Altar Call -- Opelika-Auburn News
Walter Albritton
October 14, 2001

Modern technology puts us on the front row seat watching the world at war

We live in a strange new world. Satellites and television give us a front row seat to watch the world at war. We can tune in news of "America Strikes Back" 24 hours a day. All of this raises many questions.

When it comes to watching news of the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, just how much is enough? I find myself quickly bored by the continual descriptions of the bombs, planes, and weapons our forces are using. Who cares about the size of the bombs being dropped? Or the distance our bombers can travel without re-fueling.

The bottom line for most of us I suspect is simply this: have we managed to drop one of those bunker buster bombs on Osama bin Laden yet? Like most Americans I am tired of seeing his smug face on television. I want to make sure I am watching when the news comes, if it ever does, that this evil rascal has gotten what he deserves for masterminding the terrorism that robbed thousands of innocent people of their lives.

The smart guys who have studied the Islamic fanatics tell us that even if we succeed in eliminating bin Laden that ten thousand like him will continue their war of terrorism against Americans. That may be true. Nonetheless it seems reasonable to believe that removing bin Laden will at least severely wound the tap root of world terrorism.

What is not encouraging for the future is the thought that the free world will be engaged in a deadly war with other fanatical terrorists long after the demise of Osama bin Laden. That appears to be a certainty. Which means that for years to come we will have to listen to hour after hour of television interviews with the endless parade of retired secretaries of state and military experts.

I am tired of listening to one retired general after another tell us what our military forces are going to do. If I were running this war, or any other, the media would learn what our military HAD DONE, a day or two after it was finished. It makes no sense at all to let CNN tell the enemy what we PLAN to do. Why not go do it, then talk about it.

This week we were told that our bombers dropped a 5,000 pound bunker buster bomb over there -- to demoralize the Taliban troops by demonstrating the capability of our fire power. A demonstration? Demoralize the Afghan soldiers? Give me a break. Those people are prepared to fight to the last breath! They are ready to die for what they believe. Which means they are not likely to be frightened by one of our "bad" bombs.

The excessive coverage of this new war is beneficial in some ways. It is a lesson in geography. We are learning the names of cities and nations we did not know existed. But little difference that will make if these towns with strange names are blown to hell and back by our bombs. These poor places are not likely to become tourist attractions.

Years ago my wife and I visited Iran. We saw the crown jewels owned by the Shah and the royal family. We also saw the abject poverty of the people who owned no jewels. Last week she asked me if I would like to go back to visit Iran. She was kidding, of course. I laughed and replied, "Yeah, sure, just as soon as I stop looking like an American!"

The sad truth is that there are many places in the world where it is not safe to look like an American tourist. We are hated not for anything we have done personally but simply because we are Americans. Now our war against terrorism will cause even more people in other lands to hate us.

That is a part of the price we must pay as America leads the coalition of nations determined to rid the world of terrorism. Perhaps that makes it all the more important for us as citizens to live by the highest standards of morality and ethical conduct. For what others think about us is not as important as we are. And everyday we have a chance to choose what is honorable rather than what is evil.

Years ago when I went to "the picture show" on Saturdays to watch Roy Rogers and Trigger, I never chose to sit down front. But nowadays I have no choice. To watch television at all is like having a front row seat at a horror movie.

Back then we knew how the movie would end. Roy would catch the bad guys. Now we are not sure how this horror movie will end. So I suppose we will continue to watch more than enough television, keeping our fingers crossed in the hope that once again the bad guys will be brought to justice.