May 16, 2003 | Broadcast

CNN Saturday Morning News – Saudi Arabia, Iraq


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, earlier in the program we asked you to e-mail us at [email protected] and let us know what you think. Do you feel safe here at home with the war on terror? How is the war on terror going?

We got a lot of responses. I just want to read you one quickly. It’s from Thomas in Attleboro, Massachusetts. He’s 10 years old. He wants to be a journalist when he grows up. He says he feels safe here at home. “Americans have to understand they’re not going to have the wonderful opportunity to live life to the fullest if they’re scared all the time.”

That from Thomas.

Thanks for your e-mails. Keep them coming in.

This week’s bombings in Morocco and Saudi Arabia, of course, are a reminder that the war on terror is far from over. But how do you think it is going? Do the latest attacks mean al Qaeda is still as strong as ever?

In Washington, we’re joined by David Silverstein of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and Julianne Malveaux, a syndicated columnist. Both of you, appreciate you joining us.

Julianne, how do you think it? How is the war going, in your opinion?

JULIANNE MALVEAUX, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: I don’t know that it’s going so well. I think that al Qaeda has had an opportunity, really, to reenergize, as Senator Graham was saying earlier. We’ve focused on Iraq as opposed to continuing to focus on Afghanistan. There are as many as 18,000 al Qaeda operatives around the world in 90 countries. Many senior leadership still not captured, although we’ve certainly made progress…

COOPER: So you think the war in Iraq slowed the war on terror down?

MALVEAUX: Absolutely. I think it was a diversion.

COOPER: David, what do you think?

DAVID SILVERSTEIN, FOUNDATION FOR DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACIES: I think it’s absolutely ridiculous to suggest that the war on terrorism is doing anything but going quite well. We crushed the Taliban and the al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan. We crushed Iraq, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, where terrorists were known to operate, including al Qaeda operatives like Ansar al-Islam in the northeast part of that country. And we continue to chase down terrorists everywhere around the world.

Most importantly, terrorists have not struck in the United States since September 11, 2001. That shows you that we have been successful in putting the threat away from our borders and into, most importantly, just the Arab countries — not Western Europe, not our other allied democracies, but just the Arab countries. It’s still a problem. There’s a long way to go. But we have managed to defend the American homeland.

COOPER: Julianne, homeland security?

MALVEAUX: You know, we just had a report today that — or yesterday, that the TSA has not fully vetted all of the employees, 240 or so of the 600 at Dulles Airport. Meanwhile, they’re cutting back employees. I think the Department of Homeland Security hasn’t done very well, either. I mean my colleague here may be very firm about what he thinks we’re doing, but I think we could be doing a whole lot more. I think when you travel, part of the lull in travel has to do with people’s insecurities about what’s going on. The 10-year-old who sent you the e-mail is wonderful, but the fact is that many people are frightened.

And the fact is that our cities and states are asked to take up some of the homeland security burden at a time when the economy is flagging and they can’t afford to do it.


COOPER: All right, David’s shaking his head.

SILVERSTEIN: You know, she’s got a good point, we do have a long way to go. We’re not going to defeat this enemy overnight. There are thousands and thousands of people out there who mean to do us harm. But the reality is is that this is a brand new department, the Department of Homeland Security. It was just stood up just a few months ago. There are tens of thousands of people that need to be integrated into this department and put to work in appropriate ways.

It’s a new challenge. We’ll get there, but ultimately, ultimately we are doing the job. Slowly but surely and the fact that we have not been attacked here at home since September 11, 2001 shows us we are winning.

MALVEAUX: You know what? The Department of Homeland Security is an amalgam of several departments. And these, all these people have been working on security related issues before. It’s a cop out to say well, we have to integrate all these people together. The fact is that they lobbied for this department because it was supposed to be so much more efficient…

COOPER: Well, Julianne, what more do you think needs to be done by the Office of Homeland Security? You’re saying that…

MALVEAUX: I — first of all, I think that some money should go to the cities and states, especially places where you have what might be called soft targets — bridges. California, you know, terrorists have looked at the Bay Bridges in the San Francisco Bay area, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge here in the Washington area. But cities and states should be empowered. They should get the funding so that they can do the security work that they need to do. That’s difficult right now with every city and state facing some form of a deficit. I think that there are other things have…

SILVERSTEIN: You know, the reality — excuse me, Julianne.

The reality is…

MALVEAUX: Excuse me.

SILVERSTEIN: You make great points and we do need to harden some of those…

MALVEAUX: All right.

SILVERSTEIN: … some of those vulnerable targets. But we do have a president who’s dedicated to homeland security. We do have a president who has provided the funding…

MALVEAUX: That’s not clear to me at all.

SILVERSTEIN: And we do have a president…

MALVEAUX: Just a minute…

SILVERSTEIN: And we do have a president who has led the country in war successfully over and over.

MALVEAUX: The war was a diversion…

SILVERSTEIN: And if you refuse to…

MALVEAUX: The war was a diversion from — excuse me now.

SILVERSTEIN: You know, if terrorists operating in Iraq were a diversion, then I’m afraid you don’t understand the threat of terrorism.

MALVEAUX: The war was a diversion from the whole issue of the war on terrorism. But…

SILVERSTEIN: And if you…


COOPER: Wait, David. Wait. Hold on. Hold on. Hold on.


MALVEAUX: Refuse to accept nothing…

COOPER: Let’s get one at a time. Julianne, finish your thought.

MALVEAUX: Let’s be very clear here. We’ve got, we have got an international network of terrorists, 18,000 of them in 90 countries. We have international agencies in other parts of the world who are looking at this and saying al Qaeda has not been strangled, al Qaeda has not been stopped, but we’re acting as if Iraq, where no weapons of mass destruction have been found, where Iraq was our greatest threat. It was not our greatest threat.

Our greatest threat has been al Qaeda and we blinked on that. As Senator Graham has said, we moved away from Afghanistan so that we can look at other things. Meanwhile, we’re pushing down burdens to the cities and states. I think it’s ridiculous and I think that the president…

COOPER: All right…

MALVEAUX: … is not focused as much as he could be.


COOPER: David, respond, and the final thought.

SILVERSTEIN: Sure. You bet.

First of all, I would dismiss out of hand the statements of a presidential candidate, even one as learned as Senator Graham. The fact is is that we are doing quite well. The fact is is al Qaeda is on the run. We’re not there yet. We’ve got a long way to go. But to suggest that this administration isn’t doing the job and isn’t handling it on a daily basis is wholly false and quite, quite upsetting.

COOPER: All right, we’re going to have to leave it there.

David Silverstein, Julianne Malveaux, appreciate your joining us.


It was an interesting discussion.

MALVEAUX: Thank you.