Civilisation Under Siege (SOLO, Sept 11, 2001)

Peter Cresswell's picture
Submitted by Peter Cresswell on Sun, 2006-09-10 10:14

If you can make it there, you'll make it anywhere, It's up to you, New York, New York!

This was a declaration of war—but a declaration by whom, and against what?

2,500 people were killed in the surprise attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941. Today, in mainland USA, many many more have been killed in appalling scenes as America was left defenceless. Airline security was exposed. The Pentagon was breached. The glory of the New York skyline was rent asunder; the twin towers of the World Trade Centre—shining spires of capitalism and twin symbols for man's achievement—are no more. With their destruction, that skyline now stands like a mouthful of broken teeth, and many of capitalism's best and brightest—who moments before had been going about their daily business—have been destroyed, their lives snuffed out in those formerly gleaming spires.

Manhattan and Washington were in chaos. The whole world was in shock. Almost the whole world—for this disaster was no accident. It was the result of careful and calculated cunning on the part of someone.

But whoever committed this outrage, and whatever they claim to stand for, it is clear enough what they are against: As former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said soon after the disaster, this was an attack against civilisation itself.

The New York skyline represents one of man's highest achievements—the World Trade Center towers represented that skyline's financial district—the very engine of capitalism—those working in downtown New York are capitalism's best. Today, instead of buying, selling and investing, the world's best and brightest were burnt alive, crushed, or were jumping to their deaths.

What caused this was an act of piracy by everything that slithers against everything that stands—or stood—erect; by the very lowest, against the very highest that civilisation has to offer. And, as in the days of piracy on the high seas, this modern savagery must be stamped out by a fierce uncompromising commitment to the protection and sanctity of innocent human lives.

Civilisation has today been attacked by savages armed only with carpet knives, and it must learn how to defend itself against such an enemy. It has not yet armed itself with the weapons to do so—either philosophically, or militarily. Unfortunately, it must.

The point is often made that the best defence against terrorism is a steely resolve, and an excellent intelligence service. In the last few decades both have been absent, but the lack of steely resolve is the hardest to remedy for such resolve will only come from an uncompromising commitment to the very values that uphold civilisation, and to an unswerving defence of those values—and commitment on the level required necessitates the philosophical weapons to understand and defend and those values.

For what makes someone hijack a jumbo jet and then fly it suicidally into a 110 storey skyscraper above teeming city streets if not their commitment to horrific ideas? What makes them want to kill on this scale? And to kill themselves in the process? Only the power of ideas can fuel such evil—evil ideas. Evil ideas can only be fought with better ones, which means you must have better ideas with which to defend yourself. In the long term, only the philosophy of Objectivism can provide the necessary philosophical weapons.

But America isn't armed. America has lost its way. America is not sure of itself or of its founding values, and instead it thrashes around on the world stage, posturing as the world's policeman and becoming instead a world pariah. In part, much world anger against America comes about through righteous disgust at such unprincipled American actions as the bombing of Belgrade, or of Kosovo, or of Sudanese pharmaceutical factories.

But that said, it is clear that much disgust with America springs also from anti-capitalist, mystic, barbaric, stone-age savagery, and it is crucial that whatever action is taken distinguishes itself by being an uncompromisingly principled action against all such forms of barbarism.

That action must be both internal and external, and there are supreme dangers with both. For nothing is surer than that this barbarism was an attack on civilisation itself, and civilisation must needs survive the barbarism. ...

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Peter Cresswell's picture

Thanks for your comments. I wrote this five years ago to help collect my own thoughts while watching those horrific scenes in lower Manhattan unfolding on the TV screen in front of me. If I was to write it today, I'm not sure that I'd change a single word.

The only thing I might add is that if I was writing the same piece five years after Pearl Harbor, the dragon would have already been slain...

Cheers, Peter Cresswell

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The question

Chris Cathcart's picture

What makes them want to kill on this scale? And to kill themselves in the process?

The "want to kill themselves" part says all you ever needed to now about the whole of the nature of what we are up against. It's the very same thing that drives the suicide bombers in Israel. It's the clearest division possible showing who is on the side of good, and who on the side of evil.

Japan had its kamikazes. Japan was pacified. Does the U.S. have the balls that it had then?


LWHALL's picture

I enjoyed your article, but I would make one correction- a small but pertinent point-Pearl Harbor was attacked on Dec 7, 1941.



Lanza Morio's picture

Peter, this is exceptional. If only our leadership had this kind of clarity. This American thanks you for writing it.

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