On September 12, 2001, I ran into a friend of mine at a coffeeshop in Westfield, New Jersey. My friend, the wife of a husband-and-wife partnership in a psychotherapy practice, asked me, "So what do you think?"
She asked the question fearfully, I could see, wondering what she would hear. As a psychotherapist and a sophisticated resident of the New York metropolitan area, she could be presumed to hold a certain set of beliefs. And she did not hold those beliefs now, at least not anymore. All this I read in her look, correctly, I believe.
"I think it's time to go kill those people," I said.
She gave me a firm nod, and a relieved sigh.
Most of the United States reacted the same way. I hope most of the United States still would. I think particularly of New York firefighter Mike Moran, who lost his firefighter brother in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.
Moran, onstage at the Concert for 9/11, bellowed, "Osama bin Laden, you can kiss my royal Irish ass!" And the crowd roared.
In the two and a half years since 9/11, the voices of doubt, negativity, defeat, preening sophistication, and appeasement have grown stronger and stronger. In the runup to World War II, as lately retired Alistair Cooke reminded us, those voices were strong in Europe, too, and they were exactly the same voices. "Objectively pro-Nazi," George Orwell said of them. Our critics today are, as well, objectively pro-terrorist.
Now comes the result of the post-Madrid bombing Spanish election, with Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's party going down to defeat. Aznar, so the reports say, was blamed by Spaniards both for the bombings themselves -- they attributed the attacks to Aznar's support of the U.S. in Iraq -- and for clumsy statements about the attacks being the work of Basque separatist group ETA. Spanish voters saw these statements as lies calculated to preserve the government.
Aznar had, as the press points out, gone against the general will of the Spanish populace in supporting the U.S. in Iraq.
If the attacks were indeed the work of Al Qaeda, this election carries the worst possible message. The newly elected Spanish premier, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, said, "Terror should know that it has all of us in front of it and we will conquer it." His actions belie his words. He has promised to withdraw Spain's 1,300 military force from Iraq.
We may well expect the same results from the electorates in England and Australia, where Tony Blair and John Howard find themselves in positions similar to Aznar's.
The people of Europe are determined not to learn a thing. Spain was targeted by Al Qaeda long before the Madrid bombings, long before Iraq, indeed, long before 9/11. (See the many statements of Osama bin Laden.) The Islamic thugs still smart from the Ottoman expulsion from Grenada in 1492. Negotiation and appeasement will not change a thing, if Europe doesn't realize it's time to go kill those people.
With some luck and the blessings of God, may America not experience the same defeat. I remain convinced that the upcoming Presidential election here will swing on the votes of the formerly anonymous "Reagan Democrats." They are anonymous no longer. Instead, like Mike Moran, they bear a heroic public face. And they will vote for George W. Bush, no matter what union leaders may do or say.
For the rest of us, we had better visit Europe soon, and imprint on our minds and eyes and hearts the images of those gorgeous cathedrals and museums and public works of art, so vulnerable in a civilization that will not defend itself. The whole fabulous mosaic of Western civilization has moved a step closer to the fate of the Bamiyan Buddhas. These 1500-year-old giant statues, carved into a mountain in Afghanistan, were dynamited by the Taliban -- in March, 2001.
Long before "unilateral" American action "turned world opinion" against us and "aroused the resentment" of Islamic nations.