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Monday, September 11, 2006

Hiding in plain sight

It's September 11. I'm sure you all remember where you were when you heard that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. Mark Steyn looks at where we are in the 'war on terror' today. It's not pretty:
ONE MAN in the Twin Towers that Tuesday morning must have understood. John O'Neill, a dogged counterterrorism guy with a whiff of the old-school G-man about him, had just quit the FBI and started work as head of security at the World Trade Center. He made it downstairs where the confabs with rescue workers were punctuated by the thud of bodies from the first jumpers landing on the lobby roof. In the plaza outside, body pieces fell randomly over chairs set up for a lunchtime concert.

In the final moments of his life John O'Neill must have felt his world come full circle. Six years earlier (as vividly recounted in Lawrence Wright's The Looming Tower) he'd organized the capture in Pakistan of Ramzi Yousef, the man behind the first World Trade Center bombing and a terrorist who'd planned to crash a plane into CIA headquarters.

In The New York Times,Thomas Friedman wrote: "The failure to prevent Sept. 11 was not a failure of intelligence or co-ordination. It was a failure of imagination."

That's not really true. Islamist terrorists had indicated their interest in US landmarks, and were known to have plans to hijack planes to fly into them. But men like John O'Neill could never quite get the full attention of a somnolent federal bureaucracy. The terrorists must have banked on that: after all, they took their pilot-training classes in America, apparently confident that, even if anyone noticed the uptick in Arab enrolments at US flight schools, a squeamish culture of political correctness would ensure nothing was done about it.

FIVE YEARS on, half America has retreated to the laziest old tropes, filtering the new struggle through the most drearily cobwebbed prisms: All dramatic national events are JFK-type conspiracies, all wars are Vietnam quagmires.

Meanwhile, Ramzi Yousef's successors make their ambitions as plain as he did: They want to acquire nuclear technology in order to kill even more of us. And, given that free societies tend naturally toward a Katrina mentality of doing nothing until it happens, one morning we will wake up to another day like the "day that changed everything."

September 11 was less "a failure of imagination" than an inability to see that America's enemies were hiding in plain sight.

They still are.
Read the whole thing.


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