It’s a small and often sad world.
In 1982 and 1983, I worked in New York for a small public-relations firm headed by a remarkable woman named Valerie Lucznikowska. The daughter of a Polish immigrant, she handled PR for Cartier before branching out on her own to do work for private industry and such organizations as UNESCO. All that was before she got her bachelor’s degree, which she followed up with graduate study at the London School of Economics.
Valerie and I have stayed in touch ever since I left New York. The morning of 9/11, she and I were chatting on AOL Instant Messenger when I alerted her to the Twin Towers attack — she was getting ready to head uptown for knee surgery and hadn’t had her TV on.
She lost a nephew, Adam Arias, in the attack. Since then, she has been active in a group called September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, whose site says: “By developing and advocating nonviolent options and actions in the pursuit of justice, we hope to break the cycles of violence engendered by war and terrorism.”
Valerie was among relatives of victims of the 9/11 and USS Cole terror attacks who were invited to meet Feb. 6 with President Obama to discuss his plans to close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay and to delay and review the process of military commissions. (She appeared on MSNBC’s “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” to discuss that meeting.) Also there was Beverly Eckert, the widow of another 9/11 victim. She and 48 other people on Continental Flight 3407, plus one person on the ground, died Thursday when that plane crashed.
Since that meeting, some of Arias’ other survivors seem to have taken exception to Valerie’s position, which is that the U.S. should follow its own Constitution and law in dealing with terror suspects, and even more to the notion that she might be speaking for Adam. Some right-wingers have begun criticizing Valerie, criticizing Obama for talking to her and/or taking the side of those family members who are criticizing her, implying in some cases that Obama should have met with them but not Valerie.
My take? With all due respect to Adam Arias’s other relatives, and with all due regret for their loss (which also was Valerie’s loss), we’ve had seven years to listen to people who thought Guantanamo Bay was a good idea. We’ve also got seven years’ worth of empirical evidence to prove it was not, that Guantanamo led directly to Abu Ghraib and that Abu Ghraib led directly to more would-be terrorists. Bush either never got that or never cared (the latter, I suspect). Obama gets that. The surviving Ariases, bless them, apparently do not. I do not agree with Peaceful Tomorrows that violence is never the answer; I’ve met too many bullies to go along with that. But generally it ought to be the last answer, and in the past several years far too many people have displayed a sick, sad eagerness to make it the first. Memo: Terrorism does not mean we have to piddle ourselves like startled 3-week-old puppies.
Some of the wingnuts also have attacked Valerie personally. Having known her as long as I have, I feel confident in saying that she has more integrity in her little finger than all her critics combined.