Jewish World Review Sept. 16, 2003 / 19 Elul, 5763

Stanley Crouch

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Wising up about our enemies | The seemingly comical story of James McKinley, who mailed himself home to Texas from the Bronx in an airborne crate, ceases to be amusing when we really think about it. Imagine if he were a terrorist: McKinley would have successfully gotten to the belly of the plane. Strapped down with explosives, he could have flown into the arms of Allah in a gory, murderous blaze.

Those terrorists comfortably hiding in America because law enforcement has gotten virtually no help at all from that small sea of Arabs in which they swim, must have bitten their knuckles and slapped their foreheads in anger at having missed an opportunity that may never present itself again.

This brings us to a very uncomfortable reality. One of the reasons we are not safe is that those in charge are not making sure that we are. Not enough money has been allocated for homeland security, for the beefing up of the personnel necessary to do the job that looms before this nation. We talk of war, but we don't act as though we are in the middle of one.

Those who do the jobs on the ground are either not as attentive as they should be or are not imaginative enough to second-guess an enemy whose greatest weapons include being underestimated and being willing to die.

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Please note that after Islamic terrorists tried to bring down the World Trade Center in 1993, authorities decoded the computer of one of the culprits who was captured in the Philippines and got the specifics of what eventually became 9/11. The project was called "Operation Jumbo" and entailed hijacking passenger planes in the Far East and flying them into the World Trade Center buildings.

Is it possible that a bunch of CIA and FBI guys laughed off the very idea that some Muslim fanatics would try such a thing, much less bring it off? If so, it amounts to one of the greatest examples of underestimating the enemy since Custer attacked 10,000 Indians on June 25, 1876, with 300 men.

Such underestimation should never again float in this post-Sept. 11 world.

These men are not dummies. They set off the world's alarm clocks here two years ago and have been successful at vetoing the Mideast peace process by reaching for another big weapon: slaughter.

Their problem now is topping the destruction of the World Trade Center, which means they have to successfully bring off the use of an atomic device. We have to imagine that they think this way.

We are in a serious fight, and our opposition is obviously ruthless. Babies, children, adolescents, adults and the elderly are targets. Just as they were on 9/11.

That is how it is, and that is what we must address with an a cunning intensity equal to that of those coming after us.

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JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994,       Always in Pursuit: Fresh American Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.


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