TIME for Action
By Margaret Costello

A spirit of cooperation emerged after September 11—and experts believe taking advantage of it can improve the world

 

 

U.S. Navy photo by Saul Ingle

A U.S. Navy postal clerk wears protective gear to handle mail.

U.S. Navy photo by Michael D. Winter

A launch crew prepares an F/A-18 Hornet for take-off from aboard the USS Kitty Hawk. The jet was headed to Afghanistan on a combat mission.

Every day since September 11, 2001, Americans have waged war on terrorism both privately—in their thoughts and actions—and publicly—in an international campaign that employs military, diplomatic, intelligence, and economic strategies. With thoughts of biological terrorism and extremist acts looming, Americans open their mail at arm’s length and cautiously continue their routines despite threats to transportation systems, water sources, nuclear plants, and shopping malls. Meanwhile, American diplomats and military leaders are called upon to justify the country’s retaliatory actions against the terrorists.

Yet some scholars and national leaders see this crisis as an opportunity for the country to re-examine its priorities and build stronger relationships within the global community. The United States has emerged from this trauma with renewed purpose and a revitalized interest in its role as a world leader. “We shouldn’t let this moment slip away,” says Robert Rubinstein, an anthropology professor in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School and director of the Program on the Analysis and Resolution of Conflicts. “We should continue to engage diplomatically with the international community and encourage our general population to think differently about the world, so that we better understand our place in it.”

U.S. Navy photo by Johnny Bivera

A U.S. Marine corporal and an Anti-Taliban Force soldier kneel in prayer as they prepare for a mission in Afghanistan.

On the home front, many Americans now reflect upon their lives with a heightened sense of patriotism, a deeper appreciation for public servants, and a stronger spirit of cooperation for improving local and national security. “People have a stronger sense of America,” says U.S. Air Force Major General Franklin “Judd” Blaisdell ’71. “It does my heart good to see so many people come forward with a genuine appreciation for their public servants.”

Crisis Response on Campus

In response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, Syracuse University established the following emergency response committees to ensure the long-term safety and recovery of the campus community:

Withdrawal/Leave/Called-to-Service—to assist any student, faculty, or staff member called to military service, and to help coordinate financial support for students directly affected by the attacks.

Logistics/Transportation—to develop protocols that will ensure swift response to transportation, supply, power, building access, and other emergency needs.

In-Class/Out-of-Class Experiences— to guide gatherings and discussions.

DIPA—to communicate with students in the Division of International Programs Abroad and address their security issues and enrollment questions.

Communications—to keep the campus and extended University community informed.

Campus Safety—to examine and revise existing protocols for handling internal or external conflicts.

Defending the Homeland
Blaisdell was working in the Pentagon on September 11 when terrorists slammed a hijacked plane into the building. Since that day, he has worked through a variety of emotions and credits fellow Americans with bolstering his spirits. “We are strong, defiant, and undaunted,” says Blaisdell, who began his military career as an ROTC student at Syracuse.

Blaisdell hopes that people’s increased awareness of security issues will encourage lawmakers to support the country’s defense needs. As director of the Air Force’s nuclear defense program and deputy chief of staff for Air and Space Operations in Washington, D.C., Blaisdell is responsible for the Air Force’s nuclear, biological, and chemical operations, including all the weapons in the stockpiles. He is also responsible for all the treaties and arms control areas for the Air Force. “Freedom is not free,” he says. “The men and women of this great country need to know it comes at a price. You always want to have the best possible equipment and people trained to do what they have to do.”

In addition to military forces, law enforcement personnel have had a more visible presence in such public spaces as shopping malls, airports, and athletic stadiums. The increased security measures were instituted to prevent future acts of violence and boost Americans’ confidence in resuming normal activities. However, Bernard D. Rostker G’66, G’70, the former U.S. undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, points out that getting security right will take a good deal of work and attention to detail. Better security occurs with a change of philosophy, not just with a changing of the guard. “The terrorists in the four planes basically broke no laws,” says Rostker, now a senior fellow at RAND, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank. “So screening luggage would not have prevented the attacks. Most of the security measures we’re talking about today would not have impacted the terrorists of September 11. For example, we had a philosophy that you cooperate with the terrorists because that’s the way to preserve the plane and the passengers. We had never dealt with using the plane as a weapon, so we did not seal the cockpit. That certainly had to change, and it has. We need to sort out what security measures we’ll need to put in place permanently and what really has little value.”

Rostker sees the creation of the Office of Homeland Security as a step in the right direction. That office has pulled together such federal agencies as the CIA, the FBI, and the branches of the military forces, as well as state and local police departments, in an attempt to create a more cohesive, coordinated effort to combat terrorism. The homeland security office, established in the Pentagon, will encourage more interactions and information sharing. Blaisdell, while performing duties on the Crisis Action Team in the Pentagon, worked with the new federal office when New York City needed assistance in testing mail for anthrax. Teams of military scientists helped New York State health officials screen the undelivered mail. “The new office is a great idea, so all levels of security can be on the same page at the same time,” Blaisdell says. “It has a lot of collateral benefits if you look at all the different things that occur between local, state, and federal government agencies, and all the different types of situations that we might be in.”

 

 

 

 

 

September 11th Fund
The Syracuse University September 11th Fund provides financial assistance to students directly affected by the terrorist attacks, so they can continue their education at SU.

Phone 1-888-352-9535 or e-mail giving@syr.edu for more information.

 

Connecting with the World
In a videotape first aired on September 23 by the satellite television news network Al-Jazeera, Osama bin Laden made the following remarks in response to the attacks on America: “We hope that these brothers are among the first martyrs in Islam’s battle in this era against the new Christian-Jewish crusade led by the big crusader Bush under the flag of the Cross; this battle is considered one of Islam’s battles.” This and similar comments by other leaders of the Al Qaeda terrorist network sought to stir Muslim nations in a religious crusade against non-Muslim countries.

“They failed,” says F. William “Bill” Smullen G’74, chief of staff for U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. “By every measurement, the attacks have been a catalyst for nations to come together. We can certainly experience a world that’s safer, freer, and more promising and prosperous than ever before, if we take advantage of the unprecedented cooperation and the alignment among nations that is occurring as a result of the wakeup call we got in September.” In the months following the attacks, Secretary of State Powell met with leaders from more than 80 countries, who not only expressed their condolences, but also offered political, military, intelligence, and other kinds of support, Smullen says. The international war on terrorism has also improved the United States’ strained relationships with such countries as China and Russia. “If there can be a silver lining in all this, it is that we’ll find people internationally doing business in a more hopeful, helpful way,” he says.

Al Qaeda’s assault on the World Trade Center and Pentagon helped unite so many nations because the terrorists violated the fundamental goals of most modern societies, says Ambassador James Cunningham ’74, the U.S. deputy permanent representative to the Uüited Nations. This alliance of countries has set aside differences for now and has unanimously pledged its support to root out terrorism. “The attack on September 11,” Cunningham says, “was really an attempt to undermine the kind of societal framework and global goals that most people in the world want to realize: good lives for people, tolerance, respect for human rights, and a democratic framework—the kinds of things for which the United Nations itself stands.”

The condemnation of such terrorism appears a logical step for world organizations to make. However, defining what constitutes terrorism presents another challenge. “One country’s terrorists can be another country’s freedom fighters,” says Maxwell professor Rubinstein. “So where one draws a line around calling something terrorism versus calling it legitimate resistance becomes problematic.” Ambassador Cunningham says members of the United Nations are struggling to create a common definition of terrorism and standards for what establishes a group as a terrorist organization.

Finding a universal definition of terrorism is crucial to the fight against it, says Kamel Abu Jaber ’60, G’65, the former Jordanian foreign minister and current president of the Jordan Institute of Diplomacy in Amman. “Obviously some nations now define terror differently than others, which is a cause for further terror,” Abu Jaber says. “Perhaps one definition could be that terror is any predetermined violent act carried out against innocent civilians regardless of race, religion, or country.”

Abu Jaber and Rubinstein agree that terrorism cannot be dealt with effectively unless there is a serious attempt at addressing its root causes. One cause of terrorism and other forms of violence, they note, is the vastly disproportionate distribution of wealth and access to resources. “Those kinds of disparities are breeding grounds for despair, especially as people exist in a globalizing world where they see through the variety of modern information sources how poor they are compared to others,” Rubinstein says. All countries need to do some soul-searching to identify measures they can take to strive for a better balance, says Abu Jaber. For example, he says members of the Arab world are asking, “‘How can young Muslim Arabs raised in the love and care of Arab mothers and the spiritual values of Islam carry out such deeds?’ This process of self-examination is in progress in an attempt to find ways whereby the clash can be contained and eventually turned into a real dialogue.” Likewise, he believes, other nations should review their own values and policies to ensure that they are not upholding double standards when it comes to executing justice.

Having studied conflicts and their effective resolutions, Rubinstein questions any nation’s use of violence as an acceptable means to an end. “In this highly globalized and increasingly interconnected world, we need to be developing constructive mechanisms for dealing with conflicts rather than resorting to the use of violence and destructive force,” he says. “It’s a statement of priorities. For example, we have spent billions of dollars a day bombing Afghanistan. What would have happened a decade ago when Afghanistan was in trouble, if we had invested billions of dollars a year helping support it?” Whether the destruction is state-sponsored or caused by terrorists, the impact of what Rubinstein labels “political violence” is the same. “Violence creates new alliances between factions and it also works lasting changes in society,” he says. “The trauma resulting from being a perpetrator or a victim of violence is both personal and social. Individuals suffer, and bonds of civil society can be distorted or broken.”

Others, such as General Blaisdell, view the goals and outcomes of military operations very differently from the tactics used by terrorists. “The terrorists have taken on a country that is peaceful and has always looked out for the best interests of those in the world by spending more money and more time on them than any other country,” Blaisdell says. “As a policy, we try to spare the lives of innocent men, women, and children. Yet there are those who came into our country and killed thousands and don’t care. We need to deal with them directly.”

As a sign of its commitment to innocent Afghan civilians, the United States made numerous humanitarian flights and dropped thousands of pounds of food into the war-torn country. The UN also organized a massive humanitarian relief effort to help Afghanistan, and was instrumental in setting up a transitional government that is more representative of the country’s various tribes and ethnic groups, Cunningham says. “We’re helping the Afghans take back their country in a way that won’t lead to a new civil war,” he says. Both Cunningham and Smullen are hopeful that the spirit of cooperation among countries in the fight against terrorism will extend to other international efforts as well, such as the advancement of human rights and efforts to quell the HIV/AIDS epidemic. “We’ll see nations using every tool of statecraft to address problems in the future,” Smullen says. "We’ll see nations saying, 'What can I do?' for whatever the cause."

Seizing the Moment
Blaisdell believes individual Americans will also answer the call for action and enter service-oriented professions or volunteer with such organizations as the Peace Corps and the Red Cross. For example, following the attacks, military recruitment offices across the country were flooded with calls: Some branches estimated an increase in calls of as much as 500 percent. Applications to the New York City fire and police departments were up 10 percent compared to the previous year, according to published news reports. “There is an obligation for men and women in this country to give something back,” Blaisdell says. “I think you’ll see people being more willing to sacrifice their time and talents for the betterment of the country. As more people do this, they’ll have a greater appreciation for the country and be better American citizens.”

U.S. Navy photo by Ted Banks

Two members of the International Red Cross check on Taliban and Al Qaeda detainees held by the U.S. military in Afghanistan.

Volunteerism and service to one’s country may make Americans better citizens at home, but they must also become better citizens of the world, says Margaret “Peg” Hermann, the Gerald B. and Daphna Cramer Professor of Global Affairs and director of the Global Affairs Institute at the Maxwell School. To do this, Hermann believes Americans need a stronger education in foreign languages and global studies as well as personal experiences overseas. Living abroad makes people engage in and experience a culture different from their own, thus expanding their understanding of the world, she says. “That’s why study-abroad experiences are so important,” Hermann says. “They provide the context to break stereotypes; we need to remember that today’s students will be our leaders tomorrow.”

Rebecca Cory, a first-year doctoral student in the School of Education’s Cultural Foundations of Education Program, learned this lesson firsthand. She was studying in Israel when violence erupted there in October 2000. Although she is an American Jew and considers Israel her second homeland, she witnessed the conflict and noted the disparities among Arabs and Israelis with the eyes of a foreigner. She recalled an incident when an Israeli bus driver refused to pick up an Arab man at a stop outside of Jerusalem. “I was angry that the driver didn’t stop for him,” she says. “Yet, I knew that I would have been nervous if he had gotten on the bus. I saw it as a lose-lose situation. I think about that man a lot. I realized that we need to stand up against the maltreatment of other people.”

Working toward peace requires people to see the multifaceted layers of another group, to break comfortable stereotypes that cast people as simply good or bad, Hermann says. Americans, who were initially roused to action by grief and fury, now have the opportunity to transform those negative forces into motivation to learn about other cultures, global problems, and the nation’s own foreign policies. Americans need to consider supporting the creation of a modern-day equivalent to the Marshall Plan—the comprehensive initiative that helped rebuild Europe following World War II, Hermann says. “We have to ask ourselves what we are going to do now,” she says. “It is important to stay the course and remain involved in the world.”

Abu Jaber holds similar optimism for the future, saying the United States must be at the forefront of such an international effort. “Hopefully the shock of September 11 will lead to a re-examination of the international system as it exists,” he says. “The world, which has become a global village through technology, cannot remain a series of isolated islands—some of which are so disoriented and disorganized that they appear to be in a different universe. This is where the leadership of the United States is most needed. No country, now or in history, has been blessed with such a chance.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
U.S. Air Force photo by Jim Varhegyi

A pack of coalition aircraft passes over Cairo, Egypt.

 

A Soldier’s Focus
U.S. Air Force photo by Shane Cuomo

An Air Force crew chief signals a B-1B bomber before it leaves for an Operation: Enduring Freedom combat mission.
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When photojournalist Shane Cuomo ’01 heads off to work, he does so with a camera slung over one shoulder and an M-16 rifle draped over the other. Cuomo, a staff sergeant in the U.S. Air Force, is part of a combat camera unit stationed overseas that is documenting Operation: Enduring Freedom. From an air base on Diego Garcia island in the Indian Ocean, Cuomo has photographed everything from the take-offs and landings of aircraft on bombing missions in Afghanistan to feeding the troops. He is one of several graduates of the Military Photojournalism (MPJ) program at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications who is covering military operations at home and abroad during this tumultuous time in U.S. history. The rigorous 10-month program, which Cuomo attended in 2001, is funded by the Department of Defense and prepares active-duty military personnel for service as photojournalists by combining newswriting, photography, and communication skills. “The training I received at Syracuse was awesome,” he says. “It taught me to wait for the right moment before shooting a picture.”

Those lessons of patience and concentration come in handy as he photographs aircraft on the runway. “Being that close to the jets and watching them take off is always an adrenaline rush,” Cuomo says. “But once I put the camera up to compose a shot, I forget about all the stuff around me.”

Photographing from inside the aircraft is a little more challenging, but the same kind of concentration and singleness of purpose is required, says Air Force technical sergeant Jim Varhegyi ’98. “You’re on a cargo plane and the back door’s open,” Varhegyi says. “You’re trying to hold your camera steady while you’re fighting an oxygen mask, helmet, and all the extra gear, and getting blown around by the wind. You get in the mindset of doing your job, and afterward, you sit down and go, ‘Whoa, what just happened?’”

Varhegyi showed the same determination when he photographed the Pentagon within an hour of the September 11 attack. “I was trying to document what’s going on and everybody’s running away and yelling at me to get back,” he remembers. Varhegyi also had the unique experience of photographing bags of mail being tested for anthrax in New York City. Suited up in a sealed body-cover complete with gloves, hat, and mask, he and a military videographer were the only media permitted into two laboratories where bags of mail were examined. “We were only allowed in for a short time, so we had to scramble to get our stuff and get out,” he says.

While the military photojournalists often find themselves in high-security areas and dangerous places, they face the same major challenge all photographers do: snapping a good picture. Navy Journalist, 1st Class Preston Keres ’00, who was named the 2000 Military Photographer of the Year by American Forces Information Services, says he relies on the words of Newhouse professor David Sutherland to help him capture engaging images. “Sutherland said, ‘Shoot the farmer, not the farm,’” says Keres, one of the first military journalists at the World Trade Center site on September 11. “I am constantly thinking of that, and I think it’s helped me improve every day. People want to see the story, see the person caught in that moment.”

—Margaret Costello

 

 

On Sacred Ground
By leveling the World Trade Center, the September 11 terrorist attack left an odd configuration of buildings surrounding a monumental mound of rubble on what has become sacred ground. Plans are evolving for what should be constructed where the Twin Towers—an icon of America’s economic strength—once stood, but what now represents a visible wound to national peace and security. Redeveloping the area can assist the local, national, and international communities in healing and restoring stability, says Bruce S. Fowle ’60, a 2001 recipient of the George Arents Pioneer Medal for excellence in architecture and a founding principal of Fox & Fowle Architects in New York City.

Fowle is co-coordinator of the Growth Strategies Committee of New York New Visions, a group of leading architects, engineers, and city planners formed after the attack to help assess the area’s current and future needs and to offer suggestions about how to rebuild lower Manhattan. “It’s hard to get excited about this under the circumstances,” Fowle says. “Yet, there were a lot of things wrong with the area. We have to look at this as an opportunity to fix them. That’s the way to defeat the terrorists and show them we can do better.”

His committee, one of seven working on the project, is examining how the lower Manhattan commercial center relates to other business districts in midtown and the other boroughs. An estimated 25.5 million square feet of office space was destroyed or severely damaged in the attack. Since then, most of the companies located in lower Manhattan have been absorbed into available spaces throughout the city. A few have relocated to New Jersey or other parts of the country. As a result, Fowle says, there is little need for the creation of spacious buildings such as the former World Trade Towers. However, without the towers as a focal point, the remaining buildings—many designed to complement the skyscrapers—look out of place, he says.

The attack occurred at a time when developers were converting many older, commercial buildings into residences, and the tenants were breathing new life into the largely business district, which virtually shut down at the end of the workday. “The timing of this couldn’t have been worse in terms of lower Manhattan getting itself together and becoming a real center of activity,” Fowle says.

He envisions the construction of a major transportation terminal to welcome the 350,000 daily commuters by way of lower Manhattan. A new transportation hub could also ease pedestrian, subway, and vehicular traffic problems in the area. City planners and architects now have the opportunity to design a more user-friendly terminal to simplify the maze of subway lines buried beneath the towers, he says.

Like the majority of Americans, Fowle believes that a memorial should be built where the towers stood. “It could be anything from just a green, grassy, contemplative space to the creation of lakes in the footprint of the buildings. They could be a place of reflection—literally and imaginatively,” he says. “And that space ought to be defined by great architecture, created by a number of the world’s greatest architects so it becomes an international, global collage.”

—Margaret Costello

 
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