Jewish World Review Sept. 24, 2001/ 7 Tishrei 5762
Are we at war yet?
WHAT a weird war.
We've been talking about being at war -- without actually being at war -- for more than a week. On the first day of the terrorist strikes, President Bush declared the attacks "acts of war." As the days advanced, news programs changed their titles from "America Under Attack" to "America On Alert." This week, will it be "America At War"?
Maybe. Maybe not. There's still a lot of talking to do, coalitions to build, diplomatic ties to bind. Meanwhile, we've seen American military ships leave harbor and planes head for the Middle East. In my South Carolina neighborhood, located not far from both Shaw Air Force Base and the Army's Fort Jackson, the air is palpably charged.
We know we're going to war, but where and against whom? We're asked to be patient. OK. We go to work, come home and flip on TV to catch the latest developments. This tuning in and out of war -- changing channels for new angles and perspectives -- adds a surreal dimension to the already fantastical.
We've seen the tallest buildings in the world explode and crumble, watched horrified as people jumped 100 stories to their deaths, tried to imagine the heat, the confusion, the void. And then comes a commercial break.
It's going to be an unconventional war that may take years, we're told. Politicians step up to microphones and say they're united behind the president in this nonpartisan commitment to rooting out evil and defending freedom.
A Pew Research Center poll found that four of five Americans support military action even at the risk of heavy casualties. Talking heads and newspaper pundits debate the myriad ways we might combat this rare enemy force that spans countries and centuries.
Our prime suspect is Osama bin Laden, holed up in Afghanistan, the location of which isn't quite clear to most Americans. Globes are suddenly as scarce as American flags in stores these days. For a peek at what that country looks like -- and to see how little is left to destroy -- go to the Mother Jones magazine Web site (www.motherjones.com), which features a pictorial essay of Afghanistan.
Dropping a bomb on that blighted landscape would be like sending an elevator repairman to the World Trade Center. From a people with nothing left to lose, what can we take away? Life? Excellent. Seventy virgins await Taliban martyrs in heaven. No word on what awaits women. Liberation from their men? A weird enemy.
Every day we see our nation's leaders discussing strategy on television. Aren't our enemies listening? For a week, we heard that Vice President Dick Cheney was staying at Camp David to ensure his safety. Why were we telling the world where he was if his whereabouts were intended to protect him?
Bill O'Reilly on Fox News Channel's The O'Reilly Factor interviewed Dr. Ravan A.G. Farhadi, ambassador to the United Nations from The Northern Alliance of Afghanistan, which opposes the Taliban government. Farhadi told O'Reilly that his group could locate bin Laden.
"You can locate him?" asked O'Reilly incredulously. "So, have you told the U.S. State Department that you guys can pinpoint Osama for them?"
No, said Farhadi, no one had asked him.
"They haven't come to you yet?" Again, O'Reilly was incredulous.
"Well, listen, if you get information about where he is," said O'Reilly, "call me. I won't tell on him, I'll -- but I'll call -- I'll call Powell right away, I -- and, and let him know."
We'll be going to war any day now. No doubt about it. Just as soon as we can figure out exactly who the enemy is/are and where he/they live. If you have any clues, by all means e-mail me. I'll . . . I'll call Tom Clancy! Yes, he'll know what to do. But first, a word from our sponsors.
JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.
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