- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2001

As brave men burrow through the rubble of our shattered peace, searching in vain for the living, recovering mostly the dead, there is something else that eludes them, something that may be lost to us all, thankfully, for a long, long time: The "other" side of the story.

Once upon a time before Sept. 11, the world was filled with double-sided uncertainties, open-ended philosophical questions that resisted any grasp of good and evil. A spectrum of elegant gray, it was said, was far superior to simplistic notions of black and white. Who were we to say, it was said, what was right and what was wrong? Indeed, how could one way of life be "better" than another?

No more. As rights and freedoms more basic than anything delineated by the Constitution have come under violent assault — beginning with the right to live through rush hour — what was once the almost delicious torture of "moral equivalence" has become a distasteful luxury of a privileged past. In this desperate new era, a throbbing, black-hearted evil has materialized in the form of the Islamic terror networks and the nations that harbor, assist and even recruit them. Only through their annihilation may a life-affirming, law-abiding and freedom-loving good ever rise from the colossal national debris that surrounds us.

Personally, I have never used terminology like this before. Then again, nothing like this has ever happened before. The ground has shifted and the lines have been drawn. As the New York Times reported, a senior White House official said that the message that went out this week to foreign nations was: "You're either with us or against us."

The fact is that, when an honest-to-goodness battle is joined, there can be no more middle ground. We simply have to know where our friends are — as well as our enemies. Not that their whereabouts are secret. Long before the smoke had thinned to reveal the scope of the carnage in the United States, there was revelry in the Middle East, from Beirut to East Jerusalem, from Cairo to Baghdad. No matter how much lip service (or how many pints of blood) Yasser Arafat offers America, those peace-processing Palestinians of his were elated by the destruction of American life and property, taking their uncontainable jubilation to the streets. (The world saw some of this grisly carnival on television, but not all. According to the Jerusalem Post, the Associated Press reportedly held back film of uniformed Palestinian Authority (PA) policemen cavorting with civilians in the West Bank town of Nablus due to pressure from a PA cabinet secretary, Ahmed Abdel-Rahman, who is said to have told AP producers that if their pictures were broadcast, the P.A. "would not be able to guarantee their safety.")

Meanwhile, across the divide, the state of Israel, better understanding our woe than any nation, dropped its flags to half-staff and declared a day of mourning — a respectful pause before the inevitable next engagement. Raanan Gissin, a senior aide to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, put the struggle ahead in appropriately vigorous terms as being one "between civilizations, between the good and bad, between the civilized and the uncivilized."

"The civilized and the uncivilized." "You're either with us or against us." This is all about as black and white as it gets. Indeed, the only place left where things fuzz up is here at home. The sickening fact is that — not only did Tuesday's terrorists turn our planes into smart bombs and our skies into killing fields — they appear to have learned how to do it in American flight schools. Indeed, the ease with which these agents of terror, at least one of whom was familiar to authorities for an earlier act of terrorism, were able to enter and operate in this country is (or, rather, should be) shocking. Meanwhile, Osama bin Laden, suspect No. 1, turns out to be, if not exactly as American as apple pie, certainly not without American links that include what are reported as "close family ties" to Boston, "associates" who were Boston cabbies and a brother who actually endowed a scholarship fund at Harvard. One has to wonder about the chances for survival a civilization that plays host to such deadly forces of chaos.

Of course, that could change. If Americans are able to reclaim their confidence in the goodness of Western culture, to rediscover that life, law and liberty make civilization worth defending, they will also come to realize that terror, primitivism and destruction must be rooted out and opposed at any cost. It is then that our dead will rest on hallowed ground.


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