The following editorial appeared in Sunday's Washington Post:
Two months ago four hijacked jets slammed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania countryside, launching the United States into a war on international terrorism. Saturday in New York, President Bush challenged the world community to keep up the fight. He issued a tough call for nations to crack down on terrorists, making it clear that the reach of the campaign extends beyond al-Qaida. While singling out no government, Mr. Bush sent an uncompromising message that nations must choose sides. "We must unite in opposing all terrorists, not just some of them," he told the United Nations General Assembly. "No national aspiration, no remembered wrong can ever justify the deliberate murder of the innocent. Any government that rejects this principle, trying to pick and choose its terrorist friends, will know the consequences."
Declaring that "every nation has a stake in this cause," the president echoed the message he delivered to Americans in his homeland security address on Thursday: The only way to respond to terrorism is to confront the perpetrators and defeat them. He told his domestic audience last week, "A lot of people are working really hard to protect America, but in the long run the best way to defend our homeland, the best way to make sure our children can live in peace, is to take the battle to the enemy and stop them." In that speech, he offered Americans good advice on how to carry on in a world shadowed by terrorism. There is a difference between being alert and being intimidated, he said; good judgment and common sense will chart the course between the two. Courage and optimism can build confidence that the country will ultimately prevail against the threats to which it has now awakened.
Americans have already demonstrated those qualities in abundance; they'll need to call on them again in the weeks, months and years to come. While America rapidly mobilized to fight abroad and to respond to attacks at home, the last two months have shown the state of the government's unreadiness. The FBI still has not determined the source of the anthrax that killed four, sickened 13 more and disrupted the mails and Congress. Public health officials succeeded in getting preventive antibiotics to thousands, but preparation for possible future bioterror assaults still lags. And despite the obvious need to beef up airline security, legislation to attack that problem remains inexcusably stuck in Congress. Progress on all fronts is needed.
In Afghanistan, the military campaign took a step forward this weekend as rebel forces claimed Mazar-e-Sharif. The war, however, is still in its early stages. There is a likelihood of more, not less, force being necessary in the future to achieve American objectives; planning for that possibility should begin now. Likewise, the administration needs to take care how it manages the trust and support it now enjoys on the home front. The Justice Department won swift congressional passage of new powers to fight terrorism, but has quickly raised civil-liberties concerns by refusing to disclose who is being detained and by abruptly announcing plans to eavesdrop on communications between some inmates and their lawyers. Both developments are deeply troubling.
Two months has been barely enough time to recognize all the challenges that face the country, much less come to grips with them. America is still finding its way. Last week and Saturday, Mr. Bush offered encouragement for pressing forward on both fronts. But real reassurance can come only with victory over the forces that threaten from abroad and within.
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