Guests: Steve Emerson, Salam al-Marayati, Bruce Perry
ANNOUNCER: DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.
DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST: Chilling video. New, horrifying tape released of what actually went on inside a Russian school that led to an unspeakable act of terror. This as a nation expresses anger and grief as Russia tries to cope with its own 9/11. More than 300 innocent lives, nearly half of them children, slaughtered in their own schoolyard by terrorists. What motivated such a depraved attack? And as government and corporate buildings remain under heavy security here in the U.S., how safe are American schools? Tonight, as the grief-stricken community of Beslan buries its children, Americans can‘t help but wonder, Where and when will terror strike next?
ANNOUNCER: From studio 3K in Rockefeller Center, Deborah Norville.
NORVILLE: And good evening, everybody. Tonight, the unthinkable, children as targets of terror. As the people of the small southern Russian town of Beslan continue to bury their dead, there‘s new videotape out tonight reportedly recorded by the Chechen rebels themselves as they held more than a thousand hostages inside that seized middle school last week.
You‘re looking at video shot by the hostages during more than 60 hours in which these school children, parents and teachers were in horrific conditions without food, with water. And then, of course, Russian commandos stormed the school after they heard explosions inside. At that point, more than 300 people were killed in those explosions and the fire that resulted and the gun battle that followed. Half of those dead were children.
What you‘re looking at was shot, we believe, by those who were the hostage takers. These are the people who stormed the school. Questions still remain unanswered about how the enormous number of weapons, bombs that were in that school were secreted there in the first place. Everyone in the school was herded into the gymnasium, where they were stacked sometimes three atop one another, the school booby-trapped both below the floorboards and in the ceiling with bombs.
In Beslan, caskets continue to be carried one by one for burial. A patch of land about the size of a football field has been prepared for more graves because the town‘s tiny cemetery simply isn‘t big enough to hold all the bodies. And today in Moscow, tens of thousands of people demonstrated against terrorism in response to the government‘s call for solidarity. And today, the American secretary of state, Colin Powell, said that the United States is united with Russia in condemning this attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Terrorism of this kind has no place in the world. To take children and put children at risk and to murder them in this deliberate manner has to be condemned. The civilized world condemns it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Joining me now from Moscow is NBC News correspondent Jim Maceda, who reported from the scene in Beslan and witnessed many of the horrors firsthand. And with me in the studio in New York is Stephen Cohen. He‘s a professor of Russian studies at New York University. And I thank you both for being with us.
Jim, let me start with you first. You look at that videotape, and you can‘t help but have tears in your eyes and chills down your spine. Has anybody figured out how this happened, or more importantly, why?
JIM MACEDA, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Well, how the actual hostage taking happened, that‘s one of the very many nagging questions. Certainly, chilling for me. I have been inside that gymnasium. I was in that so-called ground zero, if you will. It‘s now, of course, a makeshift memorial. The floor is charred. All those windows are blown out now. The ceiling is gone. The rafters are hanging there. The—you saw the basketball hoop, the basketball court where those—one of the individuals, one of the Islamic militants looked like he was priming a detonator, pushing with his foot what looks like a stack of books with wires coming out of it. That‘s one of the many makeshift explosives that was there. That could have been the bomb, one of the two bombs that set off those two explosions which then triggered everything.
Knowing that these kids, up to 1,100 kids with their teachers and with their parents, perished perhaps less than 24 hours later, it could have been 24 -- as many as 48 hours. But the guess is that all of those pictures that you saw happened the first day, hours after these people were taken hostage. It is absolutely chilling.
Now, the local people there are asking that very question you just asked me.
MACEDA: How could this possibly happen? How could a truckload of 30 or so individuals, heavily armed, drive into a town of 30,000, 35,000, pull up to a school and seize a whole school? Clearly, there were pre-positioned weapons. How did those weapons get pre-positioned? The answer that they imply, and some of them not so subtly, is that there was collusion, that Chechen rebels or Ingush rebels or any other kind of rebels can buy local officials.
NORVILLE: Now, they‘re also saying, Jim, that...
MACEDA: ... rampant corruption.
NORVILLE: They‘re also saying, Jim—there‘s been reports that there was renovation done during the summer in this school, and the supposition is that many of the larger caches of weapons could have actually been put in during that renovation process. Can you confirm that?
MACEDA: I can‘t confirm it, but that is one of the leading theories right now, that these people were working on renovations, that they came in months before and planted even under the floorboards or in the basement of that gymnasium some of these weapons. And the weapons were makeshift. There were bombs that were made, really, out of cans and boxes. But there were also RPG launchers, RPG-7s, RPG-8s, and some sophisticated weaponry, as well.
NORVILLE: I want to...
MACEDA: The—that image of that boy with his—sorry. Go ahead.
NORVILLE: Go ahead. No. Yes. I want to get back to the impact on
the town in just a moment, but I want to turn now to Professor Cohen and—
this comes as such a shock, sir, to so many of us. And you know, you just
· you just go like this, to see this. And yet the Chechnyan problem to which this is being linked is one that‘s gone for on almost 10 years in Russia.
STEPHEN COHEN, NYU RUSSIAN STUDIES PROFESSOR: Longer. It goes back to the czars (UNINTELLIGIBLE) fighting between Chechens and Russians. Somebody said the other day, It‘s God who‘s responsible for putting the Chechens among the Russians. It‘s a blood feud now. Nobody can remember who‘s to blame in the beginning.
These pictures—this is what television does best. It lets you look at this. It‘s horrifying. There ought to be more crying than news analysis because that‘s the emotion you feel. You reach for your kids.
What‘s going on in Russia—I mean, obviously, the people who rounded up these kids and shot them purposely and killed them are monsters and deserve no excuse whatsoever. But this terror is different from the terror that we talk about in this country, in our war against terror. This terror comes directly from the Russian war in Chechnya. Every time there‘s been a hostage crisis—and there‘s been several over the last few years—the survivors say, I said to the hostage taker, Don‘t you care about my children? And the hostage taker said, Did you care about mine when your soldiers killed my children?
NORVILLE: And this was directly something that was said at an earlier horrific event in the Moscow theater...
COHEN: And before.
NORVILLE: ... in which a number of people were killed.
COHEN: We ought not to forget—we have short memories, but in 1995, a group of Chechens took 1,000 hostages out of a hospital in southern Russia. What does that tell us? These guys know what they‘re doing. They‘re professional terrorists. They‘re professional kidnappers and hostage takers. They got those weapons into that theater two years ago when they took 800 people weeks and months in advance. They had the weapons in the school. They had the weapons in that hospital.
NORVILLE: But this is a new level. To go in and attack kids is beyond the pale.
COHEN: It‘s beyond the pale. It is. But if we‘re going to analyze and not moralize, they don‘t think it‘s beyond the pale, the people who did it, or they couldn‘t do it. I mean, if you ask us, How can people go in and kill children, and if you ask them, I just gave you the answer. They‘ll say, These people killed my children. So it‘s become an eye for an eye.
This is apart from the politics of it. I mean, there‘s a lot of politics involved here.
COHEN: But that‘s why—you‘ve heard of these “black widows,” these women who go and put bombs around themselves and commit suicide to kill a lot of Russians. Each and every one of them is the widow of someone the Russians killed. So you‘ve got this...
NORVILLE: The tit for tat that‘s going on.
Jim, there in Beslan, you had a chance to speak to some of the people, to share the anguish that they‘re feeling. I know this is a very poor area, and I guess that kids are, in many respects, all many of these families had.
MACEDA: That‘s absolutely right. You‘re talking about a highly industrialized area pretty much left behind by the so-called “second revolution,” the Yeltsin revolution, the revolution for democracy in this country. These people are still living in the 19th century. They‘re living in czarist times. And you‘re right, these people are so desperate, so poor, that the emphasis, the value that each child takes is all the more, larger than life, if you will.
And we spoke to so many of these people who say their futures have literally been ripped out. Their hearts have been ripped out, and so have their futures. These kids were so important. I can only—I mean, and every person we talked to, every statistic was a heart-wrenching story.
I can think of one girl in particular. She turned 11 years old the day before going back to school, and she had a birthday party. This is her grandmother telling me the story at her wake. She had a birthday party the day before, August 31. She enjoyed that. She wrote in her diary. She was a very diligent student, as well as a friend of many people there. So there was a large—it was a large party. And she wrote, We had—I had such a great time today at my birthday, but tomorrow‘s going to be even better because tomorrow‘s the first day of school. And I can‘t wait to get back. And she, of course, went to that first day of school and never came back, the first day of school being the day of knowledge. It‘s called the “day of knowledge” in Russia. It‘s a very important day, particularly for those who materially are so far behind.
NORVILLE: Jim, who do they blame for this?
MACEDA: ... the child‘s education.
NORVILLE: Who do they blame for this?
MACEDA: Well, they don‘t know who to blame. The people of Beslan don‘t know who to blame, and that‘s really one of the problems. They obviously want revenge. On a certain visceral level, they blame the terrorists. That‘s obvious. But when that revenge and that anger subsides somewhat and the shock subsides somewhat and they ask rational questions, they don‘t know who to blame because they‘ve told me that they don‘t know what happened.
MACEDA: And that‘s the real—the real victim here is the truth. They have—they‘re suffering tremendous pain, on the one hand, but that is augmented by the fact that they have this extraordinary frustration of not believing what they‘re told, not trusting the story that they‘re being told and knowing that they probably will never know the truth.
NORVILLE: All right.
MACEDA: And so they don‘t really know how to get closure and how to vent that anger and frustration and fear that this could well happen again. They feel totally unprotected down there.
MACEDA: As Stephen mentioned, this is not the first...
NORVILLE: Understandably so.
MACEDA: ... not the first attack in southern Russia, and it won‘t be the last.
NORVILLE: Yes. Jim Maceda, thank you very much for being with us from Moscow. Stephen Cohen will be back with us. Jim, we‘re going to say thank you to you. And as Maceda mentioned, the first day of school is known as “the day of knowledge.” As we go into the break, a look at school No.1 in Beslan two years ago on a happier occasion, the first day of school.
We‘ll be back in just a moment.
ANNOUNCER: Coming up: the innocent victims of terrorism and the worldwide concern. Is anyone safe anymore? DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT is coming right back.
NORVILLE: Just some of the powerful images from Beslan, Russia, where terrorists seized a school last week, leaving more than 300 people dead, more than half of them children. We‘re seeing more and more terror attacks around the world these days—Russia, Spain, Bali, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and of course, here in the United States.
Today secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld talked about the increasing attacks.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: But what we saw last week was a very gripping, vivid example of the extremes to which terrorists will go, and are not only willing to go, but do, in fact, go and are going. They are doing these things today. This is a global struggle between extremists and people who want to be left alone to live free lives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Joining me to discuss worldwide terrorism and whether the various groups that have been wreaking havoc around the planet have banded together, we continue now with Stephen Cohen. As you know, he‘s the professor of Russian studies at New York University. We‘re also joined now by NBC counterterrorism analyst Juliette Kayyem, MSNBC analyst and terrorism expert Steven Emerson and Salam al-Marayati of the Muslim Public Affairs Council. And thank you all for joining our discussion.
I want to get into the politics first of what this event means. Everybody‘s calling this Russia‘s 9/11. Steve Cohen, we‘ll continue with you. Is this going to change the political structure in Russia? Because Mr. Putin is certainly on the hot seat tonight.
COHEN: Yes. Putin has governed since 1999 based on his enormous popularity. The popularity is based on what was the Russian conviction that Putin can protect Russia and make people safe and secure after the upheavals of the Gorbachev and the Yeltsin eras. Putin has fostered that image, of the taciturn, quiet, strong little colonel from the secret police. That‘s gone. A Russian friend of mine, a woman, said, A czar who cannot protect our children is not a good czar. Russians have forgiven Putin almost everything...
NORVILLE: But they can‘t forgive this.
COHEN: ... they won‘t—many will begin to stop forgiving. I don‘t think it‘s going to happen overnight, but this is a shock to the Putin cult, and he will now have to rule differently. What does differently mean? Probably even less democratically.
NORVILLE: Juliette Kayyem, when you look at this particular instance in Beslan, do you see this as the beginning of an escalation, or the culmination of a series of events that have been more or less internal in Russia?
JULIETTE KAYYEM, BELFER CTR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, HARVARD, NBC
COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: It‘s a great question. I don‘t think we know right now. I think we do need to separate what happened in Russia with sort of the more general international terrorism threat out there. This is clearly Chechen terrorism. It looks pretty bad. It looks like the global terrorism we‘re facing. But it is—as Professor Cohen said, it is different.
We are looking at terrorism in the midst of a 10-year, longer than 10-year civil war between, basically, the Chechens and the Russians. What we‘re starting to see, and what clearly, it looks like we‘re starting to see, even after this incident last week, is the extent to which the other terrorism, the one that Americans think of, the Islamic terrorist threat, is beginning to sort of meld into the Chechen terrorism threat, both because it looks like there may have been individuals who are not from Chechnya involved with this—and secondly, I just think 9/11 changed the stakes for most terrorist groups. Spain is one example, what happened in Spain, and then certainly this.
I mean, the idea that you would target children—I think my husband had the best line. He said, you know, These—you just—you can‘t imagine that they have children, to see these pictures. They did, and those children, as Professor Cohen said, died in the struggle over the last 10 years.
So I think this is separate, but it‘s also sort of being merged with the more general global terrorism threat in ways that we can‘t even see right now.
NORVILLE: Steve Emerson, do you agree with that? Do you think that this is a melding of just terror in general coming together that we‘re seeing or a separate instance?
STEVEN EMERSON, TERRORISM EXPERT, MSNBC ANALYST: Deborah, I think I probably will disagree with the other guests here. I think this is endemic to the whole development of Islamic terrorism worldwide. Yes, the Chechnyans have their own particular brand because they have their own, quote, indigenous cause. But the fact is, there has been a merging with al Qaeda, with Islamic fundamentalists. There has been phenomenal amount of interchange of training, weapons, money over the last eight years. And now you really can‘t separate the two.
Even though you can claim that there is some type of, quote, moral legitimacy to the Chechen claim for independence, on the other hand, the tactics used are demonstrably indicative of one phenomenon around the world that‘s been unprecedented for the last five years. That is Islamic terrorism, the use of civilians.
And the fact is that even Arab commentators, including the former manager of an Arab news channel, Mr. Abdelrahman al Rashid (ph), issued an unprecedented commentary, Deborah, the other day that was printed in London newspapers, claiming that it‘s Islamic terrorism that‘s the problem and it‘s the cultivation of this philosophy around the world that has bred these terrorists.
So I think we‘re looking at almost right now the culmination of al Qaeda having been morphed for the last seven, eight years into different groups around the world. And now they‘re doing their own thing because they‘re all part of the same problem.
NORVILLE: I‘m going to get to Los Angeles in just a second, but Steve Cohen going to—your head‘s going to fall off your shoulders if you shake it any more vigorously. You hugely disagree with what Steve just said.
COHEN: Well, not hugely. I mean, terrorism is terrorism. If you kill children, you‘ve killed children.
NORVILLE: But you see this as a tit for tat for the Russian activity in Chechnya.
COHEN: Well, more than that. I can illustrate why I think Steve Emerson is not entirely right. Bush cannot negotiate an end to the terrorism that afflicts us. There‘s nobody to negotiate with. If bin Laden dies tomorrow, it won‘t end the terrorism.
COHEN: Putin, when he began this war in 1999, overthrew an elected Chechen government. That president, Maskhadov, is in the mountains of Chechnya with his men. He has said repeatedly, I‘m ready to negotiate. And he‘s renounced terrorism against civilians.
NORVILLE: Well, let me just stop you right there...
COHEN: But Putin refuses to negotiate with him.
NORVILLE: Well, Putin was asked about that. He met with reporters over the weekend, and he said—when asked that very question, he said, quote, “Why don‘t you meet Osama bin Laden, invite him to Brussels or the White House, engage in talks with him, ask him what he wants and give it to him so he leaves you in peace?”
COHEN: But there is an answer to that question because Maskhadov, the Chechen president, who was elected by the Chechen people in 1996-‘97, elected on the basis of a peace accord signed by the Russians with the Chechens, was overthrown by Putin. There is somebody to negotiate with. If tomorrow—if tomorrow Putin and Maskhadov could reach an agreement—
I say “if” because it wouldn‘t be easy -- 90 percent of the terrorism against Russia would stop.
EMERSON: I don‘t think you can say that.
COHEN: Now, that‘s not something—that‘s not something you can say about the kind of terrorism we‘re confronted with.
NORVILLE: Let me get...
EMERSON: That‘s exactly—it‘s exactly the problem. You can‘t negotiate with a group that doesn‘t have command over all—it‘s like negotiating with Arafat. To the extent that he first negotiated, he said, I have control. And then it determined he didn‘t have control, didn‘t want to have control. Same thing with the Chechen terrorists. They don‘t want to exert control. They‘ll carry out the same attacks. And if we don‘t stop this right now and stop legitimizing, they‘re going to continue doing it because they know this pays.
NORVILLE: Well, Steve, one of the things is, this group of terrorists
· and there may be as many as 30 that went into this school—were an amalgam. There wasn‘t any one type of person. We know from some of the kids who survived that there were people with long beards that hung out from under the masks that they had, leading one to believe that at least some of them, some reports have said as many as 10, could have been Arab.
Mr. al-Marayati, does it distress you that any time there is a terrorist event—and gosh knows, this is one of the more horrific ones we‘ve had to report lately—immediately, Islamic terrorists become the label attached to it?
SALAM AL-MARAYATI, MUSLIM PUBLIC AFFAIRS COUNCIL: Of course, it does, because I don‘t think that these terrorists should be given the validity of the name of Islam with their actions. Their actions are deplorable. Their actions are inhumane. Their actions are anti-God. And so we shouldn‘t describe them as acting in the name of Islam, even if they invoke that. I think we should reject that because that does give them legitimacy.
No. 2, I don‘t think we should look at the Chechen crisis as the same
· with the same lens as the al Qaeda terrorist threat. Those are two completely different situations. And when you give al Qaeda the chance to accuse them of a global conspiracy, that just gives them a wider base to work with. When you consider them part of an Islamic movement or call them Islamic or Islamists, again, that gives them legitimacy. That gives them popularity throughout the Muslim world.
AL-MARAYATI: We are dealing with a problem of radicalization throughout the Muslim world, and we should deal with policies to address those grievances separate from the war on terror. But al Qaeda...
NORVILLE: All right. You know, I‘m going to stop you right there...
should be put down to size.
NORVILLE: ... because that‘s a great note to end on right now because when we come back, we‘re going to talk about that very thing, the radicalism of Islam in some parts of world. We‘re going to thank Professor Steve Cohen for being with us. We appreciate your comments so much, for joining our discussion. And when we come back, we will continue our look at these terrible attacks in Beslan and how it‘s turning the Islamic world inside out. What some Muslim clerics and some journalists are doing about it. More right after this.
NORVILLE: Back with our panel on worldwide terrorism, Juliette Kayyem, Steve Emerson and Salam Al-Marayati.
Mr. Marayati, just as we were going into the break, you were talking about the fear that al Qaeda becomes a bigger entity, not guilt by association, but credit by association, when people automatically put the Islamic label on events like this. But the truth is, when you look at the statistics in too many countries around the world, there‘s an increasing number of people who are Islamic, who are Muslim, and who do look at America and do say, they deserve what‘s coming to them; 13 percent of British Muslims believe that a further attack on America would be justified; 48, almost 49 percent of Muslims in Saudi Arabia sympathize with Osama bin Laden and what he espouses.
AL-MARAYATI: This is what I‘m talking about when we‘re dealing with the radicalization of these countries and these regions. And we have to deal with the grievances of these people, so that al Qaeda is prevented from exploiting those religious—those legitimate grievances.
And we have to stop looking like this is a war against Islam and therefore it takes a sophisticated approach to the war on terror. But to be continuously talking about al Qaeda‘s global conspiracies, like you said, it‘s credit by association. And there is no relationship between beards in Arabic-speaking countries and beards in Chechnya, or Arafat, who is a secular nationalist, and any of thesis Islamic groups.
So we need to look at the problems in a more sophisticated manner and stop giving any Islamic legitimacy to terrorism.
NORVILLE: And, yet, as Steve Emerson pointed out, over the weekend, there was an editorial by a very well respected Muslim journalist, Mr. Abdel-Rahman Al-Rashid, who is now with Al-Arabiya television network, who said—quote—“It is a certain fact that not all Muslims are terrorists, but it is equally certain and exceptionally painful that almost all terrorists are Muslim.”
Do you disagree with that statement?
AL-MARAYATI: Of course I do. I think there is terrorism in every part of the world. Terrorism is an instrument of influence in Sri Lanka by the Tamil Tigers.
Terrorism has been a problem in the crisis in Northern Ireland. And, of course, it depends on how you are defining terrorism. I mean, when you talk about the systematic rape of Bosnian women, many people would say that that is terrorism. So you have to be consistent in terms of applying the definition of terrorism and deal with the root causes of it as well. And I think what Professor Cohen said is exactly right. I agree with Professor Cohen in terms of dealing with the Chechen crisis in a separate category and resolve that crisis and that would help resolve many of the problems in Russia.
EMERSON: Deborah, can I just point out one thing?
NORVILLE: Go ahead.
EMERSON: That Moussaoui, when the FBI tried to get a wire tap FISA on him in August of 2001, it was because the French had provided information that he was directly tied to the Chechen terrorist groups, and yet that wasn‘t considered—quote—“a legitimate reason” at that point, pre-9/11. So they couldn‘t get the wire tap.
No. 2, four of the 9/11 hijackers in 1999 actually were on their way to Chechnya and then they were intercepted on a train and told to go to Afghanistan. They could have easily ended up in Chechnya carrying out this type of attack. The term Islamist terrorist applied to those terrorists that are informed by their vision of Islam. It doesn‘t mean all Muslims. It means that they are the ones responsible because they‘re motivated by their interpretation.
And to the extent people say there is no such thing as Islamic terrorism or that there‘s no problem, it‘s only—quote—“legitimate grievances,” we‘re not recognizing that it is the clergy, it‘s the schools, it‘s the educational system, it‘s Wahabism, the Saudis, that keep pumping this radical ideology into the minds and polluting the youth.
NORVILLE: Let me stop you right there. And let‘s just forget about what kind of terrorism. It‘s terrorism. There are dead people in Russia and there are families who are devastated. And there are a lot of us elsewhere around the world who are just stunned by what we‘ve seen on television.
We‘re also asking the question, Juliette, is this giving ideas to someone else somewhere?
KAYYEM: Well, let‘s hope not.
But, you know, as I said earlier, I just think some lines are crossed and this was clearly one of them. And I think we all felt it emotionally this weekend just seeing the pictures of the children. We felt it in a different way even perhaps than we did say for example the Spain train massacre, which seemed sort of away and those were commuters and maybe even adults.
Can I be so crude as to talk politics here? Because I think that the debate that we‘ve been hearing so far is also clearly a political debate. Putin has every incentive to make this look like a global war on terrorism, one, because he has the backing of the United States. And we saw Secretary Rumsfeld support him in very open terms today.
NORVILLE: You bet.
KAYYEM: That we view what happened, that we the United States view what happened in Chechnya as the equivalent of our 9/11.
It will give him some backing, the truth be told, for probably some pretty aggressive, pretty—not human rights procedures and policies that are probably going to be played out in Chechnya right now that we are not going to likely hear much about.
NORVILLE: But, hold on, Juliette. Isn‘t that the reason that this is going on? Isn‘t this payback? You go in, you rape their women, you burn their kids, you throw their old people out on the streets, they‘re not going to love you.
KAYYEM: I know. And I‘m not saying that this is right.
I‘m saying the politics of this, Putin‘s very forceful statements make me think that we haven‘t seen the end either of what Russia is clearly going to do with the Chechens, that they view this as a war on terrorism in the same way that we view sort of going in Afghanistan and then later going into Iraq, that this is a war and secondly that there is no political solution.
KAYYEM: And I think unfortunately as you clearly point out, it is just a cycle. You know, in some ways, I think that the differences between Steve and Salam are not that far off, that we all sort of agree that there is a political solution that would be helpful to the Chechen problem for Russia, but it won‘t cure everything.
But Putin has taken that off the table. And the politics of that for Putin and clearly for the Bush administration I think, you know, are interesting.
NORVILLE: I cannot let anyone else speak.
NORVILLE: No, you can‘t. You can do it after the commercial. And I promise you will.
NORVILLE: And when we come back, we‘re also going to bring it home, literally home. It‘s back-to-school week here in the states. Are American schools vulnerable to this kind of thing?
More in a moment.
NORVILLE: The Russian school massacre took more than 300 lives. What is being done here in the states to prevent a similar attack?
We‘ll talk about that next.
NORVILLE: In Russia, the first day of school is a day that‘s celebrated. It‘s known as the day of knowledge. These are the happy images of children going to school in Beslan, Russia, two years ago, the first day of school, a day when flowers are taken to teachers, balloons are taken to classmates. This was the scene two years ago and it was probably the scene last week as children went to school in Beslan, Russia.
But instead, this is what greeted the children inside their school, bombs, guns, terrorists intent on destruction, killing randomly, killing rampantly, over 300 people killed, close to 200 of them children. As the story unfolds in Russia, now in this country, we‘ve all got a new horror to imagine. And that is, could it happen here?
We continue our discussion now. We‘re back with Juliette Kayyem, terrorism expert Steve Emerson, and Salam Al-Marayati, who is with the Muslim Public Affairs Council.
Folks, I‘ve got to tell you, you want to mess with someone, you mess with their kids and you do it on the first day of school. You‘ve got my attention.
Steve Emerson, please tell me this cannot happen in America.
EMERSON: Deborah, I wish I could you that, but, unfortunately, the envelope has been pressed here and the precedent has been created. And it can happen here. I‘m not suggesting that it will. I‘m not suggesting that the odds are great.
But, frankly, the fact that it was carried out successfully and to the extent that the debate that emerges gives plausibility and legitimacy to the Chechen rebels, then other Islamic terrorist groups for that matter say maybe it could work other places in the world. And we know that it was practiced unfortunately and tragically in Israel and other places and even attempts to carry out attacks in Europe.
I don‘t think it will happen in the United States, Deborah, but, unfortunately, now it‘s on the table. It has to be considered a scenario that we have to prepare for.
NORVILLE: Mr. Al-Marayati, how grievous is looking at those images to people who do practice the Muslim faith? I did a little searching and I found a Koran verse that says, “Oh, my lord, leave me not without offspring, though thou art the best of inheritors.” Children are very important in your faith, as in every faith.
AL-MARAYATI: Of course. And we‘re all human beings. And it is terrifying to us when we see children taken as hostages, children killed.
Whether it‘s in this situation or Palestinian children being killed or any other group of children, I think it‘s all outside the frame of what is acceptable. For it to be prevented, the only way to prevent terrorism is partnership between community-based organizations and here in America the joint terrorism task force, the JTTF.
And the Muslim Public Affairs Council went to Secretary Ridge, went to FBI Director Robert Mueller. I met personally with both of them. They have a plan on their desk and they have approved the plan in concept. And we are working throughout the United States in training people on how to detect terrorism and how to deal with it in cooperation with law enforcement. That‘s the only way to prevent that.
NORVILLE: Well, I‘ve got to tell you, I‘m thrilled to hear that, but there was a plan on the desk on September 11, too, and that didn‘t do any good if it‘s sitting on the desk.
AL-MARAYATI: Well, that means that our law enforcement authorities have to act on it and join us in partnership. And we should have a press conference tomorrow with the FBI director, with the Department of Justice, with the Homeland Security, and say, we have a plan and it is being implemented in making sure that another terrorist attack is going to be prevented.
At least we have a solution here to the dangers that are facing all of us.
AL-MARAYATI: I think the more we deal with that—the more we deal with the specifics, the better.
NORVILLE: Let me let Juliette come into this, because, we could take three years and we probably wouldn‘t touch on everything.
But, Juliette, we know that they fortified the financial district in New York and other key cities around the country. Are they doing anything to help kids‘ schools be safer?
KAYYEM: Well, I think that there‘s probably these community efforts, which are great, and I think they‘re important on a variety of levels to have communities with different backgrounds work together and to try to find ways that we might be able to detect terrorism.
KAYYEM: I have to tell you, though, I don‘t have a lot of confidence in Homeland Security much anymore as we approach the third-year anniversary. Even the financial institutions that we have so-called sort of, you know, fortified. I wouldn‘t, you know, bet on them. And I think schools are not even on the list.
And I think universities have dealt with it on their own, but, you know, K-12, I think, they‘re concerned about drugs and crime violence, but this kind of thing has not even passed the radar until last week.
NORVILLE: Something new on the radar screen for everybody to worry about.
Juliette Kayyem, Steve Emerson, Salam Al-Marayati, there‘s never enough time, but we thank you for what you were able to give us tonight.
AL-MARAYATI: Thank you.
KAYYEM: Thank you.
NORVILLE: We‘ll be back.
ANNOUNCER: Up next, as Beslan buries the victims who died, what about the children who survived? Will they ever be children again? The lasting impact of terrorism—when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.
NORVILLE: As Beslan buries its dead, it must also minister to its living. Those who survived the massacre will be given group and one-on-one therapy in the coming months to try to help them cope with everything they‘ve gone through. But this kind of bereavement support and post-traumatic stress are pretty new concepts in Russia.
Joining me now is Dr. Bruce Perry. He‘s a senior fellow with the Child Trauma Academy in Houston, a child psychiatrist, and he has helped children traumatized by events, including September 11, the Oklahoma City bombings, as well as the massacre at Columbine High School.
So, Dr. Perry, we really appreciate you being with us tonight.
DR. BRUCE PERRY, CHILD PSYCHIATRIST: Thank you.
NORVILLE: Will these kids ever get over what they saw, the ones who survived?
PERRY: No, unfortunately not. Many of these kids will go on and they will have productive lives and they will be happy at times in their lives and they will have their own children, but the impact of an event like this never goes away.
Unfortunately, when we follow children following something as horrific as this, at least 90 percent of them develop significant mental health problems that can persist sometimes all the way through life.
NORVILLE: Significant like how?
PERRY: Well, these children will have a much more difficult time concentrating in school. They‘ll have difficulty sleeping. They‘ll be anxious. They‘ll be fearful of new situations and strangers. They‘ll be unwilling to try new things. They may get depression. There is a cascade of unfortunate emotional problems that these kids are at risk for.
And, interestingly enough, one of the emerging areas that they‘ll also be vulnerable in is in their physical health. We‘re learning more and more about the negative impact of childhood trauma on physical health all throughout life.
NORVILLE: You know, we were talking earlier about this tit-for-tat notion that the Chechen rebels were attacking the Russians because the Russian soldiers had been so cruel in the fighting that‘s gone on in Chechnya. Is it also then possible that these kids and these parents who have been so traumatized by events of last week will turn into fighters, will turn into suicide bombers, will really take it to an extreme level of retribution?
PERRY: You‘re actually touching on something that I think is incredibly important in understanding foreign policy and understanding some of these transgenerational ethnic problems.
When you take a group of people and they are traumatized and they are hurt and injured, the children in that world grow up not only having the physiological and emotional scars, but they have a belief system that these pains come from those other people. And when they get into positions of power and influence, they then will, if given the opportunity, engage in this kind of retribution that you talk about. And, unfortunately, this is tremendous fuel for this transgenerational process of hatred.
NORVILLE: And what about the rest of us? I mean, I have to say, I almost want to say, Ray (ph), don‘t show us those pictures anymore. I don‘t think I can take it.
We‘ve seen these sad images, these families who are devastated, these children who were traumatized, and we‘ve seen them on the news with this event. We saw it September 11. We saw it with Columbine. We saw it in Oklahoma City. Is there a cumulative effect on the rest of us who may not have been directly touched, but we certainly are thanks to this TV we‘re all looking at?
PERRY: Well, each of us handles this a little bit differently, but we do know that there are some people who are definitely impacted in really negative ways if they watch too much of this.
There is a thing called vicarious traumatization, that you yourself
can become overwhelmed and develop the same emotional and physical problems
of someone who‘s actually been in a traumatic event. And this has happened
after—the schoolchildren who were watching the Challenger explode, for
example, developed trauma-related symptoms. And it‘s a problem that we
have to figure out how to deal with, because it, you know, there is this
tension between the need to show and educate the public about this with the
· balanced off against the negative impact of watching too much.
NORVILLE: Going into the break, I said this is back-to-school week and a lot of us are sending our kids back to school, if they haven‘t already gone back. What do we tell our own individual children? Because they‘ll probably hear about this if they‘re of a certain age.
PERRY: I have to say, this is a really difficult thing, because, as your earlier guests pointed out, this is not a completely unrealistic possibility in the United States.
We want our children to feel safe. We want them to know that we‘re doing everything we can to make school a safe environment. But if they‘ve seen this, and we have to explain to them that this can happen, it enters the world of possibility for them. And the only thing that we can do is continue to hug them and talk with them and reassure them, and day after day after day as school again becomes a safe place for them, it will be easier for them to deal with it.
But God forbid there is an event. And it would change everything.
NORVILLE: Well, we hope there isn‘t.
And, Dr. Bruce Perry, thank you so much for your time.
As we go to the break, and we encourage all of you to go hug your kids if they‘re anywhere close to you, we want to let you know that we have put on our Web page a special section with all kinds of information about the Russian school siege. Just log on to NORVILLE.MSNBC.com.
Dr. Perry, again, thank you.
We‘ll be back.
NORVILLE: We‘ve gotten so many e-mails from so many of you about the horrific school massacre in Russia.
Charles Rothbaum from Fresno, California, wrote in and said: “These are not men with whom one can reason. They are creatures beyond our diplomatic reach. In angry disbelief, we pray for the children and the families.”
Jorge Aguiar from Miami, Florida, writes in about what he says has been inadequate coverage of this story. He says: “The most heinous and vile terrorist crime that I have ever heard of is the late massacre of children killed in a school in Russia, yet there is so little coverage by the United States media. Why the media and the current administration are treating this act of terror like any other act of terrorism, I will never know.”
We hoped you like this show, sir.
Doug Smathers writes in about our program last night about former President Clinton‘s surgery. He said: “Thank you, thank you, thank you”—three times—“for your tasteful and accurate presentation of the story about President Clinton‘s bypass surgery. As a physician, I was so impressed with your evidence-based approach to the story, rather than resorting to the hyping of popular, but poorly studied health and diet regimens.
Thanks, Doc. We appreciate it.
We like to hear from you. Send us your ideas and e-mails to us at NORVILLE@MSNBC.com.
And that is our program for tonight. Thanks so much for watching.
I‘m Deborah Norville.
Coming up tomorrow night, people whose lives were touched by tragedy as a result of assault weapons, many of them are converging on Washington, D.C., as the national ban on assault weapons expires in just a few days. And so, tomorrow night, we‘ll hear from both sides, including police officers who have been on the front lines and those who feel it is their right and duty to carry and use these weapons. Big debate coming up tomorrow. We‘ll see you then.
Up next, Joe Scarborough and “SCARBOROUGH COUNTRY.”
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