Revenge Would Expose U.S. Vulnerability

America's vulnerability has been exposed.

As I write this column, carnage and chaos are the orders of the day. The death toll from the apparent terrorist attacks in New York and Washington is expected to climb into the thousands.

A massive rescue operation is underway. Emergency workers have begun culling through the wreckage of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in search of untold victims.

In New York, the National Guard has been called out to help maintain order. The U.S. has shut down the Mexican and Canadian borders. President Bush was flown to a command post at an undisclosed "secure" location to convene a meeting with his National Security Council. Tonight, Bush addresses the nation.

As the world awaits the United States response, Sen. John McCain and former Secretary of State George Shultz have labeled the attacks "acts of war." Several political leaders have already called for the United States to launch military attacks against anyone suspected of having abetted the terrorists' attacks.

America's shock is giving way to anger. And the talk has turned to revenge. How to punish those responsible. How to get even. How to make "them" pay for this heinous crime.

Our anger is to be expected. Who can blame Americans for our collective disdain toward our merciless assailants. Anger is at once a human right and vice.

A thirst for revenge, however, will not repair but only widen our wounds. Our actions in the coming hours and days should be motivated by a noble quest for justice, not senseless vindictiveness.

No matter the brutality of our attackers, we cannot heal our nation's anguish by seeking revenge on our enemies.

What of the more practical objectives of what is sure to be a swift U.S. military response? Will we deter more attacks by bombing the headquarters or host country of the suspected mastermind of these attacks? Doubtful. As cowardly as we may define this crime, its perpetrators are as shameless and unabashed as they are fanatical.

If today's attacks were acts of war, it is a war that did not begin today. It is a war that has only begun to step up its intensity. The hatred for what America represents, to many in the world, runs deep.

Is that hate justified? Only our enemies can answer that question.

Is the murder of thousands of innocent civilians in the name of that hatred justified? Only we can answer that question. It is not. If for no other reason, too many of today's victims never signed up for this war.

As our shock turns to anger, and as our nation's leaders prepare their response, let's hope that it's not inspired by hatred, but by a quest for justice and the knowledge that revenge only furthers our vulnerability.

James Garcia is editor and publisher of politicomagazine.com. E-mail the writer at Politico1@aol.com.

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