September 11 redefined the concept of terror and terrorism for every right thinking person around the world. Our survival as free people depends on the way we deal with this new threat.
We in the U.S. are not unfamiliar with terrorism in our daily lives. When we find the hood of our car keyed in the parking lot, receive an obscene phone call, observe graffiti on the side of a bus, find urine in a phone booth, are evacuated because of a bomb threat, hear of friends who are raped or stalked, we are confronted by the acts of cowards and crazies, but on a scale we can assimilate without panic.
When an office building is bombed, a church desecrated, a hate crime committed, school children slaughtered, a serial killer uncovered, the collective concern is pervasive, the fear more palpable.
Ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, even the Holocaust, the most appalling act of terrorism in the history of the world, were atrocities committed by governments led by madmen on foreign soil.
Since the adoption of our Constitution, we have represented a beacon of sanity and fair play, a haven for the persecuted and disenfranchised, and enjoy the most open and free society on earth. Not all of our Presidents have been world beaters - Hayes, Hoover, Grant, Nixon - and yet we overcame slavery, made reparation to Japanese Americans interred during World War II, and enforce laws providing equal opportunity for all of our citizens.
In spite of our prison population, the vast majority of our people are law abiding, and we deeply believe that it is better for 100 guilty men to go free than for one innocent man to be convicted. Law enforcement works well, and for the most part terrorists among us, be they bombers, rapists, or serial killers are hunted down and punished.
Americans prefer peace, but have fought a great many wars - at least nine majors over 225 years, and with the exception of Vietnam, have won them all. No problem identifying the enemy, no doubt about the worth of the mission, a clear strategy and consensus on the need to pay a high price to keep our world safe and preserve our hard fought democracy.
When commercial planes filled with innocent civilians were used as missiles to knock down the symbols of U.S. economic and military supremacy, a new strain of virus was released that, left unchecked, has the potential for a few maniacs to destroy the civilized world.
Religious fanaticism is not new. The Inquisition and Crusades killed indiscriminately in the name of God. We hung witches in Salem. The Middle East and Northern Ireland are, for the participants, Holy Wars. Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson still have an audience for their drivel.
The United States, however, had never faced an international conspiracy of cowards, well organized and overfunded, prepared to bring us down by attacking civilians and, if necessary, committing suicide in the process.
It would be difficult for Islamic Fundamentalists to hide in Japan where virtually everyone is Japanese, or in Australia where immigration is very restrictive. We are a nation of mongrels - very few native Americans - large numbers of African, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Latin, Greek, Italian, Irish, Indian, Mexican, Dutch, English, French, and Arab Americans.
Any hotel lobby in any American city looks like the United Nations. We respect women and provide education for everyone. A long way from perfect, but the world's best place to live.
How we deal with this bacteria will determine if our way of life continues. Countries like Iraq, Iran, Libya, North Korea, and Afghanistan have encouraged the development of terrorist cells in their countries, funded cells in other countries, and provided holes for them to hide.
The state of Israel, surrounded by people committed to their destruction, will never negotiate with terrorists and takes no prisoners. America's unshakable support of Israel's right to live is used by terrorists as a reason to justify a Jihad against us. The Israeli model is the only one that works. People able to convince young boys to wrap their bodies in explosives to blow up themselves and a school full of kids for the promise of virgins in the next life are beyond rehabilitation.
The U.S. and its allies must move decisively to eradicate the virus wherever it lives, and take no prisoners. We must exercise diligence at home that may make civil libertarians uneasy. Some sacrifice in personal freedom will be necessary to defeat this enemy, as he needs to take no territory, supply no armies, and defend no beachheads. Three or four victories of the September 11 variety could well topple the world economy. The penalties for waging this type of war must be absolute. Pray that we have the will.