Notes on a time of crisis
Tuesday, September 18, 2001
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The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth's shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furl'd.
But now I can only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! For the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
--Matthew Arnold, "Dover Beach"
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As I write this, it's been almost exactly a week since the attack. When the winds shift, you can smell the smouldering rubble from here--it smells as if a building burned to the ground down the street or around the block, it's that strong. And today it is the strongest I have smelled it--I almost choked on it when I first went outside this morning.
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(Not all my email comes from the right. Here's a small bit of sanity...) As for what the Civilized world must do, if Bin Laden is the individual behind this, he must be arrested and given a fair trial. We set the precedent with the Nuremburg trials, when it comes to crimes against humanity. With the war crimes trials in The Hague and the arrest of Slobodon Milosovich, as well as the arrest and aborted prosecution of Augusto Pinochet, we have reaffirmed that precedent and expanded it to make state leaders answerable for their actions. Civilization stands or falls, based on if it chooses law or anarchy. We MUST choose to stand in the light. We MUST choose to observe the law and to be the agents of justice, not vengeance. Bin Laden MUST be given a fair trial, a trial televised for all to see and hear. It must be plainly seen that Law and Justice are the pillars and walls that support and protect Civilization. And yes, Civilization MUST also endure the atrocities that will be committed against it by those who would seek the release of Bin Laden. Civilization has fought many bloody wars to uphold the rules of Law & Civilization. Osama Bin Laden must be brought to trial. It is the only Civilized thing to do.
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(And on the "having a wee bit of trouble keeping things in perspective" front, a report from a reader in San Francisco...) Last Wednesday, the day after the attacks on New York and Washington, my neighbor erected the following sign in front of his house. In it, he compares the person who scratched his SUV to the people who destroyed the world trade center. I would not have believed it if I had not seen it with my own eyes, and had not talked to the sign's author (a middle aged white man who lives in an upper income neighborhood in San Francisco, someone who frankly has nothing to complain about). Despite many complaints from neighbors on my street, some of whom who have lost friends in the attacks, this individual continues on his crusade against "urban terrorism". His neighbors know people who are dead, and he is complaining about the paint job on his SUV. What a loser! I was really quite stunned and offended that someone who is so very lucky could be so self-centered. A titanic display of narcissism, perhaps an unrivaled one in light of what has happened this week... [text of sign sighted in upper market area of San Francisco, Wed Sept 12th & Thurs Sept 13th] "To the person who keyed my car I feel sorry for you You are a coward It is a cowardly to destroy property (his misspelling not mine) You are in a form a terrorist There is little difference between you and those who killed all those people in the world trade center Same kind of thinking Your mother would be ashamed You are an evil person"
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The other night we ordered in some Chinese food. Two fortune cookies came with the meal, and when we were done, I said, "Well, shall we see what our fortunes are?" I cracked the first one open, and--I swear I am not making this up--there was no fortune in the cookie. It was an empty fortune cookie. "I guess our future's a blank slate," my wife said with a small smile. Then we opened the second. There was a fortune in this one, or at least an aphorism: "You never hesitate to tackle the most difficult problems."
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Even Ollie North acknowledges that there is no point in bombing Kabul back to the stone age, because they are already there.
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From John Stauber: Just when America and the world most needs objective information, professional reporting and historical context and a calm collective mind to avoid rash acts, TV network celebrity journalism is showing its worst side. The David Letterman Show resumed Monday night on CBS featuring CBS news anchor Dan Rather as a guest. Letterman complained that an attack by the U.S. is already late and asked Rather what could possibly be the reasons, if any, behind the terrorist attack on America. Dan Rather angrily replied "They see themselves as the world's losers and it drives them batty. There's no rationality to it. These are crazy people, they are haters," then began to cry. After a commercial break to allow him to regain his composure Rather broke down again while reciting patriotic lyrics, sobbing that "we can never sing America the Beautiful the same." Rather apologized for his emotionalism saying "There is a rage within all of us that has to be tempered while we take care of business." Again pressed by an eager Letterman as to when America would attack Rather said he wouldn't say even if he could, but admitted "I'm a little nervous being here because a strike could come at any moment."
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Here's something to keep you awake at night, courtesy of my friend Sam Smith at the Progressive Review (www.prorev.com).
SAM DONALDSON: Can we rule out the use of nuclear weapons?
DONALD RUMSFELD: You know, that subject - we have an amazing accomplishment that's been achieved on the part of human beings. We've had this unbelievably powerful weapon, nuclear weapons, since what 55 years now plus, and it's not been fired in anger since 1945. That's an amazing accomplishment. I think it reflects a sensitivity on the part of successive presidents that they ought to find as many other ways to deal with problems as is possible.
DONALDSON: I'll have to think about your answer. I don't think the answer was no.
RUMSFELD: The answer was that that we ought to be very proud of the record of humanity that we have not used those weapons for 55 years. And we have to find as many ways possible to deal with this serious problem of terrorism. And if, Sam, you think of the loss of human life on Tuesday and then put in your head the reality that a number of countries today have other so-called asymmetrical threat capabilities - ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, chemical weapons, biological weapons, cyber warfare - these are the kinds of things that are used in this era the 21st century. And a germ warfare attack anywhere in the world would bring about losses of lives not in the thousands but in the millions.
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