September 11th, 2001

The world has changed.

On September 11th, two hijacked airplanes obliterate the World Trade Center in New York, killing thousands of innocent people, another one hits the Pentagon in Washington, killing hundreds more. A fourth plane crashes in Pennsylvania, killing all aboard, after courageous passengers have attempted to overwhelm the hijackers.

The sheer order of size of the attack is unprecedented in history, as is the number of innocent victims, as is the meticulous preparation. As desperate people in New York and Washington are confronted with huge piles of rubble and mourning about the many lives lost, the culprits (at least the cowards among them) are probably celebrating their victory, laughing at the weakness of security measures at airports, at insufficient stability of buildings, and at the fragility of the human being as such. It is far beyond our imagination what those bastards who steered the airplanes must have been like. They were madmen, fanatic self-declared "holy warriors" who were not only willing to sacrifice themselves for their cause, but must have been planning this for many months or even years. On the other hand, they have not been living in a terrorist training camp but among us, in Hamburg and in Florida, and obviously no one has become suspicious. They were living quite normal lives, but their ideas were devilish. Two of them were students of electrical engineering - sort of my colleagues. I wish there was some special mark to recognize such people, and those who are about to abuse children or shoot around with guns too, to neutralize them before it is too late. But we can't help that the evil is among us. There is nothing such as a preemptive strike against suspects, and something like that would be also against constitutional rights. We can only be careful.

The fact that obviously Muslim extremists are responsible for all this is sad. Not that it would be better in any way if the terrorists belonged to any other group, but Muslims are often regarded as a whole as the enemies of the Free World. This is totally undeserved, and of all the Muslim countries of the world, only a few like Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan are really bad places to live in, even and in particular for the nationals themselves. There should be nothing like blaming a whole ethnic or religious group for what some of their leaders are doing. It is a shame what these leaders have done to their countries and their people, what a decline of civilization they have caused. We have to remember that while Europe was still in the dark Middle Ages, the Islamic World was already wealthy, civilized and tolerant. Certain extremists are doing everything to turn back the clock and bring back the Stone Age. As for the Muslim religion itself, I have been told and I firmly believe that there is nothing intrinsically violent or intolerant about the Islam, at least no more than about Christianity. Allah, provided he exists, certainly would never have approved of what has happened in New York and Washington. It was a man-made apocalypse, conceived in the sick brains of a madman and his willing helpers. I think that Allah lets the kamikaze terrorists burn in hell right now, and I wouldn't be sad at all if the rest of the gang followed them soon.

The surviving culprits of this incredible crime, namely their leader Osama bin Laden and probably several more helpers, will have to pay for it. Although I'm against death penalty, there is only one appropriate punishment: death. And I really don't care much whether he will get a fair trial or not. However, unlike my first reaction just after the attack suggested, I don't think that blind air strikes against whoever is known as an enemy of the USA would be wise. The guilty should be punished, and the attack should not be an excuse to begin a war against anyone else. Please be determined but deliberate, Mr. Bush. Premature actionism would only confirm what possible supporters of the terrorists always claim is "evil" about the US, that other countries are bombed at will in their view. I'm thinking especially of those people cheering in Palestine when they had just heard of the attack. As perverted as it is, their children may be supposed to be the next generation of suicide terrorists. They shouldn't be given the reason and the opportunity. Peace is overdue, although there is no recipe how to achieve it. Another reason against a quick solution of the terrorist problem (which wouldn't be a solution at all) is that an air strike performed by the USA on their own could weaken the already fragile cooperation between America and Russia. The more countries and the more important countries are really working together in the future, the better they will be able to solve global problems. Aside from that, mutual friendship is something important between the governments as well as between single individuals of the countries. The more we get to know each other, the better we will understand each other. It sounds trivial, but it is true.

All this has taken place in America and most victims are US citizens. This is what bin Laden and his evil gang have been aiming for, to hurt the remaining superpower, the country which is, in their sick opinion, responsible for the misery of the Islamic World. The impact of the attack, however, is worldwide. In Germany, where I live, there is no other topic in people's conversations in these days, and there is not a single individual who wouldn't express his deep compassion and anger about what has happened. New York is everywhere. We all feel like we have been attacked too. People go to the US embassy and consulates and hand flowers to policemen, because they may not cross the barriers protecting the buildings in these days. Churches are full of visitors who want to pray for the victims, and just as I'm writing this, the bells of a nearby church are ringing once again for them. Flags are at half-mast. The TV program of the past two days consisted of nothing else but reports on the disaster. Now, on the third day, some stations are trying to get back to normal business again, but shows, comedy and commercial blocks are still largely suspended with respect to what has happened. As bad as the attack was, as good it is to see all the acts of solidarity. America is not alone.

It is now clear that not only America has been attacked on September 11th, not only the NATO or so-called "Free World", but humanity in its entirety was hurt. But as much the whole world is shocked and enraged about it, as much compassion and solidarity can be seen in almost all countries other than the USA too. Politicians express their condolences, and even Yassir Arafat, who once led terrorist attacks himself and is now struggling for his people with more peaceful means is deeply shocked - and I believe he really is. This attack unites the world, or at least the good people all around the world, no matter of which nationality, ethnicity or religion. But the outcome of the crime shouldn't be that we are all united in running around in fear, because this is what bin Laden and his gang want us to - and this is why they are called terrorists after all. We now know that everyone almost everywhere in the world could be the next victim to a terrorist attack, but we certainly wouldn't notice it until it would be too late. Let us be careful, but not paranoid. Let us show them that we -as far as we are living in democratic countries- are still free. Freedom will survive, bin Laden will die. We don't even need to hate him. Hatred would only consume us almost like is has consumed him, and he just isn't worth that much. Once he will receive his punishment (hopefully without killing even more innocent people), we will look at him like a crushed insect - and have you ever hated an insect?

Oh yes, and to bring in some thoughts from Star Trek, I have watched TNG: "The Wounded" just yesterday, when O'Brien told the Cardassian in Ten Forward something like "I don't hate you, but I hate what has become of me." We shouldn't let that happen. I'm also thinking of the paranoid Admiral Leyton, who was sure to do the right thing in DS9: "Homefront" and "Paradise Lost", but actually betrayed the freedom he wanted to protect. So even the almost perfect world of the 24th century is fragile and is not completely flawless, but if we don't overcome behavioral patterns of cavemen, humankind won't even survive the 21st century. Let us fight the evil, but not each other.

The world has changed.

This is a day to remember - but not one that marks the begin of terror's rule over the world, but one that unites all individuals all around the world who despise injustice, racism, terrorism - any form of violence that fanatic and selfish leaders want to impose on us. We, the 99.99% majority of good people on Earth, don't need leaders to tell us what to do and what not to do, what to love and what to hate. Just don't listen. We are better than that. We are stronger. We have a lot in common. Let us reach hands, Americans, Europeans, Russians, Israelis, Palestinians. Let us turn this apparent defeat into a victory.

To all the relatives of the innocent victims of the attack, I express my deep condolences. My best wishes to those who have been injured or who have lost their home, their business, or their job. I admire the determination of the police, the fire department an other helpers who are risking their own lives to find survivors.


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