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Killing the Messenger, Not the Message

Terrorists may be sending us a message we should not ignore.


by James Leroy Wilson
September 26, 2001

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Killing the Messenger, Not the Message_James Leroy Wilson-Terrorists may be sending us a message we should not ignore. I have no doubt that I agreed with Timothy McVeigh about a lot of things. I find it incomprehensible that anyone who reads the Constitution can possibly disagree that our government is about ten cabinet departments too big. And that even if the intent of the Second Amendment was for states to have "well-regulated militias," it's pretty darn impossible to have those if the federal government took away all our guns. Think about it. A militia is supposed to mobilize at a moment's notice, which is pretty darn hard to do if the citizen still has a day to go on a three- or seven- day "waiting period" to purchase his gun So it doesn't make any difference which part of the Second Amendment is to have more meaning; if the federal government obstructed the individual from defending himself, how could the state summon the resources to defend itself?

McVeigh and I may agree here. That doesn't make me a terrorist, like he was. And blowing up a federal building can not be justified. And those who sympathize with the causes of federalism and libertarianism mourned along with everyone else the senseless loss of life and can't fathom what McVeigh was trying to accomplish.

But then there is another side: if the federal government did not tax us to burdensome levels, redistribute our earnings to favorite clients, violate all sorts of provisions of the Bill of Rights to prevent us from living our lives as we see fit - often by unelected regulators - would the Oklahoma tragedy had happened?

We know that we can't control or prevent everything. If we lived in a genuinely free society, something else may have set McVeigh off. Maybe, as with many bitter and maladjusted people, he would have embraced racial causes. Or he would have spotted some economic inequities and joined some Communist group.

But then we could have recognized any resulting violence for what it was, a crime. When the act is provoked, instead, by a federal government whose established habits is to do everything possible to undermine the text of the Constitution and the principles of the Declaration of Independence, how are we to be surprised that a few men's justified anger can transform itself into terrifying barbarity?

And so, two seeks after the horror at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, we may reflect on why foreigners, particularly para-national terrorists of the Middle East and central Asia, would want to commit violence against the greatest power on Earth. Did we invite this, bring it on ourselves?

That's the frustrating thing: we don't know for sure. Our enemy, or enemies, still haven't been identified sufficiently at the time of this writing. When Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, we could pretty much tell that it was the Japanese and that their aim was to dominate the Pacific Ocean. We don't even know what our enemy wants or demands for certain.

But we have a pretty good idea. A specific example: support for Israel even as they built settlements on occupied but non-Israeli land. Support to the tune of $3 billion a year. And that illustrates the larger problem. Right now, we dominate the world to a degree surpassing any reasonable hopes Hitler or the Soviet Communists would have had. Our relationship with any other country doesn't come close to as high a priority as it is to that country. To many people in the world, we are on the wrong side of a particularly grievous injustice, and see capitulation to our demands on virtually everything the only hope for progress in their nation. They are dominated by us. If we were dominated by any other country, we'd feel pretty darned resentful, too. And we'd do something about it. Which is what our enemy did. If dominating and policing the world, violating our own principles by imposing terms instead of letting other peoples govern themselves, if no regional conflict could not go on to its Darwinian conclusion without our own intervention in the name of democracy and human rights, then the World Trade Center and 6500 dead is the price we pay. If it's not too high a price, then so be it. But if it is too high, we must rethink our position in the world. Maybe the one message these terrorists sent were the international message McVeigh sent to us as well: leave me alone.

In any case, the mistake of our present enemy is the mistake of McVeigh. Security threats must be destroyed. The life and liberty of the United States is always good. The people themselves, not acts of fear and violence, should decide public policy. Terrorists are warriors and we should treat them as such, even unto death. I support what I have heard from President Bush so far.

But if our government doesn't wake up, smell the coffee, and realize that leaving people alone is the right thing to do, we're going to be living with terrorism for a long while.

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