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This transcript is produced from the teletext subtitles that are generated live for Newsnight. It has been checked against the programme as broadcast, however Newsnight can accept no responsibility for any factual inaccuracies. We will be happy to correct serious errors.

Tuesday 11/9/01

Let's speak to Elaine Showalter who is from New Jersey, living here now, but you have family in New York. What went through your mind seeing those pictures again?

It's been a terrifying day that will live in infamy. I think the worst of it was when it was happening. I was on Oxford Street and trying to think about how long it was going to go on. You could not be sure whether there would be attacks in Chicago, Seattle, Pittsburgh, the rest of the country. But I think that Americans recover from these things incredibly fast and even by this time the recovery has begun.

You were contacting family and friends in New York?

Yes. Mostly by the internet, which is a big help because all the telephone lines are tied up. We had e-mail and everybody called back and forth and messages are coming in. People are posting all kinds of messages on the Net of help and support.

Let's speak to Richard Perle, who was close to President George Bush Jnr and was also Assistant Secretary of Defence under Ronald Reagan. People have spoken about this as an act of war. Is that how you see it?

Clearly it is an act of war, both in terms of its magnitude and its purpose. Behind these acts of terror are the states which support terrorism - the states which provide the recruitment, the organisation, the sanctuary, the planning, the training, the logistics, the money. This could not happen without state support and state sponsorship. The United States must now do something which it has been reluctant to do, and that is hold the states accountable that permit this kind of terrorism to take place.

Steven Simon, you are a former member of the US National Security Council. On the point of how this could happen, a lot of people have been saying it ought to be impossible for four planes to be hijacked simultaneously in the USA?

It obviously is not. Smuggling weapons on to aeroplanes in the US is not impossible. There are a huge number of passengers, they're shoves through hubs that are extremely crowded. It's very difficult under these circumstances for poorly paid and poorly motivated security personnel to detect every bit of contraband that somebody is trying to smuggle on to an aeroplane.

Would you ever have thought four simultaneous hijacks would be possible?

I never would have thought anyone would have attempted it. But clearly you have a group here that is highly motivated, very determined to do this, very well organised, enjoys excellent communications and probably has some practice.

Ehud Barak is also here, the former Israeli Prime Minister. What did you think, Mr Barak, watching those pictures again?

It's a clear act of war. I believe that Tony Blair put it correctly. It is a time for action, not for just interviews, and a time for action by the whole world community, co-ordinating a concerted effort in on the level of diplomatic economy, but more than anything else, intelligence and operations to launch a full-scale struggle against world terror. It is all our Western civilisation is now under attack. No way to ignore it, we know the names of these rogue countries, we know the names of the organisations. The intelligence community know to tell us where they are deployed and it is a time for action, even if it is going to be a very tough and painful and maybe struggle that will stretch over a few years.

Were you surprised it could happen?

I was not surprised by the attempt to destroy the twin towers - it already happened. But the combination and simultaneous effect of different places or different kind of aeroplanes were hijacked at the same time in a co-ordinated way is quite surprising.

James Rubin, former Assistant Secretary of State, an attack on the centres of power, military, financial and political?

This was an attack on the United States, but I think it is important for us not to lose the larger picture. This was an attack on civilisation, the World Trade Center is the centre of Western civilisation where all the countries of the world trade in finance, industry, in all sorts of products. They are going to be Japanese and Italian and Africans and Asians working in those buildings or conducting some kind of commerce who will have been killed by these terrorists. It is an attack on American symbols of power, but more importantly it is an attack on the civilised world and now the civilised world has to get together and say, "who are these uncivilised people who are prepared to do this?" and get together and respond.

What will have been the reaction of people who are in the job that you were in and other people in similar government jobs to what has happened?

I think that government jobs are stressful enough as it is but I can't begin to imagine the stress going on right now. I sat through a lot of stressful times but I think they pale in comparison to this kind of attack on the United States in such a dramatic way and having to leave all their buildings and get relocated. But I also believe that 24, 48 hours from now you are going to see people back in their offices, you're going to see the normal functioning's of government, you're going to see a redouble determination and I think you're going to see a response from the American people to the realisation that the outside world can affect us. Often, the American people seem to think they're isolated and it has been proven beyond doubt forever that the United States can't stand isolated.

Let's hear from Khaled Hroub, who's a Middle East expert, who is Palestinian. We were hearing there a different reactions among Arabs to what has happened. How do you read that?

This clearly reflects some degree of dismay and frustration among the Palestinians and many Arabs to the American policy towards the Middle East, maybe peace process and other issues, like Iraq and Sudan. But, what I would like to say, we shouldn't put this horrific act into a clash of civilisation perspective. What if the actors of this act turned out to be from within Western civilisation, like Oklahoma City bomber? This is a possibility and what I can see from all the reporting today is there is some sort of strong assumption that those who committed this tragic act came from outside the Western civilisation, either from Afghanistan or Middle Eastern country. We have to wait and see and not to jump into some conclusions otherwise we are going to be in some sort of difficult situation to understand.

We'll come back to some of that. We are just getting reports now of attacks, tracer fire in Kabul and we will bring you any further details of that as we get them. Richard Perle, let me bring you in on that point before we move on. Reports of some attacks explosions in Kabul. Any knowledge of what that might be?

No, I have no knowledge of it, but if it is retaliation against Osama Bin Laden it is long overdue and should be just the beginning of retribution against the state sponsors of terrorism.

Because it is thought that Osama Bin Laden, who has been linked to this all through the day, is somewhere in Afghanistan and shielded by the Taliban regime there?

He is, but he works with other governments as well and until we come to grips with government support for terrorism, we will be vulnerable to attacks even on this scale. This could not be done without governments that assisted in training pilot, in moving people and resources and providing intelligence.

Thank you to all of you.

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