The poll- Some write-ins so

The poll
– Some write-ins so far for the utterly meaningless poll (to the right) about the Time Person of the Year (see yesterday):

“To me it’s a shoo-in: the passengers of Flight 93. –Thomas Nephew” … New York City police and fire fighters … Richard Gere …

Memo to journalists: Get the hell out of there
– MSNBC says in a crawl on its screen that the Taleban is trying to kidnap foreign journalists to use as bargaining chips. At the same time, US News reports that a car loaded with explosives was stopped outside the hotel used by journalists in Kabul. [via Drudge] Add to this yesterday’s report that Mullah Omar offered a $50,000 bounty on the heads of journalists shot in Afghanistan. And a death toll of eight journalists so far. And a Canadian journalist kidnapped and still not found yet. A bad scene all around.

Now, add this conspiracy twist: The media connection. The Taleban’s going after journalists there. The anthrax attacker went after them here. I’d call that a pattern, eh?

– British TV correspondent wounded while reporting at “the most dangerous place on earth” tells her story.

Mid-life mope:
– So the Beatles are half-dead. I have white hair. I live in the suburbs. I have serious conversations about accounting methods. And worst of all, I suddenly find I’m a hawk. I’m no longer a child of the ’60s. I’m the remains of the ’60s. And now, to add insult to insult, the economy is a mess so I have to choose between a convertible and a shrink.

– Rest in peace, George Harrison. You brought enough of it to the world when you lived.

The Portland ruckus
– Here’s complete coverage on Portland’s refusal to interview foreigners from Oregonlive.com.

– Portland takes it on the chin — as well it should — for it stance. The LA Times quotes some email scolds sent to the city:

“I am appalled and embarrassed to be an Oregonian,” wrote one local man. “You . . . have completely lost perspective and what appears to be any remnant of common sense.”

And another: “We are disgusted and saddened. . . . We consider the city of Portland and the state of Oregon to be a haven for terrorists. We will discontinue traveling there as a company.”

Ready, aim…
– OK, anti-anti-war bloggers, have at ‘im. I missed this from the Boston Globe but found it via Victory Coffee: Columnist James Carrol argues that the war is not just and that we’re basically a bunch of ignorant sluts for supporting it because we don’t really know what’s going on inside Afghansitan and we don’t understand the true context and besides: “This war is not ‘just’ because it was not necessary. It may be the only kind of force the behemoth Pentagon knows to exercise, but that doesn’t make it ‘just’ either. The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 could have been defined not as acts of war, but as crimes.” He doesn’t stop there, arguing that the government decided to blame anthrax on foreign terrorists (how about blaming logic, bub?) only so we’d get all fired up, a la Vietnam and the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution:

For a crucial moment, they effectively played the role in this war that the Gulf of Tonkin ”assault” played in the Vietnam War, as sources of a war hysteria that ”united” the nation around a mistake. In such a context, the more doubt is labeled disloyal, the more it grows. The more this war is deemed ”just,” the more it seems wrong.

Poison
A plot to poison people in France with gas is broken up with arrests in Italy. Authorities also got a bin Laden code book:

Turkey, or chicken = bomb

To be tired = to be under police surveillance

The town hall = prison

Get married = to escape or flee

Trousers = false identity papers

Open a shop, or restaurant = commit a terrorist attack

Couscous = nails (used in a bomb)

Poison = identity control

A book = false passport

– Something to keep you up at night: The CIA Chemical/Biological/Radiological Incident Handbook. A few tips:

> If inside, and the incident is outside, stay inside. Turn off air conditioning, seal windows and doors with plastic tape….

> If radiological material is suspected, remember to minimize exposure by minimizing time around suspected site, maximizing distance from the site, and trying to place some shielding (e.g. buildings, vehicle, land feature such as a hill, etc.) between yourself and the site….

> Proceed to a shower and thoroughly wash your body with soap and water. This needs to be accomplished within minutes. Simply flushing water over the body is not enough. You need to aggressively scrub your skin and irrigate your eyes with water. In the case of biologicals, this is often sufficient to avert contact infection. If available, for suspected biological and chemical contamination the contaminated areas should then be washed with a 0.5-percent sodium hypochlorite solution, allowing a contact time of 10 to 15 minutes. To make a 0.5-percent sodium hypochlorite solution, take one part household bleach such as Clorox, and 10 parts water. Do not let this solution contact your eyes….

> Physical symptoms: Numerous individuals experiencing unexplained water-like blisters, wheals (like bee stings), pinpointed pupils, choking, respiratory ailments and/or rashes….

> Unexplained odors: Smells may range from fruity to flowery to sharp/pungent to garlic/horseradish-like to bitter almonds/peach kernels to new mown hay. It is important to note that the particular odor is completely out of character with its surroundings….

Franzen follies
Ken Layne on almost (almost) finishing his novel: “The book is so spectacular, I’m already working on my ‘refuse to go on Oprah’ speech.”

– Speaking of Jonathan Franzen’s hyperhyped book, I made mention of it in a post long ago. I was carrying my copy in my briefcase the day I escaped the black cloud of terrorism at the World Trade Center. It was not just covered in concrete dust; it was infused with concrete dust; every page opened and coated. I threw it away. I bought another. I have tried and tried to pick it up and finish it and finally decided I can’t. It seems so self-indulgent and irrelevant now. Think I’ll sell it on Amazon.

And more…
PakNews says that Pakistani law-enforcement officials are delighted that the deadly prison riot and other fighting in Afghanistan is cleaning up their list of most wanted Pakistani terrorists.

Debka says Arafat thumbs his nose at America’s peace efforts: “Arafat has a long and cynical history of making American diplomats laughing-stocks at the expense of Israeli lives. The better he succeeds, the closer he comes to attaining his ambition of challenging Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar as hero of the Arab and Muslim world. His way of bidding for popularity in the Arab arena is to escalate his anti-Israeli terror war in time with the US anti-terror battles in Kandahar. Even the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and the extremist Lebanese Hizballah chief Hassan Nasrallah are wary about directly affronting America, but not Arafat.”

– Washington Post has the story of a top-level Taleban defector who says he spied for us: “There wasn’t anybody who had power over Osama,” Khaksar said. “He did whatever he wanted.”

Person of the Year, this

Person of the Year, this year, of all years…
– So who will Time’s Person of the Year be? You can expect the usual controversy: Will the bad guy be the guy? Would they consider bin Laden? Yes, they’ll consider him. Time’s managing editor said so today. Sometimes, Time does pick the bad guy for impact: because that guy had the most impact on the year and because the story has impact itself. But they’ve played that card before. So I’ll bet they won’t do that this year. Back when I worked at the company, I remember that they really did take great care to consider all the candidates and the reasons for each one; it’s quite a deliberative process. I was at People then and when we picked the 25 Most Intriguing, it was less deliberative and more of a long, loud lunch. (If I were there this year, I’d be arguing to break the formula and pick 25 American Heroes!) Anyway, you know that Christmas is coming when it’s time to speculate with your friends on the Person of the Year and so we provide that service here on this interactive Internet: the unscientific, meaningless, but fun poll: Vote at the right.

CIA death
– The Times of India says our first battlefield casualty, the CIA’s Mike Spann, may have inadvertantly caused the prison uprising that cost him his life:

Even as the CIA saluted its slain colleague, the first American fatality in Afghanistan, “American hero” Johnny ëMikeí Spann, who died in the prison revolt, British journalists in Mazar-i-Sharif have begun reporting that Spann was less an innocent victim than the one who allegedly provoked the riot….
On Wednesday night, the BBCís authoritative domestic television programme Newsnight interviewed Oliver August, correspondent for The Times, London, in Mazar-i-Sharif, who said that Spann and his CIA colleague, Dave, were thought to have set off the violence by aggressively interrogating foreign Taliban prisoners and asking, “Why did you come to Afghanistan?”. August said their questions were answered by one prisoner jumping forward and announcing, “Weíre here to kill you”.
The Guardianís Mazar-i-Sharif correspondent said the CIA “operatives had apparently failed on entering the fort to observe the first rule of espionage: keep a low profile”.
The Timesís August said Spann subsequently pulled his gun and his CIA colleague shot three prisoners dead in cold blood before losing control over the situation.
Spann was then “kicked, beaten and bitten to death,” the journalists said, in an account of the ferocity of the violence that lasted four days, leaving more than 500 people dead and the fort littered with “bodies, shrapnel and shell casings”.

How the buildings collapsed
CBS says a miracle saved people at the Pentagon: “Even though 125 people were killed in the Pentagon on Sept.11, there was something miraculous about that day. The plane obliterated the first and part of the second floor, but the third, fourth and fifth floors remained suspended in midair for 35 minutes. Hundreds of people escaped. How is that possible?… In an astonishing stroke of luck, the terrorists had hit the only section of the Pentagon designed to resist a terrorist attack.”

– And engineers find what made 7 World Trade Center collapse hours after 1 and 2: diesel fuel stored for emergency generators: “Experts said no building like it, a modern, steel-reinforced high-rise, had ever collapsed because of an uncontrolled fire, and engineers have been trying to figure out exactly what happened and whether they should be worried about other buildings like it around the country.”

Civil rights? Maybe later
– I keep worrying that I should be worried about civil rights — but I’m not. Same for most Americans. A Post/ABC poll says: “Six in 10 agree with President Bush that suspected terrorists should be tried in special military tribunals and not in U.S. criminal courts… Seven in 10 Americans believe the government is doing enough to protect the civil rights of suspected terrorists. An equally large majority believe the government is sufficiently guarding the rights of Arab Americans and American Muslims as well as noncitizens from Arab and Muslim countries.”

– Via Lake Effect, the official presidential order on military tribunals for terrorists: “Having fully considered the magnitude of the potential deaths, injuries, and property destruction that would result from potential acts of terrorism against the United States, and the probability that such acts will occur, I have determined that an extraordinary emergency exists for national defense purposes, that this emergency constitutes an urgent and compelling government interest, and that issuance of this order is necessary to meet the emergency.”

– Bin Laden on trial tonight (on Court TV): Times story.

And more…
Pesky anthrax spores won’t sit still for investigators — they keep floating into the air.

Afghan woman killed when airlifted humanitarian supplies drop on her house. [via Rantburg]

Turkey would consider backing Iraq strikes under the right circumstances.

– Geraldo in Kunduz: video.

Charlotte Church, the kid singer with the eerie voice (but no soul, I’ve always said) complains that New Yorkers are self-absorbed about 9/11. Harumph.

– Times of London says

– Times of London says bin Laden is in Tora Bora caves: “Defence sources are increasingly sure that bin Laden is in the Tora Bora complex. ‘Weíre now convinced this is where he is and where the 1,000 or so al-Qaeda fighters with him will make their last stand,’ said one.”

– A Times graphic of the Tora Bora complex.

– A Times visit to Tora Bora: “In their ten-year war against the Mujahidin in Afghanistan, the Russians never did strike a serious blow at Tora Bora. The place seemed as enduring as the rock from which it was carved. It is hardly surprising that it should endure as a warrior headquarters.”

– The Telegraph’s Tora Bora tale.

– Just looked to register ToraBora.com. I was three days too late. Could have made a fortune when the movie’s made.

– 13 bin Laden fighters reportedly flown to Wake Island, ready for tribunal.

– Scarey story (or scare story — not sure) from Janes: “Ominous news from Pakistan and Iran indicate that at best a viral pandemic may be brewing among Afghan refugees, at worst that former Soviet biological weapons have possibly made their first appearance. In Pakistan, at least 75 people have been diagnosed … with Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever in the largest outbreak of the disease ever recorded. Eight have already died. All the infected are refugees recently arrived from Afghanistan or people living close to the border.”

– Piece of drek column by Robert Fisk in the Independent: “We are the war criminals now.” He says that the Afghans killing each other is our fault. It would be nice if we were ready with a sane government and an international terrorist babysitting force but we’re not and they’re murdering each other and we can’t stop them. So tough. Our goal is to stop them from killing us. If we can stop them from killing each other, that’s merely a fringe benefit. He says we’ve gone mad. No, we’re trying to stop the madmen. And in the final analysis, it is their country: They either can or cannot be civilized.

– Fisk should at least concede that getting rid of the Taleban is moral progress: Horrors from the BBC.

– The government’s buying enough smallpox vaccine to protect 286 million — all of us … but not until the end of next year. Keep fingers crossed. Inhale now and hold it.

– You don’t hate us, you really don’t hate us: A new Pew survey says the public is thinking a lot higher of the media post 9/11: “Almost two-thirds now say those in the news business stand up for America and help protect democracy, says the poll released Wednesday by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. These are the highest levels on those measures in the center’s 15 years of polling on the news industry. Fewer than half felt that way before the attacks.”

– Our first American battlefield casualty: CIA agent and ex-Marine Michael Spann from Alabama. From his home-state newspaper (before his death was confirmed).

– I was just justly scolded in email: There is no such thing as an ex-Marine. Yes, sir! Semper fi.

– Arrest of a suspect in Germany; he’s said to have funded the flight training of one of the hijackers. German version at Netzeitung. English at BBC [via Layne].

– News organizations — BBC, AP, Reuters, Washington Post — pulling out of Afghanistan following death of Swedish cameraman. Can’t blame them. The news is vital but right now it’s not worth more lives.

– God Bless America: Below, I wrote a screed on fundamentalism vs. modernity (read: inflexibility vs. flexibility). Now comes a survey of American religious behavior that finds — to the research firm’s surprise, but not mine — that after 9/11, American are less — less — likely to believe that “there are moral truths that are absolute, meaning that those moral truths or principles do not change according to the circumstances.” That is, Americans recognize the dangers of fundamentalism; Americans are flexible and open and tolerant and civilized. Americans are also, I think, ready to kick bin Laden’s ass and willing to give up a few absolute moral truths along the way… [via Relapsed Catholic]

– The tale of a secular Muslim in England, Sarfraz Manzoor:

“Bruce Springsteen gave me the promise of America. With it came the civil rights movement, the speeches of Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Emmett Till and Public Enemy. I felt that I was on the same side as those who marched in Selma and Montgomery. I found it easier to be a black American by empathy than to be British…. [America] represented a broader sense of identity. To my father, this adoration of Americana was confirmation of his worst fears. The Faustian pact of coming to Britain had played out: the souls of his children had been robbed by the west. Even years later he would express regret he had ever come.”

After 9/11, he returns to his British hometown to meet young Muslim students, who are appalled at his secular life: “Just because I listened to Bruce Springsteen and read Philip Roth and watched Woody Allen did not mean I was ‘denying’ anything,” he tells them. “I just chose to expose myself to a broader set of influences than some of the people I grew up with. I told my class that they couldn’t box people up so neatly. Islam is about tolerance, I added weakly.”

– The Christian Science Monitor says Congress is getting ready to fight Bush about the license he has taken regarding civil rights and war tribunals and such. But the Monitor also starts with the important caveat: “If history is any guide, wartime Congresses are usually irrelevant. They may thunder and roar, but in the end, the president decides the conduct of a war – including curtailing cherished liberties when deemed necessary.”

– An Afghan woman general says education, not burkas, are the real issue for Afghan women.

– OK, more God: A

– OK, more God: A provocative and smart column by Thomas L. Friedman in today’s NY Times says that fundamentalism as the real enemy in this war:

If 9/11 was indeed the onset of World War III, we have to understand what this war is about. We’re not fighting to eradicate “terrorism.” Terrorism is just a tool. We’re fighting to defeat an ideology: religious totalitarianism. World War II and the cold war were fought to defeat secular totalitarianism ó Nazism and Communism ó and World War III is a battle against religious totalitarianism, a view of the world that my faith must reign supreme and can be affirmed and held passionately only if all others are negated. That’s bin Ladenism. But unlike Nazism, religious totalitarianism can’t be fought by armies alone. It has to be fought in schools, mosques, churches and synagogues, and can be defeated only with the help of imams, rabbis and priests….
The future of the world may well be decided by how we fight this war. Can Islam, Christianity and Judaism know that God speaks Arabic on Fridays, Hebrew on Saturdays and Latin on Sundays, and that he welcomes different human beings approaching him through their own history, out of their language and cultural heritage?…
We patronize Islam, and mislead ourselves, by repeating the mantra that Islam is a faith with no serious problems accepting the secular West, modernity and pluralism, and the only problem is a few bin Ladens. Although there is a deep moral impulse in Islam for justice, charity and compassion, Islam has not developed a dominant religious philosophy that allows equal recognition of alternative faith communities.

– I don’t intend to go off on a religious bent but here’s another question: Is 9/11 leading to more religious seeking or not? The NY Times said the other day that worship attendance is returning to its pre-9/11 norm, quoting random clergy and the editor of the Gallup poll, and a research firm that tracks “13 key measures of religiosity.” On the other hand, we have the random clergy quoted below saying attendance — and talk of religion — are up. Today, the NY Post reports that Warner Music is thanking the heavens that it bought a religious music label because it’s going gangbusters after 9/11; mainstream music is off 2 percent but religious music is up 11 percent. Bottom line: It will take time to tell what if any impact the terror and fear and sorrow and confusion of 9/11 will have on our collective spiritual life. Religion (as opposed to one-time worship attendance) is not an impulse buy, a sudden hunger for a chocolate; it’s more like a vitamin deficiency (I know I’m getting a cold when I crave a second glass of orange juice); it’s subtle.

– British conservatives join with American conservatives to push for an attack on Iraq.

– The value of real reporting: I’ve been meaning to mention something for a few days, since Bjoern Staerk gave thanks for weblogs: “Some of my optimism for the future comes from knowing that, from this year on, every major conflict involving a nation connected to the web will have tens, or houndreds, or thousands of warblogs, covering it from left, right, inside, outside, ahead and behind. I don’t like to boast, but I’m a bit proud of this: They tore down the World Trade Center, and we responded by creating something new. They attacked us with ignorance, we replied with curiosity and informed criticism.”

I don’t disagree — and I’ve written my own odes to blogdom (see This Wonderful Web). But what I’ve been meaning to add is that it’s very important for our society of bloggers to remember that while we try to add perspective to the news, we would have nothing to say if there were not real reporters and photographers out there bringing in the real news — and risking their lives in Afghanistan to do it. I’m moved to say this because a Swedish journalist’s death brings the toll to eight. The media suffer many attacks — willingly; comes with the turf — but we all and especially we on the Web need to be grateful for the courage of the reporters who fill ouf free press and free Internet with the news.

Amazing efforts to save that Swedish journalist via satellite phone: “Cradling the wounded cameraman in his lap, Bo Liden frantically telephoned his wife, a doctor, to ask her for advice on how to save his friendís life… She put them in touch with a cardiologist in Helsingborg who calmly explained to the journalists how to rip down curtains to make a compress to stem the bleeding and give cardiac massage.” He died en route to the hospital.

– I went to the Here Is New York gallery — filled with donated photos of 9/11 — and picked up my first prints, images to remember. I can’t recommend the gallery highly enough.

– Chomsky compers have at him: He wins an award from Dawn in Islamabad, presented by the director of the “Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation” (insert punchline here). This after he gives a lecture and “accused the United States and Britain of being above the international law and using ‘unlawful force’ in their so-called fight against terrorism.” More: “Chomsky says US couldn’t convict Bin Laden.” Enjoy.

Ken Layne has surely given himself a good case of carpel tunnel syndrome these last 48 hours; lots of good posts.

– 9/11 baby boom coming: “While the trend may be strongest in New York, doctors say people nationwide seem to be shunning talk of a world gone wrong and pursuing pregnancy not just in spite of, but because of, the Sept. 11 attacks. ‘It’s the ‘carpe diem’ mode,’ says Dr. Michael Silverstein, an obstetrician and gynecologist at NYU Medical Center in Manhattan. ‘They’re saying, ‘Life’s too short — who knows what’s down the road.’ ”

Investigators look at chemical samples, other evidence from 40 sites in Afghanistan to look for proof that bin Laden was building weapons of mass destruction.

– The Times says Michigan is “inviting” Middle Eastern men to come in for interviews. This alleged racial profiling “controversy” about the “racial profiling” of Middle Eastern men has gone too far. There is nothing wrong with law enforcement talking to Middle Eastern men and they don’t need to be “invited.” If a neighbor of yours is murdered, it would be wrong — illegal, immoral — for you to refuse to talk to the police, to whine that it’s not your fault you happen to live next to a victim and why should they bother you afterall. It’s your duty as a citizen in a civilized world to help the police and talk to them whether or not you know anything. Well, 4,000 of our neighbors have been murdered and I want to cops to find the murderers. So they should be talking to Middle Eastern men who may have been the object of recruitment by bin Laden et al and who may have known something relevant — or may not. What’s the harm in talking to the police? Is it racial profiling to ask Middle Eastern men these questions? No. It’s police work. Obvious police work. This is political correctness gone stupid.

Worse idiocy from out West.

– Hendrik Hertzberg says in

– Hendrik Hertzberg says in today’s New Yorker that the big difference between this war and others is that there is no antiwar movement to speak of.

– Amazing transcript of a satellite phone call from a Time correspondent 200 yards from the fierce fighting in the Afghan jail: a mere dozen U.S. and British troops fighting alongside the Northern Alliance against 800 Taliban; dramatic rescues from the jail; explosions going off as he tells the tale.

– A fine Matt Welch column in Reason on 9/11’s impact on the right: “Long after the brief ‘national unity’ has given way to the usual political squabbling, newly warmongering liberals and libertine conservatives may remember how much sensible common ground they found after September 11. It will be harder than ever to demonize one-half of the electorate, and surprising new coalitions may be possible.”

– Welcome back from Thanksgiving. I didn’t take off from blogging, so there’s plenty new below…

– I was thinking yesterday about religion and the war, because it was Sunday (and, of course, that’s the day for it), because I posted the brief screed on fundamenatalism below, and because I got some email on the topic.

I believe that maturity — as a person or as a culture — comes down to knowing how to be flexible, or call it open. To be a fundamentalist — religious or ideological — is to be inflexible, dogmatic, bound and ruled by one’s rules, unable to see or act beyond them. We’re all inflexible when we’re young; life’s easier that way. As we begin to grow, we can still be inflexible — dogmatic now — but about haughtier topics; I was dogmatic (and not wrong) about the Vietnam war and pacifism and racism and all our ’60s causes. But as I grew yet older, the causes faded from black to gray and the everyday issues I faced, especially in work but also in my communities, were never so obvious; life became a matter of compromise, of finding peace, of doing what was necessary to accomplish goals. Call that politics, fine; that flexibility is also a mark of maturity in individuals, a mark of modernity in cultures. It’s what people and communities and countries need to do to live together. The key, of course, is to be able to compromise and bend and be open and flexible without losing one’s moral compass, one’s standards, one’s soul — to know what rules can and cannot be moved, but the rules do change. That’s not fundamentalism.

I’m not good at this. I struggle with religion. I stayed away for 25 years and returned because I had kids and wanted to give them the same choice I had. I left one church when it proved to be a bastion of homophobia; I left another when it became a laboratory for hate; I landed at my new, small, open church and got drafted into all manner of alien activities (committees, bad bass singing, even giving amatuerish summer sermons about obvious topics: evil — which I would update now — and the word). I’m actually embarrassed about this. But just as I find September 11 suddenly making me a patriot (complete with lapel pin), I find these events making me want to at least admit to religion (though not to proseletyze!) so I do not cede the turf to the fundamentalists.

Last night, I got email from Ray Eckhart about all this and pointing me to a very good column in the Washington Post by Henry Brinton, pastor of the Fairfax, Va. Presbyterian Church, who’s struggling with all this. Read on:

In response to an attack on our country that was perpetrated partly in the name of religion, people have been turning to religion in droves. Most worshipers are coming to Fairfax Presbyterian in search of hope and assurance and a supportive community as they struggle with what it means to live with constant tension. But they are also coming with some more complex concerns: Many are seeking solace in a faith that preaches forgiveness, for example, while expressing their conviction of the need for a punitive military response. Members of my congregation are talking more openly about their faith, asking questions about justice, the morality of violence and the role of the church in responding to conflict….
So, much of what my parishioners and I are doing now is trying to find a context for dealing with — and responding to — evil… Exploring the morality of warfare has been the biggest of these challenges for me — and the area in which my own thinking has changed the most as I try to guide my congregation. Until Sept. 11, I would have described myself as a pacifist. I grew up inspired by the nonviolent teachings and strategies of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr., and my preaching consistently opposed the use of violence. That is, until I learned about the passengers who downed the hijacked airplane in Pennsylvania….
In an effort to bring greater clarity to my own thinking as the United States engages in war, I’ve been asking colleagues how they believe such notions fit within their understanding of theology. A divinity school classmate, John Lentz, who is now a pastor in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, persuaded me that “violence is always an immoral act.” John argues, though, that there may be times when immorality requires an immoral response. That reminded me of what Martin Luther wrote 480 years ago: “Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world.” A realist, Luther believed that every one of us is destined to sin, no matter how hard we try to avoid it.
So I’ve begun articulating the notion that a faithful response to terrorism is to sin boldly, never forgetting that violence is sinful, and that true righteousness lies beyond the realm of human effort: No matter how many bombs we drop or bullets we fire, international harmony is not going to be realized by military action. War cannot, by itself, create a lasting peace. In an imperfect world, I say, resisting evil through violence may sometimes be a necessary evil.