The terrorists struck at heart of civilisation
Stabroek News
September 18, 2001

Dear Editor,

Now that the numbness is beginning to wear off, it is still way too early to offer a comprehensive diagnosis or prognosis of the effects of the World Trade Center and Pentagon suicide plane attacks that crippled the financial capital of the world, severely tested the integrity of the Defence Department's own security, and sent shock waves across America and around the world.

There remain lots of questions, starting with how could it have been possible and ending with how many people, including Guyanese and West Indians, remain buried beneath the rubble at the WTC.

What is bothering most people, especially foreigners, is that these terrorists have struck at the heart of civilisation, because among those feared dead are peoples from various countries who have taken up residence in the United States, and who have had no role in US policy relative to any nation, even if that nation has nationals living there.

When alleged master terrorist, Osama bin Laden could, at first, deny culpability, then go on to blame the incident on US policy, it makes for an insensitive and inhuman response that exposes this guy as possessed with a devil that is incapable of distinguishing between attacking government policy and attacking a general population.

Bin Laden may be high on the list of suspects, but an elaborate matrix of information has to be analyzed before positions are arrived at. Once a definite position is known, the world should be opened to possibly whole cities and or towns being carpet-bombed in retaliation.

In the meantime, it is the element of humanity in this novel American tragedy that now takes up people's time as they wait and wonder, or line up to give their pint of blood.

Nor does the seeming lack of information about additional strikes planned, either in America, Europe or even Israel preclude such a possibility. There may be a lull, but the hatred that drove these madmen is likely to rise again to do equal or greater damage, including extremely high fatality figures.

That there could well be a mixture of nationals dead at the WTC should qualify this as an act of international terrorism, and not one directed with specificity against American interests because of American policy.

I am deeply heartened at the uniting of the US Congress, despite known partisan differences, behind the American President in the face of both a grave loss and a great threat. The American people also seem solidly behind their leaders in their investigations and whatever actions will be forthcoming to deal with the perpetrators of such dastardly acts.

Obviously, there are critics who question the American intelligence-gathering system and even accuse the President of running scared when he flew to Nebraska instead of the War Situation Room in Washington.

It is easier to criticise when you are not in the hot seat and accessible to highly sensitive data that require overt action and reaction, including tactics to evade an enemy's aims.

But the terrorists' mode of operation was so low-keyed and inconspicuous that it remains incomprehensible to link the earth shattering outcome with men wielding knives and box cutters as weapons to gain access to cockpits, then using the planes' fully loaded fuel tanks as explosive devices expected to go off once the planes collided with their targets.

Can America now be expected to strip-search passengers on domestic flights or to institute time-consuming detection of both passengers and luggage as a new form of defence against suicide bombers?

Will the terrorists then come up with other strategies, having tried suicide bombings with cars, boats and now planes? If so, what should be the response to preempt new strategies? Obviously there are going to be more questions than there will be answers over the next few weeks as America slowly heals and seeks to find closure to this ugly chapter in its 225 years of existence.

God bless America never rang as pellucidly and deafeningly as it does now!

Yours faithfully,

Emile Mervin