Longform

The Wake-Up Call

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"That's wrong. That is what has taken us to this debacle."

Ironically, he notes, the general lack of language proficiency in America today is hurting the nation's ability to detect and understand those who wish to do it harm.

"How many of our [intelligence] analysts know French, speak Farsi, can read a newspaper in Arabic and catch the meaning? How many know how these people think? Have knowledge of their religion and beliefs? We are not prepared.

"You see all the people from the Russian Mafia that come here [to South Florida]," he adds. "They become millionaires in two months selling dope, and they talk perfect English. I haven't met one American that is fluent in Russian. We want the world to integrate to us, but at the same time we have to integrate to the rest of the world.

"We cannot keep on being complacent, drop a few bombs, and go home. What you are creating is hate and more hate and more hate against us."


Despite the noose growing ever tighter around Osama bin Laden, most of those interviewed are pessimistic about the near future. They expect an attack, particularly in the likely event of bin Laden's death.

"Bin Laden dead or bin Laden alive, it is coming," contends José Lopez. "The problem right now is that we don't know how many sleepers this guy has all over the world and what are his instructions to all these fanatics: “The day I am gone this is what you have to do.'"

Former ATF chief Robert Creighton points out that nobody knows the whereabouts of the thousands of activists who went through the Al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and other nations. He and others warn against complacency.

"The U.S. has a very short memory," notes Raul Diaz. "I'm no exception. That first alert we had worried the shit out of me. This latest one, not so much. We get back into the routine and we forget."

"I think this country is not awake yet," argues José Lopez. "I think it is going to take -- God help us, I think it is going to take another incident. People are not going to wake up [after September 11]. [They will get the message] when they have to sleep three days without air conditioning. When they have to stand in a big line in front of Publix to buy groceries. When they don't have hot water to take a shower in the morning. Then they are going to start getting the message, because everything has been so good in this country, and we have had everything.

"With the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, they paralyzed the American economy for one week and put an airplane in what we call las entrañas del monstro -- inside the monster's belly," he goes on. "You have to see that not as a terrorist act but as a message: “Hey, gringos, we can get you.' Forget about the [2936] people that were killed in the Twin Towers. Forget about all the people that died at the Pentagon. Look at the message. Look at the statement.

"I won't doubt that these people can get atomic bombs. They are willing to die. What's next? I don't know, the wake-up call.

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Jacob Bernstein
Contact: Jacob Bernstein