by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
April 12, 2004
THE PROVERBIAL BOTTOM LINE
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. -- The bottom line - the proverbial bottom line - is that even if we knew what we're trying to get National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice to tell us she knew, we would not have believed it. I would not have believed those young men described as looking like dentists on a holiday could be so confident in their plans that they would carry them out without a hitch.
With no practice and no rehearsal time, they planned to hijack a huge jet plane and deliberately fly it into the World Trade Center - not just because it was there but because it made a statement to the whole world. These were no thieves scurrying through dark alleys, these were brazen fear mongers flying through cloudless blue skies to fulfill their assignments and make their statements.
I wouldn't have believed it even if I witnessed a stewardess fall dead after the assassin's boxcutter slashed her throat. If I were aboard, I would have assumed the pilot would lift up and over the building before him ... right up to impact. It is not so much whether anyone could have known, it is simply that no one in this live-and-let-live society we know would believe it possible.
A decade or two ago, martyrs were immolating themselves to bring attention to some injustice in their world and today the suicide bombers calmly boarding a bus in Israel or Palestine work alone to make a statement, taking presumed enemies with him.
There is no doubt they did it, but once again, our assumptions made it impossible for us to fathom such an act: we had to believe they had gone over the deep end and were certifiably insane with suicidal tendencies. What else could we think, considering our own society's mind set?
We could envision someone poisoning a water suppy but he wouldn't also drink the water. We could imagine someone leaving a bag of grenades on a subway and then detonating them from afar - far enough for him to get beyond the blast.
We can believe hijackers would take a plane (but not the controls) and force a landing in a place where his own philosophies were "understood." These are the ones brave enough to commandeer an airplane, cunning enough to get around buying a ticket, and yet be so wrapped up in their own causes they completely neglect to think it through. There is no answer to the obvious question: "What were they thinking?"
We understand tribal cultures in this country - witness the Hatfields and the McCoys - so when that mentality is carried over into hiding behind a tree and shooting one's enemy just because he's there and part of the enemy clan, we deplore it, but we understand the happening. We bemoan the loss of young lives to the gang wars between the reds and the blues. And we can appreciate the hiding before striking. But we would not understand a hate so deep that one would strap a grenade to his belt, walk up to the other, and pull the pin.
No, it is not in our make-up to consider such actions. Nor can we conceive of a mother killing her child. The notion is so beyond belief that she goes directly to jail, "do not stop at go," and from there to an institution because she was deemed mentally incompetent to know right from wrong. How can we begin to understand mothers who raise their sons to be martyrs, ready to offer their lives for their cause? I don't even understand how they can be willing (eager, it seems) to die, definitely die, no chance to dodge the bullet.
Suicide is considered the sad end for someone who would rather die than continue living under whatever circumstances they find so unbearable. Suicide bombers are heroes at home, martyrs to their faith, or so they believe at the time, though reportedly not actually in their religious literature, so they go willingly to their deaths.
And now, we have commissions set up to analyze data. What follows is from an article in the New York Times on April 10:
"While its final chronology will stretch across years, the commission's attention has turned to the nine months before September 11 attacks - a period in which President Bill Clinton handed over power to President Bush and Mr. Bush's new team tried to reorganize the way the government dealt with the threat of terrorism. It was also the period in which most of the suicide bombers entered the United States and made their final preparations for attack."
The buzz word in that sentence is "suicide" and the verb is "was" - past tense. I'd hazard a guess that not one single daily briefing to the President mentioned "suicide bombers are coming."
The appropriate officials knew they were in our country, through informed sources they knew where they were, they even knew they were taking flying lessons but they couldn't conceive of any of them using fully loaded 200-plus passenger jets as man-guided missiles.
To my surprise, the authorities rounded up "all the usual suspects" in a matter of days. We were on top of the terrorist situation in both administrations to a far greater degree than we the people understood, and that's good. These highly trained administrators should be able to work in secret without all of us second guessing their motives.
Who knew what, when, and then connecting the dots is wasted effort. Usually, studying the past is the best way to prepare for the future but in the case of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, our future was put before us clearly. It was a blow! It was a profound wake-up call.
September 11 was surely "the first day of the rest of our lives," and nothing leading up to it that we can study now will do us any good at all.
That's all we know and all we need to know.