SEPTEMBER 11, 2001

I sit in one of the dives
On Fifty-second Street
Uncertain and afraid
As the clever hopes expire
Of a low dishonest decade;
Waves of anger and fear
Circulate over the bright
And darkened lands of the earth,
Obsessing our private lives;
The unmentionable odour of death
Offends the September night

– W. H. Auden, September 1, 1939.

THE IRAQI POSSIBILITY: Check out this 1995/1996 Public Interest essay on the first World Trade Center bombing. Some of it sends chills down your spine with its prescience. But its most important suggestion is that Iraq might have been behind the bombing. Ditto today. Saddam is not only capable but willing – especially against a nemesis like the son of the first George Bush. More evidence that Colin Powell’s tragic abandonment of the war against Saddam might well be one of the biggest blunders in recent history. If this coordinated massacre needed real state-sponsored support, which nation would you pick as the prime suspect?

THE MOST OBSCENE COMMENT YET: Ignoring Peter Jennings’ constant reiteration of the reasons for Muslim and Arab hatred for the West, the following passage from today’s Slate is the first time I’ve actually felt revulsion at anyone’s reaction to the horror of September 11. Here is John Lahr’s attempt to insinuate that the United States was responsible: “We still don’t really know who killed Kennedy or Martin Luther King; it took us a long time to find out the hidden agenda to the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Gulf of Tonkin “incident,” which tipped us into Vietnam and a war we should never have fought. Perhaps it’s eerie serendipity, perhaps it’s my paranoia, but an acid thought keeps plaguing me. Isn’t it odd that on the day–the DAY–that the Democrats launched their most blistering attack on “the absolute lunacy” of Bush’s unproven missile-defense system, which “threatens to pull the trigger on the arms race,” what Sen. Biden calls today in the Guardian, his “theological” belief in “rogue nations,” that the rogue nation should suddenly become such a terrifying reality. The fact that I could even think such a thought says more to me about the bankruptcy and moral exhaustion of our leaders even in the face of a disaster where any action, in the current nightmare, will seem like heroism. But I do smell destabilizing violence in the wings. In fear, the nation, to my mind, has always proved mean-spirited and violent.”

BIDEN’S BAD TIMING: “Senator Biden’s remarks are expected to mark the start of a concerted campaign, reflecting the Democrats’ belief that Mr Bush is politically vulnerable on foreign and defence policy, which has been characterised by a unilateralist approach, and a belief (ridiculed by Mr Biden as “theological”) in building a missile defence system against possible attacks from “rogue states”.” – The Guardian, September 11. Rogue states a threat? Naaahhh.