Some Yale students were given a rare opportunity yesterday to ask a State Department official probing questions — and receive authoritative answers — about the U.S. response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11.
Philip Reeker ’86, deputy spokesman of the State Department, sat down in the Morse College master’s house with more than 30 Yale students Tuesday afternoon to discuss how the terrorist attacks have changed U.S. foreign policy.
“[The attacks] have created unprecedented support for the United States,” Reeker said. “[There’s] potential for major changes in how we relate to other countries.”
Reeker said he envisions a new global cooperation precipitated by the attacks and specifically addressed the ways in which U.S. policy will change.
“U.S. foreign policy will remain the same, but the focus will be on fighting this war,” Reeker said.
The deputy spokesman stressed that this was not only an attack on the United States, but “an attack on the entire world.” Eighty nations lost citizens in the World Trade Center attacks.
“This is a global campaign against terrorism,” he said, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”
But not everyone is lining up for the marathon.
The possibility of killing innocent Afghan citizens in a potential U.S.-led response has troubled some peace-concerned Americans and others in the United Nations and relief organizations around the world.
“In whatever actions, [one has] to be ever-cognizant to avoid civilian lives being lost,” Reeker said. “But judgments have to be made.”
Responding to recent criticism that the United States has not presented sufficient evidence of Osama bin Laden’s connection with the terrorist attacks to the Taliban, Reeker said the U.N. has resolved to bring bin Laden to justice twice in the past. He also said that sensitive information regarding bin Laden’s affiliation with the attacks must be kept confidential for national security.
Reeker, speaking about recent polls that show increasing anti-Arab sentiment in the United States, called such beliefs “un-American” and said that those who viewed the U.S. response as a religious war were “misinformed.”
“We don’t have an argument with the Afghan people or with Islam,” he said. “Bin Laden has taken one of the world’s great religions — Islam — twisted, and bastardized it for his own secular and personal goals.”
Reeker said the attacks also have created support within the United States, as people have turned to the government to look for the comfort and security that were lost on Sept. 11.
“In the end we will be better for [this],” Reeker said. “We will ultimately triumph because of our diversity and how we’ve used it.”