Ronald Reagan’s administration had its struggles with international terrorism. Early miscalculations in Lebanon combined with the despicable work of the governments in Syria and Lybia captured nearly as many headlines as the Cold War. In the end though, Mr. Reagan and his team had a coherent strategy for dealing with the issue; for the countries that sponsored activity, proportional response and international castigation; for the terrorists themselves, death by special operations or treatment as a common criminal.
Reagan’s FBI director put it best when he stated that treating terrorism exclusively as an act of war elevates the terrorists to the level of nations. The administration wanted to debase the individuals by treating them as the worthless criminals that they truly were. They accomplished this by not allowing them to claim a cause. The old saying that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” crumbles in the face of justice fairly (and ruthlessly) dispensed. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his ilk are murderers, nothing more. This fact does not diminish the sacrifice and heroism of the citizens of this nation on September 11, 2001. A finding, in our court of law, that these pieces of garbage are nothing more than murderers worthy of execution reinforces the strength of our nation.
The federal court in New York that is the destiny of these killers successfully convicted the first bombers of the World Trade Center, and the U.S. court system has successfully prosecuted and punished dozens of these criminals on our soil. The argument that this prosecution should not go forward because the prosecutors might fail, or because the trial might make New York a target is despicable. Our presence in the Middle East and our support of our friends in Israel make us a target, and yet we do not yield. Is our nation to believe that we can’t dispense our justice for fear of reprisal? Are we to be so frightened of this “sheikh” that we shrink away from our system of justice and our ideals? Are we to be a nation of cowards who choose to abdicate everything we believe in when we are tested?
The same commentators who have spent months crying about the Founding Fathers and bemoaning the loss of our nation are now insisting that we let fear determine how we deal out justice and to whom. Patrick Henry stood two and a half centuries ago and demanded “Give me liberty or give me death”. After 9/11, those of us happy to give up freedoms to the Patriot Act seem to have quickly forgot his intent. We must stick to our beliefs ESPECIALLY in times of crisis. A time of war is precisely the moment that our values should be fought for, lest those doing the fighting in distant lands make their sacrifices in vain.
Be proud of our democracy and bring these worthless killers to justice. Their labels do not dictate the level of honor to which their victims are entitled. Do not assign greater significance to these villains than they deserve. When the United States brings this petty “sheikh” to his justice in court, he will attempt to turn it into a grand stage; but the free people of our nation and those of our allies will see him revealed as he really is; another killer looking for an excuse.
The rational middle looks forward to your thoughts…