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JOHN HUMPHRYS: Good afternoon. It's
been a bad week for the United States in Afghanistan, we'll be looking
at that and we'll be looking at the growing debate inside the Labour Party
on the American war aims. I'll be asking our ambassador to the United
Nations if the United Nations themselves shouldn't be leading the fight
against terrorism. And we'll be looking at the latest military and diplomatic
developments. That's after the news read by Peter Sissons.
HUMPHRYS: Thank you Peter. The big
news of the past week on the military front here has been the announcement
that British soldiers are being deployed to fight alongside the Americans
in Afghanistan. Or perhaps not so big news ... because there will be fewer
going than we'd been led to expect... only a couple of hundred marines.
Some say it's scarcely more than a gesture, a morale-booster for the Americans.
They need that after this past week. Criticism of the war - though still
muted - is growing and there appears to be little to show for the bombing
that's been going on now for three weeks. Here's Peter Snow with his analysis,
PETER SNOW: And I'm joined, as before,
by Air Marshal Sir Tim Garden to analyse the situation. It's not
been a good week for the alliance against terrorism. There's no sign at
all, visible anyway, that the Taliban have been damaged by it so far, indeed
they've scored one or two notable successes and Britain's Defence Chief
who warned two weeks ago that the war could last till next summer is now
talking of it lasting three or four years. Well Britain has made a very
cautious start to the commitment of ground troops.
Of the twenty-thousand
troops now ending an exercise in Oman, only two hundred, as John said,
Royal Marines will stay on in the area backed by four thousand in the Navy
and Air Force. They'll be based afloat centred on an aircraft carrier
and three war ships and three submarines here in the Arabian Sea. The
other four hundred Marines of 40 Commando will be at home on standby.
Now the Marines' task
- as well as the SAS who are sure to be there as well - will be, we're
told, to stage "precise surgical strikes" in Afghanistan, although we're
also told operations may extend to several weeks at a time. But even
that will be a significant step up in the level of British involvement.
So far that's amounted to just two cruise missiles fired into Afghanistan
from those submarines, in-flight refuelling of American Naval strike aircraft
and reconnaissance flights over Afghanistan by RAF Canberras.
Now Air Marshal, when do you
think we can expect to see British troops on the ground in Afghanistan?
AIR MARSHAL SIR TIM GARDEN: I don't think we can predict. I mean
the reasons why the numbers are only two hundred is so that they can be
there for an indefinite period and we can have troops going out to relieve
them. What is needed is intelligence and the intelligence is the most important
thing so that they can do a quick in and out search and destroy mission
in order to take advantage of intelligence and that's what they are good
at. They are also well trained in mountain operations in the winter.
SNOW: Two hundred troops is an
extraordinarily small amount if you're thinking of going into this huge
country - with what forty thousand Taliban or something.
GARDEN: Well they are not doing
it alone, the Americans also have special forces and their Marine...
SNOW: But what kind of contribution
is two hundred troops?
GARDEN: It's a very significant
one because of their expertise and their ability to go and do these search
and destroy missions and the fact that they can be sustained now indefinitely.
SNOW: What are we to make of Admiral
Boyce and his only a few months of the war..only two weeks ago he said
and now he's talking about three or four years, isn't there some kind of
jitters inside the Ministry of Defence?
GARDEN: I think it's a reflection
of the uncertainties of war and how long a campaign will go on. As we
saw in Kosovo we had no idea when it would finally end. It might happen
quite quickly, it may take through the winter and it may be a long haul.
So he's merely reflecting the fact that we have got to prepare ourselves
and we've got to have contingency plans that allow us for the long haul
but we hope we don't need the long haul.
SNOW: How soon do you think we
are going to find..I mean how important do you think it is that we find
soon, real land action inside Afghanistan. Because the impression at the
moment after three weeks is one that the British and the Americans, indeed
the whole coalition is rather on the back foot isn't it?
GARDEN: I think we need patience.
There is no point putting troops in if you haven't got the intelligence
for what they have to do. So having got a situation now where you can listen
to everything that is going on in Afghanistan, you can take the photographs,
you can see what's going on, then you take the intelligence opportunity
when it arises and that maybe tomorrow, it maybe next week, it may be next
SNOW: Okay, what's happened this
week on the ground in Afghanistan? Well the bombing has if anything intensified
over Afghanistan, the American strikes on Afghanistan. Friday night's raid
on Kabul was one of the fiercest so far. The Americans have published
more pictures of what they say are successful raids. Let's just look at
the picture of a barracks in Kabul which is clearly intact before the raid
and after it, as you can see here, after it clearly flattened. How much
does the loss though of buildings like that actually effect fighters like
Well now the continuing
air strikes don't show any sign of any collapse by the Taliban, as the
Americans admitted this week. "They're tough warriors" said the Pentagon.
What's more civilian casualties are mounting. This morning there are
reports of civilians being hit in Kabul by US air strikes, Yesterday the
Pentagon had to admit that another relief depot, Red Cross depot in Kabul
was hit, twice in the same night, the second time by B52s and also a hospital
Well also last night,
a stray bomb hit a Northern Alliance village near Mazar e Sharif killing
nine people there. Now one type of American bombing has provoked growing
criticism - in the Commons and elsewhere - the use of cluster bombs which
throw out up to two hundred bomblets over a wide area. And there've been
complaints that because they don't always explode - those little bomblets
- immediately there's a greater risk to civilians. One American Democrat,
Senator Jo Biden, warned that America was running the risk of looking like
a "high tech bully". But the British Government says it believes "cluster
bombs are sometimes necessary".
As for the war on the
ground - it is still essentially a fight between the Taliban. Here they
are, we've coloured them green in the west and south of the country. And
in the north and north-east of the country, inside this dotted line here
roughly, the Northern Alliance, we've coloured them yellow here, fighting
away with the support of the Russians and others. Now in these areas,
the Americans have now been giving some direct air support to the Northern
Alliance in their attacks on Kabul and on Mazar e Sharif and the Russians
appear to be rearming the Northern Alliance and improving an airfield up
here some fifty miles north of Kabul. But in spite of all this, the Taliban
have not fallen back around Kabul and actually won back a town this week
near Mazar. Moreover the Taliban succeeded in catching Abdul Haq, a respected
Mujahadeen leader who had come across the border from Pakistan into Afghanistan
to explore prospects for encouraging resistance to the Taliban and they,
the Taliban, for their part promptly executed him.
Some reports indicate
the Taliban's military arm could even extend into Pakistan. Two American
helicopters refuelling at a Pakistani airstrip this last week were shot
at. They were retrieving the helicopter that crashed earlier killing its
two American crewmen and here they were under fire at a presumably protected
airfield inside Pakistan. And there are now reports of volunteers from
Pakistan trying to cross the border into Afghanistan to reinforce the Taliban.
Now Air Marshal, this
is a pretty disturbing picture for the alliance against terrorism isn't
GARDEN: Well, we've had three
weeks of operations so far, already one of the main aims has been achieved,
that is the destruction of the training camps of the terrorist organisation.
There are two left to do which are the more difficult ones, so you get
the easy one done first. And what we've got is now patient waiting for
the right intelligence to get Bin Laden and his leadership, while at the
same time weakening the Taliban's hold by surrounding the towns that they
have, stopping their logistics and attacking their main supply routes all
SNOW: You mention these guerrilla
camps, these terrorist camps, we also looked at the destruction of these
barracks. Does it really matter destroying these buildings, do these Mujahadeen
fighters, these Taliban fighters, these guerrilla fighters, terrorist fighters
of Bin Laden, do they actually need buildings and camps now?
GARDEN: Well ten thousand have
been trained through those camps in the past and they are no longer in
Afghanistan, they are around the world and they are a threat. So what we
want to do is make sure that there isn't an infrastructure for them to
train another ten thousand. It's one tiny part of the overall campaign,
but it is important.
SNOW: What about the use of cluster
bombs, do you think they are militarily useful?
GARDEN: Well it's a difficult decision
because there are various targets set, dispersed vehicles for example,
for which the cluster bomb is the ideal military weapon to do this. It
has, as you explained, some unfortunate effects, that not all its little
munitions go off. Not only is that a hazard to the locals, it's also a
hazard when we have to go in afterwards and clear them up, we lost some..or
some people suffered some casualties when they were in Kosovo trying to
do the clear up operation.
SNOW: So you would be against them?
GARDEN: Well my personal view is
that I think the political disadvantages outweigh the military advantages.
SNOW: Okay, Air Marshal, thank
you very much.
HUMPHRYS: Thanks very much Peter.
Let's pursue some of those thoughts. Throughout this war we have been
told that the bombing is very carefully targeted and modern weapons technology
means the minimum of innocent lives will be lost. But we were told that
during the Gulf War and Kosovo too and it turned out later that many more
mistakes were made than were reported at the time. As we've just seen,
the Americans have admitted some mistakes in Afghanistan, more of them
over night. But they insist that these are rare exceptions. David Grossman
looks at how much we should believe of what we are being told.
DAVID GROSSMAN: It's rather fashionable to say
that modern war is presented like a movie - but there's at least one important
difference. No Hollywood script writer would construct such a chaotic
narrative with so many contradictory images and expect anyone to follow
Amid all these confusing
versions of events, what can we know for sure. The US and their allies
want to convince the world they're hitting hard at only military targets.
The Taliban and their supporters on the other hand want to swing international
opinion with news of huge numbers of civilian casualties. Amid this claim
and counter-claim it's very hard to make an objective assessment of the
impact and accuracy of allied bombing. But if previous conflicts, like
the Gulf and Kosovo are anything to go by, it could be that US and British
Military claims are significantly over-inflated.
LORD GILBERT: There was a chasm between
what we thought we were hitting in terms, purely of military hardware,
that's what we're talking about and what we actually did, no question about
PROFESSOR GREG PHILO: I can't predict the future but in
all previous conflicts what has happened is that we've been given a very
different story afterwards than we got at the time.
GROSSMAN: Going to the military
for an accurate assessment of what their weapons are doing is somewhat
hit and miss. In the Gulf War for example, you'll remember all those reports
of Iraqi Scuds shot out of the sky by American patriot missiles. Except,
actually they weren't. The official US congressional report on the conflict
was damning. It concluded that despite having claimed to have shot down
four times as many missiles as Iraq actually possessed, a thorough review
of the photographs cannot produce even a single confirmed kill of a Scud
PHILO: Well in the Gulf War what
we saw on television was a whole series of images of smart weapons so the
visual impression was that the bombing was incredibly accurate, very high
tech and extraordinarily, in a way it was almost safe. You could hit exactly
the target you wanted and nobody else. But what it then turned out later
on that ninety-three per cent of the bombs that had been dropped had just
been traditional iron bombs, they weren't Smart weapons at all.
GROSSMAN: In Kosovo too, initial
bomb damage assessments, particularly against military targets proved
hopelessly optimistic. During the fighting Nato claimed to have destroyed
a hundred and eighty one Serbian tanks. But after the conflict when Nato
troops were actually on the ground looking for wreckage they could only
find physical evidence of twenty-six.
LORD GILBERT: I think our intelligence
was very faulty but this is not necessarily a criticism of the weapon system,
you have to be careful about this. Milosovic was a master at the art of
the military camouflage and deception which was part of the art of war.
So he would stick up a dummy tank, you send a missile or a bomb at it
or a shell, and you hit it and you say I've destroy the tank. Well of course,
you haven't destroyed the tank, all you've destroyed is the dummy, but
you count it as one. I do recall that the amount that rolled out when we
told the Serbs they should take all their heavy equipment out, back in
to Serbia, was very little different from the amount we thought they had
there in the beginning.
GROSSMAN: Strikes on fixed targets
tend to be more accurate but are still reliant on the military's most precious
resource - Intelligence. Nato thought this building in Belgrade was a
Serbian defence procurement office - their bombs turned it into rubble
and a major international incident.
AIR VICE MARSHALL TONY MASON: A Smart bomb is only as accurate
as the information which has led to its targeting. We have the very very
obvious example in Kosovo, the tragic example where a B2 bomber from a
height of probably thirty-five thousand feet placed three not one, two
but three bombs accurately, in bad weather at night into the wing of one
building. Unfortunately it was the Chinese Embassy.
GROSSMAN: Deciding what to hit
and trying to measure your success is a human art. In Kosovo an American
pilot from three miles up thought this refugee convoy was tanks not tractors.
In straining to read the grainy and blurred battlefield images wishful
thinking is the enemy of accurate bomb damage assessment.
ANDREW GARFIELD: You can read more in to what you're
seeing than you're actually seeing. Some aspects of human nature come in
to it. For example you're wishing to see success and sometimes you see
success. Also the individual involved may misinterpret the information
that they're seeing. So it's not necessarily some sort of conspiracy.
It can be simple human error. Also, you may not wish, you may wish to present
a more successful campaign to undermine an enemy's morale than perhaps
is actually taking place.
GROSSMAN: But when does accentuating
the positive become misleading propaganda. These images released by the
Pentagon this week apparently show the mosque at Herat early warning station
undamaged. But we can't of course know what we're not being shown.
PHILO: As soon as a war starts,
everybody involved in it wants to put the best impression they can on their
own side. They want to maximise their own successes, they want to say that
there has not been any great cost to their own side and that all of the
great costs are being borne by the other side and that that means that
everybody has a vested interest in feeding in false information, or at
least spun information or bent information.
GROSSMAN: The news programmes and
channels still of course give plenty of coverage to military claims during
this conflict, however the media is now much more wary of presenting those
claims entirely unchallenged. So if, for whatever reason, the military
end up giving out wildly inaccurate assessments of their own achievements
does it actually matter? Some in the Armed Forces and government would
argue that it's their job to win a war, not keep score. And in the Gulf
and Kosovo the did just that. But critics would argue that this war against
terrorism is above all a battle for hearts and minds in which accuracy
GARFIELD: We're not talking about
a simple military campaign here. We're talking about a wider war on terrorism
that requires cohesion within the alliance. It requires support, co-operation
from the wider coalition. It requires the support of a lot of people in
the region who are highly sceptical of the campaign that we're fighting.
It's therefore important that we both demonstrate that we're being accurate,
discriminate as opposed to indiscriminate and that we're releasing as much
information as operational security can justify protecting.
GROSSMAN: Blank paper spools into
a newspaper press - politicians want to make sure that the pictures and
words that are printed on it tell a story of smarter weapons and fewer
casualties - but some analysts believe the inaccuracies of military claims
in the past have made that result much less likely today.
PHILO: At the end of the Gulf War
there was a huge amount of criticism of the government and journalists
then began to point back at news management practices from the time of
the Gulf War where they said, for example, that they'd been misled. Journalists
after that began to say well look, we are not going to be had in this way
MASON: We've seen this trend, the
increasing proportion of use of precision guided weapons, but it is only
a trend and it's been accompanied by an ever increasing public expectation
which has probably now gone too far. And instead of looking back and saying
hey, look how we've progressed from carpet bombing to something like an
eighty-five per cent chance of a precise weapon hitting its target, albeit
occasionally with casualties, I think perhaps it's easy to go too far the
wrong way and instead of noting the progress that's been made in the reduction
of casualties, there is, tends to be, astonishment that there are any casualties
GROSSMAN: Propaganda and error
is part of war and always will be but some think the military have now
learned not to get carried away with their bomb damage assessments. One
thing certainly hasn't changed since the Gulf War and Kosovo. We won't
know whether what's being said this time is accurate until after the fighting
HUMPHRYS: David Grossman reporting
JOHN HUMPHRYS: Tony Blair is worried that
we might be getting a bit faint hearted about the campaign, he wants us
to evoke traditional British resolve, because as he put it "Britain is
a very moral nation with a strong sense of what is right and wrong." To
judge by the polls, the vast majority of us do support the attacks against
Afghanistan. But in the past week or two there have been some rumblings
of unease, not least within the ranks of the Parliamentary Labour Party.
A small group of back-benchers set up an outfit called Labour Against
the Bombing. Well I'm joined on the line now by two Labour back-benchers,
one of them is the Chairman of the Defence Select Committee, Bruce George
and the other is a former minister in the Defence Department, Peter Kilfoyle.
Can I come to you first,
Mr Kilfoyle and ask you whether you think it's a good idea for Tony Blair
to present this as a moral war?
PETER KILFOYLE: Well it depends on your
perspective in terms of morality. I think that the original premise for
this war was quite rightly the apprehension and bringing to trial of Osama
Bin Laden on the grounds that there was prima facie evidence against him.
I think the problem that Tony Blair faces and we all face, is the fact
that the war aims have become somewhat blurred and we now have people like
Donald Rumsfeld, the America Defence Secretary, saying Bin Laden may never
be apprehended and it does lead many people to question what the purpose
of the exercise is.
HUMPHRYS: Given all that then,
do you think the bombing should stop?
KILFOYLE: I don't think the bombing
is very effective frankly. I can't understand what it is that we are bombing
nearly three weeks' on. I certainly can't understand why we are using things
like cluster bombs if we are to believe that many of these Taliban are
said to be moving in amongst the civilian population. It's bound to cause
indiscriminate damage to those innocent people who have been subject to
the Taliban and many other depredations down the years.
HUMPHRYS: So it should stop?
HUMPHRYS: Right, let me put that
to you Mr George. What do you think, should it stop?
BRUCE GEORGE: I don't think it should stop.
I think the United States should make far more efforts in ensuring that
non-civilians are the ones who are targeted. Peter and I know each other
very well, I don't think we are all that miles apart in our view that the
Prime Minister has made every effort to convince the British public and
the Parliamentary Labour Party and Parliament that the cause is just, that
the whole endeavour has United Nations' approval, it is a proportionate
response to an appalling, an appalling and provoked attack and I think
a very large majority of the British public and the Parliamentary Labour
Party are behind him. Those people who oppose this war and I do not point
a finger at Peter but many of those who oppose this war oppose every other
war that I can remember, going back to the Falklands and certainly every
HUMPHRYS: But the point that Mr
Kilfoyle made and the point that many other people make is and you acknowledged
it yourself that in war innocent people get killed and obviously the longer
this war goes on, the more, inevitably, the more innocent people will be
killed. There must be a point - do you believe - there should be a point
to which it stops?
GEORGE: Well I don't think it's
after three weeks. And anyone who believes that a war can be over by Christmas
or Ramadan or in a short period of time, I think has no sense of history.
I think the Prime Minister is right in saying, most people have said this
is going to be a long haul and the government have said endlessly it very
much regrets the errors that have led to civilians being killed but there
is clear evidence, clear evidence John that the Taliban are taking full
advantage and using propaganda that we could not even resort to in building
up resentment towards those mistakes and magnifying the number of people
who have been killed, or wounded. They are very shrewd at how they are
trying to persuade public opinion.
HUMPHRYS: Given all of that, how
do you respond when Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, says as he did a
couple of hours ago that this campaign might go on "indefinitely" was his
words, does that worry you?
GEORGE: Well I suspect the fight
against terrorism will go on..
HUMPHRYS: ..sure, but that's slightly
different isn't it.
GEORGE: ...years and years and
years. And this is a terrorist act and I suspect it will go on for a long
time. I hope it doesn't for everyone's sake but I really do suspect that
although there has been some success in the bombing it has not been as
successful as its supporters would have wished and we are in for the long
haul and that is a matter of great regret.
HUMPHRYS: Mr Kilfoyle, how do you
respond to that, Jack Straw saying indefinitely? - perhaps indefinitely.
KILFOYLE: I'm very confused by
some of the statements from Jack Straw because on Friday he wrote an article
in which he said you had to bomb in order to reconstruct. I think there's
a real confusion creeping in to the government in terms of its war aims
and objectives. But I do take the point made several times by previous
people on the programme here today, who said that the greater objective
is a campaign against terrorism to eradicate terrorism. And the longer
this bombing goes on in the way in which it does, and let's remember that
there's nothing tangible left to bomb, all we do is we create more terrorists,
we don't diminish the chances of terrorism.
HUMPHRYS: You, along with most
of your colleagues, the vast majority of your colleagues signed up to this
campaign, right at the very beginning, is there a sense in which you feel
perhaps you've been misled?
KILFOYLE: Can I correct you there
John because we didn't sign up to this campaign. There hasn't been a vote,
what we did is that we deferred to the privileged information which the
Prime Minister had. Personally, I made the point that it ought to be considered,
it ought to be focused and it ought to be proportionate, the response that
was taken and increasingly I find that that is not the case. I don't necessarily
point the finger at Tony Blair or our government on this because I get
increasingly the impression that we are along for the ride and decisions
are being made by people with other agendas far away in Washington.
HUMPHRYS: So what, in that sense
we are just doing what Washington tells us in effect, is what you are saying?
KILFOYLE: Well I think effectively
this is an American war. I think that our active engagements, I think you
pointed out two Tomahawk missiles so far in air refuelling. I think it's
been extremely useful in terms of the presentation of it being more than
American reaction and many would argue it's perfectly understandable given
the terrible events of September 11, that the Americans should take this
view, but I believe that the decisions are made in Washington and nowhere
HUMPHRYS: And do you believe that
makes us a greater target unnecessarily perhaps?
KILFOYLE: I think it certainly
drags us in in ways in which we might not wish to be dragged in if we considered
this a little more deeply and the ramifications throughout the rest of
the Muslim world and beyond.
HUMPHRYS: Let me put those points
to you Mr George. Do you think that this is, as Mr Kilfoyle was saying,
an effectively an American campaign and we've been kind of pushed into
it really. We've just done what they want us to do and that adds to the
risks for us, for the British people?
GEORGE: I think the risk would
be very high anyway, if we had done what a number of other countries had
done and that is, kept their heads down. The fact the Prime Minister offered
British support very very quickly, while President Bush was still flying
around the United States, brought his way into, morally, into the decision-making
process, and I believe the experience of the United Kingdom and of the
Prime Minister, is, and has been, and will be of enormous restraining influence
upon the United States and I think we do have to support those in the US
administration who are not of the hawkish hue and people like Colin Powell
and Condoleezza Rice and I believe that these are the people who Prime
Minister Blair is giving a great deal of support to.
HUMPHRYS: You say a restraining
influence, some people might say it's quite hard to see that restraint,
particularly if the Americans are using Cluster bombs.
GEORGE: Well, Cluster bombs are
designed primarily to destroy heavy armour and light vehicles and I suspect
these are not being used as extensively as is being said. One of the problems
with the campaign is that every programme and every newspaper, I'm not
blaming you John, although I read your article today, we're all amateur
Wellingtons and Clausewitzs and we don't have all the information and therefore
all one can do is to pontificate, but one hopes that the strategy that
has been devised and has been agreed is going to yield success, but one
thing that really frustrates me and I must say, angers me, is that many
of the people who are opposing the US and secondarily, the UK government's
position, are not presenting any realistic alternative and as you yourself
said this morning, well what else could one do? There had to be a response,
and I'm afraid the military strategy has not yet appeared to meet the aspirations,
but those people who say no, we shouldn't be doing this, and you've all
sorts of arguments as to why we shouldn't be doing it I'm afraid have not
come up with anything remotely that would yield the results that we want.
HUMPHRYS: Let me ask someone who
says the bombing should stop, that very question, Mr. Kilfoyle, what is
KILFOYLE: Well I think it's an
easy response, certainly I don't mean in Bruce's case, but in terms of
those in government to throw the onus on other people. The original criteria
stand that the response should have been considered, focused and proportionate.
HUMPHRYS: What though, what?
KILFOYLE: If it was considered,
let's be honest here John, the amount of time that was taken before action
was taken, was literally the amount of time it took to get the logistics
into place, including the fuel and the carriers in the Arabian Sea. The
reality of that suggests that it wasn't necessarily considered and by considered
I mean, all of the ramifications thought through. I understand how America
must have felt and Americans must have felt after September 11, in wanting
some reaction, but the stated aim was the apprehension of Osama Bin Laden
and the destruction of the Al-Qaeda network. There was not mention made
at that time of the kind of bombing which has been going on for three weeks.
There was certainly no mention as Sir Michael Boyce has said, that this
war may be prosecuting for four years and there was certainly, as far as
we were concerned in the British parliament, no mention of those clarion
calls from the Pentagon for this war to be extended into other Arab and
HUMPHRYS: Peter Kilfoyle, Bruce
George, thank you both very much indeed.
HUMPHRYS: What role can the United
Nations play in the wider war against terrorism? In the ideal world, they'd
run it. But it's not an ideal world. The United Nations has one-hundred-and-eighty-nine
members and therefore one-hundred-and-eighty-nine different approaches.
I'll be talking to Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's Ambassador to the United
Nations and Chairman of the Counter-Terrorism Committee, in a few minutes.
But first, Iain Watson looks at the latest efforts by the UN to find a
leading role for itself.
IAIN WATSON: The mood was optimistic
at the creation of a new organisation devoted to saving the world from
the scourge of war. A fresh era of co-operation was promised by the US
President Harry Truman.
US PRESIDENT HARRY TRUMAN: The Charter of the United Nations, which
you are now signing, is a solid structure upon which we can build for a
WATSON: That was 1945 and the hope
then was that conventional conflict could be consigned to history. But
the fight against fascism has given way to the fight against fanaticism
and the United Nations will now face unprecedented scrutiny in how it deals
with this more contemporary challenge.
A month ago, the UN Security
Council passed its hardest hitting anti-terrorist resolution ever. Resolution
1373 gives states just ninety days to report back on what they were doing
to weed out the terrorist networks in their midst. But behind this robust
rhetoric lies some potentially intractable problems - it's easier to condemn
terrorism, for example, than to define it. And what happens if some states
miss the deadline and fail to report on what they're doing to tackle the
It's Britain which may
have to come up with the answers, as the task of progress-chasing falls
our our very own UN Ambassador, Sir Jeremy Greenstock.
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: There is today, now, a threat from
terrorism to international peace and security.
WATSON: Sir Jeremy chairs the new
Counter Terrorism committee consisting of representatives from all the
members of the UN Security Council. His committee has to monitor the implementation
of resolution 1373, which has been given the full force of international
LORD HANNAY: The UN has condemned terrorism
on a number of occasions, it's produced a number of conventions that deal
with some of the symptoms of terrorism but it's never had such a sharply
focused and action oriented approach to terrorism before.
WATSON: But some say the Security
Council should ensure that resolution 1373 isn't just a symbolic act -
nations must face up to their responsibilities.
DANIEL TAUB: If you have terrorists operating
in your midst, out of your territory and you take no steps to stop then,
then you're not being neutral in the war against terrorism, you're actually
being an accomplice in those terrorist acts and I think the implementation
of 1373 has to reflect this.
WATSON: Resolution 1373 makes seventeen
demands on the UN's one-hundred-and-eighty-nine members; the events of
September the eleventh shocked states into agreeing sweeping anti-terrorist
measures. Member nations have been told to find and then cut off the
funding of terrorist groups 'without delay', as well as crack down on anyone
who is 'active or passive' in their support of terrorist acts, but according
to a key member of the Security Council, countries won't be so much compelled
to comply as cajoled.
AMBASSADOR SERGEY LAVROV: It's a positive inducement if you wish
for countries to join anti-terrorist conventions. It is not coercive,
it is not creating any police mechanism, it created a committee which is
to help countries to improve their legislation, to speed up the ratification
procedures and to create mechanisms at the national level which would be
part of international network of exchange of information data etc. So it's
a very positive approach, it's not accusing anybody, it's trying to be
WATSON: But there's a trickier
problem than what to do about states that willfully, or incompetently,
fail to comply with UN resolution 1373. That's because some states may
say they're doing all that's required of them in tackling terrorists. The
trouble is, in the words of the old cliche, one person's terrorist is another's
freedom fighter. And it's this problem of perception which goes to the
very core of why the UN resolution may be so difficult to implement.
WATSON: There's broad international
agreement that Osama Bin Laden is a terrorist, but some Muslim states say
those who fight directly for their homeland, such as the Palestinians,
shouldn't be classified in the same way.
AMBASSADOR AHMED ABOULGHEIT: One of the elements that, that were
really perplexing in that, in that resolution, though in general we supported
in Egypt, was that there was no definition for the word terrorism, what
do we mean by terrorism? When Palestinians would show opposition to soldiers
and uniformed personnel of the Israeli armed forces trying to fight against
them while they are occupying their own territories, that I also understand.
WATSON: Fifteen people were killed
when a Jerusalem pizza restaurant was destroyed in August by a suicide
bomber from the militant Palestinian group Hamas. The Lebanese based movement,
Hezbollah, has also used suicide bombers. If any definition of terrorism
was to exclude these groups simply because they say they are fighting for
self-determination then some say the countries which sponsor them - including
Iran -would evade their responsibilities.
TAUB: Both of them are terrorist
groups under Israeli law and we would like to see them prosecuted and every
measure taken against them to stop their funding, to stop their atrocities
being perpetrated, not just by Israel but by the entire international community.
WATSON: The United Nations has
conventions stretching back three decades condemning specific terrorist
acts, such as hijacking, but has never actually come up with a catch-all
definition of terrorism itself. The UN's committee of legal experts is
currently trying to do just that. But one senior UN official told me that
defining terrorism is quote 'a turbulent' issue - if we haven't done this
in thirty years of trying, he admitted, we are unlikely to do so now.
But some countries are
still searching hard for international agreement. The Indian government
has proposed a new convention on the suppression of terrorism, which could
become the vehicle for a definition of terrorism itself. Although discussions
are continuing, a current draft suggests any group which deliberately targets
civilians should not be able to use the high minded defence of political
motivation to excuse acts of terror.
AMBASSADOR KAMALESH SHARMA: The loss of innocent lives is a particular
fixation of the definition, the act of terrorism is conducted indiscriminately,
at random, and involves innocent people and this is what we understand
WATSON: But the United Nations
as a whole may not agree a definition of terrorism based on acts against
civilians; some nations say that attacks on the military should be seen
as terrorist in nature too .
LAVROV: When you see terrorism
you know that this is terrorism and the trick is just to find words which
would describe this. There are terrorist acts against military personnel,
for example recently a helicopter was downed in Georgia and the helicopter
was a UN helicopter with some military personnel on board and the Security
Council immediately qualified this as a terrorist act. So I wouldn't say
that attacks against military would not be considered universally as terrorist
attacks under certain conditions.
WATSON: The current Palestinian
uprising, or Intifada, is in its second year. This conflict highlights
why a definition of terrorism based on acts against civilians is so difficult.
Are stone-throwing Palestinian demonstrators killed by Israeli bullets
innocent civilians? Or what about Israeli settlers who are under attack
for occupying land which the Palestinians, and the United Nations, say
doesn't belong to them?
ABOULGHEIT: Let us take that action of
a Palestinian shooting at those settlers or colonisers in the midst of
Palestinian territory. And that settler or coloniser is carrying an M-16
rifle and he's moving all the time with his rifle trying to impose his
will on the Palestinians by building settlements inside Palestinian territory.
And they are waging war against him. In my opinion, in all humility I
feel that that is a legal struggle for the attainment of self-determination
and to stop someone from acquiring and enforcing his will on my land, on
LORD HANNAY: The point I would make is
that if they send suicide bombers into civilian areas to kill people on
buses or in shopping precincts or in restaurants or something, they are
terrorists. They prove that by their action, it's not what their intentions
are, their intentions may be capable of being expressed in the most wonderfully
convincing language, all about Palestine, statehood and so on. I'm afraid
that's irrelevant if they use these means.
WATSON: With such differing views
of what constitutes terrorism, it could be difficult to secure compliance
with resolution 1373. Some prominent Muslim states who oppose Bin Laden
would nonetheless be alienated by any heavy handed action towards Palestinian
terrorists; but a softly-softly approach would upset those countries
which will judge the Counter-Terrorism Committee by its actions and not
TAUB: Well 1373 is really only
a starting point and here I think all eyes are on the CTC, the Counter
Terrorism Committee to see how they undertake their mandate. Obviously
if they only view themselves as being some sort of post-box where states
report on what they feel was necessary to fight terrorism, that would be
tremendously disappointing. 1373 was a remarkable result of a tremendous
resolve in the international community that was sparked by the bombings
of September eleventh. I think it's very important for us to try and ensure
that that resolve is maintained and that the pressure is kept up on those
states that do fail to comply or don't comply satisfactorily with the resolution.
WATSON: The UN's Counter-Terrorism
Committee has a task of encouraging member states to crack down on terrorist
networks. But unless every states is given a clear idea of what constitutes
terrorism in the first place and faces genuine penalties for non-compliance,
then the inspirational anti-terrorist rhetoric of resolution 1373 may take
some time to be transformed into reality.
HUMPHRYS: Iain Watson reporting
JOHN HUMPHRYS: Sir Jeremy Greenstock it's
unrealistic isn't it to expect a body with one hundred and eighty nine
members to act effectively against terrorism, particularly given that some
of those countries themselves support terrorism.
SIR JEREMY GREENSTOCK: Yes, clearly we've got to get as
many people as possible on line on 17..1373. We..our job in the Counter
Terrorism Committee is to upgrade the legislation and the executive machinery
of every state in the UN who is willing but perhaps not so capable of dealing
with terrorist finance, a safe haven for terrorism and other actions against
terrorism. I've been listening to the film you were showing about the
definition and the background to 1373 but the Counter Terrorism Committee
is there not to define terrorism but to upgrade the capability of states
to deal with it when they find it.
HUMPHRYS: I take that point but
very difficult to wage war against something which is what this is about
after all, we want to kill off terrorism, very difficult to do that unless
we can define it. Let me ask you what your definition of terrorism is.
GREENSTOCK: It doesn't really matter what
my definition is but I would call it the indiscriminate use of violence,
particularly against civilians in order to make a particular political
point or to win a political argument and the General Assembly, the other
part of the United Nations from the Security Council is working on that
now. So the Security Council is in harness with the General Assembly to
deal with both sides of the question.
HUMPHRYS: Right, so on that definition
organisations such a Hamas or Hezbollah are clearly terrorist and that
means that countries like Syria and Iran that give them sucker and support
will be required to stop supporting them and must..must I emphasise bring
them to justice one way or the other.
GREENSTOCK: I think it is more likely John,
that we will home in on what is a terrorist act. I think David Hannay
was talking about this earlier in your programme. If Hamas sends in people
to kill indiscriminately then that's terrorism, then other people may have
views on what they are doing if they attack a unit of the Israeli army.
It's the terrorist act we must deal with and the indiscriminate use of
violence out of any particular military context that we have to deal with.
HUMPHRYS: And again on that basis,
quite clearly, Hamas has been guilty of terrorist acts. If you send a
suicide bomber into a pizza parlour and blow up women and children, who
are clearly innocent people non combative in every single sense of the
word, that is a terrorist action isn't it, without any doubt.
GREENSTOCK: Yes from time to time that
may be so......
HUMPHRYS: May be so....
GREENSTOCK: My committee is not going to
get into the business of judging who is a terrorist or whether something
is a terrorist act. My job is a much longer term one, to make sure that
every state is capable of suppressing terrorism as a network, as a scourge
on the world and to make sure that finance does not get through to terrorists.
HUMPHRYS: Yeah, but we've got
an enormous problem here though haven't we because if we can't define,
if we're not defining terrorism and we're saying, well all right, let's
take a particular act and look at that maybe, if you have a situation where
a particular country harbours a group of terrorists and does not regard
them as terrorists, therefore don't accept any sort of definition. I was
talking just this week to the Syrian Ambassador about that bombing of the
pizza parlour, he regarded that, not as an act of terrorism, but as something
that could be justified. Now, if we cannot even agree that something like
that obviously cannot be justified then the whole point of 1373 or anything
else the United Nations might do, is completely negated isn't it, they
have...if they are going to stop it happening, they have first to accept
that it is wrong, if they do not accept that it is wrong, clearly they
are not going to bother stop it happening.
GREENSTOCK: I think we need to get this
in proportion. What the committee is going to do is upgrade the capability
of states to deal with the massive amount of potential terrorism there
is out there. When it comes to some individual cases which are highly politically
sensitive or very contentious in a particular region, then the Security
Council as a whole will have to deal with that, or other aspects of international
law will have to deal with that. But now that...
HUMPHRYS: ...I'm sorry, I was just
going to follow up that point if I may, sorry to interrupt you there, but
what if they, the states themselves, do not want to deal with the perpetrators
of such actions?
GREENSTOCK: Then those particular cases
will become isolated from the general potential of terrorist cells to grow
and plan things like the eleventh of September. There are two different
categories of cases. The ability of something like Al-Qaeda, to grow and
plan and do something out of the blue, and the act of violence within a
particular political context, like the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, which
has to be dealt with directly by other means, and my committee is not going
to get into the business of the latter category of acts.
HUMPHRYS: So in other words, countries
like Syria and Iran, and various others on the list that the United States
produced at the beginning of this, seven countries, they don't have to
GREENSTOCK: No, that's not true. They will
have to pass laws to suppress the financing of terrorism, to deny safe
haven for terrorists. What you're talking about is the application of those
laws, and their law enforcement agencies in particular cases, and that
won't directly be for my Committee. It may come to the Security Council,
it may come to other negotiating machinery, but it won't come to my Committee.
HUMPHRYS: But you're surely not
saying, that it's fine and dandy if they pass a law, and then utterly ignore
the law. I mean they could pass a law next Thursday week and say, we don't
like terrorists and we won't help them, but then they can carry on precisely
the way they have been going for as long as they have been doing it, and
that's all right? I mean, doesn't that bring the United Nations into the
worst possible disrepute.
GREENSTOCK: No of course I'm not saying
it's fine and dandy. It's thoroughly reprehensible. But the machinery for
dealing with it will also have to take account of the very delicate political
context within which that is happening and deal with it more directly through
other Security Council action. But those cases will be isolated from the
growth of terrorist networks which can use indiscriminate violence to make
political points or to try and change the world in other areas and we are
narrowing the difficult cases down to something we'll have to deal with
HUMPHRYS: Well, deal with directly
how? I mean, if it is as you say, you acknowledge that it is reprehensible,
some people would look for a much more powerful word than that, but if
it is reprehensible, what sort of sanctions, any sanctions, are any sanctions
going to be taken against such countries, and by whom in this case?
GREENSTOCK: I don't think sanctions are
actually going to come into it from the Security Council, these cases are
HUMPHRYS: ...I mean sanctions in
the very broader sense, I mean, sorry, forgive me for not being more clear
about that, I mean sanctions in the very broader sense, I don't mean necessarily
sanctions as we understand them, but in the very broader sense, what sort
of action should be taken against such countries?
GREENSTOCK: Then the action that will have
to be taken will be in a political and sometimes a negotiating context
which will be absolutely particular to that context. We've had a lot of
violence on the West Bank and Gaza in recent days, and there was a Security
Council statement about that. But the business of stopping that violence
has to be negotiated between the Israelis and the Palestinians, probably
through the Americans and other direct negotiators who are on the ground
doing exactly that. The action under thirteen seventy-three will be much
broader, much longer term and much more geared to legislation, executive
action, the judging of performance of particular states who perhaps are
not so willing to put that legislation into action, and then coming back
to sanctions against those very few states if they are not prepared to
HUMPHRYS: So to that extent the
United Nations doesn't really, if I understand you correctly, have a role
in tackling terrorism. You talk about establishing this broad framework
which I understand, over a long period of time, and ultimately it might
help to isolate certain countries, but in the short to medium term, the
UN doesn't have a role, effectively?
GREENSTOCK: John, the UN is not a law enforcement
agency. It doesn't have armies, it doesn't have agencies to act against
terrorism. That has to be done by governments, by member states and they
act in particular circumstances. What the UN has done with thirteen-seventy-three
is to raise the whole standard of counter-terrorism action and we have
now got to make sure that governments enact that in a way which is much
more effective than before. That's the role of the UN.
HUMPHRYS: So the United Nations,
the United States, could look at those countries that failed to comply
with thirteen-seventy-three, and use the fact that they have not complied
as justification for itself, the American government taking action, military
action perhaps against them?
GREENSTOCK: No, not unless that action
is covered under the Charter, or by Security Council Resolution specifically
authorising that action. They have to be quite careful to take action within
international law, as they've done in Afghanistan under Article fifty-one
of the Charter on Self-Defence...
HUMPHRYS: ...which remains of course,
so therefore they could, sorry to rush you a little bit here, but Article
fifty-one stands clearly, so therefore they could take the America, a particular
country such as Syria's refusal to do what it ought to do under this particular
Resolution, thirteen-seventy-three, say they haven't complied, we will
take action against them using fifty-one, using Article fifty-one?
GREENSTOCK: No, because it would have to
be, I mean it's possible if the act of terrorism was about to take place
was clearly directed against the United States, that would be understandable.
But if they were trying to clean up a terrorist cell somewhere else, and
that action about to happen wasn't going to happen against the United States,
they couldn't take action without specific Security Council authorisation.
HUMPHRYS: Sir Jeremy Greenstock,
thanks very much indeed.
HUMPHRYS: We are told that pressure
is really building now on the Taliban as a result of the American action.
So what if they are on the point of collapse? Who will take over ... given
that the last thing most people want to see is a return of a government
dominated by the Northern Alliance. Let's go back now to Peter Snow for
his analysis of the diplomatic activity over the past week to find a way
of stitching together an acceptable administration for Afghanistan, Peter.
PETER SNOW: And I'm joined by Professor
Fred Halliday, who knows the area very well. It's not surprising people
are saying this could be the most difficult war for half a century. It's
hard enough to pin down and weaken the enemy on the ground in Afghanistan
and it's proving very difficult to construct a government in waiting to
take over if the Taliban can be defeated.
Now let's look at a broad-brush
map of the ethnic pattern of Afghanistan and I may say, even this, simplifies
it, it shows eight areas where one group or another predominates. The Pashtun
in the south, where the Taliban are strong, representing half of the population
of the whole country, the Pashtun. But the Northern Alliance draws its
strength from quite different ethnic groups like the Uzbeks and the Tajiks
disunity is now giving the diplomats nightmares. Focus on just two attempts
to get people round the table; up here in Tajikistan, Russia's President
Putin was having talks earlier in the week. He sat down with the Northern
Alliance leader Hemet Rasmahudin (phon) Rabbani and he agreed to give him
tanks and guns and both of them made it clear that no Taliban elements
should be included in any future government. This is also the view of Iran
over here, so we can put Iran's flag broadly speaking up there with the
Northern group there. Now down here in Pakistan, another group met last
week, mainly southern groups under Sayed Ahmed Gailani meeting there actually
in Peshawar and they made it clear they wouldn't accept the Northern Alliance
playing a dominant role in a new Afghan government at all; they back the
idea of Zahir Shah, the former King of Afghanistan playing a central role.
Now the British and Americans,
very much forming a consultation group down here, heavily consulting all
the parties, they also believe there may be a role for the King, Zahir
Shah but they insist any government must be broad based and cannot be dominated
by the Northern Alliance, or indeed by the Southerners. It'll all be down
to the United Nations' special representative to try and get some sort
of framework agreed that can win the ascent of all the parties. You can
see just how difficult it's going to be. Professor Halliday, is there way
there can be any kind of coming together of all these rival views?
PROFESSOR FRED HALLIDAY: Well at the moment the Afghan
groups are waiting to see what happens. No-one is going to put their cards
on the table until they see whether the Americans and the British are really
serious about getting rid of the Taliban. I think that accounts for the
halting noises we heard out of Peshawar last week from the Pashtun groups.
The Northern Alliance would like a share in the government, they don't
want to control it, but I think the broader issue is whether the regional
states, particularly Iran and Pakistan can agree, because at the core of
the fighting of the last ten years, there's been a rivalry between Iran
and Pakistan and Pakistan set up the Taliban in part to attack and get
rid of Iran's friends. Iran's friends are the Northern Alliance. Now what
Iran is now saying to the Northern Alliance, do what you're told, they
basically said to the Northern Alliance, do what the Americans tell you,
go into a coalition, the Pakistanis are saying we're going to find good
Taliban, or good Pashtuns, the Iranians say they don't quite believe them,
but let them try, so if these two outside powers, Iran and Pakistan can
collaborate at a time when there's an opening in Kabul, there's some chance
and I would say that I've got the highest regard for the UN negotiator,
Mr Brahimi, I've known him for thirty years, since he came here in 1971
as Ambassador of Algeria. He was involved in negotiations in the nineties,
I had him into LSE where I teach in 1999, he said we won't get any peace
in Afghanistan until the neighbours agree. Now if he's taken on the job
again, which he has, because he resigned, it means he must think the neighbours
may agree this time. That's an opportunity, I wouldn't say more than that.
SNOW: You know Afghanistan, you've
been there a number of times, what do you think is actually going on inside
the Taliban controlled area. We don't know because very few journalists
get in there. Do you think the Taliban are weakening or not.
HALLIDAY: We do know much more
about what's happening in the Taliban areas than we did, say about Iraq
during the Gulf War, because it is not a sealed place, people are on their
mobiles, people are coming backwards and forwards, we know roughly what's
happening. The Taliban are digging in, they're extremely tough, they've
received tens of thousands of volunteers from Pakistan and Arabs who've
come through Dubai in the Gulf to Islamabad and then being bused up over
the border, they're not going to give up lightly.
SNOW: How far do you think the
air-strikes and the battering of the buildings we've seen, how far do you
think that is bothering them?
HALLIDAY: Hardly at all. I think
to be honest, I think it's the phoney war. The real war will come when
people go in and try and capture airfields, or capture urban places, try
and establish a terrain that they control and it's quite clear that the
ground strategy would involve taking bits of territory and then building
up from there.
SNOW: Fred Halliday, thank you
very much. John.
HUMPHRYS: Thank you Peter. And that's
it from the War Report for this week. We'll be back at the same time next
week. If you want to find us on the internet, you can look for us on
the On the Record web site. Until then, good afternoon.