It didn't have to end the way that it did, with 3000 dead and a smoking hole in lower Manhattan. We were warned. We had gotten our wake-up call. It was our choice to go back to sleep.
What makes Andrew McCarthy's book a must read for everyone is that he is not a journalist telling someone else's story. He is the lead prosecutor in the case against the perpetrators of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, and this is his first-hand account of that high-profile prosecution and the events leading to it.
After reading Willful Blindness the inescapable conclusion is that all of the societal structures that are supposed to serve us have broken down. The Intelligence Agencies failed to warn us; Law Enforcement failed to protect us; the Press failed to understand the implications and meaning of the events they reported on; the Courts, obsessed with legal abstractions, mis-judged the very real danger we faced; our political leaders were too timid, self-absorbed, and focussed partisan advantage to fulfill their first and most fundamental obligation: to defend the nation above all else. Only the Military, our last line of defense, has succeeded in raising the shield. Yet, even now their efforts to protect us are underminied by those same elements of society that so singularly failed in their past duties.
It is tempting to shrug and say, "Hindsight is always 20/20." A better cliche to adopt as our slogan is Santayana's famous dictum, "Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it." We closed our eyes and chose to forget what happened in 1993, only to see history repeat itself - with a vengeance - in 2001.
The cast of characters today is familiar to us all. Ramsay Yusef, who planned the first bombing and who was thwarted in his plan to simultaneously blow-up 11 airliners over the ocean - but only just. Kalid Sheik Mohammed - the Mastermind of the second bombing and ultimate destruction of the World Trade Center - who escaped civilian prosecution in 1993 but is presently held prisoner at the military base at Guantanamo Bay - to the consternation and frustration of the ACLU. Lynn Stewart, the radical lawyer convicted and disbarred for abusing the privilege accorded legal counsel to unmonitored access to an accused, who used her lawyer's priviledge to transmit operational orders from the "Blind Sheik" Omar Abdel-Rahman to his followers outside the US. Her presence on the streets of this nation today, as a free woman - the result of a Judge's decision not to imprison her for the crime for which she was convicted - is a reminder that the legal system fails us still.
Andrew McCarthy has rendered invaluable service to this country, first as a Justice Department Prosecutor, and now as the voice of warning. Will we listen to him, or will we remain wilfully blind?