(Note: the following is a partial reprint of the Editor’s Comment published three days after the terrorist attack on the United States on September 11, 2001. Ten years later, Osama Bin Laden, the man who orchestrated the attack, is dead. During the multi-national effort to root out the terrorists and bring peace, order and good government to the Afghan people, 157 Canadians have died. Their supreme sacrifice has laid the groundwork for the Afghans to continue the pursuit of justice and democracy for their nation.)
The very freedoms that Americans cherish made it possible for terrorists to strike at the heart of their nation. A democracy exercises compassion towards its citizens in order to protect their rights and privileges, so it is vulnerable ...
The terrorists who killed hundreds by slamming two airplanes into the World Trade Center towers and another into the Pentagon, and took the lives of others by crashing a plane into the ground in rural Pennsylvania, preyed upon the values that democracies offer freely to their citizens.
And democracy is the result of Western civilization, the very institution that is hated by the radicalized nations of the world which seek to suppress their people, foster terrorism and harbour people who are terrorists.
Terrorism in and of itself is not a senseless act. To say so, is a reflection of the civilizing effects of western culture which deems unprovoked attacks against defenseless civilians as senseless violence. Terrorists truly believe the destruction, chaos, death and suffering they perpetrate upon the innocent are justified. Terrorism is meant to demoralize the people under attack in order to wear down their will to oppose the agenda of terrorists.
Thus, terrorism is not a random act as so often claimed. Terrorism is well-thought-out and executed revenge against those who have a belief system that foster freedoms to the apparent disregard of radicalism. The attacks in Manhattan and Washington were obviously well-planned and undertaken by three to six terrorists on each plane using knives, box cutters and the threat of bombs to overpower the flight crews ....
The only problem the terrorists now face is that their acts did not demoralize the American people. As in every democracy, such acts tend to have the opposite effect — they weld people closer together in the face of adversity. The terrorists who committed crimes against humanity may have sought an immediate reaction from the American government and other Western democracies, but this was not the case.
Those who live in radicalized nations fail to understand that democracies are not prone to overreact until a clearly identified foe is before them. When Pearl Harbor was bombed on December 7, 1941, the surprise attack was by a recognized enemy so the Americans knew who to wage war against.
Democracies recognize the gravity of inflicting hurt to preserve society and as such wage war only after weighing the consequences. But once the choice is made, then the full resources of society are thrown behind the effort. In the case of the United States, the resources are vast — they are the greatest economic and military power the world has ever known — and someone the terrorists should fear to the end of their days.
“I’ve ordered that the full resources of the federal government go to help the victims and their families and to conduct a full-scale investigation to hunt down and find the folks who committed this act,” warned American President George W. Bush.
The optimum words are that the Americans will investigate before they accuse and seek revenge. There has been no immediate move to “Cry, ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dogs of war.”
The other thing about democracies is that they tend to band together and be supportive of each other. Mutual aid is the rule, not the exception. That is why Canadian airports were thrown open to American planes when the nation to our south was declared to be a no-fly zone to prevent further attacks as well as offering aid without compunction.
Americans are our closest friends and allies on this globe despite the occasional spat we have among ourselves ... More than any other nation on this earth, Americans can rely upon Canada in times of crisis. Like the U.S., we are a rich nation and have many resources at our disposal that can be used to our mutual benefit.
America can also count on other friends. The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which has 19 member democracies, including Canada, the United States, Britain, Germany and Italy, quickly invoked it mutual clause in the wake of the attacks.
On the other hand, nefarious terrorists are bereft of any of the benefits derived from the close relationships between neighbours. Neighbours to them are enemies to be slain. They lack any thought process that would give them the ability to discern that their actions to achieve a narrow, uncompromising goal are not within social norms, simply because they inhabit a shadowy realm that has been radicalized beyond reason.
In the world that Osama Bin Laden (alive at time of comment) inhabits, all can be justified in the pursuit of jihad ... against “infidel” America as he has proclaimed time and time again. “In our religion, there is a special place in the hereafter for those who participate in jihad,” he told an Arab newspaper years ago.
Having identified America as the infidel, the fund-raiser for world-wide terrorism ... has removed the one barrier from the guilt of killing mercilessly. To most Muslims ... Allah is merciful and compassionate, but to bin Laden and those who claim divine inspiration for their terrorism, evoking Allah conjures up images of martyrdom and a quick trip to heaven.
No one is safe is the message that has so cruelly been delivered to the world. The evil that has been wrought has also destroyed the myth of American and Canadian isolation from the world’s woes. Our sense of security and our ability to protect democratic values has been betrayed and compromised by events that had only been visited upon other regions of the globe.
Now, North America cannot be considered a completely safe haven. And that more the pity, since the U.S. and Canada have been two of the few places where the oppressed could come and take up a free existence ... North America is now poised to turn inward in an attempt to protect its citizens from ruthless acts of terrorism. Security at border entry points will be tightened as will security for domestic aircraft flights — the weakness detected and exploited by the terrorists, But what this means ... is inconvenience rather than the chaos wanted by the terrorists.
Democracies do not buckle before tyranny and its minions — they unite to oppose any threat against the values they cherish.