Lest We Forget
A Canadian's eye-view
By Rachel Marsden
It was six months ago this week that America was attacked by terrorists, Osama Bin Laden made his horrific entrance onto the world stage, and George W. Bush transformed instantaneously from a bumbling Texas frat-boy into his nation's version of Winston Churchill. We sat transfixed by images of airliners slamming into towers, bodies falling over 70 stories to the cement below, and the Hollywood-like crumbling of New York skyscrapers. We were shocked and horrified. We wanted leadership, security, and revenge.
How things have changed. This past week, I received my first emailed "Dubya jokes" since the attacks, along with a real-life anecdote about the US President waving enthusiastically to blind musician Stevie Wonder during a recent concert. Lawrence Donegan of the London Observer declared in a March 10th editorial that it's now officially cool to make fun of "Dubya" again.
The bipartisan love-in is over, too. Democrats and Republicans are settling comfortably back into their old, familiar positions--with their hands wrapped around each other's throats. The extended honeymoon is finally over.
People seem to have grown tired with the pursuit of elusive terrorist kingpin Osama Bin Laden in what has amounted to a hopeless game of "Where's Waldo." To many, victory in this war on terrorism means capturing or killing Bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Despite President Bush's initial warnings that this will be a long, protracted, drawn-out war that will be fought on many different fronts, people are getting impatient. The war on terrorism has moved out of our own backyard. Out of sight, and out of mind.
We're now growing frustrated with long line-ups at the US-Canadian border and at airport security checks. Headlines about the war have been bumped from the front pages in favor of news about the Enron scandal, David Letterman's possible move from CBS to ABC, and the glam fashions sported by celebrities at recent award shows. Even pre-September 11th poster boy, Congressman Gary Condit, was back on Larry King again, resuming his "Denial Tour 2001" in what turned out to be a futile attempt to win public support for his re-election bid after the Chandra Levy fiasco.
The fact that our lives have returned to some semblance of normalcy is a good thing. But we need to realize that the threat of a terrorist attack is still very real. Pentagon strategists say that al-Qaeda operatives around the world are primed and prepared to strike. It wouldn't take a nuclear bomb, just a few determined nuts with a death wish--as was the case on September 11th. Sooner or later, our luck is bound to run out. And, as a prominent symbol of Western democracy, Canada could very well be a target.
This is not an "American" war. Over 750 Canadian soldiers are in Afghanistan, with some--such as snipers and commandos from the elite Joint Task Force 2--in direct combat. Canadians have a stake in striking at the root of terrorism as we, too, are at risk.
It looks like Bush's next stop in fighting this war on terrorism is Saddam Hussein and Iraq. Bush has already asked British Prime Minister Tony Blair to commit 25,000 troops to help topple Hussein. In response, Blair is preparing a dossier to prove that Iraq has developed nuclear armaments beyond the blueprint stage, that it already possesses other weapons of mass destruction such as chemical and biological warfare, and possibly even supports Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization. Blair recognizes that without early preventative action, "we may find out too late the potential for destruction" that Iraq possesses. If Bin Laden was capable of taking the Western World by surprise, then why not Saddam Hussein? As Blair pointed out in a speech he made last week to Commonwealth leaders, for ten years, the world ignored conditions in Afghanistan that are not unlike those currently in Iraq. History could very well repeat itself if we don't take what we've learned from it and apply it.
Some people, like Canadian NDP Member of Parliament Svend Robinson, just don't seem to get it. Robinson recently asked Prime Minister Jean Chretien, "Will the Prime Minister tell George Bush that we will not follow him down his dangerous Texas gunslinger road to fight in a shootout against the axis of evil? Will he make that clear to Canadians?"
Unfortunately, the world didn't have the foresight to prevent the attacks that occurred six months ago right in our own backyard. This time we have the chance to slice off the head of the monster before it can do any damage. We cannot allow ourselves and our leaders to be lulled into a coma of complacency now that things seem to be getting back to normal. Lest we ever forget the shock and terror of September 11th, 2001