Joining us now, the Egyptian ambassador to the United States, Nabil Fahmy.
Mr. Fahmy, Mr. Ambassador, welcome to Face the Nation.
AMB. NABIL FAHMY, Egyptian Ambassador to the U.S.: Thank you.
SCHIEFFER: Yesterday Osama bin Laden put out another of his propaganda tapes, and he said everybody that belongs to the United Nations, Arab, Muslim, Christian, whatever, all of them are infidels.
Egypt is a member of the United Nations. What's your response to Osama bin Laden?
FAHMY: I draw a very interesting conclusion from what he said, frankly. This is a campaign that the international community as a whole has to take on. Terrorism is a threat against all of us. And, in many respects, the U.N. is the forum where we all gather.
So this is another confirmation. He feels that the threat is coming--that the response is coming from the international community. And that's why he's nervous and angry.
And I think we should continue to do what needs to be done to deal with Osama bin Laden.
SCHIEFFER: He is taking this--he's trying to turn this into a war on Islam, is he not?
FAHMY: He's been trying to take advantage of Islam, distort Islam, to take on moderate regimes in the Middle East, to take on civilized society in the West and in different parts of the world.
But it's a distortion. I don't agree with the argument. Islam has nothing to do with what he is propagating.
But international community as a whole has to work together. We've been facing this for 10 years before, and we solved it domestically. But it remained around us, whether in Europe, in Asia or wherever. We cannot do it alone. We have to work together to solve this once and for all.
BORGER: Mr. Ambassador, the Bush administration has made it very clear that it does not intend to stop the bombing during Ramadan. Do you believe that's a good idea or a mistake?
FAHMY: Well, to deal with terrorism, you will have to deal with security issues, political issues, social and economic issues, and juridical issues, legal issues. It's not going to be a one-element campaign.
In terms of dealing with the public, the public in the Middle East will feel sensitive about bombings in Ramadan. That being said, one has to factor in and balance how much you gain, how much you lose by continuing the campaign, the military campaign, during Ramadan, whether you should do it or not.
It's a difficult call. If I had a choice, I would not. But I would have to look at all the facts and all the figures before making a determination.
BORGER: So you're saying, from the American point of view, it may not be a mistake. You would not, but if you were President Bush...
FAHMY: What I said is that, if I had a choice. But if I had all the facts before me, if I knew exactly what has been done in th campaign, how far we've achieved in the intelligence cooperation, for example, and other things, one would make a determination.
I'm not even sure anybody is ready to say, without looking at all the facts, that it is right to do it or right not to do it. So it's a very difficult call, and I think we have to be sensitive to the public.
But the threat is there, and we have to continue this campaign.
SCHIEFFER: Mr. Ambassador, how do you characterize feelings in the Middle East right now, in states like Egypt, toward this war? Does the man on the street in Egypt think that this has been an attack on the United States, that it's a terrorist attack, or do they buy what bin Laden is saying, that this is an attack on a religion?
FAHMY: No, no, not at all. They used the same argument with us. And we are basically--the majority is a Muslim country. So they used the same argument with us, that we were infidels, that we were not Muslims, we were not true believers. That's nonsense.
People in the street are totally against terrorism. Where you see, occasionally, criticism of the U.S., it does not relate to the campaign against terrorism. It is a function of other policies which can be debated legitimately, but not with bin Laden.
SCHIEFFER: When and if the United States does have to put a large force of ground troops into Afghanistan, will Egypt support that?
FAHMY: We have supported what the U.S. has done so far, which includes a military campaign against Afghanistan, because we know the threat of terrorism.
This will have to continue, but it will have to be coupled with other measures. The decision on whether to go with ground forces, special forces or bombing is a military one, one for the military advisers to decide.
BORGER: Mr. Ambassador, what if this war were to broaden and widen, say, to Iraq, would you still be with us?
FAHMY: The issue is, we're pursuing terrorism.
We're not pursuing other issues. As long as we're pursuing terrorism, we will be out there, straight in the front. We were there before on you terrorism.
Let's not pile up agendas. Let's keep the focus on what the issue is.
BORGER: Well, that doesn't answer, though. If we were to believe that we would take the war on terrorism to Iraq...
FAHMY: Well, the point is how best to deal with the problem. You have the terrorists who came to the U.S. were living in Europe. Was the solution to that bombing, Europe?
How do you deal with this? You deal with the problem in the way it's brought forward to you. Bombing is not the solution to all of the aspects of dealing with terrorism. You would have had to bomb Germany, bomb Great Britain, and I would not recommend that.
But you definitely have to work with them in making sure that civil society in these countries is not taken advantage of by terrorists. And that was our call 10 years ago.
SCHIEFFER: r. Ambassador, thank you very much for articulating that view today.
FAHMY: Thank you for having me.
SCHIEFFER: Glad to have you.
FAHMY: Thank you.
SCHIEFFER: We're going to continue our expanded coverage on Face the Nation after this short break.
SCHIEFFER: And as we continue to go at this story from every conceivable angle, in Los Angeles this morning, terrorism expert Brian Jenkins.
Mr. Jenkins, thank you for coming.
Here in the studio, Seymour Hersh of The New Yorker.
Sey, I want to start with you because this morning Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said, and this is not a direct quote, but the thrust of what he was is that the Taliban has ceased to function as a government in Afghanistan.
Now, have you just written a piece in The New Yorker which suggests that the first foray that we made in there with ground troops was almost a disaster, as you put it.
Do you believe, and from what you're talking to, the people you're talking to, that the Taliban is no longer functioning as a government in Afghanistan?
SEYMOUR HERSH, The New Yorker: Maybe not as a government, but certainly as a military force they exist.
And the article you're talking about simply made the point that our secret attempt to go invade the home of Mullah Omar, the head of the Taliban government, was a near disaster, as you say.
We came in hot and heavy with an awful lot of special forces, did it by the book, I guess, with--instead of going in, the Delta Force is our secret unit, the most secret unit in the government. And they're very confident, they know how to hurt people. And they like to operate by themselves in small teams. Instead, the way we did it was, you know, General Motors style--hundreds of people, 16 helicopters, shoot 'em up.
And when they got into the building where they hoped to either find the Mullah or some of his documents, there was nothing there. When they came out, they got hit very heavily, a big counter attack, and it was a mess.
Twelve serious injuries, three very serious. And all of this was kept from the American people. There was a great deal of anger among the Delta Force, I write about that. They're not sure they want to operate this way.
BORGER: Mr. Hersh, this morning, though, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Chairman Myers, said that this from his point of view, this mission went, quote, "flawlessly." There was total denial of your report. And particularly when you had written that they were not properly prepared, he said nothing could be further from the truth.
So how do you respond to that?
HERSH: Well, we just have to ask, you know, we have to wait and see what happens. You know, been there, done it. You and I, Bob, go back to the Vietnam War. Oh my God, here we are, B-52s again. And they didn't work then.
I'm not sure that--the facts are as I described them, it ws a mess. It was even more than that. I described--we all watched on television as we saw our Rangers parachute. Remember the footage of that? And I write, too, that a lot of people are upset about that because before the Rangers went in, we sent a special path-finder team, a little scout unit, into the airfield that they were attacking, and the military command was told there were no soldiers there, no Taliban there.
SCHIEFFER: I think, Sey, people who are not reporters always wonder, where does this kind of information come from?
My suspicion is that this came from people--the people that talk to you were kind of upset about how this had gone, and they wanted people to know about that.
I'm not asking you to disclose sources, but what makes you think this is true? I mean, you wouldn't have written it if you had not thought it to be at a correct account.
HERSH: And also, as people know in the business, The New Yorker has this incredible checking apparatus, where the people I talk to actually are independently talked to by The New Yorker staff to make sure we have no factual--serious factual errors.
Sure, Delta Force is mad. Delta Force is so mad that they think--the language is that this time we lost 12. Next time, if they do it again the same way, we're going to lose, you know, dozens. We can't operate that way. We operate by ourselves, independently, not that messy.
SCHIEFFER: We didn't lose 12 people. I'm sure you didn't mean to say.
HERSH: I said...
SCHIEFFER: Twelve people were injured. Now, General Myers and, who was it, General Franks...
SCHIEFFER: ... the head of the command over there, says, when you report 12 people were wounded, he said, "Well, it depends on what you count as a wound." Do you mean those were people that were shot, or do you mean they were hurt, or...
HERSH: Most of them had shrapnel injuries. Nine were not that serious; three were very seriously injured. Most had shrapnel. Most just got--there was a lot--the Taliban fired a lot of grenades at us in the counterattack.
BORGER: Well, they say none of them were injured in return fire from the Taliban.
HERSH: OK. Well, we've had that before.
SCHIEFFER: OK. All right.
Let's shift a little bit and talk a little bit about terrorism.
Brian Jenkins, you've been following and studying terrorism for a long, long time.
Out there on the West Coast this week, Governor Davis comes out and said that the bridges out there, the Golden Gate, the Bay Bridge, some of the others, were targets of terrorist attacks. He said he had gotten this information from law enforcement officials and then they said, well, it wasn't quite that specific.
I take it the bridges are still out there, but what's going on here with all of these threats and alerts that we're getting? And how seriously do you, as a terroism expert, take these things?
BRIAN JENKINS, Terrorism Expert: Well, as of this morning, the bridges are still standing and they're still busy. But the issue is, as you point out, how we deal with these threats.
We, certainly, in the wake of September 11, are hearing a lot more about threats that probably we wouldn't have heard about before. People have to understand that there's a high volume of noise in terrorism--threats, reports from intelligence sources, warnings. And a lot of these, most of these--in fact, almost all of these--turn out to be just that, a lot of noise.
But a decision has been made in a number of cases since September 11 that, in fact, we're going to share some of this noise with the public.
Is that the right thing to do or not? I mean, when people think they have a credible threat, I think the public would demand that that be communicated to them. The government is going to become more adept, as time goes on, in communicating this threat information, but the more important thing is that we, as citizens, are going to have to become more adept in dealing with it.
BORGER: Mr. Jenkins, as a terrorism expert, let me just ask you bluntly, how hard is it to take out a bridge?
JENKINS: It is extremely difficult. We're talking about actually dropping the bridge and some of the more lurid speculation of scenarios of that type. It is extremely difficult. Can one set off a bomb on a bridge? Of course one can. But to actually topple a bridge takes a great deal of effort--not easily done.
SCHIEFFER: Mr. Jenkins, let me ask you about a report that was done by a Houston law firm, which has a Washington office, Bracewell and Patterson. They have a lot of energy clients, and they've done a study on the threat to our energy infrastructure.
Let me just read you a couple of things here. They say, "Since September 11, there have been credible threats to the Trans Alaska pipeline and the nuclear power plant at Three Mile Island." They say, "There is no overall federal security requirement for the Trans Alaska pipeline or any other pipeline." They say, "A well-designed terrorist attack, hitting several energy facilities at once, has the potential of causing entire regional power grids to fail."
That sounds like pretty serious business to me.
JENKINS: It clearly is serious. In fact, this was a topic of recent hearings at a Senate hearing at which Senator Biden presided, where we were looking at the security of critical infrastructure in this country.
The problem we have is, if we are going to catalogue all of the vulnerabilities in our society, we're going to end up with 50 volumes before we get off of the East Coast. A lot of things in our society are very, very vulnerable to sophisticated and determined terrorist attacks.
Clearly, security is going to have to be increased around these most critical components of our infrastructure. That is somethig that we have to do now.
We probably are not realistically going to be able to deal with every single vulnerability. They are infinite.
SCHIEFFER: Sey Hersh, where does that leave us?
HERSH: Well, we have to simply prepare for a long war. And we have to go to the root. The root of the evil seems to me to be we've got to figure out some way to stop fundamentalism.
We've got to make conditions for the average person in the Arab world better. Too many suffer. Too many go to these kind of extreme actions because they have no chance. There is no life for many of them. In Egypt, in Saudi Arabia, in Kuwait, the money doesn't flow down there . There's no trickle down.
BORGER: Mr. Hersh, doesn't this all come down, really, to a matter of our human intelligence on the ground in Afghanistan, as well as even here at home? Do we have a real intelligence-gathering problem in this country?
HERSH: No, we have terrible problems. We have an FBI that needs to be retrained in how to do terrorism. We have a CIA that's been diminished in terms of its ability to collect human intelligence.
Right now, everybody talks about no Pashtu speakers. We're using Israelis. We've recently recruited some Israelis to help us translate documents in Pashtu, the native tongue of the Taliban.
So, we have a big, huge problem. We will solve it. As somebody said to me in the article I just wrote, it's like you read a 600-page mystery, the last two pages tell you the end, but you have to read 598 pages to get there. Well, we're on page 15. We'll get there. It's just going to take a long time.
SCHIEFFER: Brian Jenkins, a final thought from you. What do we need to do to improve our intelligence gathering? Are we in as bad shape as Sey Hersh says we are?
JENKINS: Well, intelligence is never adequate unless you're absolutely confident that you'll be able to identify every terrorist cell in the world and predict and thwart every conceivable threat. So, it's never going to be adequate. It's always a challenge.
But the fact is, September 11 has awakened us to the fact that it is an extremely dangerous world. For a decade we have pretended to believe that it is not; that with the end of the Cold War, the collapse of the Soviet Union, that all we needed to do was basically commit ourselves to accumulating wealth and spreading prosperity, ignoring the fact that there are real threats out there. This has awakened us.
SCHIEFFER: All right. I want to thank you both of you to get your perspective on all of this.
We're going to continue our expanded coverage, and we'll talk to Sandy Berger, who was President Clinton's national security advisor, in a minute.
SCHIEFFER: As we continue now our roundtable with Sandy Berger, who was the former national security adviser to President Clinton; Doyle McManus, our old friend from the Los Angeles Tims.
Mr. Berger, let me ask you first about what happened in Israel this morning. We had a Palestinian gunman, another of these incidents, open fire on a busload of Israeli citizens. We know of some deaths, many injuries. And now the Israeli government is saying it may review its decision made earlier to pull back from one of the West Bank towns where it had Israeli troops.
How serious is this? And what needs to happen here?
SANDY BERGER, Former National Security Adviser: Well, another outrageous act of terrorism against innocent people riding a bus. I think the situation is very dangerous and very precarious.
I don't believe that the two sides here can break this death grip by themselves, Bob. I think the international community led by the United States is going to have to exercise all the moral authority that we have to press them to implement the steps that they have agreed to to achieve a de-escalation of the fighting.
SCHIEFFER: Well, you've been there, and you know how difficult this is. You can't just say, please don't do it, I mean, please let's get together. What are the steps that need to be taken here? How do you get this done?
BERGER: Well, they have agreed to the steps that have to be taken step by step.
What we need now is seven days of accountability or two weeks of accountability, in which the international community is there with a spotlight and a stop watch, putting the pressure on both sides to do what they've said they would do.
In the absence of breaking this cycle, we're facing a very, very dangerous descent in the Middle East which is going to complicate--not only disastrous for the Middle East, but complicate the larger situation we face.
BORGER: Speaking of the larger situation, Doyle, you heard the ambassador here talk about bombing during Ramadan. Do you think that will make any difference in terms of our already tenuous coalition?
DOYLE MCMANUS, The Los Angeles Times Washington Bureau Chief: I think it will, Gloria. What the ambassador was talking about was, in a sense, the front we're paying not enough attention to, which is the war for opinion within the Muslim world. And that really requires the United States to do what it can on Israel.
On Ramadan, what I am hearing from the White House is that, while they've been saying this week there is not going to be a bombing halt through the whole month, they are sending signals that there will be pauses at the most sacred times of Ramadan--the first night, the last night, and the 27th night of Ramadan. These are the important holidays that month. They do want to send a gesture of sensitivity to the Muslim world.
BORGER: For domestic political consumption, particularly among conservative Republicans who are calling for absolutely no halt, isn't that going to cause them a domestic political problem?
MCMANUS: Well, the point they're going to make is, this isn't a boming pause for the whole war, and the war can survive a couple nights of rest.
BORGER: Sandy Berger, you have been involved in the past in dealing with terrorism, you've seen these terrorism alerts we've been going through, two so far in this country. Can you tell us a little bit about how the White House decides to go with something or not to go with something?
BERGER: Well, there's an enormous amount of threat information, some of it more credible than others. You act on everything. The question is, what do you warn?
I think we're in a situation now where the American people are on a heightened state of alert. We look around every room we walk in. We look at every parcel.
So my own view is that we ought now when--unless we have specific information that can actually help people make decisions, we ought to say to the American people, listen, we're living in a more dangerous world, we're going to be attacked by terrorism again, we're doing everything we can on the security side, and here's what we're doing, we're doing everything we can to fight terrorism. If we learn anything that is actually going to help you make a decision about what to do, where to go, we'll tell you. Otherwise you are on alert.
BORGER: So no more, enough general alerts?
BERGER: I think--it's a tough call, because no one wants to be sitting on a piece of intelligence the day after something terrible happens.
But we are already as a people on a heightened state of alert. We're almost at a hyper-heightened state of alert, and I think, again, it goes to the utility of the information. But these are very, very tough calls, and they have to be made ultimately on a case-by-case basis.
SCHIEFFER: But what does it mean when they say we have intercepts?
BERGER: It means we've heard a conversation.
But let me just tell you another part of this, Bob. Again, if we have something specific that can help people, that's fine. But, in a sense, we empower people. This is now telephone terrorism, in a sense, that we've empowered. All that bin Laden's operatives have to do now is, have a chit chat on the phone, and that suddenly begins a kind of a shockwave through the system.
So we have to, I think, continually recalibrate. I think the administration is doing that every day. Clearly, the American people need to know generally what is useful to them. But I'm not sure the kind of continuing "the next 24 hours something is going to happen" is terribly helpful.
SCHIEFFER: Doyle, what do you think is going to happen? What is the president going to talk about? What does he think he needs to talk to the American people about this week?
MCMANUS: Well, clearly, what has happened over the last week, Bob, is that the message has slipped away a little bit from the White House.
As the story shifted from the war, an issue on which the president was quite effective during the firsthree weeks, to anthrax, an issue on which White House officials, not openly but privately to us, said we really don't want to put the president in the position of answering questions that we don't have the answers to, you want to keep a president away from bad news, that's just good politics--well, the focus has shifted away.
We have not had the sense of presidential leadership, and indeed in the Middle East there's been the sense that Osama bin Laden somehow has a better propaganda apparatus than we do. I think that's a transitory thing.
He is going to go back to the basics. He is going to go back to the basics of why this war started, why we're in it. He's going to try and preach patience again. The fact that we're only four weeks into the war, and that doesn't mean we're in a quagmire yet.
SCHIEFFER: You know, that raises an interesting question, just from the standpoint of public relations and a president's credibility. It seems to me that the great credibility that Franklin Roosevelt had was that he told the American people what the bad news was. And then, when he had some good news to announce, I think that helped them to believe it. I mean, after all, it was President Roosevelt who announced what had happened at Pearl Harbor. He didn't have a lower-level official do that.
And I wonder, Sandy, is this president going to have to start telling people the bad news as well as the good news?
BERGER: Yes, we're in the early stages of this, Bob, and I think that we--the question is, whether a democracy can fight a shadowy war under continuing public scrutiny. And I do think, in this next phase, the president needs to help bring the American people, in a sense, up the learning curve. There's a tremendous desire for context, I think, among the American people.
And listen, this is a terribly complex problem in the administration, this managing. I think they're doing a good job managing it.
It's a multi-front war.
But I think bringing the American people along so they understand the complexity of this, not sugar-coating it, but helping them understand this, I think is an important part of leadership at this point.
BORGER: Well, the next step of bringing American people along may be making the case for ground troops.
Doyle, has the president done that, or is that what he is also going to have to do in this next week or two?
MCMANUS: He hasn't done that yet, Gloria. It seems--the signals we're getting from the White House is he has no inclination to do that in this coming week simply because he and his advisers in the Pentagon think it is, as I think Senator Hagel said, way premature to get into that. I don't think we're going to hear a lot about ground troops from the president.
To me, the fascinating thing is only four weeks into this war, we've got a lively debate in the Senate on it. The question is on the table, are we willing to put substantial troops on th ground to fight this war?
SCHIEFFER: Well, I mean, I think what's going on is the Senate--most senators say if you need to do it, we're ready to go along with you. And that's one reason why I wonder why the president doesn't say, "Look, I may have to do this down the line," because he's got a lot of people on record right now as saying they'd be willing to support it.
BERGER: Well, I think there would be support, and clearly we're going to have to use ground forces.
But let's step back a second here, Bob. We're five or six weeks into this. There's no problem-free strategy here. In the last week we've had the administration's been criticized for bombing too early and not letting the Taliban ferment. Bombing not early enough, not putting in enough ground troops, preparing us for a quagmire. There's no problem-free strategy here.
We're in the early stages, and I think it's a little too early to start second-guessing.
BORGER: You sound like you're speaking like a former national security adviser who is has been there.
BERGER: It's a lot easier when you don't have to make decisions.
SCHIEFFER: All right. I would say that one thing, I think, speaking of spin where there's been one mistake made, perhaps it was made by Osama bin Laden. He seems to have isolated himself by accusing all the other Arabs who are in the United Nations of being infidels. It seems to me he'd be trying to bring them together. I'm not one to give him any advice, but I think he may have messed up on that one.
Gentlemen, thank you very much.
That's our broadcast for today. Thanks for watching Face the Nation. We'll see you next week.
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