The Words of the Carlson Family

Challenging Times

Paul Carlson
February 2002

As I began writing this article as America was hurting. It started as an essay I emailed to friends on the evening of September 11th, and expanded through give-and-take into a full length article.

Thousands of ordinary citizens died in the heart of our largest city, and it happened on live TV. Spontaneous expressions of grief were seen worldwide.

My deepest condolences to anyone who lost loved ones and associates in the terrorist attacks, or in the military responses. America will never lack for heroes.

Terrorism comes in bunches, but as this article goes to press (with the Super Bowl behind us), law enforcement has done an amazing job of stopping further attacks. Let’s hope this success continues.


The events of 9-11 united America in a way not seen since World War Two. Our diverse religious and political leaders showed an inspiring, unified front.

Americans expressed a variety of opinions. As the shock wore off, reactions poured in. Flags appeared everywhere, but were not always welcome. Some folks wanted to invite terrorist leaders to (what amounts to) picnics and group hugs. Other urged the extreme of "kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out," even mentioning nuclear weapons.

Fortunately our leaders have demonstrated political wisdom, and military expertise, in handling this tricky situation. Showing the true strength of a free people, Americans rolled up their sleeves.


As much as its adherents would like to deny it, the early Islamic faith was spread almost entirely at the point of a sword. (As was early Judaism, but not Buddhism or Christianity.) Even so, the militants did not always dominate. Over the centuries Muslims adapted to changing conditions, and force gave way to harmony.

Can the militants be overcome again? There is historical precedent. In the twelfth century the Order of the Assassins, who were based in the Middle East, inspired terrible fear. Rumors of a stealthy visit once caused a panic in far-away Paris. Eventually they were defeated.

In recent years, America’s Pearl Harbor veterans have been joined at their annual reunions by surviving Japanese pilots. After sixty years of peace, real friendships have developed.

Is it too much to imagine that, sixty years hence, former Taliban members will join in memorial gatherings at Ground Zero? Afghanistan’s new Pres. Karzai is seeking to modernize his country, and that may be the first glimmer of such a bright future.


As a writer I have a certain perspective on these events. The World Trade Center attack was not unexpected. Tom Clancy’s thriller Debt of Honor, published in 1994, has a scene in which a hijacked 747 destroys the US Capitol building. Below is an exchange (edited for brevity) I had with Clancy in 1996, when he spoke online:

<< Host: Sushi, go ahead.

Sushi: You write about the future. What about when reality overlaps your story line?

Tom Clancy: Sushi, that means I did it right. >>

Dale Brown’s novel Storming Heaven, also published in 1994, has a similar premise. In that story the targets included San Francisco International Airport. In his Author’s Note, Brown states: "I hope it all remains a fantasy."

Another thriller, though rather comic-bookish, almost exactly foretells the World Trade Center incident. It’s titled Empyre, by Will Murray.

Was it a case of life imitating art? My writer’s group was already discussing the possibility of "writers causing bad things to happen." As usual, we had divergent opinions. Copycat crimes are sometimes prompted by news coverage. Over a longer time period, petty criminals will imitate crimes (kidnapping, embezzlement, etc.) they saw in a movie.

Several of my friends thought that writers ought not describe terrible crimes (fictional or historic), because that could upset people, and even provoke a sicko or two to try them out. Others disagreed, saying that criminals are evil, and will do their thing without prompting from any novelist.

In my opinion, these two positions were a revealing microcosm of the ‘liberal’ and ‘conservative’ worldviews.

Our general conclusion was that realistic depictions of misfortune can make society conscious of them, and thus, able to face them squarely. The TV show All In The Family, and the novel and film To Kill a Mockingbird were mentioned.

Clancy leaves out most of the steps needed to actually pull off such an operation. The 9-11 attacks were long and skillfully planned, and carried out by four ultra-fanatics who’d learned how to pilot a specific type of jet.


Clancy and Brown may well have been Cassandras, but many people did listen to them. Clancy even lectured at the CIA. I’d say that’s what he "did right" with his novel.

Back then, officials at all levels made serious preparations. Hence the smooth and rapid disaster response in New York and Washington, nationally, and even worldwide. Grounding every airliner may have prevented a fifth hijacking attempt.

Building codes will be strengthened. Scientists are discussing ways of making skyscrapers virtually fireproof.

Bill Gertz has become an authority on terrorism. Years ago he named the main supporters of terrorism, even while most reporters kept silent, declining to ruffle certain long-favored feathers.

Experts such as Colonel Geoff Metcalf are finally getting a serious hearing. (See Our military and intelligence communities are gaining new, and much needed, strength.

The British ruled the Middle East for decades, understood that culture, and were not afraid to take stern measures. The United States made a careful study of Afghanistan, and even its most rugged mountains and isolated caves failed to shelter the Al-Qaida terrorists.

For the first time in history, even as bombs dropped, so did food packets for starving civilians. (These were developed and tested in Livermore, near my home.)


America’s leftists blame the United States for the attack, claiming that government and corporate policies caused the terrorist’s resentment. Supposedly, if we dropped the sanctions on Iraq, and didn’t support Israel, terrorists would be leave us alone. Publications such as Mother Jones ran hand-wringing essays, filled with awkward reminders not to be "too harsh" on patriotic, well-meaning Americans.

If one reads the terrorist’s own statements, they blame America for supporting all of the (so called) moderate regimes over there, including Saudi Arabia. They condemn us for repelling Iraq, and for spreading our democratic and tolerant way of life across the globe. There is also a fierce yet unspoken element of raw jealousy.

The real fanatics hate us for simply existing, and they’re trying to obtain a whole laundry list of nasty weapons. They’d kill every American they could, and drape our surviving women in a burqa.

Bizarre side note: while in flight school, at least two of the suicide pilots liked to hang out in strip joints. To say the least, that took their plan to ‘fit in’ to unnecessary extremes!

No one respects personal rights, and dislikes governments meddling, more than I do. Even so, terrorists cannot be allowed to operate in secret. These days, our lawmen can go from being Barney Fife beat cops to Orwellian enforcers literally with the flip of a (hi-tech) switch. The ‘heart’ and ‘intentions’ of these guardians are what really matters.

This would be a good time for American Muslims to take decisive action, tone down the complaints, and help root out the extremists that have been hiding in their midst. They can also encourage freedom and democracy among their fellow Muslims worldwide.


These are challenging times. Unificationists, along with people of vision and faith everywhere, long for a better world. We’ve worked very hard to build the Kingdom, with wonderful results on many levels. No one thinks it’s an easy road. Certain unsavory remnants of the past aren’t going to just fade away.

We’re in a good position to expand our ecumenical contacts and programs. We can work against blind prejudice, and help Americans understand the noble heart of Islam. As has often been said, Osama bin Laden is no more a Muslim than Timothy McVeigh was a Christian.

Let us continue our prayers and support for this good nation and its people. I hope that every last one of those terrorists is captured, and that the younger generations learn about peace.

As Rev. Moon and Billy Graham both stated, let’s pray that from this terrible misfortune springs a great new spiritual revival.

 Download entire page and pages related to it in ZIP format
Table of Contents
Copyright Information
Tparents Home