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Sunday, March 10, 2002
Why we're fighting
Just saw the CBS documentary on 9/11. I just hope some of the politicians, American and European, who have begun to waver were watching. Maybe they'll begin to remember why this war is "open-ended," why there's no "exit strategy" now, why the war can't stop at the borders of Afghanistan. This isn't the U.S. "getting even" with the perpetrators. This is the U.S. making sure nobody ever tries to do this again. The cost needs to be made high, not so that we'll feel better about ourselves, but so that the roguest of rogue states rethinks its support for terrorist organizations.

What's most striking about the documentary is the dignity, the calm professionalism of the firefighters. As the events unfold, you can see them getting more and worried, but they never panic. Until the buildings start coming down and they get the order to evacuate, they're headed in to help. The sickening thuds of bodies falling told them how bad it was, and they're startled, but they don't run. They wait to be told where to go and how to help. It's facile, but I can't help but contrast their behavior with those in the West Bank and elsewhere in the Middle East, cheering, dancing, and celebrating as they hear the news. Still, I spent most of the documentary thinking back to my own experience watching 9/11 unfold on television. The fear, the confusion, as wild rumors spread, the realization that some of the rumors were true, and the relief when others weren't. It's hard to believe it has been six months since then, that we identified who did it and responded already. People who thought this country was soft, who boasted that it would be another Vietnam if we tried to strike back, have already lost the battle. But the war's not over, and it's good to be reminded why it needs to continue.

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