Sept. 11, 2001

After the Sept. 11 attacks, I watched a few hours of the TV coverage, then went in to work. Many of my co-workers didn't come in at all. Most of the rest of us soon realized we couldn't concentrate. After I got home, I emailed a letter to the San Jose Mercury News. An editor at the paper contacted me shortly and asked permission to run the letter as a guest editorial. It appeared in a special edition of the paper on Sept. 12. Here is the text as published on the Merc's website. It's pretty close to what I wrote.


Editorials and columns

Published Wednesday, Sept. 12, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News

U.S. must take steps to protect itself without losing sight of democracy

By Peter N. Glaskowsky

THE United States has long pursued a policy of preventing terrorist attacks by watching terrorist organizations and intercepting their agents before they can act. With some notable exceptions, such as the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, this policy has been highly effective. Many attacks have been prevented.

This policy, for better or worse, is likely to be another casualty of Tuesday's attacks. The United States will now adopt the policy many of our allies follow of suppressing terrorism through direct action against suspected terrorist organizations, their facilities, and their leaders.

This will compromise our desire to respect the rights of those suspected of crimes. We are likely to relax standards of probable cause, evidence, and reasonable doubt. Our actions, in short, will follow military standards, not civilian standards.

We must accept the necessity of a military response because today's attacks were acts of war against the United States. At the same time, we must not allow our country to fall into two traps: We must not act against foreign governments, and we must continue to respect the rights of all persons who do not represent an immediate threat.

There are steps we must take immediately. We must secure the commercial aviation industry. We, and our allies, must consider assigning armed air marshals to every flight. We must have a way to distinguish between aircraft having ordinary emergencies and those being diverted by terrorists-- and be willing to stop a diverted airplane.

We must also re-establish a national civil defense capability. We chose not to do this during the Cold War, relying instead on the policy of deterrence to prevent a nuclear war. Now we face a threat that cannot be deterred. There must be well-supplied shelters in every neighborhood, proof against chemical and biological attacks.

It has long been apparent that our country is vulnerable to terrorist attacks. We must take steps to protect ourselves-- without losing sight of the democratic principles that distinguish us from the cowardly murderers who committed these despicable acts.

Peter N. Glaskowsky, an Air Force veteran, is senior editor of Microprocessor Report and writes on political affairs for Web publications


One part of my email that the Merc didn't publish was a recommendation that we expand our committment to the Strategic Defense Initiative as a way to protect the country against missile attack.

Today, I would only add that when I said "we must not act against foreign governments" I was referring to legitimate governments that posed no direct threat to the US. On Sept. 11, like most people, I didn't understand the nature of the Taliban government in Afghanistan; today, I consider it to have been a terrorist organization and a legitimate target of U.S. military action.