-- A man who worked on one of the top floors of the World Trade
Center saw that he was trapped. He telephoned his wife. He said he
wanted to say goodbye, he wanted her to remember that he loved her
and loved their children. They are 1 and 3 years old.
A friend of his told me the story. More even than the television
images, it brought home the pain, and the terror.
Thousands upon thousands of Americans will have a personal
connection to a victim. Or we will imagine the feelings of the
passengers on those planes, knowing they were flying to death.
Schoolchildren across the country will remember the day their
classes were interrupted to give them the news. We will all be
marked forever by this day.
Terror is what the attackers wanted to arouse, and they
succeeded. They not only visited death and destruction on symbols of
American economic and political power. They showed how vulnerable
the world's only superpower is: how imperfect our airport security
systems, how unprotected even our military headquarters.
"Since these were acts of war," a television broadcaster said
during the day, "it is important to know where our national command
center is." To the contrary, it seemed irrelevant. What does a
military command do about a faceless enemy that does devastating
damage with no more than perhaps a dozen attackers?
If this was war, it was far from the best-remembered attack on
America. Pearl Harbor was so clear. In school the next day we
gathered in the auditorium and listened to President Roosevelt.
"Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy . .
." No one could doubt who the enemy was or how America had to
respond. Those are now the very doubts.
None of us can pretend to know exactly how to deal with this
newly disclosed threat of large-scale, sophisticated terrorism. But
some basics suggest themselves.
Most important, America should reach out to the rest of the world
for a united stand against terrorism. Nearly all countries, whatever
their politics, have a common interest in elementary security. China
does. Russia does.
The world's cooperation is essential if the authors of this
attack are to be found and destroyed. The United Nations must demand
that all countries deny shelter to terrorists, and help to crush
them. Governments that reject that demand will be targets for
It is essential, too, that our foreign policy from here on
forward eschew any impression of unilateralism. Even our allies have
seen an administration uninterested in what others think, ready to
impose its views. President Bush would do well to adopt a tone
recognizing that America cannot assure security by itself.
The terrorist attack should inspire reflection about all of our
national security policies, including the proposed missile defense
system. Its critics have always said that this country will be in
greater danger in future from suitcase bombs or other terrorist
devices than from missiles, and their case has now been
devastatingly made. Whatever direction policy takes, we need joint
action to protect the world from terrorism, nuclear or
"This is a crime against the foundations of our common humanity,"
the president of Ireland, Mary McAleese, said yesterday. "Our
response must be to stand shoulder to shoulder."
That is the theme that President Bush should sound. His comments
yesterday, understandably, could not really capture the horror, or
its implications. We, and the world, are looking for words that can
bring us together against evil.
One danger must above all be avoided: taking steps that in the
name of security would compromise America's greatest quality, its
open society. The point was made compellingly yesterday by former
Secretary of State George P. Shultz.
"We're not going to allow these terrible people to change our way
of life," Mr. Shultz said. "I reject that entirely."