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Our View: A time for action

Sun editorial board

Shortly before the USS Philippine Sea unleashed Tomahawk cruise missiles into the night sky toward Afghanistan, its captain addressed the crew over the ship’s public address system.

“We didn’t start this on the 11th of September, but we are going to finish it,” the captain said. “I know your courage is there, and I know your commitment is there.”

Within half an hour, the United States began its counterattack against terrorist camps of the al-Qaida organization and military sites of the Taliban rulers.

In the days since the strikes began, we don’t yet have a measure of their success. Nor can we ascertain how long or extensive the campaign to wipe out terrorist supporters will be.

Many questions remain: Are the cruise missile and air bombings the prelude to a ground invasion? Do we have clear goals for the counterattacks? Will support for the actions of the U.S. and its allies hold up in Middle Eastern countries, such as Pakistan, where there is substantial support for the Taliban?

As the war plays out – and we are now clearly at war with Afghanistan – the words of the Philippine Sea’s captain should ring in all Americans’ ears.

We did not start this war. It was brought to us, and we were given little choice but to respond with the full force of the U.S. military.

We are going to finish it. This will be a nearly impossible task, as terrorism is a cancer that can grow and regenerate in any environment. Remember, however, this must be a worldwide campaign – supported by every country. Those, like Afghanistan, willing to tolerate and even support terrorists will find themselves the enemies of every civilized nation.

Your courage is there. Not only must our troops, who will be putting their lives on the line, show the courage to win a war against terrorism, so must the American people. We have raised an entire generation that knows little of war, except for the quick-strike rout in the Persian Gulf. This will not be a quick war. Your commitment is there. It is easy in the first few days and weeks of a campaign for the American public to wave their flags and talk tough. The patience, the vigilance, the commitment – all must remain strong.

In this campaign, the enemy has given us images that will never fade – the collapse of the World Trade Center towers, and the wreckage of a wing of the Pentagon – to remind us forever of the reason we are fighting.


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