||After watching the horrors all day, there was nothing left to do but leave the house, head north, and vote. We had a primary election on Sept. 11, and Ive never seen the polls so packed for an off-year primary; the mood in the room was somber and hushed, yet focused and electric - as if this simple act of choosing candidates for the Park Board was somehow a way to strike back. And of course it was. This is what we do; this is what they would forbid. Everybody got that.
It was a quiet and peaceful day, once the planes stopped landing. In the morning I watched them come over in a steady stream as the skies emptied out. At night the fighter jets circled high overhead, drawing a thin tripwire. Gnat was happy and cheerful all night, and made us smile as well; Jasper was worried, and spent a lot of time on his back with his paws in the air. Whatever was pouring out of me, he got, and he wanted no part of it.
I was sure of several things. One, there would be another attack, soon. Two, there would be a war, soon, and it would be big with many phases and fronts; it would include nukes and biological weapons. It would remake the world. We would probably win, but this was going to be horrible; it was pucker time for the foreseeable future. Everything going to be different this time, as a nervous New Yorker once said.
If I could go back a year, Id have told myself this:
Relax. Hard as it is, wrong as it seems, relax.
Look around. Breathe deep. Take stock. Look at your wife, your child; scratch Jasper on his favorite spot, pour a drink, light a Panter Mignon, and relax. Everything you see will be here in a year. Thats the first thing youll want to know. You didnt join a caravan of vehicles fleeing down after the chemical attack at the Mall of America, trying to make Fargo by nightfall. It didnt all fall apart. The best men were full of passionate certainties; the center held.
The news crawl right now says the casualties might number in the tens of thousands. Three thousand died. Too many; too many. But so many got out and lived.
Youll want to know if we got bin Laden: we didnt, as far as we know. He could pop up any day on video, minus an arm and an eye and a kidney, but hes been quiet ever since the US struck the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
What do I mean by strike? Cruise missile attacks and self-satisfied press conferences? No. We will move an amazing amount of materiel into the theater and blow the hell out of the Taliban and Al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan. Kabul will fall quicker than anyone had predicted. Subsequent operations will kill untold numbers of al Qaeda fighters in the caves, driving them into Pakistan. (Not good.) Satellite dishes will sprout in Kabul by Christmas. (Good.) Their movie theater will reopen; people will sell music cassettes again. There will be Afghan civilian casualties: mourn for them. But all the predictions of quagmire and mass starvation youll hear from the usual suspects will not come to pass. It will be a war of men on horseback and planes from Missouri. Watch and learn.
Thats the good news. The bad news is the anthrax - no, calm down. Its going to be sent through the mail, which is a rather inefficient means of killing people. But there will be a few weeks when it seems to be everywhere. The media will hype the anthrax, but cut them some slack; itll show up in their mailroom, and theyre entitled to a good freakout, particularly since theyre mostly New Yorkers and God knows theyve seen enough already. Everyones going to be on edge. No one will know where its coming from. The sight of people in biohazard suits going into the Capitol and other government buildings will seem to suggest this is Our Horrible Future, the second wave in a series of unfolding nightmares. It isnt. Youll learn that we have a drug called Ciprio to cure anthrax, and few will die. There will be a debate on the anthrax origin, which is unresolved a year later - but a year later it will have been mostly forgotten. People will make jokes about white powder in envelopes.
There will be no smallpox, no VX, no Sarin. The other shoe will drop, but itll be attached to a big stupid lug who tries to light the shoe on a plane and gets his clock cleaned by other passengers. Yes, I said Light his shoe. Youll see.
There will be focus.
Then it all gets blurry.
This will be the infuriating part; this will make you wonder if the sharp piercing clarity you saw in the Presidents address to Congress has been lost and forgotten. The Palestinians under the command of Yassar Arafat are going to ramp up the violence and start slaughtering Jews wholesale with suicide bombers. The world, as you might expect, will side with the Palestinians. The State Department, as you might expect, will insist on dialogue and process. You will be dismayed by the Presidents approach, which seems to abandon the doctrine set out in the Congressional address. The world will turn upside down: 9/11 will seem forgotten, and the world will be intent on forcing Israel to give in to men who bomb holiday banquets.
It will be a dispiriting winter and and a grim, grim spring.
But heres what you need to know. Iraq is next. Iraq was always next. Iraq was probably on the to-do list the afternoon of 9/11. The Presidents speech about the Axis of Evil - and you can just imagine how that phrase is going to cheese off the easily cheesed - named Iraq, North Korea, and Iran. North Korea was tossed in the mix to provide a fig leaf, to show this isnt just a Muslim thing; Iran was included for all the reasons you can guess. But Iraq got pole position in the Axis for reasons we suspected, and are having confirmed every day a year later. Assembling the forces to take out Saddam will require construction of new bases, and production of armaments depleted in the Afghan theater. All the springtime diplomatic dogpaddling results in the President stiff-arming Arafat into the dustbin of history. After that, the focus will shift. Not right away. But shift it will.
You will witness a remarkable disinformation campaign - leaks, denials, retreats, diplomatic initiatives. While the administration and the international community seemingly caroms from one point to the next, the buildup will continue until the forces are in place and ready to do the job. Which is where we are now, a year later. One suspects were almost ready, and all thats left is a few more shipments, some hardening of C&C facilities, and the onset of cooler weather so the troops dont sweat too much in their MOP suits.
I wont tell you its not scary, because it is; Israel has announced it might well use nukes if the SCUDs fly this time. Israel has had a bad year, and has seen quite clearly how the world regards it as a pariah state. But this is no surprise, so lets move on.
Does the World Community support this next phase?
What do you think? Of course not. We had their sympathy when we were down on one knee bleeding, but that evaporated with the Afghan campaign. The world likes America with a bloody nose, and hates us when we smash the hand that smacked us. Now only Britain stands with us without reservation: surprise. Europe dithers and fumes - one of the interesting pieces of collateral damage from the WTC attack was the relationship between ordinary Americans and Europe; many here now sense the open animosity the European intelligentsia has towards Americans, and Europe no longer feel like an ally. Remarkable, but true. Its not that Americans dont like them; we just dont care what they think anymore. (Get this: the president will be quoted, second hand, as not giving a shit what the Europeans think. Its come to that.) We realize were going to have to go it alone - and in most respects this feels right. No one cares much about the UN anymore, particularly since they elected Libyans to chair the Human Rights division.
Stop laughing; Im serious. Thats the world in a year from now. Colin Powell will be booed at an international conference for criticizing Mugabe, whos starving his people. Trust me: 9/11 will drive the collectivists, the fascists, the Luddites, the whole cotillion of idiotarians into a big soggy box, and from this box a great and ineffectual wail shall sound every day. It will dissuade the US not a whit. Great clarity will come from 9/11, and those who persist in seeing the US as the globes greatest malefactor will rant themselves into corners. Ever heard of Fisk? Pilger? Monbiot? You will. Small angry voices for small angry people. Remember Ted Rall, that guy with whom you had those nasty email debates about the estate tax in 94, the guy who draws like hes using a Sharpie stuck in his armpit? Hes going to go nuts over this. He even gets on TV because of his cartoons. Best thing that ever happened to him; right now hes probably on his knees praying that Osama attacks again and gives him more material.
This pissy drivel will unite people who, in a peaceable time, would stand on opposite sides of political issues. Dont fret the strife you see in the daily papers. The dissenters, unbound as usual, will ruin their cause. A great red line will run diagonally across the political landscape, uniting people who, in peaceable times, had the luxury to disagree over issues of rarified nuance. Youll make friends on the other side of the aisle, and this will teach you the folly of assuming X because someone believes Y.
What did I mean by Idiotarians? Uh . . . it has to do with these footballs, which are small and green, and -
Never mind. Youll understand soon enough - and the word already makes sense, doesnt it?
In short: courage, as Dan Rather used to say. (To show just how things will change: when you hear Dan Rather wept on the Letterman show, your first reaction wont be to roll your eyes and crack wise, but get a copy of the tape.) A year from now September will find you hale; your daughter will be walking and talking, Jasperwood will be in full fall bloom. Your portfolio will be in the crapper, but you knew that would happen at some point en route to retirement Valhalla. Dont be too alarmed if the culture seems to celebrate the same drivel it did on 9/10 - its proof that we are on the mend, and they are on the run.
All of which could change in a day. But we know this much:
Were going to win. We dont have any choice.
Oh, and one more thing: youve heard on the news that it will take years to clean up the WTC site.
They were done in eight months.