Dec. 10, Monday—Ground Zero Plus
Terrorism’s Last Gasping Breath
Ends When We Forget To Remember.
The covers of both Time Magazine
and The New Yorker wore resplendent visions of bin Laden’s last
gasp. As I glanced at them and all the headlines of all the magazines
and newspapers, I wondered if Terrorism could be killed? We have just
passed the First Quarter of Terrorism in the United States. Ninety-Plus
Days have worn thin our patience for finding and killing bin Laden whom
the government claims was the mastermind behind September 11. Any day
now it appears he will be found and “terminated.” On that day we all
face a big dilemma--whether to bury Terrorism in a grave of Complacency,
or, stand guard over it with a Sword of Vigilance.
Historically, conquerors of “evil” required the head of the
opponent to be brought to them so there could be an historic witness to
the death of the “evil one.” With America razing the earth with
15,000-pound bombs, if bin Laden is scurrying around the tunnels of
Afghanistan, the odds are he’ll end up like Adolph Hitler in World War II,
an anonymous skeleton buried in some unmarked graves with countless
stories being told by those who would question whether he ever “really
died” but instead was lurking in the “shadows of evil” plotting and
masterminding a great revenge.
As the Christmas Season grows around us, and the desire for a
sense of “peace” overpowers the constant thirst for “war news,” there
seems to be an urgency to exterminate the “rat of evil” so that we might
return to sense of world stability and be free for the moment while being
scratched by Terrorism’s infected claws.
Like so many others, I would prefer to wash the threat of
Terrorism from my mind and get on with “life as usual.” As a parent and
grandparent, the thought of my children and grandchildren living in a
world where someone like bin Laden can toss a hand grenade in the middle
of a crowded park filled with innocent women and children is an
abhorrence. Yet I know that even with the elimination of bin Laden that
threat will not die after the “evil one” takes his last gasp.
“Evil,” the current synonym for Terrorism, is a lifeless
entity. It exists in and of itself. In the absence of its actions, it
lies dormant, much like a seed in winter. It hibernates in the cold,
empty soil until something warms it to life. Its ignition-- generally
sparked by hate, anger, greed, megalomania or revenge—awakens the sleeping
demons. They rise as though never wounded by the good, the right, and the
just. They appear as though unscathed by previous destruction or what we
might think to be annihilation.
Bin Laden replaced Hitler. Hitler replaced________. You
fill in the blank. For every country, every period of history, there is
a bin Laden, a Hitler, a ________. The question is: what do we do in the
interval? In the quiet time between the appearance and destruction of
“evil,” do we “forget” that “evil only sleeps,” or, do we prefer to think
it has been “erased” only to wake up one September 11 to the sounds of a
jet smashing into the World Trade Center, or the thundering of goosesteps
of militant troops spreading a totalitarian viewpoint over the Complacency
that created the mulch for Terrorism to grow?
As we enter into First Quarter Of American Terrorism From
Abroad, we face a critical choice. That choice is either to remain
“vigilant” against future Terrorism, or concede that we have extinguished
it, and pretend that it is dead—and with its death, dies our
responsibility to fortress our minds, our homes, our children from its
I personally would like to take my black armband off with the
words “Semper Vigilantes” sewn on it as my personal reminder of the horror
of September 11 and the need to never forget that day. As with so many
others, I do not like to think of the eventual attacks that may result
from other “evil seeds” once this one is crushed.
Instincts and experience, however, dictate another point of
view. When I left Vietnam, I thought I had put Terrorism behind me. I
found that not to be true. Terrorism thrives anywhere and everywhere we
think it cannot, or, arrogantly, will not. It is like that persistent
weed that grows up through the cracks of concrete on the busy street,
surviving despite any logic, or gallons of poisons we might pour upon it
to rid its creeping proliferation.
Time can heal wounds. It can also build scar tissue of
Vulnerability to Terrorism is simply becoming Complacent to
its attack, to its lifeless nature. The great danger America faces
today is to consider Terrorism alive—capable of death. The delusion, the
mask we can put over our faces, is the one that pretends that by killing
bin Laden our children and their children’s children will be a little
safer, sleep a little sounder at night. That thought allows the wolves to
slip into the sheep’s clothing.
After more than five decades on earth, much of it spent in
battles with Terrorism of all kinds and shapes—from the battlefields of
Vietnam to the chemotherapy of colon cancer—I am convinced that in the 21st
Century we must learn to live with “Vigilance” rather than accept
“Complacency” or “Ignorance” as our means of thwarting future unsuspected
attacks by the bin Laden’s of the world.
We can do this by simply taking the Pledge of Vigilance
daily, weekly, monthly. We can force ourselves to “remember never to
forget.” Forgetting is the easy part. Remembering is the hard part.
For me, remembering September 11th is easy. I just
look at my grandchildren and think of their safety. They are innocent.
They have their parents, their grandparents, their relatives and society
to protect them from harm. But protecting them from harm requires that I
and the other Guardians of Vigilance don’t forget that “harm is present".
One cannot be “vigilant” unless one is charged with the protection of
“something or somebody.” Duty and responsibility as a parent and
grandparent of Vigilance require me to “never forget.”
What will keep you from
“forgetting to remember?”
Sunday--Ground Zero Plus 89
Terrorism & Dinosaurs Just Won’t Die
I am fearful we might think the
war is over when we put the final nail in the Afghan coffin—that is, when
we “kill” bin Laden.
Some believe we have crushed the snake, now all we need to do
is to cut off its head and the threat of its venom will be gone.
I wish that were true.
But I went to the Museum of Modern History with my
grandchildren the other evening to see the dinosaurs. They were still
alive. Their bones and their memory ruled the halls where they still
Terrorism is like a living dinosaur. It doesn’t die. It
thrives and survives deep in the earth, covered by the caves of time—like
the ugliness of human kind stalking its civilized, moral evolution,
reminding us that we are not the mental giants of the 21s Century, but
rather still umbilically attached to our Neandrathalic beginnings.
Walking through the racks of bones articulately puzzled
together by historians of the past, brought the present in collision with
the past. Here were the “beasts of time” transformed from bones of
Terror into flesh and bones of the “bin Laden’s” of modern civilization.
Like T-Rex or Allosaurus, they ripped and shredded anything in their path
with a ravenous appetite to dominate, to rule the earth with vicious
Even in the “Discovery Room” at the Museum, a place for
children to go and enjoy aspects of the past and present, there is a video
of the dinosaurs eating one another, fighting violently to dominate one
another until the earth collapsed on them, burying them and preserving
I sat with my grandson, Matt, and the five-year-old and I dug
at half-exposed bones in an excavation pit created so children could sense
the work necessary to dig up history. We were working to uncover “eggs”
of a dinosaur—its petrified children of the future. I thought how bin
Laden and his crew were the children of the “creatures of the past,” the
dinosaurs of the present trying to make a civilized world kneel to
The “dragons breath” had blown its fetid, foul and deadly virus upon
America September 11 when it destroyed the World Trade Center, part of the
Pentagon, and by a stroke of fortune backed by human heroism, almost blew
up the White House—the symbol of modern civilization.
Now, the dinosaur of the present, bin Laden is scuttling
himself in deep tombs and caves, vermiculating his way through time in
the bowels of the earth, hiding from civilization’s heat-seeking missiles and
computerized search and destroy technologies. His anachronistic evil
thrives on creating fear and producing intimidation—just as the great
“meat eaters” of the dinosaur period did when the earth trembled under
their weight, and their screams of violence sent the plant-eaters
scurrying for cover.
Terrorism walks with the same thud of the dinosaurs. It
indiscriminately consumes all in sight to prove it is more dominant than
the most advanced creatures because it is a beast of violence, with no
compunction or empathy for others. It eats to feed its own desires,
regardless of whom it eats as long as its belly gets full.
The logic of Terrorism was brought clear to me when I pointed
out a mountain lion to my grandson and asked him: “What do you think
mountain lions eat?” He gave me that quick New York response children of
the city are trained to offer. “Anything it can catch, G-Pa!”
Children understand the roots of the beast. Terrorism, like the mountain
lion or the dinosaur, will eat anything it can catch. Death to it is
meaningless. It is just more ingestion of all the power it can consume.
I was further made aware that Terrorism will not die when we
kill bin Laden. My three-year-old granddaughter was restless at the end
of the day as we ate dinner in the Museum—dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets and
French Fries. She was laying on the table next to us on her back. “What
are you doing?” I asked. “I’m playing dead,” she said.
Death. Terrorism. Dinosaurs. Bin Laden.
Everything was interconnected, woven into the threads of a
child’s mind. The children would not know that bin Laden’s death meant
the end to anything. Dinosaurs were still alive to them. When bin Laden
dies, Terrorism will not die with him. Just as the dinosaurs didn’t
die. They have come alive today.
There is a great Christmas Tree in one of the lobbies of the
Natural History Museum. It is an origami tree of peace. Thousands of
origami cranes and various animals have been folded and placed on the tree
from people throughout the world. But at the base of the tree is a ring
of origami dinosaurs, a symbolic reminder that the “Tree Of Peace” is
surrounded by a “Ring of Terror.”
looked upon this not as some cruel irony, but rather a simple truth of
balance. Terrorism is part of our world now, as it was in the past, and
will be in the future. When bin Laden dies, another evil
despot will take his
place. Perhaps he’ll live in another land, and speak another language,
but his goal will be the same as all dinosaurs—to create fear,
intimidation and complacency.
The event with the children was a clear reminder that we must
not give up our offenses against Terrorism and sweep its memory under the
rug when bin Laden is found and exterminated. To do so would be a
folly. It would also expose our children to more danger.
If we learned any lesson from Pearl Harbor or September 11, it
should be that Terrorism lives in many forms—just as the dinosaurs.
To prepare our children and ourselves against future assaults,
we must embrace the concept of Semper Vigilantes—Always Vigilant. We must
fight fear with courage, intimidation with conviction, and complacency
We begin that process by saying the Pledge of Vigilance, and,
believing that no matter what the news says, or the government
spouts—Terrorism will not die an easy death. Not now. Not after it has
proven it can strike fear into the heart of America.
There are other T-Rex’s of Terrorism licking their chops.
We can bury their bones with
We just can’t kill them and be rid of
Even the children know that. Just ask them if you can kill a
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