On October 17, a little over a month after the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Independent Women’s Forum held a panel at the National Press Club to consider America’s new mission from a women’s perspective. The panel was dedicated to IWF founder Barbara Olson who perished aboard Flight 77. IWF Chairman R. Gaull Silberman’s eloquent remarks about Barbara were printed in the December Ex Femina.
Christina Hoff Sommers
Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and IWF National Advisory Board Chairman.
Welcome to the IWF Women Facing War symposium. Since the morning of September 11, the nation has become united in a common purpose. Patriotism is flourishing. Good and evil are back. And according to Peggy Noonan, men are politically correct again!
Today we are going to hear from some very smart women who know something about the real world as things now stand. This forum is dedicated to our friend and founding member, Barbara Olson, whose courage and cheerful spirit remain alive in us. We will begin with author and commentator Laurie Mylroie, who will paint the big picture surrounding the events of September 11. Then, we will move on to military readiness expert Elaine Donnelly, who will update us on the current state of the military. Finally, we will hear from Boston Police Lt. Margot Hill, who will tell us what we can do in this time of crisis.
Author of Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein’s Unfinished War Against America
We are at war. America is at war. The terrible attacks on September 11 were an act of war targeted against this country. So are the biological attacks, and we can expect these biological attacks to become even more serious. There are a variety of reasons for this. Above all, it has to do with the Clinton Administration’s handling of terrorism.
Before Bill Clinton became President, the assumption was that most major acts of terrorism directed against the United States were state-sponsored. But Clinton turned terrorism into a law enforcement issue with the focus on arresting individuals and bringing them to justice. The trials had a way of distorting the public understanding of terrorism. From a prosecutor’s perspective, the focus is on the defendants. The prosecutor wants to persuade the jury that the defendants should be convicted and given the maximum sentences. Any involvement or suspected involvement of states is a distraction to the jury. The policy of dealing with terrorism as a law enforcement issue gave rise to a false and fraudulent view of terrorism — whose origin lies in the “First Attack” on the World Trade Center.
In 1993 the World Trade Center was bombed one month into Clinton’s first presidential term. From that point on, he dealt with terrorism as a law enforcement issue and promoted the idea of a new kind of terrorism that doesn’t involve states, called loose networks, of which al Qaeda is supposed to be the most recent manifestation. But we are still at war with Iraq; the Gulf War never ended.
The mastermind behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, Ramzi Yousef, intended to topple the North tower onto its twin. Eight years later some fiendish and determined party came back and finished the job.
An overwhelming majority of New York law enforcement believed Iraq was behind the 1993 Trade Center bombing. So, why was nothing done? In the mind of Bill Clinton, something was done. In June 1993, Clinton attacked Iraqi intelligence headquarters, stating publicly that the attack was in response to the attempt made on George Bush’s life. Clinton believed it would deter Saddam Hussein from all future acts of terrorism — that is, impress Saddam that the U.S. could hit any building on the planet. Clinton’s erroneous and totally false explanation for terrorism — the idea that it is carried out by individuals not states — resulted in almost every attack prior to September 11 being interpreted in the same way.
President of the Center for Military Readiness and IWF National Advisory Board Member
Now the Nation faces a very real war on terrorism, and we have to take it seriously. After September 11, we can no longer afford to think of the military as just another equal opportunity employer. The issue here is not women’s rights; the issue is national defense.
In the spirit of Barbara Olson, American women need to think about this. What should we ask the commander-in-chief to do? This is not a presumptuous question. Our freedoms and way of life depend on a strong national defense. And yet, for far too long, a minority of feminist women have presumed to tell not just the commander-in-chief, but the secretary of defense, and the heads of all the armed forces what to do to advance the feminist agenda in the institution of the military. In order to do that, they have demanded a politically correct “ungendered” military. As a result, morale, discipline, recruiting, retention, and overall readiness have suffered a great deal.
Military women are not to blame for this. They have no more say about it than the men do. Women in uniform love their country. They serve with distinction and most of them do not support the policies of civilian feminists, who will never face combat. They want nothing to do with mandatory assignments in close combat units — the premiere item on the feminist agenda.
When I served on the 1992 presidential commission that studied women in combat, I was joined by a majority of the commissioners who supported a simple resolution: “Equal opportunity in the military is important, but if there is a conflict between career considerations and military necessity, the needs of the military must come first. Those who supported women in combat saw it differently. In their view, equal opportunity and career considerations must come first — even at the expense of readiness in the military.”
This is not President Bush’s father’s military. The armed forces are one-third to one-half smaller than they were during Desert Storm. Every person in uniform is more important, not less so.
During Desert Storm we had a much larger military and when women were non-deployable — at a rate three-and-a-half to four times as much as men — we had extra people to move around. We don’t have that luxury any more. So if you have a pregnancy rate and it’s constant, 10 or 15%, you know that out of 500 women on a carrier at least 50 are going to be unavailable before or during the six-month deployment.
The military is a resilient institution. Its strength and morale can be restored with sound leadership and sound priorities. It’s a big job, and men cannot do it alone. They need to hear from other women to counter the Pentagon feminists. We need to join the president in restoring the strength and morale of the finest military in the world.
Boston Police Lieutenant and IWF National Advisory Board Member
I’d like to talk today about protecting our homeland. I think we are finally getting a dose of reality about just how unprepared we’ve been. It’s shocking, but for 40 years we’ve been observing, not participating. We’ve been renting DVDs. We’ve been talking on our cell phones. We’ve been watching a lot of television. We’ve been reading books. We’ve been cocooning in our homes.
The concept of neighborhood is a quaint and old one. We don’t even know our neighbors. Well, who took advantage of that on September 11? The terrorists took advantage of our penchant for anonymity and used it against us. They lived in our neighborhoods. Nobody asked them who they were; where they were from; what they were doing; and if they did, it was very superficial. People aren’t asking questions the way they used to. You have to start taking it upon yourself to observe, to participate, and to hold your elected officials accountable in your neighborhoods, cities, and towns.
We have in us what are known as survival signals and intuition. The intuition to keep ourselves safe works without our even knowing it. But we’ve tamped down our survival signals and instincts with many years of political correctness, and the fear of appearing rude.
I was reading an account of the tapes from Flight 77. The hijackers told the people on those planes, “Sit down. We’re going back to the airport.” Barbara Olson did not believe them, and she called her husband to get the straight scoop. She was paying attention to her survival instincts that were telling her, “Wait a minute, this doesn’t fit.” When she discovered the truth, it was too late for her, but before she died, she was able to provide Ted with valuable information, and for that bravery she will be remembered as a hero.
How can you keep yourself and your family safe? Teach your children to ask questions and pay attention to their instincts. Children are delightful creatures because they are free of politically correct conditioning. When children speak, you have to learn to listen. Children are free from those restraints, and they will teach you how to keep yourselves safe.
Call your chief of police, your town’s selectmen, and your mayor. Find out what the evacuation routes in your town are, what the disaster plan is, and how you can help. I want you to all know your neighbors by the end of the week, every one of them.
Keep yourself aware. Use your intuition. If you hear something odd, it may be more than just odd. It may be just the thing your law enforcement department needs. Remem-ber, Son of Sam was caught with a parking ticket. Think of the little things that you can do to help your police.