Wednesday, May 4, 2011

This is a Time for Unity - Not Politics

The past 72 hours have been saturated with the news of the death of 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden. I, for one, could not be happier.

Yet, what should be a time of pride, praise and unity for the entire country has quickly become a soap box for many of President Barack Obama's critics. They have tried their best to find fault in every decision and move he has made, right down to nit-picking, word for word, the announcement of Bin Laden's death.

If the president left office in 2012 or 2016, and Bin Laden had not yet been captured or killed, it would surely be labeled his fault. Why can't he now get the credit he is due?

By all accounts, it was the President who decided and ordered the high-risk ground assault versus a less risky aerial strike on the terrorists' compound. A near-flawless operation resulted.

But that is not enough for Obama's critics. Should we have captured or killed Bin Laden? Disposed of the body or not? What did the president know and when?

Let me ask this: Who really cares?

If the operation had failed, if there were U.S. casualties, if Bin Laden had gotten away, then the President's critics could rightfully have a field day, but this entire operation was methodical, well-executed, and close to miraculous... without one U.S. casualty.

To my fellow Republicans and conservatives I say: Stop whining and give the President the credit he deserves. A better outcome happens only in the movies.

And as for those who believe killing Bin Laden may incite Al-Qaeda and their followers, remember they are already filled with anger and hatred against us. Let's not forget that on September 11, 2001, we were inciting no one and yet suffered the worst terror attack in world history. As for the burial at sea, I personally believe it was ingenious. I was in Iraq when Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay, were killed. I recall the many issues we had to deal with then. I also recall the problems with the bodies of Saddam Hussein and Abu Masab Al-Zarkowi, Iraq's leading terrorist whose body was returned to his hometown of Zarka, Jordan.

For Bin Laden, there will be no shrines and no martyrdom rallying points.

There are times for politics and debates and there are not. This is a time for unity and honor. Save the negativity for another time.

For the families and friends of those who perished on 9/11, for the first responders who came to the rescue - 400 who died doing their job - for our men and women in the Armed Forces who for the past 10 years have been fighting this global war on terror, and for the heroes in the U.S. Navy Seals who pulled off one of the greatest missions in our country's history, let us put politics aside.

Let us thank God that good has prevailed over evil and that President Barack Obama made the decisions he did.

On September 14, 2001, President George W. Bush came to Ground Zero, shook my hand and told me that America would bring those to justice that were responsible for the attacks on our country. Tomorrow, President Barack Obama will go to Ground Zero to remind the world that America has kept its promise. I, for one, will never forget him and this momentous event just as I will never forget those we lost.


Monday, May 2, 2011

A Great Day to be an American

As one who stood beneath the building and watched the second aircraft slam through Tower II of the World Trade Center, and was there when it collapsed, hearing President Barack Obama announce to the world that Osama Bin Ladin was dead, was joyous, emotional and overwhelming. God Bless our president, the intelligence and special operations personnel that carried out this mission, and God Bless America. -BERNARD B. KERIK

Friday, September 10, 2010

September 11th, 2001 – Nine Years Later

As I reflect on that day and the aftermath of September 11, 2001, most of my memories are that which I witnessed firsthand when the second jet airliner slammed through Tower II, blowing out the north side of the building. I stood beneath it, stunned at the enormity of the explosion and the realization that America was under attack.

In the weeks and months that followed, we set out to rescue the fallen and recover those that perished. We learned over time that more than 2,700 people died in the attack, 23 of which worked for me and the NYPD. The loss to the New York City Fire Department was unimaginable - 343 firefighters. The Port Authority Police lost 37 police officers.

The city and our country united. We responded and rebuilt a shattered city, and in the months and years after, we went to war with those responsible and those perceived as a threat, in an attempt to make sure that day never happened again.

In many ways, we have seen success, and, in some ways, we have not.

The future of our country and its national security depends on our political leadership at every level and their ability to realize our successes and failures, learn from them, and use that knowledge to insure victory in fighting terrorism and defending our nation.

As an American and someone who has seen terror first hand, both here and in the Middle East, my concerns are many. The enemy that attacked us in 2001 still exists today on many continents; Somalia is becoming their new training ground. A conventional battle against this enemy is impossible, and will depend on our intelligence and our leadership. Our local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies must be fastidious in working together, and our political leadership must insure these agencies get the appropriations, resources and tools they need to be strong and effective.

Nine years later, we are still working to make this happen. From my point of view, the greatest detriment in reaching this goal is political partisanship. Our political leadership must work together or nothing ever gets accomplished. Something is quite often better than nothing, and given the political tide today, nothing is what we are getting due to political partisanship.

Regardless of party lines, whether it is the most extreme left wing Democrats or the staunched right wing Republicans, no one wants to see another attack on this country. Somehow, our political leadership must come together when it comes to this battle, or we all lose.

We have yet to secure our borders and continue to talk about immigration reform. Lately, however, the more we talk the less gets done.

We need to take a good look at the hard working immigrants that are here, many working jobs that Americans will not, taking care of their families in their native country. Before we offer lottery programs to outsiders to become residents, we should figure out how we benefit from those already here. Whatever we are going to do, we must do it with appropriate controls at our borders, or our security will remain compromised, again opening access for Al Qaida and terrorists to infiltrate our country. This must be a priority for Congress.

President Barack Obama recently announced the end of combat operations in Iraq. I am glad to see combat end and equally pleased with our accomplishments. Saddam Hussein launched multiple wars against his neighbors, used weapons of mass destruction, displaced and killed millions of his own people. This is similar to that which is presently occurring in Sudan. I believe Hussein should have been removed long before he was for the atrocities he committed against his own people.

Today Iraqi's live in freedom and no longer fear Iraq being a threat to their neighbors and region.

Afghanistan, on the other hand, will not be as easy - particularly without the right strategy and the resources that ground commanders need to get the job done. It is imperative that there are NO TIME LIMITS! If we have learned anything about the Taliban and Al Qaida, it is that they have all the time in the world and will just wait us out. With the recent increase in attacks on U.S. troops by the Taliban, the United States must keep the pressure on and give General David Petreaus the resources he needs for victory.

I have concerns about the weeks ahead and the forthcoming trial of Ahmed Ghailani, one of the remaining 180 prisoners held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on charges of assisting Al Qaida bomb the U.S. In 1998, embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killed 224 people, including 12 Americans. Ghailani will be one of the first terrorists from Guantanamo Bay to be tried in a civilian court in the U.S. I fear this will open the door for constitutional challenges that could result in his release and the release of those just like him. These men must be held accountable. We must send a clear message to those that would consider attacks against our country or our citizens around the world.

With respect to building a Mosque in close proximity to Ground Zero, I oppose the mosque for three reasons. My reasoning has nothing to do with the Muslim religion nor do I dislike Muslims. The fact of the matter is, I have many Muslim friends all around the world.

Building the mosque so close to Ground Zero, the first real battleground in the war against radical Islam, is extremely insensitive to the surviving friends and family members of those that died there. Furthermore, it is a constant reminder of the message sent by the attackers and those like Osama Bin Laden. I also question the motives of the founders of the project, and strongly agree that we need to determine the source of the funding. Inevitably, the controversy surrounding the Mosque will bring with it security concerns for local, state and federal law enforcement authorities.

As I reflect on the controversy that the Mosque has created thus far, I am reminded of the war against terror and those who did or did not support it. If you recall, there are many that supported the war in 2001 and 2002, yet today, are totally against it. Notwithstanding the politics involved, would all those who are presently in support of building the Mosque have supported it on the morning of September 12, 2001? I think not.

On this particular September 11th, nine years later, I hope every American realizes and appreciates the sacrifices made by our law enforcement agencies and first responders on that dreadful day. Most important are the men and women in our armed forces, both here in the United States and abroad that are in harm’s way.

At a time when we are reminded of our constitution on a daily basis, albeit in our courts, regarding immigration, or the war against terror, it is the men and women in our armed forces who fight on our behalf, and defend our constitutional freedoms and the very democracy that we often take for granted.

We should be thankful for their service and sacrifice, and for the families that many have left behind. For without them, this country would not be what it is today.

God Bless them and God Bless the United States of America.