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Donna Doyle

Donna Doyle, a retired "civil slave," is a freelance writer in Northeast Florida. According to Don, her long-suffering husband, "I'm so glad she's giving someone else hell for a change, instead of me."

by Donna Doyle
October 13th, 2001

Negotiate? I disagree.

I've been surprised by certain statements made since September 11. Demands that the United States immediately respond with indiscriminate military action, and subsequent disappointment that it had not. Speculation that the United States would do just that without thought or concern, striking out in only blind hatred.

But the statements that have bothered me more than any have been that no military response is justified. That we should, we must, negotiate.

Negotiate with terrorists who care so little for human life that they kill and maim even their own?

A recent Osama bin Laden video with a voice-over translation praised God for the September 11 attacks, proclaimed that America "is full of fear, from its north to its south, from its west to its east," and promised more death and destruction.

When the bin Laden tape finished running, I returned to what I was reading . . . what I had been reading. Some of the words were familiar, like finding an old sweater that had been lost and forgotten long ago. It begins with, "THESE are the times that try men's souls . . ." But it was the entire work that continued to startle me because of how well it still fit:

Not all the treasures of the world, so far as I believe, could have induced me to support an offensive war, for I think it murder; but if a thief breaks into my house, burns and destroys my property, and kills or threatens to kill me, or those that are in it, and to "bind me in all cases whatsoever" to his absolute will, am I to suffer it?

Ironic that Thomas Paine wrote those words in December 1776 in his The Crisis No. 1 essay (American Crisis Papers, 1776 - 1783) to inspire revolutionaries in 13 loosely-joined states against Great Britain, now one
of our chief allies.

Some have even suggested that the United States is to blame for September 11th's events - that we somehow deserved it because, far too often, we've stuck our national nose into the business of other countries.

No one deserves the death and destruction that took the lives not only of citizens of the United States but of 80 other countries.

What happened on United States soil this time has happened before to too many others on theirs. We knew it could happen here, probably would . . . but didn't really believe it. Now, our innocent illusions are gone. The realization has been brought home to us on our own soil in an unspeakable manner, exactly what others have endured for so long.

I find it extremely unfortunate that bin Laden's network did not provide him with better, more accurate information about us. And no, I'm not just speaking of the United States alone, although it may seem so.

We are a strange people - always have been - and to borrow from a movie script, when things are at their worst, we are at our best.

We often go out of our way to help others even if later the attempt may seem misguided or be misunderstood. We'll talk ourselves silly to avoid conflict because we know the price.

Our background is one of desiring peace - praying for it - but accepting war if it's brought to us. And it has been.

Paine's essay did not speak specifically to just the states that had not yet been fully united - although they were his focus - but to freedom itself and the fight to ensure that dream. He seems especially on point within the current context, concerning those who push for a negotiated settlement:

There are persons, too, who see not the full extent of the evil which threatens them; they solace themselves with hopes that the enemy, if he succeeds, will be merciful. It is the madness of folly to expect mercy from those who have refused to do justice; and even mercy, where conquest is the object, is only a trick of war; the cunning of the fox is as murderous as the violence of the wolf, and we ought to guard equally against both.

And perhaps, he may have even been prophetic:

I conceive likewise a horrid idea in receiving mercy from a being, who at the last day shall be shrieking to the rocks and mountains to cover him, and fleeing with terror from the orphan, the widow, and the slain of America.

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"...Our background is one of desiring peace - praying for it - but accepting war if it's brought to us. And it has been..."

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