FTN - 12/16/01

face the nation logo, 2009

BOB SCHIEFFER: Today on Face the Nation, the hunt for Osama bin Laden. We'll talk to the national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice.

Where is Osama bin Laden? The fighting in the cave complex of Tora Bora continues, but Afghan leaders say Al Qaeda forces there are all but wiped out. If Osama isn't there, where is he? What is the next step for U.S. forces? These are the questions for the national security advisor, Condoleezza Rice.

Then we'll talk about the Middle East and the ABM Treaty withdrawal with Los Angeles Times correspondent Robin Wright.

Gloria Borger will be here, and I'll have a final word on the bin Laden tapes.

But first, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice on Face the Nation.

ANNOUNCER: Face the Nation, with CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer.

And now, from CBS News in Washington, Bob Schieffer.

SCHIEFFER: And good morning again. Dr. Rice is with us here in the studio.

Dr. Rice, welcome. Thank you for coming.

CONDOLEEZZA RICE, National Security Advisor: Nice to be with you.

SCHIEFFER: Where do we think Osama bin Laden is, and how is the war going at this point?

RICE: We don't know where Osama bin Laden is, but we do know one thing: He is on the run. He is disrupted and cannot do some of the things that he was doing prior to this. The amount of territory into which he can run is getting narrower and narrower.

But we are going to keep after him until we bring him and the Al Qaeda leadership to justice. That's the mission of this. The mission is going very well in breaking the grip of the Taliban finally and creating a circumstance in which the country is really an inhospitable place for Mullah Omar, for Osama bin Laden and his fighters.

But we don't know where he is. And we're just going to have to keep after him until we find him.

SCHIEFFER: Would you say at this point that the back of Al Qaeda, as a fighting force in Afghanistan, has now been broken?

RICE: I think that it's very clear that Al Qaeda is disrupted in very important ways.

Now, as a command and control operation, it's got to be pretty hard, with the breakdown of Afghanistan and the fact that the new interim government and the Alliance will soon control the entire country.

But we're taking nothing for granted, and no one is willing to declare victory prematurely here. We are going to keep working until we're certain that Al Qaeda is not able to carry out attacks and that it can't regenerate someplace else.

SCHIEFFER: So it would be considered a success if Al Qaeda was destroyed. And clearly now it looks as if Afghanistan is no longer a place that can harbor terrorists. But you're saying no victory until we have Osama bin Laden.

RICE: I'm say no victory until we're sure that the Al Qaeda network is broken up, that its fighters are not capable of continuing to reak havoc in the country.

And we're going to have to worry also about Al Qaeda cells other places. This is an organization that had infiltrated many, many countries around the world, that may try to regenerate itself.

There is still a lot of work to do to make certain that Al Qaeda is not an operating force any longer.


GLORIA BORGER, U.S. News & World Report: We've been told that the Pentagon is very uncertain, obviously, about where Osama bin Laden is, and that, as a result, they have asked the CIA to work up an analysis of the areas to which he could flee. What can you tell us about that?

RICE: Well, I can't talk about what we are doing to try to find him, but obviously we are putting every available asset and trying to achieve the mission.

And the mission is, Osama bin Laden, of course, to bring him to justice, but it's not just Osama bin Laden. It's the Al Qaeda leadership, his deputies. We have found that a number of them are no longer operating. They're either dead or out of commission. But we've got a lot of work to do to make sure that this network can't operate.

BORGER: Do you have any assurances from Pakistan that they will be full partners, if he has indeed fled to Pakistan and if the network has fled to Pakistan, that they will be full partners with you, in terms of rooting him out?

RICE: Not only is Pakistan a full partner in all of this--and we have assurances to that effect--but Pakistan is a country that should have a high priority on making certain that Al Qaeda cannot continue to operate, because Pakistan itself would be threatened by the continued operation of Al Qaeda.

So, yes, we are getting very good cooperation from General Musharraf and Pakistan.

BORGER: There are also reports this morning that Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda were pursuing biological and chemical weapons. How concerned are you about those reports, and can you tell us more about them?

RICE: Well, we take Osama bin Laden at his word when he says that it is a religious duty of the Al Qaeda network and its allies to acquire weapons of mass destruction, among them biological and chemical weapons.

And we are doing everything that we can to make certain that they can't. And you have to do that in several ways. You have to break up this network, so that they can't carry this out.

The specific report that was in the London papers I can't comment on, I don't know its source very well. But we do know that a lot is being found in these houses, in the places that are being raided, that suggest that they were trying, at least, to acquire these weapons of mass destruction.

And that's no surprise, but it just underscores how dangerous this network is, how dangerous it was becoming, and justifies and underlines the importance of breaking it up.

SCHIEFFER: This, of course, was the week that we saw Osama bin Laden. What did we learn from that ape? And I'd like to know what your personal reaction was to it.

RICE: My personal reaction was that this was the face of evil. This is a man who sat in plush circumstances for where he lives, laughing about the deaths of thousands of innocents. Expressing that he couldn't have been wildly, that wildly optimistic that it might have gone that well. I mean, how horrible that is.

This also a man who, while he is running and hiding and trying to evade capture, is continuing to send people to their deaths. And so he's not a brave leader. He's not standing with his forces. And we saw both an evil man and a man who is cowardly.

SCHIEFFER: Do we know who the other people in the tape were?

RICE: We do not know who the other people in the tape were. Of course we have an interest in finding out. But obviously they were supporters.

But I would hope that supporters who were not in that room with him would really look hard at what he was saying. He was saying that he believes that innocents should go to their deaths, and he was saying that his own fighters can go to their deaths while he hiding in a cave.

BORGER: There was a report this morning in the New York Times that the person, his guests at that meeting, was a former fighter in Afghanistan from Saudi Arabia. Do you believe the Saudis are doing enough to rout these people out?

RICE: The Saudis are very cooperative, and we are completely satisfied with the cooperation of the Saudi government. Not only are the Saudis very good partners in this, but, again, they are the ones after all that had to strip Osama bin Laden of his passport sometime ago because of his threatening behavior toward the kingdom. They have every reason to be cooperative here.

BORGER: But what do you say to those people in the Arab world who believe that this tape was a complete fabrication and that it was illegitimate?

RICE: This is an excuse not to face the facts about who Osama bin Laden is, not to face the facts about what he is doing to every country in which he finds himself, and to not face the facts about what he's doing to Islam.

Islam is a religion of peace, and to have a man who says that he's doing this in the name of Islam sit there and laugh at the deaths of innocents is not good for Islam. And would I hope that, rather than trying to find an excuse for why this tape exists, that everyone would say, this man is an evil man and he cannot possibly be good for Islam.

SCHIEFFER: You know, one of the things that I thought about as I watched this tape was, what do you suppose he thought his goal was in launching these attacks? Did he think it would make Americans--would it frighten us and we would somehow surrender? Was he trying to convert us to his twisted form of Islam? What do you think his purpose was?

RICE: This is a deeply political purpose. This is not a madman. This is someone who hates who we are and our way o life, who believes that the United States has to be coerced out of the region of the Persian Gulf, who does not want to see the United States as a force for peace and stability in the region; so that he can spread his own perverted form of Islam through that part of the world.

And he's been very clear about that. He's been very clear that he considers the killing of American civilians to be perfectly all right. And if there's one thing about the report about London today, it's clear that he thought that not only about the United States but about the entire world.

BORGER: We should clarify that. There was a report that they were going to bomb in the city of London.

RICE: That's right. And so you have a situation in which he has spread this network to many, many different countries around the world.

And one reason that I think we're getting such strong cooperation in this coalition is that everyone realizes that while the United States was the target on September 11, any country in the world could be a target on another day.

SCHIEFFER: Let's shift to the Middle East and Israel. Israel says it's no longer going to deal with Yasser Arafat because he is no longer relevant.

Is the United States still dealing with Yasser Arafat?

RICE: The United States recognizes that Chairman Arafat is the representative of the Palestinian people coming out of the Oslo process.

But we're asking him to lead his people rather than continuing to carry out and deal in behaviors that is making the situation impossible in which to achieve peace. We're asking no more of Chairman Arafat than we've asked of every responsible leader, and that is not to allow terrorism to continue in areas that you control.

So we think there is an awful lot that he needs to do. He needs to do it quickly because the chances for peace will slip away if he doesn't act quickly.

SCHIEFFER: Well, it seems to me that the Middle East is worse than ever at this particular point; that the violence, there seems no end and no end in sight to halting this cycle.

President of Egypt said today that if Israel continues to--and I use his words, not mine--undermine Arafat, it could destabilize the whole region.

RICE: Right now, the most important thing is for Chairman Arafat to act in a way that gives us a chance to get back to peace. That's what we're focused on. General Zinni has been in the region.

Obviously, there are things that both sides can do to make the situation better. We've talked to the Israelis repeatedly about the importance of opening closures so the Palestinian people can have an economic future and economic life. But the most important thing, the first step is to make sure that terrorism is not being carried out against Israel so that we can get on with the peace process.

BORGER: Well, some are saying it's time to give Arafat an ultimatum; that he has to do these things, he has to round up hese terrorists on your list or else we will stop dealing with him. What about that?

RICE: I think the thing to do here is to continue to make sure that Chairman Arafat understands that the entire world, not just the United States, but the Europeans, the Russians, the moderate Arab states, the Egyptians and the Jordanians, the Saudis, expect him to act like a leader. And that's what the United States is involved in its diplomacy right now.

SCHIEFFER: Let's also about the withdrawal of the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that happened this week. Because of the release of the tape of Osama bin Laden there was almost no reaction in the U.S. news media. There was quite a bit of reaction around the world.

Does this mean that the United States and this administration now believes that the best protection of this country is force of arms rather than arms control?

RICE: After all, missile defense, Bob, is a defensive system. And at the same time that the United States is pursuing missile defense, this president has pledged to cut American nuclear forces to the lowest level that they've been since before 1970. This is an extraordinary offer.

And he did it in one fell swoop. We didn't go through thousands of pages and several years of arms control agreements to get there. He just walked out, he said I need for American security between 1,700 and 2,200 warheads. Mr. Putin said he's ready to have serious discussions about cutting Russian forces to the same level.

The ABM Treaty--people said if you withdraw from the ABM Treaty, two things will happen: You'll blow up U.S.-Russian relations and you'll have an arms race.

President Putin said, in responding to our withdrawal, that he believes U.S.-Russian relations should continue at the same level. They are at a very high level. He said it doesn't threaten Russian security. And he said let's get about the business of formalizing strategic nuclear arms reductions to levels that would be lower than at any time--two-thirds lower than we are now.

SCHIEFFER: But correct me if I'm wrong, he also said this is a mistake.

RICE: Well, clearly, he would have preferred another policy. So from his point of view, it's a mistake.

But I want to emphasize, all of those who said you'll stimulate an arms race have to face the fact that we are entering again discussions with the Russians about the lowest level of strategic offensive arms in 30 years. They also have to face the fact that U.S.-Russian relations are as good or better than they've ever been.

This simply did not cause the rupture because the president spent the time to build a broad relationship with Russia; that even though there is a disagreement here, we'll survive. That's quite an achievement.

We also now have the possibility to explore the defensive technologies that we need to explore. This is a very good outcome.

SCHIEFFER: All right. Condoleezza Rie, thank you so much for coming by.

RICE: Thank you very much.

SCHIEFFER: Hope to see you again soon.

RICE: Good to be here.

SCHIEFFER: We'll be back in a minute with our roundtable discussion, in a minute.


SCHIEFFER: And we're back now with Robin Wright of the Los Angeles Times, former CBS News colleague for many years, perhaps the most traveled foreign correspondent that, at least, I know of.

You've spent a lot of time all over the Arab world, well, all over the world. Your book, "Sacred Rage," which is the wrath of militant Islam, is pretty much seen, I think, as the primer on the whole thing of fundamentalist Islam.

What do you think? You heard Condoleezza Rice say there is still a little way to go here, that it's not over yet even though things are going very well in Afghanistan. What is your reaction to that?

ROBIN WRIGHT, Los Angeles Times: I think that's very true. I think, in fact, the end game really is the most critical part of this campaign. When you look at, for example, Iraq, at the very end, we had a decisive, overwhelming and very speedy military victory. But in the end, when we called for an uprising among the local populations and then at the same time gave air power to Saddam Hussein so he could put it down, and a decade later we're stuck with Saddam.

Now, the parallels aren't the same, but the factor of the end game and whether it's the Taliban fighters who, with their arms, have disappeared into the countryside, the fact that Al Qaeda was not all holed up in Tora Bora with bin Laden, that there are still some in the countryside as well as in neighboring Pakistan; that there's really an incredible incentive or imperative for the United States to help ensure political stability in what is likely to be a two-year, volatile period to ensure that there are no more opportunities for extremists to take base in Afghanistan because of the political instability inside the country, and what could very well happen is, you know, some kind of civil conflict.

BORGER: Well, isn't this just the kind of nation building that President Bush derided during the campaign?

WRIGHT: Absolutely, and this is going to be an administration that is going to have to eat its words on that issue, because nation-building really is the key to solving Afghanistan's, after two decades of conflict, and the rivalries within. After all, remember the Taliban came in because of the internal fighting among the very people we're now supporting.

SCHIEFFER: Let me ask you the same question that I asked Condoleezza Rice, and that is, what do you think that Osama bin Laden thought he could accomplish with this attack on America? Did he think he was going to convert us somehow? Did he think we were going to be frightened away and withdraw from the world? What do you think he thought was his goal here?

WRIGHT: Well, onof the things that struck me about that tape was really how naive he appears and how petty.

His anger was vented against us and we feel Osama bin Laden most of all because of September 11. But his real anger is at Saudi Arabia, at his own country, because he believes it's an autocratic regime that betrayed the ideals of Islam, that it had become in come ways too modern, dealt too much with the outside world, dependent on the West and it allowed Western troops to come in to save the royal family.

And so, for a decade now, since we were involved, the United States was involved in liberating Kuwait from Iraq, he has felt that targeting the United States was the means of undermining Saudi Arabia.

BORGER: Did it surprise you that he seemed to be so naive or that he seemed to be bragging?

WRIGHT: That tape was such a contrast to the Al-Jazeera tapes in which he tries to appear the messianic, authoritative figure sending his message out to the world. And in the tape he shows just how petty and small he is, and how little he knows and how his own ego counts. I mean, he wants to know that he is popular and accepted in the Islamic world rather than his mission.

SCHIEFFER: You know, it was interesting to me that you saw that tape and you wonder why in the world would anybody make a tape like that. But as you look at it, you realize it's sort of like people who come to the White House to get their picture taken with the president. This was clearly somebody who had come to Osama bin Laden, and he was going to take this tape back home and tell everybody what a big guy he was and how close he was to Osama bin Laden.

SCHIEFFER: And bin Laden, obviously, was very susceptible to flattery. He starts out in the beginning not saying very much. But after they'd begin to slurp this praise on him, as it were, he really opens up, as thugs always do.

WRIGHT: Absolutely. And it's clear that this is a man who probably has allowed a lot of other tapes. We happened to trip on this one. I wouldn't be surprised if there were tapes taken almost every day of his life, because he wants some record. It's like a president with recording tapes--I'm thinking of Nixon--not just for their own notes, but also for the sake of history.

BORGER: Can I...

SCHIEFFER: What about the Middle East? It seems worse than ever. What's your take?

WRIGHT: Well, I think one of the sad parts is that militant Islam is actually today more active in the West Bank and Gaza as a strong force than it is probably today in Afghanistan.


WRIGHT: That Hamas has become no longer on the fringe; it is part of the mainstream.

And Yasser Arafat, in many ways, is under as much pressure from his own people as the Israeli government is. And one of the reasons I think he hasn't been able, or hasn't felt able, to crack down is because he knows that that might lead only to other people spporting the extremist groups.

BORGER: Well, are we asking Arafat to do more than he can politically do, because he doesn't have enough public support? I mean, the polls in Israel show that his support has decreased to under 20 percent, right, among Palestinians?

WRIGHT: The interesting thing is if there was an election tomorrow, I'd be very curious as to who would win it. I mean, whether Hamas would win, whether it's a legislative body or the leadership. That is a problem.

But whether we're asking--his survival really is at stake. If he doesn't crack down on them, then he is also not likely to survive as the political partner in the peace process.

BORGER: And then what?


SCHIEFFER: Robin, thank you very much. We could continue this for another half hour, but we have to go.

I'll be back in a minute with a final moment.

Thanks for coming.


SCHIEFFER: Well, we finally saw the Osama bin Laden tape this week, and watching it was not easy.

But for me, it was comforting in an odd sort of way, because it reconfirmed that thugs, be they purse-snatchers or mass murderers, are still all the same. They have to brag to somebody, which usually does them in.

So there was Osama, feigning modesty at first, but when a sycophant slurped on a little flattery, he just couldn't help himself. He had to brag. He even laughed about killing all those people. He couldn't hold back a small chuckle about how some of the hijackers hadn't been told they were on a suicide mission. I had to wonder what his agents around the world thought about that one.

Whatever bin Laden's reasons, watching that tape drove home to me just how futile his efforts are destined to be, because a few hours later, I watched a group of firemen recover yet another body of another victim at ground zero.

It will take a while to rid the world of bin Laden and his ilk, but when you listen to him hard against pictures of those firemen at ground zero, it is not so hard to understand which value system will eventually prevail.

Will it be a system that considers individuals so dispensable its leaders can chuckle about tricking young people into committing suicide? Or will it be a system that considers each individual so important that it spends months and months and millions of dollars searching out the bodies of innocent victims just so they can be given a decent burial?

No, we're not going to lose this one, and the reasons why are right there on the tape.

That's it for us. We'll see you next week right here on Face the Nation.

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