BBC On The Record - Broadcast: 28.10.01

==================================================================================== NB. THIS TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A TRANSCRIPTION UNIT RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT; BECAUSE OF THE POSSIBILITY OF MIS-HEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY, IN SOME CASES, OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS ACCURACY ==================================================================================== ON THE RECORD THE WAR REPORT RECORDED FROM TRANSMISSION: BBC ONE DATE: 28.10.01 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. NEWS 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. 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 month. 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 the Taliban? 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 in Herat. 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 it? 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 the time. 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. John. 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 it. 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 it. 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 missile. 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 is vital. 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 again. 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 at all. 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 stops. HUMPHRYS: David Grossman reporting there. 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? KILFOYLE: Yes. 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 one beyond. 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 else. 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 your alternative? 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 Muslim countries. 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 better world. 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 terrorist threat? 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 law. 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 helpful. 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 by terrorism. 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 my territory. 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 its words. 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 there. 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 comply? 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 directly. 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 too serious. 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 do it. 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 up here. Afghanistan's historic 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. 24 FoLdEd
NB. This transcript was typed from a transcription unit recording and not copied from an original script. Because of the possibility of mis-hearing and the difficulty, in some cases, of identifying individual speakers, the BBC cannot vouch for its accuracy.