Along the Tracks

Friday, September 10, 2004

Next 9/11?

Long absence ... much craziness ... writing in snippets ....

Anyway, I'm back, at least momentarily, and hope to be blogging on a regular basis again soon - especially since Ohio is do or die territory for both Bush and Kerry, as their almost daily visits prove.

In the meantime, here's my Times and Signal column for Saturday, Sept. 11:

The next 9/11 - and how the U.S. will respond

Three years on from the attacks on the U.S. mainland, Americans find themselves caught in continued debate over the meaning of 9/11 and the proper response.

The failure of the present administration to mold a consensus on the war, and the efforts by some members of the opposition to turn dead American soldiers to short-term political gain, leave the nation in a fog of uncertainty and mistrust.

There are sensible voices for unity emanating from both parties - John McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Danforth among Republicans; Joe Lieberman, Richard Gephardt and Joe Biden among Democrats - but their views fail to harness partisan energies the way each side’s extremists do. Thus, the two men who could change things - John Kerry and George W. Bush - refuse to act, hoping a little more gasoline on the fire might just push enough supporters to the polls for victory Nov. 2.

Meanwhile, our enemies continue to plot, prepare and practice.

What, after all, was the horrible Russian school massacre if not the first run of a new al Qaeda attack plan? Does anyone really believe such a “success” will not be repeated? Does anyone really believe the enemy won’t try it against “the Great Satan,” America?

Think about it: Terrorists pose as a crew of subcontractors building or renovating a school somewhere in California or Texas or New Jersey - or Ohio. Explosives and weapons are stashed away in several wall hollows - it really doesn’t take all that much to do massive damage. Then, one day, after the bell rings and the building is full, a dozen or more armed assassins storm in, taking positions to prevent escape and shooting down a few who try, just to make a point. Once they establish control, it would only take an hour or so to pull out the pre-positioned bombs, rig them up and force everyone into the gym or cafeteria where mass slaughter can be assured.

America may have seen a preview of its own next 9/11 in what Russia just endured.

If every new and recently renovated school building in the United States is not now undergoing or scheduled to undergo a complete search with a bomb-sniffing dog, federal, state and local authorities are failing in their sworn duty to protect Americans.

Unfortunately, even if all American schools are clean - or a plot for a Beslan-like terror strike is foiled - the terrorists still have a vast array of options. Car bombs are easy. So are belt bombs. Another plane hijacking for a suicide crash might be tried. Maybe instead of a school, al Qaeda will attempt to hold fans at a sports stadium hostage. Maybe they’ll derail an Amtrak train or blast a hole in an oil tanker off the Gulf Coast.

Or maybe they are waiting, with held breath, for the ayatollahs of Iran to complete their first nuclear weapon. In a Reuters story Thursday, a non-American intelligence source and an Iranian dissident both claimed Iran is just months away from putting together the components for an atom bomb. The mullahs are doing their best, the report said, to run out the clock on the United Nations’ atomic energy inspection process. The rough estimate indicated that, if Iran can hold off the international community for 10 months, they will have the weapon they have repeatedly, publicly promised to use on the “Zionist entity” (Israel) and its supporters (primarily, the U.S.) as soon as it is available.

It seems obvious that if Iran makes one weapon, it will make two. One will be given to Hezbollah for deliver in Tel Aviv. The other will sail out for New York Harbor, guarded and guided by al Qaeda.
This threat (and the one demonstrated by the Russian school massacre) brings several important lines of debate into focus - debate which is not occurring.

First, now that several sources indicate Iran will soon become a nuclear power if not stopped, added to the recent revelation that certain Pentagon employees may have sent sensitive intelligence on Iran to Israel, is it not perfectly clear that Israel intends to stop Iran if the international community does not? How will a Bush administration avoid both a nuclear Iran and a general Middle Eastern war between Israel and its Muslim neighbors? How will a Kerry administration respond?

How will a Bush administration respond to an attempted nuclear attack in which the connections to national sponsors (Iran? North Korea? A stolen nuke from Russia? Al Qaeda’s own production, thanks to A.Q. Khan?) are unclear? How about a Kerry administration?

How will either man respond to a successful nuclear attack?

What level of intelligence qualifies for pre-emptive action? Must we wait for avowed enemies to “show their hand” in some way, which may or may not occur before an attack? Or should we accept that our avowed enemies are, indeed, our enemies, and therefore to be stopped by all necessary means? Your answer, Mr. Bush? Mr. Kerry?

Russia may now decide to take military action against al Qaeda outside Russian soil: In former Soviet Georgia, in Azerbaijan, in Iran, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, in Kashmir. What actions will a Bush or Kerry administration deem acceptable as part of the war? How will each man seek to bring Russia into the anti-terror coalition militarily? Will America help Russia? Will America try to hold back Russia?

These are crucial questions. Big Media’s failure to focus on these issues - which may well decide the fate of millions in the next four years - is a dereliction of responsibility which must be remedied, so American voters can make an informed choice Nov. 2.
Paul A. Miller is managing editor of the Montpelier (Ohio) Leader Enterprise and the Napoleon (Ohio) Northwest Signal.

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