GARRISON (AP) -- Retired Gen. John W. Vessey Jr. is being tapped to help the U.S. government in its anti-terrorism campaign.
Vessey will return to Washington, D.C., this week for a meeting of the Defense Science Board, which is accountable to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard Myers and others.
"There's a lot of work to do in the world," said Vessey, 79, who lives near Mille Lacs Lake. "Those of us that are able should be doing it and those of us that aren't should be preparing to do it."
Vessey served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from June 1982 until his retirement in September 1985. He has since been consulted as a member of the Defense Science Board and the Army Science Board.
"I have confidence in (the nation's leaders). We have a pretty good team there," he said.
Unlike other wars, the current campaign against terrorism requires coordinated efforts of nonmilitary agencies such as the FBI, CIA, U.S. Treasury Department and U.S. Customs Service, Vessey said.
"That may be far more important than the military operation in terms of making (us) safe from terrorism," he said.
The unusual nature of the campaign also makes it difficult for the public to measure its success.
"We're in a very complicated fight with a sort of an enemy that we haven't faced before," the general said. "The things that will be successful are the things we probably can't talk about. We Americans want to look at the television screen and see what the score is in the football game. I would suggest to you that it won't work in this operation."
Last week's FBI alert warning of another major terrorist event reveals a dilemma faced by the nation's leaders, he said.
"The administration is caught in a terrible bind. If they get intelligence and some event takes place and they haven't warned the people, there would be great hoo-rara about that. On the other hand, warning them about dangers when you can't tell them what the specifics are, it's very frustrating for the people."
Although Vessey declined to describe military operations that he is aware of, he voiced support for the humanitarian aid.
"Afghanistan is a basket case. Ever since (former Afghanistan President Muhammad) Daoud made the Soviets mad and they invaded Afghanistan, Afghanistan has been subjected to a continuous series of wars and violence. The people of Afghanistan have really been put upon in a tragic fashion," he said.
"There's a desperate need for humanitarian assistance. At the same time, it is ruled by a crowd that has taken over and abdicated the opportunity to even give assistance, and worse yet it is harboring terrorists," Vessey said.
The United Nations will need to take a leadership role in rebuilding Afghanistan, Vessey said.
Algerian Muslim Lakhdar Brahimi, who assists U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan with preventive and peacemaking efforts, is in a position to lead the effort, he said.
"I hope we in the United States with our congenital antipathy toward the U.N. will put that aside and let him and the secretary general do their job," Vessey said.
Vessey is not sure how the anti-terrorism campaign will evolve. "My crystal ball is cloudy. We have a pretty good team and we have a reasonable amount of support, though it's spotty in certain parts of the world because people who are joining all have their own agendas."
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