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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.

Where this crisis is heading 10/10/01

JEREMY PAXMAN:
With me is Jonathan Freedland, Richard Perle, Professor Kana Makiya from Boston. Let's take the question of whether this war can be won. Do you think it can, Jonathan Freedland?

JONATHAN FREEDLAND:
Not really in the terms it's being defined now. If you think about what are the immediate objectives for example to capture Osama Bin Laden or kill him, either one of those undermines the larger war. If you capture him, he becomes a focus for Islamist anger, people will want to hijack planes to spring him from jail. If you kill him he becomes a martyr and that radicalise millions of people potentially. If you let him carry on killing, you obviously haven't won. Any of those options spells bad news for the coalition.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Richard Perle, you believe it can be won?

RICHARD PERLE:
I think it could be won but not quickly and it won't be won easily. The first immediate task is to remove the Taliban regime and restore Afghanistan to some reasonable government that does not make a profession of supporting terrorism.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
What of the objections Jonathan Freedland has just raised?

RICHARD PERLE:
I think they are overstated frankly. It is true that if Bin Laden is killed in the course of this, there will be people who mourn his passing and regard him as a martyr, but we can live with that.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Mai Yamani, do you think this war can be won?

DR MAI YAMANI:
It depends what you mean by winnable. If it is for the United States to go and show military might and the latest in technology, and bombing and destroying an already impoverished society, that's very easy, but if it's for long-term stability in the region, in the Muslim Arab region and to have friends there, then it is not winnable. Already the situation is very aggravated since the beginning and since last Sunday.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Kanan Makiya, do you think it can be won?

KANAN MAKIYA:
I think the question is, who are going to be the greatest losers, not who are going to be the winners. The idea the western alliance would lose the war in military sense is nonsensical. But the greatest potential losers are the Arab and Muslim world themselves. I think it's in that context really that your question takes on a certain urgency.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Let's explore that. What will be the effect of this conflict upon the Islamic world?

DR MAI YAMANI:
At the moment they do, the majority of the people and the Arab Muslims, perceive the war as a war against Islam. They have connected and they have the words of Osama Bin Laden that were heard a few days ago on Al-Jazeera television, do have an echo among the populations in the region. The reason is that he does fill, it's like he serves his word as a rallying point or filling the gap and needs of the population in the region, and it is not necessarily that they believe in the horrific terrorism, but they do feel supportive of him.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Richard Perle, what do you make of that possible consequence?

RICHARD PERLE:
I'm not at all sure that the vast majority of Muslims believe that Osama Bin Laden represents them or that his tactics, his actions are ones of which they approve. But if they do, there's very little we can do about that. We certainly cannot give terrorists a free reign because other people approve of their behaviour or are mislead into thinking he represents something larger than himself. Osama Bin Laden is a bitter, self-exile from Saudi Arabia. His immediate objective is Saudi Arabia itself. He wants the power, money and position and he's naturally wrapping himself up in the pretence of a larger cause.

JONATHAN FREEDLAND:
I think Richard Perle is being oddly defeatist in saying there's nothing we can do about that. The problem is at the moment the west appears to be confirming what Osama Bin Laden's rhetoric. He says this is a war of the west against Islam and we say it's the world against terror. If that was true, I'm sure we wouldn't be actually bombing a Muslim country, we would be going just after the individual terrorists. By going after a whole country we appear to validate his exact rhetorical claim. There is something we can do about seeming as if we don't have some grudge against the Islamic world. That would be to be much more focused and do this work more in the dark rather than giving Al-Jazeera the spectacular they want.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Given the way it's being fought, what do you think will be the consequences?

KANAN MAKIYA:
Well Mr Paxman, I think the problem is the reaction of the Arab street at the moment, which is what we're gauging in this discussion, has got to be seen against the backdrop of a total state of denial that exists in the Arab and Muslim worlds about this event. They have not yet come to terms of the enormity of the event on September 11th. Even the statement that was made by the Islamic conference today reflects that. The fact that this Osama Bin Laden is one of us, has come out of us and the significance and importance of that fact he is a Muslim and speaks in the name of Islam, with all the ramifications and consequences of that, has not yet sunk in at all.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Is Islam being conscripted legitimately when he talks as he does?

KANAN MAKIYA:
I don't think so. The overwhelming majority of Muslims, when they do come to terms with the fact that this organisation has committed this act, needs to find ways to repudiate him. It needs to convene a great big conference of clerics that would go into the details and take from within the Muslim tradition itself the arguments that exist in the tradition to reject Osama Bin Laden's games. However he represents a strain, a strain that has grown more and more virulent, that has taken over religious discourse in large parts of the Muslim world, and by the way, that has it's origin in Arab nationalist secular categories like anti-imperialist and anti-Zionism. The kind of anti-Americanism has its roots in secular Arab nationalist rhetoric of the 60s and 70s. A failed rhetoric, I might add, the failure of which was picked up by these radicals and turned into a new kind of anti-Americanism. It is a modern political phenomenon of the 20th century and it has to be rooted out from within by Arabs and Muslims themselves.

JONATHAN FREEDLAND:
This is where the problem for the coalition is. They are constantly saying, if you like, Sheikh Bush and Mullah Blair tell us that Islam has nothing to do with Bin Laden. The problem there hasn't been the formal repudiation against Bin Laden that will tell the Muslims this guy is not one of yours.

KANAN MAKIYA:
It's only been four weeks since the event. This is a huge event.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
It's a huge event which is clearly wrong.

KANAN MAKIYA:
I agree with you fully and totally.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
And cannot be justified in any religious terms.

KANAN MAKIYA:
Of course not but to absorb the meaning of it, to repudiate it in the way it should be, lock, stock and barrel, with which that is my position, for such a earth shaking event to take place, it's not the same as just denouncing what happened on September 11th. It is a very big thing and the Arab and Muslim world which hasn't accepted that Osama Bin Laden has perpetrated the act, which I totally accept, it's totally self-evident from where I sit, but Arab and Muslim world has not yet accepted that fact.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
If that is the case and there a state of denial, can this conflict be prevented from becoming the much prophesised clash of civilisations.

DR MAI YAMANI:
I don't agree there is a state of denial. The people are horrified, they are shocked by the event and they have triggered a lot of thinking and I think...

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Why isn't anyone taking Bin Laden seriously then?

DR MAI YAMANI:
Everybody is looking at Bin Laden and his words and this event on 11th September is tied in people's minds with the United States and the perception of the United States' role in the Palestinian struggle and painful Intifada, the constant bombing of Iraq and the sanctions that are damaging on Iraq as well as the military presence that has continued since the Gulf war. I think all of these things and Bin Laden's words that we hear that make people ... There is a very big difference between the people, populations and the states, the rulers and the ruled here.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Richard Perle, what do you make of it, is there any chance that we will avoid a clash of civilisations?

RICHARD PERLE:
I don't know what you mean by that. That there may be hostility in the Arab street is entirely possible. We will survive hostility in the Arab street, what we will not survive is terrorists with access to weapons, logistics, communications and intelligence, who come to our country and kill our citizens and we mean to stop that. With all due respect to Mr Freedland, I'm sure we would be delighted to give you a compass, a map and some rations and you go and get Bin Laden. We appealed to the Taliban to hand him over, they did not do so. This is not a attack on Afghanistan. This is an attack on a regime that sponsors terrorism and refuses to turn over Bin Laden. On a larger sense it's an attack on those governments that support networks of terror.

JONATHAN FREEDLAND:
I didn't want to volunteer personally to take out the al-Queada network. Rather politically, it may make sense to eliminate the volunteers in London, Berlin and Paris than it does to go after the head. To go after the head is to make a martyr. It may be one of those odd situations that it's better to leave him alone and disable the network.

JONATHAN PERLE:
It's already radicalised and engaged in terror. If we are going to defend our people and we have every intention of doing that. We will have to deal with the sources of terror.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Let's leave aside the tactics because we have done that a little bit. We must readdress this question of how in propaganda terms to start to re-conceptionalise this war which in certain parts of the Islamic word is being seen as war on Islam?

JONATHAN FREEDLAND That is the problem. The whole clash of civilisations argument as it was debated in the west is only one end of the telescope. Liberal thinkers say they don't have a problem with Islam, and therefore there is no clash of civilisations, and we forgot to think how do they see us? They do think there is a epic conflict and it's not just a battle against Taliban or al-Qaeda. You have to disable that conception. You have to say we won't pound another Arab country, maybe there has to be more energy in the peace process and more beginning to engage with those grievances. I think there is a huge problem there too because then you appear to accept the terrorist's agenda.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Professor Kanan Makiya, you were saying earlier it was up to the Islamic world itself to make the assessment itself that it couldn't be done for it.

KANAN MAKIYA:
I agree. It's very nice and I fully approve of the leaders of the western alliance visiting mosques and making the statements that Tony Blair and President Bush have done over and over again. It's important but it's not enough and it's not their fault because the fundamental task is of Arabs and Muslims themselves. It's not like we haven't seen this before. In the Gulf war for which in some sense was a dress rehearsal for this event, look at what happened? Much of our problems are caused by the way that war ended not the fact that it ended in a defeat of Saddam Hussein. The source of the problem remains still in power gloating over the current situation and aiding and abetting it, perhaps. It's the same thing with Osama Bin Laden. While it's true that the pure military question is not is what is on the agenda, this is a battle for hearts and minds, on that I think we agree. But at the same time that does not exclude going after the heads of these kinds of movements. It's the rotten state of affairs in so many Arab and Muslim countries that needs to be done away with. What is very important is that the western alliance sees that rotten state of affairs is an issue and extends the hands of friendships to the people of this world, not just engages in military operations.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Briefly Richard is there anything of that you would dissent from?

RICHARD PERLE:
I don't think it's all about hearts and minds. If it is, others can work on that. I want to take the weapons out of the hands of terrorists and keep them from our shores. If we can do that we will have accomplished something important and the hearts and minds can follow later.

JEREMY PAXMAN:
Thank you. DR MAI YAMANI:
If the United States wants to destabilise Bin Laden and al-Qaeda they should solve some of the issues he is addressing, i.e. Palestinian and Iraq. JEREMY PAXMAN:
Thank you all very much.


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