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Rear Adm. Quigley Interview with Michael Reagan

Presenters: Rear Admiral Craig Quigley, DASD PA
September 23, 2001

Wednesday, September 19, 2001

(Interview with the Michael Reagan radio talk show.)

Reagan: Just so you are aware, and you probably are by now if you've watched any television today, listened to any news reports, the Pentagon ordered combat aircraft to bases in the Persian Gulf region today as the president of the United States urged world leaders to aid the United States openly or even secretly in a campaign against terrorism.

We have on the line from Washington, D.C. Rear Admiral U.S. Navy, Craig R. Quigley. Welcome to the show admiral, I would say.

Quigley: Hi, Mike. Thank you. How are you today?

Reagan: I am doing just fine.

Let me just as first of all, how are things going at the Pentagon?

Quigley: It's a busy day, but we're doing just fine.

Reagan: Tell me, any more information on the crash into the Pentagon and the dead?

Quigley: I can't say enough about the legions or rescue workers, police officers, firefighters, food services professionals, the medical profession, it's just been amazing for over the last eight days, have been working around the clock at the site where the aircraft flew into the Pentagon. We're making good progress. It's grim, hard work, but I can't say enough about the heart and soul of those rescue workers.

Reagan: Originally we heard there would be 800 dead, and right now we have what, about 188?

Quigley: 188, that includes 124 people that normally work in the Pentagon, plus the 64 on board the aircraft itself.

Reagan: Where were you when this happened?

Quigley: Well, we were very lucky, Mike. We were on almost the opposite side of the Pentagon from the point where the aircraft struck, and despite that distance and despite how strong a building this is, you could still feel the jolt all the way over on this side. And very shortly after that the word came to evacuate the building. Very shortly after that you started to see smoke fill up in the hallways, and virtually the entire work force of the Pentagon evacuated outside the building.

Reagan: I've said on this show many, many times that probably the smartest decision made that day was from the FAA grounding all the flights. Would you agree?

Quigley: They took incredibly rapid action that day. There was over 2200 airplanes aloft at the time of the attacks, and they were all grounded, I believed, in two or two and a half hours. That was an incredible feat and could have, indeed, saved additional lives.

Reagan: I would say it probably did save additional lives because some probably didn't get off the ground and others probably landed before the terrorists had time to take over the aircraft, because Los Angeles, Chicago, I would say Atlanta, there were probably other cities, San Francisco, who were probably on the agenda of the terrorists, would you say?

Quigley: Sure could have been. I mean it was bad enough to hit the targets in New York City and Washington, D.C. There's lots of other big cities in America, lots of other things that would have been a very high profile target for a terrorist to hit.

Reagan: This war that we are entering, the president of the United States is going to speak before a joint session tomorrow night.

Quigley: Yes.

Reagan: And many believe that he is going to declare war in that joint session. And in fact has stated it in many, many ways since the attack a week ago last Tuesday.

You have been in the military for many, many years. This is a war like you have never even thought about fighting before. How are we prepared to fight a war against Afghanistan, a country that was able with our help to rid themselves of the Soviet Union and even the Soviet Union says it's a war that you can't win there. How do we plan to go in there and get Osama bin Laden out?

Quigley: Well, Mike, it is indeed going to be a very, very different war than what I think Americans are used to thinking about. If you compare it to the Gulf War where over a period of many months coalition forces built up and then attacked, counterattacked Iraq. Even if you compare it to the Kosovo air campaign of just a couple of years ago, it's going to be like neither of those things, and I think it's going to be like nothing that America has ever fought before.

This is an enemy that fights in the shadows. You're not going against traditional armies and navies and air forces, you're going against a network of networks of terrorists that move into and out of countries and just do unspeakable acts against nations around the globe.

Reagan: But do we prepare our military for that type of a war? Because it's not the traditional war that we usually fight.

Quigley: If you look at it from a strictly military sense, it's not a broad enough perspective. This is going to be both financial and diplomatic and military. These are organizations that receive support from some organizations and countries. They receive money, lots of money. They receive training and they receive save havens. We want to find the day where a terrorist cannot find any of those sources of comfort and it will be at complete despair because we'll have eliminated all of those sources of support. But it is going to be very much a holistic effort, if you will, and not just military.

Reagan: Would I be right when I've said on the show that in fact it's probably going to be a two-front war? The first front is going to be, we'll just say Afghanistan for now. It might be Iraq. It may be some place else. But there will be a front in the Middle East, but the second front will be right here in the United States of America because the way they fight, they fight by doing terrorist acts as they pulled off a week ago Tuesday, and we're not assured that there aren't terrorists already here ready to do the very same thing the moment we enter the war effort in the Middle East.

Quigley: Yeah. I mean I don't think before last Tuesday most of us considered an airliner to be a weapon.

Reagan: No.

Quigley: And I think you absolutely have to consider that today. So you're looking at, there are any number of terrorist organizations that operate in some 50 to 60 countries around the world, including the United States. So this is a pervasive and difficult foe, but we will prevail.

Reagan: We will prevail.

Tell me about Operation Infinite Justice.

Quigley: Well, I will tell you that today we have started to reposition some of our military forces, Mike, outside the United States. There will be more in the weeks and months ahead. Again, this is going to be a long-term sustained effort on our part.

Reagan: Long term. Give me an idea when you say long term. Five years? Ten years?

Quigley: I wish I could give you a good answer.

Reagan: It could be forever.

Quigley: Sooner is better, but I really can't give you a good answer to that, I'm afraid.

Reagan: If we look at the Israeli situation, this could be something, once we are enjoined into it, it could last for a very long time. They've been fighting their battle since 1948.

Quigley: The real problem I think is the networked and well supported and well financed terrorist organizations. I don't think you're going to ever be completely rid of the person with an ax to ground that has an individual act of terrorism. But as bad as those are, if you compare that to the toll of the dead and the injured from last Tuesday, it pales in comparison.

Reagan: How does the government, how does the military plan to protect the citizens of the United States within our own borders?

Quigley: Again, that responsibility would principally fall with the FBI, but it's going to be an inter-agency effort. If we can contribute to that, then we certainly will.

Reagan: Do you think we'll see a point where we may have military in the major cities to protect us?

Quigley: I don't think that's what America is about.

Reagan: It may not be what we're about, but if we get fearful enough because our pizzerias are getting blown up, we may ask for it.

Quigley: One of the things that those terrorists who attacked last Tuesday wanted to go after was our very way of life, Mike, and the freedoms that we enjoy. You can accept that and go into some sort of a hunker-down mode and always be looking over your shoulder. That's not the path we've chosen.

We want to change their behavior and have them look over their shoulder because we're here to tell you that we're not going to stop until we get them and remove them from the earth.

Reagan: Admiral Quigley, thank you very much. And get that USS Ronald Reagan floating. It may be needed.

Quigley: Soon.

Reagan: You take care, sir. We appreciate it. We'll talk to you again.

I'm Mike Reagan.