U.S. policymakers and world leaders discuss their efforts to build a worldwide
coalition to fight terrorism, and the necessity of convincing the Muslim world
that this was not a fight against Islam.
U.S. Secretary of State
[On Sept. 11] clearly America was under assault, serious assault. Was it by a
state? Was it by a terrorist organization? How should we respond? My job now is
secretary of state. I'm not the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff anymore,
but my mind is thinking militarily, but diplomatically: What does this mean?
What do I have to do to get the world behind us in this? What opportunities
might exist in this time of terrible tragedy and crisis? ...
I suggested to the president and my other colleagues that this was an
opportunity to begin pulling together a worldwide coalition. The Security
Council had already started to convene on this. NATO was getting ready to
invoke Article 5 almost immediately, first time in its history. I'd just come
back from the Organization of American States with their support. So it was
clear that we could start pulling a coalition together.
U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
The president set the stage very early on. We had a good indication that it
looked like things pointed to Osama bin Laden. It wasn't 100 percent, but as
the president said the next day or the day after, the noose was tightening. He
made it very clear that we would respond, and respond robustly to this. We
hadn't determined the nature of our response. He gave us -- the different
secretaries, secretary of state, et cetera -- word to go forth and to form a
mighty coalition. We started the next morning.
President of Pakistan
... What was your first response to [the Sept. 11 attacks]? How did you
I realized the gravity of the whole issue of this terrorist attack, and I
immediately came on the television. I remember I just expressed my shock and
grief, expressed my sympathies, expressed my condolences with the United
States, with President Bush and with all the grieved families. That was the
first address that I gave on this issue. ...
I think it was in three stages that we went on. The first stage was, of course,
my coming on television and expressing my own grief and sorrow and condolences;
the second was when I said that we are together on the fight against terrorism,
we'll cooperate around the fight against terrorism; and the third was then on
the issue of coalition, joining, being a part of the coalition. ...
My line with my Cabinet, with the corps commanders, was generally a matter of
principle, and then seeing all the issues; what would be involved in being a
part of the fight against terrorism and a part of the coalition, obviously,
because we knew our geography. It didn't need much imagination to see that we
needed to assist in a big way if there was any operation in Afghanistan. ...
Prime Minister of Great Britain
I felt it was such a terrible event, it was vital that America did not consider
itself standing alone at that time. It was vital that the world, as a world
community, came together and did the right thing. And the right thing was to
pursue those responsible and to eradicate the evil that they stood for. ...
In the evening [of Sept. 11], you spoke in either order to President Chirac
and then Chancellor Schroeder. Can you recall for us [those] conversations?
The conversations I had with Jacques Chirac and Gerhard Schroeder were just
very simple and plain. This is a terrible event; we have to stand with America.
There should be no gaps in the world coalition at this point. They were in
These were short conversations?
Yes, people were in no doubt at all. Jacques Chirac said without any hesitation
at all [that] we have to be 100 percent supportive of America in this
situation. This is an outrage, a terrible act against humanity, not just
against America. Gerhard Schroeder was exactly of the same view. Both were
totally on board, on side, right from the very outset. ...
It wasn't until the next day ... that you spoke to the President Bush. Can
you remember the salient moments of that conversation?
... I remember saying -- again, from our perspective -- that I thought the
international community would hold firm on this, and that we had to make sure
that we dealt with this evil in all its aspects. ... The Al Qaeda terrorist
network may be responsible for this act, but we had to make sure that it was
eradicated -- not simply those people who had actually perpetrated this act,
but those people who were financing the Al Qaeda, those people that were giving
them help and succor and support.
I don't think you mentioned it in that phone call, but on the 12th, you drew
up a five-page memo. ... Can you talk about how this idea arose and how you
suggested it to your people and how that then went to Washington?
... What I wanted to do, and President Bush was totally on side for this, was
to make sure that we dealt with every dimension of this because we had to be
aware that first of all there was an obvious issue: you have to work out who is
responsible. You have to prove to the bar of public opinion who is responsible.
But we also then had to recognize that in respect of Afghanistan, the Taliban
either had to yield these people up or be complicit in the terrorism, and that
it didn't stop at Afghanistan because Al Qaeda were effective and operating in
many different parts of the world.
Then, in addition to that, in order to act against Al Qaeda and possibly
against the Taliban, as well on the assumption that they didn't yield to the
ultimatum that was given to them, we had to make sure that the surrounding
countries were prepared to back action. And that meant Pakistan in particular,
who had had links up to then with the Taliban. And also I was very conscious of
the fact -- President Bush had said to me in our very first conversation that
this is a mission for a presidency. This isn't going to be over in a few days
or a few weeks. And we were both very conscious of the fact that it didn't stop
at Al Qaeda either; other organizations that sponsored or supported this type
of terrorism we had to act against. And so really the purpose of the note was
simply to say well, look, here are all the different strategic considerations
that we need to build into the plan of action that we now put forward.
U.S. National Security Adviser
We've heard that [CIA Director] George Tenet said this organization is in 50
to 60 countries, and the president said, "Let's pick them off one by one." Can
you tell me that story, if it's true?
We had had a number of discussions of the Al Qaeda network, going all the way
back to when we first came into office in January of 2001. At several of those,
George Tenet had talked about the far-flung nature of Al Qaeda, that it had
tentacles into many, many different countries.
The night of Sept. 11, George was relating that part of the problem here would
be not just to deal with their home base in Afghanistan, but to deal with their
tentacles in other places. The president said, "Then we're going to have to
have a strategy to defeat them, even if we have to do it one by one." That was
a revealing moment.
From the very start, this president said that our first job was to try to
recover as a country, to try to deal with the problems of New York City and of
the Pentagon. But moments after that, he was already focused on what we would
need to do to defeat these terrorists who had done this to us. He also very
early focused on the fact that this was going to have to be a global struggle,
in which this not just America's struggle, but the struggle of the entire
civilized world. ...
From that, I think you realized you were going to have to get together a
fairly unusual type of coalition, which is another of the things he talked
about at Camp David. Could you just tell us a bit about how the conversation
went about this strange coalition of coalitions?
Due to the nature of Al Qaeda and the fact that it was in so many different
countries, and also due to the geography, if you will, of Afghanistan, we
recognized that there was going to have to be a coalition of the willing, a
coalition that was broad. But we were concerned to not have the nature of the
coalition or the membership of the coalition begin to define the mission too
I think it was Secretary Don Rumsfeld who came up with the notion that really
we were talking about coalitions, many different coalitions in the service of
the war on terrorism. There would be members of the coalition who would not
want to participate in military activity, but who might have exactly the right
piece of information through intelligence sources that was ultimately very
important in bringing down Al Qaeda; or those who would participate as
important members of the coalition in freezing terrorists' financial assets.
U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs
And so as we tried to think through how we would talk about this coalition and
how we would talk to people about joining the coalition, we came up with a
number of models. We happened to propose to Secretary [Powell] for his taking
to Camp David that weekend kind of a triangle. We thought about this as a
triangle where the largest base of the triangle would be countries -- all
countries we hoped -- that would do something against terrorism, ratify the
U.S. conventions, get on and share information against terrorism. One level up would be those countries that would be more active; a level up
from there would be those countries who would enable or facilitate military
action and then a the top of that coalition or at the top of the triangle would
be those countries prepared to take military action.
Chancellor of Germany
Now, obviously we in Germany have a very different situation from the one of
our partner countries. So if we want to provide military assistance,
irrespective of where it is and what the endeavor is about and how far reaching
or how huge it is, we need parliamentary approval for such moves. So that here
there was a strong thought that we did feel solidarity but we still wanted to
implement the solidarity into proper action. Also military action, which for us
was completely atypical. But it also meant we needed some time to prepare such
a monumental decision in our parliament.
This special situation is due to our history, after World War II. It's got
something to do with the fact that only very slowly we began to draw the
consequences from our newly gained sovereignty, as a now united Germany. We did
so in Kosovo and in situations thereafter. But it was still a new, a difficult
situation. I spoke to the members of the other parties. My target was that I
wanted Germany as a whole to be on board with our solidarity, with the United
States of America. And we managed to do this.
Prime Minister of Great Britain
You now take off for America, to New York initially. On the way, somebody
has this brainwave, or perhaps it was planned before, of putting a call through
to the president of Iran. How did that happen, and what was it like sitting in
I wanted to secure the largest possible coalition, not just internationally,
but in the theater where it was likely we were going to be taking military
action. Pakistan was one key element of that. There were the various strands as
well that were extremely important. Then, of course, there was Iran itself.
Now, Iran had no love for the Taliban. But on the other hand, relations between
the West and Iran were very poor. So I decided, "Well, we can't leave Iran out
of this. We have got to consult them about it. They have got a legitimate
interest in the area." Although I think there was a lot of hesitation in
certain quarters about doing this, I decided we would put the call through to
the president of Iran and I would speak to him.
So I actually spoke to him on the plane. It was a strange thing to have happen.
The line was in fact extremely good, despite the fact that it was on the plane.
He expressed his outrage at what had happened and his sense of solidarity in
dealing with it. He gave no specific commitments of any sort -- as you wouldn't
expect him to do -- but I guess it was a conversation that was more cordial and
frank than anything that could have been contemplated a few months before.
Let's talk about your Gulf trip to Oman. ... Oman obviously was a key member
in terms of what they were producing for the coalition.
... What we had to do was to get across very strongly, so far as we were
concerned -- America, Britain, other European countries -- that this was not
about taking on Islam. On the contrary, every sane and sound voice within Islam
would be on the side of those people rooting out the terrorists; and secondly,
to make sure that the Arab nations and the Muslim world felt again some sense
of ownership of this situation, because they had themselves been victims of
So it was important that they felt that they were part of this effort and were
supportive of it, and that we understood that this issue of terrorism was
something that concerned them as well as us. That was very, very important for
them to feel that this was not us simply launching a campaign and targeting a
particular country, but this was part of a concerted effort to deal with all
the problems of international terrorism, including the problems that they had
to deal with. ...
U.S. Undersecretary of Defense for Policy
We leave it to each country to characterize their own contributions to the war
effort in the way that they choose to characterize them. And that allowed
Secretary [Rumsfeld] to avoid the issue of grading our different friends and
allies around the worked on their performance. He said, "I'm not going to
comment. We're getting a lot of support in general from many countries." He
said, "Much of this support is open in public; some of the support is secret.
We are pleased overall with the level of support we're getting from around the
world but we're not going to comment on the support we get from specific
countries." And this made lots of our friend and allies around the world very
happy and very comfortable. They were able to give us all kinds of support,
public and secret, without worrying that they were going to get graded as it
U.S. Secretary of State
Well, it turns out that it is now many months later, and that coalition has
held together rather well as we sit here and speak in June 2002. I am quite
confident it will hold together for as long as this campaign of terrorism is
waged -- and I think it will be waged for a long time.
The reason for that is people have come to realize that this isn't just an
American problem; it's a problem for all civilized nations. All of us are
affected. More and more people realize that terrorism has struck so many of us
over the years -- the United Kingdom, Spain, Indonesia, you name it. We have
all been exposed to terrorism. It is a curse on the face of civilization and
humanity. That's why this coalition will stay together, because it will require
international response -- not just militarily, but financially, economically,
going after financial flows, intelligence exchanges; all of that. Everybody can
play a role in this coalition.
home + on the ground + assessing the campaign + with us or against us? + fighting on two fronts: a chronology
epilogue + discussion + interviews + links & readings + introduction + video + reporter's notebook
FRONTLINE + wgbh + pbsi
photo © reuters newmedia inc/corbis
web site copyright 1995-2013 WGBH educational foundation