Democratic Underground

1609 - 2001: Discovery to Destruction
September 18, 2001
by Jorge Root

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It was a beautiful late-summer day in 1609 when Henry Hudson entered the mouth of the river and captured his first glimpse of the island known today as Manhattan. With the sun warming his face and the wind blowing through his hair, he noticed his 80-ton/20-man ship was creaking and moaning beneath him. He shook his head in wonder at the same time his emotions were filling with excitement and anticipation, bringing a smile to his face. Was this the passage to the east? Had he finally found it?

His quest for the North-West passage had been long and hard. It led him through severe storms, threats of mutiny and countless dead-ends ranging from the coast of Maine to the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. Somehow his ship "Half Moon" had managed to hold her own and was now making a very steady 5 knots up the Hudson river. A river which he later named the "River of Mountains."

How coincidental that 85 years earlier, an Italian, Giovanni da Verranzano, discovered the mouth of this very river and named it "River of the Steep Hills."

How coincidental that the date was September 12, 1609 which makes it 392 years to the day when America would awaken to realize she was not dreaming. The suicide-bombing nightmare of the World Trade Center was not a dream. It was real and as a consequence, life in America would change forever. Of course, Hudson had no way of knowing this.

As the Half Moon made her way slowly up the river on that September day, Hudson stared at the tip of Manhattan and envisioned something great happening there some day. Indeed he was correct. That happening would be the rise of the greatest city of modern time. Within that great city would be magnificent structures, standing tall, showing their proud faces to the world. Among them would be the World Trade Center. Towering over the lower Manhattan skyline they would be the first visible signs of America, letting new-comers know that it is just minutes until the Lady of Liberty will be in sight, holding her right arm straight and strong with the symbol of freedom. Welcome to America!

The twin towers are gone now. Brutally destroyed by foreign terrorists. We need not go over the details, we know them all too well. Images of the twin-engine jets crashing into each of the towers are forever frozen in every American's mind. The questions now, are what do we do about it, where do we go from here and how do we make the pain go away? These are not easy questions to answer.

There is no doubt we will be asking ourselves these same questions well into the forseeable future. Terrorist acts are inherently difficult to prevent which allows for them to be carried out practically at will. Unless we find a way to prevent them, we will experience them over and over again. Add the fanatical nature of individuals who carry out these often suicidal assaults, then add the religious zeal involved and now you have a recipe for terror taken to a level that defies all rational thinking. At best you are left in a position of 'after-the fact' responses.

As I think about this most recent and horrific scene in lower Manhattan, my thoughts begin to wander, they begin to kick-in something similar to overdrive. Being a free thinker and being blessed with the power of positive vibes and a childlike spirit, one would think the energy in my force fields could manage to reconcile an appropriate punishment for these cowards. Not so. It seems I get part of the way there and suddenly, like a boxer shaking off a body blow, reality slowly reappears. Regardless of how I try to resolve the punishment factor, the parallel tracks of 'significant' and 'controversial' seem to collide. For some reason they do not appear correct when they are on opposite sides of this equation. Here is where I remind myself that there is a fine line between genius and success. What I would like to see happen and what common sense dictates can be done are as different as night and day. I only need to open my eyes to this fact.

You see it's perfectly alright for each of us, including our leaders, to have our own idea of where our country should be heading as a result of the WTC tragedy. But we must protect ourselves from being drawn into the vortex of a bad plan. We must protect ourselves from thinking we can be the heros of our own sagas. We must be willing to be absent for a short time while we sort it all out. Granted people will notice the absence but they will understand when we return with a solid plan. A plan that we intimately embrace as a nation. A plan that has closure and finality.

The plan is of course, a willing and appropriate use of our armed forces to conduct retaliatory operations. For now there will be some unanswered questions. The who, what, where and why will need to be worked out along with the degree of severity. The answers to these questions will come in time. We will realize more about the task in front of us as we uncover the clues left behind.

As it stands now, it looks like a certainty that Osama Bin-Laden is a main figure in our latest tragedy. He has been given a free ride for far too long and we now must deal with him on an unequivocable basis. OBL won't come to us so we must go to him. It won't be easy. It is his turf and no one in the world knows that turf better than him and his band of murderers. Both Russia and the UK have found this out in the past. Carpet bombing will probably not do the job. That leaves us with putting ground troops in Afghanistan to smoke him out which will surely protract the war and produce an untold number of casualties.

There is only one alternative to the ground troop approach so I will go ahead and say it - nuclear weapons. It would be swift and deadly. There would be no need for an exit strategy and providing OBL is in Afghanistan, it would give us the closure that we need. The problem with this plan lies in the fact that there will be others to deal with. Surely OBL did not plan, finance and execute this by himself. States were involved. So too were individuals and organizations involved. Believing anything else is simply being naive.

When we identify the other murderers, should we again use the nuclear option? Go down that slippery slope, let the genie out of the bottle? Should other countries now feel free to join in with the mass murder with nuclear weapons? Will there be a way to stop or will we be geting our first glimpse of the laws of unintended consequences?

Our choices are clear. We take the messy approach of air and ground troups with high body count or we take the swift and easy path of nuclear weapons. There's no in-between. Our commitment was made for us. It was made at the time the orchestra of terror played the overture. Now we must pray that when we hear the closing symbols clashing to a crescendo, the performing orchestra is that of American freedom.

The choices are in the hands of our war planners. For this I am thankful. It is too tough a decision for me to make. Soon we will know what they have planned.

On September 14 Hudson sailed past the northern tip of Manhattan into the Tappan Zee, thinking he had surely found the passage to the east. It was just days later when the Half Moon entered the shallow waters of Albany and Hudson finally realized it was another dead end.

The return journey down the Hudson river was long and depressing. He again passed the tip of Manhattan. This time looking a little closer. Trying to imagine what it would look like many years in the future. One can only suppose that Hudson knew that he was standing at the doorstep of a great country. He must have sensed that he was looking at the single spot on the globe which would become known as the focal point of tolerance and freedom. This same spot in the future would be chosen by cowardly terrorists as ground zero for an event so dreadful, that world leaders would be huddled around trying to make a choice between which path a country takes to the eve of destruction.

Of course, Hudson had no way of knowing this.