Any reader of the Record over the last year would know that the two of us rarely see eye-to-eye on issues ranging from the Arab-Israeli conflict to the legitimacy of our current president. The profoundly disturbing events of the past week, however, have shown just how trivial such disagreements can be. This week, perhaps more than at any other time in our lifetimes, the significance of our membership in the American community is illustrated.
The response of the College to Tuesday’s attacks was simultaneously heartwarming and discouraging. The outpouring of sympathy for and the displays of solidarity with the victims in New York and Washington were examples of the best Williams has to offer. College administrators showed themselves to be especially competent and dedicated. Reverend Richard Spalding and the Chaplain’s Office proved to be an invaluable resource for grieving students, faculty and staff. The Multicultural Center, Dean’s Office and Security all acted with admirable dedication, from providing counseling services for the many students who lost loved ones to protecting Arab and Muslim students from reckless acts of bigotry. Large gestures such as the Prayer Service at Thompson and small ones like Coach Justin Moore’s playing of “Taps” at the end of Friday’s moment of silence on Baxter Lawn proved that the Williams community is as close knit and supporting as it claims to be.
This aside, there was a disturbing lack of outrage professed towards the perpetrators of this brutal act of war. Both at forums and on listservers, a great number of students expressed their belief that, to a large degree, America got what it deserved last week. Pointing to arguably justifiable criticisms of American policies abroad, many are hesitant to completely condemn those responsible for the thousands of innocent deaths last week. Furthermore, there is a widespread reluctance to back a swift and just punishment for the perpetrators.
Neither the past actions of our government, nor the perhaps understandable disagreements certain groups may have with our country, should be of concern in these times because of the horrific gravity of what was done to us. Our immediate goal is to ensure the safety of the American people and provide for the security and physical integrity of the American homeland. In order to achieve this, the U.S. government is morally obliged to eliminate those responsible for the massacre, not out of a desire for revenge, but for our own sanity and safety. We understand the reluctance of many to perpetuate a cycle of violence, but there is no longer available an alternative to a precise and justified military action. Our response is not an exercise in political theory, but one of survival and legitimate self-defense.
Reports indicate that there currently exists a vast terrorist network centered in the Middle East and Central Asia that seems to be responsible for these attacks against Americans. It is a well-financed, far-reaching network harbored by governments such as the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. For example, days before the attack on America, Osama bin Laden coordinated the murder of the Taliban’s principal political enemy presumably on the Taliban’s behalf, confirming some sort of relationship between this terrorist infrastructure and a government.
If we fail to do something about this terrorist network now, we run the high risk of one day having the innocent blood of thousands more on our hands. If we wish to make sure something so ghastly never happens to our people again, a large-scale and highly precise military response that eliminates this entire terrorist apparatus – as well as the perception that participating in such a network will go unpunished – is the only option we have.
Military action should follow a thorough investigation, one identifies every element involved to whatever degree in this heinous act of aggression. Unlike our attackers, our response should not target innocent civilians in those countries that harbor terrorists. Military assets such as Apache helicopters and elite strike teams make such precision possible. Surprisingly, however, this view meets with an astonishing resistance among many on campus.
Some of the responses on this campus have been nothing short of idiotic. For example, on a response board put up in Baxter mailroom, one true scholar wrote, “it would be terrible if our power were so great that no one could hurt us.” Another sentiment expressed, perhaps more worthy of response, was “maybe if some powerful and thoughtless bully of a country f___ed your government and condemned your family and friends to a life of poverty and misery in order to increase its wealth, you’d hate that country too.” Even if the U.S. government is responsible for condemning millions around the world into “poverty and misery,” it certainly does not justify the slaughter of thousands of innocent people, no matter their nationality. There are many other venues besides terrorism through which people can air their grievances with the American government. To suggest that America is somehow due this tragedy does a disservice to the memories of the thousands. Particularly the several hundred heroic firemen we lost last week. It is shocking that this needs to even be clarified.
Hopefully, the laudable sympathy this community has expressed for those impacted can now be extended to supporting our nation as it goes forward in assuring that such a tragedy cannot ever happen again. It is the least we owe the memories of those lost.