Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz’s impromptu reflections on the role of college students in the war against terrorism may have been a little long and a little strange, but at least part of his point is well-taken.

The Yale community — not just students, but also faculty and all employees — has a vital part to play in the war that began in earnest on Sunday. We must remember the principles that bind together our university and our nation, and we must fight passionately to ensure that those ideals remain uncorrupt.

Repressive regimes like the Taliban are often characterized by careful control and manipulation of information. Suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden said on television Sunday that the United States “came out to fight Islam with the name of fighting terrorism.”

The Taliban reported that anti-aircraft fire had downed several allied warplanes, despite U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s assertion that all planes returned safely to their bases.

One of the distinguishing features of the United States’ political system is the freedom to find out when the government simply is making specious claims and when it is telling the truth.

In the world of bin Laden and the Taliban, there is not that freedom. In America, we must exercise such freedom to its fullest capacity.

At times like these, Yale and other universities are even more compelled than usual to make basic democratic principles leap off the pages of political philosophy texts and into the actions of the university community.

Yale must promote constant analysis of information in an attempt to find the facts behind assertions, and it must promote lively discussion to ensure that every voice is heard.

In the weeks since the Sept. 11 attacks, history professors Paul Kennedy and Donald Kagan have engaged each other in discussion on the pages of the News. Kennedy has argued that we should focus on trying to understand why the terrorists did what they did. Kagan has favored prevention through military enforcement.

No matter which scholar is correct, if either actually is, the debate has brought out the best elements of an academic institution like Yale. Such an environment is healthy for America, especially an America at war.

Yale needs to continue these discussions. The campus cannot complacently accept what our government does, and it also cannot complacently protest each and every action.

On a greater scale, we as Americans must demands accuracy in reporting and accountability of both news institutions and our government.

This nation has prospered for 225 years because it has always clung to its basic principles of free speech and debate, even through stiff challenges like the Alien and Sedition Acts and Japanese internment during World War II.

Now, more than ever, Yale has to stand up and defend those principles.