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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.
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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, 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
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: ...no I wasn't saying
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: ...you 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.
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: ..seven years thing,
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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.