A Brutal Wake-Up Call

 By: Michael Hammerschlag       9-12-2001

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We are paying for our blithe, heedless, overly-cautious behavior- and again nailing the barn door shut after the horse has escaped. We knew bin Laden was gunning for us for years, yet all we could muster was 80-odd painless cruise missiles in Afghanistan- had we followed it up with 100 airborne commandos, 5-6,000 citizens would still be alive.* We regularly slap down rogue nations but fail to provide a single orbiting fighter to defend DC or NYC;  LA or Chicago. Reportedly the Israeli’s were prepared to attack the bombers of the Beirut Marine barracks + US Embassy, but we didn’t sign off on it. We knew the first bomber of the WTC, Ramsey Yousef, had plans to blow up 10 airliners over the Pacific on a single day and we’ve watched suicide bombers multiply like lemmings in Israel..... but we couldn’t bring ourselves to put skymarshalls on planes. A Jan 2 year comprehensive Defense Dept. sponsored report from the US Commission on Nat. Security warned of imminent attacks, but was summarily dismissed by President Bush, who preferred to give the vast job to FEMA + his former campaign mngr. These fanatics had knives- they could have been stopped with tear gas or a stun gun. “But you have 35,000 flights a day!” exclaimed an editor. So what. Planes are flying bombs. We’ve ignored 7 terrorist bombings of our people over 18 years without any effective retaliation (except Libya). We’ve embargoed and starved a crushed enemy to force them to remove an evil leader that million troops couldn’t or wouldn’t. We carry on air strikes on Iraq as a mindless reflex, rather than a policy, though the allies of Desert Storm have long since bitterly defected. For a decade, we’ve denied Iraq chlorine after we devastated their water purification and sewage treatment plants, so tens of thousands have died of disease- breeding a nation of potential terrorists. We’ve ignored sequentially larger Israeli (Sharon) brutality towards the Palestinians as they lumped the entire leadership in as terrorists and attacked and killed them. This horror was predictable, indeed almost inevitable, since Sharon strode on the Temple Mount with an army of security men; and Bin Laden bragged about his next terrorist spectacular. If the Palestinians are the Mafia, and Israel is Robert Kennedy; America is JFK. Terrorists think if they kill one the other will wither. They can’t and it won’t. Meanwhile, the Palestinians, wizards of PR, danced in the street at America’s pain, as they had done so productively a decade ago at Kuwait’s invasion (they were later expelled). Author Tom Clancy details a deliberate 747 crash into the Capital by a pilot whose son + brother have been killed in a war with the US in Debt of Honor in 1994 (90° rotated), just when Bin Laden was turning against America. He might have read it. Apart from the pilot's dubious nationality (Japanese), the question was only ‘when’, not ‘if’. Palestinian rage and frustration was obviously building to a crescendo- in our last (July 14th) newsletter (at end) we predicted a terrorist attack on NYC or DC, which we thought might be nuclear.

Because they were so lightly armed, the terrorists carefully chose virtually empty planes: 38, 56, 58, 81 people on the least traveled day of the week to minimize passenger opposition, which they got anyway- heroically in the Pa. crash. Draconian security checks are no solution, a knife can be fashioned from many things (and not even necessary if they have 5 goons); the only solution is armed skymarshalls with low velocity weapons. Reinforcing cockpit bulkheads and providing pilots with weapons would prevent a repeat of this horror. Likewise, an air cap should always protect out 3 or 4 major cities. There was 18 minutes of warning to stop the second terrorist airliner and save ~3000 souls, but the closest fighters were in Cape Cod. Shutting down the air system, stock market, and tourist centers for days grants the monsters what they want- the power to stop America in its tracks. Overreaction and panic, an American trait, must be replaced by a more stoic steadfastness, a “stiff upper lip”, like the Brits. It’s not the end of the world, except for bin Laden, and of course- the American innocents who suddenly found themselves on the firing line of a war they didn’t know existed.

Bin Laden and his network should be hunted down and the Taliban attacked unless (even though?) they deliver him, but a true war on terrorism would also have to target the Iranians + Hezbollah that supported so many past bombings. Now the murderous mullahs (only 2% of the Muslim clergy) are brutally oppressing a liberal President so the correct strikes might free an exhausted startlingly young populace from their “religious” yokes. Likewise Syria has always secretly provided cover and support for terrorists, though the extent of that now is unclear. Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, PFLP, and other Israel/Lebanon/Syria based terrorists are more difficult targets- the Israeli’s haven’t managed to stop them with far better intelligence than we have, though what was really lacking was the political will. And we must have firm proof of culpability against us. However, there is enough info for quick strikes at the Taliban leadership which provided safe haven for Bin Laden for so many years (and deserve perdition for blowing up the millennium-old statues of Buddha alone). One report claims bin Laden was appointed head of the Taliban military! The enemy isn’t a country we must build forces for 6 months to attack, but a fluid group of individuals, no more than 2000, who need to be tracked down by fast moving commando units, Rangers, + special forces backed by whatever conventional power is necessary.

Is it imaginable that Clinton or Gore wouldn’t have forced an emergency summit to try to stop the escalating nightmare in the Middle East? Our woefully inexperienced President let his press secretary address the shaken nation 7 hours later as he shuttled around the country like a rabbit. He can transmit from anywhere in the world on Air Force 1. He first seemed to be 100 ft underwater without Scuba gear, although he recovered in his memorial address. His rejection of international treaties and general ignorance of world affairs hasn’t helped. At least Cheney knows how to run a war.

In its collapse the World Trade Towers apparently literally 90% blew away as clouds of dust. Those clouds were supposedly 2% asbestos, giving all rescue workers possibly dangerous exposures- friends miles away suffered. I think the rubble is so small a volume because it’s collapsed into the 5-10 floors of the subbasement. The collapse of the 2nd tower was so smooth and vertical, shattering into pieces and collapsing into itself in what looked like a perfect controlled demolition... that I think they might have had satchel charges on an upper floor that went off simultaneously. Although it sounds strange, we were stunned at the low fatality count: those buildings hold 50,000 people and our best estimates were 20,000 dead; the killers made a crucial mistake- they did it an hour too early- before the towers were full, and the evacuation of the buildings in the hour and quarter before they dropped was incredibly successful. The first tower hit was the 2nd to collapse, lasting 1:45; while the 2nd tower fell after only 45 minutes. This attack about matched the worst one-day death toll in American history: 4700 in the battle of Antietam in 1862- though 3000 more died of their wounds later.

I was supposed to fly coast to coast over NYC on Tuesday. I visited the WTC, perched improbably on the bottom tip of the $26 island like it would unbalance it, for the first and last time just after Y2K. I spent 6 hours at the top, wandering around the huge walls of glass with the secluded alcoves below, gazing down on the great city from Olympian heights, roaming the roof, unable to leave. Thanks to the hero firefighters and Condolences to all in NYC and elsewhere who’ve lost friends and family, and to all Americans who’ve lost a portion of our freedom and boundlessness that may not return.

Addenum- *Clinton had a plan to do so in the middle of '98, but was hamstrung by impeachment. If you cripple the President, you are crippling the country's ability to defend itself, and the impeachment plotters and Clinton-haters should look long and hard at their own dirty hands.

Michael Hammerschlag is a contributing writer for Liberal Slant.







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