OPINION

Editorial

A report in the International Herald Tribune (IHT) and a detail from the painful catalog of loss in the United States illuminate in the most eloquent fashion the uncontrolled international dimensions of terrorist action and the extent of the danger for citizens in every peace-loving state in the world. The data from the American tragedy reveal that in terms of ethnic origin, the victims came from 62 different countries. This ethnic mix is, of course, connected with the nature of New York as an international metropolis and the special character of the Twin Towers as the headquarters of prestigious companies that attract the best staff from all countries. But one need only think of the global outreach of American companies and the large number of foreigners they employ to realize that this international dimension is a hallmark of nearly all American activities. In the case of an Islamic holy war aimed at destroying any American installation, it is evident that no country and no people will be exempt from the danger of falling victim to terrorist attacks. If this parameter indicates the geographical extent of the terrorist threat, the IHT report referred to above reminds us of the unforeseen forms it might take. The attack on the USA was spectacular, but it is not possible to rule out that some extremists might prefer a method that would be both easier for them and deadlier for their victims, such as the dispersal of the microbes and bacteria of lethal diseases. This could be effected simply by dumping microorganisms from a small aircraft which would not even pause in its flight. One need only recall the release of sarin gas in the Tokyo underground railway in 1995 to realize that terrorists’ criminal inspiration knows no bounds, and that the American newspaper’s comment is far from exaggerated. The civilized world has been shown to be facing a threat which may prove more widespread and harder to deal with than we suppose, particularly if developments lure into fanaticism many guileless people who are tricked by the liberationist sermons of the criminal purveyors of terror. The challenge for the West is twofold, therefore, as its response must involve, on the one hand, the intensification of security mechanisms and the punishment of the culprits, and on the other, policy and cultural action that will strip the terrorists of any popular support, revealing not only their irrationality but also that anyone could become their victim.