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FOXFan.com: What sparked the idea for this book?
Gibson: The very first thing I read right after 9/11 — I carried the news clipping around in my wallet for a year — was a French intellectual who thought that most Europeans would be startled to learn that Americans would not regard the 9/11 attacks as a parenthesis, as something that happened set aside from everything else; that the Americans were going to take this very seriously and they were going to react and it was going to be ugly. That the Europeans a) wouldn’t expect that, and b) wouldn’t accept it, I thought was shocking. That stuck in the back of my mind, and I carried the thing around and I wrote some “My Word’s” about it. In the run-up to the war in the summer of ‘02, I started watching the foreign papers much more closely. I saw that it was not only the venom about Americans that was shocking, but how little most of these commentators understood about America. They claim to understand us because they’ve been here, but they don’t at all. They especially don’t know anything about that big chunk of land between New York and L.A., so they’re completely misinformed.
FOXFan.com: Do you see any justification for this anti-Americanism?
Gibson: There are very good reasons it’s happening. The first one is, and I quote this guy who is a German newspaper editor (and I don’t know if this is his idea or he borrowed it from somebody else), “the first rule of alliances is they fall apart when they succeed.” So the Western alliance, which was Western Europe, the United States, and large parts of the Arab world, was an alliance against the Soviet Union. Once there was no Soviet Union there was no reason for these countries to be quite so closely allied with the United States. At the same time, Western Europe in particular began to fear the United States more because here’s this huge monster military power (that was built up to protect them) that is now looking around for something to do. That’s their attitude. So jealousy, envy, and fear come into play, and also the simple equation that Germany can engage in anti-Americanism because they don’t need Americans to protect them from the Russians anymore. And they view this as a period where they can shake off World War II.
FOXFan.com: You lay out the case the late FBI counterterror leader John O’Neill made that Iraq and Al Qaeda are connected. If this was more widely publicized, would the foreign press understand American policy better?
Gibson: I think you saw recently in the testimony of Richard Clarke why nobody is paying attention to what John O’Neill had to say. John O’Neill was essentially run out of the FBI and run out of the counterterrorism community mainly because he believed there was an Iraq – Al Qaeda connection. This was not the dominant thinking of the people in charge. Richard Clarke demonstrated this in his testimony. He said going after Iraq was a distraction. The people who were saying the things that John O’Neill said, which I repeat in this book, were clearly in the minority in the intelligence community. They were being shut down. Their careers were on the line for believing these sorts of things. The people who create the intelligence community opinion have made it a matter of dogma. In other words, either you believe that Iraq and Al Qaeda aren’t connected, or you get out. And I think this is worth looking at again. When it comes to the security of Americans, the president has an obligation to look at things that are possible — things that are probable. He’s obliged to make a case against a potential enemy based on a lower standard of proof, not a higher one. So when you look at Iraq, you don’t say "we have to have proof beyond a reasonable doubt." You say, "if it’s even possible that this stuff is true, we have to act." Too many American lives are at stake.
FOXFan.com: You spend a lot of time describing Ground Zero. Do you think what happened there is too difficult for people to comprehend?
Gibson: It recedes from memory for people. If you aren’t reminded of it everyday like I am, people wonder why we are going to war. People are talking about this war as if 9/11 was not a cause. I think it was. People act as if we just picked Iraq, like it was an elective course in college. I’m trying to make the case that no, they are connected, at least there is a reasonable reason to think they are connected. If you are the President, you are obligated to do something about it. You are obligated to act for the safety of the American people.
FOXFan.com: How dangerous is what is being printed about America?
Gibson: The fact of the matter is that we are going through a rough time and it might last a while. The world still has the same fears about us. Nobody on the planet, except guerrillas, can act militarily except the United States. So everybody is worried about us. They are feeling pretty good right now because Americans are getting a bloody nose in Iraq. But there is still long-term worry. There is nobody to challenge the United States. The basic resentment and hatred of the United States comes from that fact. We are a virtually unstoppable force on the planet and they hate that. Look, nobody ever puts it in these terms, but if the U.S. military wanted to take Paris tomorrow, they’d take Paris. We don’t want it. We’re not going to do that, but there’s nobody to stop us. When the European elites and the intellectual class and policy planners look at that, it worries them. The Europeans in particular have spent all their money on their comfort society — full employment, medical plans. They don’t have militaries. They don’t spend their money on that. At the point where we were debating the war, for a moment Europe thought, "if we had airlift capability we could at least get in on the debate." But they had nothing, so nobody was going to pay any attention to what they had to say. And if they weren’t going to be paid attention to, their position had to be to oppose it.
Looking at this stuff is useful to help make you understand why we’re getting grief from these people who are supposed to be our friends. The answer is, they’re not our friends. When John Kerry says we have to get our allies involved in Iraq, I’m not really sure he believes that. Because in order to get them to help us, you’d have to make concessions that constrain us. I think America has to be free to act in its own defense. If you have the French constraining you, then you are defeating the purpose of acting to defend yourself. I think its dangerous to want friends in this regard. They are only going to constrain how you can act in order to suit their own interests.
John Gibson hosts "The Big Story With John Gibson," a one-hour program that provides in-depth coverage and analysis of the day's top stories.