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CNN Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer
Thompson Discusses Anthrax Anxieties; Abdullah Abdullah Addresses Northern Alliance's Role in Afghanistan; Levy, Shelby Talk About Military Goals
Aired October 14, 2001 - 12:00 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.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: It's noon in Washington and New York; 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles; 8:30 p.m. in Kabul, Afghanistan; and 9:00 p.m. in Islamabad, Pakistan. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this special three-hour LATE EDITION.
And a reminder that this week, the third hour of LATE EDITION belongs to you. We'll be taking your phone calls for our military and weapons experts as well as reporters covering the war on terrorism.
And we'll get to our interview with U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson in just a moment, but first, here are the latest developments.
At least one person has been killed in anti-American protests in Jacobabad, Pakistan. Twelve others were hurt when demonstrators clashed with police. Protesters were stopped before heading to an airbase reportedly used by the United States in air strikes on Afghanistan.
The Taliban says the United States is targeting Afghan civilians. In a taped statement delivered to Al-Jazeera network and reviewed by CNN, Al Qaeda spokesman Suni Menabo Riht (ph) accused President Bush of intentionally bombing a village. The White House calls the statement, quote, "just more propaganda."
Early test results out of Florida show five more people might have been exposed to anthrax. The CDC says all of those people are being treated with antibiotics and show no signs of infection.
The anthrax scares in Florida, New York and Nevada have caused great alarm throughout the United States and indeed around the world. U.S. government and health communities are trying to calm the public's fears and prevent additional outbreaks.
Earlier today I spoke with the man in charge of the nation's health, the U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson.
BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, welcome back to LATE EDITION. Always good to have you on the program. We now have cases of anthrax in Florida, New York and Nevada. And the American public, people all over the world are asking, what's going on?
TOMMY THOMPSON, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Well, basically we only have two cases. We have one case in Florida, two other individuals who have been exposed to anthrax, five other that's are still being tested. We have one case in New York and one other case that's being looked at.
And the one in Nevada -- that has been an envelope that has tested positive the first time, negative the second time, positive the third time. Now, that sample is going on to CDC in Atlanta, and we'll have the analysis done relatively quickly and be able to determine conclusively if it's anthrax.
But basically what's happening are individuals are sending -- individuals or individual -- is sending things through the mail that have anthrax enclosed in there, and as a result of that, individuals have become exposed to it. We have been able to respond both at the local level, the state level and the federal level, and we will continue to do so.
BLITZER: And the distinction obviously between exposed to anthrax and actually contracting anthrax is a significant difference.
THOMPSON: Big difference, because you actually become sick and actually have got anthrax that you have to be treated for.
We're taking precautions and treating a lot of other people that have been associated with those individuals. Even though it's not contagious, they're in the workplace, they might have inhaled it or might have gotten it through the skin, which is called cutaneous.
THOMPSON: There are three ways to get anthrax: through the stomach, through eating some contaminated food that has anthrax. Ingestion, which is the worst, and that's -- or inhalation, which is what Mr. Stevens got from Florida and passed away from. And then, of course, cutaneous is through the skin. You have a sore and some of the spores get in there.
BLITZER: So, if you touch an anthrax and you don't have a sore, you don't have an open wound, you're not necessarily going to contract it.
THOMPSON: Hardly, very, very unlikely that you will. You have to have quite a few of the spores. In inhalation, they figure somewhere around 5,000 to 10,000 spores you've got to inhale in order to contract the anthrax disease. And that, of course, is the most serious one.
But it can all be treated, and it's not contagious. We want to make sure people understand that if you come in contact with somebody that has anthrax, you will not get it. You have to have the microbe, the bacteria get into you somehow, either through the skin, through the stomach or breathe it in through the air. BLITZER: At this point, the investigation's under way in South Florida, in New York, and in Nevada. Are they connected? Is there some common link between all three?
THOMPSON: We don't know conclusively. Some look suspicious, but we don't know for sure, and we can't speculate. We want to make sure.
And that's why the labs in Atlanta -- that's where CDC -- we have a great organization.
BLITZER: The Centers for Disease Control.
THOMPSON: The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. They're going to be the ultimate individuals as far as testing. Even though we have some wonderful state labs, they want to be corroborated by the federal lab in Atlanta.
And we have some wonderful experts down there working around the clock. We got a hotline, and we got our laboratories open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And these individuals are working overtime in order to turn out these reports and analysis.
But right now we cannot say conclusively that they are connected. We are examining that possibility. And we're also examining to see if there are more than one or if it's just one individual. All of these things.
But right now, as far as the health care is concerned, we've only had one case in Florida, two exposures, five others that are still being checked; one case in New York, one other individual. In Nevada, just the envelope. And we're taking precautions, which we always do. And we go in there and ask individuals to be tested. We've tested thousands of individuals so far, and we will continue to do so.
BLITZER: As you know, there are scares all over the country.
THOMPSON: Oh, absolutely.
BLITZER: But these are the only three investigations, three cases of confirmed exposures that you know of. Are there any others that we don't know about?
THOMPSON: No, to the best of our knowledge, these are the three that show the positive signs of anthrax. We've had a lot of other things that are being sent in that we examine from other states that have shown that they have been negative. But, as far as a positive, it's only been those three states -- Florida, New York and Nevada.
BLITZER: Is it too early to conclude that this is bioterrorism?
THOMPSON: Well, there's no question it's bioterrorism. It's a biological agent. It's terrorism, it's a crime, it's terrorism. But whether or not it's connected to Al Qaeda, we can't say conclusively.
A cynic can say that it looks like it, but there has not been conclusive evidence tying it in to Osama bin Laden or to Al Qaeda. All we know, it's a terrorist act, because anybody that would do this is trying to create terror, trying to create fear in the American public. And that of course is not acceptable.
BLITZER: So you don't know if it's a domestic, home-grown U.S. terrorist or a terrorist organization or an international organization...
THOMPSON: We do not.
BLITZER: ... if it's Osama bin Laden or anyone else.
THOMPSON: We do not know conclusively.
And the FBI is working diligently, trying to find out all of these answers. They're working very closely with CDC, as we are with them. And we're changing information and exchanging the kind of reports, and we're hopeful to be able to give information out as soon as we can come up conclusively.
We don't want to speculate. We want to make sure, when we give you something, Wolf, it's absolutely certain, and it has been tried and confirmed by two labs.
BLITZER: What, if anything, do the postmarks of these letters, the Trenton, New Jersey, postmark, apparently for the letter that was sent to NBC News, the Malaysia -- the Kuala Lumpur postmark sent to Nevada, what, if anything, does that say?
THOMPSON: It really doesn't say anything at this point in time, except that that's where they came from. We can't conclusively say, you know, draw any conclusions from it at this point in time, or the two letters that came in to NBC from Florida. We can't say, you know, anything other than the fact that that's where they came from.
We would advise the public out there, if you see something that is suspicious, if it's got a return address that's different from the postmark, if it's oblong, or if it smells, if it's got powder around it, or if it's got wires sticking out, make sure that they contact 911, or be able to contact the local health department and find out if we can examine it and see if it should be tested.
BLITZER: On October 4, you made a statement that I want to play for you. I want you to listen to what you said on October 4.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
THOMPSON: Americans should not be scared and to believe that they need to buy gas masks. And people should not be frightened into hoarding medicine or food. There is nothing that we know of that would warrant such actions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is that statement still operative?
THOMPSON: Absolutely. BLITZER: Because, you know, you've been criticized by some for being overly optimistic, Pollyannish. In trying to reassure the American public, some have said, you're misleading them by the nature of the dangers.
THOMPSON: We're not misleading. All we're doing is giving out evidence. We do not have any proof there's going to be an extensive bioterrorism attack on America. It's possible, but we don't have any proof of it.
We can respond. We have 7,000 doctors divided up into 90 medical assistant teams throughout the United States. They're going to be able to move in, help the state health departments, local health departments, help coordinate, develop a plan. And we have 81 labs that are connected to CDC that are able and willing and very capable of doing analysis, and they're on alert 24 hours a day. We have 50 tons in eight different locations, or 400 total tons, that can be moved in within hours of pharmaceutical supplies.
And people purchasing Cipro got to realize they should not take Cipro without a doctor's prescription because it does have some side effects. And if you do take Cipro, you may develop an immunity to it, so if, in fact, you needed it in the future, it wouldn't have the same effectiveness. So, therefore, you shouldn't do it.
And a gas mask, you can't wear a gas mask 24 hours a day.
I don't want to be Pollyannish, but I just want to make sure Americans understand that we can respond. Sure, we have some problems. There's no question about that. But we're going to go into Congress this week. We're going to purchase some more pharmaceuticals, and therefore the Americans citizens doesn't have to because we're going to go in and purchase more. We have enough dosages right now to treat 2 million Americans for 60 days for anthrax. We have fifteen-and-a-half million doses of smallpox vaccine, and we're asking Congress for an extra billion dollars to purchase more.
BLITZER: And on the Cipro, which is the antibiotic that works in the case of anthrax, the 2 million doses that you say...
THOMPSON: It's more than 2 million. It's to treat 2 million Americans for 60...
BLITZER: But the CDC says they would like to increase it to 10 million.
THOMPSON: That is the goal. And we're hopeful we'll be able, if Congress appropriates the money -- we're confident they will on a bipartisan basis. We will then be able to increase purchase from 2 million up to 12 million, be able to treat 12 million.
But you got to realize there is not -- this is not contagious. And while we're treating Americans, if we needed to, we can purchase more. So we are able to supplant and to be able to increase that supply any time we need to. BLITZER: And you say you're going to go to Congress and seek the funding as early as this week, this coming week, to increase up to 12 million Americans that would be eligible for the...
THOMPSON: And OMB has already agreed to that. The vice president, the president have just been passionate about increasing our supplies. We're very fortunate that we have that kind of leadership and they're willing to do so, and I'm very appreciative of their support.
BLITZER: How long will the pharmaceutical companies need to increase the level from 2 million Americans to 12 million?
THOMPSON: We're going to be contacting them right away this week, and we just got the approval from OMB, and Congress, I'm sure, will give their quick support. So, it should be relatively soon.
But I just want to make sure to every American that we have enough right now to be able to respond.
BLITZER: There's been criticism, though, that there's not enough vaccination to prevent anthrax. Military personnel routinely get the vaccination. There's one firm in Lansing, Michigan, that manufactures the vaccination.
BLITZER: But there's not enough for the public at large.
THOMPSON: But the therapy for treating anthrax is the antibiotics, it's not a vaccine. I want people to understand that the anthrax that we have tested so far react very favorably to our antibiotics. And it's not only ciproflaxin, it's doxycycline and its penicillin. All of these antibiotics have been very effective against anthrax strains that we have seen so far.
BLITZER: Is there enough treatment vaccinations or drugs to deal with other potential sources of bioterrorism like smallpox, bubonic plague? Because anthrax we're hearing about now, but potentially there are other agents out there as well.
THOMPSON: We have the recommended therapies within our push packs. I want to reiterate that we have eight of these push packs strategically located. And each of those push packages contain 50 tons of pharmaceutical supplies to meet with bioterrorism, chemical spills, chemical discharges, whatsoever. And they are distributed throughout America in eight different locations.
And we are able to move those within hours. In the case of New York, we moved 50 tons of medical supplies into the city of New York within seven hours after the terrorist attack on September 11.
And so we are very, very efficient, and we will be able to respond very effectively. And that's why Americans should feel secure. And they should continue to do their routine businesses or ordinary way of living and not be afraid, because, you know, I know people are afraid but I want to reassure them that the federal government, working with the state and local governments, are able to respond.
BLITZER: What's your worst fear right now?
THOMPSON: My worst fear is that a lot of people, copycat people, you know, people that want to carry out a grudge, a lot of individual false alarms that over burden our laboratories and don't allow to us get to the immediate cases of anthrax, a lot of idle rumors and accusations out there that we have to follow up because some of them may be credible. But they take our time and spread us more than I would like.
BLITZER: And overwhelm the system.
THOMPSON: And overwhelm the system. And that's what the terrorists want to see happen. And so we have to be very vigilant. If you see something suspicious, contact your local officials, and we'll make a determination if it has to be analyzed.
BLITZER: Did you ever think in your wildest dreams when you were the governor of Wisconsin...
BLITZER: ... when President Bush asked to you come to Washington to be the secretary of health and human services, that atop your agenda, right now, within the first year, would be the issue of anthrax and biological terrorism?
THOMPSON: No, it certainly wasn't. And I don't think anybody could have ever anticipated, ever expected this kind of events, chain of events in America.
And, as you indicated when we talked before your show, I mean, it's a very exciting time to be in government, very interesting and some of the biggest issues facing this country ever are coming to the forefront right now.
So I didn't expect it, I don't think anybody did. And I'm very happy that I did have some training back being a governor on bioterrorism because I was able to build upon that as secretary now.
BLITZER: And no regrets saying yes to President Bush?
THOMPSON: No regrets at all, because he's doing a wonderful job as president, I'm very, very happy and pleased to be able to follow him and to support him wherever I possibly can.
And I just want to, you know, leave you and the American public, you know, that we are able to respond. We got probably the best doctors and researchers and scientists in the world working with us on this problem through CDC and NIH. And we meet every day on this subject, and we're developing and getting stronger every day. And every time there's a problem, we come up with a solution and we will continue to do so in the future.
BLITZER: Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us.
THOMPSON: Thank you very much.
BLITZER: Good luck to you.
THOMPSON: You bet you, thank you.
BLITZER: And just ahead, I'll speak live with the foreign minister of the Northern Alliance, the group that's been fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan for years.
And later, what's the next phase in the U.S.-led war against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban? We'll discuss that and more with two key U.S. senators, Michigan Democrat Carl Levin and Alabama Republican Richard Shelby.
This special LATE EDITION will continue in just a moment.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
The Northern Alliance, or United Front, has been fighting the Taliban for years. Joining us now from northern Afghanistan is the foreign minister of the Northern Alliance, Abdullah Abdullah.
Dr. Abdullah, thank you very much for joining us.
And let me begin with the latest on the battlefield. Have your forces made any inroads against the Taliban since the start of the U.S.-led airstrikes?
DR. ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, FOREIGN MINISTER OF THE NORTHERN ALLIANCE: Of course, in different parts of Afghanistan, especially northern Afghanistan, in northwestern Afghanistan, large districts have been liberated from Taliban forces due to the operations or the offensive by our forces, all due to joining of forces previously under Taliban or in the '80s under Taliban control and later on defected toward us. And that program is continuing. Just today, two districts were liberated in Ghowr province and also another northern province of Afghanistan, Samangan.
BLITZER: So how far are your forces right now from the capital of Kabul? And when do you expect to be able to enter the city?
ABDULLAH: We are like 40 kilometers north of Kabul. And the issue of Kabul is one of political as well as military importance for us and also as far as the situation in Afghanistan as a whole is concerned. Moving towards Kabul will need a political decision, as well as a military circumstances.
I think right now our forces in areas north of Kabul are being put for a few days -- since a few days, in high alert. And they will be in that position until the circumstances allow movement of our forces closer to Kabul.
Then getting to the outskirts of Kabul, it will depend on the circumstances whether we will decide to place some security forces in Kabul or just wait for the U.N. to play a role. So there will be -- there could be different scenarios at that stage.
BLITZER: As you know, the Pakistani government, including its president, President Musharraf, they've made it clear they do not want the Northern Alliance to go into Kabul first.
The question is this: Who is making the decision as far as the political circumstances that you talk about, about who will enter Kabul first, assuming the U.S.-led airstrikes and potential ground force operation succeeds?
ABDULLAH: In fact, before September 11, Pakistan wanted Taliban to run over the country, to rule the whole Afghanistan -- Taliban and the terrorist groups which were associated with the Taliban. This was Pakistan's recipe for Afghanistan.
Later on, of course, the situation has changed. But what we don't expect from Pakistan is the repeating of the same mistakes as in the past. Briefly, the present situation is the outcome of the foreign policy of Pakistan.
So what is needed at this time to allow the people of Afghanistan to decide about their own destiny and to give the people of Afghanistan the right to self-determination. This decision should be one for the people of Afghanistan, not for the neighboring countries of Afghanistan. That's how the interest of all neighboring countries of Afghanistan could be protected, not imposing a solution from outside.
BLITZER: Is the Northern Alliance, the United Front, your organization, receiving the support -- military, financial, other support -- from the U.S. that you would like to receive?
ABDULLAH: We are in contact with the U.S. authorities. And I shouldn't say that we have received -- we haven't received any military support from the U.S. There have been humanitarian assistances for the people of Afghanistan in the areas under our control. That's all.
BLITZER: One final question, Dr. Abdullah. The Taliban today issued a statement saying that any members of the Northern Alliance, your forces, who were to defect to the Taliban -- in the words of the statement, "We will forget our past differences with those who join us now."
Are any members of your forces defecting to the other side?
ABDULLAH: Taliban has been giving us and others surprises all the time by issuing the statements as such. We are at a stage that it is the people under Taliban control which are defecting, because they believe that this is the right time, this is the opportunity to get rid of the Taliban, not vice versa.
BLITZER: Dr. Abdullah, thank you so much for joining us live from northern Afghanistan.
And now we get some reaction from two key members of the U.S. Senate: in Detroit, Michigan Democratic Senator Carl Levin. He's the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. And here in Washington, Alabama Republican Senator Richard Shelby. He's the vice chairman of the Select Intelligence Committee.
Senators, welcome to LATE EDITION.
And, Senator Levin, let me begin with you, your reaction to what we just heard from Dr. Abdullah. Is the U.S. -- should the U.S. be working more closely with the Northern Alliance to get its objectives achieved in Afghanistan?
SEN. CARL LEVIN (D-MI), CHAIRMAN, ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: Well, I think we will have to do that at some point if this is going to be a successful campaign.
But it's important that certain political pieces internally be put into place inside Afghanistan before that happens. Because unless that's done, we could find us ourselves in a situation where Pakistan would be very unhappy, for instance, if we just threw our lot in right away with the Northern Alliance without taking a real effort to put together a broad coalition which includes some of the southern groups as well, made up of the Pashtun group, which is much closer to Pakistan.
So we have a challenge here, but we can use this time very, very effectively, hopefully that we're going to get some people that are deserting from the Taliban. Secondly, to weaken the Taliban in Al Qaeda forces from the air, which we are doing.
Thirdly, to try to put into place a military capability internally which can do the ground force action against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. So it is an Afghan ground force, at least at the tip of the spear, supported by us and other countries rather than being an outside effort which does all of the ground force effort.
That is important because one of the things which bin Laden is trying to lie about is that this is somehow or other a war of the West against Islam, which it is not. It's a war of the world including Islam, against the terrorists.
But it would be very helpful, if practical, for the final defeat of Al Qaeda and bin Laden to come at the hands of internal Afghan forces, and that will take some coordination and cooperation between the various groups.
So this time can be very profitably spent in a number of ways. It's going to be a long and very difficult effort in any event.
BLITZER: Senator Shelby, I may be reading too much into what we heard from Dr. Abdullah, the foreign minister of the Northern Alliance, but it seemed, when I asked him about the Northern Alliance going into Kabul, the capital, he said that will depend on political circumstances.
Is the U.S. as far as you know, the Bush administration, holding the Northern Alliance back from going into Kabul out of fear that Pakistan, which opposes the Northern Alliance, could be really upset by that?
SEN. RICHARD SHELBY (R-AL), INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Well, it's a dicey situation over there. And what we're trying to do is not just topple the Taliban and bring self- determination of the people, but we've got to build these institutions and we build them as we go along.
We do not, I believe, want just the Northern Alliance to dominate the whole country because there are a lot of groups there, huge groups, we have to deal with. Northern Alliance can play a very important role but they're not the only player in Afghanistan.
BLITZER: It sound to me, Senator Shelby, that the Bush administration, what President Bush is doing right now, or at least thinking about doing right now, what he criticized the Clinton administration for doing earlier, what's called nation-bidding.
Is the U.S. now engaged in thinking about the future of Afghanistan and being intimately involved in nation-building?
SHELBY: Well, you can call it nation-building, you can call it helping stabilize countries or whatever.
But at the same time, I believe whatever happens in Afghanistan, whatever happens in Pakistan, we've got to do everything we can to help stabilize these two countries. Otherwise, everything will be lost that we've been involved with and what we're about to do.
BLITZER: Senator Levin, you're the chairman of the Armed Services Committee. How is this military campaign, as far as you can tell, moving along? It's exactly one week since the U.S.-led airstrikes began.
LEVIN: I think it's moving along well. The targets have been hit successfully. There obviously have been one tragic mistargeting. But other than that, I think they've accomplished what they set out to do.
And I think it is important, in response to your last question, that we do understand that some of the political pieces should be put together prior to the entry of any ground forces into Kabul. And so, this is not nation-building afterwards, this is actually putting some pieces together in advance of a successful ground force, both before and after.
There's got to be reconstruction that goes on, it should be done internally by the groups inside Afghanistan, agreeing to do this. But that's going to take some assistance from the United States to help get those groups together to give them some assurance from the outside that there will be some real support afterwards.
Not us imposing our will on them, but our assisting them to come together so that then a military campaign can be successful, continue to have Pakistani support. And then, again, when the defeat of the Taliban and Al Qaeda and bin Laden comes, that it be at the hands of internal forces, of Muslim forces, of Afghan forces rather than being something that is imposed or done by the West exclusively.
BLITZER: Senator Shelby, is that your understanding, that the next phase of this military campaign is the introduction of U.S. and perhaps other coalition ground forces?
SHELBY: Well, I think Senator Levin says it well, that we would be well served if we could help the people of Afghanistan and their forces topple a regime like this and get rid of the terrorists. And that would be my preferable goal.
BLITZER: But, as you know, there's a lot of strange bedfellows involved in this. Iran supports the Northern Alliance; the Russians, as you know are providing weapons, selling weapons to the Northern Alliance; Pakistan opposes this group, which is fighting the Taliban. The U.S. is entering some very delicate mine fields over there.
SHELBY: This is a dicey situation, and it has a lot of dynamics in it. And that's why we have to be careful how we do this. Not just topple the regime, but make sure that it's put in place something that will last, something that will stabilize the area.
BLITZER: All right, senators, stand by. We're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about.
We'll continue our discussion with Senators Levin and Shelby. Plus your phone calls, when LATE EDITION continues. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Americans must be mindful of the threat of additional terrorist acts, and be mindful of the fact that such a threat is real.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Welcome back. That was the Attorney General John Ashcroft reacting to reports of anthrax exposures this past week.
We're continuing our discussion, taking your phone calls for the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Carl Levin of Michigan, and the Senate Intelligence Committee vice chairman, Richard Shelby.
Let me get back for a second, Senator Levin, to this whole question of the objectives in Afghanistan perhaps moving beyond. Senator Lieberman, your colleague from Connecticut, was on Larry King earlier this week. I want you to listen to what he said about the next phase, perhaps, in this war against terrorism. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D), CONNECTICUT: Saddam really ought to be the next target of this war on terrorism because he can do the unthinkable to us if we give him a chance.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you agree that the Bush administration should already be thinking about targeting the Iraqi regime in the next phase of this war?
LEVIN: I think we've got to keep our focus on Afghanistan and keep Saddam guessing as to what would be next. But I think our immediate focus in all of our concentration should be on, how do we put together an effective campaign in Afghanistan.
And then, hopefully, the dynamic will change relative to terrorism in the world, and a number of countries that have condoned or supported or harbored terrorists will then understand that the tide is going against them after we succeed in Afghanistan.
So should we keep him worried? You betcha. But our main focus has to be on these events in Afghanistan, to win that with the help of the Afghani people.
BLITZER: You know, Senator Shelby, the new CNN-Time magazine poll out this weekend asked the American public should the U.S. attempt to remove Saddam Hussein from power. 71 percent said yes; 19 percent said no.
But if the U.S. gets engaged in that operation right now, many members of this coalition the administration is attempting to put together might quickly move away.
SHELBY: Well, that's probably true. But I agree with Senator Levin, that we should focus at the moment on Afghanistan and bring that to conclusion. And that will be a strong message to a lot of people in the world.
Let's not forget the message that President Bush sent out, and he's reiterated it: We're going to go after terrorism wherever it is in the world. If it is in Iraq, we're going after it because we have to. If we don't, we're getting nowhere with the terrorist fight.
BLITZER: Senator Levin, I don't know if you heard the interview I had earlier in this program with Tommy Thompson, the secretary of Health and Human Services. But if you did, were you reassured by what he had to say, that the country is, in fact, prepared for these threats of anthrax, smallpox, other potential bioterrorist agents?
LEVIN: For the most part, I was assured. There are very strong efforts made to strengthen that. But I think his general tone is right, that we ought to be, in a common-sense way, alert to things, but we shouldn't be scared. We should go about our daily business, but keeping kind of an eye open for unusual circumstances.
But I can assure you that there are major efforts being made to strengthen areas where we might need to be stronger than we now are. But we do have some significant capability already.
BLITZER: And, Senator Shelby, just as we're speaking, we're now getting these live pictures, 40 miles north of Kabul. The U.S. airstrikes once again apparently resuming. These pictures showing some of these airstrikes once again. It's been exactly one week since the U.S.-led airstrikes, of course, began.
Let's continue showing this picture. But as we do, Senator Shelby, how worried should the American public be right now about these anthrax scares?
SHELBY: I don't believe you should be that worried about anthrax because it's very difficult to spread, to move around, from everything I've been told by the physicians and people that deal with epidemics.
What I am concerned about to some extent is the possibility of smallpox, because that could -- that is very contagious. Let's hope it will never come here.
And I hope that the Secretary Thompson and others will reassure the American people. But to rule that out completely would be foolish.
I don't believe any of us should panic. I agree with Senator Levin that we should be alert, very much on alert. But we're strong people, and we've got to return to whatever is normal.
BLITZER: All right, senators, as we continue to show this live picture from Afghanistan, the skies over Kabul, about 40 miles north of Kabul we're being told, U.S.-led airstrikes continue. This now the second week of these strikes.
We have a caller from Georgia. Please go ahead.
CALLER: Yes, thank you very much.
Senator Shelby, can and should the American people have confidence in the intelligence-gathering by the government based on the recent events?
SHELBY: Well, we have had a lot of successes in our intelligence, with our agencies. But I believe we've had too many failures.
Right now I think they're working 24 hours a day, maybe 30 hours a day, to deal with the threat. But we can do better. They have to do better if we're going to win this war. I think most people know that.
I personally believe that we're going to have to restructure all of our agencies to deal with the unconventional war, warfare that we're going to face in the 21st century. But that's not going to happen overnight. What I think we should do today is concentrate our forces and our thinking about protecting this country and also winning this war, starting in Afghanistan.
BLITZER: Senator Levin, you heard Senator Shelby express concern about the country perhaps not being prepared for smallpox, an act of bioterrorism. Are you concerned about that or other potential terrorist actions involving chemical weapons or perhaps even nuclear weapons?
LEVIN: I'm most concerned about the biological threat, including the threat of smallpox. I think that's the one that perhaps keeps me up nights more than anything else.
Secondary would be other biological threats. And then, from there, chemical, and from there, nuclear.
But these are the areas we've got to worry about and focus on, particularly if these agents get into the hands of terrorists or terrorist groups. And that we know that they've tried to get their hands at least on biological and chemical weapons.
And that's one of the reasons why Saddam is so dangerous, and why it's so important that the U.N. keep their sanctions on against Saddam, and why we make sure that he understands that, while our current focus is on Afghanistan, that we have got one eye on him, and that we intend, one way or another, to address that situation after we've hopefully eliminated the threat from Al Qaeda and bin Laden.
BLITZER: And as we look at these live pictures from Afghanistan showing airstrikes continuing, the flashes that we're seeing may either be those bombs the U.S., perhaps other coalition planes' bombs, or they may be anti-aircraft fire going up from the ground. But obviously there's a lot of activity going on.
Senator Shelby, you're privy to some of the top secrets, the most classified information out there. We don't want you to necessarily share that information with us, and you obviously wouldn't either.
But when Senator Levin says he's worried about the terrorists getting hold of some of these perhaps nuclear, chemical, biological weapons of mass destruction, does Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network have this capability?
SHELBY: Well, they have some of the capability. We obviously know, dealing with chemical capacities, perhaps bioterrorism, biological. We're not sure at the moment that he can deal with nuclear. That's something we want to stop and stop him in his tracks.
BLITZER: Senator Shelby, unfortunately we have to leave it right there.
Senator Levin, thank you once again for joining us.
We always appreciate both of you on LATE EDITION.
LEVIN: Thank you.
BLITZER: And as we continue to show you these live pictures over Afghanistan, the latest resumption of U.S. airstrikes, we want to take a quick commercial break.
But when we come back, the threat of bioterrorism. Is the world, is the United States prepared? We'll hear from two guests who know a lot about this subject: the governor of Oklahoma, Frank Keating, and an infectious disease expert, Michael Osterholm.
LATE EDITION will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANIE DAILEY, EXPOSED TO ANTHRAX IN FLORIDA: I was told to meet with the FBI and the CDC and the health office. And after answering the questions with the FBI, they informed me that I had tested positive.
LARRY KING, HOST, "LARRY KING LIVE": First reaction?
DAILEY: It was like getting hit in the gut.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Stephanie Dailey, one of the employees at American Media in Florida who was exposed to anthrax.
Welcome back to our special LATE EDITION.
Could there be other anthrax episodes yet to be diagnosed? Here to answer that question are two guests: Joining us from Oklahoma City is the Oklahoma governor, Frank Keating. And in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Michael Osterholm. He is the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research at the University of Minnesota.
Welcome, both of you, to LATE EDITION.
Dr. Osterholm, let me begin with you. You were on a conference call, I take it, with the Health and Human Services secretary, Tommy Thompson, in recent days, offering your advice. What was the main message that you gave?
MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESSOTA: Well, I think it's really important right now we separate out this idea, are we really prepared for bioterrorism? We are preparing all the time. I would say we're underprepared, yet we're there.
But we have to separate that out from what's happening with this issue of anthrax and envelopes. Frankly, that's something we can manage very well. We are managing it right now. And let's not confuse the two issues, because that's what's contributing to the panic and fear in this country.
BLITZER: Now, just be a little bit more precise on what you mean when you say that the country is underprepared right now.
OSTERHOLM: Well, we do need more vaccines. We need more antibiotics. The public health system does need to have better plans in place. I'm actually optimistic. I have been one of those for five years stating that we're underprepared in a much larger way they we are now. And I'm very optimistic that, for the first time, I'm really seeing the kinds of collaborative efforts, the kinds of comprehensive plans and programs being put in to place.
So while we need it today, we're at least on track of getting it, some today and a lot more tomorrow.
BLITZER: Governor Keating, you participated in a so-called war game called Dark Winter, in which everyone seems to have concluded the country is woefully unprepared for the threats of bioterrorism.
GOV. FRANK KEATING (R), OKLAHOMA: Well, I think the smallpox preparation piece certainly is a worry because smallpox vaccines are in short supply. There aren't too many of them, maybe 12 million for 280 million people.
But I think what the doctor said is true. The first steps in preparation is vigilance and alarm, and we're there. At the state level, what we have to emphasize -- and the local level -- the first responders, the doctors, the nurses, the health departments, the police and fire, they're the ones that are going to have to solve this problem if it's going to be solved. So the most important thing is education and intelligence.
In my state, I assume many states, we have responders. We have people who are being trained for the purpose of avoidance. We just need to make sure that we have the intelligence and the information from Washington and from the experts above to make sure that below it isn't a calamity. But we are on the way toward preparation.
BLITZER: Dr. Osterholm, tell us why the worry involving smallpox is so much greater than the one involving anthrax. You heard Senators Levin and Shelby both express concern about smallpox very, very directly.
OSTERHOLM: Well, and I think many of us have actually been very concerned about that issue. Smallpox, which is a disease that was eradicated worldwide in the 1970s, kills about 30 percent of the people that contract it. Today virtually all of us in this country are susceptible to it. Very few have any protection remaining from the vaccines of the 1970s and no one's been vaccinated since then.
Unlike anthrax or the other diseases we talk about, should this happen, a person could transmit it themselves. So instead of having that first event be the end of it, like it is with anthrax where no one who becomes infected transmits this on, smallpox could be transmitted on.
And I'm very happy to report that I know the administration will be announcing very shortly a major new initiative in the area of moving the vaccine production up quicker, of actually making more doses available very soon. And I think there are, for the first time, really major, comprehensive plans being put in to place of how we'd respond to a smallpox at the legal level, at the health care services delivery level and at the vaccine level.
But we need to keep our eye on the ball. And that's where we're going to need support from Congress. We're going to need continued support from the administration to make sure that those plans are in place.
Governor Keating knows this very well. He participated in the Dark Winter exercise. And he's been a real leader there and can articulate, I think, even more from a policy standpoint why it's really important we keep our eye on the ball on those kind of issues and not be distracted, as the media has done, on just the anthrax letters, which are important but not the big-picture issue.
BLITZER: All right, gentlemen, stand by for one second.
Our CNN Miami bureau chief, John Zarrella, is covering the anthrax investigation in south Florida. He has a new development.
John, tell us what you have.
JOHN ZARRELLA, CNN MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Wolf, what we have is this.
County health officials are telling us -- this is within the hour -- that a second blood test will be given to an undetermined number of employees of American Media, at least maybe five. That's the number that supposedly tested positive from a first blood test for antibodies in their system that may or may not be there because those antibodies, germ fighters, are fighting anthrax.
ZARRELLA: So what they're going to do is, Wednesday or Thursday of this week, they're going to give those workers a second blood test to see how the antibody level has changed. If it's increased dramatically in their bodies, then that would indicate that they are in fact fighting a bacteria. Presumably then they would be able to draw the conclusion that it would be anthrax that the body is fighting.
But that's where it is now. Wednesday or Thursday, a second blood test being administered. They had said they would wait two weeks to do that. But because of the heightened concern here, they're going to go ahead and give them that second blood test a week early. That would be next Wednesday or Thursday -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, John, we're going to continue covering the story obviously. And if there are new developments, let us know.
But I want to get back to Governor Keating and discuss this other issue which seems to be of greater concern than anthrax, which is smallpox.
Are you hearing what Dr. Osterholm is hearing, that Americans by and large should start getting either booster shots or being vaccinated for smallpox?
KEATING: No, no, I don't hear that from Dr. Osterholm, and I am certainly not saying that.
What we need at the state level and the local level is intelligence as to what is the real threat. If the real threat are tornadoes and hurricanes and mudslides and gunshot wounds and car wrecks, we know how to respond to that.
If the real threat is smallpox, then, as he has indicated, we quickly need to develop vaccines, make them available. Don't let an individual in Washington say that the doctors and nurses, for example, in Atlanta can't have them, they have to go some place else. We have to have a decision-making mechanism that's prompt.
And also some kind of technology to quickly identify what is the problem. For example, that story on anthrax, to suggest it could be a week or two weeks before people find out whether or not they're confronting anthrax, that simply is too much time. Surely the country, with the great geniuses we have in science and medicine, can figure out a much quicker manner in identifying what is the nature of the beast.
But on the smallpox side, if in fact it is a threat, then we need to be trained and we need to have the vaccines available to provide for the doctors and the nurses and the medical personnel who are going to be treating people.
BLITZER: Dr. Osterholm, I want you to be very precise on this issue of vaccinations and smallpox. Those of us old enough to remember getting the vaccinations, are probably no good right now.
But what are you specifically saying the government should be recommending, as far as vaccinations for smallpox are concerned?
OSTERHOLM: Yes. Governor Keating said it very well. He's right on target.
We need to have the vaccines that could be available if we should have a problem. These vaccines are not going to be 100 percent safe. Some people will have reactions to them. We shouldn't be using those in a time when we don't yet have smallpox. But, if we're going to suddenly need to have it available, we've got to have it there.
So, Governor Keating said it very well. I support that position 100 percent.
If I could add one other piece, we've got to be careful with the news media right now. This piece that just ran just now is not news. It frankly is a part of an investigation just to follow up on these individuals. No one's sick.
And I'm concerned that the news media is reporting results right now that are preliminary results; that they're making major policy statements about which are just not going to ultimately, in another couple of days, show to even be there. I think potentially even some of the positive test results that are currently being reported out are preliminary results which will be false.
We all need to take a breath, including the news media right now. Because we're heightening this fear that's beyond its just desert. And, as science unfortunately isn't an automatic answer that's going to occur today -- we'd like to get better and faster at those -- but I'd implore the media right now, we need your help as much as we need the science.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to pick up that point in a moment, Dr. Osterholm and Governor Keating. Stand by. We have to take a quick break.
Coming up, the second hour of LATE EDITION. We'll continue our conversation about bioterrorism with both of our guests. We'll also take a look at the psychology behind terrorism. What makes Osama bin Laden tick?
All that and much more, when LATE EDITION continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our second hour of our special LATE EDITION. We'll get back to our discussion in just a moment. We're also standing by for a news conference from the New York mayor, Rudy Giuliani.
But first let's go to CNN's Catherine Callaway in Atlanta for a check of the latest developments.
BLITZER: We'll get back to our discussion on bioterrorism in a moment, but first I want to go to CNN White House correspondent Kelly Wallace. She's up near Camp David, Maryland, where the president is spending the weekend.
BLITZER: And 14 international journalists are being escorted at this moment into Taliban-controlled Afghanistan to see firsthand the bombed-out sites. One of those reporters is CNN's Nic Robertson.
Should let you know that he is free to report whatever he wishes. He joins us now with the latest.
Nic, give us a sense what's going on in Afghanistan.
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the very latest, we just attended a press conference given without cameras by one of the most senior leaders in the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Kabeer (ph).
Now, he just reiterated what we've heard from the Taliban in the past but gave it some more depth and context. He said that the Taliban would be prepared even at this stage to hand over Osama bin Laden. He said Osama bin Laden was like anyone in this country, subject to the laws of the land. But he said if the United States provides the Taliban with sufficient evidence to convince them that he is guilty of the attacks in the United States on September 11, then they say they will either turn him over to a third country for trial or in fact try him inside Afghanistan.
Earlier in the day, the Taliban did take us to a town about 60 -- a small village about 60 miles west of Kandahar. Now, this small village is tucked away in the mountains, a very remote area. There were about 50 houses in this village.
When we arrived there the residents of this village were picking through the rubble of the village. About 80 to 90 percent of the houses have been damaged. Both the Taliban and the residents say that the houses were bombed on Thursday by United States aircraft. They also say that missiles flew in and destroyed some of the houses in the village.
Now, Taliban officials and the villagers there say that some 200 people died in this village. We are unable to independently verify that figure. However, what we can say clearly is that the village was very extensively destroyed. There was clear evidence of bombing in the area and clear evidence of missile parts and an unexploded bomb in the village.
Now, subsequently, the Taliban took us to the hospital in this city of Jalalabad, where doctors are treating some 17 resident in the hospital, residents from that village who were caught up in the bombing.
We talked to some of those people in the hospital. Two young children there both orphaned. Another gentleman in a bed with his youngest one-and-a-half-year-old son, he said his other four children had been killed. Another gentleman in bed in the hospital with his about two- or three-month-old daughter who is very substantially injured in the legs. He said that his wife had died in the attacks.
Now, the people there said they didn't know why they had been attacked. And when we asked some of the villagers in the village, could it be possible that because they were tucked away in the mountains in a remote location that they could have been mistaken for terrorists training camp, they absolutely bridled at that idea and said there was no way, that they were just farmers, that they just lived on the land there and they were not involved in any type of terrorist activities. They didn't know why they could possibly have been targeted.
But also, Wolf, just to give you some more depth of what we've been able to see here inside Afghanistan, out on the streets of Jalalabad here, this sort of life is normal, if you will. Some of the stores are closed and we've seen a few people leaving town today, but a lot of the shops, the majority of shops are open. There's a lot of traffic on the road, there's a lot of people on the streets. We saw a lady this morning walking down the road with a box of soap powder in her hand. There are lots of cars on the road. All the gas stations here appear to have fuel. Anybody going there for fuel, we saw, was able to get fuel. Also we asked to go to the airport to see some of the damage there. The Taliban took to us the airport. We talked with the airport commander. He showed us the site of the radar and the cruise missile impact that he said destroyed that radar on the first night of the attacks. He said that there were no communications facilities left at the airport now, that the airport was essentially shut down. He said the runway was still serviceable but they had no aircraft. And keeping -- the fact that the communications was down, he said, essentially shut down the airport operations, as far as he was concerned -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Nic, what you're reporting and what the Associated Press is reporting about this latest offer from the Taliban, involving handing over Osama bin Laden to a third party if the U.S. were to stop the bombing, the Taliban has been making such an offer for some time, even before the bombing started, that if the U.S. provided what it called credible evidence against Osama bin Laden, it might be willing to hand him over.
Is this seen as a new development, a significant new development, or is it seen as simply reiterating what the Taliban's position has been in the past?
ROBERTSON: Wolf, I think this is clearly the Taliban reiterating their position. Nothing appears to have been changed substantially on this. We did ask this Taliban leader how he would go about asking Osama bin Laden to leave if that were the case. And he said that, as a subject, or as a person living in Afghanistan, that he was subject to the laws the same as anyone else. And if necessary, he would be told to leave.
But this is what we've heard in the past. They are saying it, reiterating it now as the bombing campaign goes on.
He did, however, also say in this quite lengthy, 3/4-of-an-hour press briefing, that he believed that after a week of air attacks against Afghanistan, he believed that the people of Afghanistan were still behind the Taliban. Now, that's quite significant from their perspective.
There was a lot of concern in the early days within the Taliban hierarchy what would happen when the airstrikes started, which way would the people in the country go, would they fall away from them? Certainly in this area, traditionally an area that has long been associated with the Taliban and typically further south in Kandahar, as well, what the leadership is saying at this time, they believe the people inside Afghanistan are behind them.
They are willing to negotiate over Osama bin Laden. Their condition's, however, not changed one iota, Wolf. Evidence from the United States directly, they say, negotiating with them, not through any third party -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Nic Robertson, one of the few western reporters now in Afghanistan. He, of course, was there earlier, as well; knows this region well. And in the third hour of LATE EDITION, a little bit more than an hour from now, Nic will be back on this program with other reporters. He'll be answering your questions, phone calls from around the world.
Thank you very much, Nic Robertson.
And in Pakistan today, thousands of demonstrators surged toward an airbase which reportedly is being used by U.S. military personnel. CNN's John Voss is in Islamabad, and he has the very latest.
BLITZER: And now back to our discussion about preparing for bioterrorism. Joining us, the Oklahoma governor, Frank Keating, and Michael Osterholm; he's director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research at the University of Minnesota.
And I want to alert all of our viewers, we're also standing by awaiting a news conference with New York Mayor Giuliani.
But I want to get back to this issue of preparedness, Governor Keating, U.S. preparedness for the threat of bioterrorism. What's the major lesson you learned during that exercise, Dark Winter, that you participated in, which showed some of the vulnerabilities of the United States?
KEATING: Well, everyone sitting around the table, Wolf, was a federal official, so they viewed the response, if it were to work, as a federal response. I've been a federal official, but also as governor of the state, responding to the Oklahoma City tragedy, I know practically that the only way anything is going to work is if the local authorities are trained -- doctors, hospital workers, nurses, ambulance drivers and the like.
So, the Dark Winter exercise, the response from the military was retaliation; certainly that's appropriate. The response from the civilian authorities was basically, take over everything at the local level, then it will all work. It was, in some cases, patronizing to the point of contempt.
That simply won't work. The best-trained people, the first responders, have to be the individuals, if we're going to get ourselves out of a hole, that will be well-trained and able to respond intelligently, whether it's to a bioterrorist attack or two airplanes hitting buildings.
Remember in New York, FEMA's no longer there. Everybody who's responding in New York is a local person. And that's the most important lesson I learned from Dark Winter. Well-trained, local authorities, doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, firefighters -- if we're going to survive, they're the ones who have to make us survive.
BLITZER: Dr. Osterholm, you're an authority, one of the world's leading authorities on this whole issue of bioterrorism.
We did a poll, a CNN-Time magazine poll that's just been released. We asked this specific question. Let me read it to you. If terrorists were to target your town or city using anthrax, do you think that your local officials are prepared to prevent such an attack, or don't you think so?
The answer is 29 percent think that the local officials would be prepared. 63 percent of the American public, with only a plus or minus 3 percent sampling error, 63 percent don't believe that local officials are prepared.
Are local officials, local county, state officials, prepared?
OSTERHOLM: Well, first of all, Wolf, let me just add a comment to that question. I think you asked, if I'm correct, if I heard you right, are you prepared to prevent it? And I think that all of us agree in this country today, the events of September 11 and what have happened since that time makes us all aware that we may have only a limited ability to prevent these issues. So we have no choice but be prepared to respond. I think that's what you're really getting at.
In terms of response, again, Governor Keating said it very well. Much of what's going to happen is going to be at the local and state level.
I would add that one piece here that's very important to understand is, unlike an explosive device or chemical situation where people are going to be immediately affected, which will require fire, police kind of responses, what you're seeing here with the anthrax letter situation, what will happen in a real bioterrorist event, is it's going to be the public health system that's going to be there to first pick these cases up, understand that something is going on. It's going to be the medical community. The first responders will be the doctors and nurses in our emergency rooms, in our ambulatory care centers.
That system is the system that has been allowed to deteriorate greatly over the past decade. And it's one that if we don't put resources back into that, we are obviously going to have a problem responding in any manner. And that's where the local and state part have to be to be very, very tight right now if we're hoping to minimize the impact of these events at the local level.
BLITZER: You know, Governor Keating, The Washington Post had an editorial on Friday that included this sentence. I'll put it up on our screen if we can. "As much as medical readiness, people need reminders that the actual likelihood of a successful large-scale biological attack is slim."
Is that your sense as well?
KEATING: Well, Dr. Osterholm is the public health expert, and I'm the political leader. The problem is, I'm not a scientist. I don't know the answer to that question, but I want to know.
And that's all the more reason why the local responders, the health services and the like, we brought them all together and we tasked them to go out and find out what is our threat and how best to respond to it quickly? And I hope every governor in the states and every mayor is doing the same thing. That's the only way we'll be able to respond.
But to whether or not, you know, smallpox is realistic or something in the nature of a large scale anthrax attack is realistic, that's going to have to come from the military and the intelligence community advising us as to what we should prepare for.
BLITZER: Well, what about that answer to that editorial, Dr. Osterholm? What's your sense?
OLSTERHOLM: Well, you know, I think it's again a matter what do we pay to prepare for? You know, we have some of the best-funded fire departments in this country sitting at international airports around the country hoping never to have an airplane crash. And yet, we wouldn't run those airports for one minute without them there.
Today, we have more than enough evidence to suggest that the risk of bioterrorism is real.
KEATING: Where are all the pundits who, a week and a half ago, said nobody can get anthrax or nobody has access to it or that in fact it could be delivered.
Remember, what we have right now is the bullet is out there. Somebody has that bullet. They have a very poor gun for shooting it, but if they get a better gun, we could very well be in a different situation in the near future.
So I think for all these people that want to speculate on what is the risk, we as a nation, just like we run the fire departments and our airports here, we have to be prepared. To be not prepared is unconscionable.
And I think that what we are hearing today, though, is some very positive news that the country is finally taking this seriously and that the administration, the Congress, our governors, are beginning to say, what is it going the take, guys? We got to do this. We don't have a choice.
That's what we ought to be focusing on right now. What is it going to take, and what are we doing to get there?
BLITZER: All right, let's take a quick caller from Ohio.
Please go ahead with your question. Ohio, you have a question?
CALLER: Yes, hello, Wolf.
BLITZER: Go ahead.
CALLER: I was wondering, how can local citizenry find out the preparedness of their local communities?
BLITZER: All right, let me ask Dr. Osterholm that question. OSTERHOLM: That's a great question because many people have said over the past couple weeks, what can citizens do? We've already said don't go out and buy gas masks. Don't stock up on antibiotics. That leaves citizens often feeling like there's nothing to do.
I have said, go ask your medical community, ask your health care plans, ask your local governors, ask your congresspeople, what are we doing to get ready? Find out what the capability of your local and state public health agencies are.
And don't sit there to criticize, because, in fact, right now I think that we all recognize we have some building to do, but be part of how can we put this together. What is it going to take to provide the support right now that will allow for the kinds of resources we have talked about, not wasteful resources, but resources that are to be used every day in every day public health events, that in turn can be then used should a bioterrorist event occur?
And I think that dialog is going to help citizens understand there's something they can do and, at the same time, will give our leaders the support they need to go ahead and make these decisions about resource needs.
BLITZER: Unfortunately, gentlemen, we have to leave it right there. But some excellent practical advice from two people who know a lot about bioterrorism. Dr. Osterholm, Governor Keating, thanks for joining us.
KEATING: Thanks, Wolf. Thanks a lot.
OSTERHOLM: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you very much.
And just ahead, why do Osama bin Laden and his followers think the way they do? And why does the Middle East seem to be a hotbed for anti-American sentiments? We'll talk with two guests who've studied the region and its threats.
LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Joining us now with some insight into why Islam is often used as a rallying point for those who've engaged in terrorism are two guests: in Cleveland, David Forte is a professor of law at Cleveland State University who has written extensively about the Islamic faith and Islamic law. And here in Washington, Dr. Jerrold Post. He's the director of the Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior at George Washington University.
Gentlemen, welcome to LATE EDITION.
And let me begin with you, Dr. Post, first of all. The president earlier this week at his news conference made a statement that a lot of Americans are asking right now. Listen to what the president had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm amazed that there is such misunderstanding of what our country is about that people would hate us. I am -- like most Americans, I just can't believe it, because I know how good we are.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The question obviously is, why do these people who are targeting the United States hate the United States, as they clearly do?
JERROLD POST, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: Terrorism is at heart a war for people's hearts and minds; it's a vicious species of psychological warfare. And while we may be quite supreme on the technological battlefield, we've left the war for people's hearts and minds unoccupied and given Osama bin Laden and his cronies really free reign at manipulating mindsets.
And they don't understand at all in that part of the world what America has done. Afghanistan, for example, the third-largest contribution from the United States in terms of foreign aid. And there's a very distorted image of America that is left unrebutted.
BLITZER: Professor Forte, I know that you've been in contact with -- officials at the White House have consulted you, they've sought out your advice on this question.
Let me ask the same question to you. Why don't these people appreciate what President Bush just said, that he can't believe they hate the United States, because in his words, "I know how good we are"?
DAVID FORTE, CLEVELAND STATE UNIVERSITY: First, a disclaimer: I have not been in contact with the White House on policy matters, but my writings have had some play.
When you talk about the hate, we have to see who we're speaking about. Osama bin Laden's hate is of a different kind from his followers. And we must make sure that we don't confuse discontent, some of which is legitimate, from hate. So let's try to differentiate the situation.
Osama bin Laden hates us because we stand for a rule of law and a conception of freedom which is contrary to his desire for domination of the Islamic world.
Note that the symbols that he uses in order to derive support in the Muslim world are primarily political: the 80-year occupation by the West since the Ottoman Empire fell, Israel, the presence of American troops in Saudi Arabia, the Crusades. So he has a political agenda, and he is exciting political hatred in order to accomplish his agenda.
BLITZER: And, as he tries, Dr. Post, to achieve his agenda, he successfully, at least among some people in the Islamic world and the Arab world, he's successfully exploiting some of those issues that Professor Forte just mentioned.
POST: Right. And it's important to emphasize, for many years, in fact, the Palestinian leadership was quite resentful of the contempt which Osama bin Laden shows to them. Similarly, he did not contribute a penny to the victims of the sanctions in Iraq. These are late-found popular issues, which he's seized on quite adroitly.
BLITZER: Professor Forte, if had you to make an assessment right now -- and I'll ask for your assessment -- who's winning the hearts and minds of the rank and file, the people on the street in much of the Islamic world? Who would you say is winning, Osama bin Laden and his supporters, the Taliban, let's say, or the United States government?
FORTE: I don't think we're winning it, but he hasn't won it yet. The question is still open.
There are groups of people whom we see demonstrating in Pakistan and Nigeria, some of which have particular local problems. Nigeria, of course, is tribally focused on the Muslim North and the Christian South. Pakistan has a series of madrasas, schools, that are funded by Saudi Arabia in part, which have been teaching hate of the United States for a long time.
Most Muslims have been given a diet of socialist propaganda for decades, of hatred of the United States for a long time. They have never had the experience of a secular regime which is open and free by which they can understand the United States for what it is. And that's the problem.
BLITZER: Dr. Post, yesterday the Al Qaeda organization issued another videotaped statement to the Al-Jazeera network in Qatar. I want to play an excerpt, a brief excerpt from what the spokesman, Suni Menabo Riht (ph), made. And I want to get your sense of what this might mean in the big picture. Listen to this excerpt.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SULEIMAN ABU GHEITH, AL QAEDA SPOKESMAN (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): While declaring our complete standing and support for the (inaudible) of Afghanistan and with the Afghan Muslims against these vicious attacks, we owe what we own, financially and otherwise, under the leadership and guidance of Mullah Omar.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What, if anything, did you get out of that little snippet?
POST: Well, there's sort of an intransigent posture. And one thing we've learned recently is, really, the Taliban and Al Qaeda are one and indistinguishable, being funded by him.
That whole statement was quite interesting in a number of ways. And one of the major thrusts was to sustain the terror by threatening again the people who live in high buildings, in airplanes; and also promoting now, to the rank of number-one world enemies, not only the current President Bush, his father, Prime Minister Sharon, Tony Blair, former President Clinton, quite striking, the sort of an expansion of the targets too.
BLITZER: And there was another point, Professor Forte, that the statement made, now not only including the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia, the U.S. support for Israel, but now U.S. support for Hindus, adding that, at least to my knowledge, for the first time, to one of the grievances that the Al Qaeda/Osama bin Laden network has.
FORTE: That's right. It tells us two things: One, he's in desperate straits. In order to call down every type of hatred, every bete noire that Muslims anywhere might have. This is a man who's losing his grip on power.
The second thing it calls upon is that he is declaring war on every civilization that's not the one that he wishes to put forward. And I think, ultimately, this will show that he's going to be defeated.
BLITZER: And as we're looking at live pictures of the continued U.S. airstrikes going on in Afghanistan, we see these flashes. They could be U.S. missiles, U.S. bombs. On the other hand, they could be anti-aircraft fire being leveled by the Taliban.
I want to bring back Dr. Post. What is your take on this decision to include now the Hindus, the Indians obviously in this equation that the Al Qaeda network is putting out?
POST: Well, I very much agree with the comment just made in terms of the desperation. He once again has asserted that anyone who supports the crusaders and the Jews is an apostate and God will punish him. He is desperately trying to carve out this role as leader of Islam in this religious war against the West.
And despite the demonstrations -- you know, a tight shot on a demonstration that can look pretty fearsome to a U.S. audience. But the numbers demonstrating, in fact, are precious small.
BLITZER: And in Pakistan, which of course has its own problems with India, long-standing problems over Kashmir.
We'll going to take another quick break. We'll continue our conversation with Professors David Forte and Jerrold Post, plus your phone calls. LATE EDITION will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Our war is not against a religion. Our war is against evil.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bush on Wednesday, making a distinction between people of faith and terror.
Now more conversation our with Cleveland State University Professor David Forte; and Jerrold Post. He is director of the Center for the Analysis of Personality and Political Behavior at George Washington University.
Professor Forte, I want to begin with you. But earlier in the program, you probably heard our Nic Robertson report from Jalalabad, inside Afghanistan, that the Taliban leadership once again has made an offer to President Bush, proposing that if the U.S. were to stop the airstrikes immediately, if the U.S. were to provide evidence against Osama bin Laden, they would be prepared to hand him over to a third country.
You won't be surprised to hear the Associated Press now reporting that White House has rejected that proposal.
What is your take? What are these proposals from the Taliban? What did they really mean?
FORTE: They're delaying tactics. The Taliban really are going to have a problem as their military machine gets pulled apart. One is that many of their fighters apparently are Arabs, and the Afghanis won't be happy with them.
So the key is if the United States can put together a coalition which includes the tribe for which the Taliban represents, the Pashtuns, I believe the Taliban will melt away. Right now they are looking simply to delay in order to get legitimacy.
BLITZER: Dr. Post, before you went to George Washington University, for many years, some two decades, you were an analyst over at the CIA. You did profiles of various people around the world. Among other things, you've now done a profile of Osama bin Laden.
What's your assessment right now? You see the statements coming out now, two videotapes from a Suliman Abul-Raith (ph), a spokesman for the Al Qaeda network. But we only saw Osama bin Laden once, in that first tape that clearly had been earlier prepared.
Why isn't Osama bin Laden out there in front making these statements?
POST: I'm really struck by that, because I see him as a destructive charismatic who is using his own persona as a rallying point for his people, as he tries to achieve leadership in this war of Islam against the crusaders and the Jews. That he is not out front makes one wonder, is there a difference between his public posture and his inner fears, perhaps? President Bush let it be known loudly and clearly he was not going to be deferred by a climate of fear from being a visible symbol for America to rally behind. Isn't it interesting that Osama bin Laden is not such a symbol?
BLITZER: Is that is your take, Professor Forte, as well?
FORTE: Yes, I wonder whether he's been hit by some of our bombs or whether he is trying escape from Afghanistan. If you see his face on television -- and he is a master of public relations, just look at the targets that he picked in the United States -- you see a man who has great charismatic power. And I'm surprised he hasn't been using it recently.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take a caller. I believe we have a caller in Arizona. Is that right?
Go ahead, Arizona.
CALLER: Hi, can you hear me?.
BLITZER: Yes we can.
CALLER: OK. I have a question for the gentleman who understands Islamic law. I would like to know, what is it in the Koran that is moving the extremists to actually want to kill unbelievers, Buddhist statues, Americans, instead of just negotiate or talk with us?
BLITZER: Professor Forte, what's the answer?
FORTE: Even within Islam that is very debated. There is a very extreme sect, actually, in Islam called the Wahhabis, which actually are in Saudi Arabia. And Saudi Arabia has been spreading its propaganda throughout Middle East and elsewhere.
The Wahhabis have the most strict legal school in Islam, known as the Hanbali (ph). They are also the ones that are the most fundamentalist. And it's that element, plus the schools that are raising the hate image, that is giving Muslims this kind of radical action against other religions.
But for the majority of Muslims and the majority of schools and the majority of Muslims that even live under traditional Islamic law, most of these actions would be completely reprehensible.
BLITZER: Dr. Post, the United States, the Bush administration, is dropping food to the Afghan people every day almost. The president goes out and says, this is not a war against Islam or the Arab world, this is war against terrorism.
Is there anything else that the U.S. government should be doing to drive that point home to the Islamic and Arab world?
POST: I have every reason to believe, from government authorities that I have talked with, that they are extremely conscious of the need to alter that distorted image of America and what it stands for in that part of the world.
Unfortunately, a lot of the vehicles of communication have provided only a distorted, government-controlled view of America. And that is what we are countering and, I believe, beginning to do an excellent job.
BLITZER: Professor Forte, would it make a difference if the U.S. withdrew its military personnel from Saudi Arabia, if the U.S. stopped supporting Israel? When all is said and done, would that make any impact?
FORTE: It would make a huge impact. It would mean Osama bin Laden would have won. His brand of Islam would take over the Middle East. And we'd be in for a situation of incalculable peril.
BLITZER: So, you obviously are not recommending that the United States take those steps.
So let me ask you, just to wrap this up, Professor Forte, how is all of this going to end?
FORTE: How is the -- that is what President Bush is trying to plan for. It's a long-term strategy by which we legitimize and celebrate and support Islam as a religion and shear off from that these terrorists who are making use of it for their own worldly ends.
BLITZER: And Professor Post what do you think?
POST: I absolutely concur with that. The need to marginalize this radical form of Islam, to delegitimate Osama bin Laden, that is the goal.
The process, it's a process, never a war that will be fully won. There's always going to be terrorism, and the goal is really to reduce it to as little a scope as possible.
BLITZER: Professor Post, always good for you to join us.
And, Professor Forte, now we know why people at the White House, at the National Security Council are reading your writings on Islamic law and other subjects. Thanks so much for joining us, as well.
FORTE: Thank you.
BLITZER: And coming up, the White House asked the media to keep Osama bin Laden off the air. We'll go 'round the table with Steve Roberts, Susan Page and Rich Lowry when LATE EDITION returns.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Time now for our roundtable. Joining me: Susan Page, the Washington bureau chief for USA Today; Steve Roberts, contributing editor for U.S. News and World Report; and Rich Lowry, the editor of the National Review. I just want to alert our viewers and our roundtable, we're also standing by for a news conference with the New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. And we may go to that live as well.
But this White House desire to control information, the news media's restrictions -- there is a poll. A CNN-Time magazine poll asked, is the government withholding information from the media, if that's a problem; 24 percent thought it was a problem, but 72 percent think it is not a problem.
Do you think it's a problem?
STEVE ROBERTS, "U.S. NEWS AND WORLD REPORT": Well, yes and no. I do think that it is legitimate for the administration to say to news organizations, including CNN, "Use editorial judgment. Just don't throw everything on the air live." And therefore, if you do that, you give up the roll of judgment and of editorial decision-making. I think that it's important to put these things in perspective.
At the same time, it does bother me that the White House is now trying to control information so carefully that they don't want any bad news out.
And this is going to be long fight. We're going to have troops in action. The history of the Persian Gulf War, the same people who ran the information system during the Persian Gulf War are in the White House now. They have a history of wanting to control information.
So, I think we have to be wary, but I think, also the press has to be responsible. We can't have our rights without being responsible.
BLITZER: Rich, as you know, in this battle between the White House and the news media, the White House is going to win this battle, at least with the American public.
RICH LOWRY, "THE WEEKLY STANDARD": Absolutely. Oh yes, we need face it, guys. People do not like us. The public does not like the press. And in any dispute of this nature, they're going to side with the government.
I think the warning on the bin Laden tapes made sense to me. You know, if there's a chance that there is some code in those things, let's make it as hard as possible for someone sitting in a motel room in Florida or wherever to hear it.
And also, I think this isn't a government matter, but I think it was bad judgment for a lot of outlets to play these tapes over and over again. It's the rankest propaganda. I don't see what news value it had to begin with.
BLITZER: Susan, if the television networks, they all agree to the White House request, if you will -- Condoleezza Rice calling on the network news presidents. But print -- you work for a newspaper. Should, if the TV networks aren't going to broadcast the entire statements, should USA Today, for example, put a complete transcript of the statement in the paper?
SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Well, I think that's a hard question.
And I don't know that we really understand what the coded message the White House is concerned about might have been. Would it have been a phrase, for instance? Because the White House was not asking there be no reporting on what Osama bin Laden said or his lieutenant. We saw another tape come out, I guess, yesterday.
So, I guess it's a hard question. We're not going to stop reporting on what they say.
And, you know, for the idea that it is a propaganda message, I guess I think it is the world's most unappealing propaganda message for anyone in the United States. It's not as though what he's saying has terrific resonance, I think, with Americans in general. If anything, it kind of reinforces the administration position that this is a radical person with a dangerous message.
But I do think it is a hard question for the news media to address.
LOWRY: The public does have a right to see Osama bin Laden. It has a right to see him in all his evilness. It has a right to see him so that they can make their own judgments about him. So any attempt to banish him from the airwaves, I think, would be a huge mistake.
But that's not really what the administration was saying. It was saying, be careful.
PAGE: You know, I thought the administration did something else this week that was worse than asking the news media not to broadcast the Osama bin Laden statement unedited, and that's when they announced on Wednesday they weren't going to have a Pentagon briefing. You know, they said we're going back to our regular Tuesday and Thursday scheduled Pentagon briefings. Now, under protest, they then resumed having daily briefings. But at a time when we're at war, our forces are fighting broad, I thought that was a much more alarming attempt at control of information.
ROBERTS: In some ways, this whole situation plays into the worst instincts of this White House, which wasn't very good at sharing information to begin with. Even before this happened, you needed one of the secret decoder rings to get any sort of leaks or information out of this White House. And I do think they went too far when they said they are going to have extremely restrictive policies with regard to briefing Congress.
BLITZER: And on that specific point, Rich, the president was very firm in deriding and blasting members of Congress for supposedly leaking classified information to The Washington Post and other news organizations. Listen to what President Bush said earlier in the week.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BUSH: I understand there may be some heartburn on Capitol Hill. But I suggest if they want to relieve that heartburn, that they take their positions very seriously.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You and I know, Rich, and all of us know, that there are leaks of sensitive, secret, classified information that come from Capitol Hill, but they also come from the executive branch of U.S. government, whether DOD or the CIA or the State Department or the White House. This is sort of disingenuous.
LOWRY: Sure. Well, when it comes to Congress, though, if Congress takes this information as seriously as they always say they do when a controversy of this sort bubbles up, they should do something about it. Have an investigation; have someone lose their seat on the Intelligence Committee for leaking. But that never happens, because everyone loves to leak because it's a way to curry favor with the news media.
ROBERTS: And your point is absolutely right. It is disingenuous because the White House uses leaks all the time when they want to leak information, and then they go crazy when information they don't want out gets leaked.
Every White House tries to control information, and particularly in war times. We know that. And sometimes the requests are reasonable, when it jeopardizes the security of operations.
But the press cannot cede it's basic responsibility to be critical -- not cynical, but be skeptical. And if we do that, we don't serve the public. The public does have a right to know these things, even when the White House does not want them to know. So, yes, we should be responsible. Yes, we should be careful, but we cannot cede that basic right.
BLITZER: You know, Susan, whenever there's a leak of sensitive information to Bob Woodward of The Washington Post or anybody else, there's always a clamor for an investigation. Who leaked that information? I've heard about these investigations for years.
Can you remember ever when they successfully found out who leaked this information?
PAGE: Very, very difficult.
But, you know, what they were attacking the Post story for, what seemed to disturb them, was that the Intelligence Committee in the Senate had been told there was a 100 percent chance of additional terrorist accidents or incidents on U.S. soil if we retaliated for the bombings in New York and Washington.
PAGE: Well, that was something John Ashcroft had said days before on television. He was...
BLITZER: Well, one other point, they did say that one of the most disconcerting elements which apparently got the White House up in arms was what Bob Woodward didn't report in The Washington Post, but what he had and he decided not to report, under some pressure from the White House.
You heard about that, Rick.
LOWRY: Yes, absolutely, and that seems to -- well, we don't know the details, obviously.
But I would warn going too far the other way, Steve. And, you know, we are all Americans, including reporters, and there's going to be a pressure to sort of -- to recognize some patriotic obligations not to report some things. And the public's very comfortable not knowing everything. And if writing a story is going to, you know, jeopardize some of our agents overseas, it shouldn't be written.
ROBERTS: No, I agree with that completely. What I'm saying, though, is that, if we can trust the White House only to withhold the rare case where there is a security issue jeopardized, fair enough. But the history is that people abuse this power, the history is that people, in the name of security, try to make themselves look good politically.
ROBERTS: And when they do that, we have an obligation to point that out.
LOWRY: It comes down to judgment. You know, every news organization has to exercise judgment. It's hard to come up with a hard and fast rule.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about.
More of our roundtable when LATE EDITION continues. Stay with us.
BLITZER: It's a windy but beautiful day here in the nation's capital.
Welcome back to our roundtable.
I want to update our viewers on a story we've been reporting for the past half hour or so. The White House has now formally rejected the latest offer from the Taliban that it would hand over Osama bin Laden if the U.S. stopped the bombing and provided evidence directly implicating Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda network in the terrorist attacks.
Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary, telling our Kelly Wallace, our White House correspondent, quote, "There are no negotiations, no discussions. They need to, without seeing proof, turn over Osama bin Laden, all his top lieutenants, and comply fully with all the president's demands."
Does that sound like a reasonable statement on behalf of the White House?
ROBERTS: Yes. Look, I think the White House has done a good job of presenting evidence.
All of this talk about, from the Islamic world, there's no evidence, there's no evidence, that's not true. There is enormous evidence, and we've put out a lot of it. Tony Blair has done a great job in Britain of also trying to be a spokesman for this cause.
This is, as one of your guests said earlier, this is a total red herring on the part of the Taliban, and I think it's legitimate.
BLITZER: But, Rick, as you know, in much of the Islamic world, much of the Arab world, much of Europe, for that matter, at least some of Europe, I'll say that, this offer from the Taliban might make some sense. Why not provide the evidence, why not stop the bombing?
LOWRY: Well, look, the Taliban is negotiating with itself here, and it's clearly just trying to buy time, because it's facing its destruction. And as that destruction comes closer and closer, I'm sure we'll see more and more offers.
But they all deserve to be rejected, because Osama bin Laden himself is not the problem. His network and the government in Afghanistan that supported terrorism is the problem. And Bush has been very forceful and clear about that from the beginning, and that's not going to change.
BLITZER: Susan, the Bush administration is walking a very delicate tightrope right now. On the one hand, it's urging the American public, go back to work as normal, try to get on with your lives, don't be overly concerned, certainly don't panic. At the same time, Vice President Dick Cheney is seen moving from secret location to secret location. That's a mixed message if I ever saw one.
PAGE: It certainly is. And the questions about Cheney got fierce enough that they actually had to put him out on TV this week, so we could see that he looked all right. And he did do the interview at the Old Executive Office Building, not in some underground cave.
But they do have -- they have a mixed message that they need to put out, because, on the one hand, Americans need to be alert to threats and need to be aware of anthrax spores coming through the mail, the news organizations. On the other hand, we can't just shut down our nation. People can't stop living their lives. That's not what should happen either. So it's a mixed message, but by necessity one.
BLITZER: But when the FBI, Steve, issues a statement warning of threats without any specifics, just saying the next several days, is that a service to the American public or a disservice?
ROBERTS: I thought it was a disservice in that particular case, because it was unspecific, it had a chilling effect. People really are -- nerves are rubbed very raw in this country right now, and I think that that was not a good thing to do.
And I think, not only from a psychological point of view, but there's another whole issue here, and that's the economy. And one of the dimensions, when you keep warning people -- you say, all right, get back to work -- you keep warning people, "Be vigilant, there could be other attacks," that erodes consumer confidence. People are not going to spend, and that's going to create a much bigger problem for the economy down the road.
PAGE: I guess I just disagree, Steve. I think if the government knows there's a real threat, in terms of timing, although they don't know specifics about location, that they ought to trust people and let them know what they know so people can be aware.
I think Americans are extremely smart, perceptive people that can handle trying go about with their lives as they want to do, but also being aware of the threats against us.
LOWRY: And imagine if something terrible were to happen, some terrible attack were to happen again, and the FBI had said nothing. We'd all be sitting around saying, "Well, where was the FBI? Why didn't they warn us?"
PAGE: And then find out that they knew that there was a threat, but didn't warn the American people about it.
LOWRY: And then it would be worse. And also remember, the FBI was telling local law enforcement about this. So it would have gotten out, one way or the other.
ROBERTS: But they knew -- in a sense, though, when you have these announcements, you're in effect turning over something very important to any crank, any terrorist, anybody who issues a threat. And if you keep responding to them, you become vulnerable, too.
LOWRY: Well, they thought this one was particularly credible.
And also, let me say something in defense of jitteriness. I mean, there's a lot of talk that, if the terrorists scare us, they will have achieved their objective. That is not true. Fear is a tactic, in the service of the real goal, which is a specific geo- political goal, to get us to leave the Arabian Peninsula, and get us to conclude that it's just too expensive to be involved in the Middle East. But it's OK to be nervous, as long as we don't run away from the geo-political challenge in the war.
BLITZER: We'll leave it right there. Rich Lowry, thanks for joining us.
Susan, Steve, always great to have both of you on our program as well. Thank you.
And coming up next, the third hour of LATE EDITION, we'll take your phone calls for our military and weapons experts, and our reporters covering the war against terrorism. This special LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: This is the third hour of LATE EDITION, the war against terrorism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Our cause is just and worthy of sacrifice. Our nation is strong of heart, firm of purpose. We will meet our moment, and we will prevail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: The United States at war with an invisible enemy and facing different kinds of danger.
Who is winning this war? We will get analysis from former U.N. Chief Weapons Inspector Richard Butler and CNN military analyst, retired U.S. Air Force Major General Donald Shepperd.
Plus your phone calls for reporters from around the world. And Bruce Morton has the last word on anniversary no one wants to remember.
Welcome back. This hour of LATE EDITION belongs to you. We'll be taking your questions about the military aspect of the war against terrorism. And you can also question reporters who are covering this story.
But first, here is CNN's Catherine Calloway in Atlanta with a check of the latest developments.
BLITZER: And we're joined now by two guests: in New York, the former chief U.N. weapons inspector, Richard Butler; and here from Washington, CNN military analyst, retired U.S. Air Force Major General Donald Shepperd.
Gentlemen, welcome back to LATE EDITION. Always good to have both of you on our program.
Ambassador Butler, let me begin with you before we take some phone calls from our viewers here in the United States and around the world.
How concerned should the American public, specifically, be about the possibility that terrorists organizations out there are there are spreading this anthrax bacteria?
RICHARD BUTLER, FORMER CHIEF U.N. WEAPONS INSPECTOR: Wolf, I think the concern should be serious but without in any way being dramatically alarmed. There is no evidence at this stage that these awful incidence of anthrax turning up in three parts of the country is part of organized terrorism. We know that that's theoretically possible. We know that biological weapons, specifically anthrax, do exist, for example, in Iraq. We don't know that they have been transferred to the Al Qaeda group or to Osama bin Laden's food soldiers, the people that did his hideous work here in this country. We just don't know if that organization has been set up or operating.
But we should be careful. We should not rule out that possibility. We should be concerned but not unduly alarmed at this stage.
BLITZER: Ambassador Butler, you know about as much as anybody does about the weapons of mass destruction capabilities of Iraq.
In the years that you were engaged in those inspections, was there any evidence that Saddam Hussein's government handed over any of these chemical, biological, perhaps even nuclear capabilities to any other organization, third party or other government?
BUTLER: Wolf, I deeply believe that, in these extraordinary circumstances in which we find ourselves today and will for many months, if not years, ahead, that we've got to be utterly clear and objective with our evidence.
So with that little preface, let me say, the simple answer is to your question is no.
We saw what Saddam had made for himself. It included anthrax. It included him having loaded anthrax into Scud missile warheads. But, no, I did not see evidence of the external transfer by him of those weapons to persons or countries beyond Iraq.
BLITZER: General Shepperd, when we hear people who know a lot about these kinds of chemical or biological weapons, we hear words that the biological and the chemical agents have to be weaponized in order to be effective. What does that mean?
MAJ. GEN. DONALD SHEPPERD (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, chemical, Wolf, has been weaponized for a long time. Many nations have chemical capability, even until recently the United States. And we're in the process of destroying the rest of it, as I understand it, right now.
But weaponizing biological weapons is very difficult. You have to get the right size of inhalant in the right concentration at the right temperature into the human body and keep it there for the right amount of time. Very difficult to do, but many of these countries are working on it.
BLITZER: Is that something that you think the terrorist organizations out there, whatever terrorist organizations, do they have capability?
SHEPPERD: We don't know if they have capability, but we know they are trying. And more important, we know if they can find the capability that they will use it. That's our firm belief, Wolf. We have to do something about it if we are serious about terrorist war.
BLITZER: Ambassador Butler, as you well know, there is a debate going on here in Washington over the issue of Iraq. Whether, after Afghanistan, the U.S. should aim its sights against Saddam Hussein and his regime.
BLITZER: What is your take on this?
BUTLER: Wolf, the president, I think, was exquisitely clear when he said right from the beginning, we will go offer these terrorists and we will draw no distinction between them and the countries that harbor them and give them aid and comfort.
If that proves to be the case, with respect to Iraq, I expect that the United States would make good on that policy and would go after Iraq, which indeed under those circumstances, it surely should.
BLITZER: But, as you well know as the former chief U.N. weapons inspector, that would do grave damage potentially to the coalition that the U.S. has been attempting to put together.
BUTLER: Well, I think it's been impressive, Wolf, to see the way in which the coalition has been put together and the careful step-by- step way in which reaction to the outrage of 11 September is now being carried out. There's been no rush to Iraq, for example. And I wouldn't expect that to happen unless the kind of evidence that is required to justify that emerges.
Now, we know that there's a very serious debate about that taking place within Washington because there is a lot of circumstantial evidence that would connect Iraq to what has happened. More importantly, there is what I'd call the evidence of history. Saddam's presence there in the region with his addiction to weapons of mass destruction, having used them on his own people, and so on, is something that is unfinished business.
Some voices in Washington are saying, let's take this opportunity to finish that business now. I would caution -- I would caution about that...
BLITZER: Ambassador Butler -- Ambassador Butler, I just want to interrupt for a moment. Mayor Rudy Giuliani is beginning a news conference in New York, and I want to listen to what he has to say. Stand by for a moment.
(INTERRUPTED BY CNN COVERAGE OF A LIVE EVENT)
BLITZER: New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani briefing reporters on the latest developments involving the anthrax investigation in New York.
Disclosing that one police officer who retrieved the letter in the offices of NBC News in New York, there was a discovery of some spores in his nose. He is being treated with the antibiotic Cipro, and he is in a much earlier stage than Tom Brokaw's assistant, who also was exposed to the anthrax bacteria. In addition, Mayor Giuliani saying that two lab technicians who also were in contact with this suspicious letter -- one of the lab technicians, there was a discovery of some anthrax spores in her nose. A second had one anthrax spore on her face. They are also being treated.
Mayor Giuliani urging everyone to not panic, not be in a situation of overreacting. Saying all of the other incidents, people calling in suspecting anthrax, have proven negative. Only the one incident involving NBC News proving positive so far. And also confirming that the incident at the New York Times, at least so far, has proven to be negative.
We're going to continue our discussion with Ambassador Richard Butler and CNN military analyst General Donald Shepperd in just a moment. We will take a quick break and we'll take more of your phone calls as well. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: The fact is, in this battle against terrorism, there is no silver bullet. There is no single thing that is going to suddenly make that threat disappear.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld speaking last week after the first strikes on Afghanistan. Welcome back.
We're continuing our conversation and taking your phone calls for the former chief U.N. weapons inspector, Ambassador Richard Butler, and CNN military analyst Retired U.S. Air Force Major Donald Sheppherd.
And we want to take a caller from Illinois. Please go ahead with your question. Illinois, go ahead. Illinois, go ahead. I guess we don't have Illinois.
CALLER: Yes, my question for the panel is, why can't we include China as a key ally in this struggle against terrorism?
BLITZER: All right. What about that, Ambassador Butler? Is China on board?
BUTLER: Not in as pronounced a way as many other countries are. But right at the beginning President Bush did call the president of China, and there have been other diplomatic discussions with China, which have all been pretty positive.
The very least we would need, of course, is for China not to stand off on the side and throw rocks at the operation. And it is definitely not doing that. It is acquiescing in it -- that is, going along with it -- but it's not participating in the up-front way that good number of other countries are. BLITZER: All right. Let's take another caller from New Jersey. Please go ahead with your question.
CALLER: Yes. President Bush is confident that we will eventually find Osama bin Laden. Based on the great expanse of the country and miles of Taliban tunnel systems, do we have specific information as to his whereabouts? And do we have enough special forces to accomplish this task?
BLITZER: General Sheppherd, a lot of people aren't aware of the fact that Afghanistan is roughly the side of Texas.
SHEPPHERD: Yes, it's a big problem. And there's lots of places to hide. If we knew where he was, we'd be bombing it right now, I'm sure. Sending special forces, teams to go get him is a not that as easy sounds.
Reportedly, approximately 17,000 military personnel surrounding him in some manner, and, of course, he's personally going to be very well guarded. So this would be very, very dangerous.
I'm not sure that we're ever going to get him, but we're going to try and we're going to try real hard. And the president has characterized that he's not really interested in how we get him, but he wants him brought to justice. And the military is going to be part of trying to do that, Wolf.
BLITZER: Does it make a difference, Ambassador Butler, if Osama bin Laden is captured, let's say, by the United States or killed by the United States, as far as the bigger picture in the war against terrorism is concerned?
BUTLER: That's a great question, Wolf. I agree with everything General Shepperd just said, and the president's wish to bring this particular man to justice is absolutely right.
But I would be concerned -- And I think your question implies this. I would be concerned if we made that single event the capture of this one dreadful individual as the touchstone of success in this war against terrorism. It will not be.
We need him. It would be a great event if we could get him. But the network goes far beyond him. And then behind that is a whole attitude of mind that is found in some parts of world. And we've got a big job to do there in mobilizing the whole world to break this overall network and to get terrorism out of civilization, out of our lives. And that, I think, is a job that goes far beyond simply bringing the one individual to justice.
BLITZER: We have another caller from Ohio. Please go ahead with your question.
CALLER: Yes, private residences don't offer adequate protection against nuclear fallout. Why are we not reviving our public fallout shelter programs that would offer adequate protection? BLITZER: General Sheppherd, a lot of us remember, who lived through the '50s and '60s, the worse days of the Cold War, people in their own homes building those little shelters. I'm sure you remember that as well. Is that going too far, though, right now?
SHEPPERD: It's going too far. It doesn't make any sense. We don't know if these terrorist groups have nuclear material, much less nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons are big, and nuclear devices are small, and nuclear material that can be wrapped around a conventional munition and blown up to produce a radioactive result in a radiological incident are three separate things.
It doesn't make any sense nationwide to be going back to shelters. And I do remember it very well. I'm asking my dad, when are we going to build ours? And he said, are we going to build it big enough for all of our friends? And I said, I don't think we can. He said, you're right, we won't do it.
BLITZER: We're looking at a live picture of Marine One, the helicopter bringing President Bush back to the White House from Camp David, where he spent the weekend. That helicopter momentarily should be touching down on the South Lawn of White House. The president will be emerging, walking into the residence of the White House. And we're going to be keeping this picture up as we watch Marine One, within literally the shadow of the Washington Monument, return to the South Lawn of the White House.
Ambassador Butler, as you're looking at the way the Bush administration has conducted its international diplomacy since September 11, give us your candid assessment. How's it doing?
BUTLER: Wolf, I think it's doing very, very well.
Just think of it -- it's only been 30 days. It's been one month since that outrage took place. It was of enormous significance. It changed the world we live in. It must have come as profound shock to the president and his team.
They were in a place where they were heading toward other directions. People talked about growing unilateralism on the part of the administration, the United States just going its own way in the world as reflected in attitudes of certain treaties and so on. You know that story.
In 30 days, these people have come to grips with a major issue in our history, a major threat to civilization. They have not gone it alone. They have instantly worked together with the rest of the world.
They have drawn a crucial and important distinction between Arabs and Muslims on the one hand and the fanatical terrorists on the other. And that is terribly important. And they keep making that distinction, that we've got nothing against Arabs and Muslims; it's these people who use indiscriminate homicide as their weapon.
Now, this has been an enormous call upon their intellect and their resources. And this together, finally, with the step-by-step implementation now of the military campaign -- I have to say, I wouldn't have thought that would do it as well as they did, given where they were headed 30 days ago. But I think they're doing an outstanding job, and I think many, many people would agree with me.
BLITZER: And, General Shepperd, as we see a Marine opening up the door for Marine One, the helicopter that has just brought back the president and, I believe, the first lady to the South Lawn of the White House, what kind of assessment, militarily, would you give the U.S. during first week of the airstrikes, specifically the errant bomber missile that resulted in civilian deaths? That could be a serious military setback, right now, couldn't it?
SHEPPERD: The military campaign is on track. Unfortunately, any time you have war, you have these type of things take place. None of them are intentional. We are not targeting civilians, period. But these errant bombs are going to kill civilians. They have in every war, and they have in this one. We must be very careful not to let this affect our public opinion, our world opinion and our resolve to go after these terrorists. But it's an unfortunate incident.
However, the rest of the military campaign, taking down the air- defense systems, setting the conditions for going against the Taliban and weakening them, seems to be on schedule, Wolf.
BLITZER: We're going to listen carefully now if the president or first lady say anything to the reporters who are standing by as they always do, right outside the door of the South Lawn entrance to the White House, as they walk by. Let's just listen a little bit as the president walks by.
BUSH: Hey, Barney.
BUSH: Turn him over. Turn him over, turn his cohorts over, turn any hostages they hold over, destroy all the terrorist camps. There is no need to negotiate. There's no discussions. I've told them exactly what they need to do. And there is no need to discuss innocence or guilt. We know he's guilty. Turn him over.
If they want us to stop our military operations, they've just got to meet my conditions. And when I said no negotiations, I meant no negotiations.
QUESTION: You reject this offer?
BUSH: I don't know what the offer is. All they've got to do is turn him over, and his colleagues and the thugs he hides, as well as destroy camps, and the innocent people being held hostage in Afghanistan.
QUESTION: They want you to stop the bombing.
BUSH: There's no negotiations. They must not have heard. There's no negotiations. This is non-negotiable. These people, if they're interested in us stopping our military operations, we will do so if they meet the conditions that I outlined in my speech to the United States Congress. It's simple as that.
There's nothing to negotiate about. They're harboring a terrorist. And they need to turn him over, and not only turn him over, turn the Al Qaeda organization over, destroy all of the terrorist camps -- actually, we're doing a pretty good job of that right now -- and release the hostages they hold. That's all they got to do.
But there is no negotiations, period.
Come on, Barney! Barney, what you are doing over there?
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) post-Taliban government in Afghanistan?
BUSH: Come on.
BLITZER: The president not answering that last question about a post-Taliban government in Afghanistan, but being very forceful in making it clear the United States is not going to negotiate this latest proposal from the Taliban that it would hand over Osama bin Laden if the U.S. stopped its bombing and provided it with some evidence of Osama bin Laden's complicity in the September 11 attacks.
President Bush making it clear there will be no negotiations. Just turn him over, turn over his cohorts, he says, release the hostages, referring to the eight international aid workers who have been detained by the Taliban regime, including two Americans. He says that the negotiations issue is simply a non-starter. The United States is not going to play that game.
We're going to continue our discussion with Ambassador Butler and General Shepperd in just a moment. They'll be taking more of your questions. We're also going to be talking to our journalists covering the war. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We're continuing our discussion with Ambassador Richard Butler, the former chief U.N. weapons inspector, and Major General Donald Shepperd, retired U.S. Air Force, a CNN military analyst.
Quickly, Ambassador Butler, you heard the president's remarks just now on the South Lawn of the White House: No negotiations. That obviously is going to resonate with the American public, but what about in the Islamic and Arab world and, indeed, in some of the Third World even in Europe, how is that tough line going to be viewed?
BUTLER: Some people will complain, Wolf, but, you know, the Arab and Islamic world is not stupid. A lot of smart people there.
I applaud President Bush. He said exactly what he should have said. I watched the Taliban deputy ambassador to Pakistan earlier today making this extraordinarily fatuous speech, where he evaded questions of substance. And on the issue, when it was put to him, that Osama bin Laden and his people have essentially said they did it, and asked, you know, did he now recognize they did it, he wouldn't even answer the question.
The Taliban's proposal is fatuous, silly, empty. What other words can one use? The president said the exactly what he should have said. And I believe that, you know, intelligent, thoughtful people in other parts of the world will recognize that reality.
BLITZER: I want to bring in our reporter Nic Robertson, who is now on the ground, I believe, in Jalalabad in Afghanistan. I guess he's not ready yet, but we're going to be bringing him in shortly. And, once we do, he'll have an on-the-scene report. He'll also be taking your questions.
But, General Shepperd, before we take another break, I want to just get your sense. The president said the U.S. is doing a pretty good job in destroying those Al Qaeda -- Osama bin Laden's terrorist training camps in Afghanistan. Is there evidence that the public has seen of that so far?
SHEPPERD: Well, we've seen a few pictures, and we're going to see more.
But the important thing, I think, about them is, it is not dumb to destroy empty camps, and for the most part they're empty. But in some of those camps you will have ammunition stored, and I think there's evidence already of secondary explosions underground, that type of thing. They use them to train new recruits. You must destroy them, not as a message and not as a stunt, but to keep the infrastructure from retraining new people there. It's an important military target, and easy to hit, because it's on the surface, Wolf.
BLITZER: OK. Major General Don Shepperd, our CNN military analyst, and Ambassador Butler, former chief U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq, I want to thank both of you for joining us and answering not only my questions but our viewers' questions from around the world as well.
And up next, more of your questions for the journalists covering the war begin terrorism. LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Those were live pictures from Afghanistan where the U.S. resumed it's airstrikes in this now second week of those airstrikes.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Joining us now to take your questions are our panel of reporters: CNN's Nic Robertson; he joins us from Jalalabad inside Afghanistan. Tucker Carlson, the co-host of CNN's Crossfire; he's in Islamabad, Pakistan, not very far away. And here in Washington, very far away, John Dickerson, the White House correspondent for our sister publication, Time magazine.
Welcome to all of you.
And I want to get right to Nic Robertson. I don't know if you heard President Bush just a few minutes ago say live here on CNN, as he returned to the White House, there will be no negotiations with the Taliban. They must hand over Osama bin Laden, in his words, his cohorts, the hostages, in his words, the eight international aid workers there, as well as destroying all of the terrorist bases inside Afghanistan.
I take it you're not surprised by this U.S. reaction, are you, Nic?
ROBERTSON: No. We have been through this scenario before. I'm not. It will take a little time for the information to trickle down here because there are no televisions allowed under Taliban rule inside Afghanistan. So, it's unlikely that any of the Taliban leadership would have been watching to hear what President Bush said.
But, essentially, they just reiterated their position, their position that we've heard before. Perhaps what made it slightly different today or made it slightly more tangible in its reality, was that we were actually sat down face-to-face with one of the most senior people of within the Taliban movement. But it don't represent a ground change in any way. No surprises to hear the response from President Bush the at all.
BLITZER: But in this particular case, Nic, isn't it possible that some of the leadership of the Taliban and Al Qaeda network where you are now in Jalalabad or elsewhere in Afghanistan can get CNN, CNN International, and watch the president's reaction live on television?
ROBERTSON: It is possible. Whether or not they are at this time, it's difficult to say. Satellite receivers here are very, very few and far between and certainly the Taliban leadership at this time is taking great pains not to give away their location in any way whatsoever. So, perhaps to be pinned down in a house where it could be, you know, a signature could be gained off of a satellite antenna, is something they have been trying to sort of avoid at this time, Wolf.
But they will get the message from President Bush, and they will probably expect to have heard this from him. Essentially they have put same argument out there.
The Taliban just fundamentally will not shift from their position. What they are saying is that they need to negotiate directly with the United States. No amount of pressure has seemed to have got through to them in the last four weeks, not even from their closest allies from across the border in Pakistan. They just will not shift.
Mullah Omar, the Taliban's leader, is a very, very fundamental person in his beliefs, and he has made it clear to all comers to him, to Pakistani intelligence officials who've met with him recently, to other Pakistani religious leaders that have met with him, he says he is not going to shift from his strict religious principles. And that, for him, includes handing over Osama bin Laden without having the proof that he was involved.
BLITZER: Tucker Carlson, you're in Pakistan. You're in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan right now. You've been there now for the last several days.
Give us a sense, your impressions, how dangerous potentially to the government of President Musharraf, the anti-American demonstrations unfolding in the streets of some cities of Pakistan. How serious of a problem is that for President Musharraf's government?
TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, "CROSSFIRE": Well, I think clearly Musharraf passed some sort of test on Friday, of course, the day of prayer here. Massive demonstrations expected. They turned out to be not quite as large as advertised, as some of the religious parties here said they would be, the JUI specifically. And so there is a sense that Musharraf, if he weathered Friday well, and he did, can go forward.
Keep in mind this is, of course, a military country. It's so striking when you drive anywhere here, just how well-kept, thereby well-funded, the army installations are. They look almost like college campuses.
The one issue I think that could destabilize the government here is refugees. There are millions here, also millions in Iran, for that matter. But there is some resentment toward Afghan refugees here. They tend to control certain industries, trucking, for instance, transportation. And for ethnic reasons, and economic reasons, there's resentment of them. So, I think if tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands more come streaming over the border from the northwest or down nearer Quetta, that could be very destabilizing and a real problem.
BLITZER: But, Tucker, it's your impression right now that the military government, President Musharraf, is in control and he really doesn't have to worry about any immediate problem of pro-Taliban, pro- Osama bin Laden Islamic militants taking over?
CARLSON: Well, Musharraf says -- his estimate publicly is that it's 10 to 15 percent of the population here is sympathetic to the Taliban. That may actually even be high. But it's a pretty energetic percentage, and it varies dramatically in different parts of the country.
Tomorrow, the U.S. secretary of state comes tomorrow afternoon. And there was talk that one of the airports here was going to be closed, that was going to ringed by protesters. Apparently the army's surrounded the entire airport and made that impossible. So, again, so far they seem to have the situation under control.
It's hard to overstate just how large the army is here. It's just massive, and one feels it everywhere throughout Pakistan.
BLITZER: And I want to bring John Dickerson of Time magazine into this conversation in just a moment.
But, Nic, you're one of the few people in the world who have been in both Pakistan as well as in Afghanistan since September 11.
Give us your sense, A, of the situation in both of these countries right now as it's unfolding.
ROBERTSON: Well, Wolf, I think it's clear what's happening with the Taliban here -- it certainly appears to this be way -- is that they're playing to their own audience here. There's an audience that they're not particularly interested in here. They're not particularly interested in the American audience. They're playing to the people inside Afghanistan who they say -- came out and said just today that, a week on into this conflict, they believe are still behind them.
And they're also playing to the Muslim audience around the world who actually, you know, fundamentally agree with them on their -- not only their principles of Islam, but also agree with them that the evidence does need to be given to the Taliban.
Essentially what the Taliban are doing are broadening their base of support here. They are trying to pull more people onboard.
What they're saying is, look, we're ready to talk. Other Muslims out there, listen to us, we're doing the right thing here. You know, come around and support is. That's what the Taliban are trying to do, essentially, is broaden this out. And that does resonate well here inside Afghanistan.
And also it does resonate with part of the community inside Pakistan. Certainly, the JUI, Jamiat Ulema Islam Party, Tucker Carlson was talking about there. That party has had, in the past, a lot of contact with the Taliban, a lot of influence, a lot of cross- fertilization of ideas. So it plays to that audience there in Pakistan as well, Wolf.
BLITZER: We have a caller from South Carolina. I want to get that question on the air.
Go ahead, South Carolina, with your question.
CALLER: Yes. What's the government and the media going to do to deal with all these hoaxes that we're getting? And what if the hoaxes are perpetrated by an American citizen?
BLITZER: Let's ask John Dickerson of Time magazine -- John.
JOHN DICKERSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Well, it's a tough balance. Both the media and the government's trying to figure out what to do here.
John Ashcroft, the attorney general, said today they'd gotten about 540 credible threats. And we saw this week they are trying to let the country to know, to be on aware, but they also don't want to give succor to the terrorists who want us all to be panicked. And so in the news rooms and at the FBI, we're taking every one of these threats and trying to figure out how real it is. Sometimes we don't know, but we're going through each one very, very carefully.
BLITZER: You and I were talking earlier about President Bush, how he seems to have changed, evolved over this past month plus a few days, finding a new voice that many people apparently didn't hear earlier.
DICKERSON: That's right. The White House hates this idea, of course. They think he was a transformational figure before this event happened. One adviser said, "What do you think, he grew 50 IQ points after the bombing?"
But the fact is, we see the president making a number of decisions each day that are high-level decisions. Remember the stem cell decision about whether to fund it. It took him many months. They had a long, drawn-out process for figuring it out. He makes those kinds of decisions every day.
And he seems to have the voice for this moment. It comes more from the heart. Sometimes it gets out of hand, when he talks about getting bin Laden dead or alive. But he has a voice that he and advisers are very happy is speaking right to the American people.
BLITZER: Let's take another caller from Virginia. Please go ahead.
CALLER: Well, Mr. Blitzer...
BLITZER: Go ahead.
CALLER: What is actually being done about the underlying causes of these attacks?
BLITZER: Well, let me ask Tucker Carlson to come in and answer that question.
Tucker, you've now been in Pakistan for a few days. Most of your time, of course, you spend right here in Washington right here with me.
How does this whole conflict, this U.S. war against terrorism, look from where you are as opposed to what it used to look like when you were in Washington?
CARLSON: Well, I'm proud to say it looks just the same from my personal point of view. But it is striking how everyone -- virtually everyone you speak to here says, you know, this is a powerful sign that the United States needs to change its policy towards Israel. You always hear after that, usually, talk about Kashmir. This 50-year kind of intermittent battle going on between Pakistan and India, and how, you know, the United States seems to change its policy towards that.
But there is a very strong sense that this is a sign that the United States needs to broaden its support of other countries, and not just Israel.
I suppose I'd argue that this is a great reason not to change it at all, that, you know, changing American policy toward Israel would be an indication that blowing up cities is a tool of diplomacy. And of course, it's not and shouldn't be. But that's just my opinion.
BLITZER: Let's take another caller from Georgia. Go ahead please.
CALLER: Yes. I'd like to know how the Afghan people are responding to the humanitarian aid being provided by the United States.
BLITZER: Well, let's get Nic Robertson, he's on the scene. He's in Jalalabad. He's one of only 19 international journalists who are now being escorted by the Taliban, allowed to report whatever they want to report from Afghanistan.
Nic, what is the reaction to the drop of humanitarian assistance, food aid, to the Afghan people by the U.S.?
ROBERTSON: Well, we talked with some people about that today. And what they said was, you know, the United States might be dropping humanitarian aid, but as long as their dropping bombs on us, and as long as those bombs, as they see it, are hitting some innocent civilians -- and certainly that seemed to be the indication in the Jalalabad hospital today where we visited a number of people who said they'd been injured in bombings, and also visited some villages where people talked about bombs coming down, destroying houses and killing innocent -- people they said were innocent civilians.
So people tell us here, food may be coming down with the bombs, but the bombs are the message that they really get here.
ROBERTSON: And they say they're just not interested in that food.
In this area -- it has to be said, Afghanistan is very big and there are certainly areas of Afghanistan where people have been very reliant and dependent on humanitarian aid for a number of years, particularly through the intense drought that's now about to go into its fourth year. So in those areas, people might feel somewhat different perhaps.
BLITZER: Nic, I'm sure many of our viewers around the world are wondering what kind of restrictions have been imposed on you by the Taliban, who have allowed you to come into Afghanistan to report on what you're seeing. Update us on that.
ROBERTSON: Well, the Taliban have said that we have to always be with a government official, that, wherever we go out, there has to be a government official with us. We can't go out freelancing and trying to dig up stories for ourselves.
However, they've also said that, wherever you want to go to, we'll take you there. Now, knowing that the Pentagon had said that airports were being attacked in this conflict, we said, yes, let's go to the airport, take us to the airport. And indeed they did. And they have promised to take us to other sites, other facilities that we've asked for.
When we were at the airport, we were able to talk directly with the commander of the airport, and he told us key crucial information. Their radar was taken out on the first night. The airport is non- operational right now. They have no planes there, they say. The runway is only slightly damaged. Their communications facilities are down.
So we seem, at this stage, to be getting what we ask for. However, let's not forget that the Taliban did bring us in here because they recognize from their point of view that they've been losing out on the essential media-propaganda war, if you will. They just think that they haven't been getting their view across to the rest of the world. So that's why they've invited us in here, to take to us to villages and places that they want to show us.
And that's why the first place they took to us was the village where they said some 200 people had died in aircraft bombing raid. Now, we certainly couldn't verify the figures of 200, but what we saw in that village in the mountains definitely looked like a community of people living in, you know, very remote and very poor living accommodations, but certainly 90 percent of that village had been destroyed. It was very remote, and it was up in the mountains. But the evidence was there for us to see, and that's what the Taliban wanted to get us in here to see, Wolf.
BLITZER: John Dickerson, for a White House, as this Bush White House is, anxious to control the message as much as possible, control the information, to see Nic Robertson and other international journalists now reporting from inside Afghanistan, presumably showing pictures of the destruction from this first week of the U.S.-led air campaign, I assume -- I don't know if you've spoken with officials at the White House -- they're not going to be very happy about this, are they?
DICKERSON: No, they're not. I haven't spoke about this particular visit. But no, they don't like this at all, because the pictures they have to show are military ones. The best they can do is talk about the food drops. We saw President Bush in his press conference talk about the fund for Afghan children.
They've known since the beginning here that they have to sell America and make this case, that this is not against Islam, not against civilians, but this is against the Taliban government. And they only have a few tools that they can use to do that.
And this trip taken in today to see the damage, particularly those pictures of civilians hurt, that's tough for the White House to fight about.
BLITZER: And just wrap up, Tucker, very briefly for us, your sense, what happens next from your vantage point? CARLSON: Well, again, it all depends partly on what happens tomorrow, when Colin Powell comes in, if the protests get more aggressive, more violent, if there's a groundswell that we haven't seen in the last week that arises out of nowhere, it could be a problem for Musharraf.
After that, I think it depends on the refugees, how many show up in Pakistan.
BLITZER: Tucker Carlson in Islamabad, Nic Robertson in Jalalabad in Afghanistan, John Dickerson here in Washington, three excellent reporters. Thanks to all of you for joining us.
And just ahead, Bruce Morton's "Last Word."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This past week has been full of anniversaries. The attacks on New York and Washington a month ago. The attack on the guided missile destroyer Cole a year ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Is there a realistic long-term answer to wiping out terrorism?
BLITZER: Time now for Bruce Morton's "Last Word" on America's very long fight against terrorism.
MORTON (voice-over): President Bush has been telling Americans the fight against terrorism will be long.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: This particular battlefront will last as long as it takes to bring Al Qaeda to justice. It may happen tomorrow, it may happen a month from now, it may take a year or two. But we will prevail.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORTON: In fact, terrorism's fight against America already is long. It's been going on for years.
This past week has been full of anniversaries: the attacks on New York and Washington a month ago, the attack on the guided missile destroyer Cole a year ago. And those have both been linked to Osama bin Laden's organization.
But the list goes on.
In 1998, the car bombs outside U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. In 1995, a car bomb at U.S. military headquarters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In 1993, the bomb in a parking garage at the World Trade Center.
In 1988, a Pan American jet explodes over Lockerbie, Scotland. 270 die, including residents of the town. In 1986, hijackers seize a U.S. jumbo jet at Karachi's airport. Twenty die when security forces storm the plane.
In 1985, Shiite Muslim hijackers seize a TWA jet and force it to land in Beirut. One American is killed, 39 are later released after Syrian mediation.
In 1984, a car bomb at the U.S. embassy in Beirut kills 16. In 1983, suicide bombers hit a French military headquarters and a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut, killing 58 French paratroopers, 241 Marines. And so on.
All involved people angry at American policy in the Middle East and determined to do something about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Welcome, Mr. Prime Minister.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MORTON: U.S. policy there of course has centered on support for Israel. The Bush administration is also for a Palestinian state, which the Israelis won't all like, but which isn't enough for the extremists.
Yasser Arafat might settle for a Palestine next door to an Israel. The extremists want it all, want to drive the Jews into the sea.
So long-term answers are difficult. The U.S. may get rid of this extremist group or that one. It would have more flexibility if America were less dependent on Middle Eastern oil. That would help.
But a solution which the U.S., Israel and the Muslim extremists would all like is hard to imagine.
I'm Bruce Morton.
BLITZER: Thank you, Bruce.
And time now for a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines in the United States.
Newsweek examines "Anthrax, a spreading scare: the medical facts," with a bioterrorism special operations team at work, on the cover.
Time magazine looks at "The fear factor, anthrax letters, FBI warnings, bin Laden's videotapes: Bombarded by threats real and imagined, a nation on edge asks, what's next?" with an open envelope on the cover.
And on the cover of U.S. News and World Report, "The war on two fronts: The terror threat at home."
That's all the time we have for this LATE EDITION, Sunday, October 14. I'll be back at 8:00 p.m. Eastern tonight for a special one-hour Wolf Blitzer Reports. Until then, thanks very much for watching.
I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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