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Back to sanity...the only course

By William Westmiller
web posted September 11, 2001

After your disbelief in reality succumbs to the horror of what has actually happened, the first instinct is fear. As we learn that the immediate threats have passed, the fear slowly dissolves into anger. Our first numb thought is to immediately retaliate against anyone and everyone who has wished us harm or celebrated our injury. Revenge, swift and certain and complete.

World Trade CenterThe only wisdom that can seep through the misery and sorrow and anger is to see justice done. Those who have caused this enormous pain must be identified and destroyed. Our distress is only multiplied when we realize that those who were directly responsible for this horror are already dead. Apparently, a few dozen Taliban fanatics who were both well trained, coordinated and committed to suicide missions against the heart of America's wealth and power.

It seems certain that all of our nation's destructive power will be focused against those who are complicit in this crazed attack on tens of thousands of innocent people. The only issue is how wide the retaliation can be applied and still fall within the province of justice. Retribution can be measured, but there are no bounds to the craving for revenge. An eye for an eye isn't enough.

Individually, beyond the grief, we can only commit ourselves to continue our lives. If the objective was to crush our will and destroy our achievements, we must resume whatever normality is possible and apply our efforts toward preserving and improving the lives we lead. We can never concede to them the victory of abandoning our pursuit of achievement and success.

The best we can do is show the flag. Every home, every business, every institution, should fly the stars and stripes as a symbol of our pride and resolve.

For the coming days and weeks, we will all be disabled by our anger and horror at the dimensions of this atrocity. It won't be easy to recover, much less resume our lives, much less make reasonable appraisals of the causes. Our national agents will respond, we hope with a deliberate and conscientious application of force. It will take much longer to identify the measures that may be required to avoid such a catastrophe in the future. Many will find it heartless and cold to appraise those measures so soon after such a malicious, epic and historic tragedy. The only answer is that it must be done and the first voices set the tone for future discussion and thought.

There is no doubt that these were terrorist attacks. The intent was terror and the means were incidental. The objective was to attack the most prominent symbols of American wealth and power. The purpose was to instill fear and damage our will to continue the pursuit of personal happiness and the expansion of our ideas and ideals around the world. Fear for our security can cripple our productive efforts and promote self-destructive instincts to prevent risk by abandoning our ideals. It is essential that we avoid any new restrictions on our liberties, the primary power that makes our success possible. We cannot abandon our basic principles in pursuit of safety. We will lose both and our enemies will have won.

We know that the tools of one of our most important freedoms, the liberty to move around the world, were converted to weapons of massive destruction. In spite of extreme measures to prevent it, major airliners were commandeered by a few people with small arms. We may never know for certain, but it seems likely that they were armed with weapons that passed through the metal detectors at several airports. Plastic knives would be sufficient, given the absence of any means of self-defense for any of those aboard the plane. Some will speculate that the weapons used were firearms, and their answer will be tighter restrictions on airline access and more comprehensive metal detection. They would be badly misguided.

The problem is not that weapons were brought on board by terrorists. The problem is that no weapons were allowed to the pilots, stewards or passengers on board; a fact that has been broadly advertised to every terrorist everywhere in the world. Rather than attempt the impossible guarantee of no risk, we must facilitate self-defense. Nothing could be more disruptive of airline hijacking than to have armed operators and passengers. Rather than trying to prevent small arms on airliners, we would be better to require them. No airliner should leave the terminal without a minimum of three armed crew members. Tear down all the detectors and welcome all passengers with concealed weapons on board as guardians of our transportation liberties.

This measure would preclude more extreme responses, which should nevertheless be considered. At least one of the airliners flew for almost a half hour after the hijacking, changing its heading directly for New York City. Under those circumstances, it would certainly have been better to destroy the airliner than to allow it to proceed. Every person on board every airliner should know that an aircraft that has been commandeered and aimed at a populated area will be destroyed.

If any of those on board the hijacked planes had been given the choice, they would have readily agreed. Whether that extreme response is implemented by self-destruct devices on board or the tactical placement of antiaircraft weapons is secondary. At the very least, one would assume that this risk would be known and anticipated by those assigned to defend the Pentagon. It is equally -- even more -- important to provide similar defenses for any populated metropolis. Airliners are now potential weapons and the only possible defense is destruction.

Every government agency assigned the duty of knowing about imminent threats did not know. The billions of dollars expended over decades to anticipate threats that were well known to everyone accomplished nothing. The vaunted wisdom of our intelligence community couldn't even prevent an assault on their own cradle of military operations. This is absolute and utter failure. It's time to reevaluate our entire method of gaining and employing defense intelligence. The cold-war bureaucracy should be closed down and all of our resources applied to the recruitment and support of traitors to tyranny, who will risk their lives against zealous and oppressive governments everywhere in the world. Let's offer public rewards and huge bonuses to any individual who betrays a named tyrant. It's time for a guerilla war, on the ground and close to the homes of those who flaunt their autocratic power. It's time to get out of the slick offices, to get down and dirty, with the scum of the earth.

Finally, we can no longer ignore the declarations of war by religious fanatics and their accomplices. This is a Jihad - a holy war - against all secular power and material wealth. It is the final, barbaric act of a culture that uses the force and power of governments to destroy their own people and any "satanic" culture that discards their bloodthirsty and righteous fervor.

When nations adopt religious rules which encourage or allow any form of violent "apostasy", their institutions and leaders should be immediately condemned, quarantined and excluded from any interaction with the civilized world. Individuals and governments ought to foster, support and encourage the civil members of that society to destroy the autocrats and their dedicated agents. This is one of those occasions in the course of human events that require all human beings to assist in throwing off the yokes of oppression, if not for their own sake, then for the sake of all civil humanity. We can no longer turn our back on those anywhere in the world that are victims of tyranny and fanaticism. Our objective should always be liberty and our methods should always be measured to protect the innocent and helpless. What this tragedy teaches is that our nation is no longer an island, safe from the insane extremes of zealots around the world. We are all humans who must defend the rights of every human, in every nation, to be free of tyranny and theocratic oppression. There is no other course. ESR

William Westmiller is a member of the Republican Liberty Caucus Executive Committee and Executive Director of the RLCUSA-PAC. His commentaries have been published by a wide range of internet and print publications. His web site can be found at www.westmiller.com/comment/

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