Feb 26, 2007

Remembering the first WTC attack

It happened 14 years ago today.
Those who use indiscriminate violence against civilians are often seen as both mad and evil. Yet Ramzi Yousef was rational and saw his actions as morally justified. He cited America’s killing of Iraqi and Libyan civilians in retaliation for the actions of their governments as justification for targeting U.S. citizens for “collective punishment.” In a letter claiming responsibility for the bombing, his group asserted that their “action was done in response for the American political, economical, and military support to Israel, the state of terrorism, and to the rest of the dictator countries in the region.”

The decision of the Clinton administration to treat the bombings as a criminal matter was later questioned. “After the World Trade Center was first attacked in 1993, some of the guilty were indicted and tried and convicted, and sent to prison,” President George W. Bush said in 2004. “But the matter was not settled. . . . After the chaos and carnage of September the Eleventh, it is not enough to serve our enemies with legal papers. The terrorists and their supporters declared war on the United States, and war is what they got.”

The new administration’s approach was to counteract terrorism largely by attacking alleged state sponsors militarily. The subsequent high cost and mixed results of that policy have led some to question whether a greater emphasis on intelligence and “law enforcement,” as applied in the 1993 case, might be a wiser course after all. It is safe to say that a final answer has not yet been arrived at.

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