We have come a long way in three years. The idea that 9/11 was a historical turning point, a wake-up call to a war declared by our enemies but ignored by us, has begun to fade. The week after 9/11, the late-night comedy shows went dark -- and upon returning to the air they were almost apologetic about telling jokes, any jokes, ever again. Today, Moore produces a full-length film parody of 9/11 and its aftermath that is not just highly celebrated but commands a huge popular audience. To be sure, Moore's version is not quite as crazed as the French best seller claiming that the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center were remotely controlled by the CIA at the behest of the president. Moore merely implies some sinister plot, citing connections between the Bush and bin Laden families. It's a long way from two years ago, when Rep. Cynthia McKinney was run out of Congress for suggesting that Bush had foreknowledge. (She is today in a tight race with a very good chance of regaining her seat.)
Unlike the French book or the Moore movie, Blix is not deranged. He is merely in denial, discounting the uniqueness of the WMD-terrorism issue by comparing it to global warming and hunger. Yes, hunger is an existential issue to the people suffering it. As are car accidents, heart disease, and earthquakes. But they hardly threaten to destroy civilization. Hunger is a scourge that has always been with us and that has not been a threat to humanity's existence for at least 1,000 years. Global warming might one day be, but not for decades, or even centuries, and with a gradualness that will leave years for countermeasures.
There is no gradualness and there are no countermeasures to a dozen nuclear warheads detonating simultaneously in American cities. Think of what just two envelopes of anthrax did to paralyze the capital of the world's greatest superpower. A serious, coordinated attack on the United States using WMDs could so shatter the United States as a functioning advanced industrialized society that it would take generations to rebuild.
What is so dismaying is that such an obvious truth needs repeating. The passage of time, the propaganda of the anti-American left, and the setbacks in Iraq have changed nothing of that truth. This is the first time in history the knowledge of how to make society-destroying weapons has been democratized. Today, small radical groups allied with small radical states can do the kind of damage to the world that in the past only a great, strategically located industrialized power like Germany or Japan could do.
It is a new world and exceedingly dangerous. Everything is at stake. We are now deeply engaged in a breastbeating exercise for not having connected the dots before 9/11. And yet here we are three years after 9/11, the dots already connected themselves, and we are under a powerful urge to ignore them completely.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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