Last week, Vice President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld warned that more terror attacks are a certainty and may involve the detonation of an atomic weapon on American soil. They have concentrated the mind wonderfully. Even a small, crude nuclear device, exploded in a U.S. port or city, could kill many thousands more than died on Sept. 11.
Rightly, the U.S. government is focused on how to anticipate such an attack, prevent it, prepare for it. But there has been no debate over the most critical question. Why? Why do these Islamic radicals so hate us they are willing to commit suicide, if they can take hundreds or thousands of us with them?
They don’t know us. They cannot defeat or destroy the United States, even with an atom bomb. What can they hope to accomplish? Are they simply madmen?
In our focus on improved intelligence, preemptive strikes, color-coded alerts and evacuation plans, have we overlooked a course of action that could end the threat of cataclysmic terror? Like Poe’s “Purloined Letter,” is a way out right there on the mantelpiece in front of us?
Consider: While no Western nation has endured an act of terror on the scale of 9-11, all have known terror. Brits were ambushed by the Irish in the war of independence from 1919 to 1921. British civilians were blown up by Zionists in the King David Hotel in 1946. Settlers were murdered by Mau Mau in Kenya. French were massacred in movie theaters and cafes by the Algerian FLN until 1962. U.S. Marines were blown up in Beirut in 1983. From Netanya to Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, Israelis today die in terror attacks and suicide bombings.
In all these atrocities, terror was a weapon of the weak and stateless against Western powers they could not defeat with arms. In each case, terror was used to expel an imperial power or drive out foreign troops. In each case but one, terror ended when the Western power went home.
The dynamiting of the King David Hotel convinced the British to accelerate their departure from Palestine. Zionist terror ended. Mau Mau terror ended when the Brits left Kenya. When De Gaulle cut Algeria loose, FLN terror ended. When Reagan withdrew his Marines from Beirut, anti-American terror ended in Lebanon.
Lesson? The price of empire is terror. The price of occupation is terror. The price of interventionism is terror. As Barry Goldwater used to say, it is as simple as that. When Israel departed Lebanon, Hezbollah’s attacks fell off almost to nothing. But as long as Israelis occupy the West Bank, which Prime Minister Barak conceded belongs at least 95 percent to the Palestinians, Israel will be hit by terror attacks.
Either Israel gets out, or it pays the price of staying in: terrorism.
But this column is not about Israel — it is about us. It is about why we are being told by our leaders, in tones of resignation and fatalism, that it is not a question of whether, but of when, the next act of cataclysmic terror occurs here, and why we must accept the possibility that a nuclear weapon will be exploded here.
But when Americans ask, “Why do they hate us?” and “Why do these Islamic radicals on the other side of the earth want to come over here and commit hara-kiri killing us?” we get responses that ought not to satisfy a second-grader. They hate us, we are told, because we are democratic and free and good, and we have low tax rates.
Well that is no longer enough. Before, not after, the next terror attack on this country, America’s leaders should start telling the truth: Evil though they may be, Islamic killers are over here because we are over there. They are not trying to kill us because they dislike our domestic politics, but because they detest our foreign policy.
Fifteen of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. They did not fly into those twin towers to protest universal suffrage or to advance self-determination for the Palestinian people. As Osama bin Laden said, they want us to stop propping up the Saudi regime they hate, and to get off the sacred Saudi soil on which sit the holiest shrines of Islam. They want our troops out of Saudi Arabia – and if we don’t get out, they are coming over here to kill us any way they can.
That is reality. Now while America should use every weapon in her arsenal, from intelligence to diplomacy to war, to prevent terror and to punish terror, we must address the central issue: Terror on American soil, and eventual cataclysmic and atomic terror on American soil, is the price of American empire.
Is the empire worth it? French, Brits, even Soviets said no. They went home. And nothing over there – not oil, not bases in Saudi Arabia, not global hegemony – is worth risking nuclear terror over here. I may be the only right-winger in America who loves D.C., but then I grew up here. Washington is my hometown. It comes first, and empire isn’t even a close second.