January 14, 2002
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"We sure showed them," I said smugly to my Martian friend, Yyuran.
"Showed who what?"
"Those terrorists in Afghanistan who blew up the World Trade Center and the Pentagon," I said, pointing to newspaper headlines about the latest bombing successes.
Yyuran frowned in the Martian way, twisting his nose sideways. "I thought the terrorists died when the planes crashed."
"Well, yeah. But now we've taken care of the people who told them to do it."
"The people in Afghanistan told them to do it?"
"Their leaders, the Taliban," I said impatiently. I still have trouble believing he can fly a space ship. "We've bombed the Taliban to smithereens."
"You told me you were after someone called bin Laden, not the Taliban."
"The Taliban was in cahoots with Osama bin Laden," I said, a bit hotly. "They wouldn't turn him over to us when we asked for him."
"I thought you said that they had asked for some proof first."
"President Bush said he was guilty. That should have been enough. A president can't waste his time playing games with petty tyrants like the Taliban."
"So you started bombing."
"Yup. We bombed that place to rubble," I said proudly.
"You killed all the people?"
"Of course not," I said. He could be infuriating. "We killed the bad guys, drove the Taliban from power, and put bin Laden on the run."
"How did you manage to kill only the bad guys with bombs?"
"There was some collateral damage," I said uncomfortably.
"Civilians," I said. "A few civilians were killed accidentally. You can't make an omelette without breaking eggs."
"I've noticed that humans who say that are never talking about their own eggs," Yyuran said. "How many are a few civilians?"
"A few hundred, maybe a few thousand. Nobody knows."
"You don't want to know?"
"It's not important, not as long as we've killed and captured the terrorists."
"Which did you do, kill or capture bin Laden?"
"Neither, he's a slippery devil. But we've destroyed his terrorist network, Al Qaeda."
"All of it? That's good."
"Not all of it. We think that there are branches in 60 countries," I said.
"You bombed Afghanistan because there were Al Qaeda there?'
"Are you now going to bomb the other 59 countries?" He was twisting his nose sideways again.
"No, of course not. What do you think we are, monsters?"
He didn't answer that, which I thought a bit rude, even if it had been a rhetorical question. "But we're probably going to have to bomb some others," I added.
"I don't know," I said impatiently. "President Bush will know which ones."
He was silent for a long time. Then he began that disconcerting gesture of his that shows confusion, whipping his head 180 degrees in each direction. It makes me dizzy.
"Let me see if I understand this."
I nodded encouragingly.
"You didn't know for sure that bin Laden was involved when you started bombing Afghanistan?"
"No. Not then."
"And the people of Afghanistan had nothing to do with the World Trade Center and Pentagon terrorism?"
"No. But their leaders shouldn't have been coddling bin Laden."
"So the leaders weren't involved either, except for 'coddling' bin Laden."
"No, but they were really nasty tyrants," I said.
"The leaders who have replaced them are better?"
"Well, sure they are. Sorta. So OK, they are a pretty nasty bunch of thieves, rapists, drug lords and murderers, but at least they aren't supporting the Al Qaeda terrorists."
"You started a war to capture a criminal who you weren't sure was guilty, bombed a very poor country to 'smithereens', failed to capture the criminal or anyone else involved in the terrorist actions in the U.S., are still bombing the country, and are considering bombing an unknown number of other countries."
"You got it," I said, ignoring the implication of a couple of his snide comments.
"'T'was a famous victory'," he said, quoting some poet. I'm not sure, but I think he was being sarcastic. I'll never understand Martians.
Deck Deckert has spent nearly two decades as copy editor, wire editor and news editor at several metropolitan newspapers, including the Miami Herald and Miami News, before becoming a freelance writer. His articles and stories on everything from alligator farming to UFOs have appeared in numerous U.S. publications. He has written two young adult novels under a pen name, and co-authored a novel about the NATO war on Yugoslavia, Letters from the Fire, with Alma Hromic, who he met in an Internet discussion group. Deckert and Hromic subsequently married and are writing a book about their experience with Internet romance, Cyberdance.
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Essays published in 2001