- John Cornwell in the

- John Cornwell in the Times of London on the dangers of fundamentalism — which, in my view, is the real enemy here. Quoting:

Since the end of the cold war, religious-inspired terrorism has replaced East-West antagonism to become a principal threat to the future of the planet. The barbarism of the attacks in America on September 11 raised further profound questions about the dark face of religion. When people commit barbarous acts in the name of God, it explodes the view that religion makes for a better world….

One international think tank ó RAND-St Andrews Chronology of International Terrorism ó claims that religious groups accounted for half of the worldís 60 terrorist groups listed in the late 1990s, more than double the proportion at the beginning of the decade. Mainstream religions have grown markedly antagonistic towards western secularism, which has been linked in the religious mind with globalisation and moral relativism. Pope John Paul II has repeatedly blamed secularism for the decline of faith, the breakdown of families and the mass apostasy of the young. His words have been echoed by monks, imams and gurus the world over. There is more than a grain of truth in the charge. But sociologists of religion insist that young people in the West have not so much abandoned religion as relocated their sense of the sacred in caring for the environment, the poor, the homeless. Young people have retained spiritual instincts but have ceased, according to many surveys, to receive religion and moral guidance from top down. Most religious leaders are neither impressed, nor assuaged, by these arguments. Rejected authority lies at the angry heart of fundamentalism, prompting calls for a return to ìbasicsî and tensions with the moderate mainstream.

For a long time — back to my days as a TV critic — I have had a running fit about mainstream religion conceding the pulpit of popular culture, media, and the masses to the nuts of fundamentalism. We do not see mainstream preachers on TV in this country; we see the edge of religion. Mainstream religion sees TV and the masses it represents as beneath them. Big mistake.

When you get to the core of it, this war isn’t just about America defending its way of life, it is about mainstream (read: sane) religion (both clergy and laity, Christian, Jewish, Muslim) defending no less than God against those who would murder in His name, those who would rob people of their rights in His name, those who would stifle religion in His name — those who would give God a bad name. Those in the mainstream who see religion as tolerant and open and forgiving and full of grace and humility have to speak up — or the meek shall lose the earth.

- Observer: The cat-and-rat game of chasing bin Laden: “It was to this wrecked compound that the American cruise missile came for him, tipped off to his presence, missing bin Laden by a matter of hours…. ‘He arrived at night, it was after eight, he came in a big convoy of jeeps with 120 bodyguards. When he came into our camp he was completely surrounded by a wall of very tall men. They were so close together you could not see him at all – they were arranged so they could fire in three different directions.’ ”

- Andrew Sullivan on turkey…. on Thanksgiving amidst war: “In this, you have a truly American combination: the deployment of extraordinary effort to achieve an ordinary existence. This is perhaps the singular achievement of this particular civilisation. And it is never better expressed than in the quiet possibility of a ritual family meal in a sleepy suburb, with Old Glory fluttering with promise and menace in the garden outside.”

- Next: Somalia, Yemen, Sudan, say the Times of London and the Guardian.

- Because of anthrax, I’m getting my mail late and thus I didn’t get my Economist and couldn’t read the story on anthrax that Little Green Footballs found there about abandoned apparent efforts to build an anthrax bomb, quoting:

What appeared to be a Russian rocket had been disassembled, and a canister labelled ìheliumî had been left on the worktop. On the floor were multiple copies of documents about anthrax downloaded from the Internet, and details about the American army’s vaccination plans for its troops. The number of copies suggests that seminars were also taking place there.

One of the downloaded documents featured a small picture of the former American defence secretary, William Cohen, holding a five-pound bag of sugar. It noted that he was doing this ìto show the amount of the biological weapon anthrax that could destroy half the population of Washington, DC.î

On the floor was a small bag of white powder, which this correspondent decided not to inspect. It may have contained nothing more deadly than icing sugar, but that could be useful for experiments in how to scatter powder containing anthrax spores from a great height over a city, or to show students how to do this. The living room contained two boxes of gas masks and filters.

On a desk was a cassette box labelled ìJihadî, with the name of Osama bin Laden hand-written along the spine. Most chilling of all, however, were the mass of calculations and drawings in felt pen that filled up a white board of the sort used in classrooms. There were several designs for a long thin balloon, something like a weather balloon, with lines and arrows indicating a suggested height of 10km (33,000 feet). There was also a sketch of a jet fighter flying towards the balloon alongside the words: ìYour days are limited! Bang.î This, like the documents, was written in English.

Since UTN was run by one of Pakistan’s top scientists, a man with close links to the Taliban and, it is said, close ideological affinities with Mr bin Laden, the circumstantial evidence points to only one conclusion. Whoever fled this house when the Taliban fell was working on a plan to build a helium-powered balloon bomb carrying anthrax. Whether it was detonated with a timer or shot down by a fighter, the result would have been the same: the showering of deadly airborne anthrax spores over an area as wide as half of New York city or Washington, DC.

- The strains of anthrax in New York, Washington, and now Connecticut are the same. Add that to the item above. Ever more diabolical.

- So Slobodan Milosevic is officially indicted for genocide. Now imagine the same scene with bin Laden in the defendant’s chair. Hard to picture, eh? He’d be spouting his faux ideology; he would attract dangerous nuts; the U.S. would insist on trying him solo; the U.S. would then have to figure out how to carry out his sure sentence. All quite inconvenient. No wonder Rumself just wants him dead.

- Buy Nothing Day seems downright unpatriotic now. It was merely stupid before. And the official site is borderline tasteless, tying together the monumental tragedy of Sept. 11 with their quasi crusade aimed at telling us how (not) to spend our own damned money: “A strange and wonderful thing has happened since September 11th – the anti-consumerism and peace movements have started to come together. Buy Nothing Day 2001 could be our first opportunity to go global and make some much-needed noise.” That’s what I call exploitation. But being (liberal?) blowhards, these people love an argument, even on their site, so I’m enjoying the negative comments there:

I don’t normally bother corresponding with terrorist sympathisers, but here we go. I have never seen such a pathetic, cowardly and witless bunch as you lot. Wave a flower at Osama, I’m sure he’ll stop (or perhaps it’s the people risking their lives overseas who’ll stop him, I’m not sure). Feel deeply ashamed.

Steve B, Norfolk UK

This has got to be the silliest idea of the new millenium. Capitalism is the ultimate freedom. Without the buying and selling of goods, there would be advances in civilization. Without economic activity, there would be no jobs. Without jobs, there would be no money for education – illiteracy would dominate. Without education, there would be no advances in medicine nad therefore disease would be rampant and life expectancy would continually drop. Gee, sounds like current conditions in Afghanistan, doesn’t it. Maybe after the US finishes liberating the Afghan people, the Afghans can receive the greatest freedom of them all – capitalism.

jnc, thornwood

The BND is a silly idea, particularly in light of the events of September 11. Within the past two months, thousands of Americans have lost their lives at the hands of terrorists. The American economy has stagnated. The president of the United States requests that America purchase more goods and services to boost the economy. To suggest that this is a bad idea is normative, value laden judgement that defies logic- no matter how cold that logic might be. Perhaps it would be helpful if some of the Liberal writers here had more knowledge of how a sustainable economy works. Yes, president Bush wants you to buy. No, this is not a bad thing. At best, in such a context, BND is in poor taste. A quarter pounder with cheese please.

Derek Meester, Ottawa

As for me, we’re spending less this year on fellow grownups not because of any idiot ideology but because we’re just depressed and don’t feel like malling. But we’re determined, as most Americans are, to give our kids a great Christmas. I feel a little guilty but what I buy is by choice, my freedom, after all. I will always remember the day I first came out of East Berlin — parched in the summer sun, having had nothing but warm, flat commie cola — and the happiest site I could imagine was a Coke sign. It’s not liberalism to tell me what I should not buy — or watch or say or read; it’s just fundamentalism of another flavor. This is what we are fighting against.