Friday, October 26, 2001

Q&A: 'You knew this was no accident'

General talks of NATO role, U.S. response

By Howard Wilkinson
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        OXFORD — Gen. Joseph Ralston, supreme allied commander of NATO, spent about 20 minutes answering questions from reporters after he delivered a lecture Thursday afternoon at Miami University, his alma mater.

        The following are some of the questions and the general's answers:

        Question: How did you learn of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington?

        Answer: I was in my office in Moens, Belgium. I was watching the television — I have CNN on all of the time. I saw the pictures of the tower burning and thought that possibly it was an accident of some kind. Then, like many other people, I looked up and saw the second plane slam into the building. Then, unquestionably, you knew this was no accident.

        Q: You are the first supreme allied commander of NATO who has had to allocate NATO assets to the United States for homeland defense — the delivery of five AWACS radar planes to be used to monitor American skies. Will there be more military assistance from NATO in the war on terrorism?

        A: There are a series of things NATO and its member nations can do, depending on the mission — using airspace, providing landing space for our planes, the NATO AWACS, the moving of NATO ships in the Mediterranean to support U.S. efforts. NATO nations are just waiting for the U.S. to tell them what it needs.

        Q: What do you tell those in the Muslim world critical of the bombing of Afghanistan?

        A: Every nation has a right to self-defense. That is what the U.S. and its allies are doing in Afghanistan — protecting itself. Protecting others around the world. We have always been a country willing to go to extraordinary lengths to protect innocent lives.


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