September 12th, 2001


Though modern consciousness has a way of leaving things in the past, the events of September eleventh, two thousand one will leave a permanent scar in our collective minds. Many people take a great deal of comfort in the knowledge that no battle has been waged on U.S. soil in well over a hundred years. While the media references Pearl Harbor, we must recall that was not only a military installation, it was also at a time that Hawaii was not a state. The previous acts of terrorism in this country were terrible, but not in the same way, and not just due to scale. The Oklahoma City bombing of the Alfred Murrah Federal building was a tragedy that I do not want to downplay, but prior to the bombing, few people had ever heard of it. Terrorists, crashing commercial jets into the World Trade Center's Twin Towers and the Pentagon are a category unto themselves.

Immediately following the attack, people are gripped with a sense of vulnerability, or powerlessness, as well as righteous indignation. As surely as a villager after Viking marauders, you want revenge, and you want it soon. Terrorisms enigmatic countenance makes it difficult to sate this desire. We do not know who propagated the assault on our sense of security, and we are left grasping at ghosts. We have, as a country, been stabbed in the back by a shadow, and we must now hunt it out to seek our justice.

Many urge caution and temperance. We will only incite more violence, and violence begets violence, they insist. Others claim that anything less than fierce retribution will show us as weak and attract others who previously feared our wrath to step forward with knives of their own. There is no doubt we will make every effort to identify our assailant and subdue them, but doing so without building resentment in our detractors is a tricky business.

Currently, fingers and evidence point toward Osama bin Laden, our scapegoat of the moment. As people tire of our unending punishment of Iraq and Saddam Hussein, this new foe has been drafted to absorb our hate. Like Iraq, he is our own creation, funded for years by our tax dollars when the scapegoat was the big bad Soviets. Now his hatred of heavy handed U.S. foreign policy has expanded to hatred of our way of life, and indeed the citizens of our nation.

To accept the accusation at face value, we can understand how someone with his facilities, wealth, and motivation could concoct a scheme as malevolent as this and through the powerful tool of fundamentalist religion, draft volunteers to strike at the Great Satan with their very lives. The assault on multiple targets simultaneously bears similarity to the Embassy bombings in ninety-eight. The quickly discovered Arab passports, training materials, and even a van with bin Laden's bearded mug all strengthen the case against him.

As estimates of the death toll rise, and investigations, arrests, and leads happen, people begin to flee Afghanistan, still harboring this purported madman. Indeed, another assault by the U.S. on the country would help ease the bloodlust, and were it effective in rooting him out, a show trial would put a satisfied grin on American faces, seeing their justice upheld. We wouldn't even see a great deal of resistance from other countries, at least outside the middle east. Russia after all, spent ten years in Afghanistan slaying a million people to prove their resolve. To deny us our witch hunt would be hypocritic, would it not? Europe, as usual will tow our party line, and only the likes of China and Egypt would voice grumblings of dismay. As usual, their words will not be reinforced with action. Their saber rattling is their only method of expression. China, after all, has important preparation to complete before it engages us.

So is this our course then? A military assault on a quasi-government of Islamic extremists? It certainly has the right public relations angle. We can patch things up by reprimanding Israel for violence against Palestine and continue our work on the Middle East peace process, since peace is something we clearly understand so well. We can admonish Palestine for their raids on Israel, since they shouldn't be defending their homeland anyway. Our steady supply of money and weapons to Israel will continue and their campaign of firestarting will go uninterrupted.

Few Americans at home will even grasp the subtle connection. They will be just as surprised and horrified when a new terrorist rises to take bin Laden's place. His hatred of the U.S. will be just as strong, and we will all continue to wonder why. The workers at Lockheed Martin can debate it around the water cooler on break from building fighter jets bound for the Middle East.