Home inSight Jewish Policy Center 9/11 Forum Event Summary

Jewish Policy Center 9/11 Forum Event Summary

Jewish Policy Center

On September 8, the Jewish Policy Center in conjunction with 92nd Street Y hosted former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, and former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer for a New York City roundtable discussion moderated by radio talk show host and best-selling author, Michael Medved. The event, “9/11 A Decade Later: Lessons Learned and Future Challenges,” took place before a sold out crowd at 92nd Street Y and was broadcast via satellite to 25 locations around the country. Click HERE to view the video in its entirety.
The panelists, each of whom were directly involved in America’s immediate response to the 9/11 attacks, tackled a range of questions. Ari Fleischer explained, “On September 11, all of a sudden, to be aboard Air Force One, to know our nation is under attack, and to hear our Commander-in-Chief say to the Secretary of Defense, ‘we are at war.’ And it was in that same conversation that the President gave the authorization to go to DEFCON 3 — which is a military alert status we have not been at since the Yom Kippur War in 1973 — and he also gave the authorization to shoot down civilian aircraft. To hear all of this in front of me sent a chill down my spine because you knew which direction the country was headed.”
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld described the difficult choices President George W. Bush faced in the immediate wake of the attacks: “The President made a conscious decision that the task wasn’t really to retaliate; it wasn’t to punish. It was to protect the American people. And the only way the American people could be protected would be to put pressure on terrorists on a sustained basis and make every single thing they do harder. Make it more difficult to talk on the phone, to move around, to raise money. More difficult to find a county that would be hospitable towards them. I can remember him telling the then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Shelton, ‘I’m not going to pound sand,’ meaning launch a couple of cruise missiles, ‘this is going to be a sustained effort’.”
Attorney General Mukasey added, “The President put in place robust programs involving surveillance, involving information gathering, involving interrogation, and involving war. And that yielded results — fertile results — and we are the beneficiary of those and we continue to be.”
The panelists also discussed the Obama administration’s approach to counterterrorism, Iran, and the recent Arab upheaval in the Middle East. As Fleischer noted, “Way before the Arab Spring was the [2009] Iranian Spring where protesters took to the streets to protest the sham re-election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And President Obama and the White House sat silent and didn’t say anything about that. In part because I think of that sentiment — that when America expresses its thoughts in this region of the world we only make things worse. And I remember thinking at the time, ‘No. When Ronald Reagan spoke out about what was happening in the Soviet Union, the prisoners in the gulags heard what he said, and according to Solzhenitsyn, they knew then that they would win.’ And that’s what we missed in Iran.”
“You know there have always been people who wanted to blame America and it is rubbish,” Rumsfeld added. “Why do you think people are lined up around U.S. embassies all around the globe — trying to come here?”
Mukasey chose a different tack: “Let’s consider the history of our meddling during the past 100 years. We sent hundreds of thousands of troops to Europe to rescue that continent from a mess that it had created. Tens of thousands of them did not come home. We didn’t keep any territory as a result; we simply went back about our business. We did the same thing during World War II. We extended a protective umbrella over Europe and the rest of the world for the entire duration of the Cold War. We are first at the scene of every emergency, every natural disaster, without expecting any thanks — which is a good thing because we don’t get any. The only territory we conquered in any of those escapades has been the gravesites necessary to bury American troops who died while protecting freedom. That’s the history of our meddling in the past hundred years.”
To view the video in its entirety, click HERE. You may also purchase a DVD of the event. Please call the Jewish Policy Center office at 202-638-2411 or email info@jewishpolicycenter.org for more details.
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