Will the South Asian Earthquake Impact the War on Terror?

This is a partial transcript of "The Big Story With John Gibson," October 10, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: Returning to the issue of Pakistan (search) and that earthquake, here to talk about the impact the quake could have on the War on Terror is Lawrence Eagleburger, secretary of state under President George H.W. Bush.

Mr. Eagleburger, thanks very much.


GIBSON: Pakistan is a very important ally. And we are responding, I suppose, as we would to an important ally. But does this take the Pakistanis' eye off the ball? They have got a big problem and they have to deal with it.

EAGLEBURGER: I don't know. Your point earlier about whether Usama bin Laden (search) happens to have gotten caught in this, it would be wonderful, wouldn't it? That would be putting the eye on the ball in a different way.

But, anyway, I don't, you know, how can I answer the question? Sure, it will take their eye off the ball to a degree. But, at the same time, I think the support we're going to provide and have been providing, first of all, it is absolutely critical to keep President Musharraf (search) in power. We can't let him slip.

So, I think the needs are there, not only for humanitarian purposes, but also for the political purposes. And I don't really think it takes their eye of the ball particularly. In fact, there is probably now more going on in that region where Usama is maybe than has been the case in the past.

GIBSON: You know, this is an area where Usama bin Laden is said to have been. And I suppose one small benefit of such...

EAGLEBURGER: We could hope.

GIBSON: ... a calamity would be that he is no longer. But is this also kind of an opportunity, as the tsunami was? When Americans rush in relief supplies and lots of the people who are in need see that the tents, the food, the water, the generators, whatever, are coming from the United States, do we get some credit in the minds of people who have been backing us for quite a while?


EAGLEBURGER: You can only hope.

In the tsunami, I think it was fairly clear from some people I talked to after they came back that, in fact, it was noticed. And I would hope it will be noticed here. You know, on the other hand, the strain on our budget for these sorts of purposes must be getting pretty intense, between the tsunami, Katrina and now this.

We are spending a lot more money than I expected — than the administration expected to have to spend on this sort of thing. And I think we have to do it, not only in the U.S., but I think it is equally critical, both in the case of the tsunami, for humanitarian reasons, if nothing else, and, in Pakistan, but for the humanitarian, but also for the political reasons.

GIBSON: I know you're not a geologist or a structural engineer.


GIBSON: But do these pictures of just this widespread destruction, what seems like virtually ever building collapsing, does it shock you as much as it does me?

EAGLEBURGER: Maybe I'm getting over being able to be shocked because, for me, the tsunami was so awful, when you saw that. And, well, I have lived through a couple of earthquakes. And I can only tell you there is nothing that I think is more frightening, maybe other than an argument with my wife. They are because there is nothing you can do with it and it is sitting there shaking you back and forth and you are wondering if the roof is going to come down on your head.

Yes, these things are awful, but I think even more awful must have been what these people were going through when this happened. There is nothing in my mind that can be any worse than that.

GIBSON: All right, Secretary of State under President George H.W. Bush, Lawrence Eagleburger. Mr. Eagleburger, thanks.

EAGLEBURGER: My pleasure, sir.

GIBSON: Even if bin Laden is still alive, his days in hiding could be cut short.

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