This partial transcript from The Big Story With John Gibson, November 16, 2001. Click here to order the complete transcript.
JOHN GIBSON, HOST: "The United States may continue its ferocious campaign, not heeding the worldwide public disgust with acts it commits against unarmed Afghan civilians. Apparently, the United States does not sufficiently appreciate the fact that its increasingly provocative campaign has inflamed wrath among the moderates in the world, especially the Arabs and the Muslims. It is shoving them toward extremism." So says "Al-Wafd," a newspaper published in Cairo on America's war on terror.
Just so you know, we give Egypt $2 billion of your tax dollars in foreign aid this fiscal year, and it is slated to receive the same amount next year; about two-thirds of that is military assistance. The rest is economic assistance. "Friends Like These."
My next guest is the New York-based senior diplomatic correspondent for the Pan Arab newspaper, Al Hayat. Lebanese born, American, Raghida Dergham was educated at the State University of New York. Add this all together and you get a woman who's very much in tuned with the Arab- American sensibilities, including sensibilities about this war, which is now spreading into the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.
We've heard a lot of talk about how this is a terrible thing. Do Arab Americans and Muslim Americans think it's a terrible thing or think it's worst than terrible?
RAGHIDA DERGHAM, AL HAYAT: To continue through Ramadan?
GIBSON: Yes, continue making war.
DERGHAM: I think it's a new ballgame now. The talk about stop and halt in Ramadan was before the latest developments. There are new realities on the ground right now.
GIBSON: You're talking about September 11.
DERGHAM: No. I'm talking about the fact that Kabul had fallen, that Taliban is on the run, and that stage one of the war has been concluded luckily in victory.
GIBSON: In other words, success means something. Does it mean to most Muslims that therefore we should stop or therefore, we should continue?
DERGHAM: I don't think this question is out there as much as it is out here in the media, quite honestly. I think you will have more than one opinion. You will he some who will say no. Of course, you must go on because you are in the middle of the operation, and others who from the very beginning always said, "Halt through Ramadan." The thing is that it is a new ballgame. And I think it depends on the developments.
I think things are happening really quite fast. The political is running after the military accomplishments. And there is probably anticipation that stage two, which is the Al Qaeda organization and Usama bin Laden and his followers, that is probably going to be concluded much faster. I don't think there is an objection to going on, not at least not by the majority.
GIBSON: Do you have any understanding or can you explain to us, I guess, why it is that Usama bin Laden and his message, which seems to be so regressive — Let's all march back to the 10th century — has this appeal not only in nations in the Middle East that have their own political problems, but even to some extent in nations of the West where Muslims live?
DERGHAM: Because it's the voice of the angry and the disappointed. And I think he — let me again distinguish because I don't think his followers are numerous. I think it's a very small radical minority. If there are those who seem to think that he, you know, makes some points that they had expressed, it is not an adoption or a following of Usama bin Laden. There is a real need for distinction.
There is a lot of people who are quite angry with their own situation under their own governments, with their own situation within the politics, the American-Arab politics or the Islamic interregional politics or whatever it is. But there is anger about policies, not necessarily to be mixed necessarily with support for Usama bin Laden. And you can you see it right now, for example, in Afghanistan. There is a lot of worry what would happen.
Pakistan is quite happy the Taliban is out, though it used to be it's ally in the past. But there's quite a lot of worry that the northern allies right now are going to just claim all the victory and rule out the participation of other factions, and therefore, fear of chaos again, splitting probably into Pakistan.
GIBSON: Do you think Usama bin Laden's message, which is broadcast widely throughout the Arab world and the Muslim world, is anti-West or anti-Americanism or simply anti-modern? He does not want the modern world?
DERGHAM: It's all of the above, definitely. You see, Usama bin Laden's messages, it's not only against the United States or anti-West, it is anti-modern as well as against whatever is ruling in the Arab world. And there's no objection by some of the Arab world that there should be a change of regime. The only thing is that how do you it? Destroy and then think about how to bring in a Taliban-type regimes, or reform? I think reform is so necessary, and there's a lot of cry out in the Arab world to say, "Let's just not forget we need to do something about it."
GIBSON: Raghida Dergham of the Pan Arab newspaper, Al Hayat. Thanks for coming in, Raghida. We really appreciate it.
DERGHAM: Thank you.
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