I just stumbled upon an essay I wrote in 2003, not long after the WTC attacks. There is a lot of anger in this piece. Since then, I have thought about this subject a lot, and my views have changed somewhat, but the threat we faced then has not diminished. In fact it has increased, with the growing power of ISIS to strike anywhere in the world. Where was I wrong, and what do you think I should change in this today, almost 13 years later?
I have been reading various essays recently, spanning the complete spectrum of suggested actions our government, and other governments, should take in response to the events of 9-11 and the ongoing threats of bioterrorism as well. Some argue that we are at least partially to blame for the fanatical hatred now directed at us from Muslim extremists, and that merely changing our foreign policies will eliminate the threat. At the other extreme, the use of nuclear weapons to exterminate terrorists is urged.
Somewhere in the middle, I believe, is a reasonable course of action. I do not believe that our government could do anything to cause the terrorists of the world to all pack up and go home. Al Qaeda has declared a jihad, a holy war against us. We are the target. They believe, probably rightly, that if they can destroy the U.S, the other civilized nations of the world will be easy. The Anthrax attack may well be followed by other, more sophisticated biochemical assaults. But I believe the greatest danger is the threat of nuclear attack. Does anyone doubt that they would use a nuclear device if they could obtain one, and place it in one of our cities? What can our response be to such an attack? I believe it would be nuclear. Given this desperate scenario, where the very existence of our nation is under immediate threat, we would forced to attempt to destroy whole nations sponsoring terrorism. This path leads to possible nuclear extinction of the human race, possibly of all life on the planet.
When our government is faced with possible annihilation, what action should we take? If that action risks the ending of life on earth, should we sacrifice ourselves to preserve others? Personally, I think that if I were going to die anyway, I would want to make sure that our enemies were also exterminated. I have no idea how widely that sentiment is shared. This is a question we may have to answer in the not too distant future.
The question is not if, but when the terrorists will obtain a nuclear device. Despite all Nuclear Non-Proliferation efforts, I believe ultimately we have to face the fact that they will succeed. With bin Laden’s oil fortune, and contributions from many other misguided Muslims, it is certain that they have ample funding to obtain the necessary materials and equipment. Don’t you think they are working very hard on it right now? Of course they are! We have some time before they will be ready, but the clock is ticking. We must not let this happen! We must eliminate the large-scale international terrorist infrastructure before they are able to mount worldwide nuclear and biochemical attacks. I believe we have no choice if we want the civilized world to survive. I would not rule out the limited use of low-yield tactical nuclear weapons to accomplish this. I don’t think we have enough time to send troops into all the terrorist-sponsoring countries and root them out one-by-one. Not to mention the terrible cost in casualties. We are going to have to get the “attention” of those governments, so they will do it themselves. If we are viewed as the “bully” of the world, so be it. But we can only take these actions so long as we hold superior force. Once they have weapons of mass-destruction, the equation changes, and we have few options.
I would like to talk about the various definitions of terrorism that have been floating around lately. Some claim we are terrorists, because civilians are dying in Afghanistan from stray bombs. Civilian deaths in war are a tragedy. The 6000+ deaths in the WTC are beyond tragic. The obvious difference between the WTC deaths and the Afghan deaths is that terrorists intend to kill as many people as possible. With the thousands of bombs dropped on military targets in Afghanistan, I think it is a tribute to our military forces that so few civilian deaths have resulted, although every one has been spread all over the newspapers of the world, and some of the weaker members of the Coalition are calling for a stop to the bombing. When we stop the bombing, we are left with a ground war, which will drag on for years, cost us many body bags, and buy time for them to develop their doomsday weapons. Is that what our “allies” want? I hope we keep on pounding them from the air, for years if necessary!
The real problem is that the terrorists have chosen to adopt a strategy that no wartime army had ever done in the history of the human race. They are using their civilians as shields, sometimes their own family members. They hide behind the skirts of their women, and under the beds of their children and dare us to attack them! Words fail me in trying to characterize such behavior. Cowardly, base, cynical…..they fall far short of expressing my abhorrence. We must destroy them. We have no choice. Civilians will die. It’s unavoidable. This is a different war. Every citizen is at risk in every country. We are all soldiers, and we had better start thinking that way.
The Age of Innocence is over. The two Great Wars of the last century were fought on foreign soil. Even though we lost many people, the wars were fought “Over There”, and we were insulated from the ugly truth that most of the world is a brutal, dangerous place. No more. From now on, all of the world will be a brutal, dangerous place. We will learn to live with it. There will still be concerts and ball games and parties, and world travel, and joy of living. But there will be an awareness of danger in all of our public affairs. It will just become part of our environment.
One of the propaganda strategies in any war is to dehumanize the opposition. The terrorists apparently have no conscience problems in killing women and children. I think we are going to be forced to think of Terrorism as a cancer in the vital organs of the human race. To remove it, we must use surgery (military action) and chemotherapy (political, economic and financial sanctions). We must think of terrorists as vermin, not people. Killing a terrorist should be like stepping on a cockroach. No moral dilemma should exist. Their behavior, the acts they commit, invalidate them as human beings. We must eradicate them, period. Failure to do so endangers the survival of humanity, probably the survival of all life on earth.