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Jewish World Review Dec. 17, 2001 / 2 Teves, 5762

Tony Snow

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Musings -- A lot of you are worried right now about the threat of chemical or biological warfare -- and in response, members of Congress are demanding that federal authorities guarantee an adequate response in the event of such an attack.

In other words, they want some assurance that Uncle Sam can deliver us from a distant but grim risk. Unfortunately, no such thing is possible. You see, you can't expunge life's risks, and it's not a good idea to try.


Because risk is the inevitable product of liberty -- and it's responsible not only for great tragedy, but also great triumph.

We are the greatest nation on earth -- we're the inspiration to billions and the bane of people like Usama bin Laden -- because we take big, bold chances -- and because a lot of those chances pay off. Of course we've got to be vigilant -- but let's not live in a prison of our fears.

Literally and figuratively, we were meant to breathe free.

John Walker Lindh, the young American turned Taliban now cooperating with American officials, provides a wonderful case study in what happens when you teach kids that neither ideas nor actions ought to have consequences.

As we all know, young Walker ran out on his family and country a few years back. He told his parents he wanted to explore his spirituality -- now folks that's as classic a plea for help as you can get. But his mom and dad were too preoccupied with their own affairs to ask why.

So their weak and bitter son, getting no hearing from his parents, fell in with al Qaeda, and as recently as three weeks ago, was doing his best to kill Americans.

Well now Walker's folks are making the rounds, begging mercy for their murderous brat. That's an important and vexing issue and I'm going to take that up at another time.

Here's the key thing to remember now: If you teach kids that one set of morals is as good as any other -- you're asking for trouble, and you almost certainly are going to get it.

Shortly after the September 11th massacres, Osama bin Laden faxed out a press release denying responsibility for the blood letting. Now surprise, surprise he was boasting behind the scenes that he masterminded the whole thing, and even had a few chuckles over the fact that more than half his henchmen had no idea they were slated to die that day.

They just thought they were going to hijack some jets. Nice.

Note a couple of things. Bin Laden was a coward when it counted: He was afraid to fess up publicly and wanted his private boasting circulated only to true believers via video tape. That's a pretty odd way to act if you really think you're doing Allah's handiwork.

Second, he had lots of backers including Saudi and Egyptian clerics, who don't believe that he hijacked Islam: They believe he has restored some lost luster.

These people are our enemies, too. The tape was horrifying but clarifying. Folks, this war is far from over.

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