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Jewish World Review Oct. 23, 2001 / 6 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762

Bob Greene

Bob Greene
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Their weapon is not terror --- it's freedom -- NOW it becomes clear.

This is how they plan to do it -- this may have been how they planned to do it all along.

Our question, at first, was: How can the enemies of the United States hope to defeat us, when we are so much more powerful, so much more heavily armed, so much wealthier?

After Sept. 11 and the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, our answer -- too easy an answer -- was:

The weapon of choice in our enemies' arsenal was terror. That is the weapon with which they were going to assault us: terrorism.

But that answer was not correct. Yes, we felt terror -- but terror was not their weapon.

What was, then?

It became unmistakable last week, with the evident delivery of anthrax spores through the U.S. mail. Once that happened, it was possible to look at everything else that has taken place through a clearer lens.

Now we see the weapon they have really chosen with which to attack us. It is such a terrible, brilliant choice on their part that the implications are numbing.

What is the weapon they are using?


Our freedom. They are using it against us. They are using it to assault us.

Do they hate our freedom? If so, they are utilizing it in the most appalling way. They are appropriating it as their own -- and trying to kill us with it.

It started, we can now see, with the hijackings of the passenger jets. The murderers gained entry to our country because, loving freedom, we have always made that relatively easy. Freedom welcomes visitors.

Then they moved freely among us, because not only do we permit freedom of movement, we encourage it. It is basic to how we live. Learn to fly an airplane? Easy, in our free society -- just about anyone can choose to do that.

And then, when they boarded the planes despite what, before Sept. 11, we regarded as airport security, they were home free. Passenger jets crisscross the U.S. every day, by the thousands. The ultimate freedom of movement. And they turned that freedom into an obscene weapon of blazing destruction.

Our economic system? The free enterprise system -- we even use the word "free" to define it. They turned that into a weapon against us, too. Once they set our buildings afire and killed our citizens, they knew they could count on our free enterprise system to shudder, and for our people to start losing their jobs. Our enemies used our freedom to do that to us.

The anthrax letters? Our freedom of communication -- our free and easy way of keeping in touch with each other. Our enemies never could have counted on their own agents to deliver biological weapons into our offices and, perhaps, our homes. They didn't have to. In our free society, U.S. government envoys -- mail carriers -- bring our letters directly to us, because that is what we have always wanted. Our enemies used that freedom of communication to try to kill us.

And to spread the fear? Freedom of the press -- that's what they used. They most likely did not target news organizations for the anthrax letters because they had anything in particular against journalists. It was just so much easier for them that way. With freedom of the press, news spreads quickly. Had our enemies selected other citizens for the anthrax, it might have taken longer for the press to take notice. But to put the poison right into news offices. ...

That's how you spread the terror -- plant the seed where it will be distributed almost instantly. Do our enemies want to assault the American people with fear? Our enemies don't have to do it themselves -- they don't have to devise their own system to disseminate the fear. They can count on our own freedom being used as a weapon against us -- they can, and did, count on the free press to spread the word.

That is how freedom works: freely. Our enemies may hate our freedom -- but not so much that they are above borrowing it from us, to hurt us. The ultimate tragedy will be if, having used our freedom for their own ends, they next succeed in convincing us that we must do away with it.

That would be their true victory -- to hurt us so much with our own freedom that we decide we can no longer afford to be free.

JWR contributor Bob Greene is a novelist and columnist. Send your comments to him by clicking here.

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