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The American Way of Life

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The greatest threat to the American way of life, at this point in time, comes from America.

There is no question about the magnitude of the atrocities. There is no justification for the attacks, regardless of the attackers motives. It was an heinous act of pure, ugly, irrational hate.

There also is no justification for the USA appointing itself judge, jury, and executioner of alleged involvement in terrorism. The American way of life is about justice and procedure. It is about freedom and peace. Most of all, it is about, life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Osama Bin Laden and all his followers cannot rob us of this magnificent way of life. But, representatives of our government, bolstered by dogmatic rhetoric, seem hell-bent on surrendering our way of life voluntarily. We have much more to fear from American terrorism than from foreign terrorism.

Rid the world of evil? Rid the world of terrorism?

It would be easier and more tangible to attempt to rid the world of cockroaches as one of Putin's cabinet members said. The face of terrorism around the globe is a lot more than Osama Bin Laden. It has been Timothy McVeigh, Patricia Hearst, Angela Davis, Bernadette Devlin, Gerry Adams, A Serbian named Princip (whose act of terrorism sparked WWI), and Bruno Hauptmann to name but a few. Should we then drop bombs on Oklahoma City, Los Angeles, Dublin, Sarajevo, and Berlin by means of retribution? Is this what we mean by infinite justice? The track record of the Jihad and Al-aqueda put together pales besides the destruction done by the IRA over a much longer time period. Are we, then, prepared to bomb Dublin?

I do not contend that efforts should not be made to root out those DIRECTLY responsible for these actions and other destructive acts of terrorism. However, it is incredibly arrogant and unjustified for us to presume the mantle of righteousness to singlehandedly decide who is guilty and who must pay. The heinous nature of the atrocities does not justify our thirst to drink a quart of their blood for every ounce of ours spilled, especially when it is very difficult to prove who "they" are or were.

As far as I know, at this point in time, the only perpetrators we know for certain were the 19 hijackers. I fully support immediate trial and death penalty for them.

For the rest, some of the steps we are taking are perfectly appropriate. Seizing bank accounts, allying ourselves with other nations to share intelligence, tracking the money, are perfectly reasonable steps to gather proof of guilt against those responsible for this and other outlandish acts of terorism. We should convene a World Court for the trial of terrorist activities as soon as possible. This should become a permanent organization. Istanbul might be a very fitting city in which to establish it. Berlin, Geneva, Athens, and Amsterdam might also make some sense.

At any rate all who agree to prosecute terrorist activities throughout the globe, regardless of motivation, should be permitted to join. They will be put to the task to be evenhanded because suspected terrorists may include friends of our friends. Like any court, indictments should be sought, and granted only if deemed to be backed by sufficient evidence. Once indicted, the court should have the allies' forces behind them to use force if necessary to capture the terorists and bring them to justice. This should be the only way to proceed that Americans should find acceptable. It is the American way.

As for our safety, all history would suggest that assassinating Bin Laden, and even more especially bombing others who may or may not be innocent of wrongdoing, would make Americans, at home and abroad, far less safe than more safe. Also future terrorist activities here are likely to be more typical of terorist activities around the globe. This would include kidnapping, holding buses hostage, stadium bombs (small "b"), shooting up bars, etc. Mega-disasters such as mustard gas attacks are highly unlikely.

The US is the only nation that allows anybody to buy firearms, including easily concealable handguns and semi-automatic weapons. We have a violent crime rate that is 6 times that of most civilized nations. If we are serious about the safety of our citizens and protecting them from terrorism, we should get serious about gun control. In any event, if we wish to protect our citizens, we should spend $10 on internal security and safety for every dollar we spend on war.

Our ego is hurting. We find it difficult to accept that two or three dozen guys is all that was necessary to devastate our financial center and rob us of the illusion of safety. Although it is possible that more may have been involved, it is also very possible that most of those responsible are dead, and we won't find more than 10 other people who were directly connected. We must be prepared to live with that frustration.

We must have the courage to focus on life -- not death, justice -- not retribution, and the pursuit of happiness not vengeance. That truly is the American way of life.

Herbert D. Blank is President of QED International Associates, a consulting firm based in New York City.