IAIN WATSON: Letters of condolence for
the Protheros'. Any bereavement is painful, but, over the past ten days
this Somerset family has suffered as their hopes have turned to despair.
Their daughter, Sarah, is one of the six-thousand, three-hundred and thirty-three
people formally reported as missing - but presumed dead - as a result of
the terrorist attacks on New York's twin towers.
REVEREND DAVID PROTHERO: Everyone's emotions are raw at
the moment aren't they and everyone's reacting, and so am I, reacting with
a sadness and wanting to deny that it's ever happened and wanting to do
everything possible to make sure it never ever happens again.
WATSON: The destruction of the
World Trade Center devastated the lives of people in sixty-three countries
who've lost relatives and friends. Recent opinion polls, in the US, the
UK and in continental Europe, have shown strong support for a military
response and an international coalition is now being forged.
LOUIS MICHEL: We are ready to support even
military, of course, military support - we don't exclude anything.
LORD CLARK: I think it's right that we
try and assist our American allies and to weed out the people who perpetrated
this terrible crime and we join them in the fight against terrorism. It's
all our fight.
WATSON: The events in the USA have
united most countries in one response: this must never be allowed to happen
again. Something must be done. Tracking down the sources of terrorist finance
is - relatively speaking - the easy part. But it's much more difficult
when it comes to military action. Tony Blair spent much of the past week
helping to build a massive coalition against terrorism. But the question
is whether that coalition, not just between countries but also within countries
will hold, especially if we face a long and perhaps open-ended campaign.
PETER KILFOYLE MP: Hawks in the American Administration
I fear are trying to shape an agenda which settles old scores, rather than
meets the needs of a campaign against terrorism. If anything, they're
going to make matters infinitely worse.
MOHAMMED SARWAR MP: If Britain sides with America, then
there is a danger that terrorists will target Britain.
WATSON : Cruise missiles have been
the US weapon of choice in past conflicts, most recently in the Balkans.
But President Clinton's strikes on Sudan and Afghanistan three years ago
in response to attacks on US embassies had little effect. The pressure
on President Bush from the American people for action is getting through.
If he becomes tempted to launch similar strikes now, some experts say the
value is likely to be more symbolic than real.
COLONEL MIKE DEWAR: The last Cruise missile attack
on a Wadi in the middle of nowhere in Afghanistan, we think had precious
little effect, apart from knocking down a few huts and killing a few goats
and maybe the odd individual.
DOUG HENDERSON MP: Well I don't think air strikes
would work, it would be like bombing Belfast to try and root out IRA terrorists.
That wouldn't work in Ireland and it certainly won't work in Afghanistan.
WATSON: Just how wide ranging are
American aims in their war against terrorism? The main focus currently
is on Afghanistan as the assumed hiding place of Osama Bin Laden, the man
the US and UK governments have named as their prime suspect in the attacks
on the United States.
This terrorist outrage
struck Lockerbie in 1988. A former M15 officer who was involved in investigating
the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, says that building up evidence can take
years - that sometimes early intelligence reports can point in the wrong
DAVID SHAYLER: If you look at the Lockerbie
case the initial investigation concentrated on Palestinian organisations.
As time went on and they started to gather hard evidence, it became clear
it was the Libyans. But it took over two years to get indictments against
two Libyans. So at the moment we cannot really say that Bin Laden is involved
with this because there is no hard evidence, and we are in danger of rushing
in feet first before we establish the facts.
WATSON: Doubts about the evidence
on Bin Laden have led to calls here for him to be handed over to an independent
court, and not to the United States.
SARWAR: No country can be accuser,
investigator, prosecutor and at the same time judge and jury. If there
is evidence against Osama Bin Laden, then that evidence should be presented
to the International Tribunal and I will support any call that Taliban
must hand over Osama Bin Laden to the International Tribunal and if he's
guilty, he must be punished and he must be brought to justice.
WATSON: Currently the niceties
of how to put Osama Bin Laden on trial don't arise. As the Taliban won't
hand him over - the allies face the problem of tracking him down.
SHAYLER: Let's face it, we couldn't
beat the IRA in Northern Ireland and that's where you have got access to
where records of where people live and so on. The idea of trying to find
terrorists in the mountains of Afghanistan is going to be impossible. There
is a very real practical issue here that if you start fighting terrorists
with terrorism you will increase terrorism.
WATSON: Special forces in training.
It's widely thought the task of rooting out Bin Laden will fall upon
America's Delta Force troops and Britain's SAS.
COLONEL DEWAR: Going in very quickly, either
eliminating their target or physically capturing it and taking it out of
Afghanistan. Now that is perfectly possible. British special forces have
operated in that area. US special forces are well equipped and well trained
to do a similar operation. Perfectly feasible.
WATSON: A former defence minister
doesn't doubt the ability of our special forces, but warns that deployment
of ground troops could cost British lives.
KILFOYLE: We seem to be moving
into a situation and I'd say it was certainly true of Afghanistan that
if we were to be engaged in any shape or form, there will be casualties
and whether the British public and, indeed, the American public, will countenance
that remains to be seen.
WATSON: The message from the US
administration is that they won't be satisfied with simply putting on trial
Osama Bin Laden. They also want to shut down his organisation, Al Qaida,
or in English, the base. It's known to have operated training camps in
Afghanistan. but it may difficult to take action against them without also
tackling the fundamentalist Taliban regime which has allowed them to operate.
Despite this low-rent version of a cold-war style military parade in Kabul,
the Taliban aren't an army in the conventional sense, but they are a very
effective guerilla force; so some experts say the West should fight fire
with fire and arm the home-grown opposition - the Northern Alliance - to
take on the Taliban.
DEWAR: They could beef up, if you
like, the Northern Alliance and help it expand out of its northern chunk
of territory, currently occupies some thirty per cent, up to thirty per
cent, of the northern part of Afghanistan. The aim might well be to expand
this into the whole of Afghanistan.
WATSON: But at this point some
of those who believe action should be taken against Bin Laden wouldn't
support toppling foreign regimes as a war aim - at least, not without UN
KILFOYLE: There are lots of appalling
regimes around the world and I think it's rather difficult for any one
nation or indeed group of nations to arbitrarily pick from amongst those
particular regimes that they despise and set out to overthrow. I mean
the last thing we need to do is to encourage a whole new generation of
potential suicide bombers.
WATSON: The message from the summit
of European Union leaders on Friday was one of unity. Behind the scenes,
there may be some doubts about ousting the government of Afghanistan, although
few would shed tears for the Taliban. But what may place the wider coalition
under increasing, perhaps even unbearable pressure, is if the US begins
to target even more Muslim states.
LOUIS MICHEL: We want of course a proportionate
reaction, and a targeted reaction, so they promised full consultation.
I think the United States allies will immediately feel if they should
react too strongly for instance, they will immediately feel that the European
Union cannot follow that, and so I think they will be prudent.
WATSON: The Americans have been
saying that the war on terrorism doesn't begin and end in Afghanistan.
Countries which harbour terrorists or sponsor terrorism could also face
reprisals. Iran was in the past seen as a rogue state but will be courted
by the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw this week . But their old foe, Iraq,
may suffer a different fate. Sudan and Somalia have in the past been accused
of sheltering terrorists as has Libya, though they denounced the recent
attack on the US. Some experts certainly believe there will be some form
of action beyond Afghanistan.
DEWAR: A more conventional war
in Iraq I think is, is a definite possibility. I mean links have already
been proven to Saddam Hussein's intelligence people who are known to have
spoken to one of the hijackers about a year before the events of last week.
So it, it is, it is very possible that Saddam Hussein and his regime will
become a target. Indeed, there has been much talk of the Americans wishing
to finish the job that they didn't finish in 1991.
WATSON: American fighter planes
aboard the USS Enterprise - a vessel with high name recognition for American
television viewers. It's reported to be in the Indian Ocean, while as
many as five-hundred US fighter aircraft are thought to be stationed on
land around the Middle east. The US is ensuring it's keeping its military
Britain will have its full complement of twenty thousand service personnel
in the Gulf state of Oman by the beginning of October. Although they are
on a military exercise, their headquarters staff have had their duties
changed to be on standby for any operation against world terrorism.
While some politicians don't rule out a wider conflict, others worry about
the potential consequences of British involvement.
SARWAR: My fear is that if British
government supported American actions outrightly, then there is a real
danger that the people and, in particular, the people in the third world
countries and Muslims, will regard Britain as the 'Yes' person of United
States of America.
MACKINLAY: Of course I and my colleagues
in the parliamentary Labour Party understand the gravity of the situation
and are also nervous, but the bottom line is that we know we have to deny
terrorists access to weapons of mass destruction which could be an atomic
weapon in a suitcase or, or a chemical let off in the London Underground
in a Coca-Cola tin. That's the issue.
BRUCE GEORGE MP: If there is evidence that any
state was providing intelligence to whoever the terrorists are or had provided
them with protection, provided them with passports, if a whole range of
criteria that had been devised are met, you know, then it may well be that
that country will be targeted but if they are targeted the same rules apply
and that is it must not be indiscriminate, it must be based on solid evidence.
WATSON: The war against terrorism
won't be limited to faraway countries of which we know little. It'll also
be fought on the home front. If effective action is to be taken to prevent,
rather than simply respond to terrorism, then some say we may have to face
profound changes to our everyday lives.
If destruction also breeds creation, then the events in New York may
prove influential in giving rise to new thinking on civil liberties. The
UK government is on the brink of introducing more anti-terrorist measures,
although Downing Street in a briefing note to MPs reassured them that the
European Convention on Human Rights wouldn't be infringed by new legislation.
But even a champion of open government now says there must be a new balance
between liberty and security.
LORD CLARK: We're gonna have to start rethinking
many of the ways in which we approach our civil liberties whilst trying
to protect them as much as possible. For example, ID cards, must be on
the agenda now. Must be debated. Airports - we've got to step up the check-in.
We've got to make sure that the asylum seekers that none of them can be
any way an excuse for a front for terrorist groups, and that can easily
be done, and these are the sorts of things we've got to try and do which
will affect the way we live, but may be necessary if we're gonna win the
fight against terrorism.
MACKINLAY: It's very important that those
drafting the legislation the Home Secretary's going to bring to Parliament
in a few weeks time, does ensure that for every limitation on liberties,
every curtailment there is a balancing safeguard.
WATSON: Those who have suffered
most have more immediate concerns. As the Protheros' remember their daughter,
they also fear that other people, as yet unknown, could be facing a similar
fate to those who died in America.
REVEREND PROTHERO: I hope that the gospel of reconciliation
will somehow find its way through the darkness and through, through the
desire for revenge which isn't going to achieve anything.
WATSON: The British government
have stressed that any action against terrorism mustn't be seen as a war
on Islam; that they simply have no option but take action against those
thought responsible for inflicting grief on the Protheros' and thousands
of other families across the world. But the methods they employ in their
battle, will determine whether they can maintain broad support - and continue
to occupy the moral high ground.