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Jewish World Review Sept. 24, 2001 / 7 Tishrei, 5762

David Limbaugh

David Limbaugh
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Beyond justice to survival -- AS the blood dries in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, the fainthearted are beginning to rear their heads, becoming more emboldened as each passing day fails to bring a dramatic response by the United States.

But our national resolve to eradicate the worldwide terrorist threat should not depend on the intensity of our emotions. We have a right, indeed a duty, as this planet's beacon of freedom to prosecute this war to its conclusion. We need to remind ourselves of this imperative as the passage of time ushers in an increasing temptation to revert to our pre-911 apathy and complacency.

Since the voices of dissent are growing daily, it is important for patriots to stand firm. Now is not the time for national introspection. Now is not the time for hand-wringing or apologies for our superior political and economic systems.

Rather, we must reaffirm our commitment to the institutions that have made this the greatest nation in the history of the world.

We need to rebuke those who have reduced the events of Terrorist Tuesday to a retaliatory act against the imperialism or isolationism of the United States. Which is it, by the way? Are we intermeddling too much with foreign nations, or are we alienating them by failing to join the insane Kyoto Treaty? Amazingly, America is being accused of each of these contradictory "sins."

I don't want to delve deeply into this ludicrous charge that the United States brought the attack on itself by mistreating other nations. Suffice it to say that those predisposed to such thinking are not people I'd want in my foxhole. They are not people I'd expect to feel goosebumps when hearing "America the Beautiful." They are unlikely to be convinced of the righteousness of the American system in any event.

These same people are arguing against United States military action. Before our nationalistic passion diminishes, we should arm ourselves with the knowledge that we are justified in conducting a sustained and decisive counterattack against the many aggressors who are devoted to America's destruction.

A certain radio talk show host expressed her opposition to the military option, saying that civilized nations accord criminals due process. "We didn't bomb Buffalo," she said, "in response to Timothy McVeigh's Oklahoma City bombing."

To be sure, the 5,000 unprovoked murders were criminal, but they were also acts of war. Just because the sponsoring states are not admitting involvement or claiming responsibility for the attacks doesn't negate the reality that they are waging war. That's the nature of terrorism; it and its perpetrators operate under cover of darkness. By all means, let's not reward them for their furtiveness.

War, hot war at least, has been defined as armed conflict between nations. The fact that Iraq, the Taliban or other nations have not formally declared war against us is irrelevant. It is their actions, not their words that are controlling. And even if nation states were not directly behind these attacks -- which is nearly unimaginable -- they have been providing sanctuary and otherwise abetting these killers. If it is criminal law analysis you crave, then think of them as accessories before the fact, every bit as guilty as the suicide pilots.

In framing our national response, the Bush administration has dubbed the military operation "Infinite Justice." We certainly need to exact justice, but the adjective "infinite" strikes me as a bit misplaced. Justice is justice; it means a response equal to the offending action, no more, no less. You can't have degrees of justice, only degrees of injustice. Nevertheless, I won't quibble over the use of the word (infinite) because it seems to be intended to convey that we are in this for the long haul -- through infinity, if necessary -- to rid the world of this deadly terrorist threat.

And this is important, because seeking justice alone won't cut it. This is about more than justice; it's about our very survival as a free nation. Realistically, we have no alternative. Only a militarily led response can meet this challenge, so we must pursue it if we intend to recapture our ability to live freely and unencumbered by paralyzing fear.

If we are serious about removing the multifaceted terrorist threat to our people, our institutions and our way of life, we have to persevere, long after our thoughts of justice have grown cold. If we don't, we can expect even worse horror in the future.

David Limbaugh, a columnist and attorney a practicing in Cape Girardeau, Mo., is the author of the just-released exposť about corruption in the Clinton-Reno Justice Department, "Absolute Power." Send your comments to him by clicking here.