Since the Sept. 11 attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the American people have been waiting, wondering when the United States will strike back against the enemies who declared war on America that day. After nearly a month of anticipation and preparation, the first strike landed yesterday at approximately 12:30 p.m. EST against military facilities, communication centers and known terrorist training facilities in Afghanistan. The joint effort between the United States and the United Kingdom involved air strikes launched from bases in the Afghan region, aircraft carriers and British submarines stationed in the Arabian Sea, and B-2 stealth bombers that took off from bases in the United States.
Tomorrow marks the one-month anniversary of the attacks that culminated in the costliest day for America since the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The length of time between the initial attack and the response is more than fair and reasonable. The United States gave the Taliban one week after the attacks to comply with the ultimatum to turn over Osama bin Laden and his network of terrorist associates. We allowed them additional time to respond to President Bush's demands in the interests of the safety of the Afghan people. We showed an incredible amount of restraint toward the Taliban despite their shielding a known terrorist implicated in previous attacks against U.S. facilities and citizens around the world.
The Taliban's stall tactics mocked the demands of the international coalition aligned against them. They denied the evidence that proved bin Laden's culpability in financing and planning the Sept. 11 assaults. Now the Taliban is just beginning to pay the price for harboring terrorists and accepting aid from a man with the blood of thousands of innocent victims from around the world on his hands.
The attacks ordered by President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair achieve the dual objectives of striking the Taliban's military and strategic capabilities while avoiding unnecessary civilian casualties. The president, informing the U.S. people of the strikes, said, "These carefully targeted actions are designed to disrupt the use of Afghanistan as a terrorist base of operations and to attack the military capability of the Taliban regime." In light of the unprecedented assault on American civilians and the initial outcry for massive retaliation, Sunday's initial response was extremely reserved and justifiable given the nature of our targets.
The United States is at war with the terrorists and the government that supports them. In order to achieve the objectives outlined by the Bush administration since Sept. 11, military strikes are not only inevitable but the best way to ensure these individuals do not kill again.
A few hours after the strikes were formally announced by the president, a pre-taped statement by Osama bin Laden was broadcast. In his diatribe, bin Laden said, "America was hit by God in one of its softest spots." Bin Laden all but said his organization was responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks and warned that until his demands are met, Americans are not safe. Any further claims by the Taliban demanding evidence of bin Laden's guilt should be silenced.
Even a man as delusional as bin Laden should realize this conflict will be ended on our terms, not his. Our terms are what the president again outlined yesterday ??U? the closing of all terrorist camps, the surrender of all al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan and the release of all foreign nationals unjustly detained. As a supporter of the Taliban regime, these terms apply to bin Laden as well.
One of bin Laden's aides stated, "The war against Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden is a war on Islam." As virtually every world leader, every member of the U.S. Congress and the vast majority of world citizens correctly realize, this is not a war against the Islamic faith. Prime Minister Blair said yesterday, "It angers me, as it angers the vast majority of Muslims, to hear bin Laden and his associates described as Islamic terrorists. They are terrorists, pure and simple."
Americans at home and abroad must remain united in our resolve and not in our vengeance. This war is against those guilty of crimes unimaginable one month ago. The need for such bluntness is disappointing, but it bears repeating: We are not at war with a faith, but rather a group of individuals who pervert the teachings of Islam and use the name of God to promote violence, vengeance and hatred.
Unfortunately, there are many people in the world who, due to their desolate lives, may heed bin Laden's call to arms. His demagogic rhetoric calls to mind the rants of one of history's most vile creatures, Adolf Hitler, who was able to gain support for mass murder and world war by preying on the destitute.
Even with bombs falling in Afghanistan, war is still an abstract notion in the minds of most Americans. The grainy night-vision images of vague bursts of light dancing in the Afghan night sky give the conflict the air of a Hollywood film. Americans should not allow themselves to be lulled into a false sense of complacency. Yesterday was the start of a long, costly conflict that will claim American lives in combat and increase the possibility of further acts of terror on the home front. The struggle ahead is difficult, but the alternative allows a madman and his associates to divide the world with war and destroy the freedoms that course through the veins of our nation.
The United States and our allies cannot and will not let this happen.