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The Mass Media

Richard Holbrook Speaks At JFK Library On How To Respond To Terrorism”

The first of a fifteen part lecture series, “Responding to Terrorism” was held Friday, October 4th, at the JFK Library, with former Ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrook as the guest speaker. Holbrook opened with, “We are in the 24th day of an era yet to be named. What does that mean and where do we go from here?”

“America’s relationships with other nations has changed rapidly since September 11,” Holbrook said. He added, “International ramifications have been staggering with quick changes in American foreign policy already being implemented. Just within the last ten days, Pakistan has begun to put pressure on the Taliban who they once sponsored.” He commented on U.S. relations with Sudan, where despite human rights violations (committed by the government, as well as the rebels within Sudan), President Bush lifted the sanctions to cooperate with areas of intelligence. Holbrook stated, “The sanctions would not have been partially lifted if not for this crisis.” “Sudan is important,” Holbrook said, “because until 1988 they sheltered Osama Bin Laden, then expelled him to Afghanistan.” He added, “It is important to deny him access to Sudan, therefore we cooperate with Sudan even though they have vast human rights violations.”

Speaking on what kind of a response is appropriate, Holbrook stated that “bombing right away wouldn’t have been right. A methodical approach is the right one.” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld went to Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Oman to prepare the decks for action. “Any action which is successful we will make public, and any action not successful our adversaries will make public. We haven’t proved our case to the public. They need to justify targets when they decide to strike because there’s lots of people who hate America and need proof and information. There’s a lot of potential outrage in response to how we respond to 9/11.”

Speaking on law enforcement and other issues that concern Holbrook, he said, “It was an intelligence failure, but more of a law enforcement failure.” “The laws existed, they just weren’t being practiced.” He explained, “Mohammed Atta has been on the CIA’s most wanted list since late spring, early summer this year- the FBI started looking for him around 8/11/01, but it was clear he took a plane and checked in as Mohammed Atta. However, the FBI and FAA don’t talk to each other, he should have been stopped at the airport, but the airport didn’t know he was on the most wanted list.” Holbrook feels that if the FBI had had put the word out to the FAA to be on alert for someone traveling using that name, he would have been caught- especially since Atta was renting cars, using hotels, etc., all in his own name.

Speaking about the mistakes of the U.S. involvement in Afghanistan in the past, Holbrook said, “Carter began supporting the Mujahadeen Freedom Fighters, and this was greatly expanded by Regan. Bush became president, and the Soviet Union was driven out. Then the US turned it’s back on Afghanistan. The Bush Administration just abandoned the country…The success was to support the Mujahadeen, but the failure was to run away from this country.” Holbrook reported that $100 million is now being given to the Northern alliance in Afghanistan, and that, “It just sailed through Congress, but the U.S. needs to understand global responsibilities; we can’t be overly involved, then completely out, then back again.”

“We are heading into the most uncertain period of our lives.” “Will we unintentionally trigger conflict between Islam and the West? But there are Muslims even in the West.” “If this becomes a crusade against a jihad it will be a calamity.” President Bush is trying to show true Islam vs. extremists who did this. To over simplify the obvious, not all Arabs are Muslims, not all Muslims are Arabs.” “The Taliban interpreted the Koran as they saw fit, as we all know the Bible, Koran, etc, all can be interpreted in different ways.” He asked why religious leaders haven’t done or said more. “Why haven’t religious leaders spoken out more strongly about them,” he asked. “It is alarming that Egypt hasn’t done or said more. We need more specificity than saying this is un-Islamic. Bin Laden wants a war between Christians and Islam.” To emphasize Clinton’s statement on NBC, “Capturing Bin Laden and the Taliban is not the end of the problem, but the beginning.” He added, “Because other people share these views.” “We’re in for a long tough struggle. Once it knows the nature of the enemy, size, and threat. Unity and strength will prevail.”

The fifteen part series of special programs at the JFK Library hopes to foster public discussion and debate concerning the nation’s response to terrorism. The forums are free and open to the public, although they recommend calling to make a reservation. More information can be found at their website, at http://www.jfklibrary.org/ The next upcoming forum is “Presidential Decision-making: The U.S. Response to Terrorism,”

Monday, October 29 – 7:00 to 8:30 p.m.