Also in the cases of both 1963 and 2001, endless questions have been posed about whether intelligence was ignored that should have told authorities what was coming. Yet in both cases, no such evidence has been revealed.
Thankfully, U.S. presidents no longer travel in open cars or wade into unscreened crowds of people. But the rest of us do. We do because we live in the most open of societies. And our terrorist enemies know it.
President Bush also knows it. He has constantly warned of the risk of future attacks on the United States and its interests abroad. Quick action by U.S. authorities this past weekend may have prevented the bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Saudi Arabia, where it's believed that al Qaeda is behind a suicide bombing that killed at least 11 people in the city of Riyadh. (This column reported in October 2001 that U.S. officials feared a coup against the pro-American Saudi government. That concern should now be obvious.)
This watchful eye by the U.S. government is all the more important when we look at recent surveys that show decreasing concern about terrorism among Americans. This complacency could result in lax policies that weaken our resolve to defeat our homicidal enemies and protect ourselves.
In 1963 it was the loss of a single life, our leader as he rode smiling in an open limousine, that brought terror to the soul of America. In 2001 it was the loss of thousands, as they went about their workaday lives in two shimmering towers in New York City. Today, even while Americans in their homes grow more comfortable as they put 9/11 behind them, there remains in the United States -- at her ports, embassies and countless other points of vulnerability -- a sense of foreboding not unlike the feeling in November 1963. The spread of terrorist violence to Saudi Arabia last weekend makes it clear that al Qaeda and those like them are restrained only by our deterrence, not by any limits to their ambitions. They will strike whenever and wherever they can.
Let's not allow complacency to replace the real and justifiable concerns for the safety of our nation. We can take only so many Nov. 22s and Sept. 11s.
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