Many thoughts have gone through my mind these past 9 days; a very large number centered on events in New York City, Washington DC, and a county SE of Pittsburgh on the morning of 9/11/01. Tom and I, like many others I'm sure, spent hours watching video reruns, reading numerous online reports, and discussing the most horrible terrorist attacks to have occurred anywhere. I suspect, however, that we probably asked questions that many others did not.
Our questions were centered on two aspects: 1) the philosophical basis of the attackers and attacked; 2) the technical causes for the actual collapse of the World Trade Center Towers.
The second question really had our attention first due to the horrifying visual images. How could the impact of a Boeing-767 result in the complete collapse of each tower more than an hour later? It has only been in the past 2 days that sufficiently detailed structural and post explosion fire descriptions have been available, making it more believable that such buildings could actually be leveled by such terrorist attacks. (I have my doubts, however, that Osama bin Laden's civil engineering college degree supplied him with knowledge that anticipated this degree of damage, since he never practiced the trade and the architectural and structural engineering experts being quoted are mixed on their surprise at the actual collapse.) As we read more information about the WTC - and the implications that much of the basic design is common in other skyscrapers of recent build - we have concluded that neither of us would ever work in a skyscraper. And any visit to one will be short, having first made note of the stairwell locations.
Now to the question of far greater importance....I have been quite libertarian in my views on government for many years and before joining with Tom considered that a government was best when it did the least. My modification to this now is that governments - rulers - are the source of innumerable problems and that individuals acting alone or in mutual cooperation could not perform acts that made others targets for such terrorists.
It may be unpleasant for US citizens (remember, I am one) to face the facts that political decisions have been made for decades that sent US troops into dozens of skirmishes as well as "humanitarian" and "peace keeping" efforts around the world. In all cases, there was at least one faction that did not appreciate the US presence at all. And to make matters worse, the US has provided military assistance to one group or another that later turned against it. (In fact, that is exactly the case with the current most likely suspect, Osama bin Laden, who was strongly supported in his fight against the Soviets in Afghanistan in the mid '80s.)
So my solution, one would ask? Stay out of the affairs of other countries. Bring US troops stationed overseas back to US soil. Do not promise US citizens that "the marines will come to the rescue" if harm befalls them on foreign soil; they will be subject to the laws of whatever country they have decided to visit. Make it absolutely clear, that any attack on US soil will be considered an act of war to be dealt with as such when the attackers are identified. Encourage other countries to take the same positions and to completely ostracize those countries who harbor or support terrorists. Individuals, groups, and companies who harbor or support terrorists should be identified in media (with supporting evidence of course) so that others can personally withhold association and trade. We, as individuals, must take responsibility and not let governments act as our moral agents. They have done so and this is where it has lead.
These have been the high points of our thinking on the major aspects of the despicable acts performed by one or more groups of individuals who do not value life in the same manner as much of the Western world. Unfortunately, the US which has led the West in industry and finance has not performed stellarly as its political and moral leader. This desparately needs to change or we are certain to have more of the same.
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