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Don't let the terrorists achieve their greatest victory
By Paul M. Weyrich
War has been declared on the United States. Greater than Pearl Harbor, incredibly greater than Oklahoma City, perhaps as significant as the Civil War, this country has been immobilized.
In the immediate time frame we will be grappling with the terrible loss of life and the damage to all places the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.
But as has been the case with every conflict beginning with the Civil War, the long-range pressures of this war will be to greatly expand the powers of the federal government and to restrict our freedoms.
This nation has prided itself in being a free society. Our borders have been more open than anywhere else in the world. All of this is likely to change now. Absent this horrendous series of attacks our new FBI Director has suggested that we may have to limit some of our freedoms in order to deal with terrorists.
The truth is that if we further emasculate our Constitution the terrorists will have achieved the greatest victory imaginable. Their triumph won't just be the thousands of people they killed, the triumph will be if they see our democratic institutions crumble.
President Bush said "freedom has been attacked and freedom will respond". Perhaps we will be able to track down whoever was responsible and will bring them to justice. Yet that won't matter much if our form of government is altered in the process.
NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw said over and over again that our way of life will be profoundly changed by the events of September 11th. He found Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in complete agreement with that viewpoint. President Bush said that freedom has been tested and freedom will not be found wanting.
In truth it is President Bush who is being tested. How much is he devoted to our Constitution? Will he veto measures that will unduly restrict this free society? Will he respond to this massive failure of our intelligence system by re-instating human reconnaissance. President Clinton did away with most spying by real people. We invested millions in satellites and other high tech facilities. But spy satellites are no substitute for infiltration of organizations where intentions and timing can be ascertained.
If President Bush can navigate a responsible course where we make an appropriate response to those who have perpetrated these unspeakable crimes while at the same time protecting our essential freedoms in the process he will end up being the greatest President of the modern age.
If, on the other hand, we as a nation fail to make an appropriate response to those who are responsible for these terrorist acts and in the process what remains of our Constitution is shredded then President Bush will be detested by all patriotic Americans, but by that time it won't matter.
I am hoping and praying that President Bush is up to the challenge. I, for one, believe he is but only time will tell.
Paul M. Weyrich is president of the Free Congress Foundation.
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