This partial transcript of America United, September 20, 2001, was provided by the Federal Document Clearing House. Click here to order the complete transcript.
JOHN GIBSON, HOST: The national-security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, briefed reporters earlier yesterday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: This is not the Gulf War coalition where we all mobilize our military forces and march off to war after a hundred days.
There are going to be a lot of different fronts in this war, some on the information side, some on the financial side, some of the military side, some on -- on other fronts.
There are going to be countries that you may never hear of their contribution, but it might actually be the most important contribution.
In locating this network, there have to be several phases to this, and this has to go on for a long time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GIBSON: So is this a war or is it something else? Joining me now from Stanford is Abraham Safoer who served as legal adviser to the U.S. Department of State and is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.
So is it really accurately described as a war, or is this a campaign to undo terror cells? I mean, she said, "We're not going to march off to war." So what are we doing?
ABRAHAM SAFOER, HOOVER INSTITUTION: Well, the president called it a war, but he said it was a new kind of war. So, obviously, it's not a conventional war.
GIBSON: Well, what is it?
SAFOER: It's an ongoing effort. I hope it will be a strong effort and a persistent effort to finally come to grips with the fact that there are people out there who are very talented, who have enough resources at their disposal, and who are committed to killing and destroying American people and assets, and to finally do something about it.
GIBSON: Well, do you think that the United States has -- or soon will once it gets this coalition together -- have a free hand to take military action where it is necessary and where it will do some good or that it ultimately is going to be so constrained by, let's say, Egypt which doesn't think that we ought to be attacking nations when we're after individuals.
SAFOER: Yes. I think we'll be constrained in many ways, in many places, and we'll have to take the opportunities we get.
GIBSON: Well, tell me what you think that means. What kind of opportunities? We might have an opportunity to kill Usama bin Laden with a spy. What about Iran? What about Iraq? What about Libya? What about long list of official terror nations that the U.S. State Department recognizes as terror nations?
SAFOER: Well, you're not a military planner, and neither am I. I've had the privilege of working with military planners. They work very intensely, and they know how to do this. They put together options for the NSC to consider. The NSC staff reviews those options and presents them to the president, and the president makes the decision.
GIBSON: Well, let me put it this way. Would you support strikes against countries for the charge of harboring terrorists?
SAFOER: There is a concept in international law that says that a country is responsible for things that damage other countries that emanate from that country, whether it's pollution or some use of force, if that country is able to correct it and doesn't it or is unable to correct it, and so the responsibility -- the issue of responsibility is clear in international law.
It's really an issue of remedy. What kind of remedies can another state impose for that breach of responsibility? And what you'll see in the international legal community is an overwhelming feeling that the only way you're allowed to use force in that context is with the approval of the Security Council and, otherwise, you're not supposed to use force. You're supposed to use some other remedy -- damages, criminal prosecution, cooperation, diplomacy, all the other things.
GIBSON: Do you have any doubt that the Security Council would approve the remedies the president is now seeking?
SAFOER: Oh, very much so. I think the Security Council will not give us a blank check.
However, I do think that the Security Council -- if this President Bush is as able and skillful at diplomacy at the last -- and I think he may well be -- and this secretary of state is as skillful at diplomacy as Secretary Baker was, I think that they will be able to put together some kind of a resolution that will authorize force at least in some limited ways or in some manner that makes it easier than going back to the council and starting all over again.
GIBSON: Do you think the president is faced with a situation where he has to appear to be doing something militarily, to reacting to this 5,000 deaths and this incredible destruction, when, in fact, what he's doing is something very much more quiet, much more secretive, much more stealthy than a -- than a big chest-pounding military action?
SAFOER: Yes. I think he feels that kind of pressure, and I think, in fairness, he brought some of it on himself saying the kinds of things he said, such as "dead or alive" and "They're going to hear from us" and things like that.
Our president is very, very angry. He's very moved by this. Genuinely. But bravado is exactly what Usama bin Laden doesn't need to hear. He has in his writings over and over again quotes from American officials who have expressed statements of great bravado ever since the early 1980s when we went to Lebanon and went away after our Marine barracks was destroyed, and he cites all these things.
And he says, "Look, they call us cowards, and they can't even take a handful of deaths, whereas we -- we can face death, we can actually fly planes into buildings essentially." Bravado is not the right way to go with these people.
GIBSON: Well, what is? I mean, should Bush be putting his eggs in the assassination basket or the go-to-war basket?
SAFOER: There's no assassination here. If a country's been attacked and it kills the leader of a force that attacked that country, that is a lawful killing. Assassination means murder.
That's what it meant in the executive order that you refer to. I was one of the lawyers who looked over and wrote opinions as to the meaning of that executive order, and every single attorney in the department -- in every department in the United States government concluded that killing a specific individual, even a political leader, who was responsible for attacking the United States would not be an assassination.
GIBSON: All right, but is there some remaining prohibition on targeting an individual, such as bin Laden?
SAFOER: Well, I mean, you have to consider targeting people if you have an opportunity to, if those people are planning to kill Americans. Either that or you have some magical new way of keeping murderers from murdering people.
GIBSON: What do you think is going to happen in the immediate future, in the next few days or couple of weeks, as the president starts to act?
SAFOER: I think the president is going to speak to Congress and try to convey some of the sense of what you were just conveying with your questions. Excellent questions.
That is the complexity of the situation, although he is outraged and we should be outraged, this is going to take time, and that the American people and the free world can count on him to stay the course.
GIBSON: You know, Mr. Safoer, the American people, it's a little more black and white for them by and large. They operate on adrenaline, and the adrenaline is flowing because of this outrage. How long does he have to act before people either get inpatient with something not happening or their will to act dissipates?
SAFOER: That's a very, very good question and a tough question. You know, I think we have been so gravely disappointed by our leaders in this area of terrorism that there's really now way you can confidently predict that any group of leaders in America will maintain a steady course and keep at it.
Our efforts against terrorism have been pathetic, and all of you know, we just keep hearing that this is something new. It's a new war. But in the '70s and '80s when I was in the government, those are the words that we used, the same words.
And, you know, when people said they were going to go to the ends of the earth to get people who were killing Americans, what did they mean? If, all of a sudden, we're going to be doing all of these new things, what were we doing before?
I mean, there's a real sense of accountability that needs to be made here. We absolutely need not a commission, you know, that writes some kind of a report that no one ever reads but a really honest look at the people who thought that we could deal with this problem without a steady purpose and the use of force in proper situations because those people have exposed the civilian population to egregious harm.
GIBSON: Abraham Safoer, thanks very much for joining us. We appreciate your insights.
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