'This Week' Transcript: Target Libya

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WRIGHT: We were within 24 hours probably of losing Benghazi, which would have been losing Libya. So you have to ask yourself, how important is Libya to the broader scheme of things? And it had become the new model. After peaceful transitions in Egypt and Tunisia, you began to see a new model in Libya and the use of force, and that's where it became dangerous.

AMANPOUR: So within 24 hours, was it a desperation move, then?

WRIGHT: I think that we were very close to the point of not being able to intervene at all, because it would have become Gadhafi's baby -- his country again.

AMANPOUR: Well, certainly everybody is going to be watching this and keeping a very close eye. Thank you all very much, indeed.

And when we return, the other story making global headlines this week, the disaster in the Pacific. The nuclear crisis in Japan raises a disturbing question: What if it happened here? Could it? Is the United States prepared to respond to a full-scale nuclear meltdown? I'll ask the man who coordinated the federal response to a host of national disasters, former Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff. He'll join me. And so will Bill Richardson, who's grappled with issues of nuclear safety as diplomat, energy secretary, and governor of New Mexico. I'll ask them whether the U.S. should be ready for a possible terrorist attack sponsored by Moammar Gadhafi.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

AMANPOUR: In Japan today, workers at the Fukushima nuclear power plant are struggling to contain radiation, as fears of contamination spread across the country. Officials abandoned a plan to release more radioactive gasses into the air to relieve pressure at the crippled reactor. And the government announced the plant itself would be scrapped once the emergency is resolved.

And this troubling news: Higher than normal levels of radiation has been found in spinach and milk. That's been detected from farms about 90 miles from the reactor.

The harrowing images we've seen day after day have many Americans asking one question: Could it happen here?

There are 104 nuclear reactors scattered around the country in some 31 states. At least a dozen are in areas at moderate to high risk of an earthquake. So what happens if a natural disaster sets off a catastrophic domino effect here in America? Is the government prepared to respond?

Joining me now to answer that question, Michael Chertoff, who served as secretary of homeland security in the Bush administration, and he's also chairman of the Chertoff Group. And with us, Bill Richardson, who wears many hats. He was Bill Clinton's energy secretary and ambassador to the United Nations and most recently served as governor of New Mexico.

Gentlemen, thank you very much, indeed, for joining us.

Just before we get to the crucial issue of Japan and nuclear energy, let me ask you regarding Gadhafi's threats and the possibility of terrorism. Your job was to protect the homeland here. Do you think there's an increased risk now with this military activity over Libya?

CHERTOFF: I think you have to assume there's an increased risk in the sense that Gadhafi is a proven terrorist, and it's wise to assume that he's got the intent at some point to do something to retaliate.

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