THE PILOT EDITORIAL - Bombers and prayers

Thursday, January 3, 2002

As the assault on terrorist strongholds lingers on, patriotism becomes less and less blind, and it seems to become more and more acceptable to debate the political strategy behind the military action.

Iowa's most famous (or infamous) protester, Father Frank Cordaro, is a good barometer.

In October, Cordaro set aside the possibility of a protest of former Secretary of State Madeline Albright's speech at Buena Vista University, out of respect for the response to the September 11 tragedies.

A couple of months later, Cordaro was rounding up people to do a trespass protest last week on Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, knowing that some of them may pay for it with six months in jail. If protest is a form of discourse, then, it appears discourse has started in earnest.

Some may argue with U.S. policy on a different front, arguing that there is little proof that Osama bin Laden was the leader responsible for the attacks, as opposed to a convenient single target for a problem that is actually some 50 terrorist groups and a full globe wide.

Still others seem to imply that the United States deserved what it got, and point out that there is evidence that some leaders of the Taliban movement were trained and equipped by the U.S. CIA to be

what they have become, as handy fodder in the Cold War when the Soviets occupied that territory of the world.

And from bin Laden himself to haughty skeptics in our own country comes the persistent claim that what is happening is some kind of "holy war."

Perhaps it is healthy to have open debate and even a non-violent protest, although it pains the majority to see any signs that can be interpreted as lack of support for our courageous servicepeople who are far from home this season doing what they need to do.

Of course, this is nearly the only place in the world where such open discussion is possible, the very freedom that our military exists to protect.

One tact no one should accept, however, is the "holy war" claim. It is no such thing. It never has been, and never will be, about Christianity vs. Islam.

You may recall reading that one of the first acts of the Taliban leaders, and presumably bin Laden, was to hide tanks and ammunition in the mosques of Afghanistan.

These same people who would like to paint the situation as a holy war, then, knew full well that the U.S. would never purposely bomb a church of any faith.

If this were Christianity vs. Islam, those would have been the first places hit. And certainly a Catholic priest would not be protesting military might.

Then again, should we expect truth from so-called leaders who hide like cockroaches in dank caves? The only battle the likes of bin Laden will take part in is to send out the occasional videotaped salvo from his hiding place.

Perhaps instead of searching for him as we would a military opponent, we should just follow the cords of the camera crews down the rat holes.

The phrase "an eye for an eye" is heard daily now, but the life of terrorist cowards can't bring back any of the innocent fathers, mothers, sons and daughters who were killed here, or the heroes who perished trying to save them.

It would be interesting to see the people of Afghanistan rise up and seize bin Laden and the remaining Taliban leaders themselves, to be delivered to a United Nations tribunal and imprisonment. A true international investigation of terrorism is overdue; it would show that the threat is much wider than any one man or group to be trapped and killed. Once the threats are fully revealed, the civilized people of the world can set about exterminating it physically and philosophically, so that out military people can come safely home.

The good Father Cordaro has tried to be a conscience for many years, paying dearly for his efforts against nuclear weapons. We respect him for his conviction.

But this time, we think he is mistaken. Instead of making his statement crashing the gate of the workplace of those who are seeking to protect us, we wish he would be leading us in a prayer that the day will soon come when we no longer need to fight this fight against terrorism.

Is there room for both bombers and prayers? Honestly, we don't think we can do without either.