- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 23, 2001

The State Department and the Defense Department disagree on the scope of the pending war against terrorism, the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmed yesterday.
Interviewed on CNN's "Evans, Novak, Hunt & Shields," Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, was asked about reports that the State Department would like to limit the initial targets of the impending U.S. retaliatory attacks to the ruling Taliban regime in Afghanistan and terrorists in that country, while the Defense Department would also like to strike at governments that support terrorists in other Arab countries, including Iraq.
"With this one, I'm with the Defense Department," Mr. Helms said, adding:
"I say that with apologies, perhaps to the secretary of state, but the State Department is wrong, in my judgment."
North Carolina's senior senator, who is finishing up three decades in the Senate half of them as the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee was then asked if he thinks Iraq will be a target of the attack.
"That depends on two or three things they are trying to work out, and I don't think they'll work them out. I think they will be a target," Mr. Helms said.
U.S. officials have identified wealthy Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, whose terrorist network has been sheltered by the Taliban in Afghanistan, as the "prime suspect" in the Sept. 11 deadly attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, which killed more than 6,500 persons. On Friday, the Taliban refused an ultimatum by President Bush to hand over bin Laden immediately.
However, some reports have suggested that Iraq which has never gotten over its defeat by the United States and its allies in the 1991 Persian Gulf war may have sponsored the attacks on U.S. soil. Iraq's government denies the charge.
Mr. Helms yesterday acknowledged uncertainty as to whether he would support sending U.S. troops to Afghanistan. "I would have to know a few more things about it. Now we have dispatched 2,200 Marines this past Thursday from North Carolina Marine bases, but I'm not sure that I feel confident about the general process there. But these Marines will not be sent directly into [Afghanistan]," the veteran lawmaker told CNN.
Mr. Helms recognizes the risks of sending U.S. troops to Afghanistan, given that the former Soviet Union was defeated and forced to retreat from that country following a 10-year occupation.
Mr. Helms said there's been much discussion about the failed Soviet invasion, as well as the difficulties that would be faced trying to establish a democratic government in Afghanistan, in meetings he's had with high-level officials in a secure room on the fourth floor of the Capitol during the past week. "I don't believe I want to talk about it further at this time," he said on CNN.
If the war on terrorism goes beyond Afghanistan to include Iraq, Mr. Helms was asked if the U.S. government should set as a goal the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. "The first President Bush ought to have gotten rid of him. I say that with all due respect to the former president, but that was one of the major mistakes that was made at that time," Mr. Helms said.
As Mr. Bush spoke at length by phone yesterday with Russian President Vladimir Putin who has pledged his country's support in the war on terrorism Mr. Helms said he does not think either Russia or China will be reliable allies in this fight.
"I do not, and I think it's a waste of time," said Mr. Helms, who is well-known for his candor and bluntness.
"China has demonstrated time and time again that they're not interested in working with the United States on anything. They are determined to do the best they can for China, regardless of the United States, and I haven't seen much better from Russia," he added.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 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