The Civic Scene: Trade Center disaster jolts Fresh Meadows

By Bob Harris

Soon after the attack on the World Trade Center, homeowners on my block started to put out flags.

Each day more flags or colored posters of flags appeared on houses. Some flags were 10 feet long, others were very small, but they were everywhere. One sixth grade teacher I know had her class color flags which she sent with a law enforcement officer she knows to lower Manhattan.

After a few days the personal impact of the catastrophe hit home with the appearance of two photos with two votive candles on the steps of a house on the corner of my block I learned that they were friends of the family. The two young women, Emerita DeLaPena and Judith Sierra-Diaz, worked for Fiduciary Trust on the 90th floor of Tower 2.

I am sure some of the reservists who have now been activated live in Fresh Meadows. I wonder if people understand how long and hard it will be to fight a guerrilla war against the terrorist groups which for years have been hijacking our airplanes and ships, killing civilians, killing our servicemen and women at foreign bases, bombing our embassies and now using passenger planes loaded with fuel as flying bombs.

Our government has decided to go after the group which destroyed the World trade Center. However, there are about 30 other groups which use terror and guerrilla warfare to attack us or our allies or other countries. They have training bases throughout the Middle East and South Asia. Catching guerrillas is extremely hard because they often do not have elaborate bases or sophisticated equipment to be bombed. They can move easily. We are blaming the Afghans for supporting the terrorists, yet there is not much to bomb in Afghanistan except a capital city Kabul, which is decayed, some mud hut-training camps which can be easily evacuated, hidden caves and a few military units which are not the suicidal guerrillas. They can’t be bombed into the Stone Age because they already are in the Stone Age.

We must remember that we did not win the Vietnam War. The Vietcong guerrillas first defeated the French then us. Black-clad VC carrying a bag of rice used Russian AK 47 rifles, stolen U.S. equipment, powder from our unexploded bombs and set booby traps which forced us from Vietnam.

Years ago I taught a high school course about Southeast Asia to students who had a free period in their senior year. There were double periods which were ideal for showing movies. I learned a lot.

Think of “Rambo” and the tactics he used in his various movies. Yes, it is a movie but the tactics were logical. “Apocalypse Now” was very graphic. Now just think of it in mountains or deserts. In real life you can lose a lot of men and women in a guerrilla war.

We now do have several Special Forces and Seals and Delta Force units which might be able to use guerrilla tactics against the terrorists if we can obtain the intelligence about where the leaders are. The movies we see always have us winning, but this isn’t always the case. There are a lot of things we have to do if we are to win.

We have to cut off the supply of money used to finance the guerrilla training bases. Most of our oil-rich allies probably pay blackmail money to the terrorists to keep from having their oil installations bombed. Groups probably collect “humanitarian aid money” both here or in other countries which actually finances the guerrillas. We must either destroy the many training bases ourselves or get the host countries to close them. We have to get Muslim religious leaders to denounce suicide missions as against the fundamental teachings of Islam. We have to counter the fundamentalist schools which teach that dying on a suicide mission is good and makes one a martyr.

We have to somehow stop the payments of money to the families of youngsters or adults who die on suicide missions or in battle. We have to understand that the payments for the death of a family member is a source of income for the family. We must understand that our basic rights which make women equal, and not chattel, is opposite to what fundamentalists believe. We must understand that these fundamentalists feel we are evil because of our liberal modern ideas, our prosperity, our religious pluralism, our tolerance of different ideas and our universal suffrage. These fundamentalists believe that we are corrupt, greedy and morally bankrupt — the Great Satan.

We have to understand that many of these suicidal people are very poor. Some see no hope in this life. Perhaps a hundred years ago these militants would have been happy to live their life in their villages and fight the other clans, but they hear about and see on television our prosperity, and are taught that we are evil. We trained many of these Afghan mujahedeen leaders to fight the Russian invaders. They still have some of the stinger missiles which we gave them to shoot down Russian helicopters.

The hatred of these fundamentalists is so great that they are trying to obtain chemical or bacteriological or atomic weapons. We have to be aware of their desires and capabilities. If tons of drugs can get through our borders, then a few dedicated martyrs probably are able to bring in suitcases with these weapons of destruction. Our borders are too porous. We let in too many people who just disappear into our multitudes.

BAD — HORRIFIC — NEWS OF THE WEEK: We had a catastrophe in New York City.

GOOD NEWS OF THE WEEK: We now realize we have a problem facing our nation, and we’re ready to unite to try to solve it.

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