Laman Webantu (M)   KM2: 5450 File Size: 6.9 Kb

| KM2 Index |

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


MGG Pillai

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 around.

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 experiences it.

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 States.

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 high price.

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.

M.G.G. Pillai

KM2 Main Index