And this time, on the third day, there was no resurrection.

The events of the eleventh twist the viscera in new and unexpected ways. There is so much outrage, and there are so many targets: the perpretrators, of course, but also the non-system of airline semi-security, various presumed failures in the intelligence community, and decades of erratic foreign policy. Even President Bush comes in for catcalls, for delivering a speech that was more platitude than platform.

Dubya, at least, is getting a bad rap. At times like this, it's his job to follow the standard rituals. More specific assignments are drawn by lower officials. And no one, I suspect, has had a harder job than New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, presiding over the biggest and most excruciatingly painful rescue-and-cleanup job this continent has ever seen. Truth be told, I wouldn't have thought Rudy, quick-tempered, irascible and impatient, would be up to a task this size; seldom have I ever been so delighted to have been wrong.

The question now arises, "What if it is Osama bin Laden?" It's not like someone is going to call Crimestoppers and turn him in. The man is elusive by nature, and he has more than enough resources to make himself more so. Nor is he likely to be impressed by, say, carpet-bombing Kabul. And are we really going to send ground troops to fight on wholly-unfamiliar ground that by most accounts has enough rolls, bumps, spikes and craters to pass for a chart of the Dow Jones Industrial Average? The consensus around the Teeming Milieu seems to be that we should call up 1-800-TALIBAN and give them 72 hours to hand over Osama or prepare for involuntary induction into the Rotisserie League. This sort of maneuver is based upon the dubious assumption that all the various Islamic-fundamentalist wack squads are networked for our convenience, and I can't help but think pulling a stunt like this would cost us what few friends we have between Cyprus and Kuala Lumpur.

Colin Powell's assertions notwithstanding, this isn't a war. Yet. (Comparisons with Pearl Harbor are mostly specious: in 1941, we were invaded by the official representatives of an actual nation, not by a band of deluded Klingon wannabes nursing a generations-old grudge.) And contrary to the traditional American desire to kick ass and take names, I don't particularly want a war; if we're going to respond to death and destruction with more death and destruction, it doesn't say much for our vaunted Pax Americana, does it? If you get a wart on your elbow (no Compound W jokes, please), you'll feel much better with a nice, neat surgical procedure than you will pointing a flamethrower up your sleeve.

Identifying the exact procedure, or the location thereof, will be extraordinarily difficult. I think we're up to the task, if we don't let ourselves be blinded by rage. Unfortunately, sources of rage are as close as the television. (For a particularly annoying example, any sympathy the Palestinians may have accumulated in this country was pretty much pissed away once the video footage of their post-explosion street parties was aired.) And Americans of Arab descent are already catching undeserved hell from the usual gang of bigots, which doesn't make me feel any better. Still, the actions of our worst will never overshadow the tremendous effort being put forth by our best, to find what survivors we can, to comfort the families of the victims, and to get on with this business of living.

Terrorists, by definition, seek to undermine a way of life; the theory is that their cause, whatever it may be, will carry more weight if people are forced to pay attention. Well, attention has been paid, and the way of life has not been undermined. At least, mine hasn't. Neither has yours, I'll bet. Guess what? We won. And while clearly I have my own preferences, I, like the good soldier I strove to be many years ago, defer to the President on the matter of determining how precisely to collect from the losers.

The Vent

13 September 2001

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 Copyright © 2001 by Charles G. Hill