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Responding to Terrorism:

The League of Women Voters of Santa Monica hosted a “Safer, More Compassionate World Forum” at Santa Monica College to encourage a community discussion on how the United States should respond to terrorist threats.

Forum panelists included Santa Monica Deputy Police Chief Phillip Sanchez, Santa Monica Fire Chief Jim Hone, John Pacheco, Executive Director of the Santa Monica Red Cross, SMC Political Science Professor Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein, and Dr. Jody Priselac, a board member of the Santa Monica Human Relations Council (HRC). Former Santa Monica City Manager Susan McCarthy moderated the November 8 event.

Deputy Chief Sanchez stated that “terrorism takes many different forms and it does many different things. It is hard for law enforcement to address terrorism” because terrorists operate in nontraditional ways. They operate “under a cloak of darkness, work under a great deal of concealment, and conceal their communications within their own community.” He also suggested that most Americans’ lives did not change after 9/11 unless they had “somebody they knew, loved, or cared for” that died on 9/11. He believes Americans can more effectively deal with terrorism by having “all of us become international ambassadors.”

Professor Tahvildaran-Jesswein had a different view. He said that lately the U.S. has been “putting its lion’s share of our collective money into our military and defensive events” but “there are other ways to deal with terrorism.” He supported Americans doing good works in the needy regions of the world, “so the U.S. can have not just a militaristic face in the post-9/11 world, but also a compassionate face.” He then noted that the media is cutting back on its international coverage, and that can affect our ability to deal with terrorism because the U.S. can’t “expect to be critical thinking democratic citizens moving forward in the 21st century without the requisite tools to understand our neighbors globally.”

Fire Chief Hone gave an overview of the United States’ disaster response system starting at the federal level and ending at the local level, while Pacheco discussed the Red Cross’ recommendations for disaster preparedness and the international nature of their operations. Hone pointed out, “Terrorists don’t discriminate” when they attack because their “number one objective is to change through fear.”

Dr. Priselac discussed ways in which the HRC is working with children to increase tolerance and fight bigotry.

Grant funding for the forum came partially from “Our Voices Together,” a network of people and organizations responding to terrorism. Through engaging individuals in visionary global philanthropy, international volunteerism, and study, the organization is attempting to “help build a world where a life of dignity, opportunity, and hope triumphs over the allure of extremists and their terrorist tactics.”

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