Jewish World Review April 8, 2004 / 17 Nissan, 5764
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,
"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
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.
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.
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© 2003, James Lileks