When I accompanied George W. Bush on his first trip to Israel in 1998, I had no inkling he would one day lead a global coalition to conquer terrorism.
During that trip, we both saw threats that seemed remote to most Americans but were part of daily life in Israel. In the Middle East’s only democracy, the toll of terrorism was never a nameless, faceless number for the Israeli people.
For America, that same realization came out of a clear September morning sky three years ago. As chairman of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owned the Twin Towers, I knew many names and faces of those we lost on that day in Lower Manhattan. Soon enough, we all did.
From our country’s shared grief came an indomitable resolve to drive terrorists not only from our shores, but also from our world. Americans, like Israelis, now understand the urgency of combating terrorism in all its guises, and President Bush has shown the determination to pre-empt the enemy. No American president has confronted terrorism more fiercely. No American president has stood with Israel more firmly.
America answered a calling to pass on to our children and grandchildren a world free from an enemy bent on our destruction, and theirs. Future generations in every nation have a stake in victory, but none as profoundly as the Jewish state. When Bush dared to turn America’s crosshairs toward not only our immediate enemies but also toward all who “harbor terrorists,” he stood for Israel’s survival in a way no leader ever has.
Swift action reinforced his bold words. Bush led a coalition to drive terrorists from the training grounds of Afghanistan to dark caves and permanent justice. When the president made clear that foreign governments were either with us or against us, Libya yielded its capacity to produce weapons of mass destruction. Our forces have since killed or captured three-quarters of the Al Qaeda network. Terrorist financing is in shambles. Saddam Hussein, a terrorist dictator, sits in prison rather than in a palace. And while Iraq is now experiencing the birthpains of freedom, America is helping make possible the first Arab democracy in the Middle East.
Bush kept the promise he made standing amid the rubble on Ground Zero on September 14, 2001. The world heard from us, and the president’s farseeing vision is making our families safer every day.
Senator John Kerry’s strategic myopia stands in stark contrast. If his 19-year record foretells his future policies, a Kerry presidency would make America less secure, and Israel more isolated.
Kerry has straddled issues related directly to Israel’s future. He described the Israeli security fence as “provocative and counterproductive” and a “barrier to peace” before an Arab-American audience in October 2003. Months later, he told the Jerusalem Post the barrier was “a legitimate act of self-defense.” Two audiences heard two different positions on a life-and-death issue for Israel.
In his 1997 book, Kerry describes Yasser Arafat as a “statesman.” And today, Kerry still insists that the world is more dangerous with Saddam deposed. It is a puzzling assessment of the Iraqi dictator, whose catalog of crimes includes sending $25,000 checks to families of Palestinian bombers.
Kerry’s record raises doubts not only about his credibility, but also about his future strategic judgment in facing new threats to America and Israel.
Iran is a grave example. As Israel sought American-made “bunker-buster” bombs to defend against Iranian nuclear aggression, Kerry got skittish — again. He now proposes halting development of tactical nuclear bunker-buster bombs. That does not bode well for Israel’s long-term security against Iranian nuclear ambitions, but it is consistent with the long-term record of the junior senator from Massachusetts.
Imagine a world in which the United States sat idly by in 1991 as Saddam invaded Kuwait and hurled 39 Scud missiles into Israel. Imagine a world in which the United States agreed to a unilateral nuclear freeze during the Cold War, backed down to the Soviet Union in 1984, canceled our B-1 bombers and sea-based missile defense, and halted construction of F-14 and F-15 fighter jets, Tomahawk cruise missiles, Patriot missiles and other weapons systems.
That is John Kerry’s America, spelled out in a pattern of Senate votes. And while a senator’s shortsightedness endangers only his reputation, that same weakness in a commander in chief would derail the war on terrorism, put America at risk and weaken Israel.
Now is not the time to relent on any front. With President Bush at the helm, the terrorists’ cause is now as hopeless as it is ruthless, and the path to victory is certain.