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SEPTEMBER 24, 2001



Jane Fonda is at it again.  Nearly thirty years ago, she went to North Viet Nam and aided a Communist anti-American propaganda campaign.  (See www.Hanoijane.net.)  Now, in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, she is once again undermining the United States — this time, by blurring a crucially important distinction.

On September 20th, Fonda reportedly told an Atlanta radio station that Americans should “try to understand the underlying causes” of the terrorist attacks which, in her view, must  “be dealt with as a crime.  And when there’s a crime, you don’t bomb a city or a country — you use very, very clever intelligence, undercover-type operations to get the criminals and punish them. . . .”  It would be a mistake, she opined, for America to retaliate militarily.

Put aside that Fonda characterized American response as “saber rattling” and “calls for vengeance.” Put aside her implication that the “underlying causes” of the attacks were poverty and hunger rather than hatred for Western values and culture.  Put aside that Fonda knows nothing about intelligence operations.   What Fonda is saying is that the terrorists are not soldiers to be attacked militarily, but mere criminals. 

There is a profoundly important distinction to be made between an act of war and the commission of a criminal act. Indeed, that Fonda blurred this distinction is far less important than why she did.

President Bush has consistently characterized the terrorism as an act of war against the United States. By any customary definition of “war,” he is correct.  War is armed military combat, regardless of whether the combatants have issued an official declaration (which, incidentally, the terrorists have done).  Let Fonda tell the dead, the missing, the wounded veterans from Korea, that they were not at war with the North Koreans and Chinese Communists.  Let her tell the mourners at the Viet Nam Memorial Wall that their loved ones were not at war with the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese.  And let her tell the dead beneath the rubble of the World Trade Center that they were not killed in a radical Islamic “holy war.” 

Declared or not, a war exists when armed belligerents mount an attack — as in killing stewardesses and pilots, hijacking aircraft, and crashing them into buildings filled with thousands of people.

A “crime” is very different.  It is a violation of domestic law punishable by fine and/or imprisonment and sometimes death.  It is prosecuted in court, and the proceedings are hedged with constitutional and other safeguards — notably, due process of law, non-self incrimination, search warrants supported by probable cause, etc.

It is this important distinction between a state of war and the commission of a crime that is being blurred by Fonda and likeminded Leftists.  If the terrorist killings are not treated as acts of war but rather as the commission of mere domestic crimes, the terrorists would be entitled to the safeguards ensured by our criminal justice system — with the outcome as uncertain as O. J. Simpson’s trial for the brutal murder of two people.  On the other hand, if the attacks on American soil are considered acts of war, military response, unhampered by the safeguards afforded criminals, is necessary and justified.

Based on this war/crime dichotomy, the radical Islamic terrorists would stand a far better chance in our criminal justice system than on the receiving end of the military’s smart bombs and special forces operations.  That is what Fonda and people of her ilk want: an escape hatch for the terrorists.  And that is why, when she equates the killing of  thousands of Americans by the soldiers of radical Islam with the domestic crime of murder, and  when she rails against a military response to an act of war waged against the United States of America, Jane Fonda stands exposed as being soft on terrorists.