In the aftermath of 9/11, I was genuinely moved by the gestures of sympathy made by people and nations around the world,from my country's friends and adversaries alike. I was not comforted. My anger was not lessened. Even so, I appreciated the gestures more than I can say.
Now it is our turn to make a futile attempt to comfort terror targets, and I don't know what to say or do. To express my sympathy to the friends and relatives of the dead and injured in Bali gives no comfort, at least it didn't for me. No matter how eloquent and sincere, no condolences, no expressions of sympathy uttered in response to the latest atrocity will fill the hole the barbarians have hacked into hundreds or thousands of souls.
I suppose the most I can do is to repeat the conclusions I reached following the attacks on New York and Washington. We did not bring those attacks upon ourselves. Nor did you. We were attacked not for what we had done but for who we were. As were you. We were attacked because our ancestors wrote what they believed, and what they believed was this:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, 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 of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.
Any human being can chose to adopt those words as his own, as can any nation. Many have, and they are being joined by more and more as each year passes. For as long as there have been people in this world who believed in the power of those words, those who did not have felt threatened. For as long as they have felt threatened, the people who reject those words have continued to war on those who did. Call them ignorant, call them misguided, call them evil, in the end it simply does not matter why
they chose not to believe those words. It matters that they do not believe, and it matters that they chose make war on those of us who do. It matters that technology has extended their murderous reach to New York, Washington and Bali. It matters that the use of any weapon within their grasp, any tactic of which they can conceive, is acceptable to them in this war.
This conflict is a war of extermination. But what needs to be exterminated is not a person, not a nation, not a government, not a weapon, not a tactic. What needs to be exterminated is the belief that man is not worthy of freedom. What needs to be exterminated is the belief that whatever answers are to be found in whatever authority is being cited, whether it be the Quran, the Bible, Mein Kampf, das Capital or DC Comix, are the answers for everyone, everywhere.
Until that happens, either the people who oppose and attack freedom where ever they find it must be restrained or eliminated, or they will continue their attacks. They will continue to attack using the technologies that their own system did not and could never have developed, under the cover of the very freedoms we enjoy that their own system denies them. If they were to decide tomorrow that freedom is acceptable (even if it is only acceptable for others), then we would not need to kill them or cage them. In the meantime, until that day comes, whenever you hear that the attacks are something we bring on ourselves, whether by some failure of foreign policy, or this or that supposed arrogance, remember that any system which is politically and economically free will deliver more material and spiritual
wealth to its members than any system which is not. Remember that, for all the claims that "if only we did not support Israel so blindly," or "its all about oil," the real motivation of those who attack us is the freedom we have to chose which system of beliefs we will follow.
If our adversaries in this war were willing to limit themselves to rhetoric, I would laugh them off as the religious, political and economic naifs that they are. But they no longer limit themselves to opposing us by rhetoric alone, if ever they did. As a direct and unavoidable consequence of their actions, I am forced to chose who will live, them or me. I am forced to chose between my own political and economic system and theirs. Without apology, I choose life over death for me and mine. Without apology, I choose my own political and economic system over theirs.
I hope you do, too.