By Tien-Shun Lee
U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Kew Gardens) talked about the perceived U.S. role as the “policeman of the world” at a forum in Forest Hills last week and questioned what would happen with Iran and Syria after the war with Iraq was over.
“When the world’s problems emerge, the eyes are upon us — that is a fact of our lives,” Weiner told the Robert F. Kennedy Democratic club last Thursday. “When there is genocide going on in the world, it is our job as decent people to take responsibility.”
The United States had taken on a policeman’s role in part because it was in the economic and diplomatic position to do so, Weiner said.
After going over some of the “deadly, dastardly stuff” that is an inevitable part of the war in Iraq, Weiner said other countries, such as Iran and North Korea pose difficult problems because they are thought to be developing nuclear power.
“Syria is the home base of 11 terrorist organizations. How do you deal with Syria?” Weiner asked. “And Iran is not developing one nuclear power plant, they’re building six of them.”
Iran, a fellow OPEC member that warred with Iraq for eight years in the 1980s, is an especially vexing problem because the country has proven much more sophisticated in playing the game of international diplomacy than Iraq, Weiner said.
One RFK Association Democrat was alarmed by Weiner’s speech, which seemed to him to suggest that the war in Iraq was just the beginning of conflicts in the volatile Gulf region that could involve Iran and Syria.
“I was rather disturbed by that,” said Joe Kuceluk of Bayside. “I hope he’s wrong.”
Kuceluk said he did not support the war because he thought there had been no real provocation for it even though President Bush has indicated that Iraqi strongman Saddam Hussein supports terrorist groups.
“Bin Laden was the No. 1 guy, and he [Bush] failed at that, so now he’s going after the other guy,” Kuceluk said, referring to the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks who has been hunted for a year and a half in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Gail Benzman of Forest Hills said she supports the war in Iraq and did not think it would necessarily lead to conflicts elsewhere.
“I think you have to take each thing independently,” she said. “We’re not going into North Korea. We’ve had a peace-keeping force in there since the Korean War and we’ve never done anything.”
Councilwoman Melinda Katz (D-Forest Hills), who spoke after Weiner, said it had not been a difficult decision for her to vote on March 12 to oppose a city council resolution against the war.
“I always felt the U.N. was not really good for our interests,” Katz said. “It was a very simple vote for me to take.”
Katz said that while Bush had certainly not been waiting up at night for the New York City Council action on the war, the resolution, which was opposed by nine out of 14 Queens council members, was important because constituents wanted to know where their representative stood.
Bearing a bagful of yellow ribbons, Katz urged people to show support for U.S. troops and their families by tying a yellow ribbon in front of their home or office. Ribbons could be picked up from her office at 104-01 Metropolitan Ave., she said.
Both Katz and Weiner said it had been an uphill battle for the city to obtain money from the federal government for extra anti-terrorist security even though the city is consistently at the top of lists of terrorist targets. In addition, the city has still not received money from the federal government to compensate for the overtime that city police and fire department employees had to work in the aftermath of Sept. 11, they said.
Reach reporter Tien-Shun Lee by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com, or call 718-229-0300,Ext. 155.