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Jewish World Review Sept. 20, 2001 / 2 Tishrei, 5762

Rich Acello

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Six Truths -- In the wake of our 21st Century Pearl Harbor, these are some of the truths we must face if we are to deal with a continuous terrorist threat.

1) We will never have a free hand in our relations with Middle Eastern countries until we end our dependence on their oil.

Literally, billions of dollars daily find their way from the pockets of American consumers into the accounts of the oil producing countries of the Middle East. Even Saddam Hussein is back in business. Always in our dealings with the oil producing nations, we must temper our actions with the notion that OPEC can cut us off whenever they want. It's worth asking, what do they do with the billions? It's not as though the wealthy families that own the oil cartel actually need our money; they all bought their Mercedes fleets years ago.

Indeed, Osama bin Laden inherited his considerable fortune from his family that built the highways on which Saudi oil barons drive their cars. It's not as though we send the money to Texaco, they send it to the OPEC cartel, and the oil producers send it in the form of a check to Osama bin Laden. But we have already seen how people in this country have unwittingly helped the terrorists.

It is not reasonable to assume that OPEC members contribute to any number of funds, scholarships, and other drives whose purpose can be diverted to terrorism? Our government skirts this unpleasant truth by calling OPEC members with whom we have diplomatic relations as "moderates," but they are not allies at the moment. And what are we to them? Customers, nothing more.

2) Many terrorists, abettors, and sympathizers live in the United States. As our government promises to root out terrorists overseas, it must also dismantle the functioning terrorist network right here within our borders. The network continued to flourish even after the Sept. 11 hijackings as men carrying fake credentials and stolen uniforms attempted to board airplanes. Money is no object. They can go into the same flying school that trained John F. Kennedy Jr., plunk down $25,000, and be trained to fly commercial aircraft. Where did they get the money? How did the Immigration and Naturalization Service allow admittance to associates of Osama bin Laden? Who provided the uniforms, stolen security badges, and other backstage passes and equipment needed to carry out the hijackings?

Officially, the government says there were 19 hijackers. But the logistical and support personnel needed to carry out the bombings must number in the hundreds if not thousands, and we do not yet know what other acts the network had in mind, or still does. The security precautions taken by the White House and military facilities indicate that the government does not believe they have a handle on the terrorist network already in place in the U.S.

3) In a campaign against terrorism, civilians will be killed. It is naïve to assume that the U.S. is going to demand Osama bin Laden from Afghanistan, and that they will turn him over. To do so would admit they have been hiding him up until now. It is fair to assume that Bin Laden will be surrounded by civilians used as human shields, and there is precedent for this. In any event, you can be sure that after the first U.S. raids, whether against civilians or not, the terrorists will say innocents were killed and will provide photos. In World War II, allied troops eventually did find Adolph Hitler dead in his bunker, but we marched through a destroyed Germany to get to him.

Nevertheless, only days removed from the horror, some of our fellow citizens are already calling for "understanding." A particularly deluded letter writer to my home town paper, the San Diego Union Tribune, had this to say: "Is it possible that the situation is so bad that these people felt the only way to draw attention to it was to do what they did?…All of us need to work to understanding." I understand this. These people are no better than Nazis. I don't need to "understand" Nazis. The UK's Tony Blair was right: if they could have dropped a nuclear bomb on us, does anyone doubt they would have?

4) Getting bin Laden will not solve the problem. Though the international terrorist network flows between countries, it is contained within countries. If bid Laden is captured, there will be great pressure to call off the dogs, just as there was when we kicked Saddam out of Kuwait, without solving the Saddam problem. This would be a great mistake, and we should have learned by now.

5) There is no such animal as a "feel good war" on terrorism. On my street, houses are festooned with American flag windsocks, and car antennas are displaying car antenna flag ribbons. That's admirable, but that's not going to get it alone. A certain amount of singing, praying and hugging may have been necessary to deal with the immediate shock of the attack, but it has been wrong to call the bombings a "tragedy," as many have. A tragedy is a disease that can't be prevented, or a natural catastrophe such as an earthquake. Now that the memorials are over, many of us want to go back to our football games and soap operas, just as the real war is about to begin. While the nation's sons and daughters gear up for the real battle as participants, I wonder whether we have the stomach to endure this war as spectators, or will we complain that it's cutting into the TV programming meant to take our minds off the war against terrorism.

6) Finally, fear is the great motivator. A person who smokes a pack of cigarettes a day will be warned that it's harmful, but won't change his behavior until he has a heart attack. I would rather that our enemies love us, but then they wouldn't be our enemies. Absent the love, it is better that they fear. Japan and Germany neither loved nor feared us, but once they feared, they learned the love.

During the Civil War, the Union Army general William Sherman promised to take his campaign against his enemy "until they howl."

Let the howling begin.

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© 2001, Rich Acello