Even if we manage the restraint to try these people instead of killing them out of hand, the problem will be the same one we had with McVeigh -- sentencing. And to agree on that, we'd have to come to some sort of national consensus about what exactly punishment is all about, something we've yet to do and I doubt ever will.

If we've concerned with justice, I don't think there's much we can do, because there's certainly no way to get justice for that many people out of that few. We're pretty much stuck with that or vengeance, too, since rehabilitation isn't a question that enters into this. And with vengeance (it seems we all agree) distasteful, and justice impossible, what can we do? Antartica works for one monster, but not for terrorists with allies. Life in prison? No one would stand for it.

Ultimately, I think we're going to end up with blood. When America's angry, it doesn't care much for middle ground, especially when it's so uncertain.
by Shaun Salnave on 9/14/2001 01:36:41 PM | bang on

Okay, we manage to capture and try not only the co-conspirators, but the big cheeses themselves, the financiers, including bin Laden. We try them in New York, on a world scale like that of Nuremburg. Oh, yeah, I guess that would mean we sentence them all to death. Didn't avoid bloodshed there.

Now, the human in me would like to see the "culprit" tortured in an endless display of intolerance for terrorism, a public flaying, to include the slicing open of his arms and legs to pour molten lead into, to have him drawn and quartered on the world stage. Except I know his righteous belief in Allah and the sanctity of his holy quest, would simply make him a martyr.

So the über-man in me, the ideal (Socratic?) man, would like to see us follow Shelley's example, and leave our monster to wander endlessly across the tundra of Antarctica.

Is there a middle ground that would leave this aching country satiated?
by andrew wollman on 9/14/2001 02:24:26 AM | bang on

"Treat it as a crime, not a war." Well said, Jared.

I have been numb, losing composure only sporadically. I've wanted to be overwhelemed, unable to think. Writing has kept some rational edge in charge.
by Ryan Gantz on 9/13/2001 10:41:19 PM | bang on

What Andrew said. What Jared said.
by Raza Syed on 9/13/2001 08:35:29 PM | bang on

Oh, I'm not naive enough to pretend that there won't be a response involving bloodshed of some kind. Political and military realities dictate that, foolish though it may be. I do applaud the administration for at least being methodical and cautious about this. Even if Bush isn't very "presidential," at least he's not being a loose cannon and turning the whole Middle East into a parking lot with oil wells. Considering the kind of people who are running things, I think we've been lucky so far.

To loosely quote someone from Mefi, I'd like to see this play out as a massive and complex international investigation. Treat it as a crime, not a war. Bring the perpetrators(and anyone who helped them significantly) to justice, with all the same rights and procedures any other suspected criminals would get. The problem comes in if, and probably more probably, when we find out that some country or countries have been involved in this. I'm not sure what we do then. Depends on the particulars, I guess. It's all so vague and shadowy, that I doubt even the experts really know what's called for at this point. I think public opinion will make a big difference, though, which is making all of this racism and bloodlust that much more alarming.

How can so many of the same people who give so selflessly of their own blood and time and money in response to this also wish to spill that of others who they have never met, and many of whom wished them no ill in the first place? Can't they see that these are human beings, with the same hopes and dreams as them? The narrowness and self-centeredness of the average American worldview just astonishes me. Most of all, this all just makes me very sad. Too many people have died, and now even more probably have to in order to make up for it. Why? When will we learn?
by Jared Dunn on 9/13/2001 07:58:26 PM | bang on

By the tone of everyone's posts here, it seems the consensus is for the U.S. to do nothing at all. I think it is naive of any of us to think that retribution, in the form of human lives, is anyhting but inevitable. And I know you all know that, but what would you rather have us do?

Personally, I know that no matter how many terrorist targets we hit (encampments, training centers, etc.) we won't reach the national scapegoat, Osama bin Laden; the terrorist that the CIA trained, and U.S. foreign policy provoked. Since high school I have been a strong believer in total isolationism, and these attacks are precisely the reason why. No, America did not deserve these attacks, but we certainly earned them. Anyone shocked that the U.S. is a target of hatred by almost the entire "undeveloped" world needs to read the newspaper more often. We stick our noses where it doesn't belong (i.e., Somalia) and we think ourselves above reproach. The fact of the matter is: every terrorist attack bin Laden has been involved with is in itself a reprisal.

So, no, I can't sit here in my far-removed chair and speculate about a bloodless response to all this. Terrorism will continue precisely because it flummoxes our responsiveness, and I won't be at all surprised if it turns out the Taliban in some way supported these attacks, because it is a convenient way around the conventions of war while still allowing devastating declarations to be made.

So again I ask: what would you have us do?
by andrew wollman on 9/13/2001 06:17:48 PM | bang on

i am too, rabi. last night at the harp i told everyone i didn't want to talk about it at all, because i would freak out and be sick. towards the end of the evening, it sort of seeped in to the conversation and i had to get up from the table and go home right then and there, because i started shaking and couldn't deal with it.
by alison headley on 9/13/2001 05:26:51 PM | bang on

I'm not numb. I'm so completely opposite of numb that I'm incapable of thinking.
by rabi on 9/13/2001 05:09:20 PM | bang on

Most of the time, Rabi, I'm with you. I realize that I've been to some degree numb for the past two days... but today, listening to discussion of national spirit on NPR, watching President Bush tear, I think I'm finally beginning to process what happened and how very much pain it's caused. I'm starting to sense that many things will be different now, and it's hard to grasp. For most of my life, living in the U.S. has been easy.

Fuck, I don't want the government attacking anyone, hurting anyone.... Presentlywe're sending aircraft carriers to the Gulf. I'm struggling to pay enough attention enough to the action, the nation's readiness and impending retaliation, in order to remain informed. I'm convinced that's wholly important, because I want to understand what is happening, how we are responding. I want to know how things came to be this way. And twenty years from know, I want to understand and remember how things came to be, how we can learn to see and act differently.

The sheer weight of the situation, the humanity of it all, slowly piles up on us, and it's becoming difficult to remain informed, to maintain concern.

Connections, community, memory, vision.
by Ryan Gantz on 9/13/2001 01:40:06 PM | bang on

what's wrong with me? I can't even remember that there are terrorists when people aren't talking about them. anger? no I don't feel that. fear? no. retribution -- what? revenge -- what? war? what? all meaningless.

dead people. broken buildings. that's as far as I can get.
by rabi on 9/13/2001 11:58:56 AM | bang on

I keep coming back to what was pretty much the first moral lesson that sank in: two wrongs don't make a right.

It's childish, maybe, but I refuse to believe that more blood is the solution to any problem. America wants someone to blame, and can't own up to the truth that there isn't anyone, at least anyone other than a few dozen terrorists -- hardly anyone we can declare war on. But if enough people want blood, which seems to be the case judging by the sentiments I've heard expressed and reports I've heard of anti-"Arab" discrimination and violence, I'm pretty sure our leaders will find a way to give it to them.

If the question is whether I'm willing to (be forced to) fight for this, my answer is very simple: the border to Canada's pretty easy to cross. Bloodshed only leads to more bloodshed.
by Shaun Salnave on 9/13/2001 02:36:36 AM | bang on

Well, if that means blood, and especially innocent blood, then I'm afraid I just can't. I don't want revenge. Revenge only leads to reprisal after reprisal, ad infinatum. More hate. More violence. More death. No thanks.

I guess the obvious question that comes to mind, for a male of my age, is: Would I go to a war over this? My answer, in almost all cases I can think of right now, is no.

A lot of people in this country would think that that means that I'm a horrible person; cowardly, unpatriotic, ungrateful, unsympathetic to our own innocent victims, and so on. I think it makes me a humanist, who just wants to see the least amount of pain and suffering for all people, no matter what country they're from or way they choose to worship. But, then again, I'm not most people. And this country isn't run by, or primarily made up of, people like me, or like us. That's what scares me. I see the potential for a dark future that I'm powerless to stop from coming to fruition.

I'm much more scared of us, and what we might become in response to all of this, than I am of what any terrorist could potentially do. Then again, I wasn't in New York monday, and neither was anyone I love. If so, perhaps I would think differently. I hope I never have to find out.
by Jared Dunn on 9/13/2001 02:00:17 AM | bang on

What's hard to process, and to stomach, is that the enemy isn't necessarily someone far away and foreign. Michael Moore suggests that the terrorists are likely citizens of our country, whether of foreign descent or not.

Dr. Hurd dreams that from this day forward, America will be a reinforced, confident entity, again championing those founding priciples that have kept the nation alive. Dr. Hurd has a point, but he's mostly taking conservative trash. Already, there is a change of vision. America wont pull together until a course of action is followed that we can all support. And I doubt that such a clear path will make itself manifest.

The terrorists should be brought to justice. But if they're hiding out somewhere, I don't want us bombing the harboring country. We'll fight with weapons if there's fighting to be done against a clear enemy. If not, we'll fight by strengthening national security both around our borders and within our borders, and strengthening our resolve to never let something like this happen again, finding the patience to make that possible.

Jared, what does it really matter, the degree to which you "stand behind your governement here"? The ball is rolling, and America wants justice, especially if that means blood. We should support the government that has supported us, and watch closely. If, as events unfold, we don't agree, then its up to us to help change vision and policy in the future.
by Ryan Gantz on 9/13/2001 01:53:19 AM | bang on

I guess my main conflict now is this: Who do I believe, and how much do I stand behind my government here? I'm disinclined to trust the government, especially in matters where the military and intelligence are concerned. But, I also love my country and Her people. Because of this love, I want my government to do the right thing on our behalf in the coming days and weeks.

Obviously, a great tragedy, one of malicious origin has taken place. Innocent people were hurt and killed. I'm shocked and saddened by that. But, there are now other realities to worry about, ones which might prove to be much worse in the long run.

The way we respond to this will have a great effect on how the next 20 years play out, both internationally and domestically. I'm afraid political realities probably dictate a response of force of some kind. As a citizen, I feel the need to know what's really going on, and to speak up if I think something's fishy. Declaring "war" on some phantom entity doesn't seem to be the sanest response, at least this early on. War at all doesn't really seem sane, given the nature of the "enemy." There are no easy answers here, but the government wants one with which to placate a scared public. That idea scares me more than not knowing at all.

to quote Walter Solbcek, "We're the bereaved, but that doesn't make us saps!"

It's a fine line to walk in a crisis between loyalty and watchful dissent. I fear rocking the boat too much, but not rocking it all(and thus perhaps the loss of the right to do so in the future), that, I fear even more. If we respond to this in the wrong way, both here and abroad, the terrorists will win a much bigger victory than they did yesterday. What, then, should we as citizens be doing to those ends?
by Jared Dunn on 9/12/2001 10:54:26 PM | bang on

My mother, who apparently reads this site, asked if I would put something up here that she wrote this afternoon as events unfolded:
Lives come and lives go
Why are we touched so?
Friends, uncle, aunt, or foe
Someone you do or do not know...
Buildings collapse, and we watch with sorrow,
Fear for them, and our tomorrow.
Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow...
by andrew wollman on 9/11/2001 09:35:10 PM | bang on

I'm watching a doctor's eyewitness video from the streets of lower Manhattan, as one of the towers collapsed. A wall of ash and debris overcame him, and he had to hide behind a car to survive. It looked like he was in the path of a volcanic eruption. Three weeks ago, I walked those same streets in the bright sunlight with two of my best friends, marvelling at the sensory overload of vibrancy and life that is New York. Now, it looks more like a Moonscape. This defies all comprehension or rationalization for me. We have nothing in our experience to place it into context with.

I keep hearing the phrase "things will never be the same." It may be trite, but I think it's safe to say it's correct, in a variety of ways. Care to discuss?
by Jared Dunn on 9/11/2001 03:40:02 PM | bang on

Absolutely the most terrifying day of my life. I awoke to the radio morning DJ's, who had abandoned the bells and whistles and phone scams and were speaking with tremors in their voices. Two planes had hit the World Trade Center. I was immediately awake, searching for CNN, and there it was. That horrible footage.

I'm safe here in Houston, but I can feel that building collapse beneath my feet. I remember how affected I was by the view from the top of the WTC, how I felt I was at the tallest peak within hundreds of miles, so high above everything else. Now I know that that spot now overlooks death, destruction, smoke that blocks out the sun. My thoughts are with all of us that are searching through this nightmare for our loved ones.

I'm not patriotic and I'm never in favor of violence, no matter the reason. But I know retaliation will occur, and I will sleep better once I know that these people can never strike out so despicably again. But the act itself is so horrible, so hateful, that I'm physically sick that humans can allow themselves to commit these atrocities. My only hope is that when the United States responds that their attack is limited on those truly responsible. Osama Bin Laden seemed to be the prime suspect, again, but he too has denied any involvement. The girl behind me in class suggested dropping a nuclear bomb on Jerusalem to take care of the problem once and for all. So we hide behind patriotism and nuclear weapons again, and my stomach twists inside me over and over. What is going to happen?

And what happened in Pennsylvania? Where was that plane supposed to land? Why did it crash there instead? Did a pilot decide to crash and kill his passengers rather than crash into the White House? Also, I heard rumors about car bombs... When will we know the full story?

The full story from here: we're scared. Terrified.
by Rob MacGregor on 9/11/2001 02:54:06 PM | bang on

that is my city!! i keep looking at the pictures and no one seems to understand that city is a part of me and it's falling down. swarthmore college is closed, philadelphia is shutting down, i called people in boston but now that's become impossible too because all the phones are busy, and we think there is a person on flight 11 that we know but we can't tell yet because there are no casualty reports. i started a list of all the people i know in new york but it got so long that i had to stop. i talked to one of my friends who is okay and said that he saw the buildings collapse from the roof but there are too many other people i can't contact! i keep trying to do my astronomy homework and it is so, so so futile.
by rabi on 9/11/2001 01:18:03 PM | bang on

I keep seeing that plane career smoothly toward the South Tower of the WTC, a parabola terminating in the orange bloom of conflagration. It's a nightmare.
by Raza Syed on 9/11/2001 12:22:51 PM | bang on

I was awoken this morning at 7:30 by my brother, who opened wit: "The US. is under attack."

The first thing I could articulate after watching the WTC footage is "God help whoever did this, because people are going to die." No matter how many suspected locations they find to carpet bomb, will the average American ever feel wholly safe again?
by andrew wollman on 9/11/2001 10:14:31 AM | bang on

my.  god.  they're evacuating most of houston's downtown buildings, but that's about it.
by alison headley on 9/11/2001 10:09:42 AM | bang on

If this were a movie(and it feels like one), I'd pan it for being unrealistic. Unbelievably surreal.

Both towers of the WTC are gone.

I just took a train in there about a month ago. No words.

Is everyone ok? Anything strange going on where you guys are?

Most of the internet seems to be locked up. I'd be willing to bet phone communication is

This society we have fashioned is so complex, fragile, and so easy to disrupt. Perhaps this is a wakeup call that we need to be more cautious. If it's not already too late.
by Jared Dunn on 9/11/2001 09:32:37 AM | bang on

Every time I say now what, another building explodes. Thank God we're in the able hands of our president, who will surely know how to respond to these terrorist attacks without provoking further action. Fuck. We're going to get drafted.
by Rob MacGregor on 9/11/2001 09:20:59 AM | bang on

Holy shit.

So now what?
by Jared Dunn on 9/11/2001 09:02:39 AM | bang on

Yes indeed. The enjoyable thing about the first Mission Impossible was that it respected my intelligence to an uncommon Hollyood degree. It was complex enough that it asked for a close viewing, and if you did pay close attention, the payoff was pretty swell for an action movie. The audience had to watch both for subtleties in plot, and subtleties in the interaction between characters. Ditto for The Matrix, and plenty of other movies and plays that aren't crappy.

Terribly obvious plot devices bother me too. It takes good writing to make them work.... If person 1 asks person 2 where they're headed, that suggests something about person 1 that had better be congruous with what I already know about her.

Often, I think, such devices are obvious AND successful. Shakespeare practically invented and certainly mastered this sort of thing. The first scene of Hamlet is a good example: its famous first line, "Who's there" sets the tone, suggests a setting, and provides a way for Barnardo and Francisco to name themselves. Then Horatio shows up so that the guards have an excuse to tell the audience what's been going down with papa-Hamlet the ghost. Obvious, but certainly successful, because each character's individual motivations are sound.

An even more irksome movie trick: heavy-handed moments included in films so that the director or producer can play with some new toys. Case in point: the motorcycle chase sequence at the end of Mission Impossible two, which John Woo had choreographed long before he found a movie to use it for. So suddendly two thugs on sleek jap bikes appear and chase Tom-boy around the hilly grass of the lair-island. Then one thug pulls a ridiculous arial stunt, loses his bike right next to Tom-boy, and the chase begins. A grassy, rocky island is a stupid place to try and use a motorcycle to capture a person on foot.

Fritos... Mmmm.
Captain Gangbang lives.

Man. Mothers and dads everywhere would surely approve of their childern buying "Captain Gangbang" toys and comic books. The Captain is indeed a positive role model.
by Ryan Gantz on 9/10/2001 10:30:18 AM | bang on

I'm with Andrew. I think expository dialog is occasionally a necessary evil -- particularly on procedural television serials like Law & Order. In movies, I'm disinclined to stomach it, however. There's almost always a subtle, elegant and/or gonzo way to integrate exposition without using a cudgel. Having said that, a lot of moviegoers are dummies -- as are critics, occasionally. Case in point: everyone who said the the first Mission: Impossible movie made no sense. On the contrary: you just had to pay close attention to everything. (Side note: the second Mission: Impossible movie was a piece of shit.)
by Raza Syed on 9/10/2001 05:12:12 AM | bang on

I'd imagine it has a lot more to do with the excision of a prior scene that explained to where said duo was headed. Or the avoidance of wasting an entire scene laying out where they are headed.

by andrew wollman on 9/10/2001 02:32:42 AM | bang on

Well if you had told me that our combined forces could make a Captain Gangbang, I'd have brought Fritos to every meeting.
by Rob MacGregor on 9/10/2001 01:30:07 AM | bang on

you know what sucks as a narrative device in movies and/or television? this:

(scene opens on two people about to go somewhere or do something, usually in a car)
person 1: tell me again where we're going?
person 2: (proceeds to explain where they are going and/or why they are doing whatever it is they are doing)

okay. is person 1 stupid? why must they always have everything repeated to them? do they usually lack knowledge of where it is person 2 is dragging them at any given time? is the audience stupid? is the writer stupid enough to think we won't notice that it's not that person 1 is stupid and/or needs things repeated, it's that person 1 is serving as a cheap expository pawn? there's not much that irks me more than obvious plot devices. it's like watching a puppet show and being able to see the strings.

that is all.

by alison headley on 9/9/2001 10:45:49 PM | bang on