Tags: 'National | Will | and | Courage'

'National Will and Courage'

Tuesday, 18 September 2001 12:00 AM

Those prophetic words were handed to then-President George Herbert Walker Bush on May 15, 1990, as the opening sentence of the executive summary of the report of the President’s Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism.

That was the commission named to investigate the terrorist bombing that blew apart Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988, raining the 259 persons aboard to their deaths and killing 11 others on the ground.

The clairvoyance of the commission’s findings and recommendations, particularly the strong influence of its chairman, Ann McLaughlin, are striking in the wake of the past week’s events. For the report’s second sentence recommended "a more vigorous policy that not only pursues and punishes terrorists but also makes state sponsors of terrorism pay a price for their actions."

Other members of the commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism were Sens. Alfonse D'Amato of New York and Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Reps. John Paul Hammerschmidt of Arkansas and James L. Oberstar of Minnesota, retired Air Force Gen. Thomas Richards and former Navy Secretary Edward Hidalgo.

The commission specifically recommended "planning and training for preemptive or retaliatory strikes against known terrorist enclaves in nations that harbor them," and "where such direct strikes are inappropriate, … a lesser option, including covert operations, to prevent, disrupt or respond to terrorist acts."

Thus the report, more than a decade old, reads today like a script for plans and options being weighed by President George W. Bush and his national security team.

It is time. For the national will and courage are now overwhelmingly evident for the United States to defeat terrorism.

This is not to point a finger of blame for the fact that these recommended policies were not implemented earlier; rather to reinforce with a historical perspective the war-era blueprint the nation now appears destined to follow.

The commission also found the nation's aviation security system to be "seriously flawed" and recommended scores of measures to fix it. While many of these measures have since been implemented, the system showed its continuing vulnerability on Sept. 11, 2001.

There was some cynicism and even opposition within the commission and its staff to Chairman McLaughlin's determination that the report emphasize national will at home and a no-sanctuaries position in the world to combat the terrorist menace. Some said the commission should stick to a more limited and technical examination of the Lockerbie disaster, leaving foreign and national security policy to others.

But McLaughlin, who was secretary of labor in the second Ronald Reagan administration, directed that the emphasis should be on the importance of national will and the moral courage to use it.

The report stated: "The free world has been lurching from terrorist attack to terrorist attack, attempting to agree on how to respond to each event. This approach will not work."

The report was well received in the media and the government, including by then-President Bush. Why, then, have we as a nation never effectively taken the recommended steps to diplomatically isolate nations that foster terrorism and to mount preemptive strikes on terrorist bases?

There is a very obvious and valid reason. Neither Congress nor the public would have supported such direct military strikes or clandestine military operations in the domestic political and world diplomatic climate as then existed.

Until Sept. 11.

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Those prophetic words were handed to then-President George Herbert Walker Bush on May 15, 1990, as the opening sentence of the executive summary of the report of the President's Commission on Aviation Security and Terrorism. That was the commission named to investigate the...
'National,Will,and,Courage'
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2001-00-18
Tuesday, 18 September 2001 12:00 AM
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