Freedom's Tragedy

By: James W. Harris

The Perspective

September 14, 2001

In the last few days, we have witnessed the most violent assault to date on the foundation of the world's "greatest" democracy. By deliberately attacking the "heart" of the United States (US), especially in the manner they did, suspected international terrorists have all but done themselves in.

What is deadly sickening about their chosen methods and targets at this particular time is their gross disrespect for "ordinary" human lives. No matter what their differences are with the US government, they have no "right" - absolutely no right - to take the lives of ordinary people. And for this, they should be strongly condemned by all freedom loving peoples and their "known sponsors" should be severely punished by any means for their cowardly acts.

As the US braces to move into a new and more challenging phase of aggressively combating terrorism for the "good" and "freedom" of the world, the Bush Administration is deserving of our support and prayers. This is a tragedy not only for the US, but the entire human race.

But exactly what is it that drives these "heartless" terrorists to act in such a cruel way? I guess, we'll never, never know! Certainly, anyone who "willingly" gives up his or her "precious" life to carry out such a despicable act should be feared. And for very good reasons!

The violent attack on the US, which is in fact the most "free" society on the face of the earth, is also an attack on the freedom loving peoples throughout the world. It could be said logically that the very "freedom" and "independence" that we currently enjoy in America have sadly given others the opportunity to engage in acts of terrorism intended to destroy the country.

But fighting an enemy as "elusive" and "hidden" as terrorism would definitely require the whole-hearted cooperation and commitment on the part of all the US' allies and friends in every corner of the globe. That is why it makes good sense for the Bush administration to build a "solid" coalition before it responds inevitably and forcefully to this latest challenge. Africans too should join in this worldwide campaign due to their own "unique" experiences and circumstances.

That this single act of cowardice of the highest order could have been successfully planned and executed in America by just a few persons is unbelievable. They certainly must have gotten a lot of help from elsewhere. But from exactly where, we'll soon know because someone will have to pay the ultimate price for this "man-made" disaster.

As the American people gather the strength to "pick up the pieces" and put their shattered lives back together, we must unconditionally give the Bush administration our collective moral and spiritual support.

United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, could not have said it any better. Addressing the Security Council recently on the horrible incident, he commented: "Everyone [feels] deep shock and revulsion at the cold-blooded viciousness of this attack." No doubt, the US and others have now been forced to pause for a moment before facing the world's apparently invisible foe head on.

But Nigeria's President, Olusegun Obasanjo said it best: "Terrorism and terrorists must never be given comfort. The spirit of democracy must never be downcast but must be buoyed up and made unconquerable."

Incidentally, President Obasanjo himself has had a difficult week as religious riots tended to undermine his own fledging democracy. "I wonder what sort of Muslims and Christians start burning churches and mosques ­ places where God is worshipped?" he asked, adding, "True believers in God cannot start killing other human beings." But the almost volatile situation there has since been brought under reasonable control due mainly to the Nigerian President's personal leadership role.

To again ask the same question here would be very appropriate at this time, although some people would argue (and they have the right to) that these latest acts of terrorism are the direct consequences of the US government's usually "uneven hands" in implementing its foreign policies, specifically, those that relate to Islamic states, the middle-east and "poor" (developing) countries. But this hardly should be sufficient a reason to massacre so many innocent people in "cold-blood" by blowing up the airplanes in which they were traveling.

As President Bush ponders his next move in retaliation for this "new" aggression against his country and worldwide democracy, his administration might as well consider taking another look at the US government's foreign policies with the aim of conducting them more fairly when the dust is finally settled. It really does the US no good to conduct its foreign policies in isolation without taking into full account the feelings and well being of others.

President George W. Bush was right on the money, though, when he said: "We must be mindful that, as we seek to win the war, we treat Arab-Americans with the respect they deserve." He was apparently reacting to some news reports that Arab-Americans in parts of the US were being abused and physically attacked.

Observed Dr. James Zogby, President of the Arab Institute on BBC News Online: "Arab-Americans are as afraid, grieving and mourning as everyone else. But for us it's a double tragedy, because while we grieve, we're forced to look over our shoulder." Sad, isn't it - this really shouldn't be!

Arab-Americans should not be treated or mistreated as the Japanese-Americans wrongly were during Pearl Harbor. What sets the US apart from most other countries is its ability to learn from past mistakes and the courage to correct the wrongs when confronted with them.

The way Americans are pulling together today, regardless of their race, religion or creed, to help out the victims and their families in any way possible, is admirable and a good example of the American spirit. That's why it would now be a blatant error for some people to blame Arab-Americans for this evil terrorist act for which they should not be held responsible as a group.

Naturally, we all should now wrap our hands around the victims and their families and continue to pray for them as Tuesday, September 11, 2001, will be forever remembered as the day that terrorists "officially" brought their "war" to America's door and got their immediate response from President Bush, who vowed: "Make no mistake about it, my resolve is steady and strong about winning this war that has been declared on America."

Indeed, this past Tuesday will also be remembered as the day that FREEDOM literally experienced its biggest tragedy and challenge. In this light, there should be NO sanctuary for terrorists - none whatsoever!

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