Don’t squander window of opportunity

Letter to the Editor.

Americans were treated to an impressive display of how to single handedly manage the prestigious 9-11 Commission, intent on ferreting out the deep secrets of the present administration. Armed with the previous testimony of Richard Clarke, the commissioners no doubt considered themselves “loaded for bear.”

The three-hour extravaganza was an artful display by Condoleezza of sparkling intelligence, careful preparation and deft handling of diverse personalities intent on using to the fullest the benefits of the public forum. If Richard Clarke’s appearance was considered a hard act to follow, there was no apparent stage fright on Dr. Rice’s part as she walked off with the show.

The repeated reference to “structural problems” involving the FBI and CIA displayed a delicate balance between laying out the unvarnished details of how our government functions and a refined analysis. By the end of her testimony there could be little left in the way of doubt that these two agencies are destined for major changes in addition to the alterations that are already in place.

Plaudits also belong to the Commission for instigating the groundswell of public demand for Condi’s testimony, under oath, that even the Bush administration was unable (politically) to resist. Fortunately for George W., his feminine lead was up to the task with an Oscar-winning performance. So for the people at the DNC, it’s back to the drawing board; another failed effort to embarrass the president.

Although Condi’s performance was brilliant, the Commission, armed with memos and thousands of hours of previous testimony, did not touch on the motivation that propelled the Al Qeida operatives to blow themselves to bits. Maybe we Americans don’t like to be told that we’re hated by major segments of the world population. The area which Donald Rumsfeld refers to as “Old Europe” is understandably miffed to be so badly overshadowed by the United States. Loss of diplomatic prestige comes hard to countries who pride themselves as the world’s cultural elite.

The depth of anti-American hatred that drove the perpetrators of the 9-11 atrocities, however, appears to relate to the ongoing U.S. support of Israel. The Arab people who suffered for eight hundred years under the domination of the Ottoman Turks suddenly, in 1918, found themselves under the thumb of England and France as mandated protectorates; the same two countries that had introduced European culture to the area in the form of “Christian” crusades. What many in the West still haven’t seemed to fathom is that in the Middle East, crusade is a dirty word.

America’s support for Israel redounds to our credit, providing Holocaust survivors with a historical opportunity to fulfill the long-held vision of “next year in Jerusalem.” We have staunchly stood by the fledgling Jewish state through its infancy and showed ourselves as a trusted friend.

What some of us may have missed, however, is that this little fledgling has transformed itself into an 800-pound gorilla. With relative ease the Israeli armor flattened Arafat’s Ramallah compound; Israeli helicopter gunships have, with utmost precision, decapitated Hamas. No longer are surrounding Arab states massing tanks on Israel’s borders or shouting to rouse their troops to drive the usurpers into the sea.

The time is now for Israel to retire her “Old Generals” who know only barbed wire solutions and to think beyond the walls (literal and figurative). Both peoples, Israeli and Palestinian, want to raise their children with the hope for a better life. Just as we have sought a unified solution in South Africa, Kosovo and Iraq, so must we help the Israelis and Palestinians to occupy one land. Let there be two flags and whatever else is of prime importance to a people who have been colonized for a millennium; these problems, though thorny, are not insoluble.

The 9-11 Commission has shown amazing political clout, orchestrating a media campaign to question, under oath in public, the national security adviser. Even the president was finally convinced that bowing to public opinion outweighed the benefit of claiming executive privilege.

The opportunity now exists to use the Commission’s favorable public acclaim to achieve a lasting tribute to honor the victims of the 9-11 atrocity. By focusing attention on the underlying cause of anti-American hatred, which fueled the fanaticism that culminated in this tragic event, the Commission can set in motion a process to establish a single state in which both Palestinians and Israelis can coexist.

The accomplishment of a single state solution to the Israeli /Palestinian conflict will be a lasting tribute to the memory of those who lost their lives on 9-11 and a comfort to the families as a living memorial.

It is an opportunity for the United States (and Israel) to achieve the moral high ground and defuse the issue that underlies the fanatical attacks against both the Israelis and ourselves.

These two ancient Semitic peoples occupy a unique corner of the world; revered by three major faiths. The potential of tourism holds the promise of a burgeoning economy once the violence is ended.

The 9-11 Commission now has the unique opportunity to set in motion the diplomacy for this historic and monumental achievement. Given the demonstration of bipartisan effort that already characterizes the Commission, the resolution of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict lies within reach. To squander this fleeting window of opportunity would merely add tragedy to tragedy.

Richard Todd

Independent candidate

for U.S. Congress