In short order both were routed from their strongholds and
a free government installed in that unhappy land.
Does that mean that we have won the War on Terrorism?
American troops still remain in Afghanistan, searching the
mountainous interior for Taliban and Al-Queda loyalists. The
present Afghan government claims to enjoy popular support,
although it is worth nothing that an Afghan vice-president
was recently assassinated and that the Afghan president does
not travel outside Kabul without a bodyguard of American soldiers.
To a certain extent, this can be attributed to the history
of that divisive land, but it also suggests that the present
government was not as freely elected and widely supported
as American media would have us believe.
Despite the death or capture of hundreds of Al-Queda supporters,
the network itself apparently remains intact, operating in
areas ranging from Sudan to the Philippines, and its leader,
Osama bin Laden, remains at large. (There are conflicting
reports, but if he is dead, that fact has not been confirmed.)
In this country, thousands have been questioned and an unknown
number have been detained. The trial of the suspected surviving
9-11 terrorist began badly, yet it is still hoped that some
details will be made known by the 20th terrorist.
One result of the attacks of Sept. 11 is that increased attention
has been given to domestic security. This is particularly
true for our nations airports, which have long been
a metaphor for lax, if not grossly incompetent, security.
The solution has been to federalize the current personnel,
presumably under the notion that government authority will
make them more attentive employees.
new Cabinet-level post has been created, but without the
authority to control the two major intelligence agencies;
namely the FBI and CIA. As it is becoming evident that interagency
rivalries between the latter contributed to the success of
the terrorist attack, it can be argued that part of the danger
facing America comes not from without, but rather from within.
And it still does.
Hardly a week passes without a dire, if somewhat vague warning
of possible terrorist attacks based on unspecified evidence
provided by unknown sources. This has become a trademark for
the current administration, which seems to covet secrecy in
nearly all its dealings.
In fact, this War on Terrorism, despite initial
success, seems to be assuming the pattern of other, earlier
warson poverty, drugs, and crimeand
is on the verge of becoming merely a sound byte masking more
political concerns. It is no coincidence that many of the
programs that had been on the White House agenda prior to
Sept. 11 are now part of the War on Terror, although
it remains unclear just how a missile defense shield will
protect against a typically low-tech terrorist attack such
as those experienced through and including Sept. 11. Also,
the administrations preoccupation with Iraq continues
apace, despite the singular lack of support from even Americas
staunchest allies. To be certain, Iraqs refusal to allow
UN weapon inspections and their long-standing claim on Kuwait
confirms them as a regional threat. Still, as the possibility
of renewed conflict with Iraq looms, one must wonder if this
has less to do with preserving the peace than with pursuing
a family vendetta.
Thus, one year after the attacks that shocked the nation,
it is unclear if the War on Terror is more fact
than cliché. The liberation of Afghanistan and the
apparent routing of Al-Queda appear small reward for the resources
expended and lives lost. The show trials of a few hapless
individuals provide little compensation for the gradual, but
steady erosion of civil rights that have taken place over
the past 12 months. Efforts to increase security have been
largely superficial and arbitrary in nature, reflecting the
classic governmental solution to problems; increase the reach
and scope of bureaucracy.
Until recently, the understandable desire to demonstrate
national solidarity in the face of crisis has kept the presidents
approval rating high. However, recent corporate scandals and
the flagging economy have eaten into those numbers, while
encouraging criticism from the opposition. Although such tardy
efforts have little moral authority, the response from the
administration has been to make the less-than-revealing statement
that some Congressmen might be less than truthful, and to
suggest that any criticism of the president be considered
The world has changed since Sept. 11. Many Americans feel
less secure, less certain about what had been taken for granted:
that we are somehow set apart from the perils of the world.
It is in such times that many look to our elected leaders
for assurance and guidance. However, after initial exemplary
efforts, the administration appears on the verge of using
the War on Terror as a shield to deflect legitimate
questioning of policy, both foreign and domestic.
The show trials of a handful of hapless terrorists or crooked
corporate CEOs cannot, and should not, interfere with the
publics right to know. Our grief over the loss of innocents
and our desire for justice (or revenge) should not be construed
as a blank check for arbitrary action or as freedom from criticism.
To quote the famous line, eternal vigilance is the price
of liberty. Let that concept be applied within as well
as without. By preserving and exercising our treasured freedoms
and liberties we can honor the victims of 9-11 and assure
our eventual victory in the War on Terror.