Uniting to share concerns

State Sen. Victor Crist expressed his views of Sept. 11 as working together to get the job done. Crist was a part of a nine-panelist open forum that was held at the Special Events Center Tuesday night to discuss certain aspects of the Sept. 11 attacks.

The program, titled “USF Speaks Out: A Night to Unite,” touched on international terrorism, U.S. foreign policy, religious freedom and military intervention. The program provided an opportunity for Tampa residents, USF students and faculty to listen, understand and express their concerns related to the topics. Yet, when entering, guests were faced with security personnel searching through their belongings and using metal detectors.

Robert R. Blackman, a major general for the U.S. Marine Corps. who currently serves as the director for Resources and Assessment for the U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base, spoke at the event. Blackman discussed the involvement of the U.S. military and gave advice to the attendees on what the war is really about.

“Remember that it is not a war on Afghanistan people, but a war on terrorism and its networks,” Blackman said. “The war on terrorism, though, is still in its early stages. Perseverance will contain sacrifice but will be needed in the months ahead.”Crist, who is also the vice chairman for the Senate Select Committee on Public Security and Crisis Management, talked about how the state government is working with the nation to make sure everyone is safe.

“(Sept. 11) has been a significant challenge for the government to bring everyone to the table to get resources and information,” he said.

Crist said the state of Florida is vulnerable for several reasons. One is that the President George W. Bush’s brother is Florida’s governor, and there are numerous seaports.

“We have been working diligently and have lots of sleepless nights,” he said. “But most importantly, we must go on and live our lives, show the world we are strong.”

Darrell Fasching, a USF religious studies professor, was also a guest speaker. Fasching said like most Americans, he too felt overwhelmed by the Sept. 11 attacks.

“I could feel the hatred,” he said.

He said after the attacks, Americans learned about being victims of hatred.

John Horgan, a diplomat and intelligence expert, talked about intelligence goals.

“The short-term problem: Destroy al-Qaida. Long-term problem: Don’t alienate other cultures and then change our behavior,” Horgan said.

He said intelligence itself is common sense and relates it to a chart of tracking information from al-Qaida which would be entered into a database where all the pieces of information would come together.

“That chart will then guide your actions and programs, and the chart will tell you what to do, how to go about the actions, what is next and what is the priority,” Horgan said.

Horgan also talked about the warnings that the United States had prior to Sept. 11. For example, the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the bombing of the two embassies in Africa and the bombing of the USS Cole.

“Each were aimed at the United States, and each time was handled as a criminal event,” he said.

Steven Johnston, a USF government and international affairs professor, talked about the different points of democracy. He cited research by the New York Times, and some of the nation’s universities. He pointed out the contrasts in leadership. Such as how Tom Ridge’s Homeland security promise of finding something for every American to do, while President Bush encourages Americans to go shopping.

Macro Rimanelli, a professor of international affairs for USF and St. Leo University, talked about the changes in U.S. policy since Sept. 11. He discussed how the Bush administration thought they didn’t need to be involved with other countries around the world like the previous Clinton administration. Also, how Bush created a coalition of the countries to fight the war against terrorism.

Rimanelli said after Sept. 11, countries in the Middle East, Russia and China have come together to help the United States fight the war.

“Its been a complete reversal,” Rimanelli said.

“If you can’t beat them, join them.”

Rimanelli ended with saying that the countries are now standing by the United States.

Another topic that was brought up for discussion was the U.S. postal service. Rich Rome, Tampa postmaster general, talked about how the mail plays an important role in the United States.

Rome said 668 million pieces of mail go out a day. In Tampa 95 million pieces of mail go to over 300,000 mailboxes since Sept. 11

Rome said more than 600 samples have been collected, been tested and all the results have come back negative for anthrax.

Rome said his concern for the public and their employees is to educate them as much as possible.

The post office is giving free flu shots to all the employees and has given masks and gloves to the deliverers and handlers nationwide.

“We are doing all we can to protect the American public,” Rome said.

Rome reminded the audience that only four pieces of mail have been confirmed containing anthrax out of 35 billion pieces of mail.

“We are now put on the frontlines of this war,” he said. “Keep the cards and letters coming, and do not surrender.”

The last two speakers were Gil Thelen, senior vice president and executive editor for The Tampa Tribune, and Imam Zia Sheikh, director of the Islamic Society for the Tampa Bay area.

Thelen discussed the roles of the media and how the media is being forced with an incredible story in this time of recession.

“There are three stages (the media faces),” Thelen said. “The world stage, the importance of Washington at state and local governments and finally the fiscal crisis that the state is facing right now.”

Thelen said journalism is being returned to its roots and that journalists see their life as steady and whole.

Sheikh discussed the lack of tenderness for humanity.

“The lack of human compassion is disrespect,” Sheikh said. “Give us a return to mercy and tolerance – the old fashion values.”

After each panelist spoke, the audience was allowed a question-and-answer session. Audience members wrote their questions on index cards and then presented them to the moderator, Kenneth Killebrew, an associate professor for the School of Mass Communications.

  • Contact Stefanie Greenat oraclestefanie@yahoo.com