BBC On The Record - Broadcast: 21.10.01

==================================================================================== NB. THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A TRANSCRIPTION UNIT RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT; BECAUSE OF THE POSSIBILITY OF MIS-HEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY, IN SOME CASES, OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS ACCURACY ==================================================================================== ON THE RECORD THE WAR REPORT RECORDED FROM TRANSMISSION: BBC ONE DATE: 21.10.01 ==================================================================================== JOHN HUMPHRYS: Good Afternoon. The war on the ground in Afghanistan has begun ... but it's what might happen here at home that's worrying a lot of people now. We'll be reporting on the threat posed by terrorists with weapons of mass destruction and I'll be asking the Cabinet minister John Reid how we can guard against it. I'll be talking to Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrats Foreign Affairs Spokesman, about the underlying grievances in the Arab world. And Peter Snow will analyse the latest developments on the front line. That's all after the news read by SIAN WILLIAMS. NEWS HUMPHRYS: Welcome back. The fear of anthrax has been terrifying Americans over the past few weeks and we'll be reporting on what we might face in THIS country if the terrorists are indeed able to carry out their threats. We'll also be looking at some of the grievances in the Middle East that make it so much more difficult to maintain a united front in the face of terrorism. But first ... the campaign itself. It moved into a new phase this past week with attacks on the ground. Peter Snow is here with his analysis of the week's military action, Peter. PETER SNOW: And John I'm joined by Air Marshal Tim Garden to review the situation at the end of a couple of weeks. Well now two weeks after the beginning of Phase One, the air strikes, we're now into Phase Two, troops on the ground. Hercules aircraft have been dropping up to a hundred US Rangers by parachute, down here in the South of Afghanistan and they were attacking an airstrip here, and a command post, near by Kandahar. Only light resistance, but the Americans did suffer their first two people killed down here in Pakistan, when a helicopter crashed, the Taliban say that it didn't crash in Pakistan, that it actually was disabled over Afghanistan, but the Americans say no, it was disabled over Pakistan, it was on standby support to the operation inside Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the air war hasn't stopped in spite of calls for a bombing pause. The air war has, if anything, intensified, with American aircraft pushing their way there into Afghanistan. The Allies claim in the words of Jack Straw the Foreign Secretary - that they've "very very severely degraded the Taliban's strength." Airfields, and other military targets like missile sites all over Afghanistan being severely damaged. The Americans have just released a picture of a barracks in Kabul before an air strike, there you can see the buildings quite clearly there, and after it, just look at this, just look at the damage there caused. I mean the buildings absolutely flattened there by the air strike. Other reports - from aid workers in places like Kabul - suggest that the aircraft are actually missing their military targets and civilians are being hit. The Allies continue to insist that they're not targeting civilians. Tony Blair says the allies have also damaged Osama bin Laden and some of his training camps around the South and West of the country, and Mr Blair's dismissed demands for a let-up in the bombing saying that that would be a sign of weakness. In the first fourteen days of action we've seen the number of strike aircraft used rising dramatically - from, for example, twenty-two on day two to one-hundred on a couple of days in this past week. In the last week the strikes have shifted to targeting Taliban troops, down here we've coloured them green on the whole in the South and West of the country and also trying to pick off their remaining tanks, but the Northern Alliance Troops, we've coloured them yellow up here and they are on the whole not receiving much effective direct support from the Americans, and they say that if only the Americans would do that, then their attacks would be much more effective. Now, Air-Marshall, how far do you think the Alliance have actually got in this campaign after two weeks? AIR MARSHALL TIM GARDEN: I think they've got much further than many of us expected them to be able to do, not only have they destroyed all the air defences, they're now able to operate with total freedom over the air space, you've seen the AC 130's, the big gun ships coming in and attacking targets for quite a long period, and this has meant that they can now put in ground forces for the first time, really quite shortly after starting this operation. SNOW: They're attacking all right, but what effect are they having on the Taliban, any sign of demoralisation, desertions? GARDEN: The attacking on their logistic support, getting rid of all their fuel, their ammunition, means that they cannot operate against the Northern Alliance and the other partisans who are against them. I think also their morale must be decreasing very considerably if you heard the news of Mullah Omar's family losses as a result of the earlier attacks. SNOW: But nevertheless, there's no real sign yet is there of any actual movement on the ground that suggests the Taliban are moving backwards or being beaten. GARDEN: Well there's movement on the ground because there are already American Forces going in on the ground. This is big movement. Yes in terms... SNOW: ...they went in and came out again... GARDEN: Well, they'll continue to do that I think in greater numbers. In terms of the particular towns, Mazar-e-Sharif in the North, and Kabul, they're going to be quite long attrition operations. SNOW: Okay, let's look now what we can expect to happen next. Well we can expect more helicopter bomb attacks, maybe some parachute drops as well from North and from South into Afghanistan over the next few days, perhaps including British Marines as well. Now of course their ultimate aim is to find Osama bin Laden. The Allies are hoping that the promise of cash, or populous enchantment with bin Laden will lead someone to betray him. But until that happens they'll be targeting the people who are sheltering him, the Taliban. There we are, there of course all over the South and West of the country as well as some of those bin Laden training camps. The other thing to watch over the next few days, is what the ground raids do to attempt to enlarge the parts of the country not controlled by the Taliban, but controlled by their rivals, the Northern Alliance. Now they're on the whole up here in the North-East, and that area there, of course we've coloured them yellow here on our map. Now in their attack on Kabul, they're still not making very much progress. But most of the action is in the area of Mazar-e-Sharif, which Tim Garden mentioned a bit earlier. It's only fifty miles from Afghanistan's Northern border, the Taliban control the city itself, and also the area around here to the East, where the airfield is, and the Northern Alliance have been attacking the city from almost all directions, up here, round here and down here, and indeed, even from the South as well. And the trouble is though that their attacks and the American air strikes in support of them have so far failed to dislodge the Taliban. The Taliban are said to have the support of some of bin Laden's own forces, and they claim that one Northern Alliance attack here on the airfield was actually pushed back successfully, indeed the Northern Alliance themselves admit that they had to pull back from the airfield. The Americans are now supplying more close air support to the Northern Alliance on the battlefield. So, Air-Marshall, how much more can we expect now the Allies to get involved in battles like this one on the ground. GARDEN: Well I think what we're seeing now is a campaign which has sealed off the town, they're surrounded totally by the Northern Alliance, their logistic supply has been eliminated, their airfield is not available, and so the pressure is on them all the time and it will eventually be a war of attrition, which I'm afraid the Taliban have no hope of winning, and that will eliminate various people who are in the centre there in Mazer-e-Sharif and it'll also allow the capture of the airfield as perhaps a re-supply place and somewhere where can start expanding the humanitarian aid out off. SNOW: So Mazer-e-Sharif will be a big prize for the Alliance, I mean the other ... GARDEN: ... it's geographically well placed for support from the North. SNOW: And yet we've seen the Taliban effectively pushing back their attack in the last couple of days. GARDEN: This is war. You get progress and you get being pushed. But they have no hope now of being able to survive for a long time given that all the roads are sealed off and the airfield's gone. SNOW: Now one other thing we hear is happening at the moment is that Special Forces, like Britain's SAS and the American Green Beret's and so on, are in there in Afghanistan, in small groups, trying to persuade people, that's the way it's put by defense sources, to join the anti-Taliban forces. Is that militarily credible, how does that work? GARDEN: Well I think it would be slightly hazardous to go and walk up to somebody in the street and say, "would you care to join us?" I think what you'll see is that you've got liaison officers working with the Northern Alliance, both for these sorts of operations and indeed for getting food supply and logistic supply into the Northern Alliance, and then getting the Northern Alliance to do that sort of liaison work with people who may defect to them in the longer term. SNOW: Air Marshall, thank you. John? HUMPHRYS: Thanks very much Peter, and Peter will be back later in the programme to explain what's really happening with the refugees in Afghanistan. But first let's take a look at what's happening here at home. Mercifully nothing yet. Bin Laden and his terrorists have not carried out their threats to punish us for our part in supporting the United States. Maybe they don't have the ability to do so. Or maybe they are able to deploy weapons of mass destruction, biological or chemical warfare and it's just a matter of time. I'll be talking to the Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid, who's in our Belfast studio after this report from Paul Wilenius, who's boon looking at how serious the threat really is and how well prepared we are to withstand it. PAUL WILENIUS: The fear of germ warfare can cause almost as many problems as the germs themselves. It can infect a normally rational population , creating the deep unease seen recently in America and elsewhere. So far Western governments have avoided panic , but still have a lot do to reassure their anxious publics. Though there has been no specific threat against Britain, there are still real worries. MALCOLM DANDO: A hundred kilograms of anthrax spores, distributed in the right way, under the right conditions across Washington DC would cause between one and three million fatalities. FRED BROUGHTON: We have faced terrorist attack before in the last thirty years in this country but I think we clearly understand this is the biggest crisis facing our country since the Second World War. WILENIUS: There's an air of anxiety now hanging over Britain's tallest buildings like Canary Wharf. The area was bombed by the IRA ,but it was nowhere near the scale of the carnage unleashed on New York on September the eleventh. . So now there is real concerns about the type of terrorist attacks we might face and the of the government to cope with them. The destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Center traumatized the world. It showed that there was no longer any moral restraint on acts of terror. Osama Bin Laden's network now appears willing to use any weapon it can against the West. It's already told Muslims to stay out of planes and tall buildings. And, those in a position to know, say the British government must be ready for any kind of terrorist response. RICHARD BUTLER: I don't think it would be wise to assume that these people would restrict themselves to hunting after Americans. I suspect that people in the UK as the UK is aligned in this fight against terrorism, I suspect that people in the UK should be aware of the possibilities that action against the UK could also be taken. COLONEL MIKE DEWAR: We have to realise that we have put ourselves in the firing line by aligning ourselves so obviously with the United States and being brave enough to do so. So yes, I think we face tanker lorries, I think we face political assassination is a possibility, we face biological warfare, we face car bombs, we face unfortunately the whole array of terrorism. WILENIUS: The War Report commissioned a poll to determine the scale of the Fear of Terrorism. We asked: "How worried are you about the prospect of chemical or biological weapons being used in a terrorist attack on the UK?" We found that fifty per cent were worried while forty nine per cent were less so. Women are also twice as likely to be concerned as men. Sixty four per cent of women are anxious compared to just thirty five per cent of men. In New York people were trying to get back to normal and put the horrific plane attacks behind them . But in recent days a new deadly threat has been delivered to America's door. Although it's difficult to use anthrax for mass attacks and only a few people have been infected, it's bred fear and deep worries that this may only be the beginning. DANDO There are other agents which have been weaponised and some of those are even more dangerous than anthrax. The anthrax is a bacterium, another bacterium is plague. Everyone knows the historical record as regards plague. If you, if a terrorist was to get hold of plague and to be able to use it and it was effective then it's different from anthrax because it causes infection after the first victim. So you would have the possibility of an epidemic spread and that would be extremely difficult to deal with. BUTLER: If one looks at the Iraqi programme, Iraq did have in its biological weapons programme, and I assume still does today, not only anthrax but botulism toxin, gangrene gas, plague and there are reasons to think that it may have been trying to acquire or find some way of getting into smallpox. If people had said to you before September eleventh that some persons were going to take civilian aircraft and turn them into missiles, fly them into the World Trade Center towers, I think we all would have fallen on the floor laughing. So, you know, we've got to think again in today's world. WILENIUS: To reassure anxious members of the British public major cities have been flooded with police in recent weeks. This very public display of force, is meant to deter terrorists and show that our guard is up. Fear of a potential threat posed by car and tanker bombs, led to the sudden appearance of new concrete barriers in front of Parliament itself. BROUGHTON: Our responsibility is very clear, we have to reassure the public, we have to identify and stop terrorist attacks, I mean that's very clear to us, that's a very difficult job, but at the moment the attack might be diverse, it could from, from bombs or it could be from biological attack, so it's very complicated at the moment but we understand that's clearly our responsibility. DEWAR: Most of the policemen you see on the streets of London, isn't it funny, you never see a bobby for months on end and then suddenly hundreds of them appear from nowhere? Most of those have been drafted in from the suburbs to Central London and quite frankly most of them are there for public reassurance purposes, it's a PR exercise if you like, it's to make us feel better. WILENIUS: Security around key government buildings , airports, oil refineries, ports and nuclear power stations has been tightened. But what of the threat posed by flying hi-jacked jets into big cities? DEWAR: That is still a possibility and we should not rule it out and that is why for instance Tornado interceptors have been brought further south from Lucas in Scotland and stationed in Lincolnshire and there are now procedures in place to intercept clearly hijacked aircraft or unauthorised aircraft. So precautions have been taken. WILENIUS: Although the police and emergency services in London are used to dealing with terrorist outrages , there are doubts about their ability to cope on their own, if there was a massive terrorist attack . IAN HOLT: If we had something that happened you know in any county in this country on the scale of what happened in New York, then it's obvious that the local responding agencies would be completely overwhelmed by that. And in that sort of instance we would be looking to a very strong lead from central government taking as an umbrella over-arching approach and leading the response. BROUGHTON: All of us in the police service in the last week or so have been looking at what exactly we do and how we do that in relation to a chemical or biological attack. And the answer is we've not faced that threat before on the scale that we may face it in the next few weeks. And so what's happening at the moment is, is assessing exactly how we're going to deal with that and what training is necessary- it's pretty clear that we need to first of all look at the American experience in recent days and to make sure that we prepare ourselves for any such attack. WILENIUS: Our poll showed that a small majority of the country thinks the Government is doing enough. When asked "How well prepared do you think the Government is for an attack using chemical or biological weapons?" forty five per cent felt it is prepared but forty per cent of the public said it was not. Emergency planners all over the country like Ian Holt were issued with new guidelines last week on how to deal with any chemical or biological weapons attacks. Underground crisis command centres like this one in Hampshire have been fired up. Thousands of doctors have been put on alert, and millions of doses of anthrax medicine have been ordered. But there are those who feel more needs to be done. HOLT: If you asked the government, you asked ministers, they would want this country to be prepared for whatever emergency disaster situation we may face in the future. If they do want that to happen, then obviously they've got to put their money where their mouth is. We in the Emergency Planning Society we'd like to see a ballpark figure of in the region of hundred million pounds put towards the function." WILENIUS: Our poll asked "Do you feel you have been given sufficient information about what you should look out for or do if a chemical or biological attack is made in the UK?" seventy six per cent said they hadn't, while only twenty per cent said they had. So the public IS seeking more information from the authorities. They are not alone. The War Report tried for over a week to get a senior Metropolitan Police Officer to come on the programme and address the public's concerns. But repeated requests failed to produce a spokesman . DANDO: I think it's absolutely essential that people are given more information, so that we don't get wild panics driven by misinformation. To the extent possible, the government should be trying to give clear accurate information to the public, so that people understand what the risks are and understand what needs to be done to reduce them. WILENIUS: In the event of a major terrorist attack, Ministers would set up a crisis centre here in the Cabinet Office . But they need to do more to reassure a jittery British public that we can cope with anything the terrorists can throw at us. For in the long-term, even some experts fear the worst. WILENIUS: Before September the eleventh I felt it was, bio-terrorism causing mass casualties was a very low risk. In part because of the technical difficulties but more because I felt there was a moral restraint which would prevent, would prevent terrorists from doing this kind of thing. It was difficult to see any political reason why anyone would want to kill large numbers of people. What September the Eleventh did was remove that assumption. So we're now down the technical restraints against mass casualty bio-terrorism. WILENIUS: Images like these have heightened the public's concern. But one of the leading experts on weapons of mass destruction has an even greater worry: that terrorists could one day get their hands on the ultimate weapon. BUTLER: My biggest fear is nuclear weapons. There are far too many nuclear weapons in the world and as long as they are there it is inevitable and this is dangerous right, it's a prediction but I'm here to make it with you on the BBC, it is inevitable that one day a terrorist group will get hold of nuclear weapons or weapon and use it, and I think that's the greatest danger we face. WILENIUS: There's little doubt that there's a clear and present danger of further attacks on innocent civilians. But the exact scale of that threat is still unknown. Experts agree there are considerable technical difficulties which terrorists would need to overcome, before they could use such apocalyptic weapons against the West. The public will be hoping they don't overcome those difficulties, before they're finally hunted down . HUMPHRYS: Paul Wilenius reporting there. JOHN HUMPHRYS: John Reid, clearly a lot of people are very worried indeed, should they be? JOHN REID: Well I think it's worth repeating the health warning you gave at the beginning of that film John is that there is no specific threat according to the intelligence and evidence we have against this country, but obviously any responsible government takes the situation very seriously and I believe that we are vigilant and we are well prepared in terms of our civil contingency planning. HUMPHRYS: The question is whether we're well enough prepared isn't it, and there is the concern that we have put ourselves in the front line for perfectly good reasons, and that's been explained that the long-term aim is to defeat terrorism and who could argue with that, but the short-term risks are great. And we heard Mr. Butler there saying it is inevitable that we will face some sort of terrible attack. REID: Yes, well I think he also said it's inevitable that terrorists would get nuclear weapons. I don't believe in inevitabilities, I think that those who say that certain course of actions will inevitably occur make a miscalculation. But is there a general threat, of course there is. We saw what happened on the eleventh of September, we know that we are Allies in the coalition, we know that we are involved in fighting terrorism, and all of this illustrates the necessity to defeat terrorism incidentally. But if you asked me what the general approach has to be, it is surely to balance the reassurance that we need to give to the public that we are vigilant and well prepared whilst at the same time avoiding the panic that would come unnecessarily if we flooded everyone with immense minutia of detail on every conceivable threat that could possibly arise, and I think on these matters the media obviously has a role to play as well. So we have always had civil contingency planning against potential chemical and biological terrorist attacks, even the last major tome was done on that in March of last year, obviously we've updated that after the eleventh of September. On the eleventh of October, I think it was, we wrote out to all the relevant authorities, we're talking here about Directors of Public Health, we're talking about Local Authorities and so on, with our latest plans in certain areas. We are in touch obviously with plans for people like the London Underground, the Channel Tunnel and we also do publish for the public details, for instance, in the case of Anthrax, because of what's going on at present with the hoax calls that are going on, and the actual calls in the United States, so there is a range of measures that we do, but we also have to, as I said, to get this balance between being prepared, having the planning and informing the appropriate authorities and on the other hand, avoiding unnecessary panic, because as you said in the programme as well, in the film earlier, panic is as large an element, the fear of all this is as large an element of the weapon of terrorism as the actuality. HUMPHRYS: And the trouble is that fear grows in a vacuum, doesn't it, and many people, as our poll showed, many people feel they're simply, in spite of what you've just said, there simply is not enough information out there. We weren't for instance able to talk to the Metropolitan Police. Okay, they might say, well, operational details. Don't want to ask about that. What we want though, is we want more information, and people feel we're not getting enough of it. REID: Well, if that is a true feeling, then I can reassure them that the degrees of information that's being supplied is actually quite fulsome. As I said, we have, from the top, I sit on the Civil Contingencies Committee, sometimes called part of the Cobra Unit which sits on the leadership, brings together all the emergency services, the Police, the Security Forces, leading Ministers, we compile and analyse and correspond with Americans and others and with their own authorities on what sort of measures we would have to take. We give that information out to local authorities, to public authorities, to civil contingency planners local, to directors of health. If people want specific information on say, anthrax, that has already been published by the Home Office, it's also available incidentally on the Home Office web-site. Last week we sent information to GP's, if people feel that in any way they have been in a position, for instance, with the recent spate of warnings, in contact with anthrax, the message is actually very simple, immediately get in touch with emergency services and your GP because the information has been passed out to them. HUMPHRYS: But tell me why you couldn't do this. You might say this is a panic measure. Many people would say it would be very sensible to send out a leaflet, stick a leaflet through everybody's door, saying look, we don't want to panic you, but these are the threats. This is our assessment of those threats and given that x, y or z might happen, here is what you ought to do in those circumstances. Wouldn't that be sensible? REID: Let's ask whether it would be sensible John. Let's say, we take your programme. In eight minutes you've managed to describe a range of threats from nuclear attack, through pneumonic plague, through bubonic plague, anthrax, bombing, we know those threats which could be levelled against the Channel Tunnel, the London Underground, we could have planes flying into buildings - I mean the idea that we should inundate people with sufficient information to enable them to cope with every conceivable threat I think is one that in the balance is more likely to cause panic and fear than it is to elicit ....... Information. HUMPHRYS: Ah but you're not, that's not a fair comparison, is it, because, as you said to me earlier in the programme, you don't think it's at all likely that they will get hold of nuclear weapons. So you dismiss that... REID: ...well let's take anthrax then John... HUMPHRYS: ...fine, okay, but if we were to take... REID: ...should we make information available in what people should do in the case of an anthrax attack? Yes we should. Is it available? Yes it is. HUMPHRYS: Well when you say available, I mean, yes you can go to your doctor, but we don't want to trouble our doctors with things like that... REID:, no, it's also available, it's available in a range of ways through the Home Office, including, for those who have it, their web-site. HUMPHRYS: ...for those who have it... REID: ...not everyone has it. Then they can get the web-site in leaflet form. HUMPHRYS: Well, can they? REID: ...but what you're suggesting is, I think, going a bit too far in the balance, which is to put through everyone's door immediately, every time there is a threat or a hoax threat, or a suspicion of a threat... HUMPHRYS: I wasn't saying that... REID: Well, I mean you would have to do it to meet the question that you ask me. What I am saying is, that we are vigilant, that we are well prepared, that we are informing local contingency planners, that we are informing doctors, that we are giving the information out to the emergency services and that we are making it available in specific cases, where there have been the actuality of threat, but we think the threat is higher for instance on anthrax. The second thing we're doing I think which is worth mentioning... HUMPHRYS: do, sorry can I just stop you there for one second. You think the threat is higher for anthrax. Now that, I may be mistaken, but that's the first time I've heard a minister say that, that you think there is a higher threat from anthrax. REID: Well I'm basing that on the fact that there already been anthrax attacks in the United States. HUMPHRYS: Fine. REID: So it makes sense, I mean, if you ask me, should we put through people's door what they should do in the event of a nuclear attack by terrorists, or an anthrax attack by terrorists, presumably you'd think there would be a higher requirement to publish information on anthrax, which is why, which is why John if you'll let me finish, we have it published. We have it published through the Home Office. However, what it also means, that, that those people when it relates to a slightly different but important issue, that those people who are causing unnecessary threats and unnecessary panics, for instance the hoax... HUMPHRYS: years thing, yes. REID: ...they have to be stopped as well because they are causing panic, misery, fear, wasting thousands of hours of policemen's time, and also taking up the emergency services. HUMPHRYS: Yeah, I'm sure everybody would agree with that, but you mentioned preparation there. Forty per cent of the people we polled were not at all sure that we are sufficiently prepared. Are we? REID: Well I believe that we are both vigilant and well prepared. You know these are a matter of judgement, but I can assure you that an enormous amount of effort has gone in - before incidentally - the Eleventh of September, because as I said, the basic analysis and defensive mechanisms against biological and chemical warfare through terrorism were issued in March Two Thousand, which is some time ago. But obviously after what we saw on the Eleventh of September we have updated that, and indeed we issued further guidance a month later on the Eleventh of October to the relevant authorities, and only last week we issued on specific threats, for instance anthrax, we issued further information to the medical profession, to GPs, but of course, of course we will continue to update it, of course there's a lot going on continually, and of course we're in contact with experts outside of the United Kingdom. For instance, we're in almost constant contact with the appropriate authorities in the United States and with other allies, so yes, people are right to expect us to be vigilant and to be well prepared and we will do that to the best of our ability, and as regards one of your contributors who said, well, look we may need more money for this - if more money is necessary for that then we'll find the resources. HUMPHRYS: You will, Okay, I was going to ask you about that, fine, so you will find that money. Right, let me ask you.... REID: This is the protection of our citizens and the first and primary duty of government is to protect its citizens, this is why we're engaged in the war against terrorism, that's the root cause of that threat. HUMPHRYS: So therefore we ought to be able to assume didn't we, that there will be enough stocks to deal with any potential biological attack. So let's take for instance smallpox. Now, the government's position on this when asked by the media are there enough doses, is to say: we're not going to say because that would help terrorism. Well, that's a bit odd isn't it because it would help them only if we knew there were not enough doses and we have to assume if the minister won't answer the question that maybe there aren't enough doses. REID: Well John we are on over a range of potential threats that we discussed in the programme, and we can run through them all in detail again, but many of them are biological, we believe that we are well prepared and we believe that we've been vigilant. However, what we're not going to do is to go down the line of giving out details of batches and volumes of specific antidotes or specific remedies or specific inoculations, we're not going to say where they are, we're not going to .... Because that information is actually valuable to terrorists. If we were to give a list of on one particular thing, anthrax, or smallpox, or pneumonic plague or anything else, if we were to tell you exactly what was in stock as regards that, that is a prime indicator to the terrorists of where we are well prepared, and perhaps where we are less well prepared than in other instances. HUMPHRYS: Right so you're saying that we may not be well prepared in some cases? REID: No, what I'm saying John is that I'm sure that your viewers will understand exactly why we're not going to say how many we have, where they are situated, how we're developing them, how we've been acquiring them, how long they will last, how often we're updating them, because to give that sort of information out is obviously of assistance to potential terrorists, and that is I think what Alan Milburn has been saying, but he's qualified it by saying that we believe that we are well prepared for the range and the eventuality of potential threats against us, and we also believe that we're putting out sufficient information to allow people in this country to be reassured without causing panic or fear. HUMPHRYS: Right, to be absolutely clear. I was certainly not asking you where they are, that would be a daft thing to do as you say. Northern Ireland - because of course you're Northern Ireland's secretary. Has September the Eleventh and everything that's happened since then changed the IRA's attitude towards decommissioning, to the extent that we might expect decommissioning to happen soon, and I mean perhaps within the next few weeks? REID: I certainly hope it has changed people's attitudes. I think there are people within the Republican movement who have always believed that they should go down an exclusively democratic path. When I say always I mean in the past few years. There may have been others who were convinced that this wasn't necessarily true that somehow they could go back to the bomb and the bullet and Semtex and blowing up Canary Wharf. If they believe that after September the Eleventh, then I think they're living in a totally unreal world. Now, as far as the general question is concerned, everyone knows what we've go to do. It is now time critical in Northern Ireland. There is very little time left, and we have to see the question of arms resolved, and we also want to see the long-term stability of the institutions. If we could get the question of arms resolved, the putting of arms beyond use in the critical time that we have left, then I believe we can see a virtuous circle created, David Trimble has already said that his ministers would go back into government. We have already said as a government that we want to see our adoption in the military presence in Northern Ireland, we want to carry forward reform of policing, we want to do the same in criminal justice, but we need that indispensable part of the Belfast Agreement, the Good Friday Agreement,. and that is arms put beyond use. HUMPHRYS: John Reid, thank you very much indeed for joining us today. REID: Thank you John. HUMPHRYS: You can argue that the real victims in this war against terrorism are the poorest and the weakest people in Afghanistan, those millions who were suffering even before the attacks and who face a very bleak winter indeed. We've heard different versions from different agencies of their plight so Peter Snow looks now at what's happening to them, Peter. PETER SNOW: And to discuss the refugee and relief crisis, I'm joined by Justin Forsyth of Oxfam. Now what no one doubts is that there is here the potential for a humanitarian disaster. As in the war over Kosovo, but to a far greater extent, we're faced with the prospect of what could be a catastrophe. Up to seven million people could be at risk this winter. There are hundreds of thousands who've fled to refugee camps along the Northern borders of Afghanistan and of course, most of them, the vast mass of the refugees, here along the border with Pakistan, just inside Pakistan. But the really severe problem is the plight of people inside Afghanistan. Some displaced by fear of the fighting and the bombing, others like the Hazaras up here in their mountain villages to the West of Kabul, in the Hindu Kush mountains cut off completely and largely dependent on relief aid supplies by the agencies. Now the aid workers say the bombing is now making delivery almost impossible and in only a month's time the winter will be upon them and snow will effectively prevent supplies reaching them at all. Furthermore the Taliban were reported three days ago to have seized the agencies' supply depots in Kandahar and Kabul up here. But it's not clear yet whether supplies there have been looted, and one agency tells us the Taliban have actually handed back the depot in Kabul - with the supplies intact. The aid agencies say they need to move no less than fifty two thousand tons of aid from their dumps here in Pakistan, down opposite Kabul there, and here opposite Kandahar, into Afghanistan for distribution in the next month. And that's up to fifteen hundred tons a day. But the bombing, they say, and obstruction by the Taliban makes this impossible. One convoy for example left here in Pakistan and went off towards Kabul Tuesday last week with thirteen hundred tons but hasn't yet reported reaching its destination. So what is to be done? Justin, have you yet heard what's happened to that convoy? JUSTIN FORSYTH: We haven't heard yet what's happened to this United Nations convoy, but what we do know is that we need convoys like that every day. We need fifteen hundred tons of food, maybe even up to seventeen hundred tons a day going into Afghanistan. That convoy might have reached its destination, what we're hearing though, is that most food isn't getting to where we are working, which is in the very rural areas of Afghanistan, we're working in that central region that you talk about, and we have no food at all, and we're responsible for feeding one-hundred-thousand people just in that area along. SNOW: Now do you recognise you're very unlikely to get a pause on the bombing and that you're going to have to cope with the bombing continuing when you try and do this. FORSYTH: Well we would like a pause in the bombing. We think it would actually help us to get food to people in need. And it is getting very desperate in Afghanistan. But what we're saying, if we don't get a pause, if we want commitments from all sides, including the Taliban, but also the Northern Alliance to do everything possible to allow us to deliver aid. What we're hearing in these very remote areas is that people are beginning to eat roots and grass, they've run out of food, and we're in a race against time. Winter will come in a few weeks and then it will be impossible to get to them. People think of Afghanistan as a hot country. In the middle of winter, the oil, the acid in your motor car freezes, it's that cold. SNOW: Okay Justin Forsyth, thank you very much indeed. John? HUMPHRYS: Thanks very much Peter. Osama bin Laden has said that attacks against America are justified because of the way the Americans behave in the Middle East. It's true that there are deep-seated grievances on the part of the Arab world, many of them springing from American support for Israel. Even if the causes of those grievances were to be removed, there's no guarantee that it would put an end to the sort of terror practiced by Al-Qaeda. And as Terry Dignan reports, it's a lot easier to define the problems than to find solutions. TERRY DIGNAN: Osama Bin Laden - terrorist and propagandist, a man who employs both violence and the media to further his cause. Using television appearances, he and his associates exploit the grievances of the Arab and Muslim worlds. To the dismay of governments in the West, and the Middle East, from his hideout in Afghanistan his message strikes a chord. ABDUL BARI ATWAN: The messages of Osama Bin Laden which he passed through satellite channels start to actually make its effect on the people. We noticed that certain parts of the Middle East, especially in the Gulf, and Saudi Arabia welcome these messages and support Osama Bin Laden. DIGNAN: Many of those who have tuned in to bin Laden's propaganda sympathise with his description of Arab and Muslim grievances. Tackle these grievances, they say, and you remove the root causes of the terrorism aimed at the United States. But just how much room for manouvre is there on issues like Palestine and Iraq? And even if the West adopted a new approach to the Middle East, would it be enough for the likes of bin Laden? IMAM HAMZA YUSEF: All of the Muslims that I know, none of them in any way were pleased with what happened with September 11th. I think they were devastated by it, but I think unfortunately in the Muslim world there are a great deal of people who feel, one, it's come uppance time, it's chickens coming home to roost. JAMES RUBIN: Certainly there are American foreign policies that are not popular in the Arab world and the Muslim world, in Europe or in Asia, and that's a reality that American politicians and leaders have to deal with on almost every subject. But none of that should be linked to the mass murder of innocent civilians. DIGNAN: On Thursday Israeli viewers watched the funeral of their assassinated tourism minister. The next morning the TV crews were in the West Bank to record Israel's response to the killing. Bin Laden now shrewdly portrays himself as the Palestinians' friend, using their cause to increase his support. HANAN ASHRAWI: One way of resolving, one way of ending this, these fertile grounds for anger, for hostility, for distrust and for extremism would be to solve the Palestinian question equitably and legally and justly in order to prevent it's exploitation, in order to deal with the cause of, of disaffection and discontent. And to give the US and the West perhaps a means of rectification instead of continuing this spiral that would feed further extremism. ATWAN: We have to solve that, and the Israeli should understand that otherwise, you know, the next generation of terrorism will use more deadly weapons, maybe anthrax, maybe the VX gas nerve gas, maybe nuclear small devices, who knows. DIGNAN; The camera does not lie - this is a vicious conflict. And maybe an unequal one because Israel's biggest backer is a superpower. But with America now at war, won't the Bush administration in Washington feel freer to pressurize Israel's Prime Minister? ASHWARI: Well it hasn't put sufficient pressure on Israel, number one, because Sharon himself said it, he said well we control the pro-Israeli lobby or the Jewish lobby controls Washington, so why should we listen? And it's about time I think that Sharon understands that this is no longer the case, that the Congress is not willing to confront the Administration right now. RUBIN: American administrations can and should work very hard on the peace process. They can and should try to acknowledge that there is resentment in the Arab world towards American support for Israel. But there is a limit to what we can do and there, and there needs to be an understanding in the Arab world that we have tried and we have worked on it. And the most recent failure, in my opinion, was more the result of the Palestinians being unwilling to deal with a remarkable offer from the Israelis. DIGNAN: In an age of global broadcasting, images of human suffering in Iraq have provided bin Laden with a powerful propaganda weapon. The Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, claims his people are suffering because of trade sanctions. Britain and America fear removing the sanctions would enable Saddam to import materials for weapons of mass destruction. Yet many Muslims believe the policy is inhumane. ATWAN: The Arabs don't have sympathy towards Saddam Hussein. They have sympathy towards a fellow Arab country, to Iraqi people which are Muslim and Christian people. They can see, you know, this country under the sanction for the last ten years. A million Iraqi were killed because of this sanction. If you left the situation as it is now and the country is really under this sanction, killing sanction you know, in the end you know, they will follow the example of Osama Bin Laden and create, make the country a safe haven for terrorists for extremists. DIGNAN: Even if these scenes of adulation are stage managed for primetime TV, many in the Middle East blame the West and not Saddam Hussein for the Iraqis' predicament. Removing sanctions, though, could pose great risks. RUBIN: Does the World really want Saddam Hussein to have thousands and thousands and thousands of weapons of mass destruction like anthrax, like smallpox? And how is the best way to get rid of that? Sanctions have been a way to do that, it's obviously got costs, but the real starvation in Iraq to the extent it exists is the fault of the regime which is spending its money, the oil reserves that they have and that they can sell, on luxuries for their leaders rather than food for their people. DIGNAN: Just over ten years ago Muslim television audiences saw thousands of American troops arrive on the soil of Saudi Arabia ahead of the war to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation. Many American troops are still based in the Arabian peninsular such is the uncertainty about the region's security. Bin Laden's condemnation of their presence has touched a raw nerve. ATWAN: It is very very sensitive issue, because Saudi Arabia host the most holiest shrine on the Arab and Muslim creeds so this our religion doesn't allow foreign troops to be in that part of the world. Osama Bin Laden used these troops as an excuse to mobilise people behind him and to launch attacks against his government Saudi Arabia and also against these troops, so it is a very sensitive issue, from the Islamic point of view. DIGNAN: In 1991 these pictures of Kuwait's burning oilfields were beamed around the world. Some Western analysts believe Saddam Hussein is still a threat to Gulf oil producers - including Saudi Arabia. American troops are there to keep him out. RUBIN: Americans don't have any desire to send their troops out in to the Saudi desert and live there all year long. We were invited in, we were asked in and I think the American policy-makers would be pleased to pull our troops out if the threat went away. DIGNAN: The state-run broadcasting stations of Arab and Muslim countries echo many of bin Laden's complaints about the West. Yet his ambitions for the Islamic world are said to threaten not just the West but the very existence of the governments of the Middle East. So is there any guarantee that addressing Arab and Muslim grievances will end the terrorism? ATWAN: As long as, you know, the American actually preferring to deal with a rotten, corrupt dictatorship in the Middle East and ignore the Arab public opinion and Muslim public opinion, this will create the suitable climate or the ideal climate for people like Bin Laden to exploit the frustration of people and to pursue their attacks against western civilisation. NEIL PARTRICK: Were he and his ability to wreak terrorist havoc to be successful then one could imagine that there will be a variety of other challenges within these Gulf countries, not necessarily Bin Laden and his network, who would challenge the stability of those regimes and no doubt replace them with ones rather less amenable to our security interest, and considerably rather more offensive in terms of human rights. DIGNAN: These pictures from Al Jazeera television show Bin Laden and his associates in Afghanistan. Overthrowing Middle East governments may only be a first step to creating a world divided between Muslims and everyone else. Terrorist groups like Bin Laden's Al-Qaeda may not be satisfied until this vision becomes a reality. PARTRICK: He does make clear and many of the groups which are believed to be part of his broad network say that they wish to establish an Uma, an Islamic community, a form of restored Halifate, a government that is seen to be adhering fully to Islamic principles, that rules according to the Sharia will unite all the Muslim peoples conceivable wherever they are in the world. RUBIN: He would like to see all of the Arab and Muslim world live like they live in the Taliban's Afghanistan - a kind of Stone Age Caliphate where there's no freedom, no rights and no future. Bin Laden and this type of Bin Laden ideology exists in Islam right now, it needs to be stamped out, it needs to be confronted by the leaders of the Islamic communities where these people come from. DIGNAN: Indeed, in Pakistan, the government has allowed the Taliban to recruit in front of the television cameras. But some Muslims are optimistic that should the West tackle Islamic resentment it might slow the flow of volunteers to Bin Laden's cause. Although it's unlikely to affect those who've already pledged themselves to terrorism. YUSEF: These people I feel that have already committed, they've gone over to this extremist side, I don't think we're gonna win them over. I don't think that they're gonna go away but I think if we genuinely address the grievances - not in some Machiavellian lip-service type of address, but really genuinely try to examine the situations, talk about them on both sides and do something about the present conditions, I think that we will prevent further recruiting of these, into these type of groups. DIGNAN: Bin Laden has embraced broadcast technology despite his dislike of the modern world. His message is that Muslim grievances justify mass murder. Tracking him down may prove easier than removing the resentment he relies on to further his cause. HUMPHRYS: Terry Dignan reporting there. JOHN HUMPHRYS: Well clearly all that raises serious questions for Britain's foreign policy, Menzies Campbell is the Foreign Affairs Spokesman for the Liberal Democrats and he's in our Edinburgh studio. Mr Campbell, however deeply Muslims feel their grievances we can't give them what we want can we because it would cut against our own interests and our own policies, I mean, simply taking the Palestinian/Israeli question, we cannot give them what they want. MENZIES CAMPBELL: Well I'm not sure about that because the Prime Minister after all, having seen Yasser Arafat this week talked about the need for the Palestinians to have justice and land and talked about the need for them to have a viable state and there is now a recognition, I think, in the United States for the first time the present administration has actually articulated a similar aspiration. I think it is possible to achieve that but it will need a very substantial degree of compromise on both sides, which we have not so far seen. HUMPHRYS: And we're certain.... CAMPBELL: I beg your pardon. HUMPHRYS: No I beg your pardon, do finish. CAMPBELL: Yes, I was going to say I suspect it is only the United States, perhaps with some assistance from the United Kingdom, that's in a position to exercise that pressure on both sides. HUMPHRYS: I was going to say the chance of compromise has disappeared hasn't it, after the murder of Al.....Mr Ze'evi, the Tourism Minister, Yasser Arafat has been told by the Israelis that unless he hands him over, that's it, they are not going to deal with him anymore, they are going to cut him off at the knees. CAMPBELL: Well that wouldn't make very sense, Shimon Peres the Foreign Minister and the Israeli Government said only a fortnight ago that if you were going to do any kind of deal with the Palestinians, then you had to do it through Yasser Arafat. Part of the problem is that Mr Arafat is nominally the leader of the Palestinians, but his own position is not all that strong for a variety of reasons, that's why, for example, it was the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine that carried out the assassination of the Tourism Minister, because they don't want to see any kind of accommodation between Israel and the Palestinians. HUMPHRYS: So it would kill the peace process if the Israelis were to follow up that threat. CAMPBELL: Well it most certainly would and one of the things the Prime Minister said, which struck a chord with me and I hope with many others in the course of the last week or so, was to say generations, far too many generations of young people on both sides have grown up with this threat hanging over them. If succeeding generations are to have any hope of a peaceful existence then a serious effort has got to be made to try and reach some resolution. There is one problem though which is worth pointing out and that's this there's, what I sometimes call the crisis of expectation, we were here after all rather similarly at the time of the Gulf War with President Bush's father and, although there was no linkage and great efforts were made to say there was no linkage, there was a tacit understanding that as soon as Saddam Hussein had been expelled from Kuwait, then serious efforts would be made in the Middle East and there were some efforts. There was the Madrid Conference and then the Oslo Peace Agreement but the problem is, that after the Oslo Peace Agreement, most Palestinians are very much worse off than they were before and if we talk about doing something about this, and then don't deliver, then, of course, the position will be very much worse in the future than it was before. HUMPHRYS: Indeed, and that's one problem, the other is Iraq, they want a more lenient approach, the Arab world wants a more lenient approach towards Iraq, the reality is we may well take a much more stern approach towards Iraq, we may indeed attack them again for all the reasons that we are aware of, so that is another respect in which we cannot give the Arabs what they want. CAMPBELL: Well I was among those who was rather critical of some loose talk about extending the military action to Iraq, I think if there was any question of that and there is some suggestion in the American Administration, there are still those who believe it is necessary, if there was any question of that without any credible evidence, then I think it would be a very substantial mistake, because, as one of your contributors pointed out a little earlier, there's not much sympathy for Saddam Hussein but there's huge sympathy for the Iraqi people, because of course it is they who have faced the brunt of the effect of the sanctions. Now to be fair to the British Government, along with the Dutch, they put together United Nations Security Council Resolution 12 04, which said that the non-military sanctions could be lifted, after, or suspended, after a period of ninety days, if Saddam Hussein would allow the return of the inspectorate. And that was a difficult resolution to achieve, but it was achieved. The problem is that Saddam Hussein simply refuses to co-operate because from his point of view, the more he can maintain the fiction that it is the sanctions and the sanctions alone which are causing the trouble to his people, then the stronger his position is. HUMPHRYS: Just a final yes or no answer, no bombing pause against Afghanistan? Yes or no, if you would. CAMPBELL: I'm afraid not, I understand those who call for it, but the best thing we can do is to press on with the campaign, at the same time making a maximum humanitarian effort. HUMPHRYS: Ming Campbell, thank you very much indeed. HUMPHRYS: And that's it for this week, you can find this programme and lots else on the 'On the Record' web-site, if you're on the Internet. Until next week, good-bye. 23 FoLdEd
NB. This transcript was typed from a transcription unit recording and not copied from an original script. Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.