This is an HTMLized version of a letter I just wrote to Barbara Boxer, one of California's senators, who is apparently now the chair of the Senate committee on terrorism:
I just read this quotation from you on your Web site: "We are resolved to hold those who plan these attacks, who harbor these people absolutely a hundred percent accountable."
As a California resident and voter, I would like to urge you and the rest of our government to caution and restraint, to reason and sanity in the face of chaos and uncertainty.
Holding people who plan attacks accountable makes perfect sense to me. But going after those "who harbor these people" appears to have become a code phrase meaning, roughly, "We intend to bomb Afghanistan into the Stone Age, because that's where Osama bin Laden is currently living."
If that's not what you meant, I'd like to recommend that you adopt other phrasing, because your phrase is being widely used to mean just that.
If it is what you meant, I urge you and the rest of the government to consider carefully whether that is indeed the wisest and sanest course of action, or whether it's a knee-jerk response to a terrified and angry American public. Many, perhaps most, of us are frightened and angry right now. But that's all the more reason that we need to stop and consider carefully the consequences of our actions.
We are not certain that bin Laden was personally behind these attacks, nor even that his organization was involved. Even if we were absolutely certain, going to war over one man seems to me to be, frankly, insane.
Especially when that's presumably exactly what the culprits want. If bin Laden was behind this, remember that he's declared war on the US. He would presumably like nothing better than to have a holy war develop between Islam and the West. And I can see no better way to start such a war than to invade, or randomly bomb, an Islamic country. The least horrible outcome I can see to our attacking Afghanistan would be spawning new terrorists who hate the US even more than they did before. The worst outcome, an all-out-war between Islam and the West, is too horrific to contemplate.
Finally, I'd like to point out that although the Taliban government is horrifying in its flagrant and egregious disregard for women, it is the ordinary people of Afghanistan (including the women, who have no say in the government whatsoever) who would suffer most if we were to attack.
Therefore, as one of your constituents, I'm asking that you consider long and carefully before embarking on a course of action that can only result in still more blood and tears.
Mountain View, CA