Terrorism and Victory
From the October
With the round-the-clock coverage, commentators galore,
interviews with rescue workers, families of victims, and a host of "experts,"
one would think that just about everything that should be said about the
tragic events of September 11 has already been said. To be sure, much
indeed has been said. But there has been much repetition. We all are aware
that these were dastardly, horrific, inhumane acts. We all concur that
the perpetrators must be apprehended and severely punished. We all sense
that Americans are absolutely in united in our resolve to end such acts
Certainly, observing the heartbreak of the victims' friends and relatives
has gripped us all with a profound sadness. We are outraged at the demonic
cruelty of the terrorists. Yet, at the same time, we have justly felt
intense pride that in the heroism of the rescue workers. We are resolute
in the determination that, to the extent we are able, we must prevent
such actions from ever taking place on our soil again.
If this means a sustained all-out war, we are ready to carry it out.
If it means we must sacrifice some of the ease and convenience we are
accustomed to, we are prepared to endure it. But if it means we must undertake
a revolution in our national culture, are we willing to pursue it?
There are some things, if they have been said at all, haven't been said
often. There are a couple of them I would like to discuss. I raise them
not because I think it's wrong to be patriotic at a time like this. Of
course we should be. I raise them not because I have the slightest misgiving
about the necessity for all-out war against terrorism. Of course there
must be. I raise them not because I believe that America is the main source
of evil in the world. Of course it is not. I raise them because we are
not only Americans; we are Christians. And as Christians, we have an unshakable
loyalty to truth and righteousness that transcends even the deepest allegiance
we have toward our country.
In the interests of truth and righteousness, I want to first consider
the question of why people would undertake such acts against us. They
are NOT madmen. Madmen are incapable of executing such highly sophisticated
operations. They are certainly fanatical, but they are not mad. What motivates
them? Why is America the target? Why is there such rampant anti-Americanism
in the Middle East and across much of the globe?
President Bush spoke of the terrorist acts as "an attack on freedom."
He was right. It certainly was an attack on our freedom. He also pointed
out that if we are serious about our freedoms, we ought be serious about
seeing those same freedoms extended to others throughout the world. And
let us not forget: most people in the Middle East have the same aspirations
toward freedom and self-determination that we do. Any tendency to consider
them less than the human beings we are is incompatible with Christianity.
Consider the case of the Palestinians. They live as prisoners in their
own homeland. Every day, they live with no hope for economic improvement;
they see their lands confiscated, their orchards uprooted, their homes
demolished, their young people killed in their own streets by an occupying
army. And they are well-aware - to a man - that the brutal repression
of their most basic human rights would not be possible but for the financial
support of the United States of America.
The grievance of the Palestinians is but one example. If we were to survey
much of the Arab and Islamic world, we would find many such grievances,
that from their point of view, are based on hostile and destructive American
acts against them. Policies and actions that seem justifiable and reasonable
to us often have a far different impact on those whom they target.
Therefore, if any American campaign against terrorism is to succeed,
it must not only include decisive military victories over terrorist organizations,
it must seek to eliminate the breeding-grounds for terrorists. And that
can only be done by addressing the conditions that bring about terrorism.
We must recognize that wherever there is systemic oppression, terrorism
tends to sprout.
In other words, victory over terrorism requires that American policy
in the Middle East be just and fair. Our policymakers must take seriously
the legitimate aspirations of Arab and Muslim peoples. Anything less would
be unrighteous, as well as doomed to failure. To support anything less
means we would fail to love our neighbors as ourselves and thus fail to
Whether they are Arabs or Afghans, Persians or Pakistanis, Christians
or Muslims, they are not less human than we. They love their children
as much as we do. They love their homeland as much as we do. Most desire
freedom as much as we cherish it. We can do no less than support genuine
justice for them. 
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