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War Watch - November 5, 2001 - The Ornery American


War Watch
First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
By Orson Scott Card November 5, 2001

Enough Blame to Go Around

Let's suppose Falwell and Robertson are right, that God has withdrawn his protection from the United States because of the sins of the American people.

Wouldn't one of the foremost of the sins be the way that some people go on television and make themselves rich by exploiting the name of Jesus?

Once you start looking for someone to blame, there's always plenty of blame to go around.

For instance, there's already talk about the lawsuits that will result from the collapse of the World Trade Center towers.

But what security measures could possibly have prevented a plane from being crashed deliberately into the building? Yet I've heard people talk about how the World Trade Center must have been badly designed or it would not have fallen.

The building was designed thirty years ago, when the biggest jet around was the Boeing 707. Were the building's designers required to be prophets?

The fact is, it is not possible to design anything in such a way as to be perfectly safe. The best you can do is find a decent balance of risks. Even in earthquake-prone L.A., buildings aren't required to be able to withstand a 10-point earthquake, because there has never been a 10-point earthquake in the history of earthquake measurement. Oceanfront hotels in Miami are not required to withstand the tsunami that would result from a major asteroid strike in the Atlantic, because in human history there has been no major asteroid strike in the Atlantic.

Nobody ever deliberately crashed a plane loaded with jet fuel into a skyscraper before. I don't think it would make sense to sue the designers for not anticipating it.

The fact is that in a war the enemy's job is to find vulnerabilities that we haven't prepared for and exploit them. The proper response is to find out what made us vulnerable and do everything that is possible to prevent it from happening again, not to punish decent people for not having outguessed a merciless and clever enemy.

What applies to the idea of suing the WTC designers should apply to blaming the CIA and FBI as well. Yes, there was an intelligence failure. But when you think about it, all successful enemy actions depend on an "intelligence failure." All this means is that after trying as hard as they could to anticipate what our enemies were going to do, our experts weren't able to figure it out in time.

Why did they "fail"? First, because we are a free society that would not tolerate the kind of internal passports and computer tracking of individuals that would have been required to detect the pattern of behavior of these terrorists. Do you want to have to show a passport to drive from Greensboro to Danville? Do you want a central national computer to know every time you sign up for a class somewhere? Neither do I.

Second, our system was fouled up by the fact that each of the intelligence and border-protection agencies had independent computer systems that didn't share information. That must be fixed, and pronto, but interagency cooperation never happens except in response to a national emergency. Now we have the emergency, so now we should get the cooperation.

Third, the very people screaming about the intelligence failure are, in the main, the same people who were happy when we cut funding for humintel -- the gathering of intelligence by spies rather than by satellites. Terrorism, by its nature, is not trackable from space.

Fourth, you can't ever get advance information about terrorist actions if the terrorist organization consists of loyal people who can keep secrets. In other words, if they have no weak links, we can't find out in advance what they're going to do.

There are other people to blame, too. We could blame Reagan for having shelled Beirut, or Bush for having put U.S. troops on Saudi soil (the initial grievance of Bin Laden), or Clinton for eight years of unbelievably stupid foreign policy decisions including the provocative and ineffective bombing of Afghanistan and Sudan in response to the African embassy attacks.

But what's the point? Ultimately, the blame is ours for electing the presidents and congresspeople we elect. Foolish as we are, we Americans keep electing human beings to these offices, and human beings make mistakes.

If we ever find that someone deliberately helped the terrorists, that's treason, and they should be punished.

Or if we find that the system could have prevented an attack, but gross negligence by some individual or group led to a disastrous result, then yes, somebody should be blamed for such laziness and fired for it.

Most of the time, though, when an enemy scores a victory against us, there is nothing to be gained by pointing the finger of blame.

The correct response is the one President Bush is doing: Eliminate the ability of our enemies to repeat their successful attack.

This is partly done by plugging some security holes -- though to tell the truth, most of the changes in air travel security are pretty useless, except for tougher cockpit doors and armed agents on long-range flights.

The most effective countermeasure is to eliminate all the governments that provide support for terrorists. It's not that long a list: Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, and the Palestinian Authority. Every one of these governments has committed monstrous acts against their own people, and in every one of these countries there are many citizens who long for a change of government. They don't want us to govern them, but they wouldn't mind if we cleared the way for decent self-government.

If we succeed in getting rid of all the governments on that list, and eliminating the weapons of mass destruction developed by those that have them, we will have won this war and we will be far more secure than we were before 11 September.

But we'll never be completely safe.

Meanwhile, those who spend their time blaming Americans are losing track of one important fact: It was the enemy who committed those crimes. They are the ones to blame.

*

I keep hearing charges by Democrats (and their pet newspeople) that the Republicans are being "partisan" or "ruining the spirit of bipartisanship."

Am I the only one who gets the joke?

In every case, without exception, whoever accuses the other side of partisanship is, in fact, the one who is being partisan.

The spirit of nonpartisanship or bipartisonship means that when you have differences, you work them out through quiet compromises, without trying to rally public opinion toward your side by making accusations against the other side.

So to charge the other side with partisanship is precisely what partisanship consists of.

I'm a Democrat who wants my party to stop trying to divide the country in order to get their way on petty issues. Instead, I'd like to see my party act like responsible leaders and handle disputes about national security quietly, without trying to get Americans angry at the other side.

Let's keep our national anger focused on our enemies, instead of trying to make enemies out of legislators whose only crime is to disagree with us about mere details of the course we ought to follow.

Because somewhere along the line, the American people are going to figure out that in order to have bipartison cooperation in our wartime government, the only solution may be to give two-thirds majorities in both houses to the Republican Party.

That's not the result I want. But if the Democrats don't stop their counterproductive finger-pointing, it may be the only way to get our government focused on the war instead of on the next election.

Copyright © 2001 by Orson Scott Card.

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