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Panel I of a Hearing of the House Government Reform Committee - 9/11 Commission Recommendations

Location: Washington, DC

Federal News Service August 3, 2004 Tuesday







REP. JOHN CARTER (R-TX): Thank you, Mr. Chairman. First, I want to thank you, like everyone else here, for a really exceptional piece of work here. Bipartisanism is fantastic in this town, and I commend you for it. And I'm going to treasure this.

I'm going to try to couch questions that I got back home, and I think they're-and one of the first questions I want to ask you is-we are in a war on terrorism. Can we lose this war on terrorism? And what would be the results of losing the war on terrorism to the American people? Or even better, what do they expect to win? When would they think "We win" in the war on terrorism? Because the concept of a war on the American people is not fitting what we're doing, and I think your report does fit what we're doing.

MR. KERREY: Congressman, first of all --

REP. SHAYS: Senator, could I ask you to put the mike-it works better --

MR. KERREY: Help me a little bit. You said when you go back home-I can tell it's not New Hampshire, but --

REP. CARTER: No, I'm from Texas. We take war real seriously in Texas.

MR. KERREY: Well, I mean, the first thing I'd say, Judge, is I think that war on terrorism is inappropriately named. Terrorism is a tactic. I mean, it would make as much sense for us to declare war on zeroes after December 7th, 1941. Terrorism is a tactic. It's used by individuals to try to accomplish some objective. It's hard to get your head into that, but that's what's going on here.

And one of the more controversial things that we dealt with-and you'll see it in the report-we used the language, "We believe that what we're dealing here with is radical Islamic jihadists who have made the decision"-in this particular case they made the decision that killing Americans is the most important thing to do. They targeted Americans.

Now they've spread. They've hit Spaniards in Madrid. They've gone beyond that. But the thing that made bin Laden unique was his decision to say, "We're not going to try to destabilize Pakistan or Saudi Arabia or other Muslim nations. We're going to try to destabilize the United States of America by taking this tactic right to the head of the snake."

REP. CARTER: So would you say their purpose is to kill Americans, which they have declared, and by killing Americans, make us reach a point where they control policy in this country by threats or taking actions of terrorism?

MR. KERREY: Yeah, I think there's a combination of things. First of all, they say, "Well, you're all going to go to heaven and hang out with virgins for eternity." If bin Laden believed that, he'd be sending his kids. He's not. So apparently it's a device that works from time to time. If you examine terrorism, especially in the '90s, it's been developed in very sophisticated ways. How do you disguise explosives on your body, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera?

I believe you've got to go to the ideological argument that underlies it. That's why I said earlier, to look at the Ramzi Yousef statement, confronted by Judge Duffy's statement, I think you get the battle right there. And we can't be unafraid to argue that argument, that central argument that you hear Yousef using in trial. It's wrong. It's deadly. It's cowardly. Put whatever you want on there, but you've got to get to the argument itself.

In my view, the only way to confront it successfully is to understand that you may never get to a perfect world where we're never vulnerable to terrorists. That's not likely to happen, in my opinion.

Secondly, I think you've got to understand that vigorous military and law enforcement efforts have to be used. I had an interesting exchange earlier with Congressman Kucinich over this thing. Bin Laden doesn't-these guys don't sit around and say, "Geez, what about civil liberties and what about the Geneva Convention?" and so forth. They've got to be vigorously pursued and relentlessly pursued, because if they feel like we're going to apply moral relativism to what they do, then I think the game is over.

Thirdly, I think we do have to have more-whether you call it diplomacy or a debate over the ideas or whatever, we can't just paper over these arguments. And the last thing, I think the United States of America has to continue to say that democracy, that free markets, can provide you with an opportunity agenda. And we've got to show that it can. And whether that's trade policies or advocating good safety nets or whatever it is, if democracy doesn't make life a little bit better for the individuals who are inside of that democracy, we've got a heck of a problem.

And we can't ask our law enforcement and our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines to fight this battle if, for example, in 2006 the farm bill comes up and we say we want business as usual, just to put it right like I think it is. Now, that may not sell back down in your congressional district in Texas; I don't know. But we can't, I think, win this unless we honestly say to the world that democracy and free markets can be a vehicle to make your life a little bit better, regardless of where you live on this planet.

REP. CARTER: Mr. Chairman, may I have just a little bit extra time?

REP. SHAYS: The gentleman's time has run out. Is that okay?

REP. CARTER: All right, Mr. Chairman.


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