This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, November 21, 2001.
Good news, of a sort. It now turns out that the New York fatality rate of September 11 is much, much lower than could have been reasonably expected, although only the authorities know and this could be casualty manipulation, a phenomenon of war. Duplicate name removal from the master list has now dropped the potential body count to about thirty-nine hundred, and further efforts might drop it below three thousand. If so, it is no longer the single worst day in our history, although there is a lot to be said for a close second. Antietam and Gettysburg provided more bloody afternoons than Osama. I was initially convinced that there could have been as many as twenty-five thousand or more dead, and I regret my hysteria.
The New York Times updated the casualty lists so it seems accurate. Yet the Times is also saying that George Bush won the Florida election last year, even though the evidence they quote does not share their conclusion. Still, nowhere near as horrid as I thought. Only three to four thousand biodegrading bodies in the air of lower Manhattan. Testament to the effective work of public safety officials on that memorable day. It is something for which to be thankful this year, that we were not visiting the World Trade Center observation deck that morning, that we did not have to make a hurried decision to jump, or fry and ride her down.
It has been a treat for us cynics to watch the Taliban be replaced by the slightly less horrid but more corrupt people of the Northern alliance. Women may or may not be allowed to go without burqua and surely will not get to vote if these tin pot thugs have their way, but it is a start if the UN is allowed in, which they currently are not. I hope the United States changes that by drawing the attention of these valley gangs of opium sellers to the possibility that bombs cheered as they fell on Taliban redoubts could, you know, fall elsewhere as well. I am not one of those who suggest violence never solves anything. It solved Hitler, Napoleon, and the Confederacy, among much else. It cannot save Afghanistan from itself. It cannot create a civilization where none exists. But once the United Nations is there in Kabul, with military force behind it and the Hague court behind that, Afghan children today conceivably could die elderly with only vague memories and stories of the wars that made the Khyber Pass and Hindu Khush famous. Let us be grateful on their behalf for that possibility.
Something else for which to be grateful. Public and official opinion is now focused on one of Osama Bin Laden's points: the government of Saudi Arabia, although traditionally poised on knee pads before the U. S. military, is now recognized as about as venal as it gets and probably won't survive much longer. The Saud family is corrupt and feeble, too rich, too large, and with not enough brains or vision to imagine what money might do beyond making Arabia a sort of Koran Land amusement park and paying protection to their enemies. We need their oil, but sentiment and reality now dictate we don't need those Nancy boys to get it; there could be a nation with democratic elections there, not the jokes now posing as such. America ought to pay more for gas and oil, but with the sure knowledge it's going to those who should own it, which greatly reduces animosity to us. Don't ignore bin Laden when he's correct.
I don't buy the contention that we should not force democracy on the world. It will destroy some cultures. Good. I don't think all cultures are equal, or even that most are worthy of respect. If we don't think all adults have the inalienable right to vote for their government, we have abandoned that which made us. Besides, religious Fundamentalism - Muslim, Jewish, Christian, or Animist - is negated when you give women the vote because fundamentalism is based securely on misogyny and sexual fear. Nations that fear the suffrage are intrinsically evil, even if they sit on vast resources and have wonderfully danceable music and moving religious moments and great art. Shadows fall across heart-felt tributes to cultural diversity if clitorectomy, slavery, and institutional patriarchy are mandated, allowed, tolerated in the culture of your affection.
You have much for which to be grateful. Available time for regret is one. Use it. This is Dark Cloud.