Friday, October 5, 2001
Meehan discusses terrorism with CCHS students
Congressman Marty Meehan discussed recent terrorist events and the anticipated U.S. response with approximately 300 Concord-Carlisle High School students at a noontime session on Monday, October 1. After reflecting on the events of September 11, Meehan answered a range of students' questions, from what needed to be done stop terrorism to what needed to be preserved our liberties. Asked if he thought the media was doing a responsible job, he answered that the media has shown restraint in dealing with the tragedy.
If Osama bin Laden were captured, asked a student, how would the government know if the terrorist activities would stop? Meehan pointed out that there are thousands of people involved in different levels of terrorism, an inner group, outer group and many fringe groups, and that capturing bin Laden would not end the need to pursue other terrorists.
Another student asked how the government is dealing with finding out who is responsible for the attacks. Meehan answered that a full investigation is being conducted. He further added that he "is in total agreement with President Bush in holding responsible and accountable those who have aided bin Laden. I believe they are going through this process in a way that makes sense." Bombing Afghanistan is not the answer, he said, but finding bin Laden is. He pointed out that there are millions of refugees leaving Afghanistan and the Taliban is allowing its citizens to die of starvation.
Tenth grade history teacher Ben Kendall asked Meehan, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, to explain the checks and balances available to Congress to limit a president's power to declare war or use military options. "We want to give the President use of military forces," Meehan said, "but we want to be specific on how the military options are used." He continued by explaining that Congress has limited the use of military force to dealing with those responsible for the attacks, and not allowing the use of force against other unrelated problems, such as Iraq.
Asked what was being done for the workers who have been laid off due to airport and airline closings, Mr. Meehan noted that unfortunately the bailout for airlines does not currently contain any financial help for laid-off employees. "Yes, we need an economic stimulus and specific policies to get the economy moving," he said, and commented that this attack has deeply hurt our economy by closing airports and shutting down airlines.
One student asked if he supports the President's decisions. "Yes, I am pleasantly surprised on how deliberate the President has been in making decisions," he said.
"Are there still terrorists here, and will there be retaliation?" was the last question. Meehan paused, then said yes, there would probably be more attacks, pointing out that U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft recently warned that this is possible. He said we will be looking differently at our own safety and will use technology and anything we can to guard against future attacks. It is important, he continued, to engage in a long-term plan to map out our approach to insuring safety for our citizens.
After the session, students in Kendall's history class discussed what they just heard. One student was pleased to hear that Meehan was behind the president, feeling it was important for unity. He felt he didn't hear anything new, but realized that there is some classified information not being passed to the public. A classmate was concerned that fingers were being pointed toward bin Laden and others without concrete evidence. They both felt they needed to see evidence linking the suspects with the terrorist's acts.
Others were surprised to see how many hands were raised when Meehan asked students if they had any connection to people who had died on September 11th.
After the students left, Meehan addresses students' concerns about withheld information. He noted that when Senator Orin Hatch commented that we were listening in on the terrorists' cell phones, it released an important piece of information, which might have had negative effects on the investigation. Congress has received security briefings, he said, but will not give out information that is confidential. He suggested the students watch news programs, being aware that some reports need to be substantiated. At the end of the investigation the US will outline its evidence, he promised.
Meehan's press secretary, Bridger E. McGaw, said life in Washington continues normally with visitors to the White House and other landmarks, but heightened security checks are everywhere. He grew up in the Concord area and said he wishes he were back here.
© 2001 The Carlisle Mosquito