And then, on September 11, the world fractured.It's beyond my skill as a writer to capture that day and the days that would follow--the planes, like specters, vanishing into steel and glass; the slow-motion cascade of the towers crumbling into themselves; the ash-covered figures wandering the streets; the anguish and the fear. Nor do I pretend to understand the stark nihilism that drove the terrorists that day and that drives their brethren still. My powers of empathy, my ability to reach into another's heart, cannot penetrate the blank stares of those would murder innocents with abstract, serene satisfaction.
The President is also captured in a well-worn TV news clip, making a boilerplate response to a question on terrorism and then asking the reporters to watch his drive. Well, that's what you get if you catch the President on a golf course. If Eisenhower had done this, as he often did, it would have been presented as calm statesmanship. If Clinton had done it, as he often did, it would have shown his charm.
There are many ways to honor America. This book is mine. I have completed this journey of self-education in the belief that the most terrifying possibility since 9/11 has not been terrorism--as frightening as that is--but the prospect that Americans will give up their rights in pursuing the chimera of security.
Our love of lockstep is our greatest curse, the source of all that bedevils us. It is the source of homophobia, xenophobia, racism, sexism, terrorism, bigotry of every variety and hue, because it tells us there is one right way to do things, to look, to behave, to feel, when the only right way is to feel your heart hammering inside you and to listen to what its timpani is saying.
Question: Which Mediterranean government shares all of Ronald Reagan's views on international terrorism, the present danger of Soviet advance, the hypocrisy of the United Nations, the unreliability of Europe, the perfidy of the Third World and the need for nuclear defense policy? Question: Which Mediterranean government is Ronald Reagan trying, with the help of George Shultz and Caspar Weinberger, to replace with a government led by a party which professes socialism and which contains extreme leftists?If you answered 'the government of Israel' to both of the above, you know more about political and international irony than the President does.
Now is as good a time as ever to revisit the history of the Crusades, or the sorry history of partition in Kashmir, or the woes of the Chechens and Kosovars. But the bombers of Manhattan represent fascism with an Islamic face, and there's no point in any euphemism about it. What they abominate about 'the West,' to put it in a phrase, is not what Western liberals don't like and can't defend about their own system, but what they like about it and must defend: its emancipated women, its scientific inquiry, its separation of religion from the state. Loose talk about chickens coming home to roost is the moral equivalent of the hateful garbage emitted by Falwell and Robertson, and exhibits about the same intellectual content.
Since I speak and write about this a good deal, I am often asked at public meetings, in what sometimes seems to me a rather prurient way, whether I myself or my family have 'ever been threatened' by jihadists. My answer is that yes, I have, and so has everyone else in the audience, if they have paid enough attention to the relevant bin-Ladenist broadcasts to notice the fact.
Our enemy is twofold: al Qaeda, a stateless network of terrorists that struck us on 9/11; and a radical ideological movement in the Islamic world, inspired in part by al Qaeda, which has spawned terrorist groups and violence across the globe. The first enemy is weakened, but continues to pose a grave threat. The second enemy is gathering, and will menace Americans and American interests long after Usama bin Laden and his cohorts are killed or captured. Thus, our strategy must match our means to two ends: dismantling the al Qaeda network and prevailing in the longer term over the ideology that gives rise to Islamist terrorism. The 9 11 Commission Report: Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the Un
Let's have some precision in language here: terrorism means deadly violence -- for a political and/or economical purpose -- carried out against people and other living things, and is usually conducted by governments against their own citizens (as at Kent State, or in Vietnam, or in Poland, or in most of Latin America right now), or by corporate entities such as J. Paul Getty, Exxon, Mobil Oil, etc etc., against the land and all creatures that depend upon the land for life and livelihood. A bulldozer ripping up a hillside to strip mine for coal is committing terrorism; the damnation of a flowing river followed by the drowning of Cherokee graves, of forest and farmland, is an act of terrorism.Sabotage, on the other hand, means the use of force against inanimate property, such as machinery, which is being used (e.g.) to deprive human beings of their rightful work (as in the case of Ned Ludd and his mates); sabotage (le sabot dropped in a spinning jenny) -- for whatever purpose -- has never meant and has never implied the use of violence against living creatures.
I can remember when I was a bit of an ETA fan myself. It was in 1973, when a group of Basque militants assassinated Adm. Carrero Blanco. The admiral was a stone-faced secret police chief, personally groomed to be the successor to the decrepit Francisco Franco. His car blew up, killing only him and his chauffeur with a carefully planted charge, and not only was the world well rid of another fascist, but, more important, the whole scheme of extending Franco's rule was vaporized in the same instant. The dictator had to turn instead to Crown Prince Juan Carlos, who turned out to be the best Bourbon in history and who swiftly dismantled Franco's entire system. If this action was 'terrorism,' it had something to be said for it. Everyone I knew in Spain made a little holiday in their hearts when the gruesome admiral went sky-high.