Jewish World Review Oct. 11, 2001 /24 Tishrei, 5762

Stanley Crouch

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We stand armed
with compassion -- WE are in it now. This war has moved to Round 2. This time around, we know not to leave Afghanistan in a wreck when the fighting is done, which is what we did after financing the resistance army against the Russians and training Osama Bin Laden.

We already are sending in humanitarian aid. The last thing we need to do is leave the impression that all those people mean to us is cannon fodder or mercenaries taking bullets for Uncle Sam. That could lead to more problems. But, we cannot assume that civilized behavior will make friends for us in the Islamic world.

For one, I don't care how people in the so-called Islamic world, which I assume is as varied as any other, feel about the United States. I am concerned only about their actions, just as those not swept up in automatic hostility to us should not give a tinker's hoot about how we think about Islam, but how we act when dealing with its peaceful believers.

Interestingly, Bin Laden, who knows the jig is up for him, has sent out word that the U.S. should remain in a condition of fear and expect no peace and safety until he and his boys see peace and safety in "Palestine." He is trying to refocus the Middle Eastern hostility toward America. Then, when he gets his chance to see if there are 72 virgins waiting for him in heaven as a reward for his death as a martyr, this nation will have been so intimidated that its policies can be dictated by terrorists. That'll be the day.

We here in Manhattan already have smelled that scent of burning flesh. The wind informed everyone of what it felt like living near a death camp. We have known already oceanic grief, and we have seen just as large a measure of compassion and gratitude. We are not battle-hardened, nor is the rest of our country.

I hope we know that protection is more important than revenge and that what lies ahead in this war that also might be fought on this soil is unknown. The enemy is among us, planning in silence. But we do know that certain things will never happen again. We will never see airline passengers sit still again when some guys pull out weapons.

The passengers will be far from happy if that happens, but they will choose to go out another way. Theirs will be the kind of choice made by those people who went down in Pennsylvania. If the plane that just went down on the way from Israel to Russia actually was sabotaged, it is because the terrorists, too, know that their success Sept. 11 makes it impossible to ever bring that off again.

Compassion, gratitude and courage of that sort are what we need to get through this thing. From what I can see, we have plenty in reserve.

JWR contributor and cultural icon Stanley Crouch is a columnist for The New York Daily News. He is the author of, among others, The All-American Skin Game, Or, the Decoy of Race: The Long and the Short of It, 1990-1994,       Always in Pursuit: Fresh American Perspectives, and Don't the Moon Look Lonesome: A Novel in Blues and Swing. Send your comments by clicking here.


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