Belmont Club

Distant shore

distantshore.jpgIt’s been seven years since the night my wife woke me to say that two airplanes had flown into the World Trade Center towers. And now I know that even though the flames reached to the skies, for those who waited no sign would come. For what condemns the Sword is ordinary time; and what confounds the Writ is ordinary grief.  The Call has no answer to a child’s empty shoe. The darkness fell but the sun came up. At the dawning of the day.


Juan Cole believes  that “our war is over”, that it is time “to come home, and train and fund locals to do the clean-up work.”

the original al-Qaeda is defeated … Al-Qaeda as a historical, concrete movement centered on Usama Bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, with the mujahideen who fought in Afghanistan in the 1980s at their core. Al-Qaeda, the 55th Brigade of the Army of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan under the Taliban. That al-Qaeda. The 5,000 fighters and operatives or whatever number they amounted to. That original al-Qaeda has been defeated.

But the war of ideas is only half-ended and the physical danger will never be quite over. The enduring lesson of September 11 is that to be home is not necessarily to be safe. As to defeat, it is easy enough to understand how physical strength could prevail against Al-Qaeda. Still more remarkable is that the idea of al-Qaeda has been badly damaged; a harder achievement to understand given the sympathy with which they have been treated by their objective allies, but it still survives in smiling places.  Camus warned that the plague bacillus never dies but lies dormant under bright lights, bookcases and corners until it comes forth again, when least expected, to trouble some happy city. All that remains of those who died that day is us. We are all they are now. It’s only over if we forget.