Follow the Light
On a large church, just north of what used to be the World Trade Center, a large floodlight, and a long dusty banner hung from a church steeple. It read Follow the Light Home extolling weary New Yorkers, numb from the shock of the devastation, to make their way through the dust and destruction to come to the church for shelter, food, medicine and consolation as the long hours of waiting dragged on.
But where is home anymore?
On September 11th, 2001, the lights went out in New York, and on the Age of American Innocence, and this nation awoke to a new era in its history. The Cold War may be over, but he war against terrorism has just begun and the stakes are high.
Historians have noted that the Victorian Era did not actually end in 1900 with the coming of a new century, but with the coming of World War I, fourteen years later.
Walter Winchell wrote The world has never been the same since.
In future, historians will write that the Age of American Innocence ended in the early morning hours of September 11th, 2001 when over 5,000 innocent people perished because they were part of a Society and a way of life that chose freedom over tyranny, justice over anarchy, and liberty for its People.
In America, for many years to come, life will never be the same again.
Every aspect of our Society must respond to this challenge. These attacks on the symbols of American prestige and power will change forever the American way of life because they challenge the fundamental principles upon which this nation is based.
We are dealing with an enemy that has absolutely no fear of death and an abiding belief in its own martyrdom.
It is motivated by a perverse sense of religious fervor, has millions of dollars at its disposal, operates from bases around the world, countries that allow it safe harbor, and a vast, intricate, international network of independent cells dedicated to a single purpose the destruction of the democratic way of life, and the spread of fundamentalist Islam through the world.
It is not simply a battle that we face. It is war a war that must be fought over the long term with the full cooperation and resources of our European and Asian allies. What is at stake, quite simply, is whether democracy, as a superior form of human governance, will endure.
This nation must be prepared to adapt every aspect of American life to counteracting the threat that terrorism represents. It is an insidious disease that must be wiped off the face of the earth before it consumes everything in its path.
It means that we must restore confidence in the safety of our air travel by placing undercover, armed security guards on our domestic and international flights at whatever the cost; make whatever sacrifices are necessary to ensure that any and all flight baggage is filtered through a tight net of security; ensure that both civilian and military aircraft are equipped with anti-missile defense systems in the event of terrorist air or ground attack; and that our vast wealth of technology be reconfigured to ensure the safety of Americans in flight anywhere in this world.
It means that our national civilian and military leadership must look beyond their arrogance in weaponry and technology, and understand that we, as a nation, are involved in a world wide guerilla war that cannot be resolved by smart bombs and cruise missiles alone. If we have learned anything from the French at Dien Bien Fu in 1954, or from our experience in Vietnam, it is that weapons and bombs alone cannot win wars.
The key to victory against terrorism is superior electronic intelligence (ELINT), superior human intelligence (HUMINT), and our ability to work with our allies around the world in correctly gathering, deciphering, analyzing and synthesizing this information.
A failure in the collection, integration and analysis of this information is a recipe for disaster. The World Trade Center, in its destruction, has now become a living memorial to the greatest intelligence failure in American history.
Israel learned the lesson in 1973. Israeli intelligence knew of Arab movements, Arab military capabilities, and the positioning of Arab forces immediately prior to the 1973 Yom Kippur War, but they misinterpreted the information believing that, despite all evidence to the contrary, the Arabs would never start a war that they could never hope to win.
Israeli intelligence was wrong in 1973, and American intelligence is wrong now, if it believes that future acts of terrorism that strike at the heartland of America, and the eventual evolution of a siege mentality in this country, cannot destroy the will of this nation. Terrorism is insidious. It is a cancer which, unless abated, can and will sap our energies, undermine our principles, and destroy the fabric of American Society.
If this tragedy has demonstrated anything to our intelligence community, it is that the human element (i.e.: actual infiltration of these cells, creating disinformation within them, and utilizing counterintelligence against them, etc.) is as valuable as electronic surveillance, and the military might of this great nation.
Therefore, we must be prepared for the reality that this is a long-term war against an elusive, well-financed and dedicated enemy of democracy; that no effort must be spared to hunt down each cell, neutralize its leaders, undermine its infrastructure, disrupt its ability to carry out missions; and to recognize that future tragedies cannot and will not be avoided unless and until we have destroyed those who seek to destroy the Free World.
America is at war and every resource must be incorporated into the battles that lie ahead because the alternative is unthinkable.
We are being tested.
As Abraham Lincoln so eloquently stated so long ago, over another scene of death, destruction and human carnage the result of this war will determine whether this nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated will long endure.
Return to Archives Index