It was September 1972. People from all over the world were gathered in Munich, Germany for the Olympic Games. This event was filled with the promise of post-World War II optimism and unity, but that optimism turned to violence and turmoil overnight. The world awoke to images of a deadly hostage situation rapidly unfolding in the Olympic village. After a dramatic standoff, eleven Israeli hostages were massacred by a terrorist group called “Black September”. The Israeli government did not hesitate in its response. For twenty years, Israel hunted the murderers down all over the globe from Paris to London, Beirut to Stockholm. One thing became clear to the terrorists: if they hurt Israelis, there would be consequences. Israel would find them, and it did.
Immediately, the terrorists justified the attacks by blaming a movie. Make no mistake: this is simply an excuse by those who despise Americans, our values, and human life. It’s the fault and responsibility of the killers. They murder in the name of religion. These were planned and coordinated terrorist attacks and, since then, anti-American hostility has spread to Yemen, Iraq, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia and even London.
When we have been tested by terrorists in the past, the United States (just like Israel) has gone after those who attack us. When, in 1996, 19 American soldiers were murdered in Saudi Arabia, we responded. At the time, President Clinton said: “The cowards who committed this murderous act must not go unpunished. We will not rest in our efforts to find who is responsible for this outrage, to pursue them and to punish them.”And, when nearly 3,000 people were murdered on 9/11, we responded. President Bush said, “The search is under way for those who are behind these evil acts. I’ve directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and bring them to justice.” In his initial response, President Obama rightly condemned the “senseless violence,” but, unlike his predecessors, he did not promise to deliver justice. Is it still U.S. policy to deliver justice when we are attacked?
The truth is our enemies continue to test us because they no longer fear us. Why should they? The world no longer knows where America stands. Not our allies. Not our enemies. Even Americans are uncertain what our foreign policy is towards terrorists. Our president doesn’t even know where we stand. When asked if Egypt was our ally, President Obama said: “I don't think that we would consider them an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy.” A White House spokesman later explained, “Ally is a legal term of art.” Well, what does that political doubletalk mean? What is our foreign policy when a U.S. Embassy is attacked? What is our foreign policy in North Africa? Thousands of Americans are overseas defending and representing our nation, while radical fundamentalists storm our embassies. They do not fear the consequences of their actions because they do not know what those consequences will be. Are there any?
Meanwhile, in the middle of this turmoil, the president does not have time to meet with the Prime Minister of Israel, our strongest partner against terrorism in the region. Nor does he have time, apparently, to attend more than half of his daily intelligence briefings since becoming president. One can’t help but question what the priorities of this administration are. This past week’s events remind us that Osama bin Laden may be dead, but the fight against terrorism is not.
We must bring justice to the terrorists because justice is what we do in America. The U.S. must hold those who attack us accountable. The president often uses the pet phrase “let me be clear.” His message to terrorists should be clear—leave us alone. If you attack Americans, we will come find you. The Libyan killers must meet the same fate as the members of “Black September.”
And that’s just the way it is.
Poe is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the Anti-Terrorism Caucus.