WHEN TERRORISM COMES HOME
by David Sisler
Some pictures burn themselves indelibly into our memories: frame 313 of the Zapruder Film, the twin contrails of the Challenger's solid rocket boosters streaking aimlessly toward destruction, a piece of the fuselage of Pam Am Flight 800 bobbing in the waters off Long Island, yellow police tape encircling Centennial Park.
As of this writing, the FBI has not pinpointed the cause of the destruction of Pan Am 800 as terrorism. The insanity which killed a Georgia woman at the Olympic games may have been homegrown. There is, however, no mistaking the conclusion, terrorism has come to America, once the safest nation on earth.
In recent days America has been humiliated, ridiculed, and sometimes reduced to the helplessness of a child. We are used to rules. Boxers who hit below the belt are disqualified. Football players who use their helmets to impale their opponents are disqualified. There are no rules among terrorists, only the rule of self.
Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Frederick C. Klein said, "Terrorism has no more to do with sports than it does with airliners, department stores or other places where bombs are set off; they simply provide people with reasons to assemble for potential victimhood."
FBI Director Louis Freech said, "The American people have been experiencing an increasing war against them."
The cost in human grief and suffering from this war cannot be fully measured. But one of the incredible tolls we are paying because of terrorism is a laissez-faire attitude which says, "life must go on."
Of course life must go on. In the months ahead, I will get back on an internationally scheduled air flight and, prayerfully, ten hours later, land in Moscow. Before then, I will attend a professional sporting event. There is a certain practicality which says I will not let the lunatics imprison me in the walls of my home. Americans are by nature practical and defiant, but resigned we must never be. Resignation is a synonym for defeat.
Syndicated columnist Paul Craig Roberts said, "Being a free people means risks. We live with risks for the sake of freedom. Freedom comes first." His comments were not part of a rousing Fourth of July speech, but a condemnation of Senator Orin Hatch's (R-Utah) call for a tougher anti-terrorism bill.
Mr. Roberts' would allow terrorists and criminals to continue to plunder and destroy while law enforcement agencies are kept from using methods which might protect us all. Roberts continues, "If an Oklahoma City happened every week and people were worn down and felt there was no alternative to giving up freedom, that would be a different situation." How many Oklahoma Citys would it take to satisfy Mr. Roberts' requirements?
Moving ahead with their own agendas which will further weaken our nation's battle against terrorists are the National Rifle Association and the Institute of Makers of Explosives. The NRA and the IME do not want "taggants" included in explosives. These special markers can identify the manufacturer of explosives, and ultimately, lead to the identity of the purchaser and user of the same. Taggants are not effective they say. Not safe they say. Too expensive they say.
Well, all explosives sold in Switzerland since 1983 have been tagged, and there is not a single reported safety problem. On the contrary, taggants aided Swiss police in discovering the solution to 566 bombings. And too expensive? The NRA and the IME spent so much money fighting the products that 3M, who first developed the markers, gave up on their development and sold the whole idea to another firm. Too expensive? On whose life are they putting that price tag?
Airport security is another area in which we have the opportunity to do something, or to cave in to the voices which cry, "You'll hurt my civil liberties." Well, hurt one or two of mine if it means my airplane will not be blown out of the sky.
Technology is available which can "sniff" the chemicals that make up explosives. Technology is available which can detect devices metal detectors cannot reveal. Sniff me. Scan me. It's okay with me -- my wife's husband is a passenger on this flight. And while the plane is on the ground, do what they do in Europe -- count noses and count baggage tickets. If they don't match, don't take off.
It is virtually impossible to secure every public place, particularly in a free society. The greatest peacetime security force ever assembled was unable to prevent the murder of Alice Hawthorne in Atlanta's Centennial Park. But does that mean we simply wring our hands, say, "Terrorists will be terrorists," and give up. Or do we courageously implement change? Security procedures must be stepped up. Enhanced technology must be employed. And we, too, must change -- from the inside. That life-transforming power comes only from God's Son who was executed on our behalf, and died, crucified between two terrorists.
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 8/10/96
Copyright 1996 by David Sisler
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