On a Tuesday morning in September our world view suddenly shifted. While the counter girl was pouring my coffee, I watched an airplane fly directly into the New York World Trade Center and explode in a ball of fire.
It was more like an ad for a new action movie than live TV news coverage. There was little doubt as to the fate of those at the tops of the buildings. Thousands of people died while I waited for coffee.
The attacks began in Boston and ended in New York and Washington. It rained in each of those cities on our day of national remembrance. It was as if God was crying with us.
Technically speaking, this incredibly violent act by terrorists, was not an act of war. It was a simple, but well planned, diabolical operation by individuals. No super weapons were used. Those who executed the plan were willing to die for what they thought was a noble cause. They used small utility razors such as those sold to open packages or letters. They were certain that American air crews and passengers would not fight back. Their puny weapons would have been no match for plane filled with angry and aggressive people. In the one aircraft in which passengers resisted, the terrorists lost.
Private individuals may not declare war or have war declared against them. Individuals who kill others, even in large numbers, are mass murders. They are not nations.
In the case of the World Trade Center, it now appears that the objective of those who planned and ordered the attack was not the Glory of God as their naive followers were told. It was to make a lot of money for a few insiders. Like some super villain in a cartoon, the planners of the attack duped their followers into committing murder and suicide. Murder and suicide are against the commandments of God. While the rhetoric of fanaticism talked about attacking wicked Americans, the leadership of the movement had placed their stock orders so that they could make a fortune off of the death of innocent people.
Americans should look at the attack on the World Trade Center as the work of an organized crime syndicate. We have met and defeated organized crime before.
We do not need new laws to define “terrorism.” What occurred was murder. The law is clear about murder. Anyone who aids and abets a murderer before the act by knowingly providing financial support, advise, materials or assistance in any way, is guilty of being an accessory before the fact. He or she is equally guilty with the person who actually carries out the deed. Anyone who harbors, assists in escaping arrest, or otherwise knowingly gives aid to a person who is either the main actor or an accessory before the fact to a crime with the intent of helping the main actor or accessory before the fact to escape from or avoid arrest, is an accessory after the fact. He or she is equally guilty with the main actor.
Under the law, not only are the terrorists who crashed the planes guilty of murder, but so to are those who knowingly helped them or who now knowingly harbor them. Under our racketeering laws, their assets can be seized.
If two or more people combine with the intent to accomplish some crime by concerted action, and they engage in some act in furtherance of the endeavor, they are guilty of conspiracy. All members of the conspiracy can be punished equally with those who actually commit the unlawful act. One who sits at a table and discusses with someone else how to commit a criminal act with the intent it be committed, or one who knowingly loans his property to be used to further an unlawful act can be held accountable under the laws of conspiracy. They can be punished equally with person who actually commits the wrongful act.
Under the felony murder rule, if someone is killed during the commission of a crime which is a felony (robbery, murder, arson etc.), then all persons who were involved in committing or aiding the crime are guilty of murder. The driver of the get away car is equally guilty with the man who pulls the trigger. This is because the law says the driver of the car enabled the killing to take place by participating in the crime.
Under the laws of the United States, the penalty for murder is death. Not much else is needed in the way of punishment. In addition to the criminal prosecution brought by the government, anyone who is hurt by the crime may bring a law suit for civil damages against those responsible for the crime. If the damages from the crime are compensated for by insurance, then the insurance company takes over the right to sue for damages. American citizens and business can sue those responsible for terrorist acts and obtain restitution from the property of those who commit terrorist acts or those who aid and abet terrorists.
As we proceed in out fight against terrorism, we must make it clear to the world that we seek justice. We must not act as a lynch mob. We must not crawl into the gutter with our adversaries or adopt their methods. If history teaches anything, it teaches that good is never achieved through an wrongful act. We should act in accordance with the law and bring to JUSTICE those responsible, both under the penalties of criminal law and under the laws of restitution under the civil law. We do so not as an act of violence, but as an obligation to establish and uphold the law. Whether you say it is in accordance with the laws of the United States or the laws of the Bible or Koran, murder for profit is evil.
So, what are we going to do?
Our first obligation is not to panic. The terrorist wants us to panic. The purpose of terrorism is to disrupt the lives of those targeted. Terrorists want to show people that the government cannot protect them. They want to create fear. They want the government to take such harsh and repressive measures against the people that the people will stop supporting the government.
We must show our enemies they can not succeed in destroying who we are. We must the resist the temptation of passing repressive laws which would transform our society into a police state. Once the authority to randomly invade privacy is established, it will be impossible to control. We must continue to respect individual rights including the right to privacy, to free speech, to free association, to travel, to own weapons for self defense, to trial by jury, and the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. We can, within our current structure of law, bring those responsible for the mass murder to justice. We can self destruct if we are not careful by putting into place laws which, although passed with good intent, can be used to intimidate honest people in their Constitutional right to criticize those in office and change our government through the electoral process.
Although there are most likely terrorists amongst us, their number is probably smaller than those people who are members of street gangs in New York City. We have to be vigilant but we must not be afraid. We must take a practical view. If every time some official or news commentator thinks up some possible plot for terrorists, we treat that flight of imagination as gospel, we will waste all of our time on useless pursuits and pass extremely repressive laws.
Second. We must not stop being who we are. The stock market, our economy, our business is driven by consumption and consumer confidence. If we pull into a bunker mentality, we will destroy our own economy. It is your patriotic duty to go on vacation, to go to the movies, to continue to spend responsibly according to your customary spending habits. Show the terrorists they can not win. Get on an airplane and fly anywhere. Get yourself a T shirt for flying. It might quote Ethane Allen, “Live Free or Die.” It might show John Paul Jones’s rattle snake, “Don’t Tread On Me,” flag. It might have a more modern slogan like, “Remember the Pennsylvania Solution.” Perhaps it might have a more colorful sentiment.
Third. We must resist striking out blindly against ethnic groups or religions. Many Americans know by personal experience or by family tradition the unfairness of prejudice and guilt by association. Our strongest allies, our best defenders will be those loyal Americans who share the ethnicity of the murders. It will be good people who are Americans of Middle East descent who will most easily recognize those within their own communities whose actions sound alarm bells.
Fourth. Religious leaders, especially those in the Moslem world, must continue to condemn terrorism. They must make it clear to the gullible followers of evil, that any thought that God will reward them for their acts of mass destruction is a delusion. Indeed, I think in a corner of all our prayers for those who were killed or injured at the World Trade Center, is a small request that those responsible burn in hell.
Fifth. Americans know about crime. We have been labeled by our detractors as one of the world’s most violent societies. Through our experience, we know how to deal with criminals. We learned that law enforcement is a whole community effort. When the police separate themselves from the community, cases of police brutality grow and so does crime. When the police and the people work together for community security, crime goes down. Those of us in major cities know how effective crime watches are. Local people know when someone is acting suspiciously within their communities. They know who the drug dealers are. They know who the members of organized crime are. Those in government must accept the fact that public security is a whole community project. They must be willing to accept the help of the American people and trust that the overwhelming majority of people will work for safe communities.
We must all be more careful to keep security doors locked. We must report suspicious packages and breaches of security. We must safeguard our security passes. We must not give information to people about the security systems in our places of work unless they have a need to know. We must not leave things around that would cause others to think our lunch is a pipe bomb. We must all take security as a serious, personal mission. We must report to the authorities anyone who would call in a false bomb threat or do things to cause panic amongst their fellow citizens. We must watch over our places of work, our homes, and our communities.
Sixth. Terrorist think they can act without being detected by governments. Terrorists have been most successful in areas where there have been sizable factions within the community that support the terrorist activity. That is not so in the United States. In the United States, the government is the extension of the whole people. As long as those who administer government remember this, then terrorists, who claim the right to kill every man, woman, and child they see, will have as mortal foes every man, woman, and child in the United States. If we are all to be considered soldiers by the terrorists, then we must remember that it is the duty of every soldier to fight back.
It has been said that all that is needed for evil to succeed is for good people to do nothing.
There are people in the United States who will say you should not defend yourself if attacked. There are those who think that the world would be safer if everyone was disarmed and cowered in the face of evil. The World Trade Center attack should be a lesson as to why that philosophy is wrong. Being disarmed did not help the hijacked passengers. Being peaceful did not protect those who worked at the World Trade Center. Making sure that no one on the flights, including the air crew, had guns, did not stop the murders. The weapon of mass destruction were knifes so small that a broken piece of glass or plastic would have been just as effective. What enabled those insignificant blades to cause so much havoc was a policy of non-resistance. When evil is resisted by good people, as it was in the air craft that crashed in Pennsylvania, evil will lose.
All Americans must be prepared to resist evil.
When the memorial service ended in Washington, the news commentators noted that the sky, which had been dark when the President entered the church, had cleared to a beautiful blue. In Boston, where the attacks began, the dark, and threatening clouds lingered until just before dusk. The breaking clouds burned bright orange in a dramatic sun set. In the midst of those clouds, was a magnificent rainbow. We will prevail.
This article was reprinted from Women&Guns, Copyright © Karen MacNutt