Tuesday, April 7, 2009
President Barack Obama made his first visit to a Muslim nation on Monday as leader of the “free world” and declared that the United States "is not, and will never be, at war with Islam.”
In his address to the Turkish parliament, he called for a greater partnership with the Islamic world and said that Turkey was an important U.S. ally in many areas, including the fight against terrorism.
He called for a greater bond between Americans and Muslims, and said that terrorist groups such as al-Qaida did not represent the vast majority of Muslims.
"Let me say this as clearly as I can," he said. "The United States is not and never will be at war with Islam. In fact, our partnership with the Muslim world is critical . . . in rolling back a fringe ideology that people of all faiths reject."
At the same time the president was speaking in Turkey, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced that he planned to cut 15 percent of the missile defense program, and recommended stopping production of the F-22 fighter jet and scrapping a new helicopter for the president as he outlined deep cuts to many of the military's biggest weapons programs.
Gates said his $534 billion budget proposal for the Department of Defense represents a "fundamental overhaul" in defense acquisition and reflects a shift in priorities from fighting conventional wars to the newer threats U.S. forces face from insurgents in places such as Afghanistan.
He said that we must "fight the wars we are in today and the scenarios we are most likely to face in the years to come, while at the same time providing a hedge against other risks."
As I see it, the message from President Obama is the right one, and although it’s been said almost verbatim by President George W. Bush and the preceding three or four presidents, the mainstream media is acting like it’s the first time they’ve ever heard it.
We are not at war, and we should not be, with the Muslim world or Islam; however, we cannot forget or ignore the fact that radical Islamic extremists are at war with us and will stop at nothing, including death to themselves, to achieve victories in their war.
Secretary Gate’s plan to restructure the Defense Department to address the unconventional threats against us is a must, but we need to very careful not to lose sight of the conventional threats we face; countries like Venezuela, Iran, Russia, and North Korea — three of which are being run by egotistical lunatics that would like nothing more than to see the collapse of the mighty United States of America.
If we’re going to slash defense spending, I think we really need to rethink cutting funds for the missile defense shield program.
I may be a bit “gun shy” if you will, but I just don’t think it’s a good idea to announce we’re cutting missile defense just one day after North Korea launched the longest-range three-stage intercontinental ballistic missile they have yet to build, coupled with its troubling nuclear program, which by all accounts is being developed for capabilities required to strike the United States.
With North Korea and Iran in a marathon race to acquire nuclear capabilities, the reality is that we could be placing our allies and ourselves in serious jeopardy.
An immediate problem scenario is that our allies may feel that we are losing our ability to come to their aide in the event of an attack and they seek that protection elsewhere. This could be devastating to our friendships in the Arab region and Eastern Europe that have taken years to foster.
I am all for cutting government spending and management accountability, but not at the cost of our national security.
North Korea’s recent act of defiance in launching that missile, coupled with the fact that the United Nation’s Security Counsel has proven time and time again that is has neither the courage or capability of holding rouge states and their leadership accountable for egregious violations of U.N. resolutions, is a clear demonstration why we must not cut this program.
Posted by BERNARD B. KERIK at 10:38 PM
Friday, April 3, 2009
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey made a decision last week to change the name of the tallest new skyscraper slated for the site of the worst terror attack in United States history, from "Freedom Tower" to "One World Trade Center".
I think it’s wrong and I believe that the name should stay, “Freedom Tower.”
The original Twin Towers were two of the greatest economic symbols in our country and the enemy that attacked us then and stalks us now, loathes our economic and religious freedoms and our support for human and women’s rights. Those principals of freedom and many others, are exactly why we were attacked in the first place.
Given the events of that day and its aftermath and reflecting on the innocents we lost and heroes that perished, I believe that this building must be one of the most symbolic and patriotic structures of just about any in our country, and that includes in name.
We owe it to the memory of those we lost – innocent people from more than 100 countries and every walk of life. We owe it to the men and woman from the PAPD, FDNY and NYPD that ran into those buildings and defended our freedoms in one of the greatest rescue missions in world history.
As the Twin Towers imploded and the five surroundings buildings collapsed, there was an overwhelming feeling of denial and anger. But within moments after the dust settled in what appeared to be hell of earth, something began to happen. Freedom began to ring out loud and clear… from every window, building, car antenna and street post… American flags in every size and shape began to appear and the message to the terrorists was clear…
We will not be defeated!
When officials announced 7 years ago, that the tallest of the five planned towers at the site would symbolize the nation’s triumph over terrorism, I thought of those flags, I thought of our freedom and I thought of the message that we would be sending the animals that attacked us.
This building should remain the “Freedom Tower;”
It’s just the right thing to do.
Posted by BERNARD B. KERIK at 4:36 PM
Saturday, February 28, 2009
Last week, Oscar award winning actor George Clooney was granted a private meeting with President Barack Obama to discuss the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Clooney, a United Nations messenger of peace, asked the President to help end a long and bloody conflict that has killed or displaced millions of innocent refugees.
The actor, recently toured the African nation of Chad and said: "We want him (Obama) to appoint a high-level, full-time diplomat to negotiate and work hard every day for a peace treaty," noting that the situation in Darfur has not improved since he first visited the region in 2006.
As admirable as Clooney’s intent and demand for action may be, is it equally if not more naive and unrealistic?
A few years back, Clooney told an audience at the National Press Club that "It is the first genocide of the 21st century," and what the people in Darfur "need now is the American people and the world's population to help them." However, the reality is, that wasn’t exactly true.
Long before the international community focused on Darfur, in another part of the world there were atrocities were being committed against millions of people who were killed or displaced by a sick and demented dictator, much like the Janjaweed leadership in Darfur. The United States, the UN Security Counsel, and the international community thought diplomacy was the solution but Saddam Hussein laughed in their face.
In the aftermath of 9/11, we finally did what should have been done years before, yet have been criticized ever since. Intelligence failures and our failure to find weapons of mass destruction have over shadowed the fact that Saddam Hussein and his murderous regime were removed and today there is a free and liberated Iraq.
They should have been removed years before and yet the UN, the United States and the international community did nothing – exactly what their doing in Darfur today and it’s wrong.
"What we cannot do is turn our heads and look away and hope that this will somehow disappear," Clooney said, and I agree. However, the United Nations doesn't want to step on the toes of the African Union, our political leadership here in the United States doesn’t have the courage to do what has to be done and Americans for the most part, don’t understand the problem, can’t afford the cost and definitely don’t have the patience to fight this battle.
Clooney’s trips to Darfur, lip service by politicians and protests at the UN are not helping the people in the Sudan. President Obama appointing a “full time diplomat to negotiate and work hard everyday for a peace treaty” will not work. A peace treaty with who, the terrorists like the Janjaweed who continually attack ethnic black Africans, raping women, pillaging villages and committing widespread atrocities with the support of the government? That’s like saying we want a peace treaty with Osama Bin Laden or Al-Qaeda. It’s a joke.
Terrorist groups and governments that sponsor them must be stopped and stopped by force if necessary.Until we as a world leader are willing to do what it takes to hold them accountable without worrying about world opinion or being politically correct, the people in the Sudan will continue to suffer.
If George Clooney wants the genocide and atrocities in Darfur to end, then he has to say it and mean it. He has to understand it will come at a cost, it will take time and it will not be easy. He must understand that although the international community voices their condemnation for what is happening there, they themselves don’t have the courage and perhaps the money to do the dirty work. Is Mr. Clooney, his friends in Hollywood and the political leaders standing on the Darfur soap box, prepared for that? Do they really want to do what it takes to stop the atrocities and genocide?
I feel we must. I strongly believe that as a world power we are obligated to save an entire generation of people from extinction, which is exactly what will happen without our intervention. Unfortunately, it will probably lie solely on the shoulders of The United States of America – leader of the free world.
Is Mr. Clooney and Hollywood prepared for that and would they support it to the end? I surely hope so.
Posted by BERNARD B. KERIK at 4:40 PM
Wednesday, February 18, 2009
Over the past several years, many people have asked about the photo below and the story behind the American flag sitting on my desk. In order to answer those questions, the following is the journey of that flag - from the devastation of the World Trade Center site, to the heavenly skies on the Space Shuttle Endeavor and back to the people of the City of New York.
At 5:30AM on the morning of September 12, 2001, New York City Police Sergeant Gerald Kane and Detective Peter Friscia from my office, were assisting rescue teams at the heart of the World Trade Center site, at “Ground Zero.”
Sergeant Kane noticed a group of flagpoles on Church Street near Chamber Street, amidst the devastation that were still standing. The flags from the states of New Jersey and New York were still affixed to the poles, but one pole was bare. He then noticed an American flag had been blown off of the flagpole and was tangled upside down on a streetlight several yards away. Noting that the upside down position of the American flag was the universal sign for distress, Sergeant Kane was concerned that if the press or media published a photograph of the flag in that condition, it would be seen as an added victory memento for terrorists around the world.
The two men recruited a number of soldiers and firefighters in the area who hoisted a ladder to the top of the streetlight. Detective Friscia climbed the rungs of the ladder to the top, untangled and retrieved the flag and brought it down to the ground.
Four of the soldiers and their Lieutenant folded the torn, tattered and ash covered flag.
Not wanting to leave the flag in their vehicle which was parked several blocks away, they decided to bring it back to my office. Upon their arrival, they told my personal assistant, Janet Fitzpatrick, that they wanted to secure the flag in my personal office and she recommended that they write a note and leave it with the flag so I would know where it came from upon my return - and they did just that.
That day, I had spent that morning with Mayor Rudy Giuliani at the temporary command center in the New York City Police Academy. We then visited various hospitals and went on to Ground Zero, after which I returned to my office.
As I walked into the room, there was an extremely strong stench of smoke, like that of a burning building. I saw the flag sitting on the corner of my desk and as I got closer to look at it, I realized that the overwhelming smell was coming from the ash covered flag. There was a hand written note sticking out of one of the creases of the flag.
This is the flag that flew in front of the WTC at Church Street. It was blown off the pole and was tangled on a streetlight. We as well as some firefighters and soldiers recovered it. The soldiers folded it. In Israel you said that we can’t back down to terrorism. You are right. You lead and we will follow.”
Just as I finished reading the note and was looking at the flag, Tom Antenen, my Deputy Commissioner for Public Information walked into the office and without saying a word, leaned over and smelled the flag I held in my hands. I handed him the note.
That flag remained in my office for the next several weeks and with the help and assistance of Mr. Richard Cooper, the Program Manager of NASA's “Flags for Heroes and Families Program,” on October 10, 2001, me and Mayor Giuliani met with NASA Administrator Dan Goldin, at which time it was agreed that the flag would be transported onboard the Space Shuttle Endeavor (STS-108) as part of its December 5-17, 2001 mission to the International Space Station.
Accompanying the WTC flag on the Shuttle flight were:
- A USMC flag recovered from the Pentagon attacks;
- An American flag that flew over the State Capital in Harrisburg, PA on the day of Sept. 11th;
- The shields of the fallen NYPD officers
- Patches, posters and an emblem from the FDNY
- Patches from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey
- 6,000 small American flags to honor those lost and those that served in the response and recovery efforts for 9/11.
In November 2001, I asked Detective Michael Jermyn from my personal security detail to represent me and deliver the flag and the 23 shields (police badges) of the New York City Police Officers that made the supreme sacrifice on 9/11 to NASA Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
Upon his arrival at his hotel, he requested that no hotel staff have access to his room, including the cleaning staff, during his two day stay. Upon hearing his request, a hotel manager and security officer appraoched him and asked if there was a problem and if they could be of assistance. Detective Jermyn informed the two men that he had custody of the United States flag that flew at the World Trade Center on 9/11 and for security purposes, he would feel better if no one was allowed access to his room during his stay.
Overwhelmed with emotion upon seeing the flag, the hotel manager upgraded the Detective's room to a two room suite and escorted him to the room where the flag was placed in the center of the bed in the second bedroom, almost as if the flag was "lying in state," pending delivery to NASA Headquarters.
In a moving ceremony the next day, the flag was turned over to NASA, from where it was later transported to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida where Detective Michael Jermyn represented me and the NYPD to witness the launch and this historic event - from Ground Zero, to heaven.
On Flag Day, June 14, 2002, the American flag that once flew at the World Trade Center and the other items of memorabilia were returned to the people of the City of New York by Mr. O’Keefe and Commander Dom Gorie and the crew members of the Space Shuttle Endeavor (STS-108), in a ceremony at the Rose Center at the American Museum of Natural History.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
More than a year ago, I became aware of two young Pakistani American boys that were being held against their will in Karachi, Pakistan, at the Jamia Binoria Institute, a school or “madrassa”. Both the U.S. and Pakistani governments have recognized this school as one of the most radical in Pakistan.
Madrassas have come under intense international scrutiny for their anti-western sentiment and links to terrorism since 9/11, and since the London subway bombings three years ago. Three of the four suicide bombers who carried out the London plot were British nationals of Pakistani descent; two attended madrassas in Pakistan. The Binoria Madrassa is known to recruit Americans most aggressively. It prominently displays a banner supporting the Taliban. And it is documented that Osama bin Laden spoke to students at Binoria before the 9/11 attacks.
American born children are being sent to Pakistan and schooled or are well into their high school years and yet have been denied a formal education. Foreign born Muslims, nationalized here, are also traveling to these Madrasses for schooling as well.
It is estimated that these two boys are among 80 Americans enrolled in this madrassa. It is believed that there are 600 American boys being educated in 22 madrassas throughout Pakistan. According to researchers, the sole curriculum in these institutions is to memorize the Koran and indoctrinate their students into Islamic extremism. They are known to mass-produce extremists with a political agenda, including a narrow view of society and no tolerance of western culture.
They radicalize Muslims and are seminaries for jihad. While I would encourage religious education to any child of any faith; Christians, Muslims and Jews alike, these particular political madrassas spread their message of hatred toward our country and others that live in freedom, including those in the Arab region and throughout the Far East.
These institutions are creating a new breed of terrorist that has the ability to infiltrate our society as American citizens, come and go as they please, live as our neighbors and teach our children, all of which will be completely undetected.
They can be potential time bombs planted in our communities waiting to explode just as they have in the United Kingdom and other places around the world.
They are the enemy within and of the future, and until we realize that, our chances of success in the war on terror will be pretty slim.