First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
The First Year of the Terrorist War
It has been a year since our enemy attacked American soil, slaughtering American civilians. What have we accomplished?
Afghanistan. We have invaded Afghanistan and driven from power the tyrannical Islamicist Taliban.
But Afghanistan was always, and remains today, strategically trivial, mostly because it is unconquerable and cannot be pacified. That is, you can break Afghanistan, but you can't build it.
Fortunately, we are not trying to do so, not directly, anyway. But we are committed to supporting the two regimes that suffer most from the chaos: Afghanistan's new American-supported government and the beleaguered government of Pakistan.
Both of them are still under constant threat from the actions of Islamicists. Indeed, because terrorists launch attacks against India from Pakistani soil, Pakistan faces the constant prospect of war with India -- a war that Pakistan would certainly lose unless American forces intervened on their side. We have no treaty obligating us to do so; but if Pakistan fell, our ability to project force into the area would be radically diminished.
Homeland Security. Two changes have improved American security. Airplane cockpit doors have been strengthened, and the American people are more alert to threats and more inclined to take action to defend themselves.
As was proven on 11 September, once Americans understood that hijackers would kill everybody anyway, there was zero chance of hijackers ever taking over an American commercial flight again, no matter how they might be armed. American airplane passengers would rather bring down their own plane in a struggle for control than to die passively as their airplane was used as a weapon of mass murder against an American target.
However, in order to encourage Americans that it was safe to keep flying, the government instituted highly visible changes in our security systems. Unfortunately, the visible ones are stupid and useless, and the useful ones are invisible.
Better pay for and training of security personnel are undoubtedly improving our ability to intercept serious attempts to bomb or hijack airplanes, but ordinary passengers can't tell whether or not the person watching their luggage on the radar screen is an idiot or a well-trained professional.
What we can see is that we are being harassed. We are searched until a long-forgotten spare key is found in a hidden compartment of a wallet.
A pair of manicuring scissors or a can of hairspray is taken away from a little old lady.
People who are ludicrous as terrorism suspects are pulled out of line and forced to remove clothing and have their luggage inspected -- and sometimes they are searched twice or three times on the same journey. All because we don't have the courage to recognize that our enemies come from a single middle eastern region, and therefore people who obviously do not come from that region are almost certainly not terrorism suspects and should not be treated as such. Such is the stranglehold political correctness has even when American lives are at stake.
And not one of these activities makes us even slightly safer. In fact, these practices are costing American lives. Since automobile travel is far more dangerous than air travel, the more Americans choose to drive rather than undergo the harassment of airport security, the more Americans will die on our highways.
It is not impossible that more Americans have died because useless airport harassment has pushed them out onto the highway than died in the events of September 11th.
Meanwhile, combining all the agencies under "homeland defense" is nothing more than bureaucratic shuffling, since the only change that could possibly make a difference would be to incorporate all the agencies into a single military-style force. Keeping them as separate agencies within a new bureaucracy may easily increase, not decrease, bureaucratic kingdom building and lack of cooperation.
The Propaganda War. Nothing is less winnable than a boring war, and since the Israeli-P:alestinian conflict derailed our invasion of Iraq, we haven't had battlefield struggle to keep Americans interested.
As a result, many Americans -- and most American "opinion leaders" -- have started talking as if we were not actually at war, but merely considering whether to go to war.
The debate is over whether to "widen" the war to include Iraq -- completely ignoring the fact that this war has included Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, the PLO, and a schizo Saudi Arabia from the outset. When President Bush said, in essence, either you support our war against terrorists or you are our enemy in that war, he was not being a bully, he was stating a simple fact.
Iraq is an open supporter of terrorism; it has an advanced program of building weapons of mass destruction; it has proven its willingness to use such weapons against civilian targets; it has threatened to use those weapons; it is training and cooperating with terrorists; and it is in violation of most of the terms of the ceasefire that suspended our never-finished war with Iraq in 1991.
In short, legally and morally and strategically we are already at war with Iraq and were before September 11th; the only question is when and how we're going to do something about it.
Yet we hear politicians and pundits talking about how it would be a bad idea to "provoke" the Muslim world by attacking Iraq.
The fact is, the only thing that might force a war with neutral Muslim countries is failing to attack Iraq and destroy Saddam's government. For if we don't show that war means war, then these neutral Muslim countries will have no choice but to make their own accommodation with the Islamicists, for there is no doubt that when they say war they mean it.
Even more disturbing, though, are the loud voices that condemn us in advance for "killing innocent Iraqis" in order to get rid of Saddam's regime.
Right. And weren't we bad to kill all those innocent Germans and Japanese in World War II, when our real enemy was just a handful of people in Berlin and Tokyo?
If the enemy has an army, you have to destroy that army, even though many of the soldiers would rather be at peace. If the enemy hides within a civilian population, then there is no way to avoid civilian injuries and deaths in the effort to destroy that enemy.
But, as we saw in Afghanistan, the ordinary people who are being liberated from a monstrous government understand that until that government is thrown down, of course they will suffer casualties.
Only American intellectuals are dumb enough to think that our enemies can be defeated in any other way. Though in fact many of these intellectuals are even dumber than that: They think that if we just ignore Iraq -- and Iran, and Syria, and others -- the threat will go away.
It's as if they would rather see thousands -- or, perhaps, millions -- of American civilians die from weapons being built by our enemies, which they will certainly use against us, than to have our soldiers kill one innocent Iraqi in order free Iraq of its tyrant.
What We Haven't Done. We haven't taken one step to prepare for a long term conflict in which all our enemies unite against us at once.
We have not used government funds or policies to try to move at least some portion of key industries back to American shores.
We have taken no steps to eliminate our dependence -- and the dependence of our presumed allies -- on imported oil. Instead we avoid such obvious steps as mandatory deployment of hybrid engines and strong incentives for solar, wind, and nuclear energy development.
The result is that we are exceptionally vulnerable to a combination of enemies in a longterm struggle.
We have consistently underestimated the intelligence and resolve of the American people -- when they are fully informed. Everybody thinks the American people only understand slogans and illusions. But the fact is that when we are told the truth and trust our leaders, we will do whatever it takes to win.
Meanwhile, Leno and Letterman and all the other ignorant-but-politically-correct media stars and "intellectuals" mock President Bush for being dumb -- which he is not -- even though this reduces confidence in the very man who would be sending American soldiers into combat.
The only ray of optimism in this nightmare of political careerism and head-in-the-sand punditry is that the common people who will actually fight this war, at home and abroad, still have the resolve, the courage, the strength, the intelligence, and the willingness to sacrifice that we will have to have if we are to come out of this struggle with our nation, our freedom, and our honor and integrity intact.
On 11 September, America is still at war with the Islamicists. America's leaders are still doing some, but by no means all, of the things that are necessary for victory. But too many of our leaders think that they can gain political advantage from pretending that this war isn't really very serious, and nobody seems to be willing to ask Americans to make the meaningful sacrifices that are necessary to win.
For if someone would only ask us, lead us, tell us the straight truth, we would do whatever it takes.
If you doubt me, just watch the dogged obedience American air travelers show when they are harassed in the airports. We know it's stupid and pointless, but we do our bit by going along with the idiocy.
We keep hoping that someone, somewhere in the system knows what they're doing and that by doing what we're told -- or asked -- to do, we are somehow helping to make us and the rest of the world safe from the war-loving murderers who hate us and want to kill us and our children and all the dreams and hopes that America has stood for in the eyes of the world for two and a quarter centuries.
Copyright © 2002 by Orson Scott Card.
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