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"WW III? No thanks...!" On-Line Library

What is an appropropriate response?
Political and philosophical considerations after the attack on the Word Trade Center

For America, a dose of reality

By Derrick Z. Jackson,
The Boston Globe,

HE UNITED STATES is wailing and wrenching, caught in its most bewildering 
moment of war. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of civilians, the most ever 
killed on our shores, died within the space of a few hours by a violent 
act. But the enemy carried no Union Jack, no Stars and Bars, no Iron Cross,
no rising sun, no swastika. It involved no visible army at all.

It is the most bewildering moment because we have the world's mightiest 
army, yet the Pentagon was bombed. It is bewildering because America is 
the world's richest nation, yet its greatest twin symbols of capitalism no
longer stand. It is bewildering because the president says terrorism will 
not stand, yet he knows not where the enemy stands.

It is bewildering because we have fantasized, through our shelves of 
disaster movies, from "King Kong" to "Independence Day," that America 
could be attacked by everything from gorillas to aliens, but most of us 
would always be saved. "Independence Day" has now happened for real, and 
we are bewildered because there are no spaceships for Will Smith to shoot 
at. No spaceships are needed when you can simply fly a jetliner.

It is bewildering because in a nation so numb to celluloid violence, gun 
violence, and even genocide abroad, no one can now be detached from the 
effects of violence. Fifty thousand people work in the World Trade Center.
Hundreds more people were in the air when four passenger planes were 
deliberately crashed. Well within the six degrees of separation, all of us
were somehow connected to someone who was in there or up there and prayed 
that they came out or came down alive.

Nearly all of us fly, and there could not be a person in this nation who 
did not cringe over replays of one of the planes exploding into the World 
Trade Center. In this modern world, airplanes simultaneously symbolize our
faith in technology and the terror of helplessness. We cringe because an 
unseen roll of the dice could have put any one of us on board those 
airplanes. Here in Boston, it is sickening to think that the hijackers of 
the two flights from Logan may have slept comfortably in our midst the 
night before.

America now knows, in the most personal way, to the depths of its civilian
vulnerability, that it is part of the world. Obviously, whoever did this 
must be found and put away forever. That only partially solves the problem.
If one recalls, America was originally reluctant to enter what became 
World War II. Pearl Harbor changed all that. Now America has been forced 
into the world again, at a probable loss of life worse than Pearl Harbor. 
On Dec. 7, 1941, 2,400 soldiers and 49 civilians were killed.

The question is, what world are we joining? The smoke has not cleared, and
our more hawkish leaders are whipping up the winds of revenge. A senator 
was on CNN railing about the "bastards." Security experts were bellowing 
about holding fully responsible any nation that has ever given comfort to 
Osama bin Laden, the most talked about suspect.

Since most states in this nation employ the death penalty, the term "fully
responsible" is a perilous term. In the Gulf War, the United States killed 
thousands of Iraqi civilians in "collateral damage." If we did that merely
over oil, does that mean we should bomb women and children in, say, 

Revenge will be an understandable emotion in the coming days, as the body 
count and the saber-rattling mount. But it is also eerie that, suddenly, 
we want help on terrorism at the very time when we have been isolating 
ourselves from the world stage, from the environment to racism to missile 
defense. Missile defense would not have prevented the worst peacetime act 
within the lower 48 states.

Whoever attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and our sense of
daily trust and freedom, must be found. But America must find itself, too. 
The targets clearly represented America's global power, a power that is 
not innocent of arrogance, either militarily or economically. With all the
condolence that can be offered, it is incongruent to think that the world's
leading exporter of the tools of death and destruction would not someday be
visited with an evil in return.

Yesterday America learned that its soul could be momentarily leveled, 
humbled, and reduced to rubble. How we pick ourselves up will determine 
how long this war will go on. It will depend on how humbly we handle our 
power, which by definition makes us a target. What we know more clearly 
than ever is that no matter how much we withdraw, the most terrible evils 
can still come to us.