OCTOBER 8, 2001
I woke up this morning worrying about nuclear annihilation.
Thank you, Mr. Bush, for ensuring that the "100% chance" (according to Attorney General Ashcroft) that bin Laden's organization will strike the US again in response to any military action has now been guaranteed. The cycle of violence will continue, with victims on every continent.
No one is talking about the third possibility vis-a-vis the weapons of mass destruction that may already be prepared by Al Qaeda or related groups. We see officials worrying in public about more hijackings, small-scale bombings, or attacks with biological or chemical weapons; no one I have heard is publicly talking about the nuclear threat.
Never mind that there has been plenty of time and opportunity in the last dozen years for states formerly of the Soviet Union, strapped for cash and sympathetic to radical causes (and not far geographically from Afghanistan), to quietly allow some of their overstocked nuclear devices to disappear from inventory. Never mind either that in the videotaped remarks released yesterday (Sunday, October 7), bin Laden made specific reference to Japan as he tried to justify the attacks still to come on the United States.
Suppose his plan is to do something on the scale of Hiroshima. The casualties of the World Trade Center will seem minimal, almost negligible by comparison to what he hopes to do to one of our major cities. New York? Washington? Chicago? Los Angeles?
The chance that I and my family, and all those among whom I have worked these last half dozen years, will turn to vapor within an instant, does not seem so terribly remote.
And my job is to find a way to help people, through faith, to overcome their fear.
It's interesting to me that if the policy adopted had been one of restraint, many voices are prepared say that any further attacks constitute proof that a nonviolent response to violence is naive and does not work. Where will these voices be in the event of a further attack following a violent response? Will the same logic be followed, to conclude that a violent response to violence is naive and does not work?
I applaud the decision of the administration and its allies to provide food for the people of Afghanistan. I wonder, however, about the mixture of military and humanitarian activities. Last time we tried that was, let's see... in Somalia. That strategy was the brainchild of the outgoing administration of the senior Mr. Bush, although the violence against US personnel which we remember so well as an indication of the failure of that mission took place on the watch of his successor, who has borne the blame in the public eye for the results of a policy which he inherited. Lately bin Laden has claimed credit for that public humiliation of the US as well. In any case, giving away food at gunpoint is a peculiarly American form of charity, whose irony may be a bit too rich for some observers.