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Hearing of the House International Relations Committee - 9/11 Commission Recommendations for U.S. Diplomacy

Location: Washington, DC

Federal News Service August 24, 2004 Tuesday







REP. PETER KING (R-NY): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Again, I want to commend Governor Kean and Congressman Hamilton for the terrific job they've done. I was going to call Mr. Hamilton "vice chairman," but when he's in this room, we always refer to him as "chairman." (Laughter.) So it's good to have you back.

I especially want to congratulate you on the bipartisan theme that ran through your report.

And in keeping with that theme, I would like to identify myself very much with the spirit of what Congressman Lantos said this morning in his opening statement and just respectfully express a concern that I have about-in your report, where you refer often to trying to win the minds and hearts, setting up more exchange programs, student programs. I think all of that is good. I'm just wondering, though, in the real world, what-if we are giving the impression that that will have more of an impact than it really will.

For instance, we talk about the image of the United States. And again, in a bipartisan tone, the two times we really went to war during the 1990s was in Bosnia and Kosovo. In both of those wars, we killed Christians, we bombed Christian cities, to save Muslims. There was no oil. There was no territory. There was nothing there for the United States at all. And apparently we've gotten no credit for that in the Muslim world.

Now if that-to me-you know, to me, if that wasn't an example of the beneficence of the United States and our good intentions, I don't know what is.

And without opening a debate on Iraq and how people have honest differences on that, but even there, where the United States went in, our goal is to get out as soon as we can, we're not trying to take any land, we're not just trying to take their oil, and yet we still seem to be making no headway with the Muslim community.

I'm wondering if the problem isn't just so entrenched that it's going to be a long-term-a very long-term program we have to enact or undertake. And again, I'm for it. I'm just wondering, though, if we're almost setting up an equivalency, saying we're going to try and win over their minds and hearts.

When we did that with communism, we had one ideology; they had another. And as much as we disagreed with their ideology, at least we realized there was intellectual basis for Marxism. Here we're talking about pure hatred. I mean, bin Laden's people-this isn't an Islamic philosophy. This is almost a madness. And yet it's been embraced by millions of people. And I'm wondering how many schools we have to open, how many textbooks do we have to provide, how many libraries do we have to open, how many exchanges do we have to have to really hope to make an impression on people who have this type of mind-set.

And so I-really I'm just raising these questions, and I'm wondering if we aren't giving almost a false impression by thinking that, on the one hand, we have the military and the diplomatic; on the other, we have these exchanges and educational initiatives, and giving the impression that those initiatives can bring about any short-term results.

And again, I'm not really disagreeing with you. I'm really just, I think, echoing some of what Congressman Lantos said and expressing some concerns I have. And again, I would probably support almost all these programs you're talking about. I'm just wondering what the real impact would be, considering the mind-set that we're up against.

To me, the only way we'd even begin to have any impact at all would be if we turned our back on our closest ally, Israel. That may give us six months of good faith, and after that they would find some other reason. But it just seems as if they're so dug in against us, for reasons that I think-yeah, there is some logical basis, but almost all of it is mindless and irrational. I think a lot of it is begrudgery and jealousy, to some extent, and refusal to acknowledge their own deficiencies that they've had over many decades, if not centuries.

So with that, I'd just really put that out and ask you for your comments. That really isn't a question so much as a-myself just thinking out loud and asking you if you care to comment, or maybe you don't think it's worthy of comment.

In any event, I want to thank you for your service to our country.

MR. HAMILTON: Well, we --

MR. KEAN: Thank you, Congressman.

MR. HAMILTON: You want to go ahead?

MR. KEAN: Well, I'd just start by saying that we recognize this is a long-term job, but it's not just in the Middle East. Since last summer, for instance, the favorable ratings of the United States have fallen from 61 (percent) to 15 percent in Indonesia, one of the largest countries in the world; from 71 percent to 38 percent among Muslims in Nigeria. We are not going to have a safer world -- (chuckles) -- unless people understand us better. You're absolutely right: we risked American lives to save Muslims because we thought it was right in Eastern Europe. They don't know about that. Nobody's told them. We do not have the kind of information agencies that we did during the Cold War that have the power to spread our ideas and our messages to that part of the world.

REP. KING: Do we think that-do you believe that those type of agencies, similar to Radio Free Europe and others, if we set that up in the Middle East could be strong enough, for instance, to counter Al-Jazeera?

MR. KEAN: Well, Al-Jazeera has been very, very successful, and we've got to recognize why it's been successful and give that part of the world some alternative, providing we can't influence Al-Jazeera itself. We're not doing that right now. Al-Jazeera is it if you want to listen and learn about that part of the world in that part of the world.

MR. HAMILTON: Mr. King, we make a very sharp distinction. On the one hand you have Osama bin Laden and his adherents. We don't think that's a large number of people. It's not millions; it's hundreds, maybe thousands. We're not going to convert them. They're not going to espouse democracy -- (chuckles) -- and free enterprise. And we say, as you and others have advocated, you have to replace them, you have to remove them, you have to capture them, you have to kill them.

The great mass of the Islamic people, the Muslims, may admire Osama bin Laden, may sympathize with a lot of the things he says, but they do not support his violence. And it's that great multitude of people that we're talking about here with public diplomacy and with the effort of economic and educational opportunity, and we think that's a very long-term challenge.

We don't in any way want to reduce the military effort. It is absolutely essential, no question about it. But it is targeted at a fairly small number of people, comparatively. Look, Islam stretches from Morocco to Indonesia. (Chuckles.) There are billions of people there, and those are the people that we think American policy has to be very much focused on, at least to the extent that we're focused on the military side.

REP. KING: Thank you both very much.


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