[EDITORIALS]Composure Needed at This Moment

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[EDITORIALS]Composure Needed at This Moment

War is looming. U.S. President George W. Bush called the terrorist attacks in Washington and New York on Tuesday the "first war of the 21st century." He has pledged that all means will be used to ensure a victory against terrorism. U.S. military forces in Korea and abroad are on the highest alert and even the mobilization of reserves is being considered. War has already crossed the river of no return and only Mr. Bush's attack command remains. The world is breathlessly watching the United States, and feeling insecure.

Mr. Bush does not seem to have any other choice given the damaged pride of the United States as the only superpower in the world and the seething anger of its people. Voices of concern are being drowned out by the determination of the United States. Some claim that the group behind the terrorist act has not yet been clearly disclosed and that innocent lives may be sacrificed if Mr. Bush decides to engage in war. We understand the desperateness of having no other choice but to punish in any form the perpetrators of terrorism. But war waged in the name of punishment should at least pass through due procedure and gain the support of the world.

First, the United States should wait until it has been proven that Osama bin Laden, suspected of having orchestrated the attacks, was indeed involved in the incidents. Claims are being made that it is possible to punish the extremist group based on past anti-American acts of terrorism even before its direct correlation to the attacks has been confirmed. But then, it could come out as an act of chasing a witch to vent one's indignation. Second, if bin Laden has been found to have backed the attacks, evidence should be provided by the United States. Then, the United States should demand to the Afghan government the extradition of the culprits. It wouldn't be too late to decide on the scope of the attacks, depending on the cooperation of the Afghan government.

As with the Gulf War, once war starts, the sacrifice of innocent civilians becomes inevitable. Civilians could be put forth as human shields. If the punishment of terrorism leads to the sacrifice of innocent civilians, this could ironically be another form of terrorism. Therefore, the United States should confine its attacks to terrorism-related and military facilities if it intends to raid Afghanistan. It should make all efforts to minimize the sacrifice of civilians.

Mr. Bush pledged retaliation also against countries that support and provide a safe haven to terrorists. But the United States should know that trying to do so raises questions. The Central Intelligence Agency of the United States has announced that Al-Qa'ida, the terrorist organization of bin Laden, has branches in 34 countries worldwide and it would be impossible to retaliate against all these countries. We empathize with the anger felt by the people of the United States and their resolution to punish the terrorists, but there are still diverging opinions on the means and method of the punishment. Some contend that punishment should stop at hunting down the culprits and having them tried in court.

As repeatedly emphasized, for the declaration of war made by the United States to be justified, the group behind the crime should first be clearly identified and the United States should shore up the support of the world. If the United States omits such necessary procedures and immediately and indiscriminately attacks Afghanistan, it is highly likely that the world, which now feels sympathy for the United States, could be split. Escalation of war with the Islamic world could entangle the world in a clash of civilization.

To exterminate terrorism, solidarity and cooperation of the international community are necessary conditions. The United States alone cannot do it. If international views on the intended war diverge, the eradication of terrorism could be less reachable. Before Mr. Bush pushes the button to start a war, he should be composed and think twice about what he is doing.
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