Between the Lines

Between the Lines by David Lias Are we at war?

That seems to be the popular term for describing the events that happened on the East Coast earlier this week. The media, members of Congress, even the president himself appears to be defining Tuesday's terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon as not simply acts of senseless aggression.

The attacks, they say, are the equivalent of war.

And, at least during most of Tuesday, it seemed that citizens were poised to react as if war has been declared on this country.

The panic I witnessed firsthand right here in Vermillion Tuesday evening almost seemed to lend credence to the observations that had been made all day long.

Cherry Street was full of automobiles, driven by people with stricken looks on their faces. Many of them, as they were driving, were in serious conversations on their cell phones, spreading the panic electronically.

The motorists weren't fleeing in terror. They were trying to get to a gas pump before supplies were alleged to run dry and prices were rumored to skyrocket.

One of the rumors circulating through the community Tuesday night was that the military would be claiming a great deal of the nation's fuel supply, either to attack those who attacked us, or to heighten our defenses.

Those rumors fueled speculation that gas prices would hit $5 a gallon by Wednesday, and sparked Tuesday night's panic here.

Emotions naturally run high when thousands of people lose their lives in a senseless attack. Here in the Midwest, we sat in awe in front of our televisions and radios and couldn't believe the news reports at first.

Tuesday's happenings were just too bizarre.

They were too senseless.

While it's true that the damage, in terms of lives loss, will far exceed Pearl Harbor by the time all of the fatalities on the East Coast are counted, it's unfortunate that we keep defining Tuesday's attack as an act of war.

The hijackings of the airliners and their suicide dives into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were the acts of a faceless enemy that masterminded one of the most unique and effective attacks against this country.

Defining the destruction as an act of war, however, gives this faceless enemy more power than it deserves.

It gives the terrorists that planned and carried out this attack exactly what they want.

It's hard to know the motive of suicide bombers. You can't interview them after the fact.

We suspect, however, that the reasons for a terrorist attack may likely be much more complicated than those of a nation that enters war for specific, well-defined reasons.

One commentator that spoke on a radio report Tuesday noted that terrorists' actions aren't always wrapped in religious motives.

But they are nearly always designed to simply inflict as much pain as possible in a senseless act of revenge.

It's no mystery that our nation isn't well-liked by some rogue countries or terrorist groups.

And some of those terrorists asserted their dominance over the United States Tuesday by holding thousands of innocent people in their hands and crushing them.

No bombs, missiles or chemical weapons were dropped on the Pentagon or on New York City.

The terrorists were sophisticated enough to plan and carry out an attack that rendered mass casualties by using uniquely conventional weapons � airplanes.

All that happened Tuesday put this nation on the highest degree of alert. To use a phrase first heard after Pearl Harbor, our attackers this week have awakened a sleeping giant.

This is not a time for panic. If panic ensues and we line up in droves to fill up our cars, there indeed will be gas shortages and higher prices at the pump. That will be our self-proclaimed destiny.

This is a time for this nation to unite.

It is a time to think not so much about war. We would be highly surprised to hear of other attacks against the U.S. any time soon.

Rather than capitulate to the aggressors, it is time to find who is responsible and bring them to justice.

It is time for our nation to get serious about protecting our homeland from terrorism.

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