What I Read on 9/11

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 11 2010 12:01 PM

What I Read on 9/11

I don't have a good, or heroic, story about September 11. I had wrapped a very fun internship at the Center for Individual Rights, made possible by my friend Michael Hoes, who not just got me into the gig but put me up in some gloriously ramshackle housing in Georgetown. We read a lot that summer, having just really started obsessively reading weblogs. (We hadn't dropped the "we" yet.) With the extra time I had before starting my second year of college, I put together my own site, which has been lost to the Gods of web archiving and inactivity. So I was online when the planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

My computer was upstairs in my family's house in Delaware. Our TV was downstairs. I glued myself to the TV for an hour or so, but I wasn't... comforted. I didn't feel like I was learning anything; millions of other people were reacting to the news, and I wanted to hear from. So I went back upstairs and online. It's compelling today, reading those posts that I kept refreshing Internet Explorer for. Instapundit :

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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TOM CLANCY WAS RIGHT: And we're livingone of his scenarios right now. Not much is known for sure, but it'sobvious that the United States is the target of a major terroristassault. There's a lot of bloviation on the cable news channels, mostof which will turn out to be wrong or misleading later. Here, for yourconsideration, are a few points to be taken from past experience:

The Fog of War: Nobody knows much right now. Many things that we think we know are likely to be wrong.

Overreaction is the Terrorist's Friend: Even in major cases like this, the terrorist's real weapon is fear and hysteria. Overreacting will play into their hands.

It's Not Just Terrorists Who Take Advantage: Someone will propose new "Antiterrorism" legislation. It will be fullof things off of bureaucrats' wish lists. They will be things thatwouldn't have prevented these attacks even if they had been in placeyesterday. Many of them will be civil-liberties disasters. Some of themwill actually promote the kind of ill-feeling that breeds terrorism.That's what happened in 1996. Let's not let it happen again.

Only One Antiterrorism Method Works: That's punishing those behind it. The actual terrorists are hard toreach. But terrorism of this scale is always backed by governments. Ifthey're punished severely -- and that means severely , not abombed aspirin-factory but something that puts those behind it in thecrosshairs -- this kind of thing won't happen again. That was thelesson of the Libyan bombing.

"Increased Security" Won't Work .When you try to defend everything, you defend nothing. Airport securityis a joke because it's spread so thin that it can't possibly stoppeople who are really serious. You can't prevent terrorism by defensivemeasures; at most you can stop a few amateurs who can barely function.Note that the increased measures after TWA 800 (which wasn't terrorismanyway, we're told) didn't prevent what appear to be coordinatedhijackings. (Archie Bunker's plan, in which each passenger is issued agun on embarking, would have worked better). Deterrence works here,just as everywhere else. But you have to be serious about it.

Fornow, the terrorists have won. They've shut down the U.S. government,more or less. They've shut down air travel. They're all over TV. Butwhether they really win depends on how we deal with this; hysterically,or like angry -- but measured -- adults.

Andrew Sullivan, who only could bring himself to write two posts.

EVIL: The forces of barbarism have clearlystruck an extraordinary blow against freedom this morning. This is notabout the United States alone. It is about the survival of freesocieties in an open, interconnected world where forces deeply hostileto freedom can wage a new kind of war against our humanity and oursuccess. Words fail me. But my hope is that this will awaken thesleeping tiger. When our shock recedes, our rage must be steady andresolute and unforgiving. The response must be disproportionate to thecrime and must hold those states and governments that have toleratedthis evil accountable. This is the single most devastating act of warsince Nagasaki. It is the first time that an enemy force has invadedthe precincts of the American capital since the early nineteenthcentury. It is more dangerous than Pearl Harbor. And it is a reminderthat the forces of resentment and evil - so prominent only recently inthe Durban conference - can no longer be appeased. They must bedestroyed - systematically, durably, irrevocably. Perhaps now we willsummon the will to do it.

Thankyou so much to all of you who have messaged, emailed and called. (Ortried to.) I am physically fine, as are all my family members andimmediate friends. I've been watching the footage all morning, I can'tbelieve I watched the World Trade Center collapse... for those of youunfamiliar with New York, somewhere around 50,000 people or more workat the WTC Towers. I've been hearing sirens all day, although I livewell north of the scene of the catastrophe, halfway up the island ofManhattan.

I've been sitting here this whole morning, choking back tears... this is just too much, too big. I can see the smoke and ash from the street here. I havefriends of friends who work there, I was just there myself the daybefore yesterday. I can't process this all. I don't want to.

Charles Johnson :

We need to go after the nations that give safe haven to theseterrorist beasts, because this cannot have been the work of a smallgroup. They could not have succeeded without extensive financial,technical, and tactical support. The nations I’m talking about are wellknown. Afghanistan. Iran. Iraq. Libya. Yemen. We know who our enemiesare.

And it’s time to stop playing fair. In the US we are so preoccupiedwith due process and the rule of law that we seem to expect evidence ona level with what we would have in a criminal trial. Meanwhile, themonsters toy with us and kill us, using our own democratic processesand our own cherished freedoms against us.

Of course, we need to avoid jumping to conclusions. But we do know who our enemies are.

I already planned on being a reporter before this happened, but it was that day that made me obsessed with the news. I was one of those people who suddenly discovered Ahmed Rashid's journalism, suddenly realized how much more information I could get online -- suddenly became a pure news junkie. All politics aside, how lucky are we to live in a time when anyone and everyone can publish work that can be read by anyone, and read work published anywhere?

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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