Whether those responsible for the Madrid bombings prove to be linked to Al Qaeda, Basque separatists or a freelance organization that seeks to use Al Qaeda's "brand" to gain visibility, it is all terrorism. Whether the IRA in Northern Ireland, Palestinian terrorists in the Middle East or Chechen rebels in Russia, those who would kill the innocent in pursuit of their objectives must first be killed. They must be harassed, wiretapped, invaded, shut down and eliminated. Their meeting places - mosques, churches or secular hideouts - must be exposed, closed and bulldozed. Anyone who still doubts whether the doctrine of preemption should be invoked throughout the world is either one of them or seriously deluded.
Imagine this. A tape is sent to Al-Jazeera with the face and voice of Osama bin Laden. He claims to have nuclear suitcase bombs in several major American cities and in London, Paris and Berlin. He demands that the United States withdraw support for Israel and Saudi Arabia and pledge not to intervene as he leads a war against Jerusalem and Riyadh. If we try to stop him, he threatens to detonate his bombs, killing millions.
The free world cannot afford to wait until that day. It must cooperatively and immediately take an aggressive, unforgiving and effective stance that will neutralize terrorists wherever they are hiding and working to destroy us, our economy, our freedoms and our way of life. There will be no time for appeals to the United Nations or negotiations with sick people who think they are going to heaven and want to send us to hell.
There is no time for seminars at which academics and other remainders from the '60s ponder the question, "Why do they hate us?" We shouldn't care. The question should be, "How quickly can we eliminate them before they come after us again?" They cannot be placated or converted, and the longer we pretend they can, the more bombings and death we will see.
The election in Spain is a sign that the horrors of 9/11 in New York and Washington and now 3/11 in Madrid are not the end of it. They are just the beginning.
This is a world war, and we had better start behaving like we are in one. Our enemies are.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Cal Thomas' column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.