Staff Editorial: Strike back

On Tuesday morning, Sept. 11, with simple weapons and pure determination, terrorists seized four commercial airliners and drove three of them into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. A fourth crashed in a cornfield outside Pittsburgh. Officials at all levels of government are reluctant to discuss casualties, but some reports say the number killed in the attack could be in the tens of thousands. Counting only those passengers and crew aboard the aircraft, this is by far the worst act of terror in American history. It may well prove to be the worst attack against the U.S. of any kind.

Such treachery demands a swift and strong response.

And the federal government is already in the process of striking back. Attorney General John Ashcroft said the Justice Department is engaged in “the most massive and intensive investigation ever conducted in America,” and federal agents have served search warrants in Boston and several Florida cities with some reports that agents have taken into custody several individuals.

On the international front, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization invoked Article Five of its charter characterizing Tuesday’s events as an act of war. This provision, which was invoked for the first time Wednesday, requires that an attack against any NATO country be met with a response from all of them. These actions show America and its allies will find the parties responsible for the carnage and will ensure their punishment.

According to a Washington Post poll, more than 90 percent of Americans are willing to go to war over the terrorist attack. Few times in history have Americans been so united. This resolve must be harnessed to improve security at all airports, increase our intelligence capabilities and enact other measures that will surely be recommended in the aftermath of this disaster.

As President George W. Bush said in his address to the nation Tuesday night, both those who initiated this attack and those who harbored and assisted them should feel the awesome might of America’s anger. September 11, 2001 will forever be etched into the national psyche as the most infamous of days. We must resolve to conquer terror, to fight back and destroy those who would destroy us.

We must say to the world: “We will never give up. We will never give in. We will never surrender.”

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