Cheney: Terrorists, Those Who Harbor Them, Face "Full Wrath" of U.S.
(Interview on NBC "Meet the Press" September 16) (700)
By Louise Fenner
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington - Vice President Dick Cheney says that the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington ushered in a new U.S. policy: not only terrorist groups but nations that harbor them "face the full wrath" of the United States.
"Obviously, we're interested in individuals who were directly involved in planning, coordinating, ordering the attack," Cheney said September 16 during an interview on NBC's Meet the Press that was taped at a facility near Camp David, the presidential retreat.
"What's changed in terms of U.S. policy is the president's determination to also go after those nations and organizations and people that lend support to these terrorist operators," he said.
"If you've got a nation out there now that has provided a base, training facilities, sanctuary -- as has been true for example, in this case, probably, with Afghanistan -- then they have to understand, and others like them around the world have to understand, that if you provide sanctuary to terrorists, you face the full wrath of the United States of America, and that we will, in fact, aggressively go after these nations to make certain that they cease and desist from providing support for these kinds of organizations."
And it's not just the United States, Cheney said. "I have never seen such determination on the part of my colleagues in government, on the part of the American people, on the part of our friends and allies overseas, and even on the part of some who are not ordinarily deemed friends of the United States ... to shift and not be tolerant any longer of these kinds of actions or activities."
The Vice President said he has "no doubt" that Osama bin Laden and his organization al-Qaida "played a significant role in this." But other groups also may be involved, he said, noting that "the Egyptian Islamic Jihad has a very close working relationship with this organization."
Asked if there is evidence linking Saddam Hussein or the Iraqis to this operation, Cheney said "No." He also said the United States does not know if bin Laden is still in Afghanistan.
Other governments realize that they are also vulnerable, the Vice President said. "The Saudis, for example, they're a prime target for this organization of terrorists of Osama bin Laden. Egyptian President ... Mubarak has been the target of some assassination attempts, some of them promulgated by these kinds of groups."
Over 40 countries had a citizen killed or missing in the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York, Cheney said, "so I think governments ... understand very clearly that it's as much in their interests as it is in ours that we end these kinds of activities ... and I think they'll be prepared to help us."
Cheney stressed that the war on terrorism is not a war against Islam or against all Arab people. "We need to make certain that we don't make the mistake of assuming that everybody who comes from a certain ethnic group or a certain religious background is somehow to be blamed for this. Clearly that's not the case, and they are as appalled ... as we are."
If bin Laden believes these attacks will change America's relationship to Israel or force the United States to withdraw from the Middle East, Cheney said, "I think he seriously misreads the American people."
"We will not allow him to achieve his aims. We're not about to change our policies or change our basic fundamental beliefs," he said.
"What we are going to do is aggressively go after Mr. bin Laden, obviously, and all of his associates, and even if it takes a long time, I'm convinced eventually we'll prevail."
The Vice President acknowledged that "this is going to be a struggle that the United States is going to be involved in for the foreseeable future."
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)