9/11 for me has always been a living embodiment of W.H. Auden's Musee de Beaux Arts -- my daughter marvelled at the way in which people kept walking their dogs and even getting a suntan along the banks of the East River even while the horror downtown was unfolding.
I found this year on the 7th anniversary that I simply didn't want to remember or memorialize at all. I will wait until another year to pull out envelopes of items related to 9/11 or watch TV. I didn't go to the memorial service at our church as I have done other years or go to the memorial garden made from cement and metal from the site in memory of our parishioners who died there as well as Fr. Mykal. I listened to my son recount his memories of that day, but the conversation was brief. At the time, he concluded, at the age of 9, "God is a terrorist." He's remained with that conclusion, which I think is intellectually and emotionally sound, given the circumstances, which is that God enabled terrorists to kill innocent people. I don't think God is a terrorist, I merely think He has given man free will, and these are the results. My son, who exercises a great deal of free will that then leads to his free will being removed for periods of time when he is grounded, hasn't grasped yet the larger context of free will -- but then, he's young.
So I wasn't even going to blog, and it was only Zha Ewry's pious musings that impelled in me that notion of civic duty that makes me write again, and again, and write too long, and write in a way that is not accessible to many people, but that's ok, write I must.
At the time, a week or so after that attacks, there was suddenly an alarm at the Empire State Building where I had just been for a meeting and where a colleague was still up on a higher floor -- there was concern that it was going to be "next". It was a bomb scare, and false alarm, but like a lot of the false alarms in those first days of copycatting, you couldn't be sure. I had already taken a hike down lots of stairways in that building because of a false alarm, and while it was reasonable to consider it was another one, I sent an email to the friend in case they were glued to the screen and not paying attention but the phone wasn't answering.
We went to my son's window and stared out at the Empire State Building, which could still be seen in those days before construction blocked it, and began the mental trajectory that all New Yorker's seem to instinctively know these days especially due to constant crane accidents -- if that building falls, will it fall on *me*? Am I in its pathway?
"Are they going to attack our house?" my daughter asked, worried. "No," I said. "They only attack symbols. They crashed into the World Trade Center because it's a symbol."
"But am *I* a symbol?" my little seven-year-old daughter asked, without hesitation.
Chilling, that a child would have to ask that question at such a tender age, not even quite understanding what "symbols" are -- taking it literally as "the thing you become because people make you one." We're not special -- all kinds of people have to live under armed conflict all over the world, but it hasn't been the norm in the U.S.
And I while I tried to reassure my daughter at the time, I would have to conclude philosophically that yes, a little white American girl is a symbol. Just like a little Jewish girl in Israel is a symbol. And, some leftwingers will hasten to add, a little Palestinian girl is a symbol.
And here's where I say, "No." The little Palestinian girl is *not* a symbol, dehumanized, for Israel as a state, or Israeli armed forces or movements (if they existed) to attack *deliberately* as it is for Palestinians, both the armed movements and the mobilized civilizans. Israel is not a state funding suicide bombers as other states are; it is not sanctioning and excusing the deliberate attack on civilians; its citizens don't dance in the streets at another's misfortune, as Palestinians did after 9/11. If Israel has in fact been responsible for the deaths of innocents it is due to accident, disproportionate use of force, even larger policies like the settlements which one might conclude are responsible, but it is not the same kind of raw, murderous, deliberate hateful logic of symbolism that a suicide bomber engages in. There aren't any Israeli suicide bombers. If throughout history you can dredge up examples of a Jewish terrorist here or there, everyone has to concede that they are not the norm, and dwarfed by the numbers of Palestinians. There isn't a moral equivalence to the two sides when you look at the use of symbols. It's one-sided. And that's why the morality you develop around this can't be falsely "bilateral".
And that's why, on this day, I don't fetch up moral equivalence bromides and follow faddish activities like "The Day of Interdependence" trying to whip up more blame to distribute to the U.S. and other Western nations for its bad policies (the war in Iraq) -- as Zha Ewry does here, just to cite one of many examples. And maybe it's simply because Zha, who went to the exact same area I did on that fateful day, had a very different day...
Zha describes in vivid detail the rush around town to pick up children in the E. 20s, the people covered with white powder, the shock, the worry about friends on the upper floors, culminating in a happy scene somewhere uptown or in the suburbs in Zha's affluent life where there are just happy children playing on a playground, not children who ask if God is a terrorist, or if they are a symbol, and who continue to play with blocks, building up big towers, and knocking them down...
The E. 20s might seem an affluent neighbourhood of its own, after a fashion, but it isn't, as it happens to be all hospitals and public housing and people who have lived there in rent control for 50 years, and then the big complex formerly owned by MetLife sprawling down to the East River, which is filled with people in services that were settled there as a class after World War II -- for many returning servicemen. They are firemen, policemen, insurance adjustors -- outsiders don't realize that the Towers were not the center of world commerce with big guys like Soros or Trump sitting in them -- their offices are uptown -- rather, it the Towers were the back office to world commerce.
It happens that a lot of people in those service occupations are ethnic Irish or Italian or Spanish and tend to be Catholic. Interestingly, the Jesuits claim that of all groups vying for victim status around the event, they suffered the greatest losses, since they made roll calls of all those who perished, and so many had happened to graduate from their high schools. Of course, the tragedy knew no nationalities or creeds or races -- Muslims, Jews, and secular humanists were all burnt to a crisp by the homocidal suicide bombers without distinction.
A friend of mine in the building trade pointed out that the suicide pilots deliberately turned their planes sideways at the last minute so as to achieve the absolute maximum of destruction, something that acquired an even more special type of fanatical concentration than the fanatical concentration that they would have aready had as suicide bombers in the first place. Many extra people died -- and the buildings fell over -- precisely because of that chilling calculation to turn the planes rather than just slice through them. But we didn't know that was happening.
When the first plane hit, I had just exited the polls -- we had a local election that day -- and as I made my way home to pack my suitcase to take the train to Washington (an aborted trip, obviously), I saw a circle of people standing outside my doorway. My neighbour was holding up a cell phone, saying he was trying to talk to someone inside the tower, and the doorman was fiddling with a radio dial. Nobody seemed to be able to find out anything coherent, so I went upstairs and turned on the TV and watched the news about one plane hitting. Perhaps it's a tribute to our thick skin as New Yorkers or my own obliviousness, but I concluded that it was "just like February 1993" when the towers were bombed as I sat nursing a baby and watching out my window at the towers, which suddenly went dark. It was bad, but a localized sort of bad.
I sat down and tried to finish up a document but then suddenly there was an email from a friend in Congress, where I was scheduled to go and testify at a hearing. "We are evacuating. Congress is closed." I still didn't fully grasp the situation as I kept watching TV. I called my office manager and she said "The Pentagon has been hit," which is something that I hadn't gleaned from TV or radio or computer at that point because we were obsessed with the first -- and then the second planes. I told her to go home immediately, and raced toward the door -- while one or two towers being hit in New York might not ruffle me as a New Yorker who had seen them bombed before, the Pentagon being hit must mean that it was a war -- so my first thought was to get to the kids.
As I raced down the steps, I saw other parents who had arrived at exactly the same conclusion as I racing toward the schools as well. When I got to my daughter's school, the head of the PTA was in the hallway, quietly organizing the situation to avoid panic. On my way, I had seen people lining up already at bank ATMs and stores, and said I was concerned there could be some kind of shortages. There was also the awful situation that wives of firemen were also starting to show up and Monsignor decided to open up the church and parish hall for everyone to come in as a kind of community organizing point. I fetched my daughter, who had been told that a big accident had been happening; one of the more curious things about this day was that she was carrying in her backpack one of those black-and-white marble school notebooks, and inside, dated September 10, was her carefully-worded advice to the Mayor, in a school essay that was supposed to teach civic involvement, that he should take care of buildings better so they didn't fall over -- this was of course *before* 9/11, and referenced the situation of the odd bricks falling, as they had done in our area, necessitating the removal of a playground the ended up nerfing it into something not as fun for the kids.
I should mention that before I raced out, the phone had rung several times, one from my babysitter, saying that she didn't think she could get on the subway, it wasn't running, and one from a very distraught neighbour on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge, who said the same thing -- and worried how her son would be picked up from school. I assured her I'd get her son and keep him at my house.
Once I picked up my daughter, and saw all the lines hitting the stores, I was concerned about my aunt and ailing grandmother who lived next door to the school -- perhaps they'd not be able to get out. I ducked into a deli with less lines on a side street and bought some water and soup as the quickest things I could get with the money I had. (Of course, like a good New Yorker, later as I saw the disaster was larger than originally conceived, I filled the bath tub with water, having gone through a number of water outages in the past in these situations).
So I went upstairs to drop off things for them and said I had to get my son and his friend -- and meanwhile, my aunt filled me in on the Pentagon and mentioned that the two planes were empty (this was a fervent wish that many people passed around as a story in the early hours).
We went outside...and looked downtown. The towers were a pillar of smoke and black clouds. I don't know at which point they began falling. My aunt went up on her roof and watched as one of the towers collapsed, but I didn't stay to look, needing to get the other kids. At this point men and women carrying their briefcases, covered in white powder, looking for all the world like those public sculptures in parks of business people, began to stagger uptown. We continued our way up to the E. 30s, and entered the public school, which as I've written before, contrasted vividly with the combination of private administrative and civic involvement in the parochial school. Children were wandering, confused. School safety police deployed in the schools were insisting that children not be removed without presentation of ID, causing a huge traffic jam. I managed to get upstairs, and we heard a teacher sobbing -- apparently she was talking to her husband in the tower, we were told, but we were never able to find out anything more about it.
My son helped me find his friend, and we decided to go down some back stairs out to another exit to avoid the traffic jam. On our way, we met an administrator, the same man who had told me on our first day about "fuzzy math" (TERC), and how "there are no right answers". I told him that the other boy's mother was trapped in Brooklyn and couldn't get him, and I was simply taking him, and the ID check would be damned. The administrator, whether due to common sense or fuzzy math, made an executive decision simply to let us pass because the boy vouched for me as "not a kidnapper".
As we made our way back home, we passed huge lines around the hospitals -- people already looking for "missing" (actually: dead) friends or co-workers. There was little to be done for them except give them some water or use of a cell phone. Another chilling scene I won't forget: lines and lines of hospital cots rolled right out on the sidewalk, with the Ringer's solution already hanging, in anticipation of mass numbers of casualties. Buses filling up with men and women in their white doctor's coats and stethyscopes to go down to the scene of the tragedy. But...nobody would ever go on the cots. They were never filled, for the most part, because you either survived, or died, it seemed.
Off we went -- and there was a co-worker knocking on my door, scared because he seemed to realize before any of us, coming from the former Soviet Union, the dimension of the crisis. He, and the children's father, were calling us and urging us to get out of New York immediately -- it would be attacked again, because enemies always circled back to attack wounded and funerals. But there was absolutely no question of departure -- the mayor closed the exits to prevent entries for a time. We made big pots of soup to store, got more water and flashlights, and watched TV -- and the panorama of the emergency playing out below the window, with its view on to all the hospitals, the cots, the buses, the lines, the police and helicopter and ambulances with lights flashing.
The mayor got on TV and made two important points: "We are not going to have group hate," he said very simply, to try to stem some harassment of Muslims -- or people who were mistaken for Muslims, such as Sikhs, as a few incidents of this nature had occurred. "Group hate is what brought us THIS" he said, gesturing toward the wrecked towers. I felt that was the single more important thing Rudy said in that moment -- it set a tone, it was simple and direct, and it worked. The other point he made was that first, the city would have a "snow day". We were to treat it as a "snow day" -- and with all the white ash falling everywhere, it seemed appropriate. The next thing is that on September 12, we were to go out and purchase something and restore business to usual. I recall going outside and buying a cat box (no, I'm not a cat lady, it's the kids' cats) and buying socks for dogs -- one of the things our tenant committee had said we should all purchase and turn in for the effort were dog socks for the K-9 units to be able to have dogs walk over those hot embers. We also brought in all our towels and sheets we could spare as the firemen were bunking in a school and showering and sleeping there. Police from as far away as Florida and Maine arrived -- we saw the state troopers in their big hats.
Let me try to explain the toll some more, so different than Zha Ewry's 9/11 which involves only his own brush with the visuals and a friend in the tower who happily didn't go to work (I had one friend like that, too, who stopped to get a pizza and was saved.) First, there was the boy in my son's class who lost his father -- the whole school turned out for the funeral. There were the other parishioners -- firemen, insurance adjustors, a policewoman who left a two-year-old. For days, as we walked to school, we saw two vivid scenes: firemen's boots and flowers put out on the steps of buildings in memory of the fallen, and black hearses blocking the sidewalk by the church. We picked our way around the weeping women in black veils to go to school. Day after day it seemed, for weeks, although there couldn't have been more than a dozen, they seemed endless.
Then there was the neighbour whose son played with ours at the playground, with whom I always had a pleasant chat. I saw him unshaven, sweaty, stricken on the sidewalk. He is a volunteer fireman. He told me his nephew was still down there but he was confident he'd turn up. He said the same thing when I saw him the next day -- and the next, when he pointed out to me where they were putting the bodies -- in a back ally, in refrigerated trucks, requiring a lot of staging and piping of some sort of chemical that foamed up along the street. Eventually, I saw a list at the fireman's union, and it unfortunately contained his nephew's name. I saw him at the playground, and his son told me he wanted to be a fireman when he grew up. We can all remember the two New Yorker covers from those weeks: one showed a scared Sikh man in a taxi cab, covered in flags and "I Heart America" buttons, barrelling along the street; another showed Halloween, with lots of little tykes dressed up in fireman and police costomes carrying their pumpkins.
For days, the hospital lines continued, then dwindled, but each one becoming a huge memorial site with pictures and candles. And for some reason, the authorities decided that the "Missing" concept for people who had obviously died pretty soon and been pulverized, was a good way to cope. It gave people long forms to fill out. It kept them busy finding hair in hairbrushes or bringing plastic bags with toothbrushes along to people waiting at cardboard tables. It also kept them busy put up posters everywhere. Those posters, waving, fluttering, ripping, finally disintegrating along all the avenues are among my strongest memories. I wrote something that was even immortalized by the Library of Congress oral history project. And then of course the smell. Didn't Zha smell it? It was the smell of burnt flesh, mixed with burnt plastic. It was everywhere. All over everything. I looked out and saw the East River filled with ceiling tiles. I went up close. There was the plastic cover of a Blackberry floating along, with some tattered and gristly...thing attached to it that I didn't want to think was a hand.
Bodies. Or should I say parts. They kept them stored in the quonset hut there for years. I can't think that there are many people who knew they were there (the Times didn't write about it for awhile) -- I had found out accidently from that neighbour. Few people had a view on to it, just because of the layout. Each day, for a long time, I would wake up and say a prayer for the departeds' souls and for the survivors. It seemed insane, no? To keep some 5,000 or more parts in refrigeration as people painstakingly got a finger or a shinbone to bury...and then had to come back the next year to get some other chunk.
Yet, here are the difference in two societies: one creates suicide bombers, who can turn the plane at the last minute to maximize the mass deaths, obliterating themselves as individuals along with others. The other holds the body parts in storage for years, so that individual families can get individual closure for individuals who died. And I know which society I pick, and any moral and intelligent person does have to pick, and even Zha has picked by continuing obliviously to spout ideals.
You have to chose at this level. You don't get to say, "Oh, but the whole reason they bombed us is because we support Israel and they hate that, and we are responsible for the wrongs of Israel, and therefore they get to do this." That's immoral. You don't get to say, "Our policies did this," because as one Latin American from a new democracy put it very starkly, "What, I'm poor, I get to blow up a building?!". No. You don't. The wrongfulness of a policy isn't endorsed by the stark, criminal wrongful means to end that wrong policy -- terror. It *is* the lesser evil.
When you pick this side of the lesser evil, or the ideal that knows bounds, you don't pick nationalism; you pick the rule of law. You don't say "I remain uncritical" but you do pick the morality of not dehumanizing the individual. It really is all about the individual and the collective. You can say, "I won't be forced to pick, because it's not black and white." Perhaps if you think more about the burnt stench, the funerals, the orphans, the boots and flowers, the white ash everywhere, you will be helped to see the problem of morality here, although I suspect it won't work in Zha's case, as she is determined to be a moral equivalizer to the bitter end.
That's partly because Zha imagines she belongs to another polity, some sort of utopia, some international do-good organization or movement or sophisticated club of those who are intelligent and "get it" and who imagine "the rule of law" isn't in imperfect governments or countries, but some kind of magical transnational empire, perhaps "the best of Second Life". That sort of capacity for speculative utopianism is how she is able to imagine that America had some moment when every one was on her side, but lost its chance for leadership and decency. Baloney. The problem is that the terrorists kept coming -- in London, Moscow, Madrid. They keep coming in Iraq -- it is not the U.S. that is reponsible for the overwhelming majority of deaths there, but the terrorists, who are backed in part by states. Terrorists don't change by America being better. Terrorists are terrorists; if they stopped because America got better (they didn't; they won't; they can't) then only tribally-decided policy or code-as-law would matter, yet not the rule of law which must apply to everyone, governments and terrorists alike.
Now, the question comes: is it proper to call this a war? Should it have been a police operation? I'm happy to study a lot more about this, as I've heard a lot lately from the scholars and lawyers of this issue and they make a compelling case that we went down the wrong path making this a "war on terror" instead of "an international police operation against terrorists". There are many compelling arguments to make against the "war" approach, the leading of which was the wrongful and injust decision of the highest leaders of our country to sanction torture of foreigners abroad. This is why they have to be voted out of office; this is why a lot of Republicans I know will vote them out of office and why I think we can be fairly certain Obama will come to power.
I was among those who marched against the war in Iraq as it was launched because I simply think it's always a good thing to show up and protest any war that will lead to massive loss of life, and this one not only didn't start as a "just war," but did not even prove itself to become a "just war," which in the Thomist sense would mean "a war that put an end to war." I went to a friend's 65th birthday party that October who used the occasion as an old lefty to protest the invasion of Afghanistan, too, and stood with everyone else to sing the Internationale -- both sets of lyrics, as befitting of an event for Trotskists. I think Obama supporters are going to be rethinking their notion that the way to get out of Iraq is to "take the war over to Afghanistan". Look at the British. Look at the Russians. You get into Afghanistan easily; you don't get out except in failure and humiliation. Of course, a long the way, many lies about this are told. Certain peace groups claimed falsely that 100,000 civilians, mainly children would be killed if the U.S. went into Afghanistan. It didn't happen. Noam Chomsky lied and claimed that the U.S. withheld wheat deliveries to starve out the Taliban -- false, it didn't happen (I'm amazed nobody ever calls him on his lies, I guess because if he gives chapter and verse of an incident and a newspaper clipping, nobody thinks to *keep reading the newspaper the next day after* to see how the story is further investigated and unfolds). They should have sat and heard the UN personnel describing the starving, literally *blue* children of Afghanistan *in August* before Masoud was killed (which should have been a bigger warning to us than it was) -- before 9/11. The Taliban would forbid or shoot at humanitarians using sat phones to coordinate aid deliveries. Where's Noam Chomsky about *that*?
Those who inhabit this false utopian realm of the failure to make a moral choice (a moral choice that need not lead to ill-conceived wars) imagine that they can suspend moral judgement for ever as an act of good will. But I know which side I pick: the societies that even if their highest leaders have sanctioned torture, have the means to expose and address it, as Abu Ghraib is exposed and is being addressed, or as the Israel Supreme Court has condemned torture. There is a difference between imperfect societies that establish and aspire to the rule of law, and fall short but have remedies, and those that are tribalist mobilized movements of hate wishing to make symbols out of children. So I know what I pick: I pick the society with the rule of law, because the moral choice is to pick the rule of law. You don't get not to pick, and say "a plague on both their systems," unless you wish to pick *away from* the rule of law, and succumb to the argumentation of the tribe whose code is law. That's what Zha is doing and many others are doing who are delivering big, baggy, platidinous lectures on these anniversaries imaging that wrongs on the side still upholding the rule of law balance the saddle bags to equal the wrongs of those with lawlessness. They don't.
Zha's lofty and pious sentiments of 7 years ago remind me a bit of something actually written a lot better, from Susan Sontag, that was heavily criticized at the time. I don't agree with the essence of her point, that the attack wasn't one on "civilization" or "liberty" ("They hate our freedom") but on a superpower with bad polices. Why? Because the policies aren't at root all bad. What *is* the right thing to do for Israel, surrounded completely by bristling, hostile Arab states who fund suicide bombers? Abandon it and make them refugees to America? You might criticize 100 things about the policy, but a) you have to have a better idea about how to deal with the hostile encirclement than a solution that dissolves the Jewish population and b) you have to have a solution to the problem of killers who use these means -- suicide bombing -- to achieve their ends. You cannot sanction that. You do have to chose *against* that.
Yet one thing Susan Sontag said stuck in my mind and I kept repeating it to myself in those weeks: "Let's by all means grieve together. But let's not be stupid together." No, we don't want to be stupid, and start a stupid war that is stupid. We don't want to get in a worse plight. Yet, upholding the rule of law and civilization is an imperfect -- not a utopian exercise. It's execution is imperfect, and at times heavily flawed. We can listen to Susan Sontag or Mr. X or Zha Ewry mouth pious notions, but as I re-read Zha's words, I don't feel any cold anger toward anything but her as a pious and useless lefty (which prompted me to write all this on an occasion when I didn't even want to write anything.) That's because justice cannot be swift when you are chasing terrorists, and is long and messy. That's because you can't move on when you can't even capture the main bad guy (Pakistan protects him; we need Pakistan to keep the area from further disintegrating). Bin Laden isn't caught for the same reason Karadic wasn't caught -- the people backing him, namely Serbs and Russians, couldn't be tangled with and confronted *more* without risking *more war* (look at Georgia).
David Levine lives in the utopia of Second Life, as I do. But even he, like Icarus, had his wings melted recently and fell from the sky, and that was exactly the image I summoned up, noticing recent events where he was Burnt by the Sun -- even before I recalled Auden had written about this painting. I don't wish anybody suffering, but I do wish them knowledge so that they don't keep defending utopias mindlessly. They aren't defensible.
One of the things that occured on 9/11 wasn't immediately clear to me. I had a job -- a book I was translating, and I had just sent in my final chapters on September 10. I hadn't really focused on the address of the place, as I worked from home, and was only going to be visiting it in the future, during a special event we were planning -- which never happened. An email I sent September 12 about the manuscript came back returned, and then again and again, strangely and then I decided to look. The address was right next to the World Trade Center, a building which was immediately condemned, while still standing, and nobody was allowed in even to fetch the office equipment. The entire place decamped to another state, and had to kill or postpone their spring list -- and send us only a partial payment with a letter in lawyerly language talking about "force majeure". The expected revenue from the completion of the project never occured. At another job, our salaries were cut in half -- all the activities and programs planned involving people flying from foreign countries here and there all had to be cancelled in the wake of 9/11. While experiencing nothing of the horror that any family with a real 9/11 loss could experience, the impact was substantial and contributed to an ongoing sense of loss that Zha Ewry never experienced.
Am I resentful or bitter? Not about losses, they can be restored, after a fashion, or coped with. I am resentful about the moral equivalency and the utopianism, however. She acts as if the worst thing that happened is that we lost our ideals and didn't live up to them. But that's wrong. That is NOT the worse thing that happened. We retain our ideals and we are working to put them into effect and in fact addressing the wrongs. The worse thing that happened is that the terrorists, with *their* ideals came, and keep coming *and they have no plans of changing their ideals*. They come to countries that don't even support these polices that Susan Sontag was outraged about. The worst torture and mayhem happen often most of all to those living under these very repressive regimes that sponsor or breed the terrorists, as they suffer more than any of us. The wrong is terrorism, not somebody coping with terrorism the wrong way. The wrong *is terrorism*, and terrorism is wrong not because it is a response to wrongs (that might really be wrongs) but because it is wrong in and of itself. THAT is where the moral choice must occur: 1) the rule of law and civilization -- our ideals -- is right and we must live up to them; 2) terror is the tyranny of uncivilization and is wrong, and we must not do anything that choses it or sanctions it or excuses it.
All over the world, people focus on what they can focus on as "wrongful" in the "war on terrorism" -- America. The book and TV and blogosphere industries are constantly heated up on these issues that get a huge amount of exposure, and I hope all of this will lead to Guantanamo being closed down, which of course I'm for. But I contrast all of this with the huge hall of empty echoes in the other societies -- Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iran. There isn't the intellectual class able to furiously write and blog and appear on these issues critical of their states -- without winding up murdered or put in jail. I simply have to, if indeed I am a global moral person, worry more about THAT vacuum, and the thousands of ways THOSE states are inciting and contributing to terror affecting thousands of lives, with thousands of victims more for whom terrorists, not U.S. policy are responsible -- without any rule of law or Susan Sontags or Zha Ewries, than worry about a situation affecting far less people in a situation getting enormous scrutiny. Morality should go to where the victims are, not only where the surrogates for advocacy are.
A great deal of thought and debate has to go into how to fight terrorism without declaring a war on our own people or on foreign peoples who are not combatants. I actually think Mr. X's long piece contains some helpful thinking, and I've heard this recently mischaracterized as being about "not becoming like them" -- which in fact isn't said in this piece at all in so many words, but something quite different, which was more about "becoming more like ourselves":
"This is not only a question of the modest measure of informational activity which this government can conduct in the Soviet Union and elsewhere, although that, too, is important. It is rather a question of the degree to which the United States can create among the peoples of the world generally the impression of a country which knows what it wants, which is coping successfully with the problem of its internal life and with the responsibilities of a World Power, and which has a spiritual vitality capable of holding its own among the major ideological currents of the time. To the extent that such an impression can be created and maintained, the aims of Russian Communism must appear sterile and quixotic, the hopes and enthusiasm of Moscow's supporters must wane, and added strain must be imposed on the Kremlin's foreign policies. For the palsied decrepitude of the capitalist world is the keystone of Communist philosophy. Even the failure of the United States to experience the early economic depression which the ravens of the Red Square have been predicting with such complacent confidence since hostilities ceased would have deep and important repercussions throughout the Communist world."
Here's what will happen in the coming years of America's waning power. We will get Obama and a "better government". It will make some difference -- but not as much as the utopians who think if we live up to our ideals everything will be fine. In part, they fall prey to this grave fallacy of the left which "Blames America First," thereby reinforcing an illegitimate notion of American hegemony in the world, as if America can affect everything. It can't. Their assumption that it can is utopian, and a lumpy sort of anti-matter that originates from the premise they reject of America's imperialism. The other powers that arise -- China, Russia, Brazil, Nigeria, the far more united Arab world -- will make America and Europe irrelevant in many settings that will not be under our power or influence and for which we will not be able to be blamed whatsoever. We may go on for a long time to create a beacon of freedom with a free and prosperous society to which people from all those other powers will wish to flee -- or at least get a grant from. But it will wane, and the overshadowing that occurs won't be because we lost our ideals, but because these other powers will not even have the same ideals, but others, antithetical to the liberal concepts of freedom for which we stand.