|I think there are individual grievances that
fuel some terrorist groups. Our presence in the Persian Gulf I think is a
matter that animates some groups. Our engagement in the Middle East peace
process, is something that makes us the target of other groups. If you're
Spain, I suppose, or Portugal, you don't quite have the same visibility
profile--except obviously in local terms--as you do as the United States,
which has a much larger presence in the world, a much larger role in the world,
and therefore becomes in many ways the target for groups around the world.
But if the number of incidents are down, and the number of casualties are
down, from all the figures we've looked at, and most of the incidents of
terrorism are in Columbia, in Peru and in other countries, where is the growing
... We just had two embassies blown up. We had twelve Americans killed, two
hundred Kenyans killed. These are very, very serious incidents. Not so long
ago, the Iraqis tried to assassinate George Bush when he traveled to Kuwait. We
had broken up, over recent times, a number of other incidents. Individuals who
wanted to blow up the Holland tunnel. Individuals who wanted to blow up
airplanes leaving the Philippines. We've seen the incident with the World Trade
Center. I don't in any way want to overdramatize this, but I think that this is
an ongoing continuing threat. It is taking new forms, such as the use of more
sophisticated weapons, such as the use of computers as instruments of terrorism
... . And we have to try to stay ahead of this curve, and we have to try to
devote the resources to try to prevent loss of life and protect the American
people. We'll spend about 100 billion dollars on terrorism ... .
How important is Osama bin Laden, really, in all of this?
Well, bin Laden unquestionably is responsible for the blowing up ... of our
embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. He has publicly declared on many
occasions that he seeks to kill Americans, essentially at will, that he's
declared [a fatwah] against the United States. And we consider him a very
Is he a godfather of some sort of family? Does he give orders or is he some
sort of inspirational figure?
No, more than an inspirational figure, I think that he is at the center of a
network of terrorist organizations. He provides financing. He provides
direction to many of those organizations. [He is] certainly not the only
terrorist threat. There are other organizations in the world that also pose
threats. But he is a particular concern to us.
If we capture him or he gets killed through some action of the United States
or some other country, will it end the terrorism or diminish it in any
Well, [certainly], apprehending the person who is at the center of this
particular network would be an important step in the right direction.
In the Muslim communities that we've been to in Africa, the United States,
and Europe, what they're telling us is that we have made Osama bin Laden into a
folk hero of sorts by focusing so much attention [on him]. And if we take him
out there will be someone else to take his place.
Well, this is a dilemma because on the one hand, bin Laden killed those people
in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. I think the American people are entitled to know
that. We responded to that fact by going after certain training camps and other
facilities of his where terrorist operatives were gathered. I think that's an
important part of a strategy against terrorism which is terrorists must know
that if they attack the United States, we will respond appropriately. ... I'm
not suggesting that it's the greatest threat that the United States faces. But
this is a man who controls a network that is determined to kill Americans.
You said he killed the people in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
I said he is responsible for those acts.
But that hasn't been proven.
There's no question in my mind that's true.
Absolutely no question.
Let me show you something. This is a piece of a cruise missile from
Khartoum, one of the ones we sent over there. Now, was that a response or
Well, I'll tell you exactly. You're talking about the Al Shifa plant. First of
all we attacked Saudis in Afghanistan which were bin Laden training camps. We
also attacked a facility in Khartoum. Let me tell you what we knew at the time
we made that decision. We knew that bin Laden was responsible for the attacks
on Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. We knew that bin Laden sought to attain chemical
weapons. We knew that he had said that he wanted to use those chemical weapons
against the United States. We knew that he had a close relationship with the
government of Sudan ... . We knew that the government of Sudan, through a
military industrial corporation, was developing chemical weapons. And we knew
that this particular plant in Al Shifa was associated with a chemical empta
that has only one use and that is nerve gas. Now, with that knowledge, I would
ask you a question. Had we not gone after that facility--and by the way we did
it at night, with a minimum of civilian casualties--and a week later, a
chemical weapon had been dropped into the New York City subway system, would we
have acted responsibly or irresponsibly by not going after that camp? I believe
that we acted in a responsible way given what we knew, that facility was
associated with chemicals that are only connected to nerve gas. And I know
there's been a fairly substantial campaign to the contrary. But I believe that
we acted in a way that [was] best calculated to protect the American people.
And had there been a chemical weapon in the New York City subway system a week
later, the set of questions that you would have been asking me, would be "How
in the world, Mr. Berger, knowing what you knew, could you not have gone after
that facility?" ...
The response that we hear in the Muslim world is that the United States is
going to bomb, for instance, the Sudan, a Muslim country, without warning,
without really solid knowledge that there was something going on at this
... Sudan is one of the principle state sponsors of terrorism in the world.
Sudan has a huge famine in the south ... in which 1.2 million people are
starving. We're trying desperately to get food to those people. The government
of Sudan won't let us get food to the people. So, before we glorify the
government of Sudan, let's put it in context. Now, the fact is that this is a
plant that was associated with chemical weapons. Bin Laden was working with the
Sudanese in developing chemical weapons. The military industrial corporation of
Sudan was involved in its chemical ... weapons enterprise. I think we took the
appropriate action. ... In a sense bin Laden has declared war on the United
States. And I don't think that we can wait for an affidavit signed by Mr.
Turabi of the government of Sudan, saying, "I certify that this plant is
currently a chemical weapons plant," before we take action. We have to take
action based upon the intelligence that we have, information we have, and the
judgments that we have. And let me say one last thing. The President, who
orders any military action, takes very seriously the use of force because
whenever there is use of force, there is potential for civilian casualties. He
specifically ordered that this strike take place at night, after we had
determined that there was not a night shift at this place, at his request. It
is a sober judgment when one uses force.
At the time we said that the plant was producing chemical weapons, and it
had a financial link to bin Laden. That's no longer a belief, right?
I think there may have been some individuals who said the camp was producing...
I think you did, actually at the time.
I think that is not necessarily the case. I think it is certainly true that the
plant was associated with chemical weapons and that bin Laden had made a
financial contribution to the military industrial corporation, the kind of
umbrella organization [through] which the Sudanese develop chemical weapons.
And that Al Shifa was associated with chemical weapons.
But it wasn't part of a corporation, it was a privately held company.
Well, you know, ownership is not the issue here. The issue is what was going on
in and around that plant, and whether or not bin Laden, who was seeking these
chemical weapons with the Sudanese, had access, or would have had access to
that. And I mean, I'm glad you're focusing on this. ... I hope you've
interviewed the families of the people that were killed in the embassy in
Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. There needs to be enormous rigor placed on any use
of force. But we also have to recognize that there are people who are victims
in these terrorist incidents, that bin Laden has declared a war against the
United States, that we have to make the best judgments that we can about how to
respond to that. And there is no question in my mind that this plant was
associated with chemical weapons.
One question. I agree. But we don't want to have more enemies. We don't want
to have people hating us more by our retaliation, creating more hatred in the
Muslim world. We've run into all kinds of people who say basically, Muslims are
free game for the United States. Poor Muslim nations in particular. Look at
what the United States does. We send cruise missiles to Afghanistan, Sudan, the
poorest of the Islamic countries.
Well, United States is also the country that stood up for the Bosnian Muslims
when Europe turned its back. United States is also the country that is trying
to find a decent resolution for the Albanians in Kosovo, many of whom are
Muslims, and most of the rest of the world does not want to do that. We have a
good strong relationship with the Islamic world. It is a very substantial part
of the world's population. This is not about the United States versus Islam.
The President has said it repeatedly. He has expressed his respect and
admiration for Muslim people and Islam. And as I said, this country itself has
become one of the largest Muslim countries in the world. This is about killers
and people who have been killed.
The only thing I was going to ask is the people closest to bin Laden that we
have been able to talk with say that the real problem is that we have become
friends of their enemies.
Well, I mean, you know, they've bought this crap with line and sinker. ... We
have a relationship with Egypt, yes. That's in our interest. We have a
relationship with Saudi Arabia.