The tape removed all doubt of the great Osama's gloating complicity in the Sept. 11 atrocities. Yet more than mere complicity, Osama played the lead trombone - heck, he was the conductor of the entire orchestra. Now he's leaving the stage - or no longer is with us.
Reflecting further on Sept. 11, these thoughts....
QUESTION: Do those who "oppose the death penalty," oppose the death penalty for Osama?
Where have all the Old Glories gone? Yes, many remain, but many have been stashed back in drawers, corners and garages - and many, my friend, have tattered into nothingness blowing in the wind. Are Americans growing weary of this war even now?
About John Walker - the Marin County, Calif., young man who, in seeking his identity, found himself rejoicing (a) in the slaughter of Americans ("yes, I supported the attack on Sept. 11") and (b) in his al-Qaida membership: (1) Perhaps too often, we hear youthful behavior explained or excused by the sins of the parents - as in: (begin ital) He wasn't properly potty-trained or her mother drank or she wasn't breast-fed or his father was a martinet or what else would you expect of a child raised in poverty (or by a father who collected guns)? (end ital) Yet now, from many of the same semi-pro rationalizers, we are hearing that some of the odd practices and ideological floundering of the parents had utterly nothing to do with young Walker fighting alongside the Taliban.
(2) In response to the fretting and hand-wringing over what to do about American citizen Walker - whether to try him in military or civilian courts, or simply to let him go - here's a solution: Conclude that by his actions he has renounced his American citizenship, and leave him to the mercies of Afghan justice.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld wants all al-Qaida members imprisoned and dealt with - and he doesn't care where. But the double-dealing Saudis are still publicly trying to put a happy face on the large number of Saudi nationals engaged in what clearly is a worldwide conspiracy. Osama himself is an exiled Saudi who would like nothing better than to sit astride all that Saudi oil. As for captured Saudi citizens? They should be sent home for loving re-education. A Saudi official has explained that many are simply misguided, unknowing "19 year olds ... like John Walker."
Most lists of "moderate" Arab countries include - verily, are limited to - Egypt and Saudi Arabia. In pursuing Osama et al., the United States is supposed to worry deeply about how its actions sit with those so-called moderate Arab entities. Yet both countries (emphatically undemocratic, as are all Arab states) have throttled their domestic extremist opposition into near non-existence. They are most vocal in their hatred of Israel. With the Taliban and al-Qaida just about crushed, Egypt and Saudi Arabia still voice their moderation through their undiluted hostility toward Israel and their implicit support of the anti-Israeli terror that otherwise might well be directed against the Egyptian and Saudi regimes.
Next stop in the Terror War? Perhaps Iraq. Perhaps Libya, Sudan, or Yemen - with stipulations that the governments there either clean up home-grown terrorist operations or we will do the job for them. Perhaps Lebanon, with an or-else message to shut down the Hezbollah, Iranian Revolutionary Guard, or Syrian terrorist camps in the Bekka Valley. Perhaps Syria itself, host to more terrorist operations than any other country. Or perhaps Somalia, which - like Afghanistan - has practically no government but considerable terrorist activity.
The government is garnering supplies of smallpox vaccine for every American in the event of a bioterrorist attack spreading smallpox. Now the federal Food and Drug Administration is urging similar stockpiling of potassium iodide pills - proven to protect people against thyroid cancer following exposure to radiation. Such pills would be useful in countering radioactive fallout from a terrorist nuclear attack. "You there, in the back of the class - you have your hand up?" Yes - and my question is this: Stockpiling is a good thing, but why doesn't the government also administer the smallpox vaccine or make potassium iodide pills available to those who want them ahead of time?
Casual media use of lines from Rudyard Kipling has given the wrong impression of American prospects in Afghanistan. The verse:
When you're wounded and left
On Afghanistan's plains
And the women come out
To cut up your remains
Just roll on your rifle
And blow out your brains,
And go to your Gawd
Like a soldier.
But retrospectively, Kipling provides a truer prospect in his "Grave of the Hundred Head." A Burmese rebel sniper kills a British lieutenant in the First Shikaris - A big blue mark in his forehead/And the back blown out of his head. The response:
The men of the First Shikaris
Shouted and smote and slew...
[And] butchered the folk who flew.
Long was the morn of slaughter,
Long was the list of slain,
Five score heads were taken,
Five score heads and twain.
Given the seeming outcome in Afghanistan, Kipling was more on the money in the second poem than in the first.