When asked what would affect the future, the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan famously said: Events, dear boy. Events. The event this month that I think has done most to shape opinion was the arrest in London on Aug. 9 of 23 Muslims suspected of plotting to blow up American airliners over the Atlantic.
The arrests were a reminder that there still are lots of people in the world -- and quite possibly in this country, too -- who are trying to kill as many of us as they can and to destroy our way of life. They are not unhappy because we havent raised the minimum wage lately or because Bush rejected the Kyoto Treaty or even because were in Iraq.Theyve been trying to kill us for years, going back at least to 1983, when a Hezbollah suicide bomber killed 241 American servicemen in Lebanon. Then they attacked the World Trade Center, the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the USS Cole in Aden -- all while Bill Clinton was president. Sept. 11 woke us up to the threat. The political acrimony of 2004 and 2005 and this year made it seem remote. The London arrests reminded us its still there.
Weve had other reminders, too. For four years, Hollywood has seemed mostly uninterested in the war on terrorism -- in vivid contrast to its enlistment in World War II.
But this year, weve seen the release of "United 93," and, in "World Trade Center," Oliver Stone presents us not with one of his conspiracy theories but, instead, a story of heroism. On Sept. 10 and 11, ABC will devote six hours of prime time to "The Path to 9-11," a fast-paced, bracing docudrama that tells the story of the terrorists and the people who tried to stop them, from the first WTC bombing in 1993 to 9-11 itself. And this will be only one of many commemorations of the fifth anniversary.
As it happens, the London arrests came almost exactly 24 hours after antiwar candidate Ned Lamont, flanked by Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, claimed victory over Sen. Joseph Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary. The Lamont victory -- and the rejection of the partys 2000 vice presidential nominee -- sharpened the contrast between the two major parties.