Small World

Jewish World Review Sept. 12, 2001 / 23 Elul, 5761

It's painful to say, but we must confront the U.S. government's failure

By Daniel Pipes -- IT IS likely that more Americans died yesterday due to acts of violence than on any other single day in American history.

Two parties are responsible for this sequence of atrocities. The moral blame falls exclusively on the perpetrators, who as of this writing remain unknown.

The tactical blame falls on the U.S. government, which has grievously failed in its topmost duty to protect American citizens from harm. Specialists on terrorism have been aware for years of this dereliction of duty; now the whole world knows it. Despite a steady beat of major, organized terrorist incidents over eighteen years (since the car bombing of the U.S. embassy in Beirut in 1983), Washington has not taken the issue seriously.

Here are some of its mistakes:

If there is any good to come out of yesterday's deaths and trauma, it will be to prompt an urgent and dramatic change of course in U.S. policy, one that looks at the threat to the United States as a military one, that relies on human intelligence, that comprehends the terrorist mentality, and that closes down the domestic network of terror.

An easy assumption pervaded the airwaves yesterday that the morning's horrors will have the effect of waking Americans to the threat in their midst. I am less optimistic, remembering similar assumptions eight years ago in aftermath of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center; but that turned out not to be the wake-up call expected at the time. Perhaps because only six people died then, perhaps because the bombing was not accompanied or followed by other incidents, that episode disappeared down the memory hole. We owe it to yesterday's many victims not to go back to sleep again.

We also owe it to ourselves, for I suspect that yesterday's events are just a foretaste of what the future holds in store. Assuming that the attacks in New York and in the Washington area were only what they seemed to be, they killed and injured only those who were in the buildings under attack or in their immediate vicinity. Future attacks are likely to be biological, spreading germs that potentially could threaten the whole country. When that day comes, this country will truly know what devastation terrorism can cause. Now is the time to prepare for that danger and make sure it never happens.

JWR contributor Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum and the author of several books, most recently Conspiracy: How the Paranoid Style Flourishes and Where It Comes from. Comment by clicking here.


© 2001, Daniel Pipes