being told. The rest of the world -- Cambodians for sure knew they were being bombed. I think it is a duty of the press to keep an eye on the government, let it keep those secrets that are proper, but let it not use secrecy to cover up error or for other reasons that are not right.

KING: Are you surprised, Hugh, that more Islamic religious leaders are not speaking against this so anti-Islamic act?

DOWNS: This depresses me, Larry, because I have not -- you know, individual imams in this country have stated, "this is not our religion," that there is nothing in the Koran that justifies -- in fact, the Koran specifically enjoins against suicide or the harming of noncombatants. These lunatics that did what they did are not really properly Muslim people.

It depresses me, though, that world Islam has not made an articulate statement yet about this. And for this reason, if the reaction and response of world Islam to this terrible tragedy is merely to further embrace Wahibism and to increase the number of jihad schools -- now recruiting young women as well as young men, presumably so that the women can grow up to be the mothers of martyrs -- then there is a terrible tragedy working, and it will become a self- fulfilling prophecy that it will be a war against Islam. And this would be awful.

I'm hoping yet to hear from world Islam, that will produce that distance. It may be that they really feel that way, but they haven't articulated it yet. And I'm waiting for that.

KING: What's your read on the anthrax thing? It touched your former network.

DOWNS: Boy, yeah, that really makes you think. And I think, you know, this criticism there that the government hasn't properly consolidated its view about anthrax -- but again, it is unchartered territory. I think very early on we were told by experts that anthrax -- and it was somewhat soothing and it was worthwhile to know -- that anthrax is not contagious in the way that you are going to get it by being in the same room with somebody who has it -- and then it develops that -- first of all, the strains were more sophisticated and more indicative of some higher entity like a government that would be doing it.

So, we are at one -- on the one hand soothed and on the other hand alarmed, but we should be very alert at what the full potential of this is. And again, I think the administration is doing its best to get that across as honestly to the people as possible.

KING: What do you make of the anti-terror law signed into law today?

DOWNS: That is interesting. And I know that worries some people, because it's going to broaden government ability to pursue that. And in it, there will be some injustice unavoidably.

But it is the kind of thing that happens. When there is a war like this, the government needs a little broader powers to pursue that .

KING: Are these times you miss being in the front lines here, Hugh?

DOWNS: No, I don't really, Larry.

It's an odd thing when I watch -- I watched the major networks and I watch in the same way that if you are at a boxing match and you're ringside. You will not see the fight as well as you do on television.

And, if I were in the field doing something in connection with this tragedy, I would be very intense about that. But I would not see the overall picture as I do now as a viewer. So in a way, I don't miss it.

KING: And where were you September 11?

DOWNS: I was just going into my exercise room and I had to turn on the television. And as a matter of fact, I had heard Peter Jennings saying there was a fire in the upper floors of the World Trade Center. And then, of course, it unfolded as to what it really was.

And you know, Larry, at one time I thought -- I grieved for the people who had loved ones in that building. But I am not in the insurance business. I didn't have offices there. I didn't know anybody.

But three days afterward, I had to go for a car insurance question that I had to my car insurance company, and I dug out a letter that had the phone number, which I hadn't memorized, of this young girl that had been helpful to me. And I saw the letterhead said "World Trade Tower -- 94th floor."

And my heart sank and I called the guy up that I know had offices uptown who knew about it. And I said my fingers are crossed and I hope that you guys all moved out of there or that Stephanie is no longer with you. And after a pause he said, "Stephanie is no longer with us, along with 312 other people in our company."

And now it was personal. Now I suddenly realized that probably everybody is touched one way or another by that tragedy.

KING: Thanks, Hugh. Always good seeing you.

DOWNS: Thank you, Larry.

KING: Hugh Downs.

When we come back, the great Irish tenor, Ronan Tynan, will close off the musical proceedings for us after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Lieutenant Colonel Kip Taylor was one of the more than 180 people who died at the Pentagon on September 11.

He left his wife, Nancy, eight and a half months pregnant. She shared his story with us last month and now we'd like to share some happy news about her.

Nancy had a baby boy, John Luke Taylor, yesterday. Mother and son are doing well and we send them our best.

Joining us now from New York, the brilliant Irish tenor Ronan Tynan. The Irish Tenors, by the way -- he's one of that group. They're going to kick off their Christmas tour the end of next month.

He's also a physician, champion athlete, double amputee -- will sing at the firefighters' benefit at Madison Square Garden on the 18th and will sing at the World Series at Yankee Stadium next Wednesday -- was at the Alfred Smith charity dinner.

And you sang for the President and Mrs. Bush the day before this horror, right, Ronan?

RONAN TYNAN, IRISH TENOR: That's right. The night before, actually, I was with President and Mrs. Bush. It was a wonderful experience,

Little did any of us realize that the next day would be one of the most tragic events in world's history.

KING: And something that will etch in your mind as long as you can think, right?

TYNAN: I think so. I think a tragedy like that is so huge, it is hard to understand.

But one thing you can see in New York and America, the world is so proud of the people and they're so full of admiration for how people have come together.

KING: Yes they are.

And now Ronan Tynan will entertain us with his voice. We end every night on a musical note.

This is the brilliant song from "Man of La Mancha", one of my favorite Broadway show tunes of all time.

Here's Ronan Tynan and "The Impossible Dream".

(MUSIC, RONAN TYNAN SINGING "THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM")

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Coming up on LARRY KING WEEKEND on Saturday night: a look at the World Trade Center.

And on Sunday night: scenes from ground zero and beyond.

Thank you very much for joining us. We will be back live on Monday night. Two LARRY KING WEEKENDS over the weekend.

And next, a special report in New York from my man, the steadfast Aaron Brown.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com


 
 
 
 


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