2011-09-16 / Columnists

Left, Right & Middle

Commentary By Glenn DiResto

It is hard to believe that 10 years have passed since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on our nation and city. On that horrible September day, almost 3,000 people were murdered at the hands of terrorists in NYC, Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania. Many here in Rockaway had family, friends, neighbors or know of someone who lost a loved one that day. Our community lost almost 80 residents; many of them members of the FDNY. Since that horrific September day we have recovered as a nation, city and community. However, our lives and the way we live have forever changed.

Since 9/11, there has been much debate and controversy as we learn to live with the constant threat of terrorism. Right after the attacks we were united as a nation and were determined to hold responsible those who planned and helped carry out the attacks. Within days of the attacks, the United States Congress and Senate passed a resolution, authorizing the use of force against those who were responsible, with only one member voting no. Since then, there have been many more matters that have needed to be debated. There have been executive orders, court battles and bi-partisan legislation passed in Washington to help us fight terrorism, while also trying to find the right balance in protecting our freedoms and rights as Americans.

After 9/11 our nation needed to move quickly to prevent further attacks while going after those responsible. But what would happen to suspected terrorists who were captured? In 2002, the Government began holding suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay and through an executive order signed by President Bush, certain detainees were to be tried by military tribunals. Court battles ensued going all the way up to the Supreme Court, which ruled that the President did not have the sole authority to hold military tribunals for suspected terrorists and he was required to get authorization from Congress to do so. Additionally, the Supreme Court ruled that the President lacks the authority to deny captives access to the US justice system.

In addition to how we bring suspected terrorists to justice, the debate also morphed into how we interrogate them once they are in custody. As suspected terrorists were captured, there was a need to get vital information to prevent further attacks on our country and help catch those responsible. Our Central Intelligence Agency, the C.I.A., used enhanced interrogation methods such as water boarding of detainees to extract information. Many people including Republican Senator John McCain, who is a former prisoner of war, called some of the methods used by the CIA torture, while others believed it was acceptable.

Since the terrorist attacks we have created the TSA, federalizing all airport screeners. We have been subjected to added security screening including taking off our shoes, having bags swabbed for explosive residue, limiting the amount of liquid you can bring in a carry-on and now we have full body x-ray machines after a terrorist tried to blow up a plane with explosives in his underwear. Unfortunately, these are some of the inconveniences we have to live with. Some people criticize these new measures as being intrusive; however most Americans would rather err on the side of caution.

We have also had a debate over the Islamic cultural center that is to be built in the vicinity of the World Trade Center site, the Zodroga Bill, and so many other issues related to the attacks on our county and our fight against terrorism. Although the recent killing of Osama Bin Laden and many top Al Qaeda leaders may give us some sense of closure and satisfaction, we should not become too comfortable because these enemies are determined to strike again here in America. In any society, terrorism is hard to stop because we must be successful 100 percent of the time in foiling attacks, while the enemy only has to be successful once to cause death and destruction.

In the years that have passed, we have learned a lot more about who we are as a nation and how we handle adversity. We were reminded that we are a nation of checks and balances and that with resolve we will work through our issues when we come together as a nation. It is sad to say that the tone and political rhetoric of our country is so different than it was at that time, but I guess at that time we all had a common enemy in the terrorists. As we have passed the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, let us all remember how proud we felt as a nation, but let us also reflect and remember those loved ones we lost that dreadful day. As a nation, country and community we will Never Forget.

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