A time of utmost gravity

Afghanistan: Bombing defenses of terrorists, in support of worldwide freedom from fear.

October 08, 2001

THE START of the U.S.-British military campaign yesterday in Afghanistan was, as Prime Minister Tony Blair said, a "moment of utmost gravity for the world."

Americans must expect casualties among U.S. forces and innocent civilians, no matter how hard the allies try to avoid them. Americans must also expect no speedy conclusion or splashy victories.

The initial cruise missile strikes were, as President Bush said yesterday, "designed to clear the way for sustained, comprehensive and relentless operations," to drive terrorists out of Afghanistan and into justice. He promised only a "patient accumulation of successes."

This is a war in which, as Mr. Blair suggested, Britain and all countries with nationals working in the World Trade Center, were attacked.

Mr. Bush paraphrased President Franklin D. Roosevelt in World War II when he talked of defending "not only our precious freedoms, but also the freedom of people everywhere to live and raise their children free from fear."

The humanitarian bombardment of food and medicine to starving and dislocated Afghan people, beginning today, must be far-reaching and credible to the peoples of the world.

This operation will fail if it is allowed to become a war against Afghans or against Islam.

It should free the Afghan people from their oppressors without installing new ones.

It should defend Islam, Islamic peoples and most Islamic regimes from the attempted perversion of their faith and civilization by murderous ideologues.

This is a somber and joyless undertaking with great risk. But after the atrocities of Sept. 11 and the stonewalling of the Taliban regime, the United States lacked the luxury of refraining from it.

This must be done. All signs are that it will be done with skill, courage and respect for all peoples that is sadly lacking among the nation's current enemies.

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