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Archive for Saturday, July 9, 2005

Simons: Americans should take note of British stand against terrorism

July 9, 2005

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Almost immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the twin towers of New York's World Trade Center, President Bush cautioned citizens that the war on terrorism would not be easy, that it would take a long time to root out terrorists and that Americans must have patience. "Patience" was stressed time and time again because the president and his aides knew there would not be a quick, relatively easy, effective and lasting way to shut down terrorists.

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For awhile, Americans were united in their commitment to do what was necessary to identify those responsible for the deadly attacks. They supported most of the actions taken by the president in response to the Trade Center catastrophe.

Uncle Sam launched a massive military action against Iraq as part of the response to the Sept. 11 attacks and to find and destroy what were believed to be large numbers of weapons of mass destruction.

Because WMDs were not found, Bush's critics were quick to fault the costly military action - costly both in dollars and lives - and there is substantial division within the country about whether the Iraq effort was, or has been, justified.

Along with the military efforts, Bush pushed for legislation that would give federal officials greater or broader ability to check into the backgrounds and actions of individuals suspected of being helpful to terrorist activities within the United States.

This, too, was fought by many, some of whom have a knee-jerk, negative reaction to anything Bush might want and others who were far more genuine in their opposition because they did not favor anything that might take away or weaken the freedoms Americans enjoy.

In 2004, terrorists attacked a train in Spain, killing 190, and said other similar acts would be carried out unless the Spanish government agreed to withdraw its troops from the Iraq theater. In the face of this threat, Spanish leaders capitulated, in a huge victory for the terrorists.

In 2004, terrorists attacked a school in Russia, killing or wounding at least 200 students.

In 2002, many people were killed in a terrorist bombing of a nightclub in Bali.

And there have been many other such acts around the world.

Earlier this week, terrorists triggered a number of explosions in London, killing approximately 50 people and injuring close to 1,000.

How many other similar acts will it take before Americans realize we are, indeed, engaged in a true "war" against ruthless terrorists?

Kansas University professor Felix Moos was one of the few who spoke out quickly about the terrorist threat and cautioned this "war" is likely to last 30 or 40 years.

He questioned, and continues to question, whether Americans are prepared for such a long, tough, probably costly battle and whether they will stay the course to do what is necessary to reduce terrorism to the lowest possible threat.

Moos has his detractors, but so far, his predictions have proven right on target. It is unfortunate many in the academic community, as well as in the political arena, have not listened more carefully to what Moos said and his recommendations about how this country and its citizens must prepare for the future.

It is interesting and inspiring to note the difference between the reaction of Spanish officials after the terrible train bombing and the reaction of British officials following the deadly bombing of several subway sites and a public bus.The Spanish quickly surrendered to the terrorists.

A former senior British government official was asked how his government's reaction to this week's attack would compare to the Spanish reaction and whether British officials would withdraw their troops from Iraq and sever their support of the American/Bush effort in Iraq.

In his response, the official spoke of the British government's "commitments." He said, "We keep our commitments. We are not Spain."

The people of Britain have gone through far greater attacks than his country ever has experienced. The will and determination of the British during World War II set a standard for any nation. The same was true of the Russians in face of German attacks and sieges in World War II.

A number of British officials and citizens have noted there have been numerous warnings of terrorist attacks in England and that the attitude of most of those in England was not whether these attacks would come, but when.

What is the attitude of Americans? Do we think there will be future terrorist acts here in the United States with great loss of life? Do Americans really think it is possible to keep out terrorists? And what will be the reaction of Americans if there are more deadly attacks? Will U.S. citizens be as tough and resilient as the British?

How much patience do Americans have? Are they prepared to fight this war for 30 or 40 years?

If not, what are the consequences? Are they willing to give up some "freedoms" to help safeguard this country and its citizens?

How supportive will the people of this country be of their presidents, Bush or his successors, in the likely long, frustrating, sometimes costly battle against terrorism?

With the "war" likely to last for decades, will American voters be supportive of presidential and congressional candidates who favor a tough, sustained effort to fight terrorists or will they vote for candidates who think it is easier, safer and less costly to be blackmailed by the terrorists.

Again, can Americans be patient if there is a well-planned, well-directed and well-executed plan to fight and minimize the threat of terrorism?

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