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MGG: President Bush after the Terrorist Attacks [WTC]
By M.G.G. Pillai
14/9/2001 5:08 am Fri
13 September 01
President Bush after the Terrorist Attacks
How President Bush reacts to the Pentagon and World Trade Centre
terrorist attacks is how President Saddam Hussein did when the
president's father, George Bush, Sr. attacked Iraq ten years
earlier. Then it was the United States which gloated and the
Arabs cried. But it was tit for tat. Now it is the other way
The most irrelevant group in any conflict are the civilians,
the "collateral damage" of Pentagonspeak. They do not count
when Baghdad or Arab cities are bombed. They should not when
Washington and New York are targets.
Whether Palestinians gloated at America's discomfiture is
beside the point, especially when the United States gloated at
Iraq's when pulverised during the Gulf War. Those who watched
the CNN coverage at the time can still remember it. So, why is
it wrong when the tables are turned? President Saddam promised
the "Mother Of All Battles", a decade later the United States
That is not how the latest carnage is viewed. It is moral
cowardice, President Bush said, but since when was morality
important in national policy? The killing of civilians in New
York and Washington should not rate special mention when gloating
is the order of the day when lesser mortals die in distant
countries by weapons of destruction reined on by the United
The shock of what the terrorists did, whoever they are, is
as serious as when Japan bombed Pearl Harbour. This is ignored
in the debate currently taking place in the United States. The
expected death toll of thousands would exceed the 2,400 who died
at Pearl Harbour, and could well reach the highest carnage in a
single day during the US Civil War: 23,000 deaths.
Another day of infamy
But death hits hardest when they are your people. The
United States response is what one would expect. But the talk
shows and comment hides or would not discuss the brilliance with
which the terrorists immobilised the American government, hitting
simultaneously the symbol of American military might and
business. It does not matter who did the dastardly deed, they
would, if they are not dead, be hunted down and probably
executed. But it is a risk they took when they plotted revenge.
The New York Stock Exchange, that symbol of American
business, is lost in the rubble the World Trade Centre buildings
now represent. The rise in American patriotism and nationalism
is what we see in any country, including Iraq after the Western
bombing in 1981 when President Bush, Snr, was at the White House.
But how would it take the shock of what the terrorists did, worse
than Pearl Harbour since that was a military target?
It does not matter if this is vindicated by bringing to book
those who caused the horror. The US government want revenge, as
President Saddam in 1981, but the humiliation in both countries
is much alike. More important, the reality of terrorists attacks
is brought home starkly to the American living room. And to
those who host American military facilities worldwide.
The United States had looked upon the world with
isolationist intent through most of the 20th century, confident
that an invasion on mainland USA is well nigh impossible. She
came in at the right time during the First and Second World Wars
to take much credit. But when they ventured alone, it was at
heavy cost. The Vietnam and Korean Wars, its absolute support
for Israel amongst others.
But as a retired French spy chief wrote in his memoirs in
1992, the new global concerns should be terrorist attacks which
blur national boundaries. The United States had, by and large,
ignored the counter responses to its policies, not only in the
Middle East but elsewhere in the world. And paid an unacceptably
The chief demon
The chief demon now of her political discomfiture is Osama
ben Ladin, a scion of a Saudi Arabian business magnate, shorn of
his Saudi citizenship and lives in Afghanistan, credited with
many attacks on United States installations the world over. His
reputation rises with each major attack on the United States he
is hoist with. In the latest attacks on mainland USA, he is
credited with superhuman intelligence and powers that he is
viewed as a latter day Saladin.
But is he the cause of it all? Possibly, even probably.
But there are too many anniversaries of Arab hurt that could have
brought other Arab groups into the equation. Thirty years to the
day, in 1971, Palestinians hijacked four American passenger
aircraft and blew them up in the desert in Jordan. A decade ago,
the Gulf War began with the physical destruction of Iraq and
mindnumbing sanctions that remain to this day. And many more.
Then there are individual Arabs with a built-up hatred for the
United States and who could for motives as basic as family or
national honour sacrifice their lives to avenge.
Whatever it is, retaliation, which in the mood the United
States is in now, must come. Is it the right cause? It does not
matter. But the anguish in middle America is as real as the
anguish in middle Middle East, even if CNN is not around to
record that. It is also presumptious to assume that plotters fly
commercial planes or coordinate terrorist attacks after reading
basic books on the subject.
One thing is certain: the attacks dented American honour
and power. It is that more than the casualties that determines
Washington's response. What makes this particularly unacceptable
is Washington's reluctance to take casualties. The world knows
it. And numbed in its responses, the focus is on casualties.
Nothing frightens her more than large casualties. She
withdrew from the Middle East when they took more casualties than
they had expected. But as an analyst said on CNN this morning:
"If you want to kill rats, you must be prepared to move into the
sewers." If she would not, their numerous enemies around the
globe would keep testing that on American soil, though not with
the same intensity.
Perhaps more important, the United States is out of touch
with the Arab underground. For if it was, it would have
pre-empted this attack early enough. It is not a failure of
policy or intelligence; it was this smug official belief that it
must now deal with. But the damage is done. America would not
be the same anymore.