is likely that more Americans died on Tuesday due to acts of violence
than on any other single day in American history.
are responsible for this sequence of atrocities. The moral blame
falls exclusively on the perpetrators, who as of this writing remain
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
Here are some
of its mistakes:
as a crime. American officials have consistently held the view
that terrorism is a form of criminal activity. Consequently, they
have made their goal the arrest and trying of perpetrators who carry
out violent acts. That's all fine and good as far as it goes, but
it does not go far enough. This legalistic mindset allows the funders,
planners, organizers, and commanders of terrorism to continue their
work untouched, ready to carry out more attacks. The better approach
is to see terrorism as a form of warfare and to target not just
those foot soldiers who actually carry out the violence but the
organizations and governments who stand behind them.
too much on electronic intelligence. It's a lot easier to place
an oversized ear in the sky than to place agents in the inner circle
of a terrorist group, and so the Central Intelligence Agency and
other information-gathering agencies have put on their headphones
and listened. Clearly, this is not enough. The planning for the
events that took place yesterday requires vast preparation over
a long period of time involving many people. That the U.S. government
did not have clue points to nearly criminal ignorance. As critics
like Reuel Gerecht keep hammering home, American intelligence services
must learn foreign languages, become culturally knowledgeable, and
befriend the right people.
the hate-America mentality. Buildings like the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon loom very large as symbols of America's commercial
and military presence around the world. The WTC was already once
before attacked, in a bombing in early 1993. It should have been
clear that these buildings would be the priority targets and the
authorities should have provided them with special protection.
the terrorist infrastructure in this country. Many indications
point to the development of a large Islamist terror network within
the United States, one visible to anyone who cared to see it. Already
in early 1997, Steven Emerson told the Middle East Quarterly
that the threat of terrorism "is greater now than before the
World Trade Center bombing [in 1993] as the numbers of these groups
and their members expands. In fact, I would say that the infrastructure
now exists to carry off twenty simultaneous World Trade Center-type
bombings across the United States." The information was out
there but law enforcement and politicians did not want to see it.
The time has come to crack down, and hard on those connected to
this terror infrastructure.
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 today 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 Tuesday's many victims
not to go back to sleep again.
We also owe
it to ourselves, for I suspect that Tuesday'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.
The Wall Street Journal