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Hamilton: U.S. still has work to do

Mary Kate Malone | Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Lee H. Hamilton, Vice Chair of the 9/11 commission, spoke at Notre Dame Tuesday about a topic that stirs fear in the minds of all generations – the threat of terrorism. Hamilton, who resides in Arlington, Va., spoke to members of the South Bend community in Decio Main Stage Theater at the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts.Hamilton was a representative for the state of Indiana for nearly 34 years and is currently is a member of the president’s homeland security advisory council. Yet despite his prestigious positions and long history in the field of international relations, he stood before his audience and admitted that neither he, nor any of the others who worked on the commission report, could promise that the United States is capable of freeing itself from the threat of terrorism.”There have been twice as many terrorist attacks worldwide since September 11, than in the three years preceding the attacks,” Hamilton said. “I doubt very much if we will ever eliminate terrorism.”Hamilton repeatedly admitted that, though many measures have been taken to prevent future attacks, the United States “still has a lot of work to do.”In his 55-minute-speech, Hamilton outlined four measures that he said must be taken in order for the United States to stand as a unified force against terrorist organizations of the world. First, the United States must identify the enemy, he said.”The question of ‘who is the enemy’ is not quite as easy to answer as you might think,” Hamilton said. “Are we fighting an enemy acting out against values of America? Or an enemy acting out of hatred of American policy?”To highlight the ambiguity of the government’s target in its war on terrorism, Hamilton told the audience of a key observation he made while reading the nation’s daily newspapers one morning earlier this year.”For my own amusement, I jotted down how these high-powered journalists described the enemy. ‘Terrorist,’ ‘insurgent,’ ‘Saddam loyalists.’ ‘Al Qaeda affiliates,’ ‘Islamists’ and ‘Iraqi nationals,’ just to name a few,” he said. “But no one can be all those things at once. How we define the enemy makes a difference on how we attack the enemy.”The 9/11 commission report identified the enemy in a two-fold definition. First is al-Qaeda, which Hamilton believes was “the group that hit us on September 11.” Hamilton referred to the second enemy as “the ideology of radical Islam.””You know that many parents in this world have only one choice of school for their children where they learn radical Islam and the hatred of you and me,” he said.Hamilton said the second measure that needs to be taken is domestic in nature and focuses on the procedures being undertaken to counter terrorism.”We need a comprehensive strategy that integrates all elements of American power. Integration is the key,” he said. “We can not have foreign agents who don’t know who they’re supposed to be looking for, we can not have first responders who do not know what attacks might come, we cannot have aid workers who do not know our diplomatic strategy.”The integration required within the United States must also be used abroad, Hamilton said. Thus, his third tenant is international cooperation. The United States cannot fight terrorism without the support of the rest of the world, he said.”What we can do is say to the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims that we are on your side,” he said. “We need to tell these people that we want for you a decent life, a job, an education, healthcare and the ability to choose a partner for life. To show them that we stand for a better future than Osama bin Laden stands for.”The fourth and final step in Hamilton’s solution to effectively fight terrorism focused on the gathering and sharing of intelligence. Hamilton said that the lack of leadership in the intelligence community was to blame for the poor communication between the Central Intelligence Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation prior to Sept. 11.”As vice chair of the 9/11 commission, one question we faced over and over again was ‘who is in charge?’ and we didn’t get satisfactory answers,” he said of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, which issued “The 9/11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States” on July 22, 2004. “Not only did we not share information vertically within the FBI, but we also did not do so horizontally between the FBI and the CIA. We failed to share information and we paid a price for it.”Still, Hamilton insisted that huge strides have been made since Sept. 11. “We’ve captured al Qaeda leaders, we’ve destroyed their sanctuaries, we’ve reformed the FBI, we’ve created a Department of Homeland Security, we have new border screening systems. I get a better physical exam at the airport than I do when I go to the doctor,” he said.As Hamilton closed his speech, he looked up from his podium and stared at the crowd. Raising his voice for emphasis, he promised that a better, safer world was achievable.”It is about what kind of world you want to live in. Where kids are safer and less likely to grow up and become terrorists,” he said. “Achieving this will require us to delve deeper in the reservoir of American power and resilience.”