comes a very powerful look at where we are four years after 9-11-2001. A long article but well worth the read. - fc
Taking Stock of the Forever War
By MARK DANNER
Published: September 11, 2005
Seldom has an image so clearly marked the turning of the world. One of man's mightiest structures collapses into an immense white blossom of churning, roiling dust, metamorphosing in 14 seconds from hundred-story giant of the earth into towering white plume reaching to heaven. The demise of the World Trade Center gave us an image as newborn to the world of sight as the mushroom cloud must have appeared to those who first cast eyes on it. I recall vividly the seconds flowing by as I sat gaping at the screen, uncomprehending and unbelieving, while Peter Jennings's urbane, perfectly modulated voice murmured calmly on about flights being grounded, leaving unacknowledged and unexplained - unconfirmed
- the incomprehensible scene unfolding in real time before our eyes. "Hang on there a second," the famously unflappable Jennings finally stammered - the South Tower had by now vanished into a boiling caldron of white smoke - "I just want to check one thing. . .because. . .we now have.. . .What do we have? We don't. . .?" Marveling later that "the most powerful image was the one I actually didn't notice while it was occurring," Jennings would say simply that "it was beyond our imagination
Looking back from this moment, precisely four years later, it still seems almost inconceivable that 10 men could have done that - could have brought those towers down
. Could have imagined doing what was "beyond our imagination." When a few days later, the German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen remarked that this was "the greatest work of art in the history of the cosmos," I shared the anger his words called forth but couldn't help sensing their bit of truth: "What happened there - spiritually - this jump out of security, out of the everyday, out of life, that happens sometimes poco a poco in art." No "little by little" here: however profoundly evil the art, the sheer immensity and inconceivability of the attack had forced Americans instantaneously to "jump out of security, out of the everyday, out of life" and had thrust them through a portal into a strange and terrifying new world, where the inconceivable, the unimaginable, had become brutally possible.
Four years after the collapse of the towers, evil is still with us and so is terrorism. Terrorists have staged spectacular attacks, killing thousands, in Tunisia, Bali, Mombasa, Riyadh, Istanbul, Casablanca, Jakarta, Madrid, Sharm el Sheik and London, to name only the best known. Last year, they mounted 651 "significant terrorist attacks," triple the year before and the highest since the State Department started gathering figures two decades ago. One hundred ninety-eight of these came in Iraq, Bush's "central front of the war on terror" - nine times the year before. And this does not include the hundreds of attacks on U.S. troops. It is in Iraq, which was to serve as the first step in the "democratization of the Middle East," that insurgents have taken terrorism to a new level, killing well over 4,000 people since April in Baghdad alone; in May, Iraq suffered 90 suicide-bombings. Perhaps the "shining example of democracy" that the administration promised will someday come, but for now Iraq has become a grotesque advertisement for the power and efficacy of terror.
Four years after we watched the towers fall, Americans have not succeeded in "ridding the world of evil." We have managed to show ourselves, our friends and most of all our enemies the limits of American power. Instead of fighting the real war that was thrust upon us on that incomprehensible morning four years ago, we stubbornly insisted on fighting a war of the imagination, an ideological struggle that we defined not by frankly appraising the real enemy before us but by focusing on the mirror of our own obsessions. And we have finished - as the escalating numbers of terrorist attacks, the grinding Iraq insurgency, the overstretched American military and the increasing political dissatisfaction at home show - by fighting precisely the kind of war they wanted us to fight.
Taking Stock of the Forever War :: link