The TV networks are starting to go back to normal programming. Only the news channels are still broadcasting non-stop "attack on America" reports. Miraculously, survivors are still being found in the rubble even when adjoining buildings are still in danger of collapse. The FAA has issued new rules for flying and opened airports for operations again. The hijackers have all been identified and arrests are underway for those accomplices which can be located. But America has not yet gone back to business as usual.
What business as usual may mean remains to be seen. The stock markets will remain closed until Monday due to infrastructure problems at the NYSE and continuing cleanup and rescue operations. Just this afternoon the capital building was evacuated do to a bomb scare. Vice President Chenny was relocated to Camp David for unspecified reasons. New York airports were closed again in late afternoon by the FBI for unspecified reasons. Four men reportedly dressed as pilots were detained at a New York airport when they tried to board a flight. The magnitude of the disaster has caused extreme over reaction in all areas of security. While this is going to be a nuisance for those affected it will undoubtedly provide a safer environment. It will also provide a fertile ground for pranksters and bomb hoaxes.
Travel as we know it has ceased. Amtrack is booked solid for the next ten days. There are almost no rental cars available in any major city. The new rules for air travel will make us feel like we are traveling in Israel due to the security cautions. No curbside check in, only passengers can go past security. Some airports have prohibited parking at the airport. Stringent ID checks will be required at every checkpoint. Armed sky marshalls will be on most planes. Check in before boarding is now estimated to take 2.5-3 hours. Carry on luggage will be subject to increased searches. Sounds like a travelers nightmare.
Is it any wonder that airline reservations are being cancelled in record numbers? Hotel reservations are evaporating at tourist locations like Florida, California, Vegas, Atlantic City. The American citizen is going to stay home for the foreseeable future. The government has issued warnings for all Americans traveling abroad urging them to curtail outings and keep a very low profile. Can you say cancel European vacations?
The news media keeps referring to the spurt in building as the buildings destroyed in New York are rebuilt. If they are going to rebuild the WTC will they put a target on the side for the next attack? After all this was the second time terrorists had use the symbol of world capitalism as an attack point. There is a rising amount of commentary that the skyscraper may be dying. Do you think Morgan Stanley will want to put 50 floors of operations in another 100 story building any time soon? Anyone who thinks that this will never happen again is severely mistaken. We are an open society and the strongest power in the world. This also makes us the primary target for anyone wanting to make a name for themselves in the future. Do you think Saddam Hussein would pass on a chance to take out the Sears Tower if it was offered to him? How about the TransAmerica tower in San Francisco? One only has to compare the deaths and damage done to the Pentagon compared to the damage to the towers. 120 killed and only the impact area destroyed. Business as usual in the other sections of the building.
Skyscrapers may be an endangered monument to modern building techniques. Taking this attack to the next level, like the Tom Clancy novel, it would be easy for Osama Bin Laden to lease or buy a 747 somewhere in Asia and load it with explosives. That flying bomb could come right through the air traffic control system on a regular flight plan and until it deviated to its target nobody would be any wiser.
To combat this in the future and it is only a matter of time until it is attempted, corporations are likely to go back to the distributed campus concept in an effort to protect their business and employees. Being in a very highly concentrated population center is not as meaningful with today's Internet communications as it was when things went by courier and mail. We are far less interested in the hassles of working downtown than we are with safety concerns after the Oklahoma bombing.
Consider that there are over 150,000 financial/market related workers in the square mile around the NYSE. Am I the only one that sees this as another bullseye? Most people do not want to acknowledge the risk but Osama bin Laden has been trying to buy/steal nuclear weapons for at least four years. Several newspapers from that part of the world have claimed that he was successful in getting some from Chechnya for $30 million and two tons of opium. He is reportedly attempting to convert to them suitcase weapons for obvious reasons. The FBI and the US government has offered a $5,000,000 reward for him since 1999. http://www.fbi.gov/mostwant/topten/fugitives/laden.htm
It is only a matter of time before some terrorist faction explodes a nuke in a major city. Any guess on which city would make the most likely target after all the TV press and market shutdowns?
I am glad to see the markets remain closed until Monday. The rescue needs to continue without the complication of massive traffic and the influx of those traders. We will be doing a special strategy session for next week in the weekend newsletter.
The coalition against terrorism is growing and the building blocks are being put into place for a massive retaliation. India has offered its airfields for staging. The United Nations invoked article five and opened all NATO airfields to unrestricted operations for coalition efforts. Several OPEC nations including Saudi Arabia have offered their airfields as well. The U.S. needs to build this coalition to prevent the idea that it is the U.S. against Islam. The terrorists will try and spin this in that direction to garner support. Regardless of the numbers of countries in the coalition the terrorists are not stupid, we will still be the eventual target for future attacks. It is stupid to think that there will not be future attacks. There is no way to wipe out these factions. Osama Bin Laden announced that he had no involvement in the WTC attack but he was glad it happened and then promptly dropped out of sight. The Justice Dept said there could have been as many as 50 people involved in the WTC attack in addition to the 18 hijackers. This was not a one man show or a random event. The Laden terrorist group called Al-Qaeda has huge amounts of money and thousands of members in dozens of countries. There is no way the coalition can find and destroy all the elements of this group, ever! Al-Qaeda is only one of many groups that have as there sole goal terrorist attacks on the U.S. and Israel. Every successful attack encourages an even bigger effort for the next attack. If Al-Qaeda can be so successful then others will try to match them or exceed them. Not a pretty picture. The groups have now had several days to spread out, go even deeper underground and make it harder for the coalition to find them. Retaliation will not happen overnight.
Let me preface this paragraph with this fact, I am a republican. I believe in the things George Bush stands for. However, I am very disappointed in his performance so far. Enough of the calm "we will find the people responsible and bring them to justice, (pause)" rhetoric. Enough with the eight words and pause for effect when speaking! Where is your emotion? Is he so paralyzed with doubt and indecision that he doesn't know which way to jump? While these are my impressions on the surface I know that in reality he is biding his time until the plan is in place. Intelligence is being gathered, satellites are quietly taking pictures and monitoring the dispersal from the terrorists strongholds. Governments are being threatened with compliance or attack. Countries that will not give coalition troops free rein for ground strikes against terrorist locations will be faced with being put on the "harboring" list and themselves being targeted. Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya and other countries not immediately being targeted are watching closely.
Mr. Bush, maybe this is selfish on my part, but it is time to stand up and be counted. The terrorists may have wanted to teach us a lesson by such a massive attack. Unfortunately the lesson may backfire on them. As the strongest power on the planet we endure the many stings and barbs of lower level attacks, kidnappings, harassment and embarrassments by turning the other cheek. We do not want to appear as a bully to the world. We are a diverse culture and we spend billions on things like football games, CDs, trinkets and toys of all kinds. It is hard to capture our attention on any one thing. We are wealthy, spoiled and fundamentally decent. The terrorists of the world think this makes us weak. We are not weak. We are the strongest power on earth when provoked to wrath. We are currently in pain from the bloody nose we received this week. We are fully awake! Only a few times in history has anyone managed to provoke the American psyche to the extent we were this week. The Japanese did in 1941 with Pearl Harbor and paid the price. The American people rose up in mass and mounted the biggest war effort known to man and Japan paid dearly.
The pain and shock is clearing and the American public is wide awake. Retailers have sold out of American flags in only two days. Public mourning is rapidly turning into public outrage and our elected officials had better pay rapt attention. The president has a blank check. The coalition is gaining speed and the eventual outcome is not in doubt. Bush may be following the "speak softly and carry a big stick" plan but he needs to ramp up his words to the point where countries harboring terrorists begin to worry about their position. The American people are awake and they are beginning to focus. Mr. Bush, don't let this opportunity pass to rally Americans to greater unity and purpose. Don't let those 4700 people die in vain. The country is uniting for a common cause and you need to be our leader, even our cheerleader but not our counselor. We will defend our freedom to the death and this is a message the world needs to understand. They are looking at us and will measure us by our response. If a 98 pound weakling can give us a bloody nose and then run and hide with impunity then others will be tempted to taunt the sleeping lion as well. Send a message to the world that we are mad as hell and we are not going to take it anymore. Follow it up with real action against Bin Laden and make the wannabe terrorists reconsider their chosen profession. Maybe, just maybe, we can create another decade of peace and prosperity before the next generation of dissidents will need to be taught the lesson again. Osama Bin Laden has finally stepped over the line and it is time to make an example of him. The American people will settle for nothing less!