The destruction of the two World Trade Center towers was the equivalent of the total obliteration of a city of 50,000 people. There is nothing left except ashes and twisted metal. The people who were on the floors directly hit by the two planes were immediately incinerated by the inferno of exploding jet fuel. Many people on the lower floors managed to get out of the building by way of stairwells. Others, trapped on upper floors, with flames at their backs, preferred to die by jumping out of windows. When they left their homes that morning to go to work in those two ultra-modern buildings, those two great symbols of American capitalism, little did they know that within a few hours they'd be burnt to death or be jumping out of office windows.
When the two towers collapsed, everything within those 220 stories was destroyed: computers, phones, fax machines, copiers, TV sets, furniture, books, paintings, expensive rugs, objets d'art, records, files, cabinets full of supplies, kitchens, framed photos of children, wives, and husbands. A whole city was destroyed and everything burnable in it reduced to ashes. The ash that covered the streets around the towers were the incinerated remains of the thousands of people who were cremated in the inferno. The destruction could not have been more complete.
We know that over two hundred and fifty passengers were killed in the four planes hijacked by the terrorists. But we may never know how many people were killed in the two towers because most of their bodies simply no longer exist. Only by counting missing persons will we be able to get an idea of how many human beings were lost that morning of September 11, 2001. By September 13, the number of missing were counted as 4,700. The mayor called for over 10,000 body bags. But few bodies have been found. The rest covered the streets with their ashes. Several hundred firefighters and policemen were also killed by the collapsing towers. This is a catastrophe never before experienced in New York or by any other American city.
Americans have just awakened to the fact that the world is a dangerous place, not only for Israelis, but for Americans. We all agree that is was an act of war, as devastating and unprovoked as the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. But how do we fight a war against terrorism? Do we fight it by sending a missile into a desert tent somewhere? Do we fight it by bombing an aspirin factory? That's what our last President did after Islamic terrorists bombed the two American embassies in Africa.
Learning From the Past
Perhaps we can learn some lessons from the past. This is not the first time that America has experienced conflict with the Islamic world. After the Revolution, the United States made annual payments to the piratical Barbary States of Morocco, Algiers, Tripoli, and Tunis for unmolested transit in the Mediterranean. European nations were doing the same. In May 1801, Pasha Yusuf Karamanli of Tripolitania declared war on the United States by cutting down the flagpole at the U.S. Consulate in Tripoli and seizing several Americans and their vessels. The Pasha believed that the new republic was too weak to fight back. In 1802, during the Jefferson administration, Congress passed a measure permitting the arming of merchant ships, in preparation for the Tripolitan War. In February 1804, Lieut. Stephen Decatur sailed the ketch Intrepid into Tripoli harbor, where her crew boarded and burned the captured 38-gun U.S. frigate Philadelphia, thus depriving the Tripolitanians of their prize. In April 1805, the city of Derna in Tripolitania was captured by an American invasion force. Hence, the anthem of the U.S. Marines, "From the Halls of Montezuma to the Shores of Tripoli." The war ended by placing the friendly brother of Pasha Yusuf on the throne and paying $60,000 ransom money for the officers and crew of the Philadelphia.
However, that didn't stop the piratical activities of the other Barbary States. Algiers seized other American merchantmen, demanding payment. In 1815, Decatur was sent to the Mediterranean where he captured the Algerian flagship Mashuda in a running fight off Cape de Gat. Decatur then appeared off Algiers, demanded and secured a treaty humiliating to the once proud piratical state: no future payments, restoration of all American property, the emancipation of all Christian slaves, civilized treatment of prisoners of war.
Today, the situation is quite different. What we must do to eradicate terrorism is overthrow the present regimes that harbor and nurture terrorists and replace them with friendly, pro-democratic leadership. Note that it took four years, from 1801 to 1805, to accomplish the job in Tripoli alone, and additional years to subdue the other piratical states. However, with today's military technology, we may be able to do the job faster. The French, also suffering the kidnappings and terrorism emanating from the Barbary Coast, finally decided to invade Algeria in the 1830s and take it over completely, inviting Europeans to settle there and bring European civilization with them. They also took control of Morocco and Tunisia. After World War II, with the growth of national liberation movements aided and abetted by the communists, the West surrendered to the liberal anti-colonialist movement and gave independence to the Moslem states. The result has been this plague of modern terrorism ever since.
There must be something about the Islamic worldview or state of mind that produces this fanatic lust for destruction. In Algeria, Islamic terrorists slit the throats of school children in their beds. In the West Bank and Gaza, children turn themselves into human suicide bombers eager to blow up Israeli teenagers. Adult terrorists engineer the most brutal and devastating airplane hijackings, killing themselves, the innocent passengers on board, and thousands of civilians in the targets they hit with explosive jet fuel. For what reason? Is this kind of cruelty and murder called for in the Koran? Is hatred of non-Moslems so deep and obsessive that only self-destructive mass murder is actually preferable to living in a world where non-Moslems exist? What have non-Moslems done to deserve such hatred?
It is said that America's backing of Israel is the cause of Islamic hatred. But why can't the Arabs accept the existence of Israel, which occupies a tiny part of the Middle East, in which Arab states swimming in oil occupy millions of square miles of land?
Unfortunately, the idea of "live and let live" simply does not exist in the Islamic mind. They call Zionism racism, yet a million Arabs live within Israel where they are full citizens. Yet the Palestinians will not accept a single Jew in their midst. Who is the racist?
The only way that we can live safely in a world with such malevolent people is to subdue them to the point where they cannot harm us or anyone else. Turkey has found a way of dealing with Islamic fanatics: keep them from gaining political power. Saddam Hussein in Iraq uses the fanatics to bolster his dictatorial rule. The clerics in Iran thrive on Islamic fanaticism and terror. Pakistan uses it in Kashmir against the Hindus. Chechnyan terrorists bomb apartment houses in Moscow. Syria uses Hezbollah terrorists to maintain its hold on Lebanon. The Taliban regime in Afghanistan provides a safe haven for Osama bin Laden while reducing the country to rubble. It persecutes Christian missionaries.
It is obvious that terrorism and religious intolerance are as much a part of the Islamic world as openness and religious freedom are part of the Western world. Biblical religion is the basis of the West's benevolent values. Despite the diversity of religious sects in the United States, there is that sense of tolerance and trust that permits us all to live together in a free society.
The catastrophe in New York has made Americans affirm those benevolent values in the face of such fanatical Islamic hatred and destructiveness. In 1996, historian Samuel P. Huntington wrote a book that explains why September 11th took place. Its title tells it all: The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. He wrote:
World politics is being reconfigured along cultural and civilizational lines. In this world the most pervasive, important and dangerous conflicts will not be between social classes, rich and poor, or other economically defined groups, but between peoples belonging to different cultural entities. The most dangerous cultural conflicts are those along the fault lines between civilizations. It's now the line separating the peoples of Western Christianity, on the one hand, from Muslim and Orthodox peoples on the other. Islamic culture explains in large part the failure of democracy to emerge in much of the Muslim world.
In other words, we are not only fighting terrorism, which is the Islamic mode of waging war against us, but we are fighting a civilization based on evil. President Reagan called communist Russia the Evil Empire. As much as we tolerate Moslems who choose to live in Western countries, we cannot tolerate the Islamic regimes in the Middle East that want to destroy us. We must subdue them or bequeath to our children a future of fear, terrorist destruction, and the triumph of unlimited evil.
Israeli journalist Amotz Asa-El wrote in the Jerusalem Post of September 13:
Sadly, as Middle East Israelis have been arguing in the face of repeated suicide bomb attacks, the war has now proven to be not about land, creed or faith, but about civilization. It is the Armageddon of tyranny on freedom, the war of the sons of darkness against the sons of light, who dared make Islamic fundamentalists and Arab tyrants suffer from an inferiority complex they would neither treat nor contain.
So how do we fight such a war? We were willing to use carpet bombing over Germany in World War II to force them into unconditional surrender. We were willing to use nuclear bombs against Japan to end the war in the Pacific. What are we willing to use against the Islamic states that wish to destroy our civilization piecemeal through terror? I heard one caller on a talk show say, "Nuke them!" Sounds simple enough. But in a clash of civilizations, a new strategy is needed. It is going to require a vision that understands what we are up against. So we should have no illusion that it is going to be easy. The President has emphasized that this is war. Then if that's the case, we'd better do what we have to do to win it.