The Day We Woke Up ... For Awhile
John Wayne as Rooster Cogburn, speaking to a rat in the corner:
“My writ here says you must stop eating Chen Lee’s cornmeal forthwith. It’s a rat writ, writ for a rat, and this is lawful service of same.”
The rat ignores him, so he shoots it.
“You can’t serve papers on a rat. You got to kill him or let him be.”
It’s been five years. A blink of a cosmic eye -- or, in politics, forever.
Did we go to war that day? Not at all; we were at war years before that – we just didn’t notice. What happened on that day is that our eyes were opened, if only temporarily.
I was once taken to task by a reader, who insinuated I was a cruel warmonger for saying all Americans should watch that video footage, every year. I was wrong, of course: Everyone in the entire free world should watch the footage, not just America. Every year. This is not a war against just one nation.
I’ve said we’ve been at war since 2/93. Don’t remember 2/93? Doesn’t stick in your mind? That’s February, 1993, when a group of terrorist packed a van full of explosives and detonated it under the World Trade Center, in an attempt to knock one tower over against the other. Six people died, a thousand were hurt. It was treated as a crime.
A crime? Few people recognized the truth; it wasn’t until after they did manage to bring the towers down that I pronounced 2/93 as the day the war started.
But I was wrong.
It has been argued persuasively, by people whose eyes were opened long before mine, that the war actually started in November, 1979. A group of Iranian radicals attacked and captured the American Embassy in Tehran (embassies are considered sovereign territory). Backed by the recently radicalized Iranian government, they held America hostage and helped bring down a presidency.
That’s when the terrorists smelled blood.
If we designated a day, like 9/11 or 7/7, for every terrorist attack, the calendar would be full. And still the American giant slept, unaware of the terrorists buzzing ever nearer.
4/83: 63 die in an attack on Beirut’s US Embassy.
Later that year, 241 US servicemen die in a truck bomb attack in Beirut. Why? Because we didn’t react the first time.
Over the next several years, bombs explode at the US embassies in Beirut and Manila, among others. 224 die in 1998, during simultaneous attacks on embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.
4/85: A Madrid restaurant, popular with US soldiers, is bombed.
8/85: 22 die in a car bombing at a US Air Force Base in Germany.
Later that year a wheelchair bound American is murdered in cold blood, aboard a hijacked cruise ship.
4/86: TWA Flight 840 is bombed. Two years later Pan Am Flight 103 blows up over Scotland, killing 259.
12/92: American troops in Yemen are targeted by 3 bombs.
1/93: Two CIA agents are shot to death outside their headquarters in Virginia.
2/93: The first World Trade Center bombing.
Also in 1993, a little known group called Al-Qaeda claims responsibility for shooting down US helicopters in Somalia.
11/96: A car bomb in Saudi Arabia kills seven American military personnel.
6/96: A truck bomb attack on the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia kills 19 Americans, hurting 500 more.
10/00: According to law, an attack on a warship is an act of war, but when 17 die on the USS Cole no war is declared; it’s treated, again, as a crime.
Then there are those failures, which generated press and quickly faded away. Plots to blow up Los Angeles International Airport and Seattle’s Space Needle, and attack Disneyland; attempts to bring explosives over the border; plots to kill President Clinton in the Philippines, ex-President Bush in Kuwait, and Pope John Paul II in Manila.
We could jump ahead: To more bombings in Spain, to 7/7 in England, to plots to blow up numerous America bound passenger planes. (That last one was done before – remember the plot to blow up dozens of trans-Pacific US flights in 1995? No?)
Between 1981 (when extremists killed Egyptian President Anwar Sadat) and 2000, the world suffered more than 9,000 terrorist attacks, not including the violence in Palestine. Between 1995 and 2000, 77 Americans died as a result of international terrorism, not to mention many hundreds of people from other countries. A year later, over 3,000 died in a single attack on American soil.
That’s just the tip of the bomb-laden iceberg.
Al-Qaeda operated in 60 countries, including the USA. Nations identified as sponsoring terrorism include Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. This doesn’t include Iraq’s attacks against four other countries, since those were considered acts of war, but does include Saddam Hussein’s attempt to have George Bush Sr. assassinated in 1993.
There’s a pattern there, if you care to look. Whenever we showed weakness, or ignored them, the terrorists redoubled their attacks. Whenever we showed strength and made efforts to protect ourselves, the attacks subsided – the terrorists were busy trying to protect themselves.
When America went on the attack, countries like Libya suddenly started to play nice. When Congress and the extreme wings of our parties started in-fighting, making us look weak, North Korea and Iran started thumbing their noses and destabilizing their parts of the world again. Pattern? You bet.
Are you wondering about my John Wayne quote?
In the 80’s and 90’s, we treated terrorism as a crime. Those weren’t crimes, they were acts of war. You can’t write a writ for a rat, and you can’t serve papers on a terrorist.
We’re not dealing with criminals; we’re dealing with maniacs whose ultimate goal is to destroy every single government in the word that isn’t run by Muslim extremists, and to kill every human being in the world who doesn’t convert to that same hardcore definition of their religion – including other Muslims. They've said as much, in so many words.
You can’t treat them like rats because, as the Duke said, you have to kill a rat or let it be. You can’t let a terrorist be, because he’s just going to keep coming back -- until he either kills you, or you kill him.
It’s that big. We’re at war, and more than just our way of life is at stake – our very survival is. So yes, we should watch that horrible footage from 9/11 -- the buildings falling, the people dying – every day. Whatever it takes.