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Many of you have sent e-mails to check up on me over the past few days and I wanted to first and foremost thank those of you who sent your well wishes. It meant a great deal to hear from you. As might be expected, I've been extremely busy over the past week. I have taken the occasional time out though, to check up on the conversation going on here at the APPL board, in addition to a few of my other online haunts. It would be difficult and perhaps wasteful for me to reply to many of the fine and some not-so-fine posts on this board, so hear are just a few of the things that come to mind in light of recent tragedies.

I find it preposterous to suggest that the USA can pursue some kind of world neutral can't we all just get along type of foreign policy. The US is the world's only superpower. Short of building walls and becoming a completely introverted, isolationist country the USA cannot help but “take sides” in any number of political conflicts around the world to varying degrees. If we support Israel's right to exist, we are automatically in opposition to those who seek its utter destruction. If we stand along the 38th parallel to defend and support South Korea, we automatically stand in armed opposition to North Korea. If we oppose ethnic cleansing in Kosova, we oppose those who practice it. Every action has a reaction. It can be no other way that America makes enemies and sometimes makes difficult choices between two sides neither of which is necessarily ethical.

Those that stand in opposition the America or its interests will, by necessity, conspire against us. We are hated in some parts of the world, but that has less to do with specific policies and more to do with the fact that we are the largest most visible target available for marginalized people to lash out, even if they are marginalized for a reason.

I've traveled the world, from Africa to South East Asia, and there are places where there is a palpable and abiding hate of the USA for no other reason that we are rich, powerful and effectively stand as the world's moral and cultural policeman, dictating the pace of the world through sheer size. No one likes a cop (until they are suddenly need of help) and so we are natural targets regardless of how reasonable or magnanimous we are.

America has its share of blood on its hands and skeletons in its closet. But as the sole superpower, it will always be forced to engage the world for good or for bad. And thus, we will always have enemies, people who stand in opposition to us and what we stand for or simply because we fill the role of bad guy to other's hate and ignorance. Our enemies will try and shape the conflict to their advantage. They will try and force us into certain actions, and use our actions to try and bolster their various causes and lust for power.

As so many other people have stated, I believe we are currently in a state of war with certain extremist political elements. That being said, this is not the time to “understand” or “sympathize” with the conditions that may have given rise to the terrorists. The time for that was BEFORE. Now that war has been declared, the only way for it to end is for one side to relent and give up its demands.

Clauswitz said, “War is politics by other means”. This is a political struggle. Certain fundamentalist Islamic groups have no less an agenda than the complete destruction of Israel and the toppling of western democracies if not entirely then at least as world powers.

Now that war has been declared, the only possible way we can enjoy peace is to pursue our enemies, destroy them and forever break their will to resist. In any conflict, the winner dictates the conditions of his victory. Who would you rather have shape the “post terrorism” world, should such a thing be possible? That will be the time to examine the West's relationship to the Middle East, our culpability (whatever that may be) in creating the current situation and the policies that will shape our future relationship with that region.

Hopefully we can learn from past mistakes and bake better decisions in the future.

As far as how accomplishing this militarily might happen, I don' think military conflict can be avoided. Right now, the two most obvious targets are Afghanistan and Iraq, or more specifically the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. While I can respect the notions that peaceful means of dealing with these two groups would be preferable, this ideal is hopelessly idealistic and naive.

The Taliban must be exterminated, along with the various extremist groups that call that country home. They must be left with no other option that to surrender to our political demands unconditionally. Any other alternative will leave them the means and the capability to terrorize us and kill us in the pursuit of their own political goals.

I do not believe that the killing of Afghani civilians is necessary or even desired. While there will undoubtedly be civilian casualties, it is imperative for the sake of peace in the world that our enemies be met with swift and unrelenting violence even if the civilian causality rate is significant. Wars don't get better with age. Proportional response is a policy that more often than not leads to prolonged military and economic conflict that measure human misery in generations rather than months or years. Afghanistan and its people must eventually be made fit for inclusion in the world community as a peaceful and active participant. But that will never happen as long as terrorists and violent extremists run the show. The hope and prosperity of the Afghani people, not to mention our own, lie with the quickest end to this conflict possible.

If it were up to me, an international alliance of countries would wage war against the Taliban and their terrorist lackeys, followed by a rebuilding of the Afghani government with Western economic aid, and local (read Islamic) influence to build a peaceful Islamic state in place that persecutes terrorists instead of supporting them.

This action must be taken for the additional reason that other states that support, implicitly or explicitly, terrorist activities such as Iran, Syria, Libya, and the Palestinians as well as other countries that ignore Terrorists like Saudi Arabia must be made to understand that doing so will keep them from achieving their political goals.

Many of these countries harbor these guys because they are popular with a populace that feels powerless to “defend” themselves from Western influences. These countries like to have it both ways, muted alliance with the West for economic and political support, tacit approval of terrorists to shore up support at home from people who dislike the governments' ties with the west.

Those countries use terrorism as a bargaining chip with the west and with their dealings with Israel. Only under the threat of military action such as we are likely to meet out to Afghanistan are these countries likely to re-evaluate this policy and be forced to pursue their political demands through more peaceful means.

As long as we are talking about war, can I just point out hat a great deal of the criticism levied at the Bush administration is completely unfounded? 20 or 30 years ago an attack like this would have almost certainly led to immediate assault on someone, possibly even nuclear in nature. I consider it a credit to the current administration that the President has taken a very methodical and just approach in compiling evidence for justification of war should that come. The use of the word “crusade” may have been misplaced, but for crissake give the guy some slack. Has any other country in the history of the world ever taken such pains to present a clear and just case for military action, action, BTW, that will contort itself in order to avoid civilian casualties even at the cost at putting US servicemen in harm's way?! No other country that so clearly outguns her opponent would take the time to do what we're doing now.

I've no doubt that the current investigation will culminate in the President laying out a concrete chain of events pointing to the guilty parties and laying the justification for further military escalation. Even after that, certain groups will still refuse to accept the truth or acknowledge responsibility. But it heartens me to see that we are not making some of the same mistakes as we have in the past. Even the sporadic persecution of fellow Islamic or Arabic Americans, while tragic and very real, shows that as a whole our country has evolved to a point where our collective morality is strong even if our individual morality sometimes is not.

While some of the rhetoric coming out of the White House is a little disturbing or misplaced, you must understand that the President is confronted with the daunting task of preparing this country for the coming conflict and the costs in both dollars and human lives that will likely result. The world and our country are united in defiance of terrorism now, but our collective unity will not last long. It will waiver when the going gets tough. The desire to back down, to retreat into the apparent security of our extraordinary wealth and comfort will be overwhelming.

But, I feel this war needs to be fought. I'm not poet enough to express why man is capable of such hate and intolerance of his fellow man. I do know that so long as we inhabit this tiny planet, there will never be an event so tragic, an epiphany so great, that some cadre of assholes won't fail to grasp its meaning and realize that peaceful coexistence is not merely an ideal but an imperative. Such as that is, it is a tragic truth that very often peace only comes after one combatant has been utterly defeated and his aggression thwarted.

To those who say that nothing good ever comes of war, I point out the following:

-The USA was made free and its dream of liberty from British rule was made possible by WAR.
-The USA was kept whole and slavery was driven from our country by WAR.
-The Imperialist Monarchies of Europe were defeated and their naked grab for power was thwarted by WAR.
-The Holocaust was ended and Fascist powers destroyed by WAR.
-Communism and the human misery it caused was defeated, in part, through WAR.

Not dialog, not understanding, not relavistic notions of what evils should and should not be allowed to exist, not reflection on past misdeeds, but WAR.

There are more than enough examples of “bad” wars, too many to list here. But, when man's inhumanity to man becomes to overwhelming to overlook, when hate and intolerance make no room for compromise, there can be no other rational, humane response than war. War to end the intolerable and create real and lasting peace. One has to look no further than Germany or Japan to recognize the wisdom in that.

And, of coarse, this affects me in a very real and personal way since I am likely to be part of whatever happens in Afghanistan or elsewhere. I am facing the very real possibility that my life and family will be disrupted and that my country may face unbearable tragedy ahead.

I, in no way, have any desire to kill anyone. I am not in the revenge business. But as I look at the situation as it now exists, I cannot tolerate the thought of my children, my family, my friends, my country, or any freedom loving people of the world growing up in a world where terrorism is a fact of life. I am Catholic, and I believe very strongly that the taking of human life, any human life for any reason, is a sin. I pray for our enemies as I would our families that they may one day recognize us as friends. But I am willing to contradict my own personal beliefs in the cold light of reality because I believe there can be no hope for peace in the current situation and the current situation will not change but at the muzzle of a weapon.

America makes an easy target for criticism. We are a grand nation that makes grand mistakes. That's fine; criticize if you must for that is at the heart of our democracy. But, I do not believe in moral relativism. I believe there is good and evil, right and wrong. At the core of the American experience is the noble heart of that which is good and right in the world, that “ that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit Happiness.

If I have to kill in order to uphold and defend these words, the hope they embody, and protect my country I will do so.

At any rate, I appreciate the dialog that has been ongoing here. Those of you who propose we take it to the current events board obviously have not been there – it's a fantastic swirl of crap, stupidity, and white noise. As a side note to this disaster, its interesting to see how the whole thing was mapped out by cell phone, video camera and the internet. These things make possible an entirely new relationship between us as people. That can't be a bad thing, can it?

First2Fight – Standabove no more
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