At stake in the war against terrorism is the protection of the four basic human freedoms which furnished the stake in World War II
AMERICA FIGHTS AGAIN FOR THE FOUR FREEDOMS
Charles Ray Barrett, Jr.
As the World Trade Center collapsed, I too watched with a strange mixture of horror and outrage. These outrageous acts of mass murder were at once a trampling of decency and an act of war. Anger and sadness competed for primacy in our heart's core. We comforted each other with genuine patriotic enthusiasm, endeavoring to recover in some way the spirit that animated our determined unity during our father`s day. It was, somehow, like Pearl Harbor but different from it. We lacked a discreet enemy. There was no opposing nation.
There were plenty, however, in the winter of 1940 - 41. A war raged which was both terrible and terrifying. America watched- nervously aloof. The military might of the Berlin-Tokyo Axis spreading across entire continents. The unthinkable - the fall of France to the Nazi legions - had happened. The "Rape of Nan king" was a stomach-churning harbinger of excesses to come. This country, though not yet engaged in this Second World War, was naturally ill at ease.
In his "fireside chat" of December 29, 1940, President Franklin Roosevelt explained the stakes to the people. He told us that, "If Great Britain goes down, the Axis powers will control the continents of Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and the high seas.... We must have more ships, more guns, more planes - more of everything.... We must be the great arsenal of democracy." In furtherance of that democracy, Roosevelt included in his January 6, 1941 message to Congress a recitation of "four essential human freedoms," the protection of which was our great national calling. Safeguarding these "Four Freedoms" was the moral best of the country's war aims.
Freedom of speech and worship, the first two of the four, were, at least, directly and unequivocally opposed and forbidden by the Axis. The German Nazi and the Imperial Japanese military establishment each smothered dissent, and forbad non-conforming religious expression. Freedom from want and fear, the other two of the four, were simply direct casualties of Axis warfare. Both German and Japanese war machines introduced the world to large scale Ariel bombardment of cities, devastating civilian populations, and making townsmen overt targets of destruction. Both want and fear were the natural, indeed, the intended, result.
German and Japanese war principles deliberately exalted ruthless expediency over humane impulses. So it is again. The fact that our new war against terrorism is on a smaller scale makes the similarities no less compelling.
So-called "terrorism" is, of course, the deliberate murder of non-combatants by those who purpose not the death of their irrelevant victims, but the resulting demoralization of the observers through fearful revulsion. One need not be saintly to know that under all ethical systems this is the most starkly immoral of conduct. The terrorist hopes to prevail by saying, in effect, "Look at what I am capable of!" He reduces the victim to mere object, to be destroyed in pursuit of the terrorist's selfish goal. What could be more antithetical to the socialization of impulse required of civilization? Certainly those who use such methods are the common enemies of mankind.
We have seen the result when ideas are forced on a people. Totalitarian communism ruthlessly suppressed dissent, attempted to supplant religion and replace it with an homogenized atheism, failed to meet basic material human needs, and produced a people living in perpetual dread of the secret police. The Khmer Rouge were irrationally, insanely murderous. The Taliban, exhibited a bizarre hatred for women as well as all expressions of human happiness, while imposing an ultra-stern Islam on a hapless people by whip and gun.
Yet principles born on these shores span the globe. We Americans are justifiably proud of our response to attack. Force, in self-defense, is being employed, but in measured application, and calculated to achieve a just result. Few now doubt that the guilty will be brought to justice or that effective aid will be given to the innocent in need.
America has again risen to defend and extend, 1. Freedom of Speech - as witnessed by the uninhibited expressions of relief and joy in Kabul - 2. Freedom of Worship - witnessed by a central Asia more friendly to mainstream Islamic or minority practice - 3. Freedom from Want - as witnessed by convoys of food and blankets racing south against the winter - and, 4. Freedom from Fear- as the men armed with whips, and rifles, and rocket-propelled grenades melt into the mountains. The toppling of the Taliban may not seem as ultimately significant as the liberation of Europe, but it is very close.
In this newly intimate interconnected world, protecting the "four freedoms" by establishing the rule of law and international norms of conduct remains the great challenge and duty of the United States.