Posted 09-12-2001 at 00:24:54
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Let's Make Sure WE Fight the Right War
As we all known, within the space of about an hour, our nation was struck by three terrorist attacks that may eventually yield tens of thousands of casualties. Although the identity of the assailants is unknown at this time, our nation has endured a murderous act of aggression that simply cannot go unpunished.
As Americans struggle to absorb the horror resulting from this morning’s unprecedented attacks upon our nation, it is vitally important that we keep in mind several key principles. One of the most important is contained in Alexander Hamilton’s warning that war or the threat of war "will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length are willing to run the risk of being less free."
Hamilton’s words have an eerie resonance now that fighter planes are orbiting New York City and Washington, D.C., and armed guards are patrolling the evacuated White House. The carefully orchestrated terrorist attack, in which civilian jetliners were converted into weapons of mass destruction and aimed at the symbols of our nation’s financial and military power, was perfectly calibrated to rupture America's sense of security. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks, prominent voices in the Establishment's opinion-molding class took up the refrain that new impositions upon liberty will be necessary in order to win the war against international terrorism.
Senator John McCain (R-Az.), who correctly described the attack as "an act of war," told Judy Woodruff of CNN, "our lifestyles won't be the same for a long time." NBC News Anchor Tom Brokaw’s assessment was even more pointed: "We will have to revisit many of our freedoms as a result of this attack." Former Defense Secretary William Cohen has stated that because of the attacks Americans will be forced to make "choices between security and civil liberties."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair has urged that the world’s democracies "join together" in a global war upon terrorism. Other figures, including former federal government officials, have insisted that we are living in a "new day" and that dramatic changes may have to be made in our society's governing institutions and principles.
Obviously, those responsible for the atrocious crimes committed on September 11, 2001 must be found and punished, and this should be done through our existing constitutional system.
If a foreign power or coalition of foreign powers has carried out this crime, a declaration of war would be an appropriate (if tragic) response. If the attack was perpetrated by a quasi-state terrorist network, such as that operated by Osama bin Laden, the Constitution provides the means to respond: Congress has the authority to "define and punish" such crimes as piracy and terrorism, and to grant "letters of marque and reprisal" against the likes of bin Laden – should he or his associates bear the responsibility for these attacks.
Why review such arcane matters at a time like this? It is EXTERMELY important to recognize right away that the attack upon our nation provides neither the need nor the justification for the use of extra-constitutional measures.
While heightened vigilance would be wise, we CANNOT allow our country to become a garrison state. Although it may be necessary to cooperate with friendly governments, there is no reason to believe that new entangling alliances are necessary. In fact, this morning's terrorist attack illustrates, to tragic effect, some of the deadly consequences of our government's insistence upon becoming entangled in the wars and conflicts of other nations.
All Americans worthy of the name will support timely, constitutionally sound actions to protect our nation and punish this despicable act of mass murder. But Americans also have a duty to demand answers from our leaders about some very important questions:
1) Why, given the vast expenditures on our military, intelligence, and law enforcement bodies, was there "no warning" about today's attack?
2) Why is our nation providing material and financial support to Balkan terrorists (known as the "Kosovo Liberation Army") who are comrades of Osama bin Laden?
3) Why has the terrorist regime of Yasser Arafat been receiving material and financial support from the U.S. government, including such agencies as the CIA and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms?
4) Why does our government INSIST on intervening in foreign conflicts that do not concern our nation, thereby making American civilians into terrorist targets?
In a July 26, 1999 op-ed column for the Washington Post, then-Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen warned of the possibility that our nation's foreign military interventions might lead to terrorist attacks within this nation. But rather than recommending that our nation extricate itself from those conflicts, Cohen argued that the military would have to take a greater role in domestic security matters.
"Fears about the military’s role in domestic affairs are unfounded," Cohen soothingly wrote. "There need be no fear or foreboding by the American people of the preparations of their government. On the contrary, the greater threat to our civil liberties stems from the chaos and carnage that might result from an attack for which we had failed to prepare and the demands for action that would follow."
The approach recommended by Cohen, ironically, complements very well the classic strategy pursued by terrorists. Marxist militant Carlos Marighella, whose tactical blueprint has been followed by terrorists worldwide, explained that terrorists attack innocent people in order to provoke governments "to intensify repression. The police roundups, house searches, arrests of innocent people, make life unbearable....
Rejecting the 'so-called political solution,' the urban guerrilla must become more aggressive and violent, resorting without letup to sabotage, terrorism, expropriations, assaults, kidnappings, and executions, heightening the disastrous situation in which the government must act."
Marighella went on to explain how this cycle continues until the existing political order is completely subverted, and a revolutionary regime takes power.
The gravest danger presented by today's terrorist attacks is that the effort to find and punish perpetrators will become a war upon the liberties of the American people. Yes, those responsible for the attacks must be found and punished with pitiless severity. But at the same time Americans must demand an immediate end to our interventionist foreign policy, which exacted such a tragic price in American blood on this terrible day.