Published in Vital Speeches of the Day; August 15, 2002 issue, a Speech to the Senior Center of Charlottesville, VA. on June 20, 2002
On September 11, 2001, two hijacked airliners crashed into the twin towers of the World Trade Center. Soon thereafter, a third hijacked plane struck the Pentagon. A fourth plane, bound for a high-profile target in Washington, D. C., crashed into a field in southern Pennsylvania. In total, more than 4,000 were killed as a result of these terrorists’ acts. Usmana bin Laden is the prime suspect and the U. S. is in a state of war against him and international terrorism in general. Everything has changed since September 11, 2001.
Everything changed for the families of those who were in the twin towers and the Pentagon and on the four planes that crashed.
Everything changed for the families of fireman and police who were killed.
Everything has changed for Americans who watched on their TVs in horror and have now reordered the priorities for their families.
Everything changed for all the churches that are experiencing renewed attendance and interest.
Everything changed for the airline and leisure industry, which has experienced a dramatic decline in travel.
Everything changed for the stock market, especially the over-the-counter NASDAQ, which has declined steadily from a level of over 5,000 in March 2000 to under 1,500 now.
Everything changed for the Taliban leadership, which no longer rules Afghanistan.
Everything changed for Usmana bin Laden, the perpetrator of 9-11, who eventually will be caught (if he is still alive).
Everything has changed for Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Libya’s Qaddafi, the Iranians, the North Koreans, and all others who support or hide terrorists. Their deeds from now on will not go unpunished.
Everything has changed for our elected leaders and representatives, as their priorities have been redirected toward stopping future terrorist acts.
However, there were prior major acts of terrorism. The USS Cole was attacked on October 12, 2000, in Aden harbor in Yemen. Seventeen US sailors were killed. Supporters of bin Laden were suspected.
US military housing in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, was bombed on June 25, 1996 and 19 military were killed and 515 were wounded.
Two simultaneous bombings of US Embassies in East Africa took place on August 7, 1990. At the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, 291 were killed. At the US Embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, ten were killed.
A bomb placed on Pam Am flight 103 exploded on December 2, 1988 over Lockerbie, Scotland and 259 were killed. The bomb was placed on board in Frankfurt, Germany, by a Libyan terrorist.
The US Marine barracks in Beruit were bombed in 1983 and 242 Americans were killed. The Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility.
It is a fact that we Americans know little about foreign countries. Because of our heritage, immigration and leisure travel patterns, we know the most about the Euro-Greco culture, the Latino culture, the Japanese and Sino cultures. We know less about the Arabic Middle Eastern and Afro cultures.
Many foreigners possess a love-hate attitude toward our country. From my experience in government, I know well the attitude of South Americans toward us Yankees: they love our culture and freedom Ã¯Â¿Â½ and they hate our power and dominance over them. With most Arabs, I am afraid that they have a hate-hate attitude toward our culture and our power.
There are many reasons why Usmana bin Laden and other Arabs hate us. He told us some of the reasons and I will guess at the rest. He hates the presence of Americans (they call us infidels) in their holiest of holy lands on the Arabian Peninsula. He hates the national leadership of Arab countries who do business with us. He hates (but probably envies) our material success. He hates our movies and music and its corrupting influence on youthful Arabs. He is embarrassed by Islamic countries’ backwardness in comparison with our wealth. He hates U. S. support of Arab leadership that he considers unfaithful to Islamic beliefs. He especially hates our support for the creation of Israel. (In 1948, the UN approved the partition of Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. Later that year, the US recognized the creation of an independent state of Israel.) He hates the US almost-unconditional support of Israeli actions over Arab actions in the Middle East conflict.
Because of 9-11, Americans will learn more about Muslim countries and people and their religion Islam. Islam is powerful because it is the religion of over one billion Muslims. They are geographically concentrated in an arc from the west coast of Africa to the Philippines. That area includes Tanzania, Central Asia, western China, India, Malaysia and Indonesia. In the U. S., Islam has seven million adherents (compared with 60 million for our most dominant Roman Catholic religion).
Muhammad the Prophet founded Islam in 622 AD in Medina on the Arabian Peninsula. According to their religion, the word of God was revealed to him and is contained in their holy bible called the Koran. There are two major sects: Sunni, which is deterministic, and Shia, which acknowledges human free will.
The number of Muslims (adherents of Islam) in the world is significant because they are equal to the number of Roman Catholics and the number of Protestant Christians (each of the latter two has about one billion adherents). Islam and Christianity have some common beliefs: there is one god, creator of the universe, omnipotent, just, merciful. Islam reveals that the human is God’s highest creation, but is limited and commits sins. Satan, an evil spirit, misleads humans. God revealed the Koran to Muhammad to guide humans to the truth. Those who repent and sincerely submit to God return to a state of sinlessness. In the end, the sinless to go to Paradise, a place of physical and spiritual pleasure, and the wicked go to Hell and burn.
Every Muslim has five duties: (a) profess that there is no God but Allah, (b) pray five times a day (on a rug facing Mecca), (c) give a portion to charity, (d) fast during the day in the month of Ramadan, and (e) try to make a pilgrimage to the most holy of places to Mecca in Saudi Arabia, at least once during their life.
The United States faces the new world order of terrorism just one decade following the end of the Cold War. The USSR collapsed in 1990 and the U. S. enjoyed one of the best decades, the 1990s, in its history. That decade, however, followed a difficult 45-year struggle with communism and the expansionism of the USSR.
In 1945, the United States emerged from World War II as the world’s number one superpower, replacing Great Britain. In fact, because of the extensive wartime damage in Europe and Japan, we possessed an incredible two-thirds of the world’s productive capacity. Also, we quickly assumed the leadership of the “free world” as Russia consolidated with nearby states, transformed itself into the USSR and subjugated Eastern Europe, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, speaking in Missouri, proclaimed that an “iron curtain” had descended around Russia. Taking advantage of areas weakened by war, the USSR tried to spread its liberal communist system throughout Europe and especially Greece and Turkey. President Truman responded with economic aid to those two beleaguered countries. Under the leadership of the then Secretary of State, Pres. Truman also launched the Marshall Plan providing $12 billion in aid to help rapidly rebuild the economies in Europe. Also for the first time in history the US joined a foreign alliance, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, promising to come to the aid of any member attacked by the USSR.
In 1947, the US undertook a major reorganization of government, the National Security Act which created a Department of Defense, unifying the armed forces under a civilian secretary, unifying all foreign intelligence under a Central Intelligence Agency, and establishing a National Security Council (composed of the Secretaries of State, Defense, Treasury and other agency heads) with a National Security Advisor administering the Council and advising the President.
Russian and communist influence spread rapidly through subversion and war in some countries causing much concern to the U. S. and even breaking out into confrontation, armed conflict and even wars as in the case of Cuba, Angola, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Nicaragua. Fidel Castro’s insurgency overthrew the government of Gen. Batista in Cuba. Cuban troops were involved in the Angolan insurgency in Africa. Communist North Korea tried to take over South Korea in 1950 and the US lead an UN-sanctioned war that resulted in the Korean border remaining largely unchanged.
In 1962, the world came to the brink of nuclear war as Soviet Premier Khrushchev of the USSR tried to place offensive missiles in Cuba. President Kennedy ordered a naval and air blockade. US and USSR warships faced each other, but finally the Soviet ships turned back and the USSR missile bases were dismantled.
During the 1960s and 70s, socialism and the nationalization of industries became the trend in England, France and Italy. However, nationalized industries did not work as well as privatized companies and taxes and government budgets had to be increased to pay for costly government-run industries. Under Margaret Thatcher in England and also in France and Italy there followed a period of privatization of formerly nationalized industries and their economies improved. Again, free markets and capitalism proved to be more efficient than communism or socialism.
In the 1960s and early 70s, the US tried to help South Vietnam remain independent but failed in that effort and the North took over the whole country in 1973. Although we worried that there would be a domino effect in the region if Vietnam fell to communism, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand remained independent.
Because of the MAD policy (the possibility of “mutual assured destruction”), USSR and US nuclear arms were never used throughout the 45 years (1945 to 1990) of tension between the two superpowers. The US was much stronger economically than the USSR. The USSR devoted one-quarter of its annual wealth to support its military compared to only six percent for the US. Its people suffered a very poor standard of living — similar to an underdeveloped Third World country. The “beginning of the end” came to the USSR with its attempted control of Afghanistan in 1979 and its eventual defeat. The Soviet economy could not support the heavy military buildup required to keep up with the United States under Presidents Carter and Reagan’s military modernization, especially the US anti-ballistic missile defense efforts. Ironically, the US covertly supported and provided military weapons to some of the then anti-Afghan forces that later became part of the Taliban government after the Russians were ousted from Afghanistan.
In desperation to revive communism, Premier Gorbachev launched “glasnost” and perestroika” in 1985. In glasnost, he wanted the leadership and people to be truthful about their problems to aid in their solution; in effect to stop kidding themselves that centralized five-year plans were actually working. In perestroika, he wanted power and administration to be decentralized so that solutions could be implemented more effectively on the local level. In effect saying “we in the center don’t have the foggiest notion of what you really need in the hinterland.”
Gorbachev’s initiative, instead of resulting in reform, resulted in the collapse of the Soviet Union, tearing down the Berlin Wall, end of communist regimes throughout Eastern Europe, the disintegration of Yugoslavia, the creation of separate republics for former divisions of the USSR (Ukrainian, etc.)
The collapse of the Soviet Union, the victory of democracy and capitalism over centralized power and communism ushered in the wonderful decade of the 1990s for the world and especially for the United States. Emerging countries around the world embraced capitalism and free market economies, tariff barriers were reduced, and free trade expanded throughout the world. Except for the Iraqi failed attempt to take over Kuwait and scattered acts of terrorism, the decade was one of strong economic growth. In the US, the stock market boomed from 1995 through the beginning of 2000 at the rate of over twenty percent for that five-year period. The market capitalization of all publicly traded common stocks reached a level of $15 trillion, and for the first time in history exceeded 150 percent of the annual gross domestic product. In early 2000, the common stock of Cisco Corporation shares exceeded those of General Electric Corporation. There was even speculation that Cisco’s market value would reach a trillion dollars.
However, the bubble burst in March 2000 and now all publicly traded stocks are worth about $10 trillion, having lost $5 trillion or one-third of their value in the last two years. The founder of Amazon.com, Jeff Besos, was featured on the cover of TIME magazine in January 2000 and his company was expected to put the old brick and mortar companies, like Barnes & Noble and Borders’ bookstores, out of business. The September 11, 2001, events has made worst the recession already in session, so that now unemployment has reached 8 million Americans, many companies in the telecommunications, computer, and internet areas are going out of business, and the stock market continues to decline.
The Japanese experienced great economic advance during the 1980s. For a brief period, the value of the Japanese stock market exceeded that of the U. S. However, during the 1990s when the US was booming, the Japanese economy and stock market was in steady decline. Their Nikkei average crashed from 40,000 in 1990 to a level of less than 11,000 now. The decade of the 1990s was also beneficial for the Chinese whose economy doubled as the central communistic leadership allowed private enterprise to flourish on the local level and especially in Guandong Province, emulating the free-market economic policies that made Hong Kong successful.
In the summer of 1993, Foreign Affairs magazine published an article by Harvard professor Samuel Huntington entitled, “The Clash of Civilizations.” The article stirred up so much discussion that he published a book on that subject in 1996 (with a subtitle Remaking the World Order). “The most dangerous dimension of emerging global politics would be conflict between groups from differing civilizations,” he said. He also warned that the balance of power among civilizations is shifting and the West is declining in relative influence. Islam is exploding demographically with destabilizing consequences, he warned. Also, he pointed out the Asian civilizations are particularly expanding their economic, political and military strength. His views are taken seriously as he was national security advisor under President Carter, was the president of the American Political Science Association, and the founder and editor of the prestigious Foreign Affairs publication.
The US now produces twenty percent of the world’s productive capacity. With a population of only 5% of the world’s population, we remain the most productive society in the world.
Just as we reorganized government after Pearl Harbor and World War II, we are now in the process of reorganizing government to meet the new threat of terrorism that we face. President Bush has proposed the creation of a new Department of Homeland Security. It would combine the programs of 22 agencies with a budget of $37.5 billions and 170,000 employees, making it the third largest department after the Departments of Defense and Veterans’ Affairs.
Unfortunately, the removal of the Taliban government in Afghanistan does not mean the end of terrorist attacks. A loose, shadowy organization known as “al Qaeda” has trained operatives throughout the world. We have learned that they are in training to use so-called dirty bombs to disperse deadly slow-acting nuclear materials; use fuel trucks as bombs against synagogues, and other unconventional weapons against us. We now know that a substantial number of al Qaeda operatives managed to escape Afghanistan and are scattered in nearby countries. We also know that their financial resources have been moved out of the international banking system into such assets as diamonds and gold, which are portable and difficult to trace.
In the gathering and analyzing of intelligence, we have got to do a better job than we have in the past. This means for the first time, permitting the coordination of intelligence collected by both the domestic (FBI) and foreign gathering agencies (CIA) to be exchanged and analyzed, and for the final analysis to be made available to the new Department of Homeland Security.
Also, our policies cannot simply wait to react to terrorist attacks. As President Bush said recently to the class of 2002 at West Point, “We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge. In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act.” I take that to mean that the US will soon destroy Iraq’s nuclear and biological threats of mass destruction.
What has not been diminished by the events of September 11th is the spirit of the American people. We are unique. We are not a particular race, or religion, or culture. We have attracted to our shores, the best “malcontents” from many other nations — individuals who wanted a better life, than the one they left, for themselves and their children. They had the will and the guts to make a change.
The world order which defeated the USSR and communism was, in retrospect, simple compared with the currently task of dealing with this loose, fanatic, and unpredictable enemy known as al Qaeda.
It will take more than the skills and billions of the CIA, the FBI, the Department of Defense and the new Department of Homeland Security to contain and defeat this enemy. The cooperation of all Americans is required to be alert and sensitized to report suspicious persons and events to the authorities. If necessary, citizens must take action similar to those passengers on the hijacked plan that was forced down in southern Pennsylvania.
Americans’ love and desire for maximum freedom has not changed. However, that freedom allowed the terrorist to move freely within our society. Therefore, as we go forward, the challenge will be to attempt to increase our security from further attacks but without seriously diminishing the freedoms we cherish.
In summary, we all must become volunteers in fight against terrorism in order to maintain the new world order.
Photo used under Flickr Creative Commons.