Monday, September 11, 2006

No Fear

I remember September 11, 2001. I remember where I was and what I felt. I was shocked and angry mostly. All my years of work in military intelligence were flashing before me and I was absolutely incredulous that this was happening. We should have seen this coming months and months before execution. It turns out I was right to be mad and disgusted in addition to being shocked at the tragedy. We did see it coming as did our allies. Bush and company were warned but chose to ignore it and we suffered an unneccessary attack and loss as a result.

That's water under the bridge and it can't be fixed so I remember and acknowledge the loss. What I won't do is be afraid it will happen again. I expect my government to take adequate precautions and I'll put up with the extra airport security but I refuse to live in fear that it will happen again. I can't do better than the following excerpt to explain...

"What has changed, grotesquely, is the aftershock," Simon Jenkins writes in The Guardian, delivering a splash of cold reality. "Terrorism is 10% bang and 90% an echo effect composed of media hysteria, political overkill and kneejerk executive action, usually retribution against some wider group treated as collectively responsible. This response has become 24-hour, seven-day-a-week amplification by the new politico-media complex, especially shrill where the dead are white people. It is this that puts global terror into the bang. While we take ever more extravagant steps to ward off the bangs, we do the opposite with the terrorist aftershock. We turn up its volume. We seem to wallow in fear.

"Were I to take my life in my hands this weekend and visit Osama bin Laden's hideout in Wherever-istan, the interview would go something like this. I would ask how things have been for him since 9/11. His reply would be that he had worried at first that America would capitalise on the global revulsion, even among Muslims, and isolate him as a lone fanatic...

"In the event Bin Laden need not have worried. He would agree, as did the CIA's al-Qaida analyst in Peter Taylor's recent documentary, that the Americans have done his job for him. They panicked. They drove the Taliban back into the mountains, restoring the latter's credibility in the Arab street and turning al-Qaida into heroes. They persecuted Muslims across America. They occupied Iraq and declared Iran a sworn enemy. They backed an Israeli war against Lebanon's Shias. Soon every tinpot Muslim malcontent was citing al-Qaida as his inspiration. Bin Laden's tiny organisation, which might have been starved of funds and friends in 2001, had become a worldwide jihadist phenomenon.

"I would ask Bin Laden whether he had something special up his sleeve for the fifth anniversary. Why waste money, he would reply. The western media were obligingly re-enacting the destruction and the screaming, turning the base metal of violence into the gold of terror. They would replay the tapes and rerun the footage ad nauseam, and thus remind the world of his awesome power. Americans are more afraid of jihadists this year than last. In a Transatlantic Trends survey, the number of them describing international terrorism as an 'extremely important threat' went up from 72% to 79%...

"Bin Laden might boast that he had achieved terrorism's equivalent of an atomic chain reaction: a self-regenerating cycle of outrage and foreign-policy overkill, aided by anniversary journalism and fuelled by the grim scenarios of security lobbyists. He now had only to drop an occasional CD into the offices of al-Jazeera, and Washington and London quaked with fear. The authorities could be reduced to million-dollar hysterics by a phial of nail varnish, a copy of the Qur'an, or a dark-skinned person displaying a watch and a mobile phone."

To be able to live in absolute certainty that no terrorist will get another win the war on terror means that I/we will have to give up every freedom we have and all our privacy. I'm not willing to do that. There can be no secrets from government and the police if we are to be truly free of the threat of terrorism...think about what you are willing to give up to be totally free from the possibility of another attack.

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