America’s real defense against terror

By Joseph Farah

It wasn’t the thousands of federal, state and local police officers who caught John Lee Malvo and John Muhammad.

It wasn’t the technology and computer profiling and databases that led to their capture.

It wasn’t gun registration.

It wasn’t the patrolling of the skies over the capital by AWACS and other military planes.

In the end, it was an informed public and a responsive, unlikely hero-trucker named Ronald Lantz who joined with his colleagues in a CB-radio prayer vigil just before blocking the exit ramp on an Interstate 70 rest stop in Maryland where the two alleged assassins were sleeping in their 1990 Chevy Caprice.

There’s a big lesson in the way the Beltway sniper case broke.

The government is near helpless at preventing terrorism. The government, with all its resources, is not very good at responding to terrorism. And the government is as inefficient in capturing terrorists as it is at nabbing illegal aliens.

But the American people are up to the job. The American people – fully informed of what is happening – are the best defense the country has against this form of asymmetrical warfare. And there are a lot of good people like Ronald Lantz who can be enlisted in this fight if only the government acknowledges its own weaknesses and encourages this kind of responsible behavior.

“I just look at what I did as a good deed for our country,” said Lantz. “The good Lord protected me. My wife asked me what I would have done if they had shot me. I said, ‘I don’t know, but I’m going to Heaven anyway.'”

In a Delaware ceremony honoring Lantz, government officials said they were awed that Lantz took the dangerous action of blocking the ramp and the escape by Malvo and Muhammad.

“I wonder if it’s in any of the rest of us to do that,” said Rep. Mike Castle, R-Del.

Sure it is. In fact, Lantz wasn’t alone. Not only did he do just what police asked him to do, another trucker helped him.

Lantz has shunned publicity. He has said he will turn over any reward money to the sniper victims’ families. The 61-year-old just wants to retire as scheduled this month and “get my life back to the way I want it to be.”

Lantz is the classic example of the responsible citizen-hero. He not only recognized the suspects’ New Jersey license plate and called 911, he also followed the suggestion of law-enforcement authorities in blocking the path of escape by men known to be armed and dangerous.

The accurate description of the vehicle, by the way, came from news reports, not a police announcement.

There’s no question Lantz is a hero. But I suspect there are lots of heroes out there just waiting to be empowered by their government, given direction, given the information they need to make a difference in this war on terrorism.

On Sept. 12, 2001, I laid out a plan for fighting the terror we had just experienced. Here is what I proposed then:

  • Build a missile-defense system as quickly as possible – no matter what the cost, no matter what the sacrifice. Maybe now people will understand the threats they face in a hostile world.

  • Cut off all foreign aid to Yasser Arafat and his Palestine Authority, which, despite their attempt to distance themselves from these attacks, bear at least some responsibility.

  • Take the handcuffs off Ariel Sharon and Israel to respond appropriately to the terror attacks the Jewish state has endured for the last year.

  • Achieve energy independence by beginning an aggressive domestic oil-drilling effort in Alaska and elsewhere, removing all misguided environmental barriers to this national-security necessity.

  • Repeal all restrictive gun laws so that every law-abiding American can take part in national defense against this elusive enemy who can strike anywhere, anytime.

  • Require every airliner in America to include armed guards on board, require all crews to be armed and to allow properly permitted passengers to bring firearms on board as well. Think of the lives that might have been saved if any one of those four airliners was carrying some appropriately armed crew members or passengers.

  • Drop all plans for relaxing controls at our borders and step up rigorous enforcement of our immigration laws. Amnesty? Forget about it.

  • Call for a national day of prayer – just as our Founding Fathers would have done in a time of national emergency.

It’s still a pretty good prescription. This is unconventional warfare and it needs to be fought in unconventional ways – enlisting ordinary Americans in the cause.

It should not be fought with unnecessary restrictions on the lives of Americans, with infringements of our civil rights and with an abrogation of the U.S. Constitution.

It’s time to teach Americans to be self-reliant again. It’s time to recognize that government can’t protect you, can’t take care of you, can’t save you from attacks. Only a free people can truly defend themselves.