Netanyahu joins House committee to examine attacks

By Zeb Eckert
U-WIRE Washington Bureau

Posted 4:25 p.m. Sept. 21

State supported terrorism must be stripped of its resources if the United States hopes to mount a successful campaign against violence, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told a House committee Thursday.

Speaking from his experience as leader of a country long involved in a bloody religious and political struggle with its Palestinian neighbors, Netanyahu called last week’s attacks on the United States a “wake-up call from hell.”

“What is at stake today is nothing less than the survival of our civilization,” an adamant Netanyahu testified before the Government Reform committee. “Our values are hated with an unmatched fanaticism.”

Netanyahu’s appearance came as Congress began to formally examine last week’s attacks. Representatives from both sides of the aisle were unanimous in their support of a pointed U.S. response to the hijackings.

Rep. Bob Barr (R-Ga.) eschewed notions that Tuesday’s attacks resulted from the government’s lack of intelligence.

If anything, he said, America must retaliate against terrorists so it “doesn’t have to read them their Miranda rights, but can read them their last rites.”

Netanyahu said the Sept. 11 attacks gave the nation a taste of what Israel has long experienced: the “seething resentment” of anti-western militants.

“We’re relative newcomers to this fight,” Chairman Dan Burton (R-Ind.) said. “We have a lot to learn about how to fight modern terrorists. While other countries, have lived with terrorists and terrible tragedy, we’ve watched from a distance.”

Thursday’s meeting was not the first time the Government Reform committee discussed terrorism. Representatives met in June and July to examine the threat of biological weapons.

Last April, the committee held a joint hearing with the House Transportation and Infrastructure committee to map out a plan to improve the federal response in case of a terrorist attack.

That unfinished national strategy could have made a difference last Tuesday, Congresswoman Connie Morella (R-Md.) said.

“Now we realize just how vulnerable we are,” she said. “The age of innocence is lost, the age of anxiety is upon us.”

A taste of partisan bickering returned as Democrats and Republicans sought where to point the blame.

Florida Republican John Mica cited a “substantial failure in the intelligence system.”

“We must penetrate the terrorist organizations,” he said. “We’ve retaliated before, but not eliminated.”

Democrats favored an international approach and said the war on terrorism would only be won through global cooperation.

“We must not allow millions and millions of people to see this country as their enemy and Osama bin Laden as their ally,” Del. Eleanor Norton Holmes (D) said.

Netanyahu warned that terrorists groups are not beyond using biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, something the U.S. intelligence community has long explored.

“We must dismantle the entire terrorist network,” Netanyahu said. “Nothing justifies terrorism.”

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