From The Archives: A 2008 Conversation With Barbara Walters
A conversation from the archives with Barbara Walters about her 2008 memoir "Audition," a story of family challenges, celebrity gossip and blazing a trail in TV news.
Two suicide bombings near a paramilitary training center in Pakistan killed 80. The Taliban claimed responsibility. Data from the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound revealed conflicts with others in al-Qaida. In Libya NATO waged a series of airstrikes in the capital. One of the targets was a bunker used by President Gadhafi. Syrian activists called for more anti-government protests today. Syrian forces set up tanks and roadblocks to try to thwart the demonstrators. And war criminal John Demjanjuk is convicted for his Nazi death camp role. A panel of journalists joins Diane for analysis of the week’s top international news stories.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us, I'm Diane Rehm. Suicide bombing in Pakistan, the Syrian government braces for more protests and a Nazi war criminal is convicted. Here in the studio to talk about the week's top international stories on the Friday News Roundup, Yochi Dreazen of National Journal, Elise Labott of CNN and Moises Naim, an award winning journalist. Congratulations on this, Moises.
MR. MOISES NAIMThank you.
REHMIt was in the Spanish government. Tell me about that.
NAIMIt's called an Ortega Gazette award for journalism. And it's a great honor and I'm delighted.
REHMCongratulations. Now, let's talk about the bad news in the world. And the bombing -- the first major terrorist attack since bin Laden's death with more than 80 paramilitary soldiers killed in Pakistan, Yochi.
MR. YOCHI DREAZENAnd that number is going to rise without question. Some of the footage today was absolutely horrifying. Al-Jazeera English had -- because they attempt to show much more graphic imagery than what you see on American or Western TV, they had the footage from the immediate aftermath. And it was just utter devastation. It was a suicide bomber, at least one. Now, they're saying it may have been two who wandered into a crowd of graduates, detonated their explosives in an enclosed space and pretty much wiped out an entire graduating class.
MR. YOCHI DREAZENWhat I found so interesting about this is that the target chosen for retaliation was Pakistan. I mean, here, we're looking at Pakistan and thinking, how could they not of known bin Laden was there? Who in their government sheltered him, provided him with sanctuary? And yet, the retaliation that al-Qaida's allies have chosen as their first target was the not the West. It wasn't the U.S. It wasn't in Afghanistan.
MR. YOCHI DREAZENIt was Pakistan. So there's amazing disconnect where, in Washington, the entire debate is, how can Pakistan not have known? How should we punish them? How should we restructure ties? In meantime, on the ground, they're being hit hard because of the death.
MS. ELISE LABOTTWell, the Pakistani-Taliban claim responsibility, said this is the first act of revenge for the death of bin Laden. And they chose a military target just as bin Laden was found in a military area where this military academy was. And I think there's going to be a big discussion between the U.S. and Pakistan. Right now, the U.S. is going to say to Pakistan, see, the Pakistani's Taliban is still a threat. Let's use this as an opportunity.
MS. ELISE LABOTTAlthough there are a lot of questions about the support network that Osama bin Laden had in Pakistan, we need to use this as an opportunity to move forward. The threat is still there. The Pakistani's are going to say to the United States, listen, the Pakistani-Taliban was never a threat to us before you started invading Afghanistan, before terrorists started coming across the border into Pakistan, before you started these drone strikes. These type of threats are a direct result of our alliance with you.
NAIMAnd it also fuels the reaction of the Pakistani government. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Gillani of Pakistan gave a speech to Congress, in fact, explaining that it was disingenuous for the United States to be claiming that the Pakistani government was in cahoots with al-Qaida and protecting bin Laden. He went great lengths to explain the sacrifices that Pakistani's made and the achievements in terms of dismantling some of the networks that they had working inside Pakistan.
NAIMBut all this shows how fragmented that government, that society is, the Pakistani's society. It is composed by different sects, different tribes, different political factions and different units within the government, the military and the political establishment.
REHMAnd meanwhile, Osama bin Laden's wives remain in Pakistan. Will the U.S. get access to them?
NAIMThat is part of the negotiation. That is part of the larger conversation that is going on between the United States and Pakistan. That also includes a debate about aide. As we know, the United States is a major provider of both military aide and development assistance and major funding. And that is part of the story. There is also military cooperation. We have reports that the army chief, General Kayani, has stated that he will do as much as he can, but he will not be pushed by the Americans into too much of collaboration.
LABOTTThe U.S. did have access to bin Laden's three wives that were taken by the -- detained by the Pakistani's after the U.S. left the raid over the last couple of days. There were intense negotiations between the U.S. and Pakistan. And the Pakistan's were making the U.S. sweat it out a little bit, whether they were going to give them access. They did give them access. They were described by U.S. officials as hostile to their U.S. interrogators.
LABOTTThe Pakistani intelligence service was in the presence watching the interrogations. And it doesn't seem that they had that much intelligence that they were willing to share with their U.S. interrogators. However, the U.S. did glean, and we've been hearing little drips and drabs over the last week, a lot of intelligence from this raid about bin Laden's network. Very interesting things about how the U.S. was saying, he's on the run, he's nobody.
LABOTTBin Laden was very much large and in charge directing all of the operations, in touch with his deputies, talking about targets, talking about cities, talking about killing President Obama, joint chiefs of staff, (unintelligible) Vice President Biden alone. I mean, we are learning a lot about the intelligence that those Navy Seals took from that raid.
REHMAnd a lot of it coming from the handwritten journal that bin Laden himself was keeping.
DREAZENA lot from the journal, but also a lot from emails. I mean, it's fascinating that although, in the initial aftermath, there was talk about how there was no internet access..
DREAZEN..he had his own system for sending email, which was simple, but in some ways, kind of ingenious. Where he would write up emails on his computer, save them to a flash drive, give them to a courier who would go to an internet café and send them. That courier would then download emails, put them on a flash drive and bring them back. So it's kind of like the old joke of somebody who doesn't know computers, sending email by printing it, attaching it to a rock and throwing it through someone's window.
DREAZENBin Laden was basically doing that same system. It was slow, laborious. It was the exact opposite of kind of instant communication that we're used to in the West. But it meant that it couldn't be eavesdropped on quite as easily. I think it's also worth mentioning that it so easy often to talk about grand strategy, particularly with a country as complex as Pakistan, and sometimes the kind of little human changes get a little bit lost.
DREAZENTo my mind, the fact that we're at a point now with Pakistan where we know that President Obama explicitly authorized the U.S. commandos to kill any Pakistani security forces who tried to stop the raid. We know that the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Yousaf Raza Gillani, the head of their military, Ashfaq Kayani, had both now publicly and explicitly said that if there's a future raid, they will order Pakistani troops to shoot on U.S. planes, U.S. helicopters, U.S. personnel.
DREAZENSo we're at a moment now, whether it's bluster, whether it's not bluster, where there's open discussion of killing, U.S. personnel killing Pakistani's, Pakistani personnel killing U.S. troops. That's a remarkable shift and we shouldn't lose sight of how remarkable it is.
LABOTTBut at the same time, just this morning or last night, you heard that there was a U.S. missile strike that killed some militants in North Waziristan. So -- and the evidence that these Pakistani -- these bin Laden wives were interrogated show that even as difficult as things are between the U.S. and Pakistani's, there is some cooperation..
REHMThey keep going.
LABOTT..because the Pakistanis know that they need the United States and the U.S. knows that they need the Pakistanis. And this cooperation, as flawed as it is, as uneven and messy as it is, I think both sides recognize that the relationship is important and needs to continue.
NAIMAnd that points to how, following what Elise said about the collaboration, it is unimaginable that the head of the armed forces of a country would not say what Yochi said, that General Kayani said. And that is, if a military unit from another country comes into our country, we will shoot at them. You know, because they're infringing on our sovereignties. That is what the military are there for. They cannot afford not to say that.
NAIMI can also imagine after having said that, he even getting on the phone and continuing to develop the conversation he has with his American counterparts.
REHMAnd I gather the U.S. is going to try to tighten security around the SEALs to maintain the secrecy of their identity.
DREAZENThey are -- like I said, one point on the previous discussion. It's correct that drone raids continue, but the drone raids are something that, at best, we have a wink and a nod with Pakistan. They don't go to the mat over them, but they certainly don't like them. As far as Kayani's comments, it is true that he, as a sort of head of a nationalist military, you would expect him to say that. It's also true that just this week, the head of the Somali government explicitly said the opposite.
DREAZENHe said, my government is too weak to fight the terror groups within our borders. We want the U.S. to come mount unilateral raids. Don't tell us because you can't trust us. We're not capable of doing it. We want you to do it. So there are governments around the world that do want -- would welcome, even, unilateral raid. On the issue of the security with the SEALs, they come from a very small town.
DREAZENI mean, I've been to the town. There at the base that they're housed at is a tiny, tiny base. It's very unimposing. And when you see it from the road, you're sort of -- you think, like, this is SEAL Team Six? It's a small building. It's sort of a chain link fence. The town is tiny, really, really, tiny. So when you're there and you see -- SEALs tend -- don't have the physique of Delta Force. They aren't these enormous hulking people.
DREAZENStill, if you see guys in their 30s and 40s who are thin, clearly in good shape, they're not that many people in town who aren't in some way attached to that unit. And the real concern is what's called within the military, mosaicing. Mosaicing is a phrase where you use public information to build up a database of a group. So it's not hard to imagine a person going to this little town with a digital camera, sitting outside the gates to this base, shooting digital photos and uploading them.
DREAZENFacebook has photo recognition software. So it's not a complex task to sit out there, take photos of the SEAL team members and then begin to identify them, piece by piece.
REHMNow, I -- how..
DREAZENAnd that's what they're afraid of.
REHM..how many of these SEALs are married with families?
DREAZENAn enormous percentage. I mean, SEAL Team Six is small. SEAL Team Six, in its entirety, is about 300 people. Some of them are deployed elsewhere. But the most -- the majority of them are based in this one small town because attempt to draws an older crowd than the rest of the Navy SEAL community. These are people who are not in their teens or 20s. SEAL Team Six tend to be 30s, even into their 40s.
DREAZENSo these are much more established people with families, with wives, with children.
REHMYochi Dreazen, he's National Security Correspondent for National Journal Magazine. We'll take a short break now. You can join us, 800-433-8850.
REHMAnd welcome back. Just before the break we were talking about the SEAL community, especially the group that did go in after Osama bin Laden, and security concerns about that group at this point. For those of you who just tuned in, Yochi Dreazen was giving us something of a picture of how they reside in a small town rather anonymously and yet known to that town likely to be moved at this point, Yochi.
DREAZENI think there's a very real possibility of it. I mean, there was -- within the SEAL community, both current and retired, the initial pride that it was a SEAL team unit that killed bin Laden gave way very quickly to -- almost immediately actually to real unease that it was SEAL Team Six specifically that was identified as having carried it out. There are about -- just to put this in perspective, there are a total of about 1400 people total in the SEAL community. Within SEAL Team Six, it's 300, so it's a very, very small group.
DREAZENAnd by identifying it as specifically as saying SEAL Team Six, when it's public information the town in Virginia where they're based, if you go to that town, it's very easy to figure out where their base is. There was a lot of concern that by doing this, you're opening them up to at minimum threats and intimidation, and in a worst case scenario, actual retaliation.
REHMSo why was that information released?
DREAZENIt's a great question. And Elise pointed out while we were at break that Defense Secretary Gates, who is retiring, was giving remarks this past couple days. He's doing a sort of farewell tour. And he was down at Camp Lejeune talking to Marines. And in his remarks to the Marines, talked about how the -- in the situation room the day, everyone in that room promised not to leak anything -- this was Sunday. And then, Gates said to the Marines that that promise was broken the next day.
DREAZENHe carefully didn't say by who, but what he was implying -- because the initial briefings were all carried out at the White House, by the White House, it was the White House that made clear it was SEAL Team Six. It was the White House that had to ultimately change its story, as we know, which was sort of embarrassing to put stuff out and take it back. But the information about who carried it out, that was from the White House.
LABOTTIn their desire not only to provide information about how they killed bin Laden, but, you know, a bit of self-congratulatory here, there were a lot of things in the initial days that were said that I think officials would've liked to take back. For instance, when Leon Panetta was asked about the Pakistanis, he was -- he said, well, they were either complicit or incompetent and neither one is a good place to be.
LABOTTAnd then the next day, White House and State Department officials probably were saying, no, that's not really helpful when we're trying to get the relationship with Pakistan on track. When we're trying to get information about the support network, Osama bin Laden public bashing of Pakistan, for instance, isn't helpful. So I think that there's going to be a lot of finger pointing about those initial days and what was said.
REHMAll right. We've had a wire release from AP saying that Syrian security forces opened fire on thousands of protestors today killing at least one person with a gunshot to the head as soldiers tried to head off demonstrations by occupying mosques, blocking public squares. Moises.
NAIMThis is a deadly horrible ritual that is now happening every Friday and beyond in Syria. It has been going on for two months. As surprising as the brutality of the Syrian government, is the resilience of the rebels and the protestors. These are people that go out in the streets without any protection to face tanks and to face sharp shooters and to -- and armed militias.
NAIMIt is a harrowing situation and there is a clearly determination on the part of Bashar al-Assad who many thought was a reformer and willing to change liberalized politics in Syria.
REHMHe was educated here in the States.
NAIMHe was educated in the States. His wife appeared in a Vogue spread. He spoke English and studied also in England, I think. And so, you know, there was a hope that the son of the dictator would not become as ruthless a dictator as his father. But now we have seen brutality that is quite harrowing. And for which the West, the United States and the European Union, have not a lot of options.
REHMExactly. And I thought it was interesting that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked about this. She said the violence indicates that Assad is weak.
REHMBut she stopped short of saying he should step down.
LABOTTWell, and she also said that this country can't go back to what it was before. So the administration has been walking a very delicate line, as the Europeans have, on how to respond to the Syrian crisis. Because in other instances, like in Egypt or Libya, there was a definite point where you heard them talk about transition. It's time for them to go. You're not hearing that with President Assad because there are a lot of considerations that the U.S. is taking to account.
LABOTTThey're worried about some kind of Sunni extremist government that might take place after him. What happens with Hezbollah and Iran? There's just a lot that they're balancing. And that's why you've seen this kind of delicate dance. But I do think that the administration is ratcheting up the pressure. They've already imposed some sanctions on members of the regime, not President Assad, his brother who's been leading a lot of the crackdown.
LABOTTBut these sanctions really are going to make a different. I think the more that the protests grow, the more -- you've seen some military defections too. Even the military is saying, you know, we didn't sign up for this. There are refugees fleeing across the border into Lebanon and Iraq. And so there is going to come a point where the administration is going to have to make a choice. Is it going to stand on the right side of history with the protestors, or does it continue to hold out hope that Assad is going to be the reformer that everybody recognizes. He's not.
DREAZENI mean, I'm a lot more cynical, I have to say, about this. The administration has done virtually nothing. They have not caught -- they have not even said that Assad has lost legitimacy to rule his government. There was an Associated Press story earlier in the week saying that such an announcement was imminent. That story was wrong. It was later pulled back. There has been no announcement even of that minimal step.
DREAZENThe UN Security Council, because Russia, China and Lebanon blocked it, refused to condemn the violence in any form. If you remember when the U.S. blocked -- imposed the sanctions on Libya they did a press conference, talked about how it was the biggest sanction ever 'cause it was $33 million. They have not held a similar press conference here because the amount of money is in the tens of millions.
DREAZENThe U.S. and its allies have done nothing. And there are lots of reasons for that. Russia has close ties with Syria. so does China, and won't allow much to take place. We have no interest in getting into another Middle East war, especially against a powerful country. But it's important to recognize that even the rhetorical pressure has been almost nonexistent. And that's -- there's nothing beyond that and even what we've done has been very minimal.
NAIMSo while nothing is happening in Washington and Brussels and other western capitals concerning Syria, a lot is happening in places like Homs, Aleppo, Daraa, Al-Hajar, Muhardeh. These are cities, again, where people are just walking into the streets to face tanks, and armed militias have killed them. So that shows how little we understand what's going on in Syria. Why are these people so motivated and so determined to go out in the streets empty handed without weapons to confront what is a very brutal repression?
NAIMIt is very important to pay attention to what's going on in the City of Aleppo. Aleppo is the second largest city in the country. It's a very conservative city, but it's also a place where a lot of history of insurrections and plots has taken place. In recent years, the conservative Sunni business majority in Aleppo has been thriving thanks to their trade and businesses with Turkey. And now that is beginning to shift.
DREAZENSo I think it's very important to watch what's happening in Aleppo because from there one can gauge the extent of this -- the determination.
REHMAnd no reporters are being allowed in, but Al-Jazeera has said that Dorothy Parvaz had been deported from Syria to Iran. She went into Syria with what kind of a passport?
LABOTTAn Iranian passport. She was in -- she has many passports. She's Canadian, American and Iranian. And so the Syrians chose to take her and deport her to Iran saying she entered the country illegally. No one's heard from her. The Iranians haven't acknowledged that they've seen her. And this is one of the problems, that there's been no coverage -- no press has really been allowed. We've seen on YouTube everyone's trying to report from eyewitness accounts of what's going on.
LABOTTAnd so we feel that we have a picture and they're relying on human rights groups that are operating quietly in the country. But I think what's really interesting now is -- Moises mentions Aleppo, but I think what's really interesting is there are protests now in Damascus, when we didn't have them before. You have protests in Damascus. You have protests in some of these Kurdish areas where Assad did have some level of support in the past.
LABOTTAnd so as these protests grow throughout the country, this kind of blatant disregard for what's going on, as Yochi mentioned, I think, is going to be a lot harder to maintain as the violence continues, as the deaths continue. The UN estimates somewhere between 700 and 850 people have been killed, close to 9,500 people arrested. And today, as we see the violence continuing, that's only going to continue to grow.
REHMElise Labott. She's senior State Department producer for CNN. You can join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your email to email@example.com. And join us on Facebook or Twitter. NATO bombed a Gadhafi compound in Tripoli. What happened there, Yochi?
DREAZENIt was interesting, both location and the timing. And this was a compound that -- it was, among other things, quite near some of the main TV broadcasting facilities within Tripoli. Gadhafi hadn't been seen in quite some time. There were rumors he was sick, rumors he was dead. Gadhafi had been on TV to sort of rally the people as much as he can and say to them that he is still alive, he is still in command.
DREAZENShortly after that aired NATO bombed that compound. They bombed the TV parts of it, they bombed the broadcast parts of it and they bombed the sort of command and control parts of where he lives. This whole war is such a bizarre Orwellian conflict because NATO continues to insist, despite all evidence to the contrary, that they're not trying to kill Gadhafi. When what they're targeting again and again and again and again is Gadhafi's houses, Gadhafi's offices.
DREAZENSo it's a war that we went into with this sort of dishonest motive -- not dishonest motive, but dishonest explanation. We went into it not saying that our goal was to force him out of power, when it clearly was our goal. Now we've escalated the war without saying that we're trying to kill Gadhafi, even though we're clearly trying to kill him. So it's a strange, strange kind of shadow conflict.
REHMAnd the rebel forces say that they now control the airport in Misrata. If that is true -- and I don't know if it's true. How important is that?
NAIMIt is quite important and it seems to be true. The question is, you know, will they be able to hold it, and it looks like they will. This opens a line of supply of both humanitarian aid and weapons and even soldiers. It is -- it was the last very important bastion held by the Gadhafi forces. And so it is important. The only important event was the visit here of Mahmoud Jibril, you know, probably the next prime minister or a very important leader of the new -- if there is a new government in Libya. And it seems that there will be one.
REHMIs he accepted by the rebel forces as their leader?
NAIMWell, he is recognized -- again, let's remember that the rebel forces are also quite desperate groups. And then depending on which city they are, they have different leadership and they also have tribal loyalties and so on.
REHMBut the reason I ask is because he is saying, what we want is the money that is here and frozen.
NAIMAnd they have gotten that. They have gotten, not the money, but the recognition of being the Libyan government by France, by Italy, by Qatar. So he's here and as we speak he's meeting in the White House with the National Security Advisor Tom Donilon. He's asking the United States to give them recognition. He says, unless you give us that, you cannot unfreeze the money that belongs to the Libyans and that we need to feed our people and to keep the country running.
NAIMAnd so that is a very important development. It's unclear what will happen because of what you said. The United States and others are not clear what is the structure of power and representation among the Libyan rebels.
REHMAnd you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. You wanted to add to that.
LABOTTI don't see the U.S. recognizing officially this Libyan transitional national council they call it, an important group. They represent a wide range of Libyans. They're not saying that it's not the main group that they won't be dealing with, And that they're looking for ways to support them. But what I've heard from U.S. officials is they don't want to make some kind of formal official recognition because they don't know if they represent all Libyans. What about some of the Libyans that are still siding with Gadhafi? How do they bring them over if you're going to side with these guys in Benghazi?
LABOTTAnd they're also unclear about some kind of remnants of extremist elements, Libyans that might've fought in Iraq that belong to this Libyan opposition. When you see some of these pictures some of these guys have beards. They're unclear about exactly who is in this group. So the...
REHMAnd how they fit.
LABOTTAnd how they fit. And so they're going to continue to support them. They are looking for ways to unfreeze some of these assets. The president has already said that he's going to freeze about 150 million. The U.S. has freezed 30 billion in Libyan assets. And so there's a lot of money that they can continue to dribble out if they pass some type of legislation, which Kerry said that he was -- Senator Kerry said that he might be willing to do.
DREAZENI mean, in some ways what the -- Jibril and what others from his counsel have talked about needing the most is military assistance. I mean, they're not talking about wanting combat troops to fight with them. Although I'm sure in their deepest dreams that would be something they would actually like. But they want training.
DREAZENRight now, Qatar -- of all people, Qatar which is a tiny, tiny country with an every tinier military, Qatar has a very significant training presence on the ground in Eastern Libya trying to turn these guys who really don't, in many cases, know how to fight, into effective fighters.
DREAZENA friend of mine who's there as a journalist for the New York Times, Chris Chivers, has been doing really spectacular work, has written about how earlier on the rebels didn't know how to dig to fill sandbags or dig ditches. So they would just bravely march to the front and stand there proudly and bravely again because they're facing a modern air force, they're facing tanks. And then Gadhafi's forces would start launching rockets and they had no place to go 'cause they had no fortifications.
DREAZENThey're learning that. I mean, they're learning now how to fight as a more effective force. What's interesting is NATO is now openly working with them. They're coordinating airstrikes openly with the forces on the ground. And the forces on the ground are getting better. I mean, this is -- the situation in Libya, it's obviously difficult for all of us to assess from here but it looks very different than it did even a week ago, even two weeks ago.
NAIMA very important symptom of what's happening is that Gadhafi and some of his people in his circles are continuing to insist that they want a seize fire. A seize fire that has also been asked by Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations. And when there was a bombing -- the NATO bombing to the television facilities that Gadhafi was broadcasting a message in which he was addressing the tribal leaders. And also saying that -- he was again stating the need for a seize fire is the only way forward.
REHMMoises Naim. He's chief international columnist for El Pais. We'll take a short break here. When we come back we'll open the phones. We have callers in Detroit, Mich., St. Louis, Mo., Cleveland, Ohio waiting. We'll get to you promptly.
REHMAnd welcome back. We'll go to the phones now during the international hour of our Friday News Roundup. First to Sarah who's in Detroit, Mich. Good morning to you.
SARAHGood morning, Diane. You know, I'm calling about Syria. Just to me it's mind boggling that the administration has decided to take such a neutral stand against a regime that really is, you know, the educators on torture and how to slaughter your people. I mean, what's going on in Syria, there has to be at the very, very minimum some rhetorical pressure which they're not even getting that much from this administration. America has the hearts and minds of the Syrian people.
SARAHI know a good number of Syrians. I've been to Syria a number of times. The fact that I'm American makes me treated like a special person. They love America. They love, you know, the west. But the longer the West takes this neutral, careless stand against the Syrian people, the more they're gonna question that love they have for the West.
NAIMOne of the things that I was perplexed by is this week two White House officials that one of the reasons why they were not active -- more active in sanctioning or intervening in Syria is because they were unclear about who the leadership was among the people revolting against the government. That is very perplexing because the same -- exactly the same could have been said in Libya. And yet in Libya they've shown a far more aggressive stance.
NAIMSo there is list of reasons and some of them speculative and some are very real of why the United States is playing it so carefully. And again I don't know which one it's more important, but the notion that they don't want to push Syria even further in the hands of Iran, the notion that Syria is in the middle of -- you know, when you think Syria, you need to think Lebanon, Israel, Iran and so on.
REHMAll right. To St. Louis, Mo. Good morning, Todd.
TODDGood morning. Thank you all. I just wanted to hear some comments on the fact that, you know, you're following the bin Laden thing. Obviously this evil person has orchestrated many deaths, but there's just a complete absence of anybody noting the hundreds of thousands of Arab citizens that just happen to be born in the same region. And I'm just wondering why nobody's bothering to mention that and how it's contributing to this whole cycle.
REHMYou're talking about hundreds of thousands of civilians where, Todd?
TODDIraq, Afghanistan, I mean, just in that whole region.
REHMThe entire war effort and, of course, the future of the war effort in Afghanistan following bin Laden's killing.
DREAZENYeah, it's amazing when you think about how little money 9/11's cost bin Laden and al-Qaida to carry out. The estimates are about $50,000. Colleagues of mine at National Journal did an article that tried to calculate what we've spent just financially, setting aside the human cost which as Todd points out is staggeringly high, and it's about $3 trillion. So bin Laden was very open in talking about how his goal was to bankrupt the west. That was the point of his attack. And that was irrational because you could argue he has not bankrupted the west, but $3 trillion is very, very serious money.
DREAZENIt was interesting to me that President Obama in the Sunday night speech announcing bin Laden's death, he tried to I think make a point that was akin to the point that Todd was hinting at, which was bin Laden killed thousands of Americans. He killed through the war efforts in Iraq that followed similar thousands of American troops. But more than anything else, he killed thousands, if not tens of thousands, of other Muslims, thousands, if not tens of thousands, of other Arabs.
DREAZENSo the White House will be giving a major speech about the Middle East directed towards the broader kinda Muslim world, specifically the Arab world next week. And doubtlessly the point that he will try to make in that speech among others is, this is not a problem where extremism in your community only hits us in the West. This is a problem where you believe more than we believe.
REHMSo what effect, what impact could Osama bin Laden's death have on U.S. plans as far as Afghanistan is concerned, Elise?
LABOTTWell, I think that it's gonna give (sounds like) empatist to the people that are making the case that there should be a smaller US footprint, that the US should begin withdrawing. President Obama said he is going to start withdrawing troops in the summer trickling through to 2014. That'll be back ended most of those troops. But now you have people that originally like Vice President Biden who said a counter insurgency strategy is not the way to go, it should be more targeted against specific individuals. And the killing of bin Laden is definitely gonna accelerate those kind of calls and Congress talking about the money that has been spent on this war, that it's time to withdraw.
LABOTTAnd I think what's interesting when Yochi talks about the Middle East speech, I think one -- and the relation to the killing of bin Laden, I think one of the things that's really interesting is that when you look at the Arab Spring and all these people in the Arab world and Muslim world that are rising up, it's not in favor of the kind of ideology that bin Laden espoused of some kind of Islamic state in the Arab world. It's for democracy. It's for social and economic reforms. And I think that's one of the themes that the president is going to evoke in that speech.
NAIMSo bin Laden's death brings back the same debate we had before concerning what is a kind of engagement in Afghanistan. Are we there as a counter terrorist operation? Is the mission just to deny al-Qaida and all the terrorists safe harbor? That was the original mission. And then it evolved into a broader nation building development project and then also included Pakistan.
NAIMAnd so now that debate is now back with us, with some like Vice President Biden saying it's a small special operations kind of mission in which we will insure that no terrorist attacks are hatched there, and where the other -- that US military offices in Kabul instead have an initial proposal to withdraw less, up to 5,000 troops from Afghanistan in July, another 5,000 more at the end of the year. And let's remember the date here is 2014, which was the date stated by President Obama.
REHMAll right. To Cleveland, Ohio. Hi there, Bob.
BOBHi. Yeah, first of all, I'd just like to say taking Osama bin Laden in Pakistan I compare to Adolf Hitler having lived in Great Britain during World War II. But anyway my question was, I can't figure out why they didn't take Osama bin Laden alive if there was a chance to do that. And I was wondering, could the reason be because if he'd have been taken alive and interrogated, he might've revealed sources of his funding that would've embarrassed oil producing nations in the Mid East?
DREAZENI think that they -- from the beginning, this was a mission designed to kill bin Laden. Every communication that we've had with sources in the Seal community is that what was communicated to them was kill him, that the circumstances under which they'd make any effort to take him out alive were so minimal and so implausible. And literally he would've had to have come out basically naked so they could tell he had no suicide vest on, waving the rhetorical white flag and then maybe they would've taken him alive. But this was a mission from the start that was meant to kill him. And we should be aware of that.
REHMAll right. Let's talk about John Demjanjuk. What he was convicted of seems horrendous, but it certainly happened during the second World War. Moises.
NAIMYeah, he's a former Nazi death com guard who was convicted to five years in prison for killing approximately 28,000 Jews in Sobibor, a concentration camp in Poland in 1943. This is 68 years ago. He's now 91 years -- he's 91 years old. He has been under -- in trial since 1988. He has gone through three trials. And this is probably one of the last trials that we are going to see.
REHMYou said of the last. I have the feeling it's the last.
NAIMIt may be the last because both the witnesses to these atrocities are now very old or have died and also the culprits. And so he's now back in Germany. He was in the United States. He was a retired auto worker here. And he was found guilty, but he is free on appeal.
REHMHe has been moved to a nursing home we learned this morning. Will we see many other Nazi war trials coming?
DREAZENNo. But I think what we will see is a lot more about what the West German government, in particular, knew about former Nazis right after the war. There are files coming out just in the last couple of weeks which show that for decades after the Eichmann kidnapping and then his later trial and execution in Israel, the German government insisted that it didn't know where he was.
DREAZENThere are files that are coming out now decades later because of the equivalent of freedom of information act request, but -- in German law showing that German governments for decades -- for years, excuse me, after World War II knew exactly where he was. They knew where he lived. They knew where his address was. They knew his house. I mean, they had a lot of information about him that they just refused to share. I think you'll find out a lot more about that, even though you probably won't see many more actual trials.
LABOTTAnd I think the United States has been trying to put a lot of pressure in these recent years on countries where these people were born in order to speed up these trials. And a lot of the countries said, you know, we have a lot of other things, it's expensive, it's not our responsibility. I think the Germans, the US put a lot of pressure on the Germans to undertake this case. And because, you know, the holocaust happened in Germany, I think they felt a guilt and a moral responsibility to undertake the case.
REHMWe've also had word this morning that George Mitchell, the special Mid East envoy is resigning after two largely fruitless years of trying to press Israel and the Palestinians into negotiations. You said the timing of this is interesting, Yochi.
DREAZENThe Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu comes to Washington next week, and on the 24th will be address Congress where he'll doubtlessly get repeated standing ovations because he's a very gifted speaker. The Republicans love him. He has a very close relationship with their leadership. But the timing is interesting because you have George Mitchell who has spent the last two years trying to get Netanyahu to do more than Netanyahu was willing to do to try to get the Palestinians to do more than they were willing to do. He steps down.
DREAZENI think the AP which wrote that dispatch was being very generous in describing it as largely fruitless. I think they could've lost the largely. So Netanyahu will be town speaking to Congress. Congress will not pressure him in the slightest. The White House will. And that dynamic will very interesting to watch.
REHMAnd why was it fruitless? Wasn't it because there was not enough backing coming from this administration?
NAIMYes. But it is also fruitless because it's not enough for this administration to have more backing to get a solution. We are talking about an intractable authority situation that has been gridlock now for a long time. The timing is not just related. I think it's important what Yochi said about the timing with Prime Minister Netanyahu coming.
NAIMBut there's a larger context also which is the Arab Spring, which has other revolts in the North Africa and the Middle East have changed the dynamics of the Arab Israeli process, to call it some way. And, you know, we have seen, for example, recently that the two sides of the Palestinian leadership have decided to again sign a peace agreement, develop a joint government of unity, which is a new situation. We have seen Egypt changing its stance towards Israel. We have seen Israel trying to figure out what it all means for its future with its neighbors. So we're talking about a situation that has always been volatile and hard to manage becoming even more so.
LABOTTAnd I think that this has been a long time coming and I think he was looking for an exit. He was not happy. He was frustrated as you said that the White House wasn't giving him enough support. And you had a lot of different envoys. You had Dennis Ross out there. You had Dan Shapiro who's gonna be the next US ambassador to Israel going out to Israel kind of undermining him. The whole issue with the settlements wasn't working. And I think that this is maybe one of the final nails for now in the peace process coffin.
REHMElise Labott. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And now to St. Louis, Mo. Good morning, Chester.
CHESTERGood morning, Diane.
CHESTERI'll try to make it as quick as I can.
CHESTERI am concerned about the fact that we're going to be leaving Afghanistan pretty soon, maybe in '14 or whatever. And that leaves a big hole in my thinking. Of course, I've got a lot of holes all over me, but I just wonder if there could be a discussion as to what's gonna happen to Afghanistan after we leave. And what about the United Nations? Isn't there something that somebody could think of to do something with? The other part of my concern is the fact that I think the United States has got a golden opportunity here to take one of these countries, Libya, Egypt, Yemen, whatever, that are in a state of flux right now and try to incorporate them as part of the United States, make a 51st state.
DREAZENI think I'll just avoid that last part...
DREAZEN...if that's okay.
DREAZENOn the first part, I was struck by his use of only 2014. I mean, we've been at war in Afghanistan for a decade. By the time we leave this will be by far the longest war in the history of the United States. So if we leave in 2014, that's not a premature early exit. That will be the end of a very, very long war. The UN is in Afghanistan. NATO's in Afghanistan. There are tens of thousands of other non U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The issue isn't commitment. The issue is that the strategies are not working. So it's not a question of can we stay there longer, we've been there longer than in any war in our history. It's not a question of can we get allies there, we have allies. The issue is what is a realistic objective, given that everything we've tried so far has largely failed.
LABOTTI think what you're going to see over the next year, a real emphasis on a political reconciliation between the Taliban and Afghan government. The US is gonna continue the counter-insurgency operation, but also really try and get this accommodation between all groups going on, really try and boost up the Afghan government so that when the US leaves, there is a viable government in place.
REHMElise Labott of CNN, Moises Naim of El Pais and Yochi Dreazen of National Journal magazine who's going to be married on the 22nd of May. I fear we won't see him for awhile. He and his fiancé, Anne Rosenzweig, are going to be having and enjoying a wonderful honeymoon. Congratulations, Yochi...
DREAZENThank you. That's very sweet, Diane. Thanks.
REHM...to you and to Anne. Thanks for listening all. I'm Diane Rehm.
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