Thoughts Following 9/11


Political Index

9-27-2001:     After observing U. S. strategy and media coverage over the past two weeks, I personally feel much better about our course of action. It seems to me that we're in the position of trying to eradicate nests of poisonous spiders located in various houses in the neighborhood. We couldn't get rid of all of the spiders by destroying the houses. Their elimination will require time and finesse, and it appears that the U. S. is prepared to approach the problem in that rational way.
    Terrorism isn't a recent strategy. The Russian revolutionary and nihilist Michael Bakunin constructed and deployed bombs, including (?) the 1881 bomb that killed Tsar Alexander II of Russia. (The assassination of Alexander II had the effect of turning his son, Alexander III, toward a harshly repressive regime. In other words, its effects were exactly opposite to those that Bakunin was seeking.) It was the Black Hand Serbian terrorist, Princip Gavrilo, who triggered World War I by assassinating the Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914. As usual, when violent means are employed to secure a supposedly benign end, the results were opposite to what was intended.
    It would have been possible to have flown a transcontinental aircraft into the Empire State Building, the White House, and the Capitol Building at any time from the 1930's onward. It would have been possible to detonate a dray wagon filled with combustibles (e. g., naphtha or Greek Fire) or explosives on a bridge or beside a building at any time in history. The only reason it didn't happen was because, apparently, it wasn't tried.
    I think that terrorists are everyone's enemy. The Muslim terrorists who attack the West would target every other non-Muslim venue, including China and non-Muslim Africa, if the West were no longer a breakwater. Terrorism is a banner that attracts and semi-legitimatizes goons and psychopaths, like the SS in Nazi Germany. And if terrorism works, psychopathic miscreants will adopt terrorist methods in droves. [It seems to me that their understanding of human nature must be wrapped around feelings of powerlessness, and an inability to understand the mentalities of the powers-that-be, or the power of gentler ways of securing justice. (Gandhi's policy of non-violence must at least have contributed to the British departure from India.) But whatever the mindset, terrorists are vermin.] Muslims above all others should consider Muslim terrorists Islam's enemy. Precious few Muslims would want to live under the heavy hand of the Taliban. Terrorism is monstrously incompetent, achieving results diametrically opposed to its goals.. Terrorism has the effect of attracting the wrath of the entire world, whose countries realize that they are also vulnerable to these poisonous spiders. In the end, I think that we need to send them the message that crime does not pay.
    Phrases from the Koran have been quoted to show that Muslims are enjoined to seek world domination. I would suggest that there are similar drastic phrases within the Bible that no one takes literally, such as, "And if your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life with crippled or lame than having two hands or two feet to be cast into the eternal fire." Offhand, I don't know anyone who cut off his hand or foot because it offended him (or her).
   Some of us tend to see beyond thud-and-blunder approaches to problem-solving. (Some of us also tend to be empathetic and fair-minded, and can be gulled into supporting impractical or unworkable causes.) I think some of us were put off when President Bush announced a "war" on terrorism, visualizing the carpet bombing of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya, and the slaughter of millions of innocent civilians, setting the stage for retaliation by the children or grandchildren of the innocent victims of such a pogrom. In the meantime, many, or most of the terrorists would have slipped the hounds, and would be plotting their next depredations. But at least so far, good judgment seems to have prevailed in Washington.
    There is a tendency for some of us to see the motes in our own eye while remaining blind to the beam in our neighbor's eye. Some of us have been concerned about what the U. S. may have done to warrant suicide raids on our tallest towers. But no matter how upset you and I were, we wouldn't have done what these terrorists did. And beyond these Muslim terrorists lies a potential army of other terrorists with other "causes". What we need to accomplish is to discredit terrorism as a means to an end.
    Not even the most liberal of liberals would argue that a positive end, such as improving the lot of Palestinians, justifies any means, such as the mass murder of civilians in other countries.
    The "war" on terrorism has only just begun, and I can now feel as supportive of our cause as I could about overthrowing Hitler.