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Friday, September 11, 2009

Eight years After 9/11 - In the Eye of a Hurricane

Eight years ago today I spent the entire day at the Fox 26 studios -- as a terrorism analyst. I had been their Middle East expert during the first Gulf War of 1990-91.

The question now is: are we safer than we were before? Or just less naïve?
Why was I a “terrorism analyst”? Why could I see things that paid bureaucrats and politicians did not? Because I had been an international attorney with a Fortune 500 company who got laid off and wrote a fiction book on a flash war in the Middle East and an attack on the U.S. - when fiction turned to fact I found myself on TV, trying to analyze what had happened. Others had seen the signs; there was even the August memo to President Bush during his August vacation stating “an attack by Al Qaida is imminent.” Yet we were surprised. Eight years later have we learned anything?

Ironically, today I will be back at Fox 26 but not as a terrorism analyst - but as the founder of a company that is providing security technology that protects not just from human explosions, but also from mother nature's explosion of fury in the form of hurricanes and tornadoes. I’m going to break a window on live TV – but our technology will avoid a breach of it.

I have to say that it is more rewarding doing something about security than just talking about it. So I have no desire to go back on TV as a terrorism analyst.
We certainly are more aware and less naive than in the days before 9/11 but are we safer? Prisoner torture was a big recruiter for Osama bin laden - as was the perception that this was a war against all Muslims instead of just the Bin Laden extremists that gave it a black eye, just like the IRA extremists made the Catholic/Protestant divide a religious killing field in years past. Muslims still remember 1063, when Pope Alexander II gave his blessing to Iberian Christians in their wars against the Muslims (by the 13th century, religious fervor moderated and the public lost interest in crusades.)

Now we are faced with either supporting a corrupt leader in Afghanistan stealing an election (just like the conservative regime in Iran removed choice from its people) or leaving Afghanistan so the Taliban can take it back again. Both choices are unsatisfactory. We need to train Afghans to take our place and get out of there.

Eight years after 9/11 we are still recovering from the worst financial meltdown since the depression of the 30's - and here in Houston from the destruction of Hurricane IKE, which hit at the same time as the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy that started the meltdown.

Religious extremism is still with us and getting worse. BBC TV carried a report last night that the Israeli army, which has always been secular, is now being dominated by rabbi Captains who view war as a religious issue. We could face a time when long bearded rabbis in jets are fighting with long-bearded mullahs in jets. Extremism is even infiltrating the halls of Congress, when for the first time in American history a representative shouts down a President. Civility is on the decline and that is never a good sign.

If that trend continues, none of us are safe. We need a return to the center and away from the extremes on both the left and right. Otherwise, we really aren't out of the storm, but may only be in the eye of the hurricane.

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