Thursday, February 06, 2003

Skinner:

I go underneath the Pentagon every day. Tens of thousands of people do. People who have nothing to do with the military. People who don't have any clearance. People from all over the world. People who are riding the Washington subway, or Metro.

Amazingly, the Metro has a stop directly under the Pentagon. It's where I get on the Metro after catching a ride in from home with strangers every day. It's where I get off the Metro at the end of the day to again catch a ride home with a stranger on the Washington area's unique commuting/hitchhiking system designed to deal effectively with High-Occupancy Vehicle lanes on local highways.

But all this commuting makes me wonder. I gaze shiftily around the brand new Breda railway cars, gleaming in their antiseptic gray-white that hasn't faded into comfortable computer beige yet, and I wonder who is carrying the anthrax today. Or the ricin. Or the smallpox. Or who is carrying the suitcase bomb deep into the heart of the military.

Damn it - this is exactly what al-Qaeda wanted, too. Terrorism works. Even on thinkin' folk. And I grew up with this crap, so you think I would be used to it - the FARC and M-19 guerrillas were blowing up truck-bombs, holding the supreme court hostage, and assassinating presidential candidates by bringing down fully loaded Boeings all the time. We used to change the times and routes we drove to school and work every day, depending on the traffic lights in order to avoid setting patterns that could be used by kidnappers. Going out to a friend's house was an exercise in perimeter security. So getting used to that tension again is difficult - but the best thing is that I know it's livable. Look at the familiar places that have adapted: not Bogota, since that might as well be Mars for most folks, but places like Londonderry, Paris, and Munich. They still live on. And so will we.

I somehow doubt that the public transportation systems in Baghdad stop inside the Republican Guard's headquarters. And certainly not inside the Presidential Palaces. I can hear Blix and Baradei now: "We'd like a transfer, please. Yes, from the aluminum pipe machining plant to the yogurt factory. Thank you. Eleikum-a."

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