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Joint Chiefs of Staff Television Interview with NBC Today Show

Presenters: General Richard Myers, chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff
May 27, 2002 7:15 AM EDT

(Television interview with Katie Couric, NBC Today)

Couric: Joining us this Memorial Day morning from Arlington National Cemetery is Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers.

General Myers, good morning to you, sir.

Myers: Good morning, Katie.

Couric: In light of the events of September 11th, and given the fact that there are U.S. troops in Afghanistan, why do you think this Memorial Day will have special significance for Americans?

Myers: Well, I think it's going to be special for many reasons. But let's go back to earlier Memorial Days. They were always special occurrences, of course, as we commemorated the sacrifices of all those who gave their lives for our freedoms.

This Memorial Day, in the last eight-plus months since September 11th, I think this country has grown very close and very united in spirit. And I think this Memorial Day is a particularly special one for that very reason.

Couric: Obviously our thoughts are with the men and women in Afghanistan and in other posts overseas. What is the biggest threat our U.S. troops are facing right now in Afghanistan?

Myers: Well, I think it's hit-and-run tactics by pockets, remaining pockets of Taliban and al Qaeda. I think we have to be constantly on alert. We've taken the big concentrations of al Qaeda and Taliban and defeated them, but there are small pockets remaining; we know that. And that's the biggest threat. It's more like a terrorist threat in Afghanistan, as a matter of fact.

Couric: The search for Osama bin Laden continues. How confident are you that U.S. forces will find him? And can there be a victory without capturing Osama bin Laden?

Myers: Well, I think we've already had some measure of success in Afghanistan. And we haven't, of course, captured Osama bin Laden. I think we will, in the end, capture him. But that's not going to be the measure of our success.

I think the measure of our success will be our ability to disrupt future terrorist acts, and we're working on that very hard. And, by the way, this is not just a military operation, as you know. There's diplomatic and law enforcement, intelligence agencies, and all our coalition partners that are cooperating in this effort.

Couric: You talk about preventing future terrorist acts, General Myers. I'm just curious; you know, there was a steady drumbeat of warnings last week by various administration officials, including a warning by Defense Secretary Rumsfeld about the possibility of a nuclear terrorist attack.

As a military strategist, with the understanding that it's impossible to completely safeguard this country against terrorism, are you confident that everything is being done to prevent these kinds of attacks from occurring - because to many observers, there remain huge gaping holes in U.S. security?

Myers: We are working very, very hard to make sure there are no gaps, as you said, Katie. The whole United States government is working very hard. I've never seen such close cooperation among all the agencies and departments that it's going to take.

But you also said a very important thing, and that is that we can't just defend. There's no wall we can build high enough that's going to defend us from terrorist acts, so we have to take this fight overseas -- and again, not just the military but all our instruments of national power. And we've done that. And through those two efforts, protecting ourselves here at home and taking the fight overseas, I think we'll be successful.

Couric: But General Myers, what about, for example, the vulnerability of U.S. nuclear power plants? That has come front and center in recent days. Do they need to be better protected?

Myers: You know, we've looked at this from September 11th forward. We've looked at the vulnerability of not only nuclear power plants but also other critical infrastructure sites throughout this country. And we're working hand in glove with other federal and civil agencies to make sure they are protected.

And, you know, to stop one terrorist dedicated to destroying him or herself is a very, very difficult task. But I think, by and large, the American citizens can know that we're working very hard to protect all our critical sites and to protect them.

Couric: Let's quickly move to Iraq. There have been reports in recent days that logistically a massive U.S. offensive against Iraq and Saddam Hussein is just logistically impossible because U.S. military resources have been stretched so thin already. Can you confirm that that is an impossibility at this juncture?

Myers: Let me confirm just the opposite, Katie. The United States military is ready to do whatever it is that the president calls upon it to do. And we are ready logistically. We're ready in every way to support the president in his policy and his direction. Obviously we've not gotten that direction yet, but we're ready. Those reports are inaccurate.

Couric: All right. Well, General Richard Myers. General Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thanks so much for joining us this Memorial Day morning. We appreciate it.

Myers: Thank you, Katie.

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