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Jewish World Review April 8, 2004 / 17 Nissan, 5764

James Lileks

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Sept. 11 Might Have Been Different If ... | The Sept. 11 report, as expected, will call the attack "preventable." As commission head Thomas Kean, a Republican, noted:

"If we had been able to put (the hijackers) on the watch list of the airlines, the two who were in the country; again if we'd stopped some of those people at the borders; if we had acted earlier on al-Qaida when (it) was smaller and just getting started ... the whole story might have been different."

If. If. Maybe. If. If George W. Bush had phoned the Saudis on the first day of his administration and told them any act of Islamist terror would result in a mushroom cloud over Mecca, and that he would consider it "what we call in bowling a practice frame," it might have been different. It might have been different if B-52s had taken out the Taliban in February 2001 — and we all know how Ted Kennedy et al. would have exploded in a rain of bile had Bush kicked off his term with a pre-emptive war. The articles of impeachment would have been drawn up before the first wave of bombers returned to base.

It might have been different "if we'd stopped some of those people at the borders" by pulling aside all Arab-looking young males, fingerprinting them, photographing them and putting them into a national database of The Usual Suspects. That would have gone over well, eh? The American Civil Liberties Union would have loaded the catapults with lawyers and hurled them by the dozens into every courtroom in the country.

Yes, it might have been different. It might have been different if Ronald Reagan had responded to the bombing of the Marines in Lebanon by carpet bombing Hezbollah camps and dropping bombs the size of circus elephants into Syrian and Iranian government buildings. It might have been different if George Bush 41 had told the United Nations that this coalition stuff was all well and good, but now it was time to go to Baghdad, destroy the Baathists and get a head start on schooling this medieval landscape in the ways of modernity. It might have been different.

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Oh, to be sure. It could have been different, if only we'd acted like the French, and looked after our own interests a little more closely — meaning sweetheart oil deals, kickbacks to government officials, sneering at democratic Israel while holding the autocratic Palestinian Authority close to our bosom and selling arms to anyone. Oh, France! The only nation to act as high-handedly as China and still have the moral reputation of Tibet.

It could have been much different. If only we'd pressured Israel to leave the land it took without requiring anything of the Palestinians, we would have been applauded throughout the region. For a day. Then we would be expected to stand aside while the Palestinian Authority renewed its war against the Jews.

Go back a few decades: It would have been different if French operatives had arranged for the Ayatollah Khomeini to have "le accident" while he was in Parisian exile, contemplating the future of the Islamic state. It would have been different if President Carter hadn't stabbed the shah in the back for behaving like a Middle East autocrat instead of a Georgia city councilman. For that matter, if would have been different if the Defense Department hadn't insisted in 1961 that U.S. military personnel be exempt from prosecution in Iranian courts — a move that aroused the ire of many Iranians, including a hitherto unknown fellow named Khomeini who rose to prominence on the issue.

It might have been different. Sept. 11 might not have happened if the Crusaders had not headed south. If the Moors had kept Spain. If the West had submitted. If the Roman Empire had not split. If Eve hadn't eaten the apple. If the light and the dark had been remained whole, instead of being forced into partisan camps on the second day. It might have been different.

Sept. 11 might have happened on May 6. Or perhaps Feb. 23.

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JWR contributor James Lileks is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


04/02/04: Slinging slime or citing facts?
03/26/04: One War, One Enemy
03/22/04: Bloodied Spain Rejoins Old Europe
03/12/04: Why All Those Foreign Leaders Want Kerry to Whup Bush
03/08/04: Introducing the Kerry Doctrine
02/27/04: Introducing the AWOLs: Angry White Outraged Libs
02/20/04: Sifting the headlines of election year 1992
02/18/04: Guess Which Candidate Our Enemies Want to Lose in 2004?
01/29/04: Every Laptop a Truth Squad
01/27/04: When the battle over artistic freedom goes over the edge
12/31/03: For the Left and Right, Some New Year's Resolutions
12/22/03: Dean's black helicopters
12/15/03: Dems Are Mainstreaming the Extreme
12/08/03: Does Dean Really Want to Be President? One Wonders, When He Opens His Mouth
11/24/03: The real story: Most Brits see U.S. as force for good
11/19/03: The Trouble With Al Gore's Screed on Civil Liberties
11/11/03: Can a fellow win with the Confederate Metrosexual vote?
10/22/03: Let's make Greenpeace pay
09/29/03: Ah-nold & Clark may be on different sides of the aisles, but their supporters are cut from the same cloth
09/19/03: All Hail the Ninth Circuit Court of Surreal
08/26/03: This time, the record industry doesn't stand a chance!
08/18/03: Assessing the Schwarzenegger Factor in Republicanism
08/08/03: No wonder Howard ‘Two Covers’ Dean gets all the buzz
08/04/03: Expect bad news for the foreseeable future
07/28/03: Despot's Deserts
07/21/03: No winners in this game of gotcha
07/14/03: Doing the right thing in Liberia may not be the right thing to do
06/27/03: On feet in Democratic mouths
06/16/03: The real story behind Hillary's book
06/09/03:America's new mission was and remains: Extirpating the flaming nutballs and the societies that nurture them
06/03/03: The Constitution as gag order
05/23/03: Sometimes the theme of world events is chaos itself
05/16/03: Newspapers are only human, after all
05/13/03: What McCarthy messed up
05/06/03: Still think the International Criminal Court was a good idea?
04/03/03: The world is ending, the world is ending! Doesn't anybody care!? Why won't anybody listen!?
03/14/03: Kerry and the Dems are banking on American electorate's tendancy to forget history
02/28/03: Roadmap to peace?
02/13/03: We live in an age where the poet has been cast out from the halls of power --- sob, sob
02/10/03: Found: League for International Justice and Peace talking points
01/30/03: The US can go to war whenever it likes for its own reasons, and all the UN can do is pass more worthless paper
01/23/03: People who'd volunteer for the Iraqi army if they saw Saddam wearing a "Free Mumia" button
01/16/03: One of those head vs. heart things
12/27/02: Whistleblowers?
01/06/02: The second year of this jangled millennium
11/16/01: Attack of the 'Patriotism police' and other Hollywood fare
11/12/01: From the bleats of dismay
10/30/01: Osama and the Genie
10/08/01: "We can stop the Bush Death Juggernaut"
11/04/01: America, loathe or it leave it
09/25/01: Do the Europeans actually think that the war on murderous zealotry will be furthered by undercutting America?
08/27/01: If the economy is in a funk, why aren't we dancing?
08/14/01: Dubyah's embarrassing presidential vacation
08/10/01: Hail to our co-chiefs?
08/03/01: Constitution: George the Uniter picked a doozy to unify detractors
07/25/01: The real reason why we need missile defense (What those uppity policy wonks won't tell you!)
06/18/01: Paining the egalitarian soul
06/01/01: One of the stranger indexes you'll ever hear about
05/21/01: One man's toke is another man's snort
05/08/01: Republicans want poisoned water
04/23/01: We bleat as we're sheared
04/10/01: Boys will be boys. And that's the problem
04/06/01: Pity the anti-American Left, they're gonna have a hard time on this one
03/26/01: You've been warned
03/16/01: The GOP's inexplicable desire to fold
02/23/01: Will the Jeb Bush administration attack Saddam in 2011?
02/09/01: In search of the the first ashtray thrown by a member of the First Family
02/06/01: Can you say 'Ayatollah Bush'?
01/24/01: The new Executive Orders
01/22/01: Hey, Dubya: Wanna save Ashcroft? Teach him to rap!
01/09/01: Bubba gets his last licks
01/05/01: The low-down on the coming recession (What those snooty economists won't tell you)
12/23/00: Memo to Dubya: Wanna show who is boss? Nuke 'em!
12/06/00: The Count of Carthage
At the Sore/Loserman Transition HQ
12/01/00: The Count of Carthage
11/28/00: Clinton knows history isn't written by the victors anymore
11/17/00: Chad's the word
11/08/00: The strangest political night
11/07/00: Get ready to return to the Dark Ages

© 2003, James Lileks