on the ground
with us?

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.

Colin Powell
  U.S. Secretary of State

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[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.

richard armitage
  U.S. Deputy Secretary of State

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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 Pervez Musharraf
  President of Pakistan

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... What was your first response to [the Sept. 11 attacks]? How did you first react?

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 tony blair
  Prime Minister of Great Britain

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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 total agreement.

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

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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 narrowly.

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.

marc grossman
  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 gerhard schroeder
  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 tony blair
  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 the plane?

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 terrorism.

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

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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 were. ...

Colin Powell
  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.

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