30 Issues in 30 Days: Do We Need a War on Terrorism?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Philip Gourevitch, staff writer for the New Yorker and author, most recently, of Standard Operating Procedure, talks about the moral implications of America's war on terrorism.

Then Roxana Tiron, national security reporter for The Hill, talks about both candidates' positions on homeland security and national defense.

Then Richard Falkenrath, deputy commissioner for counter terrorism at the NYPD, talks about local national security issues.


Deputy Commissioner Richard Falkenrath, Philip Gourevitch and Roxana Tiron

Comments [26]


Protecting financial institutions? How ironic. Perhaps we should place the SEC and credit rating institutions under the Department of Homeland Security. The buildings are still standing but the trust is gone. At least we can't blame Iran for this.

Oct. 27 2008 01:39 PM

I'm not a supporter of the Bush doctrine but must say that one problem with the "law enforcement approach" (and this may be an issue of perception) is that the FBI needs to act on a crime that has already been committed in order to commit resources to intellegence gathering / crime solving. The White House (at least right after 9/11 when the had to "do something" with the hundreds of prisoners that they had picked up in Afghanistan in late 2001)had been acting under the assumption that there were perhaps people walking around in the US with suitcase nukes and that one of those prosoners knew about it. They were wrong and went about finding out the wrong way. Incorrect assumptions meeet incompetence....a common problem in this administration. Although it took years, the FBI more or less solved the anthrax case without torture. They did not and could not PREVENT it though, and that is the delema. Bush somehow thought that putting extremists into "a world of pain" could prevent the next attack. This may work in bar fights but not here. Also "terrorism" is only a tool, a tactic. Think: "War on Explosives".

Oct. 27 2008 01:16 PM
Richard from Texas

I have an idea since the way we have tried to fight terrorism is not working, and everyone is so against this war continuing. Let's call our troops home. Declare a full surrender to all factions that have anything against us. Firmly put our heads deep in the sand and hope nothing bad will ever happen again.

Oct. 26 2008 11:59 AM
Alex from Queens

I beleive you are a bit to glib when you say the Europeans have a "criminal" approach towards terrorism. Each country deals with terrorism and terrorist actors in their own ways. Many of the techniques and tools at their disposal are currently unconstitutional and therefore not available to the US. I speak of extended detention with out charges. In a civil, non-military setting this is uncon in the US. However in Europe, peopel can be held for extensive amounts of time without charges being brought. Several European countries have extensive domestic spy agencies, another thing that is frowned upon in the US and not truely implimented. When we look not at the labels placed on the actions but rather on the actions themselves, the US and European responses are not that dissimilar.

Oct. 23 2008 02:54 PM
Voter from Brooklyn

Oh. Now I understand, Peter from Sunset Park... We just need to kill all the Muslims (American, African, Asian, European, and Middle Eastern), Arabs, and Persians.... Got it.

Oct. 23 2008 12:22 PM
Voter from Brooklyn

Howdy neighbor (#17, Peter from Sunset Park)
I didn’t always pay attention in my history and social studies classes, but (correct me if I am wrong) the United States entered WWII after an attack made on this nation by a sovereign nation. When we fought, we fought the Axis Powers (and here’s the really fancy part… ) defined as Germany, Italy, Japan, et al. We fought the sovereign nations that attacked us. Who are we fighting in the “War on Terror”? Is it not typically considered to be enforcement against an action or actions when we fight individuals or small groups of individuals? Also, how do you know when you’ve eliminated all of the terror? How much terror is there and when are we down to acceptable levels of terror? What kind of terror do we war against and what kind of terror is “ok”? Can we sign an agreement of armistice or other treaty with terror?

Oct. 23 2008 12:15 PM
xheight from brooklyn

umm Matthew - you are taking advice now FROM Al-Qaeda?

Oct. 23 2008 12:06 PM
Peter from Sunset Park


The way for the world to fight the war on terror is simple.

1. Stop blaming Israel for all of the worlds problems.

2. Stop tolerating terrorism and terrorists.

3. Stop giving terror loving terrorists a voice at the UN.

4. Kick the UN out of the US. Start from scratch.

5. Stop blaming Jews for all of the worlds problems.

6. Stop blaming Israel.

7. Use the same tactics used by terror loving terrorists.

8. Stop blaming Israel.

9. Stop blaming Jews.

10. Circle the wagons against terrorism.

A recipe for success.

PS - stop blaming the Jews.

Oct. 23 2008 12:05 PM
Matthew from Brooklyn

What about the recent reports citing posts on Al-Qaeda sympathetic websites in support of a McCain Presidency, taking as a given that McCain is more likely to pursue a belligerent militaristic approach to terrorism, and more likely to deepen American involvement in conflicts abroad, and that such an approach by America is actually more likely to encourage terrorism worldwide? Doesn't that completely undercut any National Security advantage McCain might claim to have?

Oct. 23 2008 12:01 PM
Peter from Sunset Park

Voter from Brooklyn:

How about World War II? Bad war too? A lot of people were against entering into WWII which caused millions more to die. In the long run, the Bush vision of saying no to terrorism will pay off. Wait until Britain, France and other peace living peaceniks get their taste of 9/11 (God forbid). The war on terror will not end with an Obama or McCain presidency. The war on terror will end when terror loving terrorists figure out that violence will only ruin their lives. That is the end of it (the SF way).

Eva - please respond in a paranoid way.

Oct. 23 2008 11:59 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Brian, could you please explain how one would conduct a war “on” terrorism? Especially since you scoff at the idea of it being an enforcement issue. Whom exactly are we declaring war on? The terrorist? Oh no; terrorism! Love the sinner, hate the sin, eh? Where are they, er, I mean it? If it is a they, how many terrorism are there? One terrorism? Two terrorism? Three terrorism? Twelve? 536? How many terrorism are we declaring war on?

Oct. 23 2008 11:51 AM
john from BedSty

The War on Terror

Oct. 23 2008 11:47 AM
Peter from Sunset Park


Things started to slowly fall apart when people like you became tolerant of terrorism and intolerant of self defense. That is the end of it.

Oct. 23 2008 11:46 AM
Voter from Brooklyn

Anytime this country gets it war “ON”, it’s nothing but a political tactic, and a total failure.
War on Poverty. War on Drugs. War on Hunger. War on HIV/AIDS. Now, the War on Terror.
Proponets of the so called “War on Terror” say you have to have

Anytime this country wars (verb) with anything , it’s nothing but a political tactic and a complete and total failure.
War on Poverty. War on Drugs. War on Hunger. War on HIV/AIDS. Now, the War on Terror. It’s one of those things you do to win hearts and minds and make it seem like you’re doing more than throwing money, and in this case, bodies at a problem.

Now, when America goes to war (noun) with something, we have a better track record. (Well, when Congress bothers going through the motions of actually declaring war.) The problem is terrorism isn’t exactly the type of thing you can go to war with, so we don’t need a War on Terrorism… That’s like saying NYC is going to declare war and go battle street gangs. That’s law enforcement, not terrorism. The other problem is this so called war on terrorism really reads as a war on Middle Eastern Arabs and Persians. What about other attacks or bad will against the country? No one seems to care much about domestic non-Muslim based terrorist, South American terrorism, Asian terrorism, terrorism against American concerns in Africa.

Oct. 23 2008 11:44 AM
Butler from Ridgewood NY

I would submit to you that there is no such thing as a "war on terror". Wars are prosecuted against other nations. There is no way to legally declare war against a group of people who organize themselves at a sub-national level. The issue in question is one of international security and should always have been dealt with as such.

Thanks for your great show.


Oct. 23 2008 11:42 AM
Anthony donovan from NYC

The answer was always very clear to many of us, NO. "War" was/is the least effective approach to dealing directly with terrorism. We were soft on terror, and hard on citizens.

A book in 1983, and a doc in 2004 “Dialogues” answer this question and how best to deal fully with global terror, with voices from around the world.

The answers we learned long ago (and exemplified by England after their bombing, etc) is good police work, good communication of inteligence with allies, finance tracking, special ops, but most importantly defining what terrorism really is, and doing the very difficult work of addressing the underlying causes. This is what we ignored and waved flags.

We also know quite clearly now, well documented, that there was another agenda with this “War”.

I worked at Ground Zero on 9/11. This was a great opportunity to honor those lost. Instead the real horror was in our RESPONSE to this terrible event. The day the President mentioned the word “War”, I felt a most ominous shiver down my spine. Many of us knew something very wrong was beginning, it’s taken so long to get at the truth behind that response and I hope the gang is held accountable.
My doc (won “Best Political Documentary” here in NYC in spring 2005) shows the way to face terror, with voices around the world echoing.

They are both all up for on website. (along with other relevant material):

Thank you, always,


Oct. 23 2008 11:40 AM
Amy from Manhattan

Sorry not to get this in before Philip Gourevich's segment was over, but I wonder how much his explanation of Obama's & Clinton's reasons for changing their votes on FISA is his own interpretation. From what I heard at the time, their votes were based on changes in the provisions of the bill.

Oct. 23 2008 11:39 AM
Dorky from queens

The War on Terror suits this administration very well because it gives them a grenn light to conduct military operations anywhere and on anyone in the world. The definition of who is a terrorist is very vague and can be manipulated to suit the needs of the Bush administration.

Oct. 23 2008 11:33 AM
hjs from 11211

the terror war is a failure.
we will never win hearts and minds by killing innocent people. build schools and hospitals and use surgical strikes against criminal thugs.

Oct. 23 2008 11:13 AM
HC (aka Gramsci) from nyc

One difference between a police action and the declaration of war is that in the former the rule of law (the constitution) must be followed and in the latter only international law is to be followed (and in this circumstance enforcement of law is dependant on other countries–which becomes effectively moot when it is the most powerful nation in the world that declares war).

An act of war that occurs either outside or within the borders of the country then suspends constitutional rights and submits only to the will of the prince (in the Machiavellian sense).

It is the supreme irony that an act of war is required to gaurantee the very rights that the act of war is capable of suspending. When it does in actuality suspend them for the very citizens it claims to protect then the act of the president (prince) becomes indistiguishable from the act of the terrorist; so acts like torture and rape and execution and spying on citizens becomes, ostensibly, acceptable.

Oct. 23 2008 11:09 AM
xheight from brooklyn

What a bizarre topic to enflame paranoia about an admin. on its way out - are we to think that even without Iraq as part of the Global War on Terror that Afghanistan could be reduced to a law enforcement issue?

Brian, please bring the issue to bear on Pakistan's role in this issue without the usual dismissal of the Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI as being "problematic"

Oct. 23 2008 11:05 AM
Cory from earth

This discussion misses the point. Obviously, we are not going to have Delta Force chasing "terrorists" in Manhattan. Nor are we going to have the NYPD chasing Bin Laden in Tora Bora. The real issue is how we strike a balance between civil liberties and catching "terrorists" regardless of what we call our efforts. The former head of the Brits' counter terrorism effort criticized us for calling it a war on terrorism, yet the Brits are, with the exception of torture, abridging plenty of civil liberties. The reason the government is losing cases against "terrorists" is not that the law enforcement model is wrong, but that the government has botched the cases, which were totally lame in the first place.

Oct. 23 2008 10:39 AM
C. M. Ashley from Tribeca

Stella Rimington, former head of domestic intelligence in the UK, says the US response to 9/11 was "a huge overreaction." I think the 4 million Iraqi victims of our brutality would agree. Calling our response a "war" was the first mistake, but not unintentional of course, as it has lined the pockets of all who profit by military adventures.

As for Afghanistan, "experts" have since agreed that it would have been better to have launched a "police type" operation in the hunt for Bin Laden, not a war and invasion.

In the US, hysteria and thoughlessness rule.

Oct. 23 2008 10:32 AM
SF from NYC

This war will go down in history as the turning point in which America lost all credibility and moral leadership in the world.
It has been decaying for many years, but beginning with the stolen Bush presidency it all has started to slowly fall apart.

Oct. 23 2008 10:31 AM
O from Forest Hills

The only "war" has been on our civil rights. The Constitution is becoming meaningless. We are guaranteed the right to a speedy trial, right to remain silent, right to be free in our persons and things from search and seizure.

One question to all lawyers, do the above rights that Americans have apply to tourists and the poor "enemy combatants" in Guantanamo and the other secret prison cells that are American but scattered in Europe so they can be waterboarded and tortured for info and it is technically not on American soil.

How sad that our rights are being taken away like this and America has come to this.

We don't need a war on terror. We need a plan to protect our constitutional rights and the writ of habeaus corpus.

Oct. 23 2008 10:23 AM
Mark Kuebel from West Harlem

No, I think this "war on terror" is just another way to do 2 things -- extend the arm of American Imperialism into the Middle East, and spend our tax dollars on cronies in the so-called "defense" industry.

This is a bogus "war." Threats from subversives using violence should be handled by an international policing effort, not a military "war" effort.

Oct. 23 2008 10:13 AM

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