President lacked the resolve
he asked Americans to muster
The issue: President Bush addressed the
nation last night after terrorists killed
untold numbers of Americans in New York,
at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.
The president's televised remarks from the Oval Office last night can only be classed as disappointing. He was brief, bland and failed to reflect the dismay and anger seen arising everywhere in the American public. The president spoke of the "steel of American resolve" but left the impression that his own resolve was lukewarm at best.
No Rooseveltian "date of infamy" speech was this. When the numbers of casualties and the lists of victims begin to appear, the president may find himself behind the American people, not in front where he belongs.
The president did make one strong point: "We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them." Other than promising that they would be brought to justice, he gave no hint of how he intended to find them or what would happen when -- or if -- he did.
Left unanswered were critical questions: How come an intelligence apparatus that costs the taxpayers more than $25 billion a year didn't have a clue and didn't warn us? How did four sets of hijackers get through airport security and onto airplanes that they quickly took over? Was this an act of terror or an act of war? The president this morning called it an act of war as he asked Congress for emergency funding. This declaration is a fundamental distinction that will go far to determining whatever response the president and the Congress decide to make.
Yesterday, we likened the disastrous attacks in New York and Washington to the surprise raid on Pearl Harbor 60 years ago. As the day wore on, it became clear that the death toll on Sept. 11, 2001, was far greater than on Dec. 7, 1941. Moreover, the attack on Pearl Harbor was aimed at warships and other military targets; the attacks in New York took the lives of innocent civilians going about their daily chores.
Finding and capturing the cowards who did this will take a terrible resolve, but we need to see more of that resolve from our president if we are to do so.
Terrorism should not
The issue: Hawaii joins the rest of the
nation in mourning now and dealing with
fear and distrust in the long run.
GOVERNMENT officials in Hawaii acted with calm in shutting down much of the state following yesterday's terrorist attacks on the East Coast, but the real test lies in the weeks ahead. The paralysis that gripped the country for a day should not be allowed to continue. There may be a temptation to curtail civil liberties, as in wartime, but that should be resisted unless proven to be absolutely necessary.
Public schools were closed on the Big Island by order of Mayor Harry Kim but remained open in the rest of the state, although parents were told they could keep children at home for the day. Teachers who have helped pupils deal with tragedies in the past face that challenge again. School counselors may be tested for many days.
Hawaii joins the rest of the nation in sorrow, and we expect some isle residents may learn shortly that friends or loved ones were lost in the rubble of New York, Northern Virginia or Pennsylvania. The government and the media should exercise compassion for those closest to the tragedy.
Heightened security may cramp America's lifestyle for a time, but then the country should quickly find ways to return to normal. X-ray security check points were installed decades ago following a series of airliner hijackings, and similar precautions have been taken in numerous state and federal buildings, notably following the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. They clearly were not good enough yesterday; the solution is not more but better enforcement.
The terrorists who hijacked four airplanes yesterday were armed with knives, according to a passenger who called from a cellular phone before her plane crashed. There may be no way to spot such weapons without conducting strip searches, which would be infeasible and unacceptable. Knives or other dangerous instruments may be constructed of a material not detectable by X-ray.
If Americans were to reel in panic and distrust, the terrorists would be able to claim victory. Citizens should cherish and defend the principles of freedom and justice while seeking methods of dealing with barbarians who don't share those ideals -- or the value of life itself.
Dont give in to hate
The issue: Misdirected anger brings more pain.
When Japan bombed Pearl Harbor half a century ago, many in Hawaii with Asian faces became targets of hate and retribution despite the fact that they, too, were victims of the attack on America.
In the aftermath of the Oklahoma City bombing, Arab Americans and Arab immigrants were the recipients of the same kind of retaliation. So it is that we must resist focusing anger and indignation on the people among us whose appearance or ethnic backgrounds may reflect those of the terrorists who brought destruction to our country yesterday. To do otherwise would be to relinquish ourselves to the same evil that spawned this horrible onslaught of devastation.
It is essential that we hold tight to the grace, dignity and respect for humanity that has set America apart from its enemies.
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