The United States of America has been attacked in an act of war that reminds us of the secret and unprovoked attack on Pearl Harbor 60 years ago. Except this time, the attack was not by a nation-state.
The deliberate and premeditated crash of two commercial airline jets into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City and another plane crash at the Pentagon is more than symbolic. It brings into clear focus the state of war that has existed for some time between America and those who oppose our values and way of life.
President Bush, adopting a phrase used by his father after Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, said this act of terror "will not stand."
The President should not overreact, but when the facts are known there needs to be a principled and coordinated response to terrorism that will seriously threaten the ability of America's enemies to repeat the horror unleashed on the nation.
Tough words will not be enough. A single retaliatory strike will not suffice. There needs to be a decision by free nations everywhere to rid the planet of people and organizations that engage in such acts.
The first step - even before military action is contemplated or taken - is to expel from this country the people and organizations tied to radical terrorist groups in the Middle East. The FBI lead a joint task force on September 6 which raided an office building in Richardson, Texas. The building houses Arabic Web sites. Among them is the site for the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP). A lawsuit by relatives of several Jews killed in terrorist attacks in Israel accuses the IAP of having links to a network of terrorist organizations based in the U.S. These groups are allegedly linked to HAMAS, which the Clinton Administration listed as a foreign terrorist group.
The Justice Department won't say what was seized in that raid, but there are suspicions that people with ties to terrorist groups have infiltrated the United States. These include "sleeping cells," which are thought to be awaiting word from radical political and clerical leaders overseas to unleash attacks on this country.
It is improbable that the coordinated attacks in New York and Washington were orchestrated solely by outsiders. They must have had help from within this country. Those people should be found, arrested and prosecuted, their organizations forcibly disbanded and their members deported.
Former Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger told Fox News that an attack of this kind was not believed as likely as a chemical or biological attack. Indeed, a dose of anthrax inside a light bulb and placed on a subway track could also lead to massive deaths in New York City with far less planning and coordination than these kamikaze-like assaults.
CIA Director George Tenet has said terrorists "are expanding their networks, improving their skills and sophistication and working to stage more spectacular attacks." So why are they and their associates allowed to remain in this country?
Many will immediately rush to condemn all Muslims. This would be as wrong as condemning all Japanese-Americans following Pearl Harbor. Most of the 6 million Muslims in America are law-abiding citizens. But some aren't and they have successfully used the freedoms that are nearly unique to America to undermine the very government that allowed them to come here.
The first obligation of any President is to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. President Bush will need to define what that means in light of this act of war. He must rally and unite the nation. What those responsible do not understand is that acts like this can bring the country together in ways that nothing else can.
It may be more than coincidental that on the day of the terrorist attacks, the official Palestinian Authority daily said, "The suicide bombers of today are the noble successors of their noble predecessors...the Lebanese suicide bombers, who taught the U.S. Marines a tough lesson in (Lebanon)...and then, with no preconditions, they threw the last of the remaining enemy (Israeli) soldiers out of the (security) zone. These suicide bombers are the salt of the earth, the engines of history...They are the most honorable people among us."
Any response to this day of infamy should begin with people like this.