THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP
HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN
PANEL: PATRICK BUCHANAN, MSNBC; ELEANOR CLIFT, NEWSWEEK; TONY BLANKLEY, WASHINGTON TIMES; LIONEL BARBER, FINANCIAL TIMES
TAPED: FRIDAY, JULY 8, 2005 BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF JULY 9-10, 2005
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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue One: Target London, 7/7.
KEN LIVINGSTONE (MAYOR OF LONDON): (From videotape.) This was not a terrorist attack against the mighty and the powerful. It was not aimed at presidents or prime ministers. It was aimed at ordinary, working-class Londoners -- black and white, Muslim and Christian, Hindu and Jew, young and old -- an indiscriminate attempt to slaughter, irrespective of any considerations for age, class or religion, whatever.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On Thursday morning, July 7, on the London underground and bus system, at least 50 people were killed and over 700 injured in a series of coordinated bomb attacks at the height of the morning's rush hour. LONDON BOMBING VICTIM: (From videotape.) (Inaudible) -- there was, I'd say, about maybe six, seven people lying on the floor, people with a lot of blood on their faces and ripped clothes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The so-called Secret Organization of al Qaeda in Europe claimed responsibility for the carnage in a communique published on the Internet Thursday. Quote: "Rejoice, for it is time to take revenge on the British Zionist crusader government in retaliation for the massacres Britain is committing in Iraq and Afghanistan," unquote.
Question: In view of the Iraq reference, are the Londoners who were killed or maimed in the London attacks this week actually casualties of the Iraq war? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: I would say no, but qualify it this way. These people were innocent people, the victims of mass murderers who were out deliberately to kill them and do as much carnage as they could. The al Qaeda killers are trying to embed themselves into popular causes in the Middle East -- anti-Zionism, anti-Americanism in Iraq.
So I think in the way the president speaks of the war on terror, that Iraq is the central front and it's all part of a larger war, you can say yes. But I do not know that Zarqawi or someone in Iraq organized or promoted or advanced this. I think it was done by al Qaeda in Europe. I think it was done independently. And I think they are simply claiming they are helping to fight the war in Iraq.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, Pat brings up the point of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. And the Al-Qaeda in Europe, that organization, also referenced Zionism, which means the Arab-Israeli conflict. So what do you think of that?
MS. CLIFT: Well, whether you supported the war in Iraq or opposed it, I think if you're a serious person, you have to concede that it has become a huge recruiting tool, particularly in Europe, for angry, militant Muslims, to convert them into being active terrorists.
And Iraq has replaced the Palestinian cause as the number one item on why they hate America. The notion that they fight us because they hate our freedoms is way too simplistic. They hate us because of our policies. They hate us because we are the prime sponsors of Saudi Arabia and Israel, two countries, their enemies. They can't attack them, so they attack the U.S. And now add Iraq to that list of grievances.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're saying that there is an intersection between policy and terrorism?
MS. CLIFT: Oh, absolutely. And it's our policies they hate. They don't hate us because we're Americans or because we have a democracy. They hate us because of what we've perpetuated in the Middle East. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, the president, in his remarks after this horrid event, and also Mr. Blair, spoke about the hateful people that were involved in it, the terrorists. He made no reference to any influence of policy on the terrorist activity of these people. So where does that go? Do you share Eleanor's view that there is a policy connection to terrorism?
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I would say that the victims in Bali, the victims in Kenya, the victims in the USS Cole in the '90s, the victims of the first attack on the World Towers in 1993, the victims of the second attack in 2001, all preceded the war in Iraq.
The idea that the Islamic terrorists are being driven in their primary motivation by our current war in Iraq obviously is refuted by the evidence. If the question is, are there some more terrorists today because of what we're doing in Iraq than before, the answer is probably yes. There's no question that when you engage the enemy, you arouse their supporters, in the same way that when we started bombing Germany, probably people who were not pro-Hitler were still angry at American and British bombers.
But if you argue that to engage the enemy is to arouse them, then what policy do you have left, other than appeasement?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lionel, the Financial Times is headquartered in London. Is everything okay there with your people?
MR. BARBER: Thank you, John, for asking. There was a lot of disruption after the bombing. People couldn't get into work. But we got a paper out. We are a 24/7 operation. And very thankfully, we did not have any casualties.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Lionel, what do you think about this question of whether or not the role or the connection between policy and terrorism should have gotten consideration in the reviews of what has happened in London, especially in view of the political career of Mr. Blair, who had the worst defeat for anyone who won the election in the Labour Party in years and years and years?
In other words, does Iraq play a role? And is it because he's involved in Iraq that led to that defeat? In other words, is that a way of showing that indeed policy does relate? Or are you going to flee into the editorial, which I think appeared in your newspaper today, that argues the other way? It argues more in the direction of Tony, that Iraq doesn't play that much of a role, that these people are haters of the West and the way we live and our materialistic culture as they see it.
MR. BARBER: John, you seem to be forgetting that Tony Blair has just won an unprecedented third term as a Labour leader.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, come, come, come. You know the other argument. MR. BARBER: But that has never been achieved by a Labour Party leader.
Of course his majority went down. The war is not particularly popular in the U.K.. But, John, the fact is that London was a target from the moment that the Twin Towers were attacked on 9/11 in 2001.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why do you say that?
MR. BARBER: Because London is an international financial center, because London is a great western capital, and because Britain, not just through Tony Blair but historically, has been the most steadfast and loyal ally of the United States.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But is it also, from a security point of view, the most porous, and therefore the most attractive of the major cities in Europe?
MR. BARBER: John, I grew up in London and I went through the 1970s and 1980s, when the IRA wreaked havoc, killed innocent civilians. The fact is that people are probably more vigilant in London than anywhere else in the world.
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Isn't it true that the British government relies on MI-5 to control terrorism, and MI-5 has done a pretty good job, particularly in its surveillance and it has anticipated problems before they occurred? But isn't this the end of the run for relying on MI-5 to handle this matter?
MR. BARBER: John, there have been plots to blow up installations at Heathrow. There was the recent poison plot. We don't know a lot of stuff that MI-5 has not discovered. But just because there was this attack, not on the scale of 9/11, not even on the scale of Madrid, that's no excuse to --
MR. BUCHANAN: John --
MS. CLIFT: The Brits --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, it is --
MR. BARBER: That's no excuse to roll up MI-5. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, in one sense, since it occurred with the G8 and all of this publicity emanating through the photographs of the leaders around Blair --
MR. BUCHANAN: If Britain, John --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and all parts of the world gives it a scope.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, clearly --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It certainly is not a 9/11, as you say, but it gives us an enormous scope and in some ways is comparable to 9/11.
MR. BUCHANAN: John, if it weren't for the G8 -- I think they timed it for the beginning of the G8 meeting, no doubt about it. I do not believe they would have done it in London if the Brits weren't standing with us in this war in Iraq. It is just like Madrid.
But in this sense, John, al Qaeda is opportunistic. Al Qaeda is exploiting this. They don't give a hoot who rules in Baghdad. They want to seize upon every nationalistic and popular movement in the Arab and Islamic world --
MS. CLIFT: Well, the --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute. Hold on, Eleanor.
MR. BUCHANAN: -- and exploit it and embed themselves in it.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is what I want to get at. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak estimates that terrorism could be cut by 50 percent if the Arab-Israeli conflict were resolved.
MR. BARBER: Is that a scientific poll?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No, this is his intuition. Now, if you want to start making fun of Hosni Mubarak, you can do so. But if I'm going to listen to you or Hosni Mubarak, I'll go with Mubarak --
MS. CLIFT: Right. Same here. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- because, remember, he survived a lot of this kind of terrorism, particularly in Luxor.
MR. BUCHANAN: Hamas does not attack the United States. Hezbollah does not attack the United States. We're being attacked by terrorists of al Qaeda and terrorists inside Iraq. So I think the Middle East conflict, if you could resolve it, it would be a good thing. But --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It would cut their recruitment, would it not?
MR. BLANKLEY: Wasn't it Hezbollah that killed all our Marines in Lebanon in '82? MR. BUCHANAN: They have not done anything since we left.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question -- we've got to get out.
MS. CLIFT: The Brits --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We've got to get out. Please relinquish.
Exit question: Has Iraq become a catalyst for terrorism, yes or no? Pat Buchanan.
MR. BUCHANAN: It's become a recruiting poster. It has become a training ground.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's --
MR. BUCHANAN: It's becoming an excuse and it's becoming a reason why al Qaeda attacks people.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Pat, that's reductively a catalyst.
MS. CLIFT: Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor, has it become a catalyst for terrorism?
MS. CLIFT: Exactly. We don't know exactly who is behind the attacks in London, but I wouldn't be surprised if there are people who either trained in Iraq or were inspired by Iraq; plus the fact London has a very large Muslim population, 22 percent unemployment among young men there, that they've got to deal with.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, quickly.
MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I mean, Saddam was supporting terrorists. They had terrorist connections going back to their funding of the suicide bombers in Palestine. If you're asking, are there more terrorists in Iraq today than before, yes.
MR. BARBER: There's a great struggle going on in Iraq. If Iraq has a chance to become a democratic state, that will be the greatest answer of all to this terrorism problem.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think that Iraq --
MS. CLIFT: When's that going to happen, Lionel?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- Iraq is providing a catalytic propulsion in this whole horrible (state of affairs?).
Issue Two: G8 Off-Point. Global warming, aid for Africa, the AIDS pandemic, and an international tax on airline tickets, the revenue of which would be used to fight AIDS. That was the agenda at the G8 summit in Scotland this week.
The eight industrial states of the G8 attended -- the United States, Britain, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Russia.
Also there were five special invitees at the meeting -- South Africa, Mexico, Brazil, China and India. Not one Muslim country was represented, and the agenda made no mention -- no mention -- of the growing conflict between the West and the Muslim world, with its potential to escalate exponentially.
Question: Why did the G8 focus on AIDS and global warming and take a pass on arguably the toughest, most immediate issue facing the world today, the widening conflict between the West and the Muslim world? I ask you, Lionel Barber.
MR. BARBER: John, Tony Blair wanted to make sure that you could have an agenda at the G8 which was not just national security policy, the war on terror. He was, in effect, trying to be tough on the causes of terror as well as tough on terror. And that's why he devoted a lot of time and energy on Africa. If you have, as we know, failed states, that will breed terrorism. A failed continent like Africa would be 10 times worse.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you like an alternate view?
MR. BARBER: And, by the way, John, Nigeria is a Muslim country. They were very pleased to have that kind of debt relief which the G8 agreed to.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'm talking about 13 people who -- there were 13 nations and there was not one Muslim nation there. They could have gone to Turkey, they could have gone to Pakistan, and possibly one or two others.
But I want to give you an alternate view. The agenda was crafted in order to refashion the unfortunate public image of Blair, politically speaking. They wanted to refocus public opinion, and therefore we talk about the good, solid humanitarian subjects that are of popular appeal, and we stay away from the nasties like the conflict between the West and --
MR. BARBER: That's obviously a little too touchy-feely for you, John. But actually, soft security issues are part of the bigger dilemma when you're dealing with terrorism issues. MS. CLIFT: I agree with Lionel. I think your point is well taken. Turkey -- it would have been nice to have a Muslim country represented.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Of course.
MS. CLIFT: But to put terrorism at the center of the agenda makes no sense when you have the president wanting to do preemptive policies and everybody else on a different page. And the fact that the summit addressed global warming -- our reliance on oil is at the center of our need to keep our aggressive military policies in the Middle East. And the Saudis announced that they cannot fulfill our energy needs by 2015. That is a big story.
MR. BLANKLEY: Let me get in here.
MS. CLIFT: And that summit needed to address that and didn't have the nerve to address that.
MR. BLANKLEY: John, for the first time in two or three years, I agree with you on a foreign policy issue. Absolutely --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, I wish to commend you on this agreement.
MR. BLANKLEY: I don't know how this happened. The G8 -- which is always, by the way, a fail to deal, have any great consequences come from their meetings -- should definitely have been meeting about the central issue of our time, which is the clash between elements in the Islamic culture and the West.
MR. BUCHANAN: But you --
MR. BLANKLEY: And to pass up on this opportunity was -- and it proved timely, as we saw from the explosions -- a mistake.
MR. BUCHANAN: This is about --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, welcome on board. Welcome.
MR. BUCHANAN: This is about Tony Blair's legacy. Now, he's got Iraq, which is a real problem for him. He is deep into this global warming. He is deep into AIDS. He is deep into foreign policy. It is what he cares about. He was hosting this summit. If it had happened -- if London had happened a week ago, it would have been about security.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He was --
MR. BARBER: It's not about the legacy. It's about public opinion in Europe and Britain that doesn't just want to see foreign policy as national security policy. It recognizes that global warming and AIDS and the future of Africa are deeply -- MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is quite clear -- I mean, you can put any kind of a patina or patina [changes pronunciation] on this as you wish, but Tony Blair is trying to extend his period as prime minister, and therefore he fashioned this high-brow --
MR. BUCHANAN: He's not going to run for a fourth term.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He wants to extend it.
MR. BUCHANAN: What do you mean, extend it?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Instead of being out at Christmastime, he might get another -- he's thinking of the party.
MR. BUCHANAN: You are so wrong.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: He's thinking of --
MR. BUCHANAN: After getting the Olympics and after this bombing, Blair is going to be there for four more years.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It is the height of irresponsibility for the G8 to ignore the problem that we've mentioned here, that is, the split between the West and the Muslim world.
MR. BUCHANAN: (Inaudible.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question: Should the G8 offer, at a minimum, a Muslim country observer status at its next summit, yes or no?
MR. BUCHANAN: Sure.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor.
MS. CLIFT: That I agree with. Yes.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you think?
MR. BLANKLEY: Yes, it should, of course.
MR. BARBER: As a PR stunt, yes; probably Nigeria.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What about a substance reality instead of a stunt?
MR. BARBER: Well, observer status? What does that mean?
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, then give them -- they can't give them member status, but they can certainly put them on a par with the observers this year.
MS. CLIFT: Turkey, at the very least, deserves a seat at that table. MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Of course.
Issue Three: Can It Happen Here?
The U.S., like the U.K., has a diverse population that includes millions of Muslims, some of whom could be al Qaeda sympathizers or members of sleeper cells here in the U.S. If London teaches us anything, some say, it teaches us that a diverse population is in many ways wonderful, but in many ways threatening.
In Iraq, at least four Muslim Americans are imprisoned for fighting with or aiding the insurgency. They are U.S. citizens.
In upstate New York, six Muslim Americans are in prison for organizing an al Qaeda cell. They are U.S. citizens. Jose Padilla was arrested in Chicago for conspiring with al Qaeda to detonate a dirty bomb. Padilla is a U.S. citizen.
The point is that U.S. citizens can work for al Qaeda, so there may be sleeper cells in our nation. And doubtless many of the terrorists in London's abomination this week are British citizens and came from sleeper cells.
Question: Are we focusing too much on border security and not enough on the danger of homegrown terrorism? I ask you, Tony.
MR. BLANKLEY: We are not -- I agree with both elements of it. We're not focusing nearly enough, of course, on border security. But it's also the case, and particularly for Europe more than the United States, although the United States too is developing a growing radical Islamist population.
In Europe, it's much worse; the second and third generation there is now developing a great alienation from their people. Here in the United States, there are probably sleeper cells. The general population has not degenerated to the point it has in Europe. But I agree with the fundamental point that we've got to focus on elements within the Islamic communities, both in Europe and the United States. They are a national security threat.
MS. CLIFT: What they did in London, they could easily do here. And the fact that they haven't is the big question. One, maybe they don't want to downgrade from the spectacular attack of 9/11. They may not have the ability to pull that off. Or that may be in the planning stages.
But the thing is that they could pull this off here, and why haven't they? And it seems to me that we have to reorient some of our resources here away from excessive reliance on air safety.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think the Bush administration will take a de facto position that may resemble something like this -- "If you don't do it the American way but you do it the European way, you'll find yourself with another Madrid or another London"? MR. BUCHANAN: I agree with Eleanor. I do not -- I mean, what happened in London could be done here. I've got to believe there are people in this country willing to do it. Why they haven't done it, I don't know. Maybe it is the fact they can't do the big one. But, John, we must have a million buses and train cars and subway cars going every day. This was 10 pounds of explosives these characters brought onto that one bus and the three subway trains. I don't know why it hasn't been done here. I do think we're doing a good job in terms of internal security. If it happened --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Do you think we're --
MR. BUCHANAN: -- I would not be astonished, and no one would.
MS. CLIFT: Yeah. But the risky argument that the president makes is that we're fighting them in Iraq so we don't have to fight them here.
MR. BUCHANAN: I agree with you.
MS. CLIFT: That suggests there's a finite number of terrorists; they're all in Iraq.
MR. BUCHANAN: They are over here because we are over there.
MS. CLIFT: Right, exactly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The Europeans, by the way, are convinced that there's going to be weapons of mass destruction, the ones that I've talked to. I've just gotten back immediately from Italy. And they're talking more chemistry and biologicals than they are the nuclear bomb. They're edgy in Italy because the same al Qaeda site said that next on the list would be Denmark and then Italy.
MR. BUCHANAN: Denmark and Italy.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: On a vulnerability scale -- we have very little time -- where would you put the vulnerability of the United States, 10 being high? This is a kind of an intuition question on the basis of what we know, Pat.
MR. BUCHANAN: My sense is that our internal security has just done a magnificent job in running these characters down, an awful lot of them --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean --
MR. BUCHANAN: -- compared to other countries. If you put other -- let's put London at a six. I would put us at a three.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let's throw a bouquet -- although Eleanor won't go along -- to Ashcroft. Remember John Ashcroft? They got a lot of the sleeper cells in the beginning, Eleanor. MS. CLIFT: Yeah, I'm sorry, I --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Where would you put --
MS. CLIFT: I believe in the public pronouncements that it's not a matter of if but a matter of when. And I just think we have too many soft targets. And I think it's inevitable, sadly.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean high vulnerability, a seven, an eight?
MS. CLIFT: Yes, and I think the working people who ride public transportation are edgy in this country and they're edgy everywhere.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: This is true, because the big concern was what was going to happen in Scotland. But they don't go after the celebrities; they go after the soft target, and the soft target is invariably people. We saw it in 9/11 and we saw it again in London. What's the answer to my question?
MR. BLANKLEY: Last month the Senate Foreign Relations Committee surveyed 80 of the leading terrorist experts in the world. They predicted there's a 70 percent chance -- 7-0 percent chance -- that we'll get hit by a weapon of mass destruction in the next decade. The number is 10.
MR. BARBER: I say that the threat level should not be exaggerated. This was a terrible attack, but it was not on the scale of 9/11. Biological, nuclear --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: How vulnerable is the United States -- five?
MR. BARBER: John, I don't have any intuition.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: No intuition?
MR. BARBER: No.
MR. BUCHANAN: Give him a number. (Laughs.)
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I'll give you a number. I'll give you a five.
Issue Four: U.S. On High Alert.
MICHAEL CHERTOFF (SECRETARY OF HOMELAND SECURITY): (From videotape.) The United States government is raising the threat level from Code Yellow, or elevated, to Code Orange, high, targeted only to the mass-transit portion of the transportation sector. I want to emphasize that -- targeted only to the mass-transit portion of the transportation sector.
MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (NEW YORK MAYOR): (From videotape.) If you see something that you don't think is normal, pick up the phone. There's an awful lot of commuters, a lot more than we could ever have police departments. So we are depending -- this is a joint effort with the public.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Terrorist threat levels for mass transit went up across the United States in the aftermath of the London bombings this week. After the horrific March 2004 -- last year -- commuter train attacks in Madrid that killed 191 people, security experts in America warned that our mass-transit systems are particularly vulnerable.
For the past 15 months, TSA, Transportation Security Administration, has studied the problem, but little has been done to improve security on trains, buses and subways. Is that deplorable? And now, given the attacks in Madrid and London, should protecting mass transit from terrorist attack be the top counterterrorist priority? Eleanor Clift.
MS. CLIFT: Well, it appears that al Qaeda has transformed its tactics, and that instead of a tightly controlled, disciplined organization, command and control from the top, they've got lots of sympathizers everywhere. And disrupting mass transit is sort of an easy way to inflict terrorist tactics.
So, yes, I would quote Susan Collins, Maine Republican, head of the Government Reform Committee, who says we've overinvested in air safety and that we need to look at protecting transit. Instead of sending money to Wyoming while escalators in the subways in Washington DC don't work, I mean, you can improve our infrastructure. It makes life better for everyday people.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean --
MS. CLIFT: And if there is an attack, people can get out.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: She's packed a lot in there. And you may not be familiar with this law, being a Brit, as you are. But under the new rules, we're operating on a pork-barrel kind of constituency basis formula whereby a constituency gets 'x' percentage of the dollars, independently of their numbers and independently of the level of threat.
MR. BARBER: Yes, John, I'm a resident here and I pay American taxes --
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So you're familiar with all of that.
MR. BARBER: -- some of which goes to -- (inaudible).
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So 32 million ride the subways, the trains, and the buses. MR. BLANKLEY: Just to give you an update, the boondoggle you were talking about is now in the process of being adjusted.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will George Bush nominate Alberto Gonzales to the Supreme Court, yes or no? Quickly.
MR. BUCHANAN: Not this summer.
MS. CLIFT: Yes.
MR. BLANKLEY: Not this summer.
MR. BARBER: Not yet.
MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Not yet is right. Bye bye.