WAP students watch history

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 9, 2004

Rebecca Pipkins’ senior French I class from West Alabama Preparatory School gathered around the television screen Thursday as history unfolded before their eyes. The president’s national security adviser Condoleezza Rice testified to the 9/11 commission about whether or not the 9/11 attacks could have been prevented.

Seniors Kevin May and Rocky Gardner were among the group of 20 or so French students who watched Rice testify. May said he thought she did very well in answering all the commission’s questions.

“As bad as the attacks were, I think she is telling the truth about there not being a direct way to prevent the attacks,” May said.

Email newsletter signup

Gardner said he also thought she did very well with the questions, but he didn’t like the way some of the members of the commission tried to attack her. He also said he was looking forward to watching this historic event because she was a fellow Alabamian.

“I think we should take the focus off of the past and put it towards the future to prevent future attacks of this kind,” Gardner said.

The reason that Rice had to testify Thursday to the commission was due to the comments made by Richard Clarke, a counter-terrorism official in both the Clinton and Bush administrations. During her testimony, she said there was no one thing that could have stopped the attacks from happening on that day.

She also said the United States wasn’t ready for attacks of this nature despite knowing the threat was ever present. She didn’t apologize for the country not being prepared to defend itself, unlike Clarke, who apologized about two weeks earlier during his testimony.

She said she would never forget the pain and anger she felt the day those murderous attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City and on the Pentagon killed over 3,000 Americans. U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions said Rice gave a strong, detailed statement to the 9/11 commission about the Bush administration’s efforts to combat terrorism before and after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. He said the blame should be on the terrorists who attacked our nation.

“Our focus is and should be on the future — taking the war to the terrorists before they bring violence back to our shores,” Sessions said.

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby agreed with Sessions in that Rice’s testimony to the commission was impressive.

“I believe that Dr. Rice’s remarks today provided the American people with a clearer understanding of the activities of the Bush Administration prior to September 11, 2001. She outlined specific accounts of meetings and briefings that the Bush Administration held regarding the threat of terrorism and al Qaeda. Dr. Rice clearly stated that terrorism was, in fact, a top priority for the President,” Shelby said.

“It was a very important day for the country,” said Congressman Artur Davis during a Thursday visit in Marion. “One of the things I was telling the students at Judson was that there are very few countries in the world that can have the kind of open examination of our policy making process that we have in the United States. We ought to be proud of that.

“We have to find a way to get past the partisanship on this issue. We can’t score this as who won – Richard Clarke or Condoleezza Rice, did Kerry get points on this or Bush get points on this.

“We have to score this in a very specific sense of what have we learned about the process of sifting intelligence in this country,” Davis said. “What happens between the time that intelligence chatter is picked up and the time it makes its way to the Oval Office? We need to have a better understanding how those processes work and how we can make those processes work even better.

“We have to get past this blame game. The people I blame for 9/11 are the terrorists who flew the planes into the building and the people who inspired them to do it.”