What a strange and bellicose past few days. There is still more news on television than anything else, but the footage is increasingly introspective, focusing on the fallout in emotional and political terms. This, I fear, is the most that we will be likely to expect over the next several days; the search for survivors continues, but none have been found. It seems unlikely that any will, though I certainly wish this were not the case.
We are all still somewhat nervous that another wave of attacks will come. Suspicions are high, and authorities are taking precautions; closing down piers and airports, cancelling flights, towing vehicles, and being exceptionaly vigilant with other safety measures. Few panicky events, though, are showing up during the day. So, while the “all clear” has not been given, we are being urged to return to our normal lives. Normalcy will not completely return for some time and will be different than before.
The political fallout from the attacks is likely to be substantial. GW’s approval rating is an absurdly high 90%, though he certainly doesn’t deserve it. At times like this, it is not patriotic [we are told] to question the commander-in-chief’s leadership — as Reps. Meehan and Neal have discovered — but I do not believe that he has done an appropriate job. That is to say, I would focus much more on the emotional toll of these acts, ensuring that the full compassion of government is extended toward the victims’ families.
Instead GW has been almost exclusively angry and unifying. Perhaps it is true that he’s a “uniter not a divider,” but he is talking strength, preparation, and fortitude. He’s also adopted a very moralistic tone that threatens to undermine the righteousness of our expected response. Though Congress says otherwise, GW has basically [assumed] open-ended authority “to do generations a favor by coming together and whipping terrorism, hunting down, binding it, and holding them accountable.” But justice is an ancillary goal. “It’s not just simply a matter of capturing people and holding them accountable,” says dept. secty of defense Wolfowitz, “but removing the sanctuaries, removing the support systems, ending states who sponsor terrorism.”
To this end the administration has been forcing nations to take sides. For many Middle East nations this must not be nearly so black and white as it is for GW, who yesterday said terrorists “have attacked America because we are freedom’s home and defender. . . . Our responsibility to history is already clear. To answer these attacks and rid the world of evil.”
I had hoped after first thinking about Tuesday’s attacks that the US might be able to see the imperative of global engagement as equals; recognizing that other nations have needs just as we do and that military strength should not enhance or mitigate another state’s position. But it appears that we are not willing to learn from the lessons of the past nor to sieze this opportunity to reshape the world into one that’s not “us versus them.”
Instead GW is taking up the “New World Order” of his father, who advocated that the US police the world according to our notions of “good and evil, right and wrong.” This current position will not ultimately be successful. Besides, who will we fight? Where will we draw lines?
Paul, my former barber, is ready to provide answers. Yesterday (in what I am sure will be my last visit to him) he spewed forth the most racist, anti-Arab, anti-Muslim invective that I have ever heard. I am deeply saddened and angered by this bigotry, but I fear that it is fairly widespread in the nation. It seems that all Arabs are suspects, and many favor profiling/”identifying” them for special investigation.
I am accutely worried — perhaps to paranoia — that our civil liberties are in for some rough times. . . . Personally, I don’t think that increased restrictions on what can be carried aloft are real restrictions of liberties. But proposed new rules on domestic surveillance, wire-tapping, and the like are quite toublesome. The ease of INS detentions of suspects is troublesome, too. James Woolsey says “there has been a sea change” on privacy and protection; I agree and predict it will be rougher for us all.