We all have our little stories of what we were doing that morning of September 11, 2001 when we first tuned in to watch the coverage of the planes flying into the Twin Towers. My story has always been told to friends and family as the ultimate metaphorical flow chart of going from innocence to heightened terror. I just so happened to be up early that very morning and looking up information on the net about a new Disney DVD that would be coming out. The DVD was Disney’s new restored release of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves” that I’d be purchasing as a gift for someone when it released later that week. Disney had a website designed around the Snow White story with animated games obviously designed for kids. After wasting some time playing some of the games and inadvertently immersing myself into the purity and innocence of the Snow White universe while in a half wake/sleep state–I decided to check in on news headlines over on AOL back when AOL was the honcho provider of the internet world. The first headline I saw: “Plane crashes into Twin Tower in NYC.” This was about 5:30 in the morning on the west coast of the U.S.–and on went the TV to get details.
I was probably one of the few on the west coast of the U.S. to see the early part of the coverage live and see the second plane go into the tower not long after 6 in the morning, Pacific Time. Being aware of the past–and knowing other planes had crashed into buildings in NYC before–I figured a private plane had somehow found its way into the city via spatial disorientation and crashed into the Twin Tower. Just about everybody who was watching then likely held that view until seeing the second plane go in. The chill that went up my spine after seeing the second plane go in is a feeling I’d never experienced prior for a world event…and one I hope I’ll never experience again. The collective thoughts that went through my mind and millions of others watching TV around the world were probably one of extreme vulnerability and knowing we were being attacked by terrorists before any of the morning anchors even gave a hint of the idea.
That sense of vulnerability turned into one of visualizing the worst case scenario after getting the news of the plane crashing into the Pentagon and Flight 93 crashing to the ground (or being shot down by a military jet as some contend) in Pennsylvania. Those who didn’t immediately think that perhaps Al Qaeda had built up a plan to have a snowballing terrorist attack in every major city across the country was kidding themselves. As far as we know, they could have had more planned (and some have conjectured that’s true)…but it stopped in Pennsylvania.
You probably guessed I was a little bit too stunned to go back to bed after seeing the world’s most profound event unfold before your eyes on live TV. Watching the towers collapse made me stand there dumbfounded that my morning had gone from looking at the innocence of Snow White on the internet to seeing the worst terror in our nation’s history unfold live on TV. I always found those connections too dramatic to shake–despite unfolding in the comforts of my own home thousands of miles away and thankfully not being near Ground Zero.
But as we foremost remember every single soul who died in the collapsed buildings six years later–just what’s our reaction to seeing Osama bin Laden apparently looking alive and hair-dyed on a new video broadcast to the world earlier this week?
“Just for Infidels” hair dye–and Osama appearing to be living where he can get modern conveniences…
While some might speculate that the newest video message from Osama bin Laden earlier this week actually shows an Osama from four years ago–the real reality may be that he’s been living in a place where he can get access to anything he wants. Hiding in the mountains of the Afghan-Pakistani border would make it fairly difficult to watch TV and get access to hair dye where you can dye your beard so you don’t look like an impotent old man. Then again, when you have terrorists bowing at your feet–anything could be delivered to you in a cave fortified with modern conveniences. It seems likely, though, that Osama may be hiding right in civilized Pakistan (as some have contended) and President Musharraf just doesn’t know it. The cooperation to go in and conduct intelligence would be one of the most important things we could do right now–outside of the unbalance it would create. Musharraf should allow the U.S. to send secret forces inside Pakistan to search when we have the technology to find an ant on a sidewalk in the middle of nowhere.
I’m sure most people wrote off Osama as being dead at this point–even with dubious evidence that pointed that direction the last couple of years. Hearing him expound on recent news, the evidence that he watches American media and showing that he knows Iraq has been a long, hard struggle for us apparently shows that he is still live. If he is, he very well could be “impotent” as the White House is calling him (either as a deception or as literal intent). Much like a corporate board in the country Al Qaeda hates–perhaps Al Qaeda has shifted their internal leadership and just used Osama as a pawn in the video to keep instilling fear into American minds and hearts with a notorious face. We don’t know for sure that Osama wasn’t just reading something brought by other Al Qaeda operatives who are actually running the show now and know all that’s going on in the U.S. If true, the corporate structure is alive everywhere–even in the terrorist world. In this case, Osama may be hiding in Afghani caves and not even know other leadership is underway as he naively still feels the power.
What’s most alarming is our own country’s open confusion on what’s behind the video. I always hold out hope that the open head-scratching that goes on with all these videos by our media and government is just a front showing naivete when we really know everything. With all the technology we have available (and definite build-up of our intelligence again since 9/11)–it seems we should know more than we’re letting on. Let’s just assume that we’re truly dealing in a way this unusual war should be fought: As a chess match…with moves authored by Sun-Tzu.
The War on Terror as Art–(or pretending to do one thing while really doing something else)…
Sun-Tzu’s “Art of War” written in 6th century China is probably one of the most read books next to the Christian Bible, the Quran or the Harry Potter books. The pop culture references to it are probably just as many as those who’ve read the entire book. But it’s always been strange to me that I’ve seldom heard mainstream media apply the techniques in the book to the war on terror. Perhaps it’s because the war on terror is more psychological or diffuse and some think that the book only applies to physical and true organized military battles. That isn’t really true, though, and one simple line from the book shows that there could be plenty more to learn from in the book in dealing with the strategies for the war on terror. And that line is…
“If you know both yourself and your enemy, you will come out of one hundred battles with one hundred victories.”
An overgeneralization, yes, but a statement that we need to get into the minds of Al Qaeda’s strategies and what they’d likely do. I’ve thought for a while that we may be underestimating how much they know, the strategies they use–and have just had some divine intervention or chance in scoping out potential attacks by the skin of our teeth. American citizens frequently get the message that our own government and intelligence services don’t know what’s going to happen…and play up the simplicity of “no indications of imminent threat” when we get that chatter on terrorist websites, tap cell phone lines or analyze all those cryptic videos released periodically. Is that us using some sort of cryptic strategy to throw Al Qaeda off the trail? Who’s really ahead on a strategic level?
I wrote a satiric short story a few years ago that fictionalized a new terrorist group (who were obsessed with the rules of Chess) wiping out Al Qaeda thanks to their strategy skills…and forcing America to play a giant battle with them in the vein of a Chess game. We’ve all played Chess at one time or another and tried to see (assuming your skill level) what our opponent’s next few moves will probably be before they even do them. Sun Tzu taught the art of deduction in war where you can easily win a war before you even fight it based on the deep psychological understanding of the enemy. No enemy on the planet should be so mysterious where America’s greatest minds in our intelligence find them to be so mysterious in what they might potentially do. Yet we keep hearing hair-raising stories of our lack of preparedness in the places even average citizens can deduce terrorists will go for in causing unspeakable horror.
Well, Sun-Tzu never said that the average citizen should try to pry on what the military may be planning. I’m going to leave the benefit of the doubt that we’re much farther ahead in strategy than any of us possibly know. Portraying ourselves as naïve and not ready may be a sign that a lot of people in our intelligence divisions did read “The Art of War” and are applying the highest art form ever to a war that admittedly also needs a few new artistic strategies written. We wouldn’t think Al Qaeda would read a book from ancient China about war strategy. Nevertheless, I think we’d all be underestimating them if we thought they haven’t studied that book.
At the same time–I also consider the war on terror to be the epic battle between good and extremist evil of our time. For those who have a concept of God–a divine protection from more attacks is all the more important…despite some looking at bad things happening as a necessary part of prophesy. However you may look at it–let’s continue to hope (or pray) that those making strategy have a strong spiritual sense, too, in gaining insight into our enemy’s thoughts and next moves. Christians and other religions for good around the world–who definitely won’t convert (via Osama’s demands) to an extremist Islamist viewpoint–would know that Al Qaeda isn’t being helped except from an evil higher power that’s much weaker than the Christian one and others with good intentions. That means those who are a part of a higher religious truth can be assured of who the winner will be in the long run. It’s all a matter of what the events will be in-between that time.
And, because every citizen of all religions who care about freedom are also involved in preventing more terror from occurring–it wouldn’t hurt every American citizen to read Sun-Tzu’s famous book…presumably (and ironically) printed in America rather than China…