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September 18, 2001 [Archives]
A Dimmer light, a Darker tunnel

By Ahmed Amr.


Like most Americans, I have been glued to my TV. The surreal images of mass carnage and mayhem have left me numb. Over the last week, a sense of paralysis has prevented me from writing a single word; when thousands will not do. There is no making sense of this and nothing good will come of it. So, if you are searching for an explanation, do not read on. For like the rest of the country; I only see a dimmer light and a darker tunnel.

There are a few things, however, that are crystal clear. If this is war, than it has been launched with a war crime to which the whole world was witness. No doubt, this mass slaughter of innocents demands a universal response, a firm set of actions that result in assuring that nothing like this ever happens again, anywhere on our one sacred planet. Today, virtually the whole world rallies behind America and feels the depth of its wound, the horror of this abomination. Justice must be delivered. For the sake of future generations, we must pray that it will be justice untainted by the blood of innocents. To do otherwise, would be to condone the logic of the assailants.

The mass media pundits, who are just recovering from a summer of obsessing over Chandra and the sharks, have unleashed their instant solutions to this historically unprecedented crime against humanity. Bear in mind, that CNN, until Tuesday, allocated a single 'global minute' to cover world affairs. The American infotainment business is singularly incapable of covering this story. They didn't have a clue about that region of the world on Monday and they appear to have learnt nothing over the course of the last week. One only needs to watch FOX for a few hours to realize that it has become a 24/7 KKK rally.

Our governors, who were charged with protecting these shores allowed our walls of security to crumble before a gang with plastic knives. They saw fit to entrust our airport security to minimum-wage workers. There is also the massive failure of intelligence. And very hard questions need to be asked of those who crafted a risky foreign policy that made us cruel enemies in a world where America should only have friends.

It is time for Americans to think hard about the path ahead. The first step is to stop all the nonsense that this outrage is an attack on 'our way of life and democracy and freedom.' These suicidal assailants were motivated by hate and vengeance. They did not even bother to deliver a message, much less leave us a blueprint for a new social and political order. Given their actions, they were obviously not looking for converts, nor did they give a damn about consequences. There sole objective was to demonstrate their brutal anger on a massive scale. Their was nothing holy in their war. They did not come to preach about God or Satan. This strike has all the marks of a serious vendetta against America and we must explore the motivation of each and every assailant. If it is just our way of life they are out to attack, why do they bother to cross the Canadian border to inflict us with their rage?

Now we are left with the debris and thousands of dead and an administration looking for a 'victory' march on the war on terrorism. Before we go in search of victories, let us first assess the enemy.

This attack was off the charts. The same crew that drew these faulty charts must now carefully navigate through a new, more dangerous terra incognita. Senator McCain has admitted to massive failures in airport security and intelligence. We need to also look hard at a foreign policy that has hatched such lethal foes.

Our immediate response should be to get Osama Bin Laden indicted as a war criminal, under both international law and Islamic law. That will strip him of all immunity, even in the eyes of the Taliban. It will also strip the terrorists of any legitimacy, no matter their grievance. We should also send a clear message that the United States will never harbor war criminals and will treat any country that does as a pariah state. Osama, Sharon, Milosovic and Sadam deserve to be treated with equal contempt. Now, more than ever, It is vital to diminish these war criminals among their own people.

The Israelis brand the whole Palestinian nation as terrorists. And the Palestinians think of Israel as a terrorist state. But an indicted war criminal is an indicted war criminal in front of the whole world. In honor of the victims of the World Trade Center, let us create an International Court of Justice in the midst of the ruins, as a permanent tribute to their memory. And let Osama be the first to be indicted.

The Sharon loving freaks will object and Henry Kissinger will have personal objections. No matter. We have sacrificed enough. If we have to throw Henry and Arik in front of an International tribunal, so be it.

One last thought about Arab-Americans and Muslim Americans. I marvel at the minority of Americans who would administer collective punishment based on our ethnic origin or our profession of faith. Consider that, as a politically marginal community, we have less than nothing to do with constructing domestic or foreign policy. Our political class has frozen us out of the process. Had some of these politicians listened to our community, instead of constantly bowing to the Israeli lobby, maybe the light would not be so dim and the tunnel would be shorter.

There is one brilliant ray of light that we need to be grateful for. Americans remain tolerant and generous in spirit. I am grateful to be living among gracious neighbors who have helped me make sense of the last few days. My managers and coworkers have demonstrated genuine concern for my well-being. While I usually rant about our political class; from the President on down, a huge and visible effort has been made to insure that our community is protected from hate crimes. We need to remember that in these darkest of days, when a few social misfits have chosen to target our community, we have been embraced by a very gracious America. As we grieve for the families of the victims, let us hope for more rays of light in the days to come.

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