By Dave Lind
I was at work on the morning of September 11, 2001. Thus is one more date added to the ever-expanding list of dates upon which I can vividly remember where I was, who I was with, what I was doing, etc. Sadly, as I sit here I am certain that there will be more dates added, regardless of which course of action we, and our leaders, choose to follow over next few weeks, months, years...
So what do we do? Yes, I know, I know. "Get on with our lives...Don't give them the satisfaction...etc, etc..." All of this is good and sound rhetoric to pass around to each other for the time being, but at the end of the day what does it all really mean? Do we pretend nothing happened? Clearly, as the still-smoking pile of rubble in the heart of Manhattan shows, it did. Do we pretend that it did not affect us? How could it not? And if it did not, what that would say about us, as a people, would be even more grisly than anything Osama Bin-Laden and his ilk to devise to torment us.
There was some debate last week as to whether or not our major sports organizations should postpone their events. Thankfully, reason prevailed over pride and the American sports industry went on hiatus through the weekend. Was this, as some suggested, a sign of weakness on our part? An admission that Bin-Laden's heinous assault had brought us to our knees?
No, absolutely not. On the contrary, the fact that we were shaken to the core by the death and destruction inflicted upon us, and that we would openly show grief and compassion for our fallen brethren is far from a weakness, it is instead our greatest strength. We have been hurt, we have been dealt a vicious, unsuspected blow that caught us unawares and sent us reeling into the ropes. In response we have taken our standing eight count, cleared our heads and finished the round on our feet. We understand more fully the nature of the fight we are in and that our opponent can hurt us, and that hard-won respect will only serve us in the future, not him.
So what do we do when the bell finally rings and it is time for us to emerge from our corner? Simple: Hit them back. It does not matter if we hit them "appropriately" or even "effectively". The important thing is that we hit them at all. Franklin Roosevelt understood this concept quite clearly when he order air strikes against Japan at the earliest possible opportunity in the aftermath of Pearl Harbor. It did not matter to him that, as his advisors pointed out, the attacks would be largely ineffective. The important thing was to demonstrate to friend and foe alike that America was going to fight back no matter what. The attacks did only minimal damage but the boost to American morale was beyond calculation and propelled us down the long road to victory.
So too must we strike back at our attackers sixty years after "the date that shall live in infamy". We must strike at the heart of those who have enabled terrorism to exist in the first place. Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, etc. All of these countries must be, and I am happy to observe already, have been put on notice that their support of terrorism will no longer be tolerated. Any government that refuses to immediately cooperate in the identification and apprehension of terrorists within their borders will be subject to harsh military action at the hands of the United States and all the free nations of the world. That is step one.
Step two is to recognize the true enemy in all of this. Osama Bin-Laden is merely a soldier and terrorism is his weapon. The true enemy is religious extremism. Understand that I am not demonizing religion here, nor am I singling out the Islamic faith. One of the chief principles upon which our government is founded is that of Freedom of Religion. The freedom to practice any religion one chooses, or none at all, is perhaps our most deeply-cherished ideal as Americans. Half a century ago we spilled the blood of an entire generation to stop a madman bent on wiping the Jew from the face of the Earth. For fifty years since we have opposed Communism in part because of its views on religion. Even today we object to China's brutal oppression of religious groups. Meanwhile, Afghanistan is ruled by a bloodthirsty group of religious tyrants who murder scores of their own citizens for any number of religion-based reasons.
We can kill Osama Bin-Laden, we can overthrow the Afghan government, we can even wipe out the Taliban altogether, but that will not end the problem. The real enemy, both at home and abroad, is religious extremism. Be it Moslem, Jew, or Christian, Catholic, Protestant, or Baptist, it must no longer be tolerated. Whether it be Osama Bin-Laden, Jerry Falwell, or the Pope himself, anyone who preaches that God is the one True God and their path is the one True path preaches intolerance and hate.
On September 11, 2001, we all saw where that path leads.