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Reconciliation or retaliation?

By Henry Lamb
web posted September 24, 2001

An email crossed my screen this week, asking me to sign a petition to President Bush urging him not to launch a war. The sender was not happy with my reply. This push now - to seek reconciliation, rather than retaliation - is not only foolish, it's downright dangerous.

In the first instance, war was declared on September 11, not by the United States, but by the sponsors of this horrendous attack. Failure to retaliate, swiftly, and powerfully, is tantamount to an invitation to the terrorists for a repeat performance.

Our response must be much more than a tit-for-tat retaliation for this single series of events. Our response must root out the source, and strangle it.

The source, of course, is not Osama bin Laden. He is simply one of many terrorists, spawned by a world view that cannot be reconciled with the values America cherishes. In America, we believe all men are created equal, free, with the inherent right to life, liberty, and property.

Those who seek to destroy us believe their God speaks through them, and that people who choose not to convert to their view are worthy of death. Their freedom is granted by their holy men, or dictator, as the case may be. They know nothing of a government limited by the consent of the governed - and the holy men certainly don't want the governed to ever learn of such a system. They know nothing of dissent, or of free speech.

Two Americans, Dayna Curry, 29, and Heather Mercer, 24, were arrested in Kabul, Afghanistan in August, charged with preaching Christianity. A Bible and other Christian literature was confiscated as evidence. Their crime could land them in jail; Afghans convicted of these charges could be executed.

There is no reconciliation with such a world view. We cannot, nor should we, impose our values upon these folks. But neither can we allow them to impose their values upon us. We would like to leave them alone, but they won't let us. For years, we have negotiated, we have even protected, we have responded to past attacks with measured, ineffective, tit-for-tat type bombings.

No more. This attack was on American soil, and it killed thousands of innocent civilians. No more.

The Bush administration's decision to consider those who harbor terrorists to be as guilty as the terrorists themselves, is a good beginning. Any nation that sanctions the kind of attack perpetrated on America is not ready to join a civilized world. America is absolutely justified in making sure that such a nation is denied the resources to harbor terrorists.

Afghanistan makes no apology for harboring Osama bin Laden and his network of murderers. Other nations in the region are known to be sympathetic, if not helpful, to the terrorists. These nations need to be dealt with firmly and definitively.

What will be more difficult, is sorting out how these terrorists use non-sympathetic nations to further their cause. The United States hosted these murderers for months, providing training, housing, communications, and the very freedom they required to do their dirty deeds. How are we going to crack down on those who want to do us dirt, without infringing upon the freedom of everyone else?

A good place to begin would be at our borders, and at our embassies. Anyone who wants to enter this country should be required to have a very good reason - that can be documented. Visitors should be required to report any change of address while in this country. Any visitor, or non-citizen who is found to associate with any known terrorist organization, should be detained and deported immediately. The point of entry into this country is where prevention begins.

We should begin a thorough review of every known visitor in this country, deporting those whose visas have expired, unless there is sufficient reason to renew or extend their stay. We can no longer allow people of unknown purpose to roam our streets as freely as American citizens.

Representative Gephardt (D-MO) is on the wrong track by suggesting that every American should be required to have a federal identification card. We don't need to penalize our citizens for this attack, we need to restrict non-citizens.

The time for reconciliation ended on September 11. America's response is self-defense. We attacked no one. What we do now cannot be considered an act of war; it is self-defense. We choose to take the battle to their soil, rather than to allow them to bring the battle here - again. If innocent people in Afghanistan, or any other country, are harmed, the blame lies with those governments that harbor terrorism, not with the United States.

The attacks on America plunged the world into a new era. Never again, can we assume that we are safe. Nor can we assume that terrorist attacks are the work of a few fanatics, with horrendous, but limited tragedy. We must assume that the network of fanatics mean what they say, when they call for the destruction of America. We must realize that biological, chemical, and yes, even nuclear destruction are all viable tools in the arsenal of our enemies.

It appears that our government has accepted this new reality; it is less apparent that the American people have. Despite the overwhelming outpouring of patriotism we have witnessed, there is a significant number of people who support the ideas expressed in my email. Signs have begun to appear at prayer vigils for the victims, that carry the "reconciliation" message.

These people are free to express their opinion, and the rest of us are free to express ours. In the days and weeks ahead, we are going to be faced with real decisions that put into place the policies that define our great nation. If we are to remain the world's economic engine, the world's beacon of hope for freedom, the example for the world to follow to prosperity and peace, we must defend those principles of freedom that made us what we are.

We must become self-sufficient in our energy and food production. And we must take control of our borders.

We must reject, out of hand, those calls to submit this "conflict" to the United Nations. Our response is not a matter for the United Nations; it is a matter for the United States. Our allies, and all the other nations of the world are being invited to help with this effort to rid the world of international terrorism. Those who step up and help are welcome; those who get in the way, do so at their own peril.

If ever there was a time for the stars and stripes to stand tall and wave proudly for the world to see, it is now. If ever there was a time for each American to stand tall and support those policies which strengthen our self-sufficiency and protect our citizens, it is now.

And it is not a weekend task.

As we enter this new era, this new war on international terrorism, our opponents will try to make "Americanism" a dirty word. There is no guilt in national sovereignty; there is no shame in self-defense. Our response, whatever forms it may take, will be labeled by our foes as "aggression," while neglecting to acknowledge the aggression initiated on our soil. Let them say whatever they will - while they can.

The Noble Eagle is sharpening its talons.

Henry Lamb is the executive vice president of the Environmental Conservation Organization, and chairman of Sovereignty International.

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