U.S. Sen. Patty Murray asks students to ponder about bin Laden's popularity

Thursday, December 19, 2002

By GREGG HERRINGTON, Columbian staff writer

Vancouver, WA - U.S. Sen. Patty Murray was in Vancouver on Wednesday challenging high school students to answer these questions:

What is behind terrorist Osama bin Laden's popularity in some parts of the world, and should the United States adopt his nation-building tactics?

Speaking at Columbia River High School, Murray, D-Wash., responded to questions from students, most about the war on terrorism or government spending for education.

Later Wednesday, Murray visited C-Tran headquarters and checked out a new bus.

Murray met at Columbia River with world history students and student government leaders. Across town, Hudson's Bay High School students participated via teleconference.

Murray concluded the session by challenging the students to consider alternatives to war.

"We've got to ask, why is this man (Osama bin Laden) so popular around the world?," said Murray, who faces re-election in 2004. "Why are people so supportive of him in many countries … that are riddled with poverty?

"He's been out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day care facilities, building health care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful. We haven't done that.

"How would they look at us today if we had been there helping them with some of that rather than just being the people who are going to bomb in Iraq and go to Afghanistan?"

Murray said she doesn't know where she comes down on that guns-or-butter question, and building infrastructure in Third World countries would "cost a lot of money, and we have schools here and health care facilities here that are really hurting."

Be 'better neighbors'?

"War is expensive too," she said. "Your generation ought to be thinking about whether we should be better neighbors out in other countries so that they have a different vision of us.

"It is a debate I think we ought to have."

Murray was in the minority when the Senate voted 77-23 in October to give President Bush authority to use military force in confronting Saddam Hussein. The state's other senator, Democrat Maria Cantwell, voted for the resolution.

Murray opened Wednesday's event telling the students, "You'll be graduating into a world that is very difficult. … The economy is struggling. War in Iraq is a very real possibility in the short term" and could cost $200 billion even if it were to last only a few weeks.

The cost of waging war could result in cuts to domestic programs such as Pell grants for college students, she said.

Responding to a question about federal spending for schools, Murray said the Bush administration is backing off its pledge of support for the No Child Left Behind program.

"There are crises in every one of our schools in this country," Murray said, and cutting spending on education has long-term deleterious effects.

Visit to the bus barn

Later in the day, Murray spent 45 minutes at the C-Tran administrative and operations facility at 2425 N.E. 65th Ave. for a holiday potluck. Randy Frasier's Mountain View High School jazz and concert choirs serenaded her with holiday carols.

Afterward, Murray examined a new $312,000 Gillig coach, the first of several dozen that will replace 20-year-old GM buses that have racked up an average of 650,000 miles each.

Murray is on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on transportation, which funnels matching money to states and local agencies for buses and other transit programs. Eighty percent of the cost of new buses will come from federal grants, and the remainder from local C-Tran money.

Thomas Ryll contributed to this story. Gregg Herrington covers state and local issues and may be reached at 360-759-8025, or via e-mail at gregg.herrington columbian.com.


Response from Sen. Patty Murray, received Friday, Dec. 20, 2002:

Having a challenging and thoughtful discussion about America’s future reflects the best values of a free democracy;

To sensationalize and distort in an attempt to divide is not.

Osama Bin Laden is an evil terrorist who is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Americans. Bringing him to justice, dismantling his terrorist network, and protecting our nation from further attacks must continue to be our government's highest priorities, and I continue to vigorously support those efforts in the Senate

While we continue to search every corner of the globe to destroy Osama bin Laden and his al Quaeda network, should we also consider the longer-term issue of what else can be done to improve relations with all nations including the Arab world?

How else can we bring America's values to those who do not understand us?

And while there are some whose hearts and minds may never be won, should we try to reach those who can?

The White House believes that we can do more, and has devoted an entire department to improving America's image in the Arab world.

Having a challenging and thoughtful discussion about America’s future reflects the best values of a free democracy; to sensationalize and distort in an attempt to divide is not.

While there are some on the extreme fringes of society who try to exploit fear and uncertainty for political gain, there are many more who understand that the best value of our democracy is the freedom to think and to secure a better future.


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