While most of the nation supports the “war on terrorism” that our leaders have declared, there are some, especially around here, who couldn”t wait for the first shot to be fired before they started second guessing this course of action.
I understand why some people are uncomfortable with the “war” we”ll soon be embarking upon. Wars are dangerous and costly things where people who don”t deserve to get hurt always do. In past conflicts, the United States has certainly proven it can fail to distinguishing between combatants and civilians, governments and innocent bystanders. And listening to our unelected president tell us with a straight face that we are doing this for democracy makes me want to wretch.
But whatever one thinks of our history or the legitimacy of our leaders, it could not be more clear that our coming fight against terrorism is a just and necessary one.
What we face in the fanatics we are hunting is a group of people who want to destroy all of us, peacenik and warmonger alike. Almost every nation on earth will overtly support us or not lift a finger to stop us because they understand that Osama bin Laden and those like him pose a threat to everyone. They know that unless they all want to live in terror, there is little choice but war.
Some ask why, if this was perpetrated by only a small group, we should contemplate doing something as drastic as a large scale bombing of another nation. Simple: Because the nation in question, Afghanistan, is complicit in what happened in New York and Washington. They have allowed a wanted terrorist, whose previous crimes (bombing our embassies) have been proven in courts, to operate terrorist training camps to teach people how to kill Americans and anyone else they dislike. And when asked to turn over a man who, with his followers, had orchestrated mass murder, their responses was “we can”t hand bin Laden over to non-Muslims,” followed by “we”ll ask him to leave by himself ” and now, “sorry, can”t find him.”
Extradition of members of a group that has killed thousands of our citizens and has every intention of doing so again is a perfectly reasonable request that there shouldn”t be much need for negotiation on. We have made that request through several channels and we have given them time. The United States made pretty clear on Sept. 11, who we thought was responsible and Afghanistan has now had two weeks to turn them over for this crime, to say nothing of the crimes (the African embassy bombings) that Afghanistan should have turned them over for years ago anyway.
But, of course, by Afghanistan, I mean the Taliban, the gang of thugs who run most of the country. We have every reason to attack and remove them from power. What terrorists did to us is nothing compared to what the Taliban have done to their own people and whether the events of Sept. had happened or not, we would be fully justified in liberating the Afghans from them. What bothers some, as it should, is the fact that innocent people in Afghanistan will die in our now almost certain attacks. I”m sure we can expect the Taliban to follow the lead of Saddam Hussein and herd civilians into every area they think we”d go after to try to inflame sentiment against us.
It”s probably an unsatisfying answer, but we”ll just have to try our best to avoid killing civilians and accept that some will die whether because of our mistakes or the Taliban”s intentions. That sounds cold to some, but the price of doing nothing is our own civilian deaths on a much larger scale. If things keep going the way they are, eventually a terrorist group will get hold of a chemical, biological or perhaps even a nuclear weapon and as they have shown, they will only be too eager to kill the innocent. Six thousand slaughtered people is child”s play compared to what they would and so eagerly desire to do to us.
There are those in this country who believe American deaths and insecurity are our just deserts for our own misdeeds. The rightness or wrongness of elements of our foreign policy is debatable, but the wrongfulness of terrorism is not. Anyone whose response to what happened two weeks ago was, “that”s too bad, but we deserved it,” is a moral degenerate. To intentionally kill thousands of innocent people is, to employ the overused but accurate term, evil. This is not some conflict where we can argue about the merits of one side or the other and good people can disagree about who is right or wrong. We were wronged.
So what do we do? Everyone must know that doing nothing is not an acceptable response. Even worse would be to pull back from our international commitments and abandon our friends and interests in an area that a small band of extremists has declared off limits to us. Bowing to the demands of terrorists would only invite them to demand more. We should also remember that people of bin Laden”s ilk don”t want peace and prosperity for the societies they claim to be protecting, they want more Afghanistans. They want uneducated women, armed children, death squads, and compulsory religion. Their idea of paradise is hell on earth and we are doing all the world a favor by fighting them. War is horrible and messy and usually, especially for powerful countries, a political act. But this time it isn”t. There”s no political goal here, no acquisition of territory, no protecting of resources or opening of trade. Our coming war is about self-defense. We have known that the terrorist groups being harbored in Afghanistan and other countries were out to get us for a long time. They have said it constantly and have already attacked our interests and people overseas. But, unsure if they would really strike us here, we waited for the them to attack us at home before deciding to go after them with all the seriousness we should have. Well now we know we are all in danger. That regardless of our ethnicity, religion or support of our government, they would kill each of us if given the chance.
As we keep hearing, this war won”t be like any other, but a war it is, with all the attendant uncertainty, danger and tragedy. I don”t want to see our nation embroiled in conflicts around the world, but on Sept.11, we saw the price of avoiding the fight against terrorism. And our nation is right to take up that fight now.
Peter Cunniffe can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.