DUMMERSTON, Vt. — In last Thursday’s Philadelphia Daily News, conservative columnist Stu Bykofsky gave voice to the thought that many supporters of the so-called global war on terror are thinking right now.
Bykofsky's piece, entitled "To save America, we need another 9/11," was a lament for "how splintered we are politically — thanks mainly to our ineptitude in Iraq — that we've forgotten who the enemy is."
While he admitted that wishing for another 9/11 is "sick," Bykofsky wrote that he misses "the community of outrage and resolve" that existed after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"America's fabric is pulling apart like a cheap sweater," he wrote. "What would pull us back together? Another 9/11 attack. The Golden Gate Bridge. Mount Rushmore. Chicago's Wrigley Field. The Philadelphia subway system. The U.S. is a target-rich environment for al-Qaida. Is there any doubt they are planning to hit us again? If it is to be, then let it be. It will take another attack on the homeland to quell the chattering of chipmunks and to restore America's righteous rage and singular purpose to prevail."
Needless to say, Bykofsky's column was a big hit with the right-wing media last week. The Drudge Report put his piece front and center on its Web site. Conservative radio talk show hosts praised his piece and competed for interviews with Bykofsky. And Fox News gushed all over him, featuring his column in a segment on the "Fox and Friends" morning show and interviewing him on "The Big Story with John Gibson" in the afternoon.
What Bykofsky probably didn't expect was how many people would disagree with him. In a follow up column that appeared this week, he said he received more than 2,000 e-mails and about 100 voice mails within 12 hours of the conservative media blitz his original column generated. About two-thirds of those who contacted him told him he was full of crap.
One would hope that most people do not want to see thousands of Americans die in another 9/11. And even Bykofsky was forced to backtrack and write this week that "I was speculating on the effect of an attack, not calling for it."
However, Bykofsky did have one good point in his original column — the war on terror fell apart when it became a war on Iraq. At the same time, Bykofsky doesn't bother to say in either piece that the Bush administration never wanted to bring Osama bin Laden and the rest of the al-Qaida leadership to justice.
As has been extensively documented over the past few years, the 9/11 attacks were used as justification to invade the country that had absolutely no role whatsoever in those attacks — Iraq.
If the Bush administration treated the 9/11 attacks for what they were — a crime, rather than an act of war — and committed the nation's resources to tracking and apprehending the masterminds of the crime, President Bush would be a hero right now.
But the decision was made to use 9/11 to not only invade Iraq, but ram through all sorts of measures that made mincemeat of our Constitution. From the Patriot Act to Guantanamo Bay to illegal spying on Americans to the suspension of habeas corpus, 9/11 has become the justification for some of the worst infringements on our civil liberties in our nation's history.
Now, with support for President Bush at an all-time low and a quagmire in Iraq that has created all sorts of new enemies for this nation, you can see why some would want to see another attack on America. Dissent would be silenced, the nation would be unified and the Bush administration would be free to finish the job of creating the police state that started the day after 9/11.
Let's hope all this remains just a conservative pipe dream. But the authoritarian impulse that many conservatives possess is strong, and their wish for a strong man to rule the nation is always present. It's up to the rest of us to thwart that impulse.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 25 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.