15 September 2001

The Right to be Ourselves

I was just leaving for work this past Tuesday (11 September 2001), when my niece phoned to tell me to turn on my television. She didn't need to say which channel. I saw the World Trade Center collapse in flames. I had a sinking feeling in my gut. This, I felt, is the beginning of World War III.

We have already suffered 1/10 the casualties of the entire Vietnam War in the very first battle, which took place in New York and Washington. Those Americans who are hoping we will not "commit ground troops" please get your heads out of your asses. [Oops, that was my father's voice from WW II and Korea.] We now have to be prepared to invade and crush any government that refuses to cough up the perpetrators of this attack, and attacks like it. Otherwise, the only credible threat we have is nuclear weaponry, and I think we need to reserve that threat to reply to chemical or biological attacks.

In particular, it takes relatively little biological material to cause mass casualties, which is why bio-weapons have been called the "poor man's nuke." The name implies the only means we have to retaliate — nuclear weapons. We need to make it clear to ourselves and our adversaries, that if biological weapons are used against the US, our allies, or our troops, that we reserve the right to demand the evacuation of the entire country that harbors such terrorists, after which we will erase it from the earth, while sparing as much of its people as possible, who will then have to live in diaspora for the next couple of centuries.

Therefore I urge the US and our allies to act with due regard for speed to take out all the major terrorist players before they find a way to carry out a successful biological attack. An overly prolonged war against terrorism will be a nuclear war, possibly with many more of us dead before it gets that way.

But we must also prepare to be strict with ourselves. Are we ready to make it a federal crime, punishable as treason, for anyone knowingly to aid, monetarily or otherwise, a known terrorist organization? Forget Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and the PLO — are you willing to see your neighbor jailed, or even executed, for donating to the IRA? To Chechnya? And, since our enemies are determined to bring some of the battles to the heart of America, are you willing to report suspicious activity, rather than hope someone else will magically find out about it before it's too late?

I am not engaging in all this bloodthirsty language for its own sake. I want you to know clearly what you're in for, if you are one of the 90% of Americans who want to go to war. Nor am I trying to scare you out of it. I just want you to steel your nerve for very ugly war, in which many of us may lose our lives as victims, and some of us our souls as perpetrators.

Let us not delude ourselves that our enemies are cowards. They are not. They are misguided, but courageous, self-sacrificing people, who are hitting us with all the heart, wealth, stealth, genius and force they can muster. Think of the Afgan freedom fighters (whom the US funded and eventually supplied with shoulder-fired Stinger surface-to-air missiles) who would throw themselves, with explosives hidden in their clothing, onto Soviet tanks. These enemies are more dangerous to us than another nation-state, because we know how to fight nation-states. We have to invent the ways to fight terrorists.

Finally, we need to understand the sympathies of those who have brought the war to us. They don't just hate us for supporting Israel (however luke-warmly). They hate us for being us. They hate our culture for glorifying its crime, drugs, and sexual immorality, and most of all its luxury. They hate culture's success at advertizing itself to the world, which they see as cultural imperialism. To them, we are filthy whores bent on seducing their children, bent on destroying their way of life by Americanizing the whole planet.

Which is really what this war is about. We have the right to be ourselves, and to be so openly. There are those in our midst who turn their backs to our way of life — like the Amish — but they tolerate us, and we tolerate them, because they accept our core values of individual liberty and responsibility in expression, lifestyle, politics, economics, and religion. We are even grateful to them for preserving an alternative to the way we live, because we know we have problems. Now we must destroy those who cannot bring themselves to do anything but destroy us. In Stephen Sondheim's musical, Into the Woods, a character mourns the loss of his family by violence with the words

Can't we just pursue our lives
With our children and our wives?

We can. We must. Even if we have to fight for our right to do so, yet again. Even if we have to open another century with war.

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