That is the view of U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-Alabama) concerning the nation’s defenses and present leadership. Sen. Shelby discussed the war in Afghanistan and other matters during a luncheon at Centre City Hall last week.
Sen. Shelby displayed a map showing the region of America’s involvement.
“We are doing very well at this point militarily, but it is not over with,” said Sen. Shelby. “It is chapter one of a long book. I don’t know what is going to happen. I don’t know if anybody has ever pacified Afghanistan. The British were there twice and were run out. The Russians were really run out. We certainly don’t want to occupy Afghanistan. We don’t want to occupy any country. It costs money, time, it’s a dream, everything goes with it. But I believe if we do get to the point that we can get some loose federation we are going to have to do something with our allies to help maybe not rebuild everything because it never was built in the first place. But we should get them to build a nation. Otherwise, they are going to be right back again. The Islamic fundamentalists will take over the place again. And we will be at Ground One. It will be a training ground again for the disenchanted and the extreme fundamentalists that will become terrorists.”
The U.S. is addressing other hot spots as well, Sen. Shelby said, but is focused on Afghanistan at the moment. And he credits President Bush for providing quality leadership in this time of crisis.
“I believe that President Bush is providing good leadership and I have encouraged him in my meetings with him,” said Sen. Shelby. “I’ve told him, ‘Mr. President, I’m proud of you.’ But we’ve got to stay the course, whatever it takes.”
“These are trying times and provides a vacuum that has to be filled with good leadership and I believe the President and his national security team has stepped up to the plate,” said Sen. Shelby. “I can’t think of somebody better than to have Secretary Rumsfeld for Secretary of Defense in the chair right now. We’re going to be in this for a long time. This could go on a generation or more and there will be different aspects of it, but I believe if we don’t destroy the terrorists, their camps and wherever they are, they are going to hit us again. They will blow your schools up where your children are and your churches.”
The U.S. should have seen the Sept. 11th terrorist attacks coming, Sen. Shelby said.
“We had some warnings, big ones!” said Sen. Shelby. “They blew up our barracks in Saudi Arabia and killed a lot of our soldiers. The U.S.S. Cole was involved in a terrorist attack. Our two embassies in Africa were attacked and our first Trade Tower was attacked. And there will be other hits! I would like to tell you there will never be another hit, but there will be and they will be brutal if we don’t ferret them out. We are going to have to step on some people’s toes. Without any dispute, we are the ones that are going to have to carry the ball. Sure, we have allies, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to carry them all, economically and militarily. I just believe we are on the right track. It costs money to provide home security. It is eating our numbers. It costs money to carry on a war against terrorists. But I believe the security of this nation trumps everything because without it, we wouldn’t have a nation. Our way of life would be threatened. We would be living in bunkers. We would be scared to walk out of our door and we are too strong for that. I’m too proud for that. But there will be casualties, folks! There will be a lot of people killed.”
Sen. Shelby said he encourages young people to consider the military as future career options to continue protecting this country’s interest in the future.
“We’re interested in the leaders of the future, because our nation will be at risk and we’ve got to have the military officers trained and experienced to defend this nation,” said Sen. Shelby. “If you don’t realize this and say, ‘We are going to build this house when the storm comes,’ it’s too late. You’ve got to know that there are storms out there. And national security and homeland security protecting of our people and our nation is very important. But a lot of people don’t believe that. They are in the minority and we need to keep them in the minority.”
Much of the attention in media reports has been focused on New York City and the Twin Towers following the Sept. 11 attacks. But the Pentagon repairs are also proceeding, Sen. Shelby said.
“The Pentagon repairs are coming along,” said Sen. Shelby. “The Pentagon is a huge place. We’re doing extensive renovations. I lost a former staffer in the Pentagon crash. This young man had been here with me. He had been with me for 15 years. He left a wife and two children. It comes home to roost when you go to the funerals doesn’t it?”
However, Sen. Shelby is confident that America will remain united.
“America is strong and we are not going to run,” said Sen. Shelby. “And we are not going to be cowed in any way.