Memo To: The Pentagon Brass
From: Jude Wanniski
Re: Six Months Later
You are not supposed to ask that question. Nobody of political importance has asked it. No journalist of importance has asked it of anyone of political importance. When you are attacked, you do not ask the attackers why. You fight back. I was only five years old when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, so I don’t know if Americans went around scratching their heads asking why “the Japs” did it. My guess is that it was immediately assumed that the Japanese people are vicious and cruel and sneaky and warlike by nature, that they like to attack other nations and so they did, the B*****ds!
This thought occurred to me Sunday when I watched my old friend Tony Snow’s early afternoon show on the “war on terrorism.” Tony invited my new friend, Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, to discuss terrorism, and I thought for sure that on the six-month anniversary he would ask America’s top Muslim leader why they did it. Or why he thought they did it. Because Min. Farrakhan is Muslim and the 9-11 terrorism was carried out by Muslims, it stands to reason he would have a better sense of why they did it than, say, the Rev. Al Sharpton or the Rev. Billy Graham, other men of the cloth. Instead, Tony asked Farrakhan why other Muslim leaders did not condemn the terrorist acts of 9-11 as he had. An odd question, I thought, in that every political leader in the Muslim world had joined in the coalition behind President Bush’s war on terrorism. Even Saddam Hussein sent his sympathies to the families of those who died in the attack. Min. Farrakhan might have had an interesting answer if he had been asked why there had been an attack. Instead the interview meandered around a discussion whether President George W. Bush should have shown the Taliban the evidence they asked for about Osama bin Laden’s culpability. He showed British Prime Minister Tony Blair, said Min. Farrakhan. If he showed the Taliban, maybe they would have turned bin Laden over and we would now have him, instead of having killed thousands of Afghanis in a fruitless hunt. Tony wound up meandering into silly terrain, suggesting our real mission was to liberate the people of Afghanistan from their repressive regime. Hello?
I am apparently the only fellow who has seriously warned that the Muslim mentality that bombed the World Trade Center in 1993 would be back to successfully finish the job – unless we ask why they tried it in 1993. I twice posted memos to that effect in 1998, in December of that year mentioning rumors that Osama bin Laden was plotting a strike against NYC and Washington. Now I know, generals and admirals, that the Pentagon brass is not supposed to concern itself with political questions like these. You might scratch your heads and kick the question around in the Officer’s Club, but the civilians are supposed to handle the politics, the whys and wherefores. My concern, gentlemen, is that the civilians are not asking why, for one reason or another, and to me that means there will be more terrorism, not less.
When I sat watching the news from Wall Street on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” six months ago and saw the airplanes crash into the towers, it was no surprise to me, or to my friends who knew how much I had worried about a reprise. “They have been trying to get our attention and now they have succeeded.” We are the only Superpower, with global hegemony, and the Arab/Islamic world is cut out of our political process. Sure, Saddam Hussein if he wishes can write a letter to The Washington Post complaining about the embargo and Yasir Arafat can write an op-ed in the NYTimes promising to be a better fellow and Muammar Qaddafi can exchange ambassadors with the Vatican. But they have nobody of stature who is an American to represent their consensus views in our political process. Protestants, Catholics and Jews around the world have no trouble weighing in with soul brothers in our government, but the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims sometimes seem to have less clout than “the Japs” did in 1941. We know now, six decades later, that the Japanese did not attack Pearl Harbor because they had designs on LA, Chicago or Flatbush, but because the Great Depression, Franklin Roosevelt, and the Brits had backed them into an impossible corner, their oil cut off. I’m not going to argue Pearl Harbor was “justified,” any more than I will say a single kind word for the 9-11 crazies.
What I do suggest, gentlemen, is that you begin to think of political terrorism – as opposed to criminal terrorism – as the equivalent of a cancer in the body politic. Is a cancer “evil?” It is there for some reason and if we try to get rid of it simply by blasting it out or carving it out, a lot of innocent little body cells are going to be destroyed in the process. For every evil “terrorist” that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon blasts out with F-16 or mortar fire, a hundred innocent civilians die. Yes, you can argue he is defending Israel, but think of the percentages in the collateral damage. Of course, the Palestinians who are committing suicide to get attention for their cause, taking innocents with them, are also evil cancers.
Why did 9-11 happen? It happened because of the predicament in the Middle East. You know it and I know it and the Arabs and the Israelis know it. That’s why nobody wants to ask “Why?” Because all roads lead back to that primary open sore on the civilized world. If the Saudi peace initiative is nurtured and comes to full flower, as I think it can, there can at last be peace between Jews and Palestinians. This means the Israelis need not fear Iraq, which removes that threat and the need for your involvement in another Gulf War. It also means you can bring back our troops from Saudi Arabia, as they will no longer be needed to protect the kingdom from a “rogue” Baghdad. I know the Pentagon intellectuals curse this scenario, because they prefer war. But you will then all be free to plan Richard Perle’s war against China, which you were doing anyway before 9-11 interfered.