Wilson Center Newsletter September 2012




"Former Ambassador Eric Edelman Speaks about 9/11"

by Joseph Lantange '16

           There are few days that a person can remember almost exactly what happend that day, especially eleven years later, but September 11, 2001 and the images of burning towers, firefighters rushing to the scene, and sheer chaos are imprinted into the memories of every American alive that day.  Here at Hampden-Sydney, our community got together within hours of the attack, marking the first 9/11 symposoium scheduled in memory of that fateful tragedy.  The Wilson Center has since sponsored this event annually marking the anniversary of 9/11.  Last Monday's event was the eleventh one to date.

           Speaking at Bortz Library on September 10th, Eric Edelman detailed the events of that day from a unique perspective.  Mr. Edelman is the former U.S. ambassador to Turkey and has had extensive experience with our diplomatic relations in the Middle East.  In his speech, he was able to give the audience a real perspective of what the government's response truly was.  At this time, Mr. Edelman was in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center (PEOC) with Vice President Dick Cheney and other prominent members of government.  Mr. Edelman spoke of chaos and confusion as calls were coming in from the military trying to figure out how many planes were hijacked.   At the same time, calls were also coming from other nations as the world was trying to grasp what had happened in America.  But in the PEOC, through all this chaos, there was a "quiet dedication to the task at hand".

           But his talk was titled "Did America Overreact?" and he provided the audience with two distinct answers.  One answer came from Professor Mueller of Ohio State.  His answer was that terrorism is over.  Professor Mueller would have the world believe that 9/11 couldn't happen again, that the world shouldn't fear terrorist attacks anymore, and that biological weapons like Anthrax aren't that dangerous.  Eric Edelman couldn't disagree more with that statement.  In his words, Professor Mueller's ideas are "utter foolishness".  Al-Qaida is still America's number one enemy in his mind, and we need to be aware that events like the civil war in Syria are helping Al-Qaida recover from the damage we have inflicted after a decade of war.

           I was able to catch Mr. Edelman at the end of his speech, there was a long line behind me, so I simply asked him one question, "Sir, Osama Bin-Laden is dead, America has pulled out of Iraq, and we are set to get out of Afghanistan in two years.  Do you think that the War on Terror will ever be truly over?"

           He answered me swiftly: "No.  There still will be residual fighting all over the place, it won't be in a large scale like Iraq or Afghanistan, but we will be fooling ourselves if we think it will end in two years.  We also can't turn our back on any of this, like we did to Afghanistan in the 1990s, only to come back now and clean up the mess."

Joseph Lantagne is a guest writer for the Hampden-Sdyney Tiger.  He is also a member of the Freshmen Laadership Program in the Wilson Center and the nephew of Father Joseph Metzger '84.