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Terrorist Vulnerability

Aired August 22, 2003 - 20:26   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Terrorists have shown an increasing willingness in recent months to attack so-called soft targets. The bombing at the U.N. building in Baghdad is just the latest example of that.
And as Pentagon correspondent Chris Plante reports, the attack shows that no place is terrorist-proof.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS PLANTE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. military has had all too much experience with deadly terrorist attacks; 1983, a truck bomb in Beirut killed 241 Marines; 1995, a car bomb in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, killed five Americans; 1996, 19 U.S. airmen killed in another truck bomb attack at a complex in Saudi Arabia; and in 2000, 17 sailors killed in a suicide attack against the USS Cole in Yemen.

The attacks are not limited to the military. In 1998, U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were attacked, more than 250 dead. After each deadly incident, recommendations included increased funding, to harden potential targets, or relocate to sites where they can be more easily defended. Officials say that you can take lightly guarded sites, or soft targets, and turn them into hard targets, but they concede that no place can be terrorist proof.

GEN. RICHARD MYERS, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: No matter how good your defenses are, how high your walls are, how much (UNINTELLIGIBLE) wire you put around facilities, that, in the end, if there is a determined individual that is willing to commit suicide, they can be successful at times.

PLANTE (on camera): A history of bloody experience shows that when primary targets become harder to hit, terrorists go for the easy kill and sometimes where it is least expected. Recent targets include a resort in Bali, a hotel in Jakarta, and the United Nations in Baghdad, all considered soft targets, undefended, unsuspecting, and easy to hit.

Chris Plante, CNN, the Pentagon.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

O'BRIEN: So how vulnerable in the Middle East are the U.S. and its allies?

I'm joined now from Washington by Steven Simon. He's a senior analyst for the RAND Corporation; also Nile Gardiner, a visiting fellow in Anglo-American security at the Heritage Foundation. And he joins us from Washington as well.

Good evening, gentlemen.

Mr. Simon, let's begin with you first.

Suicide bombings, as we have just heard, it's not a new tactic, but it's relatively new in Iraq. Just how likely do you think that we're going to see a repeat of this kind of attack there?

STEVEN SIMON, SENIOR ANALYST, RAND CORPORATION: I think it is quite likely.

Suicide attacks generally have become something of a cult among Muslim men and women at this point. And it's swept many parts of the globe, not just the Middle East. And it is going to be especially intense in the Middle East now that it has got going.

O'BRIEN: Mr. Gardiner, you have said that there are lessons that can be learned from your experience, from your home country, the U.K., from years of fighting terrorism and the IRA. What lessons can be learned?

NILE GARDINER, HERITAGE FOUNDATION: Well, I think we can learn a number of important lessons from how the British handled the IRA threat and also how the Spanish, for example, have handled the threat posed by Basque separatists. And I think it is very important to bring in top experts from leading European countries on this issue.

However, when it comes to suicide bombing, it's very, very difficult to prevent this, although the United Nations, I think, made some fundamental errors. Firstly, they refused the offer of additional U.S. military security. And, secondly, the U.N. foolishly decided to continue to employ local Iraqis

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