The face of evil
Sept. 12, 2001
Evil touched the face of America yesterday in a wicked, sneering affront to freedom-loving people everywhere. Evil spoke through the deaths of innocent people in cataclysmic acts of violence. Evil has again touched the face of America. And we will never be the same.
How we respond
The act of war against the United States and this diabolically executed sneak attack was no less a declaration of war than Pearl Harbor succeeded in inflicting slaughter, shock and humiliation on a superpower.
The attack, born out of poisonous resentment, was on the commercial, military and political symbols of that greatness. But that assault will only be a meaningful success if it panics us into acting against our basic principles. We are a nation of laws and preciously guarded civil liberties. We should not be stampeded into trying to withdraw from the world. We must maintain our internal commitments and our forceful international presence.
Now we have a task that can be simply stated: Rebuild, reevaluate and retaliate.
Even as we begin these tasks, the word must go out there is no place on this Earth for those responsible for the attacks in Washington and New York to hide, and the word must be followed by action that is swift and certain.
Our government has any number of responsibilities among them reviewing why preventive measures already in place were not successful and thinking through future measures that might have more chance at success.
The American people themselves have responsibilities, such as giving aid to survivors and the families of victims and resolving to maintain a rational perspective and keep their courage. Americans are good at such things. In watching TV and seeing how rescue groups went to work in orderly fashion, how political leaders struck a tone of quiet determination to minimize suffering, how news gatherers avoided inappropriate choices of words, you had to know that ours is a strong society that will not give way easily to any extreme.
All of us must know with a certain sinking feeling that much will be different in the United States of America from here on out. That is unavoidable. But Americans can, should and most likely will face this crisis as they have others in the past with toughness and with devotion to this exceptional land we and our forebears have created.
The rebuilding should be a memorial to those killed, not a monument to terrorism. By quickly reclaiming the damage, we dilute the terrorists' momentary victory; it is a way of saying, "We are indomitable."
And, the nation must reevaluate its defense posture. The hijacked aircraft has proved a deadlier threat than the rogue-nation missile. The billions planned for missile defense might better be spent on intelligence, security and the capacity to launch pre-emptive missions. This is asymmetrical warfare, where a foe as yet unknown and unable to attack directly, resorts to deception under cover of our own freedoms and openness.
Echoing his father at the outset of the Gulf War, President Bush said, Terrorism must not stand.'' This act pushes us well past the point of launching a few cruise missiles at tents in the desert and ramshackle pharmaceutical plants.
As in any war, the retaliation should have the goal of crushing the enemy's ability and will to fight. Almost certainly, this terrorist operation was supported maybe even planned and executed by a sovereign foreign government. However satisfying it might be, the Bush administration should resist the temptation to lash back at sketchy targets based on sketchy evidence.
We must know for a certainty who the attackers are, where they are and what government or governments are behind them.
The globe has gotten smaller; isolation is a dead concept. The assault Tuesday showed that we cannot, as we did for more than 200 years, rely on our oceans to protect us from direct aggression. The kamikaze attack by hijacked airliners was the worst act of warfare of American soil since Pearl Harbor and on the mainland since the Civil War.
Revenge when it comes should be measured, implacable and complete.