My fellow Americans:
History is likely to record that 1986 was the year when the world, at long last, came to grips with the plague of terrorism. For too long, the world was paralyzed by the argument that terrorism could not be stopped until the grievances of terrorists were addressed. The complicated and heartrending issues that perplex mankind are no excuse for violent, inhumane attacks, nor do they excuse not taking aggressive action against those who deliberately slaughter innocent people.
In our world there are innumerable groups and organizations with grievances, some justified, some not. Only a tiny fraction has been ruthless enough to try to achieve their ends through vicious and cowardly acts of violence upon unarmed victims. Perversely, it is often the terrorists themselves who prevent peacefully negotiated solutions. So, perhaps the first step in solving some of these fundamental challenges in getting to the root cause of conflict is to declare that terrorism is not an acceptable alternative and will not be tolerated.
Effective antiterrorist action has also been thwarted by the claim that—as the quip goes—”One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” That’s a catchy phrase, but also misleading. Freedom fighters do not need to terrorize a population into submission. Freedom fighters target the military forces and the organized instruments of repression keeping dictatorial regimes in power. Freedom fighters struggle to liberate their citizens from oppression and to establish a form of government that reflects the will of the people. Now, this is not to say that those who are fighting for freedom are perfect or that we should ignore problems arising from passion and conflict. Nevertheless, one has to be blind, ignorant, or simply unwilling to see the truth if he or she is unable to distinguish between those I just described and terrorists. Terrorists intentionally kill or maim unarmed civilians, often women and children, often third parties who are not in any way part of a dictatorial regime. Terrorists are always the enemies of democracy. Luckily, the world is shaking free from its lethargy and moving forward to stop the bloodshed.