11 September 2001

War by other Means

Today, a coordinated terrorist attack was carried out against the People of the United States of America. Four commercial airliners were hijacked, of which two were flown into the World Trade Center in New York City, and one was flown into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C. The fourth plane crashed in western Pennsylvania.

By coordinated, I mean that the four airliners took off within minutes of each other. The coordination, however, is only one indication that a sizeable organization carried out this attack. Another indication is that the airplanes struck the towers of the world trade center at a point low enough to destabilize the entire structures — which indicates that the perpetrators had been advised by engineers. Finally, assuming that a commercial airline pilot would crash a plane into a clear field or into water rather than crash into a building, it seems to me that the perpetrators had trained pilots among their number, who could navigate and fly a commercial jetliner. Coordination, engineering expertise, and piloting expertise all point toward a terrorist organization, rather than a small group of like-minded, evil crazies.

Now, with regard to America's future, there are two possibilities regarding the origin or the perpetrator organization. Either the perpetrators come from within, like Tim McVeigh, or from outside the United States. If the perpetrators are domestic, the challenge is whether we can root out and destroy them and their organization without giving up the individual liberties that are the reason for this country's existence and uniqueness. If the perpetrators are from a foreign terrorist organization, then the challenge is whether or not we have the will to wage war against international terrorism, and the self-restraint to prevent that war from becoming a civilization-destroying conflagration.

Why do I mention war? Because the World Trade Center, when fully occupied, held approximately 50,000 people. Some tens of thousand of them now lie dead or dying beneath the rubble of the collapsed buildings, along with some 200 police, paramedics, and firefighters who were trying to rescue them. If this was perpetrated by a foreign terrorist organization, then it goes far beyond an act that is addressable by law enforcement. It is an act of war, by other means. And if it is an act of state-sponsored terrorism, it is an act of war, period. And if we fail to respond decisively to an act of war, it will be open season on Americans.

So, to my fellow Americans, I counsel you to enjoy the next few weeks of uncertainty as the calm before the storm. Once we know who the perpetrator organization is, then we will be fighting to eliminate enemies from our midst while maintaining our individual liberties and our democracy, or we will be at war.

May God gather up the dead and dying, comfort their families, and help the wounded. May the perpetrators, living and dead, stand before the awful eye of God's Justice, as may any and all who rejoice in this despicable action. And may God have mercy on us all.

Note added in 2007: We recommend you also read We'll Go Forward from this Moment and Li'l Johnnie's Jihad/Hirabah Page.

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