on Monday, a day after the terror threat was ramped
up, I sent my two high school-age children on
a train to visit their older sister in Lower Manhattan.
Stay away from Wall Street, I jokingly told them.
Otherwise, just be careful.
is supposed to be the American response to the
war on terror, isn't it? Our new vigilance is
not to curtail our enjoyment of travel and learning,
and we're told to greet each change in the warnings
with the same mixture of concern and nonchalance
that we give to the traffic light at the next
we don't expect it to be green anytime soon.
most Americans, I was horrified by the terrorist
attacks, satisfied that the war in Afghanistan
was right and appropriate, vaguely supportive
of the war against Iraq and now - in light of
the falsehoods that justified the invasion and
the utter incompetence that followed - consider
it a terrible mistake. And, like most Americans,
I have believed that the terrorists' war is a
madman's assault on our civilization, on our cherished
liberty and freedom, on who we are.
is why, as a civilian, my best response is to
continue to be who I am, even if that means a
mother who sends her kids to Manhattan during
a heightened sense of threat.
what if this isn't a war on who we are, but on
what we have done and continue to do? What if
Anonymous is correct?
you may have heard, is the pen name of a senior
analyst of the Central Intelligence Agency who
has written Imperial Hubris: Why the West is Losing
the War on Terror, a detailed and damning book
on the terrorist threat and the Bush administration's
failure to fight it.
Anonymous, the answer to "Why is the West losing?"
is direct and profound. Osama bin Laden and his
terrorist allies will continue fighting and killing
Americans "because of what we have done and are
doing in the Islamic world and not because of
who we are and how we run our political, economic,
and social systems."
has followed bin Laden for years and says the
list of grievances against the United States has
been consistent and clear:
for the state of Israel, especially its current
of Afghanistan and now Iraq.
for apostate Muslim dictators, such as the Saudi
royal family, and nations, such as Russia and
China, that persecute Muslims.
for low-priced oil that keeps corrupt regimes
in power and populations poor.
Laden doesn't care if I wear pants and educate
my girls. He cares that my government's foreign
and military policy is an attack on Islam, and
as a smart, pious and devout Muslim, he has no
choice but to fight back by any means possible.
has committed the first and most damaging mistake
of war, Anonymous says, by willfully misjudging
our enemy - willfully, because the information
cited in the book has long been available and
was cleared for publication by the CIA. Through
our own ignorance and hubris, we've decided that
the Muslim world needs only to be freed of its
King George III and that liberty (and gratitude)
will spontaneously follow.
what if our brand of freedom is not a universal
aspiration, especially when imposed from without?
I view Afghanistan under the Taliban as one of
the century's most oppressive regimes. For bin
Laden and his multitude of followers, it is revered
as the site of the only Muslim victory over the
West in eight centuries, over the Soviet Union
in the 1980s. We can argue over who is right,
or we can accept the challenge to understand our
enemy at least as well as he understands us.
unsettling are Anonymous' proposed solutions:
Dramatically change our foreign and domestic policy,
or be willing to enforce it with a massive military
operation that will result in more death than
we've so far been able to stomach. Either choice
makes the decision to visit Manhattan on an "orange"
day seem benign.
are hated for what we do, not misunderstood for
who we are. That assessment pierces the very heart
of the American outlook during this war with no
green light in sight. I hope Anonymous is wrong.
I fear otherwise.
Posted: August 14, 2004