In 1998, I was vacationing with my family in Ireland, when the tragic Omagh bombings occurred. A car bomb exploded in a crowded market on a Saturday, killing dozens of innocent shoppers. The following Saturday, memorial services were held across the island, north and south and many people expressed the same sentiment: Enough. After more than 25 years of sectarian violence, this latest, most heinous act finally made people resolve to end violence. And although some of the hard-core terrorists on both sides have made several efforts to wreck the peace process since then, the vast majority of Irish citizens, north and south, have refused any longer to have any part of the violence they once participated in through active collaboration or passive consent.
Last night, after the nauseating acts of terrorism that turned innocent citizens and their means of transportation into weapons of mass destruction against thousands of other innocent citizens, I heard one of the chorus of television talking heads, a militaristic intelligence "expert," ask the question: "Have we had enough yet?" It was a rhetorical question, and he presumed that if the answer was "yes," then all Americans were willing to follow him to "kick ass" and "take out" nations which harbored terrorists.
These commentators, our political "leaders," and other shapers of opinion are blatantly seeking - and getting - advance public support for a vengeance campaign of massive retaliation that will include "collateral damage," that is, the taking of the lives of hundreds or thousands of other innocents abroad. It is the oldest form of knee-jerk human response to violence: An eye for an eye.
But the question is: If we are willing to accept "collateral damage," what makes us any different from the terrorists? The thoughtless, arrogant answer for many Americans is that we would be justified because of the magnitude of the crime committed against us. In fact, in the office I work in, one colleague, discussing this point, stated simply: "Children will have to die." And this is exactly the reasoning that led the terrorists on Tuesday to turn hijacked planes and office towers into crematoria: In their minds, their acts were justified because of the magnitude of the crimes that America, or the American government, had committed against them and the values or causes they hold dear.
Americans - and the world - have the opportunity now, maybe the last opportunity ever, to turn this tragedy into something of lasting value, to make it a turning point in the human experience, in exactly the same way the people of Ireland turned the Omagh bombing into a bloody final step up to the plateau of peace rather than down into the unending cycle of violence and revenge that had plagued their land for decades and robbed everyone of some loved one.
What the Irish did when they said "Enough!" was to stop tolerating violence, stop sympathizing with or sheltering perpetrators of violence, and stop abiding by the code of silence that allowed terrorists to operate. They stopped coddling terrorists and stopped collaborating with terror.
And if we really believe that what we witnessed on September 11 in New York City and Washington, DC, was enough - and who could ever want to live to see the day when worse acts would happen? - then all of humanity must be willing to stop tolerating terrorists, to say that whatever cause or values or religion or nation we hold dear, that it's not worth the price of more human lives.
Saying "Enough!" and not tolerating terrorists would have to mean that we are prepared to speak out and stand together against all forms of terrorism.
It's easy to condemn another nation's or another religion's terrorists, especially when their acts are directed against one's own national or religious or ethnic group. But what turned the tide in Ireland is that, after Omagh, people stopped tolerating, hiding, and coddling the terrorists within their own ranks.
In the modern world, there are many forms of terrorism. It's not just hijackers or car-bombers or kamikazes. It's governments that bomb rebel or enemy towns and villages, enact sanctions that rob children of food and medical supplies, starve citizens, abet drug traffickers, torture political opponents, carry out capital punishment, develop biological weapons, drop atomic bombs, and wage high-tech or low-tech wars.
Saying "Enough!" to terrorism means no longer cooperating with any violence - including the state-sanctioned terrorism of wars, repression and reprisals. It means withholding consent and support for all governments, including that of the United States, which carry out acts of terror against human beings.
The mistake that the American people are about to make is to let their government carry out reprisals in their name that will kill innocent people not connected to these terrorist attacks. It's a mistake not just because it continues the ever-escalating cycle of violence, but because it legitimizes this government once more, a government that invented, perfected and exported many forms of modern terrorism - and all the other governments which mimic or exacerbate this violence.
Many thousands of Americans died yesterday. The way to prevent more deaths is not to kill more people. The way to stop terrorists is not to condone state-sanctioned terrorism. The only way out of this madness is to say - and mean - "Enough!" - by refusing to participate, even by passive consent, in the continuing cycle of violence; to object, to speak out against, all forms of terror. We must pull out violence from our world by the roots, or no one will be safe.
Have we had enough?