We Should Have Known
by Stephen Schwartz
We were horrified, in our newsrooms yesterday, when one, and then two, airliners plowed into the World Trade Centers. Then a third plane crashed, into the Pentagon.
We continued watching and reporting as rumors spread and government offices across Washington were evacuated.
In Washington, in the shadow of the Capitol, I felt like a man tracked by a terrible beast. I wondered if, step by step, the dragon's heavy tread would strike me.
The World Trade Center towers collapsed. We were numb, wondering how many of our friends were blown apart or laid low in the streets of Manhattan.
As journalists we continued at our posts.
And we knew that our lives would never again be the same. We had crossed a line, because the enemies of America had crossed the line.
But terrorism had crossed the line many times before: in 1993 in New York, in 1995 in Oklahoma City, in 1998 in east Africa, in 1996 at the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, in 1988 at Lockerbie, and all the way back to 1983 in Beirut.
We cannot say we have not been warned. The advocates of terror flout our customs and laws. They exploit our media and our constitutional liberties to deliver their threats, to brag about their atrocities, to recruit the young and foolish.
When caught, they take refuge in our legal system which offers them protections they would never experience elsewhere in the world.
Until now, we put up with the babble from a thousand voices of destruction, seeing it all as a mildly amusing spectacle.
When we were warned that many Muslim mosques in America are controlled by Palestinian extremists, even though most of their pious congregants love America and hate terrorism, we said we had to put up with the situation, on the pretext of religious freedom.
Faced with the grotesque rise in anti-Israeli atrocities, many Jewish liberals beat their breasts and blamed the U.S. and Israel, the Bush administration and Ariel Sharon, for the horrors.
When we read that three alleged members of the Irish Republican Army had been arrested in Colombia, accused of training members of the Communist Revolutionary Armed Forces, we worried that such mischief would endanger the "peace processes" in those countries.
When we learned that the same I.R.A. militants were cooperating with members of the Basque extremist ETA organization to refine their methods of fascist mass murder through terror bombings, we told ourselves we weren't involved in such obscure quarrels.
And when resurgent leftist extremism, abetted by the AFL-CIO and other mainstream organizations, called its ragtag remnants into the streets to riot against the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, we told ourselves the complaints of the ultraradicals were legitimate.
But the antiglobalist rioters seek to intimidate world capitalism into shutting down altogether, and the distance between breaking the windows of McDonald's to achieve that end and blowing up the World Trade Center is pretty damned narrow.
There is a terrorist international and its prime enemies are the peaceful, innocent, ordinary citizens of the U.S.A. When the terrorist international explodes its bombs it kills working people and bystanders in New York and Washington as it also has in London and Jerusalem and Barcelona. It is a statistical certainty that whoever committed yesterday's attacks, they will have struck down members of the very groups they claim to support - just as Timothy McVeigh's cowardly bomb in Oklahoma City killed 168 humble Americans, whom he claimed to be defending from tyranny.
It's time to stop blaming ourselves for the twisted fanaticism that leads to such acts. It's time to stop telling ourselves that bombers, hijackers, and similar terrorists have legitimate grievances. And it's time to stop letting these monsters hide behind professions of peace.
They do not seek peace. They seek war. They have brought war to the heart of our nation. It's time to answer their aggression, to study, identify, and isolate them; to repudiate their absurd claims of righteousness; to educate ourselves and our children about the realities and responsibilities of American power in the world. And it's time to help the majority of law-abiding Muslims, Irish, Colombians, and Basques who hate this plague and hate being accused of association with it.
It's time to fight back for real. Without panic, without vengeance, but with determination and firmness, knowing we have the right to defend ourselves and our way of life.
It's a war, and peace promises and processes clearly do not work with this enemy.