September 28, 2001

The Public Forum ... El Foro Publico

Justice and Self-Defense

The case for large-scale, decisive U.S. military action in response to the Sept. 11 massacres is two-fold: justice and self-defense.

Justice consists of treating people as they deserve. It is exercised by rewarding and encouraging the good in others and by punishing and discouraging the bad. The murder and maiming of innocent people-more than 6000, on Sept. 11th—is the paradigm of that which is bad. The only just response is punishment, commensurate with the heinousness of the attack.

To strike back with force is not "blind vengeance" that "sinks to their level." Such characterizations ignore the context created by the terrorists' action. The difference between initiating violence against an innocent person and using force in response to attack is obvious. Would we condemn the woman who uses force to fight off a rapist as no better than he? Of course not; most of us would not even dignify such a question with a response.

It is not rage that warrants military reprisal. It is clear-eyed reason: honest recognition of the vicious nature of the slaughter of thousands as well as recognition of the threat that it represents to all of us. American military action is justified by our most basic conviction that respect for human life is good and that destroying innocent human life is bad. These diametrically opposite attitudes toward life cannot co-exist. When some have declared war on innocent life—in their holy proclamations and in a series of ever more hideous deeds—those who respect life must rise to its defense. If we do not, we invite only more scenes like those that have seared our hearts in New York and Washington and Pennsylvania.

We have given peace a chance, and it hasn't worked. For years, the U.S. has responded to terrorists attacks (on our embassies, on the USS Cole) with token gestures designed more to look tough than to destroy the enemy. We have fooled no one and achieved nothing. Our limp response has only emboldened an enemy who is more diabolical than we had realized.

My expertise is not military, so I cannot prescribe the exact course that our government should take. It must be sufficiently massive to eradicate the terrorist' threat, however. This objective might not be easily or quickly accomplished, as political leaders have been warning. So be it. This is not reason to fail to do all we can to eliminate this threat once and for all.

As we mourn the thousands whose lives were so brutally extinguished, much of our grief stems from the knowledge that their lives were wrongly taken. These people did not deserve to die; their families do not deserve to suffer. Those who did this, do.

Military action is never undertaken with relish. It is incumbent on our government, however, charged with the defense of Americans' lives and liberties, to undertake decisive reprisals today with righteous resolve. Our cause is just. If we truly honor the victims of these massacres and if we truly cherish our lives and liberties, we must destroy those who have already destroyed so much.

Dr. Tara Smith
Austin, Texas

Terrorism must be quelled

Terrorism must be quelled in all its forms without reservation. It must be total. Inadequately addressing this is not going to solve the menace we are facing. The U.S., in its own interests of security and that of the world, must list all of the terrorist organizations for targeting - not just a few only. There are several terrorist training camps based in Pakistan and several other countries. We should not overlook them due to our own political biases and purposes. Remember that terrorism is like fire. Unless contained completely, it will keep re-igniting and continue to cause destruction.

Murali Natarajan

Questing politicians motivates

I have a deep cynicism towards the motives of our politicians. In the first few hours of the terrorist activities, I was stunned, like the rest of the world, at the events which were unfolding.

In retrospect, the thing that amazed me the most, beyond the surreal nature of the collapse of the WTC, seeing the Pentagon on fire, seeing another plane in PA, and the speculation on the possible death toll of all of it... the thing that really got to me, was the look of total and utter surprise on the faces of our government leaders. No one had time to react and put any kind of 'spin' on any of it. We all just reacted as humans at a pure and basic level. We all turned to our loved ones, and let the tears stream down our faces.

The politicians were `people', like you and I. They weren't polished and plastic. They weren't even in suits. They were pulled away from their homes and regular lives like all of us. They spoke not in eloquent and finished speeches, but in regular, stammered speech, like any one us would have.

Now, two weeks later, the rhetoric engines have had time to idle and warm up. We see talk of the crisis w/ the market, the slump of the economy, the need for retaliation and the defense of the U.S. honour and way of life. Buy stocks to help the market. Why don't the brokers take their commissions and donate them to the relief effort.

Buy stuff. Go the mall, if you don't need it, buy it and give it away or throw it away. Just buy.

When it comes to the US and World economy, and whether we'll all have jobs in a month or two. Or whether more attacks on US soil will occur... But as I hear the talk on the news, and the President and his staff, I listen intently. I hear the newscasters, and the pollsters and the pundits. I hear their worries and concerns for our future way of life.

I too share these concerns, but I start to look beyond these things, and wonder... what is in it for the politicians? A legacy, a paragraph in the history books? Revenue stream for constitutients in home states. The flick of the switch which starts the military/industrial complex and creates tens of thousands of jobs, similar to what occurred throughout World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam Conflict, the Persian Gulf War...

Let's face it, War is a great way to boost our economy. But who is really benefitting? Sure, we create lots of factory jobs which may pay anywhere from $25 to $45,000 per annum, but let's face it... what do you think the American death toll will be after a few years of globally policing any country which appears to abhor a terrorist threat? What price will we pay to enforce our way of life across the globe? And what happens when we win? More Wars needed to keep jobs, or there will be downsizing and a new recession?

We're rattling our sabres, but who is really going to go out there and do battle? I'll tell you, the blue collar folks. The 18-19 year olds with no other options but to join the military for the scholarships and finacial aid. The reservists who never imagined they would really go off to fight the fight.

Let's offer disincentives to allies of terrorism. Be it financial or political. Let's try to minimize the loss of more life. Sure, let's get the guys who did this. Let's make them suffer terribly. But let's not spill the blood of more innocents unnecessarily.

It will take a long time. And winning may not be about blowing a country out of existence, but more about building economies and taking away last resort incentives. My dad once said, "never fight a man who has less to lose than you do". I think his words have a certain relevance.

Tom Bolanos

At a young age our children's hearts can feel the pain of the tragedy in New York

As adults we sometimes try to keep our children from knowing the ugly side of what sometimes goes on in the world, but our children are not deaf or blind. They can see the pain in everyones eyes and they hear what everyone is talking about. I found out on Sunday Sept. 14 when the children who live at Casa Sierra Apts.on 50th & Imperial got together on their own at 7:00 pm to hold "church" for themselves as they called it. I was wondering what they were up to when my kids and their friends asked me for my candles. I watched from upstairs as they formed a circle and held hands with the candles lighted and I heard them pray for the people who died in the buildings and in the planes and for the families who were still alive. They also prayed for themselves that God would give them as children the strength to walk away from bullies and other kids who try to encourage them to do bad, to have the strength to keep walking without saying anything back. These kids did not get this idea from any adult. They did this on their own. I imagine its because of the pain their young hearts feel and this is how they can let what they feel out.

The kids range from age 5 to 14. We can learn a lot from our children if we take the time out to listen and answer their questions. Though they may be young they understand what has happened and they need all their why questions answered.

This is what I learned from these children in just one night.

Bevelynn Bravo
San Diego

If not war - what then?

When wars and rumors of wars permiates the public discourse, there are always those who demand the nation's leaders seek alternatives to a real shooting war.

These good Americans write passionately about the consequences of war: The innocents who may die as a result of our retaliatory bombings that must come. Some have even brought up the fact that if we respond in-kind, we may be attacked again. So, who did we bomb first that we deserved to watch more than 6,000 of our innocents die?

Diplomacy isn't going to bring those responsible for this attack to justice. We are not talking about a rogue state, we are talking about a deadly network of people that operate completely outside the rules of law, of civilized nations, people for whom victory is the total disruption of the freedoms we enjoy.

So I ask these genteel Americans who oppose our country going after these people—what is your alternative? You have offered your fears, now tell us what you believe we should do? Or do you believe we should do nothing?

The wolf always comes back for more sheep, even though the rest of the herd didn't protest when he took the last one. So tell us, if not war — what then? What gentle voices will then soften the hearts of terrorist?

Julio C. Calderón
Sacramento, Califas

If we go to war, the hijackers win

War is not the answer to the attacks on innocent civilians in the U.S. last week. War, destruction, and hatred between peoples are what the hijackers apparently wanted. A war against Afghanistan or other alleged state sponsors of terrorism will only lead to deeper and wider suffering. Likely, such a war will spread quickly throughout the region and beyond.

One result could be the fall of the relatively unstable government of Pakistan. What would the U.S., India, Russia, or China do if Pakistani nuclear weapons or nuclear materials fell into the wrong hands? Such a chain of events could unleash horror that goes far beyond that which the world witnessed on September 11.

The U.S. should not give the hijackers what they wanted. If the U.S. goes to war and war spreads throughout the region and across the globe, the hijackers will have won. Instead of abandoning the rule of law for the rule of brute force and threatening the lives of more innocents through acts of war, the U.S. should exercise the rule of law to its full extent in cooperation with other countries to bring the individuals responsible for this atrocity to justice before a court of law.

Anna Lutz Mathieu
San Diego

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