A Message from
Jay B Gaskill
I am haunted by memories today.
On this date in 2001, my wife and I were in Manhattan, smelling the dust, seeing the grief and tears at close range, walking the emptying streets of Mid-town, seeing a ravaged fire truck, crumpled like a run-over toy, people huddled on street corners, jets flying over skyscrapers….
But great evil generates an outpouring of great good. By September 12th, we sensed a surge of greatness and generosity among the people who remained in Manhattan, and who gathered in a nearby park. In the following days, all Americans hoped that President Bush would emerge as the strong leader that history demanded.
Then there he was, standing in the rubble at ground zero three days later, inspired by the rough men around him [You could tell he was comfortable with them – alter all, he ran an oil rig company and a baseball team.] Bob Beckwith, a firefighter was standing next to Mr. Bush in the rubble. As he later told Time Magazine:
“I got home and I told my wife, ‘I’m going down,’ ” he said, referring to the smoldering remains of the Twin Towers.
“At first, his family dissuaded him from going to Ground Zero, but after Beckwith discovered that one of his colleague’s sons was one of the hundreds of firefighters missing, he put on his old uniform, strapped on his helmet and went to join the rescue efforts.
“Beckwith had to finagle his way into Ground Zero when he approached the heavily guarded perimeter.
“I said, ‘Come on, guys. You know I got to get in there.’ I showed them my identification card from the fire department and so a couple of guys let me through,” Beckwith said.
“Once inside the perimeter, Beckwith got a firsthand look at the charred remains of the World Trade Center and immediately began working to find survivors.”
“And the president came and he is shaking hands with all the ironworkers and all the cops and all the firemen that were down there … and I figure he’s going over to the microphones, but he makes a quick right, and he puts his arm up and I said, ‘Oh my God!’ “
After helping the president onto the truck, Beckwith begins to crawl down, but Bush stops him.
“He says, ‘Where are you going?’ I said, ‘Uh, I was told to get down.’ He said, ‘No, no, you stay right here.’ “
A voice called out “We can’t hear you Mr. President!” President George Bush picks up a bull horn:
President Bush: Thank you all. I want you all to know — it [the bullhorn] can’t go any louder — I want you all to know that American today, American today is on bended knee, in prayer for the people whose lives were lost here, for the workers who work here, for the families who mourn. The nation stands with the good people of New York City and New Jersey and Connecticut as we mourn the loss of thousands of our citizens
Rescue Worker: I can’t hear you!
President Bush: I can hear you! I can hear you! The rest of the world hears you! And the people — and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!
Rescue Workers: [Chanting] U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!
President Bush: The nation — The nation sends its love and compassion —
Rescue Worker: God bless America!
President Bush: — to everybody who is here. Thank you for your hard work. Thank you for makin’ the nation proud, and may God bless America.
Rescue Workers: [Chanting] U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!
Such images and thoughts still haunt me as I watch our latest president wrestle with the consequences of his irresolution and reluctance in the face of America’s enemies.
OUR LEADER IN 2013
Peggy Noonan on her blog in the Wall Street Journal
“The president has backed away from a military strike in Syria. But he can’t acknowledge this or act as if it is true. He is acting and talking as if he’s coolly, analytically, even warily contemplating the Russian proposal and the Syrian response. The proposal, he must know, is absurd. Bashar Assad isn’t going to give up all his hidden weapons in wartime, in the middle of a conflict so bitter and severe that his forces this morning reportedly bombed parts of Damascus, the city in which he lives. In such conditions his weapons could not be fully accounted for, packed up, transported or relinquished, even if he wanted to. But it will take time—weeks, months—for the absurdity to become obvious. And it is time the president wants. Because with time, with a series of statements, negotiations, ultimatums, promises and proposals, the Syria crisis can pass. It can dissipate into the air, like gas.”
Mr. Obama, speaking to the American people last night, while backing down….
“Even a limited strike will send a message to Assad that no other nation can deliver. I don’t think we should remove another dictator with force. We learned from Iraq that doing so makes us responsible for all that comes next. But a targeted strike can make Assad or any other dictator, think twice before using chemical weapons.”
…over the last few days we’ve seen some encouraging signs in part because of the credible threat of U.S. military action as well as constructive talks that I had with President Putin. The Russian government has indicated a willingness to join with the international community in pushing Assad to give up his chemical weapons. The Assad regime has now admitted that it has these weapons and even said they’d join the chemical weapons convention, which prohibits their use.
“It’s too early to tell whether this offer will succeed…
“America is not the world’s policeman. Terrible things happen across the globe, and it is beyond our means to right every wrong. But when, with modest effort and risk, we can stop children from being gassed to death and thereby make our own children safer over the long run, I believe we should act.”
Frederick W. Kagan, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, former professor of military history at the West Point Military Academy, writing in The Weekly Standard
“American interests in Syria are clear: preventing terrorists from acquiring chemical weapons; depriving Iran of its most important ally and staging-base in the Middle East; and preventing al Qaeda from establishing an uncontested safe haven in the Levant.
“Syria’s use of chemical weapons by itself dramatically increases the risk of those weapons falling into al Qaeda’s hands. Any action the United States and its allies could take to dissuade Assad from continuing that use—thereby persuading him to keep the weapons locked up as securely as he can—is a step toward reducing that risk.
“The best solution, of course, would be to destroy the weapons or remove them from Syria. Simply bombing them from the air poses unacceptable risks, unless they are about to be seized by terrorists. There is a risk of releasing clouds of toxic gas that could kill scores or hundreds of innocent civilians, even when using advanced bombs designed to incinerate chemical weapons. Using such advanced munitions, moreover, would require putting manned aircraft over Syrian airspace, which in turn means attacking the Syrian air defense system in advance. Bombing secured bunkers also makes it impossible to determine with certainty whether all of the weapons were destroyed, while simultaneously exposing the storage facility to plunder by scattering (at the very least) its guard force.”
My PERSONAL take:
If you haven’t yet read them, I invite you to take a look at two brief pieces I posted earlier on The Policy Think Site (www.jaygaskill.com),
Obama at War: Bully like a Flea – Sting like a Butterfly
Our President’s Teaching Moment
My most recent article concluded with the observation that “many of Mr. Obama’s missteps have been less damaging than they could have been because he has been remarkably lucky. We should all wish President Obama good luck this time.”
The President’s good luck, on this occasion, came in the form of a “rescue” by Russia’s Thug-In-Chief, V. Putin, who has proposed to “help” us persuade the embattled Assad regime to transfer its nerve gas weapons (some of which may represent the remnants of Saddam’s WMD cache) to the UN.
Peace is at hand? Don’t hold your breath.
Our President was spared the embarrassment of a full back-down or the ignominy of a botched attempt to punish a brutal dictator. He was spared by an authoritarian Russian leader with an agenda.
Over the last 4 years and 8 months, our president has demonstrated only one clear leadership skill. It is his talent to do smooth, chameleon-like mutations of positions calibrated to advance his personal political advantage in the moment.
It is an act. The act is wearing thin.
So I am haunted by memories today – and by the “what ifs?” they inspire.
A thought experiment: Setting aside all your political / ideological leanings, ask yourself this-
Given this President’ bundle of character traits, predispositions and decision-making disabilities, as we now see them revealed, would he be up to the challenge of a 9-11 attack?