The Retribution Will Not Be Televised
Ten years after 9/11, our answer to al-Qaida won't be on 9/11.
Nor does it count arrests like al-Mauritania's or lethal ground operations like the assault on Bin Laden's compound. You hear about these operations only when they kill the top guy, Bin Laden, or when so many Americans die—as they did in the Aug. 6 helicopter downing in Afghanistan—that their mission gets exposed. Otherwise, for security and diplomatic reasons, the U.S. keeps mum. It answers the spectacles and boasts of al-Qaida with surgical, lethal silence.
You won't be reading bulletins on the work of these people—special forces, CIA operatives, contractors—on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. Their job is to make that day a slow news day. To follow their work, you have to read sites like the Long War Journal, which tells you what happened on Aug. 16, Aug. 19, and Sept. 1. And you have to read investigative stories like those by Washington Post reporters Greg Miller, Julie Tate, Dana Priest, and William Arkin, which tell you what the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command are quietly doing in the air and on the ground.
Think about these people next Sunday when the politicians are giving their speeches. The real work of honoring the dead and protecting the living won't be on your TV screen. And it won't be on 9/11.
(Readings I recommend: You can find Priest and Arkin's book on the al-Qaida shadow war here. Ross Douthat in the New York Times argues that our assassinations of al-Qaida leaders are a success, but our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq aren't. Fareed Zakaria on CNN's Global Public Square explores the fight over the (not) " Ground Zero mosque." Peter Skerry in National Affairs urges Americans to confront Islamism without indiscriminate anti-Muslim " populist paranoia." And if you have any questions for Dick Cheney, he'll be speaking at the American Enterprise Institute this Friday on lessons learned since 9/11.)
Will Saletan covers science, technology, and politics for Slate and says a lot of things that get him in trouble.
Photograph of Ilyas Kashmiri by Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images.