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CNN Live Event/Special

President Bush Speaks at VMI, Addresses Middle East Conflict

Aired April 17, 2002 - 10:16   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: The president running a little early today. He is speaking at VMI, Virginia Military Institute -- let's listen in.



General Myers, thank you. General Bunting and General Casey (ph). Secretary Marsh, Congressman Goodlatte, Albert Beverage, members of the Corps of Cadets, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. I want to thank you for your warm welcome, and thank you for inviting me to one of America's great institutions.


I brought along a little graduation present. I'm sure you'll like it; some of you will need it.


As Commander-in-Chief, I hereby grant amnesty...


General Bunting, I'm sure you can tell who needed it. And I know you'll be generous in the interpretation of this doctrine.

I want to congratulate the winners of the George C. Marshall ROTC Award.


With the more than 260 young men and women who represent the winners, represent the best of our country and the best future for the United States Army. You stand out among the nearly 30,000 young Americans who are today enrolled in the Army ROTC; the officers who will serve in the military of the future and one day will lead it.

A majority of the Army's current officers started out in the ROTC. For nearly 90 years this great program has developed leaders and shaped character. Those looking for idealism on the college campuses of America will find it in the men and women of the ROTC. ROTC's traditions and values are a contribution and a credit to every college and every university where they're found.

Secretary of State Colin Powell was in the ROTC at City College of New York; an experience that helped set the course of his life. In his own words he said this: "The order, the self-discipline, the pride that had been instilled in me by our ROTC prepared me well for my Army career, or for that matter, any career I might have chosen." Colin Powell's career has taken him from service in Vietnam to the top rank in the military and now on a peace mission to the Middle East. America is fortunate, and I am proud to have ROTC graduate Colin Powell servicing our country.


Only one other Army general has gone on to serve as secretary of state, and that was George Marshall himself.

VMI's highest ranking cadet in the class of 1901. As Army chief of staff, General Marshall became the architect of America's victory in the second World War. He fought tenaciously against our enemies, and then worked just as hard to secure the peace.

President Truman considered George C. Marshall the greatest man he knew. "Above all," said Winston Churchill, "Marshall always fought victoriously against defeatism, discouragement and disillusionment." "The key to morale and to victory," Marshall said, "is steadfastness and courage and hope."


And today, we are called to defend freedom against ruthless enemies. And once again, we need steadfastness, courage and hope.


The war against terror will be long. And as George Marshall so clearly understood, it will not be enough to make the world safer, we must also work to make the world better.

In the days just after September the 11th, I told the American people that this would be a different war fought on many fronts.

Today, around the world, we make progress on the many fronts. Some cases we use military force. In others, we're fighting through diplomacy, financial pressure or special operations. In every case, we will defeat the threats against our country and the civilized world.


Our progress is measured day by day, terrorist by terrorist. We recently apprehended one of Al Qaeda's top leaders, a man named Abu Zubaydah. He was spending a lot of time, as one of the top operating officials of Al Qaeda, plotting and planning murder. He's not plotting and he's not planning any more.

(APPLAUSE) He's under lock and key, and we're going to give him some company.


We're hunting down the killers one by one. We're learning a lot about Al Qaeda operations and their plans. As our enemies have fled their hideouts in Afghanistan, they left some things behind. We found laptop computers, drawings and maps. And through them, we're gaining a clear picture of the terrorist targets and their methods.

Our international coalition against these killers is strong and united and acting. European nations have frozen almost $50 million in suspected terrorist assets, and that's important. Many European states are taking aggressive and effective law enforcement action to join us in rounding up these terrorists and their cells.

We're making good progress, yet it's important for Americans to know this war will not be quick and this war will not be easy. The first phase of our military operation was in Afghanistan, where our armed forces continue to perform with bravery and with skill.

You got to understand that, as we routed out the Taliban, they weren't sent in to conquer, they were sent in to liberate. And they succeeded, and our military makes us proud.


The battles in Afghanistan are not over. American and allied troops are taking risks today in what we call Operation Mountain Lion, hunting down the Al Qaeda and Taliban forces, keeping them on the run.

Coalition naval forces in the largest combined flotilla (ph) since World War II are patrolling escape routes and intercepting ships to search for terrorists and their supplies.

As the spring thaw comes, we expect cells of trained killers to try to regroup to murder, create mayhem and try to undermine Afghanistan's efforts to build a lasting peace.

We know this from not only intelligence but from the history of military conflict in Afghanistan. It's been one of initial success followed by long years of floundering and ultimate failure. We're not going to repeat that mistake.


In the United States of America, the terrorists have chosen a foe unlike they have any -- they have never faced before. They've never faced a country like ours before. We're tough; we're determined; we're relentless.


We will stay until the mission is done.


We know that true peace will only be achieved when we give the Afghan people the means to achieve their own aspirations.


Peace will be achieved by helping Afghanistan develop its own stable government. Peace will be achieved by helping Afghanistan train and develop its own national army, and peace will be achieved through an education system for boys and girls which works.


We're working hard in Afghanistan: We're clearing mine fields. We're rebuilding roads. We're improving medical care.

And we will work to help Afghanistan to develop an economy that can feed its people without feeding the world's demand for drugs.


And we help the Afghan people recover from the Taliban rule. And as we do so, we find mounting horror, evidence of horror. In the Hazarajat region, the Red Cross has found signs of massacres committed by the Taliban last year, victims who lie in mass graves. This is the legacy of the first regime to fall in the war against terror. These mass graves are a reminder of the kind of enemy we have fought and have defeated, and they are the kind of evil we continue to fight.

By helping to build an Afghanistan that is free from this evil and is a better place in which to live, we are working in the best traditions of George Marshall.


Marshall knew that our military victory against enemies in World War II had to be followed by a moral victory that resulted in better lives for individual human beings.

After 1945, the United States of America was the only nation in the world strong enough to help rebuild a Europe and a Japan that had been decimated by World War II. Today, our former enemies are our friends, and Europe and Japan are strong partners in the rebuilding of Afghanistan. This transformation is a powerful testimony to the success of Marshall's vision and a beacon to light the path that we too must follow.

In the second phase of the war on terror, our military and law enforcement intelligence officers are helping countries around the world in their efforts to crack down on terror within their borders. Global terrorism will be defeated only by global response.

We must prevent Al Qaeda from moving its operations to other countries. We must deny terrorists the funds they need to operate. We must deny them safe havens to plan new horrors and indoctrinate new recruits. We're working with Yemen's government to prevent terrorists from assembling there. We sent troops to help train local forces in the Philippines, to help them defeat terrorists trying to establish a militant regime. And in the Republic of Georgia, we provide temporary help to its military as it routes out a terrorist cell near the Russian border. Wherever global terror threatens the civilized world, we and our friends and our allies will respond and we'll respond decisively.


Every nation that joins our cause is welcome. Every nation that needs our help will have it. And no nation continues (ph) -- around the world the nations must chose: They're with us or they're with the terrorists.

And in the Middle East, where acts of terror have triggered mounting violence, all parties have a choice to make. Every leader, every state must choose between two separate paths: the path of peace or the path of terror.

In the stricken faces of mothers, Palestinian mothers and Israeli mothers, the entire world is witnessing the agonizing cost of this conflict. Now, every nation and every leader in the region must work to end terror.


All parties have responsibilities. These responsibilities are not easy, but they're clear.

And Secretary of State Powell is helping make them clear. I want to thank Secretary Powell for his hard work at a difficult task. He returns home having made progress toward peace.

We're confronting hatred that is centuries old, disputes that have lingered for decades. But I want you to know, I will continue to lead toward a vision of peace.


We will continue to remind folks that they have responsibilities in the short-run to diffuse the current crisis. The Palestinian Authority must act -- must act -- on its words of condemnation against terror.


Israel must continue its withdrawals, and all Arab states must step up to their responsibilities.


The Egyptians and Jordanians and Saudis have helped in the wider war on terrorism, and they must help confront terrorism in the Middle East. (APPLAUSE)

All parties have a responsibility to stop funding or inciting terror.


And all parties must say clearly that a murderer is not a martyr; he or she is just a murderer.


And all parties must realize that the only vision for a long- term solution is for the two states -- Israel and Palestine -- to live side-by-side in security and in peace.


That will require hard choices and leadership by Israelis and Palestinians and their Arab neighbors. The time is now for all to make the choice for peace.


And finally, the civilized world faces a grave threat from weapons of mass destruction. A small number of outlaw regimes today possess and are developing chemical and biological and nuclear weapons. They're building missiles to deliver them and, at the same time, cultivating ties to terrorist groups.

In their threat to peace, in their mad ambitions, in their destructive potential and in the oppression of their own people these regimes constitute an axis of evil and the world must confront them.


America, along with other nations, will oppose the proliferation of dangerous weapons and technologies.

We will proceed with missile defenses to protect the American people, our troops and our friends and allies. And America will take the necessary action to oppose emerging threats. We'll be deliberate. And we will work with our friends and allies, and as we do so, we will uphold our duty to defend freedom.


We will fight against terrorist organizations in different ways, with different tactics, in different places. And we will fight the threat from weapons of mass destruction in different ways, with different tactics, in different places. Yet our objective is always the same: We will defeat global terror, and we will not allow the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most dangerous weapons.

(APPLAUSE) America has a much greater purpose than just eliminating threats and containing resentment, because we believe in the dignity and value of every individual. America seeks hope and opportunity for all people in all cultures.

And that is why we're helping to rebuild Afghanistan, and that is why we've launched a new compact for development through the millennium challenge account, and that is why we work for free trade -- to lift people out of poverty throughout the world.

A better world can seem very distant when children are sent to kill other children and old hatreds are stoked and carefully passed from one generation to another, and a violent few love death more than life. Yet, hatred, fanaticism are not the way of the future, because the hopes of humanity are always stronger than its hatreds.


And these hopes are universal in every country and in every culture. Men and women everywhere want to live in dignity -- to create and build and own, to raise their children in peace and security.

The way to a peaceful future can be found in the non-negotiable demands of human dignity. Dignity requires the rule of law, limits on the power of the state, respect for women, private property, equal justice, religious tolerance. No nation owns these principles; no nation is exempt from them.

Sixty years ago, few would have predicted the triumph of these values in Germany and Japan. Fifteen years ago, few would have predicted the advance of these values in Russia. Yet Americans are not surprised. We know that the demands of human dignity are written in every heart. The demands have a power and momentum of their own, defying all pessimism, and they are destined to change lives and nations on every continent.

America has acted on these hopes throughout our history. General George Marshall is admired for the war he fought yet best remembered for the peace he secured. The Marshall Plan, rebuilding Europe and lifting up former enemies showed that America is not content with military victory alone. Americans always seek a greater hope and a better day, and America sees a just and hopeful world beyond the war on terror.


Many of you will help achieve this better world. At a young age, you've taken up a great calling. You'll serve your country and our values. You protect your fellow citizens. And by your effort and example, you will advance the cause of freedom around the world.

So I'm here to thank you for your commitment and congratulate you on the high honor you've received.

May God bless you all. And may God bless America. LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: We've been listening to President Bush's remarks at the Virginia Military Institute this morning, the first time a sitting U.S. president has been there in decades. And we've been listening for something of a report card on the war on terror to -- up to date, as well as road map for where it will head next. We got both. President Bush saying this morning that the war against terror is going to continue. It is going to be long. It is going to be difficult. But he also said it's not going to be enough to make the world safer; we must also make it better.

He also laid out what should be the next phase on the war on terror, and that is the facing the threat of the weapons of mass destruction that certain rogue nations have, that he said is a fight that is going to be fought in different ways, with different tactics, and in different places. Of course, no doubt we will hear more about that in the days come. President Bush also addressed the crisis in the Middle East congratulating Secretary of State Colin Powell who is now -- as you were watching the speech, you probably saw the pictures. He is now on the ground in Egypt. He will be meeting there with the former minister of Egypt and the foreign minister of Jordan.

He congratulated Secretary Powell for making progress toward peace, he said, and he says that he will continue to lead to a vision of peace in the Middle East.

Let's bring in our Wolf Blitzer, who has also been standing by in Jerusalem, listening to the speech this morning. I would like your thoughts on what you heard this morning,particularly on what he said about what is happening in the Middle East. He laid out, President Bush laid out, what he said were responsibilities that all leaders and nations in that region have.

However, the preponderance of the responsibilities he laid out all went toward the Arab world. We want to start off -- wolf, you can listen in just a second again -- to a soundbite here that we are going to cut out of that speech, something that President Bush said moments ago about something he's calling on all parties in the Arab world to do.


BUSH: And all parties must say clearly that a murderer is not a martyr, he or she is just a murderer.



HARRIS: All right, Wolf, your thoughts on that, that particular soundbite, and the balance of what you heard this morning.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: That particular soundbite, Leon, will be music to the ears of Israelis, who totally agree with the president on that point, that there's no justification, there can be no justification for these suicide bombing attacks, that we've seen here most recently in Jerusalem on Friday in open air market, earlier in Tel Aviv, in Haifa, elsewhere around the country, in some parts of the Arab world. Of course, some of these suicide bombers, whether they're male or female, have been glorified, and as many officials -- U.S. officials pointed out, Saddam Hussein pays the families of these so- called martyrs or suicide bombers $25,000 for insurance to try to help their families after these suicide bombing attacks.

The president also insisted if you listen closely to that brief section he had on Secretary Powell's mission here to the Middle East, he said that the secretary returns home having made progress toward peace. That probably is true when it comes to the tensions that existed along the border between Israel and Lebanon, and Israel and Syria.

Having gone to Beirut, having gone to Damascus earlier in the week, there has been at least now five days of quiet. No Hezbollah shells going into a tiny little disputed area along those borders, Israel, Lebanon and Syria, the situation there calmed down quite a bit, although certainly a potential for exploding if the situation, of course, gets back to where it had been, but it looks like the secretary managed to calm things down quite a bit along Israel's northern border that had been a major concern to U.S.-Israeli officials.

But as far as the tensions that have existed and continued to exist between Israelis and Palestinians, it doesn't appear to be the case that there's been a significant amount of progress. As you well know, that situation remains very tense. Israel still having not completed its withdrawal from those areas recently reoccupied on the West Bank, Palestinians, of course, living under continue Israeli military occupation. The secretary of state was rather blunt in his remarks, telling the Israelis that the Jewish settlements on the West Bank and Israeli occupation have had a destructive impact on the peace process.

In this particular case, President Bush, in his carefully-crafted section of the Middle East he spoke of his vision of the two states, Israel and Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security.

Right now, I have to tell you, after a few days here in this part of the world, Leon, doesn't look like that vision is about to be materialized anytime soon.

HARRIS: Wolf Blitzer, you are not the only person to make that observation, but you are one of ours. We thank you for joining us this morning. Wolf Blitzer, get back to work. We've got quite a bit coming up for you later on this afternoon.

Let's check in now with our political analyst Bill Schneider, who has been listening as well in Washington.

Good morning, Bill.

I want to ask you about a couple of things that we heard here. Getting back to President Bush's remarks about the Middle East, and particularly about his comments about progress being made by Secretary Powell. There are many who have been watching this, saying he was supposed to be going over there -- primarily to address the issue between Palestinians and Israelis. And it's kind of hard to find any point on which there has been any progress there. I would like to know what you think about that, along with him saying, again, that Israel -- the only thing he actually listed as far as responsibilities for Israel here was that Israel must continue its withdrawal. He did not call this time, as he had in the past, for an immediate withdrawal.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right. He said Israel must continue its withdrawal. He did set any timetables or deadlines. He did not say it was a demand. Just about a week ago, he said, you know, I demand that Israel withdrawal from the occupied territories immediately. There was nothing like that. Basically the president saying there is progress because there is a process going on. It's a more modest statement of his objectives.

He also placed a responsibility on the Palestinian Authority. Though he didn't mention Yasser Arafat specifically, he said the Palestinian Authority must act on the words of condemnation against terrorism. Essentially he's saying just condemning terrorist are not enough. We want to see some action. What kind of action? Well, the Israelis say that they believe that some suspected terrorists are in hiding around Yasser Arafat's compound in Ramallah and in Bethlehem.

Imagine one gesture that is very important to the United States and Israel would be for the Palestinian Authority to hand them over, where they face trial in Israel.

HARRIS: Let's let you do the handicapping you normally do for us. Now getting back to whether or not it's going to be seen as this mission being a successful one or one that actually did produce progress, it's also the question in addition to that about what this mission did for U.S. credibility in the region.

SCHNEIDER: I'm not sure I would say enhanced greatly. I think the president had created a problem really, frankly, when he made strong demands on Israel to withdraw, and then the Israelis basically said we will stay until the job is finished. And while they pressured the Palestinian Authority to agree to a cease-fire, they said we will hold back on violence, but we refused to endorse the term "cease- fire," because they believe they won't do that until they achieve a political objective, and of course the Israelis won't negotiate toward any political objective until the fighting stops, so that's the core of that impasse. I don't think it was broken by Powell's trip.

HARRIS: Listen, we did find in the section of President Bush's speech on tape that you just mentioned a moment ago. Let's play that bit of speech back about the president calling upon the Palestinian Authority to do.


BUSH: The Palestinian Authority must act, must act, on its words of condemnation against terror. (APPLAUSE)

Israel must continue its withdrawals and all Arab states must step up to their responsibilities.


HARRIS: All right, Bill, let's look at the way the cards lay right now. The Israelis have not listed specifically a date certain. They're saying maybe in a week or so they will be out of there. We have not seen this arrangement or this agreement words come from the Palestinian Authority or the Powell negotiators on the words condemning terrorism. What next then for this region?

SCHNEIDER: It will be a long time. It will be a very difficult process. They are trying to break the impasse. What the president is doing is endorsing the process, not a date, not a specific objective. He says the Palestinians must act when, what unspecified. They have to see evidence that the Palestinians are restraining the violence. Israel must continue to withdraw. No date certain. No specific objectives, but we must continue to see evidence that the Israelis are complying with our wishes. That's why kind of a ratcheting down of objective.

This speech is important, because all the commentary in the United States have been about setbacks to the United States and international policy in the last week or two. "The Washington Post" had a story this morning that Osama bin Laden, the military believes, may have escaped in the Tora Bora battles. Secretary Powell comes back without any clear visible progress toward a cease-fire.

And in Venezuela, the regime that the United States did not want to see continue has gone back into power. So all around the world, there are setbacks in the United States. I think the president's statement today saying we're going to be seeing setbacks, this is long process, let's look at the big picture.

HARRIS: Thank you for sharing that view with us this morning.

Bill Schneider in Washington, thank you. Talk with you later on.

Daryn, up to you in New York.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Leon, thank you. I want to continue our conversation here with two gentleman, our national security correspondent David Ensor who is in Washington, D.C., and our military analyst, retired General David Grange joining us from Chicago.

Gentlemen, good morning. Thanks for joining us.

General, I want to start with you. Earlier on in that speech, the president was trumpeting the capture of Abu Zubaydah as a top terrorists, but what was missing from the speech and is missing from U.S. possession are the two big fish, and that's Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. No mention of them, and no sign of these men. BRIG. GEN. DAVID GRANGE, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: That's correct, and also, I would also throw in Al-Zawahiri, who is the doctor that supports bin Laden, and probably one of the biggest threats we have on any type of bioterrorism threat, but the three of those big fish were not mentioned, but I'm sure that the president and the Department of Defense and the other agencies focused on grabbing those people which has to be done prior to the end of this first phase of the campaign.

KAGAN: Yes, I think a lot of people wishing that was done a long time ago.

David, let's bring you in. You heard the president talk about the search through the caves, and saying that Al Qaeda left a lot of stuff behind, a lot of intelligence, and that's true, there's a lot of computers, a lot of documents. What's being done with that, and how is that helping in the hunt for these big fish like Osama bin Laden?

DAVID ENSOR, CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's being sifted through very carefully obviously by intelligence and law enforcement agencies, and there have been clues found which have lead to the capture of additional Al Qaeda personnel, including Abu Zubaydah, among others.

So very active work using the clues that were left behind, very active intelligence work also, trying to find additional information, whether it be surveillance of communications, or human intelligence being gathered. This is an all-out intelligence war. You don't see it, but it's large, extensive, goes through 60 countries, according to the CIA director.

It's going to be going for a very long time.

KAGAN: General, the president trying to use his speech to refocus the country and the world's attention on the war on terrorism and maybe off the track a little bit from what's been happening between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Once again, we heard him use the phrase "axis of evil" today, and talking about Afghanistan being just the first regime to fall. To me, that sounds like a spotlight very focused on Iraq.

GRANGE: Yes, he called the first phase of Afghanistan. There is a lot of work to be done there after a lot of what we've been talking about, catching the other leaders, breaking down the rest of the Al Qaeda; there is a lot of work in to be done in the country to make this successful.

However, he was talking about the long haul, and saying it's not a quick fix, that this is going to take some time, and he was really soliciting, I think, the support from the American people to have the resolve to go the long haul and be determined.

Now the axis of evil, he mentioned that, obviously Iraq being one of those countries, which I think eventually will have to be contended with, and it's on the order to do so. But there's some other big problems as well, and that's maybe the Hezbollah in the Bakah (ph) Valley of Lebanon. And there's some other hard-to-do terrorist networks that have to be attacked, have to be taken down in the future.

KAGAN: You mentioned the Middle East, David, let's bring you back in here. What's the word on CIA head George Tenet heading to the Middle East?

ENSOR: Well, as you know Secretary of State Colin Powell has said that the president is prepared to send George Tenet to the Middle East. In the past, Tenet has been sent to try, and he has managed to arrange for meetings and cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security chiefs. He has very close ties, the agency has close ties with people on both sides, and as active as a kind of non-political good faith mediator after at times, officials tell me, however, aides to Mr. Tenet tell me he has not got his marching orders so far. They may come soon.

It would seem likely that Mr. Powell says that's a likely next step.

KAGAN: And finally, General, before we let you go, a reminder, word that a word soldier was shot in Kandahar today, this still a very dangerous place and still a lot of Americans men and women doing very dangerous work over there.

ENSOR: The Al Qaeda and hardcore Taliban have taken up a tactic of breaking down the small groups, moving mainly at night, blending mainly with population in the cities, and they will continue to do hit-and-run operations. They are going to continue interdict along the roads. They are going to ambush. They are going to perform raids wherever they can. And they have pockets of local support to hide in and obtain weaponry to do just this.

KAGAN: General David Grange, David Ensor, thank you so much, the two Davids, appreciate it.