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Was This Attack Unprovoked?
September 11, 2001

Can We Win This War?

Was This Attack Unprovoked?

What About Turning the Other Cheek?

Americans should remember that other nations and people hold all of us responsible for the actions of our government. From Reagan's indiscriminate shelling of the city of Beirut during the Lebanese War to Clinton's ineffectual and illegal bombing of Khartoum and various sites in Afghanistan, American military forces have in fact caused the death or injury of civilians and the destruction of property in Arab countries.

This does not justify the attack made against us on 11 September, but it goes a long way toward explaining why Arab and Muslim people either support, or protect, or decline to oppose the fanatics who have carried their war to our shores.

Why were Palestinian people cheering and dancing because of these American deaths on 11 September? Because they have been told over and over again that Americans have supported the killing and oppression of their people.

The fact is that in the entire history of the Israeli vs. Palestinian conflict, far fewer Palestinians have been killed than died in New York City on 11 September.

The attack on the United States was not justified, but it was comprehensible. We have been led by presidents who used American forces in ways that created enemies for us without achieving any significant military objective. Many people outside the U.S. see our nation as a bully that feels it can kill anyone it wants for any reason at any time, and they have genuine incidents they can point to.

George Bush, whatever other flaws he might have had as president, waged war in a forthright, open way that did not justify any kind of reprisal against the United States. The Gulf War ran the risk of high numbers of U.S. casualties, but it also achieved its objective -- the restoration of the independence and government of Kuwait.

But some military actions of Ronald Reagan and almost every military action of Bill Clinton accomplished no important objective and served only to energize and unify our enemies, to increase their support among the people and governments of their region, and to increase their numbers.

To say that the pilots who made these suicide attacks against the United States were "fanatics" or "crazy" explains nothing. They were certainly not crazy, merely so determined, so enraged, so faithful to their cause that they were willing to die in order to bring destruction on their enemies. Fanatics? Of course. But that's simply a pejorative term for "dedicated to a cause I don't believe in."

Under international law, when a state of war does not exist, there are things you cannot do -- like bombing or shelling another country, for example. There are at least four countries in the Islamic world that we have bombed or shelled without a declaration of war, causing, in every case, civilian casualties. We may have felt that we were doing a good thing or supporting a good cause when we did so, but that does not change the fact that we are now paying the consequences.

We are at war, and have been for many years. But our leaders have, in order to avoid having to ask Americans for unpopular sacrifices, tried to pretend that the war with fanatic Islamic fundamentalists was merely a police action.

Let's stop pretending. When someone is waging a holy war against you, and you pretend you can respond with extraditions and trials, who, exactly, is the insane one?

We are at war. The enemy has just caused an insufferable number of casualties, and however the war originated, we have no choices except either to lose that war or win it. I say we should win it. But we'll never do that if we close our eyes to the consequences of meaningless military actions that accomplish nothing but strengthen the resolve and add to the resources of our enemies.

Police actions in response to 11 September will cause more attacks and kill more Americans.

That is why it is time to declare war against all nations who support and protect our enemies or who interfere with our strong military actions to root them out of every haven where they have been able to train and prepare for actions against our people.

And however justified those cheering crowds of Palestinians may feel, it is time for them to understand what happens when people wage war against us. The one thing that cannot be allowed to happen now is the independence of a Muslim Palestinian state. What we have suffered today, Israel has been experiencing time after time for many years. Neither they nor we should allow any hope that terrorism might lead to even the slightest concession to the forces whose goal is to destroy Israel and kill Israelis and, now, Americans.

There should be no peace talks. Even though Yasser Arafat probably had nothing to do with the planning of the attack against us, those who did attack us did so in the effort to support his "government," just as those who have been slaughtering innocent Israeli civilians have been free to act because Arafat has not been able to stop them and has not shown any interest in trying. There is no such thing as a legitimate government of the Palestinian people capable of acting like a peaceful nation, and so the pretense should end.

Our first and most important reply to these attacks, therefore, should be to break off all talks with Palestinian leaders and to affirm our support for Israel in taking whatever actions it needs to take in order to end the possibility of terrorism taking place from refuges in Palestinian territory, up to and including a complete military takeover of all the territory supposedly under the Palestinian Authority and the arrest of all Palestinian leaders pending trials to determine whether they were actually involved in supporting or carrying out or deliberately failing to hinder terrorist acts.

And our second and longest-lasting reply should be to take responsibility, as citizens, for the actions of our government on the international stage. Our news media may tell us that "The administration announced that U.S. forces have attacked" some foreign site, but what the rest of the world sees is that America has attacked, and we citizens are held responsible for any deaths that result.

If we are going to pay in blood for the actions of our leaders, then it's about time we stopped ignoring international news, and stopped choosing our presidents because they promise to make us rich. Instead, we should make sure we elect only leaders who will act within international law, making war only when it is openly declared -- and, when it is declared, waging war thoroughly, with all necessary sacrifices, in order win genuine objectives and destroy the enemy's ability or will to make war against us.

In other words, when we're not at war, let's try not to kill people -- not even foreigners, because we ordinary citizens pay for it in the long run. And when we are at war, let's fight with all our strength until we crush our enemies and all those who support and harbor them, so that, at war's end, we can have some hope of peace.

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