What we need now is courage.
This attack was so savage and so devastating that it beggars the imagination. Even someone like me, steeped in the study of communism and fascism, highly aware of the dark capacities of the human soul, staggers at the monumental evil of the terrorists who used planeloads of innocent Americans as missiles.
The hijackers, apparently taking lascivious pleasure in their depravity, encouraged people aboard those planes to phone their loved ones. "Tell them you are all going to die." Some on the plane that went down near Pittsburgh had the guts (and the time) to fight back. They thwarted the bastards -- God bless them.
Until a few days ago, our military was preoccupied with questions of whether female Marine recruits would be permitted to wear lipstick with their fatigues. There will be no more of that.
Timing is everything in human affairs. At this moment, President Bush has a completely united country ready to support him in every way. The United States also has, for a brief window, the total cooperation and sympathy of the civilized world.
For the first time in its history, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization has invoked Article V -- an attack on one is an attack on all. The United States was never meant to be the beneficiary. But there's no time to pause over ironies now. We can use their help in the coming war. The only thing that will cause this unity to unravel is uncertainty from Washington. This nation and its friends are ready to be led, but if they are not, they will quickly fall away. George Bush had better find the right words.
At first, he called the terrorists "cowards." They are not. Marinated in hatred so intense that it can revel in mass murder, they are willing to give their own lives for their cause. Cowards wouldn't be nearly so frightening.
And it is not just a lonely band of individuals. States give these terrorists support and succor. Even in Congress, many are saying, "But we don't know who they are." If they don't, it's because a long peace has made them complacent and soft. But those who study the Middle East can tell you who they are. They are Iraq, Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iran, among others.
What we learned on Sept. 11 is that these terrorists are engaged in full-scale war against us. Bin Laden is a Saudi Arabian billionaire and an Islamist -- a leader of the religious/political movement that seeks to impose a version of radical Islam on all Muslim societies. American influence in the region is the greatest obstacle to his plans.
"We believe that our battle against America is much simpler than the war against the Soviet Union," Bin Laden has said, "because some of our mujahideen who fought here in Afghanistan also participated against the Americans in Somalia -- and they were surprised at the collapse of American morale. This convinced us that the Americans are a paper tiger."
According to testimony by CIA director George Tenet, Bin Laden is seeking -- and may already have acquired -- chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. "How we will use them," Bin Laden said, "is up to us."
Perhaps this will clarify things for those who imagined that Islamists hate us because we support Israel. The terrorists who made war on us this week are Israel's enemies, as well. But ask yourself:
Why did they save the really monumental atrocity for us?
This is a clash of civilizations. The Islamists ( not the majority of peaceful Muslims worldwide) detest all of Western culture, and particularly America. They loathe us for reasons dating back centuries, and hatred is their food and drink.
Yasser Arafat donates blood because he's now worried that his name is on a list. But who twisted generations of Palestinians with lies and loathing? Who walked away from the offer of a Palestinian state with its capital in Jerusalem? Who calls suicide bombers heroes?
Hatred of the "Great Satan" as well as of Jews and Israelis is instilled daily in many prominent Arab newspapers and among leading Arab intellectuals. They steep their people in hatred so poisonous that they rejoice in our torment. Palestinians danced in the streets at the image of the World Trade Center towers crashing into the ground. If Congress cannot cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority tomorrow, what can they do?
These are not people who can be negotiated with nor deterred. They mean to destroy us -- and if they cannot quite do that, then to so intimidate us that our society will become unrecognizable.
Timidity or half measures on our part will invite further horrors. We have only one path open to us that can bring some semblance of peace and security to the innocent men, women and children of the United States. We must obliterate every trace of the terror network wherever it is. We must find and destroy them using every means at our disposal. And we must be merciless.