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interview: edward walker

... When we hear reports that there is an undercurrent of support for bin Laden, or at least that there's an undercurrent of anti-Americanism ... in the Islamic world, what's that about?

I would be careful not to ascribe that to support for bin Laden, because I don't think that's very strong, but there is definitely an element of anti-Americanism that is prevalent out in the region right now, and there are a lot of reasons for it.

The region is from Algeria to Indonesia and the Philippines.

All the way across, right. There are a lot of reasons for it. There's some specialized reasons in the Gulf area, two of them being the Palestinian issue which is very much on the minds of the people there, and the other is the treatment of the Iraqi people and our policy towards Iraq. You've got people who are every day getting in their living rooms and their television sets footage from the occupied territories or from Iraq, showing people that are suffering or being shot, things like this, and that's having an enormous impact.

... That kind a freedom to see outside television or uncensored television was never there in the past, so it was easier for governments to control the situation. Now there is an independent feeling on the street and they react to fellow Arabs being in a situation where they're suffering or they're being shot.

The second issue is that the people in the region were extremely happy at the election of President Bush. They associated him with his father ... and they felt that he would be highly sympathetic. And for totally unrelated reasons, the president and the national security team did not engage, immediately, in the Palestinian issue. People thought that we were turning our back on the problem that was most critical to them. ...

Then there's a clash of generations that's going on. Young people are enamored with some of the attributes of America -- fast food, music, dress, and so on. Their parents are not, and their parents see that kind of culture as a challenge to traditional values, to family values. It's the kind a culture clash you get in this country as well. ...



about edward walker

Walker was assistant secretary of state for Near-Eastern affairs from 2000 to 2001. He also served as U.S. ambassador to Egypt from 1994 to 1997. In this interview, Walker says that there are many reasons for anti-American sentiment in the Middle East, and that the U.S. needs to address some of the grievances cited by Osama bin Laden. Walker also discusses the social and economic issues facing Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and says that young men are drawn to Islam by a lack of opportunities. This interview was conducted mid-September 2001.

Our bombing of Iraq?

... They feel that if we really wanted to get rid of Saddam Hussein we'd do it. ... So why do we want him there? So that we can keep our troops in the Gulf. That's the kind a convoluted logic that is very popular on the street.

And our backing of what many perceive as anti-democratic regimes, the Saudi royal family, or Mubarak [in Egypt].

Well, I think that there are a number of people who would like to have greater liberties, particularly in the area of free speech and in academic freedom and so on. That's particularly true in Egypt, and there is resentment that the United States is allied with regimes which are not providing these freedoms. ...

Democracy is a very delicate tool, and if you try to impose democracy without the basic civil society that supports it, you get yourself into a serious problem. ...

A factor [for the anti-American sentiments] is the holy sites in Saudi Arabia. We have troops there.

The troops aren't around the holy sites.

Well, they're in the peninsula.

In the peninsula, yes.

Bin Laden aside, that affects people in the Islamic world.

It affects people if it is seen that the regime that is protector of the mosque is, in some way, selling out its birthright to the United States, ... to infidels. ... But we have a very disciplined military structure. They're not visible. They are kept quite far away from any ... religious sites, for that reason. We work very hard with the Saudi government to ensure that we're not trampling on their sensitivities or the sensitivities of their people.

So the big problem is the movement from the Gulf War -- when everybody was very happy to see American troops there. As the threat level goes down and people don't perceive the threat to be the same, they wonder, "Why do we have to have these Americans around anymore?"

And why do we?

Well, I think the threat is still there, but the reason it's not perceptible is because we have the troops there. So it's sort of like the guy that has the secret charm against the elephants. There are no elephants around; it must work.

In reality, if it weren't for the American forces there, I'm quite sure that Saddam Hussein would very soon get anxious to repeat his efforts.

[The reasons you've cited for anti-American sentiment in the region sound] like the fatwa of Osama bin Laden on why there should be war against all Jews and crusaders. [It] sounds like interviews we've done with members of Egyptian Islamic fundamentalist organizations. ...

Yes, and the difference is the solution. ... It's not the kind of thing that can't be solved through a strong administration position on some of these issues. Then we have to work on the communication and understanding so the cultural differences don't make such a great impact.

I've interviewed people in Congress and when I've asked them what motivates people to support, or be part of, the Al Qaeda organization, they say, "Well, they're crazy, they're insane, they're psychopaths." ... We raise these issues, they said, "Forget that." ...

See, what I'm trying to say is that there's no linkage. This is not a justification for what they're doing.

Understood. This is a justification for the concern that is felt by Arabs on the street in a lot of these countries. They are concerns that we can deal with, and should deal with. But they have nothing to do with what Al Qaeda has done, or what Osama bin Laden has done. What he is trying to do is to eliminate U.S. presence in the Gulf because he thinks the U.S. presence is what supports the regimes in the Gulf, and the regimes in the Gulf are corrupt and anti-religious and they are preventing him from seeing his brand of extremist Islam becoming the norm in the region. ... He's obviously concerned with the culture clash.

He's concerned with the challenge to the traditions that he is trying to impose on everyone, that is, that women don't have any rights, that they are completely covered and so on and so forth.

We interviewed an Iraqi who said that until the United States publicly addresses and practically addresses these issues of democracy, corruption, and repression in the Arab world, and is not perceived as the supporter of these regimes, this problem will not end.

Well, you don't end a problem by pulling down the entire house in order to solve the problem. What you do is you try to work with the existing regimes in order to develop the civil society that's necessary to make a strong democracy. If you try to move from point A to point Z without any intermediate steps, you're going to have revolution, you're going to have instability, and you're likely to have the very extremist Islamic regimes come to fore that you were trying to avoid by putting democracy in. You might also well have a real problem with your economic development.

So you've got to take this one step at a time. It's irresponsible to try and do it any other way.

Well, let's set aside for a minute doing it in one day. It doesn't seem to be what's happening in Saudi Arabia.

Yes, I think Saudi Arabia is a different kind of structure. You've got to remember, the Saudis have been moving in the direction of having a consultative assembly. They've gone back and forth on some of these things. The process if obviously slower there, but there is a process. It is not going backwards; it is moving forward.

Would it surprise you that we have reports that, amongst some people in the middle class in Saudi Arabia and higher up, there is sympathy for bin Laden? ... I wouldn't say "open celebration" because you couldn't do that in Saudi Arabia, but there's some degree of feeling that there was a success here in the events of Sept. 11. ...

It doesn't surprise me there would be people that were sympathetic. I don't think that there were too many people sympathetic after they recognized exactly what happened at the World Trade Center. There may have been initial reaction that, "Ha ha, the United States got its comeuppance." But I think as people saw the depth of the personal and human tragedy, that they've changed their minds on it. That's not what I'm getting from my contacts there.

Certainly, before this event, there was considerable resentment. I mean, the United States is terribly successful; we are a very large power; we are, in most people's mind, the only superpower. We have an obligation, in many people's minds, to solve the world's problems, and the fact that we can't, and that we're not as strong in that sense as other people think, leads to some resentments.

Also, there's some of the innocent things that people do. Our cultures are different. You take an American businessman, he goes over to Saudi Arabia, he's a CEO, he's an important guy, he's responsible, he's respectful of other people's time. He walks in, he wants to have a meeting with the CEO of another company, and maybe with a crown prince, and he wants to do it in two hours, get on his plane and go out. That's normal business practice here. That's an affront in Saudi Arabia. That's insensitivity. That's arrogant.

So you just get that kind of difference as well. It's the kind a thing that you can work on, but there will always be some resentments that exist.

Then how would you explain that, for example, in [the attacks on Sept. 11] so many of the individuals involved appear to be Saudis?

Well, we're not exactly sure who all is involved. You've got to remember where this whole thing came from in the first place. Osama bin Laden came out of a fight against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. He brought a bunch of volunteers with him to do this. We supported them. The Saudis supported them. The Saudis supported, particularly, Osama bin Laden and his brand of Islam.

And the Saudis have supported the Taliban.

And the Saudis supported the Taliban. At that time we were all against the Soviet Union. It was a question of the Cold War. Now, after the fact, you had a lot of fighters there who had been drawn from a number of Arab countries, many of them who went for very idealistic reasons, because they thought that it was a campaign against godless communism. ...

So these young men go over there, and you've got in the multiples of thousands of people from Algeria, from Egypt, from Saudi Arabia, and so on, and they formed the core of the bin Laden or the Qaeda organization. Now those people, a certain number of them, stuck with him. ...

Why so many Saudis, though? Because these are not Afghan Arabs. These are not veterans of the Afghanistan war. They're too young.

But the veterans were, in significant numbers, Saudis because they were urged to go and fight for Islam in Afghanistan. They come back, as I said, and they start picking up the young men in the mosques. Every time you get people who are dissatisfied with their lot in life [and] don't think that they're getting their due rewards, ... they go to the mosque because it's one place where they can go and feel relatively free. They find like-minded people, and they find people who are veterans of the Afghanistan war. ...

We understand that there is funding that comes from Saudi Arabia, not only middle class individuals. There is some information that, let's say, people on the edges of the royal family, some of the banks and some of the wealthier people have either put money into charity organizations that, in turn, have helped fund these camps, or some of the peripheral operations, and that some of the money is--

There is money not only from Saudi Arabia. There's some money from the United States that's gone into these organizations. You've got to take a look at the way this stuff is done. They have nominally charitable organizations build a mosque, or maybe to do good works or so on, and that organization then siphons a portion off that goes to this kind of activity. It's not always clear to the donor exactly what he's doing.

Now we have urged a closer control of this, and certainly the Saudi government no longer gives assistance to this kind of organization. But some individuals still do, I'm sure, and it's harder to stop individuals from giving to charitable organizations, or nominally charitable organizations, than it is for a government to stop.

The allegation that the Saudi royal family, which is quite large, four to five thousand individuals at least--

I'm sure there are some individuals who have done that. ... We haven't really, until now, tracked the bank records or anything. So it's not as if it's a well-charted course. I mean, there's a lot of suspicions that are out there.

One of our Saudi interview subjects laughed when we mentioned the question of tracking bank records. He says, "You're talking about people ... [who] don't believe in banks as you know them."

True. They have a different kid of bank.

They like cash. This is a cash economy, or gold economy. Just like they are low tech in their operations, they're, in a sense, low tech in their financial structure.

Well, it's certainly part of the problem in dealing with them. ... [The] things that we put in in this country in order to deal with drugs and money laundering [are] the kind of things that need to be put in on a much broader basis worldwide: limits to the amount of cash that can be carried into any country; limits to cash that can be transferred in a banking system without a report; cooperation in tracking the movement of funds. That's part of the war that is going to be engaged now.

There was always the talk, and some people say they could prove it, that the Saudis used to pay the PLO, or pay various other, if you will, organizations we called terrorist back in the '70s or '80s. ...

Yes, there was a period of time in which even some European countries were accused of doing that.

Is that going on here?

I don't think it's going on now. There was a period, up until the mid '90s, when some of that may have been going on ... with some of the other countries in the region, the Gulf area, and so on. It's easier to close an eye to having people go through your territory [and] use your territory as a way station than to actually arrest somebody and create an enemy. And that I think has been brought under control since things like the [USS Cole attack in Yemen] and the Khobar Towers [in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia]. ...

As this kind of terrorism built up, countries have become more inclined to support us and to prevent this movement across territory. ... These guys [the terrorists] will "foul their nest," so to speak, by having events like the Cole in Yemen or the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia and so on. There's no place that's immune and you can't buy immunity for people like this.

That ... convinced governments that they could no longer make a deal with the devil. They had to start getting serious about the question of terrorism because it could create enormous problems for them.

By the way, I can understand $700 million a year in economic aid to Egypt, a country with great poverty. But why [have we given] them $1.3 billion of military aid every year for 20 years?

Well, there are a number of reasons for it. ... First of all, you will find a lot of economists who think it should be the other way around. That the aid to the economy is actually counterproductive.

Because when we hear from the Egyptians, fundamentalists, they say, "Who pays the military police? Who put us in military courts? It's the United States."

Well, the military police would be paid for whether we gave them a penny or not. So let's get serious about this.

But you know what I'm saying.

I know what you're saying, but the reason for the large amount of military aid to Egypt is, well, it's got a lot of reasons. First of all, it helped to buy the peace between Egypt and Israel. It was a promise.

A bribe.

Well, call it what you will. It was a promise because at that time, if you'll recall, the Egyptians were alone in the Arab world. They had a security threat. They even lost a president. And the military was seriously undercut because of the war itself in '73. It needed rebuilding.

So I don't really consider it was a bribe. I think it was a necessary thing for the defense of Egypt and for our own self-interests. That's one thing. Now that period is over--

Twenty years later.

Then in the Gulf War, who stood beside us? Where was the one army, Arab army, that had any real clout, any ability to stand with us? It was the Egyptian army. They brought in their tanks. They had a division of tanks that went up the right side of Kuwait. They stood by us throughout the whole thing. They helped give us cover in the peninsula, as well as the Saudis, cover against challenges of Islamists that we were profaning the holy sites. [It's] terribly important, for any kind of action in this part of the world, that you have Arab allies and you have Islamic allies. The Egyptians are those allies.

But what did we find in the Gulf War? We found enormous complications, because we couldn't work together. They didn't have the same system, they didn't have the same weapons systems. We couldn't resupply them. It was a nightmare. ... Communications were a disaster. In fact when the [United Arab Emirates] asked to go on bombing raids up into Baghdad, we had to escort them the whole way because they didn't have IFF, that's the same kind of identification of friendly fighters. So after the Gulf War, we made a decision in order to try and integrate some of these forces, some of the capabilities, so that we could fight together in a coalition in the future. A lot of what we do with Egypt is built on that basis, and that's why we have the largest land exercise every two years in Egypt.

... Does it mean we might change our policies? We just changed our policy on Sudan the other day.

Yes, but look, there's another factor. Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, ... these [are] countries which have a vested interest in their own economic development and see now that we are serious about terrorism. It's an opportunity to see if there's a new kind of relationship that can be formed, particularly with a country like Syria.

[Syria's] interests aren't bound hand and foot with terrorism. They haven't been engaged in terrorist activities directly for years, 10 years I think is what the State Department says. And so is it really in their interest to have training camps in Bekaa that are occasionally used like summer camps?

There is an opportunity to try to, in the process of eliminating this terrorism, open a new dialogue with some of these countries. That would be a very healthy thing.

As opposed to simply take out the Bekaa.

If you take out the Bekaa, you take out all of our bases in Saudi Arabia, and you lose Turkey, and you lose a few other people. ...

So the process of reason seems to be working on a certain level here.

The process of reason makes a lot of sense because the target has got to remain, first and foremost, international or global terrorism. As the president said, it's time for the world to come together and do something about this disease. And with that, we can then play on some of the other things to make progress in both our relations on a bilateral basis and some of the areas of contest in the area.

But sooner or later if, in fact, bin Laden is the perpetrator of these events, and we go after him, don't we create more support for him?

Yes, I think that it's very important that we make the distinction clear between bin Laden and Islam or, again, to Arab countries and so on, that we have a very clear policy that we are not, in any way, attacking Islam, we are not, in any way, attacking Arab countries. We are attacking a very small subdivision, faction, of unacceptable behavior, as conveyed by a relatively small number of people in cells throughout the world.

If [Osama bin Laden] is successful, he will convince people that we're actually attacking Islam. So, when Americans, for example, vilify Islam publicly or when they attack Arab-Americans, they're supporting Osama bin Laden. ...

Is part of the cultural language problem here reflected in the fact that our own intelligence agencies, our law-enforcement agencies, didn't have Arabic speakers [and] don't have a sense of these organizations and the communities that they come out of?

I don't think that's really the problem. We have excellent Arabic speakers, by the way, in our intelligence operations. I've known many of them in my various posts.

The FBI seems to have accused--

The FBI is not an overseas operation. The CIA and the NSA all have extraordinarily fluent Arabic speakers, so does the military, so does the State Department, for that matter. That's not the problem.

The problem is when you get a very tightly controlled organization which has very limited links between them -- a lot of couriering of information so they don't use telephones which you can intercept -- and they have a vetting process which is so rigorous that they don't take anybody in unless he's gone through six different versions of vetting and several trials, you can't infiltrate.

So even if you had substantially more money involved, it would be very hard to infiltrate these organizations. They are very loyal to their perverted view of what Islam is and what their objective is. So it's a very hard target, and I think people are giving the intelligence agencies a bad rap on this one.

Aren't they supposed to predict and protect?

Well, they're supposed to predict and protect, but you've got to have the information to predict with. Keep in mind, as well, that you've got flow of information of extraordinary proportions these days. ... Some of it's encrypted, some of it takes three or four days to decrypt. ...

Maybe you could explain for us, just because it has come up over and over again. Why do we maintain sanctions and continue to bomb Iraq when it doesn't seem to affect Saddam Hussein at all?

Well, when the new secretary of state [Colin Powell] came into office, he said this doesn't make any sense at all. We're maintaining sanctions which have only one impact. They lose the support from the Gulf region and among Arabs, and they hurt Iraqi people, and they don't do a thing except make Saddam Hussein wealthy and his cohorts wealthy because then the smuggling operation pays that much more.

He still gets all of the liquor he wants, and he's still able to import Johnnie Walker Black and so on.

Were you talking this way during the Clinton administration?

As a matter of fact, I was. The fact is that the secretary said, "Let's narrow the sanctions to the things that count. Let's talk about weapons of mass destruction. Let's talk about military items that can build his army again, not every military item. [Let's] keep constraints on the things that threaten other people and to heck with the rest of it."

But we haven't done that.

We haven't done it because we ran into a problem. It starts getting complicated. The Russians were not very anxious to do this. They wanted a different solution. They stopped the progress in the Security Council. It's still under negotiation.

And meanwhile the Arabs, the people, are caught in the middle.

Meanwhile, yes. And it's something that's overdue, it's something that should have been done, and it should be done now.

So it's feeding the discontent--

It feeds the discontent. ... And it actually makes Saddam Hussein stronger because under the system of sanctions, he controls every nickel and dime that go to his people, in terms of supplies, food and so on. He can direct it, as he does, to loyal areas, he can withhold it from areas that are not loyal. It gives him stronger leverage.

You know, the Soviet Union is gone. Some people have said this is the new communism, Islamic fundamentalism. Is that what it is?

No. Let's not confuse even fundamentalism with what Osama bin Laden has done. There is legitimate fundamentalism where people believe very strongly in basic tenets as written, and we have Christian fundamentalism. You don't attack an entire religious movement because of the actions of a few people.

People have the right to believe what they believe, provided they're not trying to impose it on somebody else. That's where Osama bin Laden steps over the bounds, because he's trying to impose what he believes on everybody else in the entire region. That's unacceptable to anybody. He tries to impose it by force. That's also unacceptable to anybody.

So let's keep it separated here as to what we're talking about. I don't even like the word "Islamic fundamentalism" because it gives that impression.

Well, let me put it a different way. The Soviet Union fell. The Persian Gulf War happens [and] we destroy the Iraqi army, ... conscripts in the army are killed. We saw it on TV. We massacred 100,000 troops retreating from Kuwait. Remember the Highway of Death?

Yes. ... I don't know whether casualties were that high. It's amazing what people can live through. I'm not saying that we didn't kill a lot of people.

We've had a decade of prosperity where we've been promoting globalization -- computers, digital communications, the new, new economy -- and a bunch of guys with box cutter knives get into the United States and create more damage than any foreign, if you will, power since the War of 1812. Is this the nightmare of globalization coming home?

It's something that's been in the back of people's minds and in some of the planning for a long time. No matter how sophisticated your military is, no matter how efficient it is at putting a missile inside of a two-by-four window, box cutter knives, ... certain kinds of biological toxins, anthrax and so on, are relatively easy to procure. [They] can be weaponized if you don't care about the individual who is delivering it.

They are the kinds of things that terrorism, which relies on self-sacrifice, can use. It's not all that easy yet, but we know that a number of organizations and groups like bin Laden's have been working on just that kind of issue.

But if we hadn't had airplanes that you can go from Cairo to New York or Rawalpindi to Tokyo? If you couldn't travel the way we travel and use digital communications the way you can use it and if encryption wasn't available to everyone, not just to the NSA, the way it was in the old days? If there wasn't this sort of democratization, at least on a quantitative level in the world, this wouldn't have been possible, would it?

Yes, but it would have been because these guys didn't use high tech. Yes, they used some computers, but it wasn't based on high tech. You could have sailed in a sailing vessel to get across the sea if you've got enough patience. You could have used a box cutter's equivalent in the 1800s.

Yeah, but you wouldn't have had a jumbo jet---

You wouldn't have had a jumbo jet, but you could have had something else. This is one of the dangers.

As we keep defending against the last incident, we've got to start thinking ahead to the things that they can do. I think it's very healthy that the government is looking at tanker trucks, movement of chemicals, other things that could be relatively low-tech solutions to terrorism. That's what we've got to think about.

To blame globalization, modernization is ... wrong. ... Remember what this guy is trying to do. He's trying to take away all those things. He wants a society that's back in the Stone Age, as we've seen in the Taliban. That's not really a society that looks for computers or technology or so on. ...

You've been quoted as saying that many of these governments in the region say one thing to their people in public and something else in private to us. What's that about?

First of all, it's a tendency of politicians everywhere to want to appeal to the people, their constituencies that support them, and they often appeal to their constituencies in ways that they don't necessarily want to convey to other nations.

So you've got an incentive to talk to the people in the street and to satisfy them that the government is doing something about the problems they're worried about, and that maybe it's talking to the United States in harsh terms, ... or it's going to keep the United States at arm's length. And yet in the interchange between governments, often this kind of action is ameliorated or reduced in the way it's managed. ...

Give me an example.

If you're talking in an election campaign in Cairo, and you want to appeal to the mass that you're dealing with, you're going to criticize the United States in pretty strong terms about its performance on the Palestinian issue, and you're going to say the United States is not helping. You're going to say that the Palestinians are being abused and so on.

[The politician will say that the U.S. is] pro-Zionists, controlled by the Jewish lobby?

Exactly. And then when the Mubarak government deals with the issue of the peace process, it works to try to bring the peace process to fruition, to try to convince Arafat to be flexible, to try to work with the United States government to get peace. So there is a difference in the rhetoric that is used and the actual actions of what that government often does.

So the government in Egypt, as I understand it, fosters to a certain extent the popular views in Egypt that this is all a Jewish conspiracy? ...

Right. ... You don't get so much of that in government statements. You get a lot more of it in the press.

You get this kind of thing in every country. In Israel, you get statements by members of the Cabinet now that are really pretty strong about the behavior of Arabs and--

Racist.

Racist, which we would call racist. So there is this problem throughout. ...

Do you think Saudi Arabia will democratize?

Ultimately yes, I do. ... It's going to take time. ... I think that they need to move more quickly to get stronger representation in their system, move on beyond just consultative assembly. A lot of the countries in the Gulf are doing this now. You've got the Bahrainis that are moving in that direction, the Qataris that are moving in that direction. This is a design and a path which Saudi should follow as well, and I think that they will come to that.

And when people say that Mubarak is the butcher of Egypt, that he got peace on the streets by literally rounding everyone up and, in fact, hounding them out of the country?

Well, I would venture to say that if you had an absolutely, 100-percent free election in Egypt today -- and it was monitored by the U.N. and the United States and everything else, and you put up whoever you wanted to against Mubarak -- Mubarak would win the election.

Because he's got more money?

No, because he is seen as a man who protects Egypt's interests. Most Egyptians couldn't stand the terrorism. You know what it was doing to their tourism industry when they attacked the Japanese tourists in Luxor? Nobody had jobs any more. The main reason he won was not the suppression; it was the fact that the people turned against these guys and started turning them in. So don't think that populations at large necessarily object to strong methods.

And is it a mistake that we have focused so much attention on bin Laden? I'm thinking of a headline in The Times of London on Monday that has "Bin Laden and Bush Sign Declarations of War," and there are pictures of their signatures. We have made them equal.

That's unfortunate. There is no equality. One is an outlaw in all nations' views and in all religions' views.

I'm talking about the focus of attention.

Yes, but it is important to eliminate this threat. The threat is not bin Laden. Bin Laden is a single individual. He's a representative. He's a symbol, but he is a symbol of something that is a larger problem which affects a lot more people than this, and various cells throughout the world. This isn't just something that's in Afghanistan. It's in Rome, it's in Peoria. ... And it's got to be rooted out because it is a threat to everybody and to every civilized nation.

... You agree that many of the issues that are raised by bin Laden are the issues we do have to address.

Absolutely, 100 percent. We have to address the peace process and the Palestinian issue. We have to address the Syrian-Israeli peace. We need to address the economic problems of the region and the poverty that exists in certain areas in the region. We need to start supporting the growth of civil society so that democracies can grow in a responsible way.

There is an agenda out there which is very large and which we can have a very positive impact on, and that's all part and parcel of the overall or the longer-range effort that we have to engage in.

And we may finally be able to focus on it because of this tragic event?

I would hate to say that we weren't focused before, but I think we have a much sharper focus now on some of these issues than we had before. The evidence is the fact that the president [George W. Bush] and the secretary [Colin Powell, Secretary of State] were not prepared to allow the talks between Peres and Arafat to stumble. There is a determination now. That determination can be turned to real progress on virtually all of these areas. ...

I remember U.S. government statements no less than a year old where we were saying we were taking bin Laden's organization apart limb by limb. We were on top of this, we knew that there were threats out there. ... They took the World Trade Center in 1993. They did the Nairobi bombing. They got the Cole. ... And now the World Trade Center ... and the Pentagon.

It never pays to underestimate your enemy. Let's face it, this is an organization that has tentacles throughout the world.

But it's this little, tiny organization?

It is in relative terms, yes. When you talk about the numbers of people who are Islamic believers, and even of those, those who are fundamentalists, this is a very small number of people.

But they're like guerrillas swimming in a sea, aren't they?

Yes, but you've got 20 people who took down four airliners. Twenty people is not many people to put together. It may be more difficult to get 20 people who are willing to commit suicide, but in this organization, it doesn't seem to be that difficult.

If you've got maybe a cadre of 5,000 or 6,000 people, you can do an awful lot of damage in the world, particularly if you've got the right kind of security and the right separation between units, you don't have to have a large number. In fact, a large number is their own defeat because a large number means you can infiltrate, it means you're susceptible. The tighter the organization, the smaller the organization, the more dangerous it is.

And all of the assets of the United States government -- our flaunted power to intercept all the electronic communications in the world and decipher them, all of the power of the CIA as its people in the rest of the world believe it's the all-powerful intelligence organization, the FBI, the $10 billion we spend on counterterrorism -- it doesn't work.

As I said before, people tend to think that we're a superpower, we can do anything. We have limits just like everybody else. Now the organizations you mentioned do a lot, but there is no such thing as an impermeable barrier against this. It has to be a constant vigilance and a constant effort, and you can't do it one day and then relax the next.

We often try to defend against the attack of yesterday. We made all of our embassies now fortresses. ... And so what's the terrorist going to do? He's probably going to go back and shoot an ambassador in his car and get the same kind of impact. You have to be aware of all of the threats, and this is a very tough job to do. ...

Why, in this group as opposed to other groups, do you believe there were educated people from Egypt and Saudi Arabia? In the past, we would expect people of lower income, marginalized--

That's actually not true. That's not true. ... The Islamic Jihad in Egypt, most of the people in that organization and in the other terrorist organizations were educated. What has happened, though, is because the systems don't prepare people for work that exists, they are out of work, educated people. And so their sense of resentment is even greater.

So when [Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman]'s assistant [Ahmed Sattar] tells us on camera that the great problem in the 1980s was educated people getting out of college unable to get a job, unable to get an apartment, ... unable to have a future--

He's right. That's true. ...

There's no greater gap than in the Islamic world between wealth and poverty, right?

That's exactly right, yes. ...

As societies like Egypt, for example, open up to a world trading environment, you start to get disparities in the society in terms of wealth, which become all the more obvious. ... When you start this process of opening up to the market, that means that your private investors are going to be the ones that make the most money the most quickly. There's going to be a period of time when they are making extremely high amounts of money, and the gap between poor and rich becomes greater, and the middle class has to work hard. ...

We went through it in this country when you had all of the railroad magnates and so on. There was a huge gap in this country between the people who had real wealth and were investing it in the growth of the country, and the people that were on the line piling in the spikes for those railroads. But it led to, over time, a stronger middle class, a stronger society, and a stronger and a better distribution of wealth. ...

So the disparity of income is very much a factor, and in both Saudi Arabia and Egypt, unemployment, particularly of young university graduates, is a serious problem. Part of the problem is that they aren't trained to do jobs that are needed, and part of the problem is attracting enough investment so that jobs are created at a level that will support the population growth. ...

That's why they turn to Islam.

That is why they turn to Islam and why some of them then, from that group, turn to a more radical form. [It's] because they feel abused. They feel that there is no hope, and they look for a way out. They build on each other's disappointment.

And they see Mubarak, their enemy--

They see him as an enemy because he represents a system which hasn't fulfilled their requirements. ... But if you're a government in a country as large as Egypt, you can provide only so much, given the amount of money that you take in. That means that there are significant gaps in the coverage for the social system.

Now what the Islamics do is they come in and they provide money to fill those gaps. So a kid who is trying to get ahead and needs to pass the baccalaureate -- a tough exam -- he can't get all of the education he needs in the school. He needs to be tutored. So the Islamic fundamentalists come in, and they tutor him for free, and they get the gratitude of the family. They also get the kid and are able to tutor him in more than just what he needs to get through the baccalaureate. So it's a whole system that's in place.


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