- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2001

Every day since the attack on America, and into every night, the question haunts me wherever I am, whatever else I seem to be thinking or doing.

What can I write that would be of some use in a country, just beginning to deal with a horror it had never dreamed would shake every part of the nation and throw it bleeding into a world where past, present and future can only be seen through smoke and the only sound the screams of people afire.

The best I can think of is to examine the days of wars past to see what they might teach us what special strength and weakness we will carry into war with enemies who lust to bring our country to its knees, never to rise again in honor or power.

The days since Sept 11 teach that love is our greatest strength, love for the suffering and all who helped them, and for all Americans who will who stand true against the enemies and the bestiality that they carry with them always, a stench they cannot escape.

When we think clearly, we will see ourselves as a country-family, sharing our heritage of freedom. I doubt many of us will again take it for granted or ever again treat it as impregnable, not to what we thought of as a bunch of mangy gangs and governments we could run over.

My mother used to tell me that if some bigger, nasty kids chased me to beat me up or knock me off my crutches on the way to the hospital clinic, I should "go run and find a cop."

So, through the smoke, I saw the cops as embracing their children when they carried adults to life. The firemen were saviors and so were the working people at the death-site, every construction worker lifting stone from bodies, alive or dead. Love was in their sweat and in the eyes of the millions of Americans.

Not everybody loved everybody; in families that happens. President Bush made interreligious visits to calm any anti-Muslim fury. That was fine. But it would help if he explains why almost always except for communist countries pogroms against Christians, Jews and Buddhists are waged by Muslim terrorist gangs financed, supplied and trained by Muslim states. Without these states, the terrorist network in dozens of countries from Yemen and Syria to Britain and America could not survive.

In India and Pakistan, I lived for years among Muslims and never heard anti-Semitism nor in a few trips to Afghanistan.

The version of law and religion preached by Islamic gangs and governments for at least a half-century is spiritual excretion the result of endless vicious propaganda and careful textbook distortion of Islam to reflect the hatreds and interests of clerics, teachers and political chieftains. Others of the intelligentsia mostly shut their mouths, monuments to cowardice.

Just as plain as the power of American love since the murders, totaling more than 6,000, is the great weakness of America in what we still call "foreign affairs" as if Downtown New York and the Pentagon are in Marrakech or some other exotic place the weaknesses of illusion and delusion. We build on foundations of wish fulfillment; when it crumbles, we look at each other like startled children.

It was wish fulfillment in government that convinced officials we were physically secure. The nine countries Washington names as terrorists are listed because of their special perversion mixing suicide and murder.

America was the terrorists' No. 1 target. We just did not have the espionage equipment and expertise to find if, when and where bombers would arrive over America; a pity.

And after the raids of Sept 11, Washington follows a strategy that could strengthen terrorists of Afghanistan and other countries that pop up as co-conspirators.

The heart of this stroke of genius is to switch around friends and enemies, when convenient to us. Terrorist nations like Syria, which gave safe haven and training to a foul gangs, and Iran, where the mullahs imprisoned American Embassy hostages remember? are already consulted.

Meantime, so far we exclude Israel, Turkey and India from our "coalition."

They are among the countries most concerned because the terrorists that bedevil their national lives are linked with foreign terrorists including Afghans.

America pressures Israel to make still more concessions to the Palestinians. Around the world, including America and Europe, are newspapers and TV stations that say if it weren't for Israel, the anti-American terrorists would not exist. They use the blood and lives of more than 6,000 people in America as one more nailed club to wound Israel.

Even in his magnificent speech to Congress, President Bush skipped direct mention of the large clutch of terrorist gangs and movements totally dedicated to the death of Israel and any government that gets in their way, including governments that "harbor" them a polite Americanism meaning arms, trains, finances and supplies them on their own territory or abroad: Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, Hamas and a dozen others in the Middle East and a whole world of others in India and other Asian countries. Remember?

Does the president or any member or his administration really think these killers will abandon their lifetime struggles because some day, when things get really nasty in Afghanistan and the aid of foreign terrorists to the Afghans cannot be ignored, America will demand that the Yasser Arafats of the whole world give up the evil comedies that they cannot control their terrorists?

Surely the president and all in his administration know that one day these terrorists will make Americans bleed, far more than can the Afghans themselves. So in the first days of the war we discover that the American love of freedom and country-family is a great, great source of power in times of real crisis, which we should remember. And we see that American self-delusion is great sapper of our strength. which we also must remember.

A.M. Rosenthal, former executive editor of the New York Times, is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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