THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
JOINED BY: JACK EWING, BUSINESS WEEK; EDMUND ANDREWS,
THE NEW YORK TIMES; BEDA ROMANO, IL SOLE 24 ORE;
AND JOCHEN SIEMENS, FRANKFURTER RUNDSCHAU
FROM FRANKFURT, GERMANY
BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF SEPTEMBER 15-16, 2001
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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This broadcast of "The McLaughlin Group" comes from Europe. Along with thousands of others, I was turned back in mid-flight over the Atlantic last Tuesday, September the 11th, and since then, stranded in Frankfurt.
With me today are panelists Jack Ewing, Frankfurt bureau chief of Business Week; Edmund Andres, New York Times; Beda Romano, Frankfurt correspondent, Il Sole 24 Ore; and Jochen Siemens, editor in chief, Frankfurter Rundschau.
Issue one: The perspective from Europe. America and its European allies do not always see eye-to-eye. Instances in point: President Bush's rejection of the Kyoto global warming treaty, and European alarm over his strategic defense shield proposal. Now, however, in the wake of the horror and the abomination of last Tuesday's acts against the United States, NATO, for the first time in its history, has invoked a "mutual defense" clause, meaning that an attack upon one is an attack upon all. So NATO, with its 16-member European states, stands in solidarity with the U.S., meaning joint military action, if necessary, against terrorists.
Question: Can the U.S. really expect this show of NATO unity to last once the action phase starts?
I ask you, Beda, on my left.
MR. ROMANO: I'm afraid not. I'm afraid not. I think I already see the signs of this joint unity crumbling before our eyes. Two examples, I think, of the recent 24 hours; the first one comes from Germany, where in the governing coalition of Mr. Gerhard Schroeder's government, which is a center-left government, the Greens are already a bit cautious about a possible joint action with the Americans and a joint retaliation. And this is the first clear example.
The second other example could come from France, where yesterday a minister came out very bluntly saying that Europeans, and France in particular, will have to decide whether to follow the Americans in a possible military retaliation.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Was that Hubert Vedrine, the foreign minister?
MR. ROMANO: I think it was Mr. Richard, the defense minister.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there another angle to this and whether or not it will hang together, and that is the Muslim population in Germany?
MR. SIEMENS: No, I don't think so. That's not on the top of the agenda. It's more --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Meaning that if there is military action, let's say, in Afghanistan, or Yemen, or Lebanon, for starters.
MR. SIEMENS: Well, we didn't have anything during the Gulf War, and that was an against an Arab state and Arabs. So I don't think that's really the issue right now. The issue is more that there's a trap in invoking this clause that you mentioned earlier. The trap --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The mutual defense clause.
MR. SIEMENS: The mutual defense clause. The trap is, it is meant as a very strong political signal, and that's what it should be. And it is also a decision on using military force, but we don't know which way and when and who's going to do it, and whether the Americans at all want the Europeans in. And that's where the trouble starts.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well isn't Berlin the world's third largest Turkish city?
MR. SIEMENS: It is. There are almost 300,000 Turks in Berlin.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And most of those, if not all of those, are Muslim.
MR. SIEMENS: They are. And they are good German citizens.
MR. EWING: Is it your fear that you're going to radicalize those people if you take the wrong action?
MR. SIEMENS: It might happen. You cannot exclude that. But I think that they are as much appalled of these actions as other citizens in all of our countries are. So I don't see them waiting to be radicalized. There is -- you know, these people who do these hideous crimes, they use culture and religion in a way that most people who are of culture and religion do not see it. And that's where I don't think there's going to be much solidarity.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: There will not be much solidarity. You don't think it'll hang together.
MR. SIEMENS: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you think this is more of a pro forma declaration than it is a realistic declaration; that the NATO countries know ÿ2Dÿ2D for example, France, which has a very large Muslim population, does it not? That France would find it awkward. Now I don't quite understand your point. I can't see how it would be inflammatory -- less than inflammatory, if ÿ2Dÿ2D with that Turkish population, with the Muslim population in Germany.
MR. SIEMENS: There's a difference between the Muslim population in France and that in Germany. Most of the Muslim population in France is from Northern Africa, ex-colonies of France, and they're much more on the sidelines, shall we say, and much more radicalized in themselves, even now, than the Muslim minorities are in Germany. They're much more integrated. So you have to go to different countries and look at it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Next Wednesday, the United States Congress is expected to issue a declaration of war against terrorism. The question is, to whom is that declaration going to be delivered?
Do you have thoughts on that, Ed?
MR. ANDREWS: I think that's the clear challenge that the United States faces. You don't have necessarily an identifiable country or entity to exact your retaliation on. And I think that that's obviously going to be a point of division between the United States and Europe.
Just to follow up on this discussion you were having, I think also that the concerns about the Muslim population in European countries is probably a bit beside the point here. The real issues are the concerns that Europeans have had for a long time about what they call unilateralism. The fact that the United States seems bent again and again and again in sort of pursuing its own strategic direction, regardless of what the allies in Europe think about it. And so that was a source of concern obviously on the missile defense shield issue, but much more so on the Kyoto agreement over the environment.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Did you detect any of that in the coverage of this horror? Namely, that the United States brought it upon themselves because of its unilateralism -- alleged -- and because of its alleged isolationism?
MR. ANDREWS: I think the -- my initial read -- and I'll let myself be corrected, but my initial read on the coverage here has been, no, the first job is to absolutely display solidarity with the United States. >From relatively conservative publications in Germany like Die Welt, to fairly liberal, left-of-center publications like Die Zeit, that message of absolute, "we are with the Americans" solidarity is very strong.
But there's always the "but." And the "but" is, let's be careful about what we're doing; let's not act thoughtlessly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That is something new here for NATO, is it not -- that solidarity? You remember when Achille Lauro and Abu Nidal were seized ÿ2Dÿ2D
MR. ROMANO: Absolutely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and the Italians ÿ2Dÿ2D
MR. ROMANO: Absolutely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- which is the country that your newspaper comes from -- the Italians released Abu Nidal. They said that -- what? -- their airspace had been violated?
MR. ROMANO: I think that in this case, the reaction from European countries was so strong, at least until now, for at least two reasons. The first reason is that they were shocked to see an attack against America and an attack against New York.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So this case is different?
MR. ROMANO: Absolutely. And the second aspect that is crucial to understand why the Europeans were so forceful in reacting in the first three or four days after the attack, is that they have been victims of terrorist attacks for at least 20, 25 years. And so they probably understood immediately how the Americans felt.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, is it that, or is it because of their economic frailty over -- go ahead.
MR. SIEMENS: Let me just say -- and they're going to be the prime target for terrorist attacks as soon as there's going to be U.S. or NATO response to the attacks of last Tuesday.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where do we come out on this issue? Are we saying that yes, this show of solidarity is real; there has been a massive transformation of Europe in its attitude, its posturing, its feeling toward the United States, and there is a unity there that never existed before, but at the same time it is limited?
I mean, when you start talking about invasion of countries or military force against -- whether it's Afghanistan or whatever -- you think that this creates a possible conflagration in the Arab world and a variety of other ills. And then there is a line that has to be drawn. Is that what we're saying here?
MR. EWING: I think it's important to make the point that, yes, there are still limitations on how far the Europeans will want the Americans to go. But I think that the line has been pushed back substantially. The Europeans will be much more willing to take part in military action and to tolerate more aggressive military action by the United States.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Clearly what the United States is trying to do ÿ2Dÿ2D but which may be superfluous because the nations of the world appear to be responding ÿ2Dÿ2D is to get the cooperation, because this must be a unified effort to control terrorism or it will not be controlled. But do you think that bringing in the mutual defense treaty and applying it here was wise or unwise?
MR. ROMANO: I, frankly, don't know if it was wise or unwise. What I think I know is that they decided to do it because European countries have been victims of terrorism and they are afraid of being victims of terrorism in the future.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: The Middle East crisis. There is a feeling in Europe that the Israeli-Palestinian crisis is fueling anti-American terrorism. The foreign secretary of France, Hubert Vedrine, wants the focus to be kept on the causes of terrorism, the provocations; referring not to fanaticism, not to hatred of the West because of its alleged excesses of materialistic capitalism, but to the excessive use of support of Israel, meaning economic support, diplomatic support, military support, with, for example, U.S. F-111 fighter planes, helicopters, tanks, used by Israel against the Palestinians. That's the view here in certain areas.
So, does the U.S. support of Israel and the neglect of Arabs by the U.S. constitute a provocation for Osama bin Laden and his network to have undertaken the heinous acts of last Tuesday?
I ask you, Jochen Siemens.
MR. SIEMENS: I think it may have -- it may have strengthened his will to do it, but he must have planned it long ago, because this does not come into existence in a few months. This was a very thought-out, evil plan.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you agree with King Abdullah of Jordan, who said that if the Camp David agreement, proposed agreement of last year, the year 2000, had been signed, there would have been no attack on the towers or the Pentagon or elsewhere?
MR. SIEMENS: No, I don't.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You do not?
MR. SIEMENS: No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it would have come anyway?
MR. SIEMENS: It might have come anyway; maybe not now, but later. But --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Even in the wake of an agreement that would have halted hostility?
MR. SIEMENS: I don't think that bin Laden is all that much connected with the Palestinian issue. It's a general -- he's of the belief that there is a general fault with Western lifestyle and anything that the West symbolizes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Does anyone disagree with what Jochen just said?
MR. EWING: I disagree to a certain extent. I mean, I think that the last thing the extremists want is peace. I mean, I think if there was a peace treaty in Israel, that would be the last thing that they would want to have because that whole conflict is the source of their power and their support in the Arab world.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, let me put the point this way. Is there any correlation between the current Arab rage deriving from the continued bombing by the United States of Iraq, the continued sanctions in which a million-and-a-half people, reportedly, by the U.N. and Mary Berry (sp), who did a study out of New York for one of the U.N. agencies, plus things like the bombing of a pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum, plus the thinking in the Arab world that the United States is not an independent broker but rather is allied with Israel, and that's causing -- does anyone disagree that there's widespread Arab rage?
MR. ANDREWS: Of course not.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And if that rage were reduced or eliminated, that there is a correlation and there would be less terrorism? Isn't that self-evident?
MR. SIEMENS: No.
MR. ANDREWS: Of course there's rage, John, but it's I think absurd to characterize the frustration that a lot of Arab nations feel in a justifiable way on diplomatic issues, on a score of differences, to associate that with the kind of terrorist activities we're talking about here. There is no question that the -- there is widespread disappointment and frustration in a lot of Arab countries over the -- almost the absence of a meaningful, strong, forceful U.S. role in dealing with Israel. There's a lot of frustration there. But I think that to make the jump from that sort of almost polite policy discussion to the hatred involved in this kind of terrorism is a leap you just can't make.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you share that feeling?
MR. ROMANO: Yes. I think -- and this is true in Europe in particular -- I think that the U.S. relationship with Israel is not fully u understood. And I'm saying especially in Europe because in a number of European countries -- Germany, France, even Italy at this point -- there are a lot of Arab people, a lot of Muslims. And it makes everything more complicated.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Here?
MR. SIEMENS: It would --
MR. ROMANO: Absolutely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You think it increases terrorism.
MR. ROMANO: I think it makes everything more complicated to understand. And the relationship between the U.S. and Israel is much more difficult to understand now than it was probably 20 years ago.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Right now. Right now.
MR. SIEMENS: (Inaudible) -- dancing in the streets in the West Bank if the United States would have been -- would have stayed engaged in the Middle East peace process. But it would not have done away with terrorism.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The United States is right now involved in a police action, a police operation, and there is a political operation going on, too, particular in the enlistment of NATO and other world countries in the war against terrorism. That's a political action. But isn't it a feeling in Europe that the way the United States is handling this crisis is enlightened, partially enlightened, unenlightened? Is the return to normalcy being delayed too long by the institution of new regimens, for example at airports, which have eliminated air traffic for four or five days? Your thoughts on that -- Ed.
MR. EWING: Ah, Jack.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, excuse me. Jack.
MR. EWING: (Laughs.) No problem.
I don't see how you can talk about a return to normalcy at this point. You have to take these measures in response to something like that.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there any feeling on the Europeans' part that this -- that the United States is doing -- is handling the crisis in less than a fully enlightened way?
MR. EWING: I don't think when you talk about the security measures there's any sense among the Europeans that that's going too far. I think they are nervous that the U.S. will at some point respond in a way that goes too far.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The failure to return to normalcy suggests to some people that we're playing right into the hands of the terrorists because they want panic, they want attention, they want this to be deep-seated and irrevocably in people's minds. And the way the United States is doing it is just too slow, getting back to normalcy. You don't --
Do you see any of that?
MR. ROMANO: No, that's --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is that -- any of that feeling here?
MR. ROMANO: No. No.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do the people feel that Bush is doing a good job?
MR. ROMANO: I would say so, and I think the Europeans are happy and surprised that there's not been a retaliation already. I think they see in the Bush administration's first reaction a very sensible and cautious reaction, and I think that probably helped in getting a joint unity in the first days after the attack.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So how would we speak to the question of would a U.S. effort to contain the Arab-Israeli conflict dry up the fertile recruiting grounds of Osma bin Laden and the Egyptian jihad and Hamas and all the poisonous streams of the al Qaeda?
MR. SIEMENS: It will have to be a mix of political, economic, and military action. You cannot solve this problem militarily. You can probably get some results, but you will not dry out this swamp of terrorism just by military means.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm.
Issue three: Is there a sense in Europe that if terrorism forces America's economy to falter, Europe will suffer likewise? Or is there any feeling over here in Europe of gloating over the economic impact of this attack, thinking that it will diminish American influence and that perhaps the European Union will be able to replace America in world influence?
MR. SIEMENS: No way.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No way?
MR. SIEMENS: No way.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No way of the latter?
MR. SIEMENS: No way of the latter. We're not --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Because they see their frailty --
MR. SIEMENS: No. No way.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- they -- you mean to say that Europeans have been high-minded about the European Union vis-a-vis the United States in all instances?
MR. SIEMENS: We are high-minded about the European Union, but that is not a replacement for the United States and the leadership of the United States. That's ridiculous.
MR. EWING: This downturn has showed everybody -- there were some people at the beginning of the year who thought that Europe could sail through the U.S. downturn, and it was proven very clearly that that wasn't true. I think that there's nobody in Europe who believes anymore that Europe can thrive without the United States, without a strong United States economy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you share that view, Ed?
MR. ANDREWS: Absolutely. I think that at the beginning of this year, there were a lot of people, political leaders and banking experts, who said this time Europe is strong enough to endure a significant downturn without big problems. And those ideas were completely dashed months later. And what we see now is that the markets -- all of them still move totally in tandem with the U.S. So there is no feeling of gloating here. I think it's heightened the anxieties that were there.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue four: How can Europe help? Do the evil acts of terrorism this past Tuesday show a massive breakdown of U.S. intelligence? And if so, can Europe play a role in strengthening U.S. and CIA and other intelligence operations worldwide?
But what's the answer to the first questions? I ask you, Jochen. Do you think -- do Europeans think that this shows that the American CIA and the other intelligence operations are weak, that they've become fragile and unperforming?
MR. SIEMENS: Yes. We all rely too much on technical means -- satellites, spy planes, whatnot -- but no human resources. That seems to be at the core of the problem.
But it's not only an American problem. The German intelligence services are in the same measly state, and something needs to be done about it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, we have a whole new set of variables working in the world today with terrorism. We have seen -- I'm wondering where this leaves Bush's doctrine of the missile defense shield. Certainly no one can say now that there's no such thing as a rogue attack, can one?
MR. SIEMENS: No, but the rogue attack can come in a civil airplane, it can come in a suitcase, it can some any -- many different ways; it doesn't need to come by a missile that most of these terrorists will never get their hands on.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you have the impression that this -- I ask you, Jack -- that the United States is going to become more friendly to the missile defense shield idea? It's already pretty friendly. I think a dominate number of Americans want research done on it.
MR. EWING: Yeah, I think so. There seem to already be indications that Congress is much more willing to go along with it. And I think there's also a chance that the Europeans will -- they were already -- at least the Germans were making some indications that they were somewhat willing to accept it if the Russians did, if there was some kind of agreement. And I think that their resistance will be weakened as well.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Don't you think that since this bombing -- this terrorist act last Tuesday was in preparation for over a year, that that in itself bespeaks a dismal state of American intelligence?
I ask you, Beda.
MR. ROMANO: It does, absolutely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Is there any Italian press on this, any editorials?
MR. ROMANO: Probably. But, I mean, it's clear to almost everybody that --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You've had your own terrorist problems in Italy that have been fierce.
MR. ROMANO: Yes. Absolutely.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: They still go on.
MR. ROMANO: There was a recent wave of terrorism. It wasn't clear whether it was real terrorism, if there were strong men behind it. But --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, the perpetrators of the horror last Tuesday are committed people, and to them, death is heaven. So they are, in a sense, undeterrable; are they not?
MR. SIEMENS: Yes, they are.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So what's the point or purpose or hope of punitive action? Do you follow me?
MR. ROMANO: I do. The only way you can do it is dry out the background they have, dry out the background they have. They, themselves, will do what they want to do. But they need countries and they need organizations and --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And they need money.
MR. ROMANO: -- and they need money. And if you can dry up those, then you might be successful.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah. How do you go about drying those up?
MR. ROMANO: Oh, that's a complicated issue, probably only to be solved internationally through different economic channels, political channels, military means, quarantines, whatever. I mean, there are many different ways, but they need to be coordinated, and they need to be implemented over a long time.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Or how about repairing the Israeli-Arab breach, to return to that for a moment? Do you want to give any ground on that?
MR. SIEMENS: Well, I think it was a grave mistake by the Bush administration to pull out of the peace process, and it will be very different -- a very different peace process, if you could still call that, when they want to get in again.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Final thoughts.
MR. EWING: Well, I'm worried about the economic effects. This is, of course, first and foremost a human tragedy, but it's also a kind of shock that the financial markets and the world economy have never had to absorb, and I don't think anyone really knows what's going to happen.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Edmund Andrews?
MR. ANDREWS: I was very impressed during the time of the Gulf War, how President Bush the first was able to secure this broad alliance with all the Europeans and NATO partners. And my question is whether his son will be able to do the same thing in the wake of his willingness to disregard other countries on issues like Kyoto.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Beda Romano?
MR. ROMANO: Well, if and when the U.S. were to retaliate, I think that the action will have to be extremely wellÿ2Dprepared, not only from a military point of view, but also from a political point of view. It will have to be fully explained to the world and, in this case, the Europeans very well to be able to make it as efficient and acceptable as possible.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Jochen?
MR. SIEMENS: It's going to be a long, drawn-out conflict, and it will be essential to keep it politically together. If you can't keep the political alliance together, it's going to falter.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: My thought is this. When the shock has subsided, with its grieving and with its anger, our new state of preparedness in the United States that has been catalyzed by this awful catastrophe -- that state of preparedness may help guard against a far more deadly attack of the world's most devastating weapon -- nuclear power. This could be a wake-up call not only for America, but for the world.
My thanks to Jack, to Ed, to Beda and to Jochen, for pinch-hitting so ably in this program. And on behalf of all of us, our heartfelt sympathy to the loved ones of those innocent persons who were murdered last Tuesday in an act of unconscionable perfidy. May they rest in peace.