Monday, September 12, 2005

The Forever War, NY Times, by Mark Danner

Most inclusive and complete analysis yet of our national response to 9/11
and the Iraqi war.

Highly recommended reading (4.5 stars) by Paschal Baute

Bottom line: we have fueled a new and different terrorism, and Mr. Bush and
the Neo-con policies are leading us--country, government, military and the
world--straight into the jaws of hell (my metaphor)



SEPTEMBER 11, 2005

Mark Danner

Seldom has an image so clearly marked the turning of the world. One of man's
mightiest structures collapses into an immense white blossom of churning,
roiling dust, metamorphosing in 14 seconds from hundred-story giant of the
earth into towering white plume reaching to heaven. The demise of the World
Trade Center gave us an image as newborn to the world of sight as the
mushroom cloud must have appeared to those who first cast eyes on it. I
recall vividly the seconds flowing by as I sat gaping at the screen,
uncomprehending and unbelieving, while Peter Jennings's urbane, perfectly
modulated voice murmured calmly on about flights being grounded, leaving
unacknowledged and unexplained - unconfirmed - the incomprehensible scene
unfolding in real time before our eyes. "Hang on there a second," the
famously unflappable Jennings finally stammered - the South Tower had by now
vanished into a boiling caldron of white smoke - "I just want to check one
thing. . .because. . .we now have.. . .What do we have? We don't. . .?"
Marveling later that "the most powerful image was the one I actually didn't
notice while it was occurring," Jennings would say simply that "it was
beyond our imagination."

Looking back from this moment, precisely four years later, it still seems
almost inconceivable that 10 men could have done that - could have brought
those towers down. Could have imagined doing what was "beyond our
imagination." When a few days later, the German composer Karlheinz
Stockhausen remarked that this was "the greatest work of art in the history
of the cosmos," I shared the anger his words called forth but couldn't help
sensing their bit of truth: "What happened there - spiritually - this jump
out of security, out of the everyday, out of life, that happens sometimes
poco a poco in art." No "little by little" here: however profoundly evil the
art, the sheer immensity and inconceivability of the attack had forced
Americans instantaneously to "jump out of security, out of the everyday, out
of life" and had thrust them through a portal into a strange and terrifying
new world, where the inconceivable, the unimaginable, had become brutally

In the face of the unimaginable, small wonder that leaders would revert to
the language of apocalypse, of crusade, of "moral clarity." . . .

Copyrighted article.

Concluding paragraphs:

During the four years since the attacks of 9/11, while terrorism worldwide
has flourished, we have seen no second attack on the United States. This may
be owed to the damage done Al Qaeda. Or perhaps planning and preparation for
such an attack is going on now. When it comes to the United States itself,
the terrorists have their own "second-novel problem" - how do you top the
first production? More likely, though, the next attack, when it comes, will
originate not in the minds of veteran Qaeda planners but from this new wave
of amateurs: viral Al Qaeda, political sympathizers who nourish themselves
on Salafi rhetoric and bin Laden speeches and draw what training they
require from their computer screens. Very little investment and preparation
can bring huge rewards. The possibilities are endless, and terrifyingly
simple: rucksacks containing crude homemade bombs placed in McDonald's -
one, say, in Times Square and one on Wilshire Boulevard, 3,000 miles away,
exploded simultaneously by cellphone. The effort is small, the potential
impact overwhelming.

Attacks staged by amateurs with little or no connection to terrorist
networks, and thus no visible trail to follow, are nearly impossible to
prevent, even for the United States, with all of its power. Indeed, perhaps
what is most astonishing about these hard four years is that we have managed
to show the world the limits of our power. In launching a war on Iraq that
we have been unable to win, we have done the one thing a leader is supposed
never to do: issue a command that is not followed. A withdrawal from Iraq,
rapid or slow, with the Islamists still holding the field, will signal, as
bin Laden anticipated, a failure of American will. Those who will view such
a withdrawal as the critical first step in a broader retreat from the Middle
East will surely be encouraged to go on the attack. That is, after all, what
you do when your enemy retreats. In this new world, where what is necessary
to go on the attack is not armies or training or even technology but desire
and political will, we have ensured, by the way we have fought this forever
war, that it is precisely these qualities our enemies have in large and
growing supply. (End)


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