But even as we dread the dangers of future terrorist attacks, the biggest danger looming ahead for our nation, and our world, is that the atrocities committed last week will be used as justification for future actions that continue the cycle.
It is alarming and morbidly ironic that prominent among the talking heads trotted out to make sense of tragedy are all of these ex-"intelligence" folks. Almost to a man, they bristle with scathing denouncements of our "intelligence" capabilities, positioning and packaging the tragedy as justification for granting even more money and authority to the likes of the Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
But the failure to avert this tragedy was not for lack of resources and capabilities. Those agencies can already see anyone anywhere via satellite, intercept e-mail and phone conversations, even tell if you bought a six-pack of Coronas at the supermarket. What's appalling to me is that what these people are promoting as a solution to the problem of terrorism is actually a part of the cause, namely, U.S. foreign policy.
It shouldn't be necessary, but let me state unequivocally that there is no justification for the carnage that was visited upon thousands of innocent and unsuspecting people. But you have to ask yourself, what could Americans have possibly done to inspire the seething, irrational hatred that would prompt such incomprehensible actions?
If we look closely at some of those we have demonized around the world, we find that their genesis lies with the United States playing God, meddling in the affairs of state of other sovereign nations. Osama bin Laden was a rich Saudi who made his claim to fame as a financier and organizer of the Mujahdeen, fundamentalist Islamic "freedom fighters" in Afghanistan. At least they were freedom fighters in the 1980s when they were being funded to the tune of $3 billion by the U.S. government, and trained in terrorist tactics by the CIA in opposition to forces backed and armed by the former Soviet Union. When the Soviets were expelled, a vacuum of power was created. After additional years of bloody, internal struggle, that vacuum has been filled by some of our "allies" who settled down and morphed into what we know today as the Taliban.
Bin Laden flipped on his former benefactor, America, following the Gulf War, feeling (as did many Muslims) that the presence of Western tanks, planes and troops on holy land was a desecration.
What were we doing on that land? Fighting a war against Saddam Hussein. Where did Hussein come from? The CIA funded Hussein, and the United States provided the bulk of arms amassed by his once-vaunted military to encourage and continue the war between his native Iraq, and Iran--which became our enemy because of our covert support of the Shah, yet another dictator, over the will of the Iranian people.
And that's just the Middle East. Our government, directly, and through its intelligence agencies, has been equally "vigilant" in Asia, Latin America and Africa. In El Salvador alone, more than 70,000 citizens were killed or "disappeared" by their government over a decade--with our tax dollars.
Whether the Democratic and Republican architects of our previous shadowy policies of subverting governments, encouraging war and instability were innately evil or just extremely misguided, I cannot say. But they have left you and me a legacy. And that legacy is the bitter harvest of hatred.
We cannot undo what has been done. But as we go forward, we have a choice. Although scorched, the earth will eventually be fertile again. We have a chance to cultivate the future, to plant seeds that will bear fruit for future generations. What shall we plant? I hope and pray that they will be seeds of peace and justice for all. As you sow, so shall you reap.