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The thousands of Americans who died on September 11, 2001 deserve a fitting legacy. That legacy should be a fair and lasting peace in the Middle East.
We have always and will always retaliate against those who harm America. However, America's greatness will be measured by what we do after we are done exacting the pound of flesh that is owed us. If we do little more than slaughter those who slaughtered our citizens, we will only be continuing a cycle of violence and retaliation that could ultimately escalate to an unprecedented level of death and destruction. It required months of intricate planning by a large group of terrorists to learn to commandeer and to fly commercial jets into buildings. By comparison, it is a relatively simple task for a single terrorist to detonate a nuclear device or release a biological agent in the middle of an American city.
If America is to avoid future catastrophes as well as enhance our status as the greatest nation in the world, it is critical that we understand and accept that terrorist are made - not born. Therefore, logic dictates that if we killed every terrorist alive today, the end result would only be to make terrorists of their children, their nephews, and their nieces. Throughout human history, this is the rationale that ruthless men and governments have used as justification for also killing the children of their enemies.
Timothy McVeigh was not born a terrorist. He became a terrorist because he perceived Ruby Ridge and Waco, Texas as terrible injustices and he concluded that there was no other way to fight an enemy as powerful as the United States government. This is, of course, the same reasoning used by the terrorists who attacked America on September 11th. They did not attack simply because they hate all Americans or because they hate democracy or because they hate capitalism or because they hate Christianity. They attacked because they believe that America was responsible for specific injustices done to them, their people, or their country. Indeed, the events of September 11th might have created thousands of American terrorists were it not for the fact that we can always depend on our powerful nation to retaliate for us. And each time America retaliates, it is not because we hate a particular country or because we hate all Arabs or because we hate Islam. It is simply a response to a terrible injustice that was done to us.
It was easy enough for America to declare war on terrorism. However, waging the war and winning the war will be as complex as our so-called war on drugs. And similar to our war on drugs, our war on terrorism can not be won solely as a result of police or military action. Complicating our efforts are the logistical differences between fighting home-grown terrorists versus foreign-based terrorists. However, our greatest challenge is that, unlike drug dealers and terrorists like Timothy McVeigh, it is infinitely more difficult to stop terrorists who welcome death as long as they take at least one of their enemies with them.
There is only one way to eliminate terrorism: it is to eliminate the reasons for terrorism. Needless to say, it is impossible to eliminate the reasons for terrorism that are based on the most irrational, most extreme, and most convoluted rationales. On the other hand, there are some reasons for terrorism that could have and should have been eliminated years ago. The most glaring and the most grievous example is the state of war (or lack of peace) that has existed between Israel and the Palestinian people for more than a half-century.
There can be little doubt that almost all of the terrorist acts that Americans are aware of, have affected Americans, or have been perpetrated upon Americans are, to some degree, the results of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people. And there should be little doubt that if peace and tranquillity had existed between Israel and the Palestinians for the past twenty-five years, most of these terrorist acts would have never happened. It may be argued that terrorists like Osama bin Laden are only using the Israeli / Palestinian conflict as an excuse to address other grievances or to pursue other agendas. However, if this is the case, it is an equally important reason to eliminate this powder keg on the world stage that serves as fertile ground for sowing seeds of hatred and is used as a rallying point for wars and acts of terrorism.
Peace in the Middle East is possible. In fact, when one considers the amount of support that both Israel and the Palestinians need and receive from their friends in order to survive to fight yet another day, establishing peace and tranquillity is not that difficult to accomplish. Indeed, it is as simple as the friends of Israel and the friends of the Palestinians declaring, in unequivocal terms, that there will be a fair and lasting peace and to then go about making it happen. The incentive for the friends of Israel to do so is to lessen the possibility of a terrorist attack that will kill tens or hundreds of thousands of their citizens. The incentive for the friends of the Palestinians is to avoid having their nations destroyed or occupied by an avenging superpower determined to make an example of nations that are suspected of supporting terrorism.
Ultimately, there will be memorials for the thousands of Americans who died on September 11, 2001. I suspect most of those who died would settle for a simple plaque somewhere with the inscription: "You did not die in vain. As a result of your deaths and the pain and suffering of your loved ones, a just and lasting peace was created in what is now truly the Holy Land."
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