On Sept. 11, Americans were killed by a foreign enemy in America for the first time since the War of 1812. Only our veterans of foreign wars have any understanding of the brutality of war. I fear that we are all in for a lesson none of us wants.
Wars are never pretty. They are never “civil.” They are nasty, brutish and violent. What makes this war difficult is that we face an enemy without principals or restraint. We face an enemy whose only goal is to destroy our freedom, our culture and our sense of security by killing as many innocent people as possible.
First they used civilian airliners. Then they used anthrax. Smallpox and plague attacks may make this a dark winter. And one thing is clear: These evil people will not stop voluntarily.
Some civil libertarians are worried that we may have to place limits on our civil liberties to win this new war. None of us wants to lose any of our rights, but on 9-11, the terrorists used our freedom to kill innocent people. Like all criminals, they take advantage of our laws while breaking our laws.
So we are going to have to place limits on our civil liberties for the duration. We can’t have our cake and eat it too. We are dealing with an enemy who does not respect the law, so we will have to will to take it to them by any means necessary. If we do not, we will lose everything.
If you think the current anthrax attack is serious, it is. But think how worse it would have been if the FAA hadn’t grounded all crop dusters and private airplanes? The owners of those planes lost their right to earn a living. And in the process, hundreds of thousands of Americans were spared.
We should compensate the plane owners for their losses in this war, but we should also implement a new security system that will prevent terrorists from taking over crop dusters or private planes. And that is an erosion of our freedom.
Winter is coming, and with it comes the flu and cold season. I fear that smallpox and plague attacks will come this winter. America is ill prepared to defend herself against a massive bio-terrorism attack. What we do know is if a smallpox or plague attack starts, the fastest way to contain it is to quarantine the targeted area as quickly as possible. And that means to deny those who are infected or in the target area the most basic American right – the right to go wherever one wants.
The terrorists are depending upon us to not take them seriously. Because they will want us to spread their vile weapons for them. But that can’t happen if we quarantine those who are infected and their family and associates. Do I like this? No, but the option is to give infected people the “right” to kill their fellow citizens. And that’s not right at all.
To defeat this evil, we are going to have to move quickly and relentlessly. We are going to have to use wire taps, e-mail taps and every other intelligence tool possible. And we won’t always have time to go to a judge to ask for permission. The terrorists didn’t ask the passengers they killed for permission.
Some think terrorism is new. They forget why the Europeans created castles. They forget why Americans created forts. They forget the Vikings, the Huns, the Romans and all the other bandits and brigands who raped, pillaged and destroyed. There always have been and always will be people who think that they have a right to take what they want, kill whomever they choose and pay no price for their sins.
There will be many casualties of this war, and one of them will be the loss of some of our freedoms. But that will be temporary. We have placed limits on our rights in previous wars, only to reinstate them after the war was over. We will do so again.
Once we have stopped the terrorists, we cannot stop. Because we must also eliminate the terrorist’s garden. We must give the people from the Middle East, Africa and southwest Asia a reason to live. That means that we must, for the first time in our history, extend the principles of our Declaration of Independence to all citizens of the world.
Never again can we ignore the poverty of the world. Never again can we give aid and comfort to our enemies by ignoring the harsh reality of so many of our brothers and sisters. Never again can we have a foreign policy that turns its back on suffering overseas.
Because, from now on, our freedom is inexorably tied to the freedom of all of our fellow humans. Because over there is over here, now.