- The Washington Times - Monday, October 22, 2001

U.S. troops in Afghanistan will take Osama bin Laden alive if possible, but are prepared to eliminate him if circumstances dictate, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said yesterday.
"If it's a defensive situation, bullets will fly," Gen. Richard B. Myers, the nation's top military officer, said yesterday in an interview on ABC's "This Week."
Asked if he believes bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, will survive the war on terrorism, Gen. Myers said, "I don't know for sure the military is only a small piece of this overall effort. And the goal right now is to try to bring down al Qaeda [bin Ladens terrorist network] and to try to bring down the Taliban, who support him."
The Joint Chiefs chairman made his comments amid published reports that President Bush signed an order last month directing the CIA to use lethal covert action against bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network.
The order specifically called for the destruction of bin Laden and al Qaeda and gave the CIA an additional $1 billion for its anti-terror campaign, according to the reports.
News of the order comes at a time of concern about bioterrorism on U.S. soil, resulting from a growing list of people who have been infected by the bacterium anthrax that has been sent through the mail and thousands who have been tested for exposure.
A third case of the potentially fatal inhaled form of anthrax, involving a D.C. postal worker, was confirmed yesterday, fueling more fears of germ warfare, which some suspected could be tied to al Qaeda, Iraq or both.
The White House would neither confirm nor deny the reports that the president wanted the CIA and U.S. military to assassinate bin Laden and his top officials. But less than a week after the terrorist attacks that killed more than 5,000 people at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the president said he wanted bin Laden captured "dead or alive."
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell refused to discuss the reports when asked about them on CNN's "Late Edition." But he said, "I think it's quite clear we are anxious to see Osama bin Laden brought to justice or justice brought to him."
Two key senators interviewed yesterday on NBC's "Meet the Press" said the president's order to take bin Laden has their full backing. "It's not only the right thing to do. It's the moral thing to do, because it will save many more lives, both in Afghanistan and in the United States," said Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman, Connecticut Democrat.
Said Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican: "The unprecedented aspects of what we are facing, clearly, I think, warrant using whatever means necessary."
Asked later by "Meet the Press" host Tim Russert what bin Laden would be for Halloween, Mr. McCain replied: "Dead."
Sen. Richard G. Lugar, Indiana Republican, said on CNN's "Late Edition" he would prefer if bin Laden were killed rather than captured alive.
Sen. Evan Bayh, Mr. Lugar's Democratic colleague from the Hoosier state, said he "wholeheartedly" agreed. "There's no reason to have him in a jail someplace serving as the inspiration for further attacks or hostage takings," Mr. Bayh said.
The anthrax attacks in this country, which have killed one person and infected eight others since Oct. 1, were a major topic on network news talk shows yesterday.
Although the source of the anthrax still was unknown, some lawmakers and a senior Bush administration official who were asked about it suggested the episodes could be "state-sponsored" bioterrorism.
Members of Congress have a personal interest in anthrax, since evidence of the germ has been found at four sites on Capitol Hill. Both the House and Senate are scheduled to reconvene tomorrow as investigators continue to search the Capitol for any new discoveries of anthrax.
Speculation is running high among many that Iraq may have ties to the recent wave of anthrax attacks, and that the administration may target Saddam Hussein's regime after the Taliban militia is toppled from power.
On ABC, Gen. Myers said, "This is a global war on terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Afghanistan is only one small piece. So, of course, we're thinking very broadly."
The general's reference to a war on weapons of mass destruction prompted speculation the Bush administration might be laying the groundwork for a future attack on Iraq, which is known to have continued producing biological and chemical weapons in violation of U.N. sanctions imposed after the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
Mr. Lieberman said the anthrax that went to the office of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, last week was "significantly refined" and could not have been produced by "a couple of guys in someone's kitchen stirring things up."
"So it says to me that there's either a significant amount of money behind this, or this is state-sponsored, or this is stuff that was stolen from the former Soviet program" in which anthrax was developed into a biological weapon, he said.
Mr. Lieberman said he sees Iraq as a potential supplier of the anthrax now causing havoc in the United States. He outlined the reasons for his suspicions on NBC.
"We know that Saddam would like to do us the worst kind of ill. Saddam is a terrorist and it should be a centerpiece of our policy, after we've finished the business in Afghanistan and bin Laden, to end that regime," he said.
Both Mr. Lieberman and Mr. McCain said they would not object to having Saddam added to the order the president gave the CIA last month.
Mr. Powell, interviewed on CNN's "Late Edition," suggested Iraq could be the source of the anthrax causing problems in this country.
"I don't put it past Iraq. We know they have been working on this kind of terror weapon, and we keep a very close eye on them," he said. But Mr. Powell added that it was "premature to make any judgments yet because we just don't know" where the anthrax came from.
Mr. Bayh, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said on CNN that Iraq "probably does" have anthrax in its arsenal.
Asked whom Mr. Bayh believed was responsible for the U.S. anthrax scare, he said he didn't know. "We do know that al Qaeda was attempting to develop biological capabilities. There are some interesting facts around that might suggest some outside involvement."
In other developments yesterday on the anthrax front:
A total of nine Americans have tested positive for anthrax. The list includes three who have developed the serious inhalation form of the disease, which has killed one of the nine victims.
Tests for anthrax at ABC-TV, where a 7-month-old boy was believed to have contracted the disease, and other media organizations in New York have come back negative, Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani said yesterday.
On Capitol Hill, an environmental sweep through 19 buildings continued yesterday. A total of 28 persons have tested positive for exposure to the bacterium, but none has been diagnosed with the disease.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide