POSTSCRIPT / September 13, 2001 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Bush sets retaliation on terrorist act of war

IT’S NOT ME: We’ve receive some email about Federico C. Pascual, erstwhile boss of the Government Service Insurance System, being ordered by the Commission on Audit to return some P11.4 million he had received upon his separation from the GSIS.

Without commenting on our tocayo‘s problem, we want to announce for the nth time that we are not the same person. We’re just a simple bystander. We used to take lightly this mistaken identity, but with the case building up with attendant publicity, we’re a bit concerned.

We hope our friends in the other newspapers will insert this disclaimer whenever they run news about Ding Pascual of the GSIS.

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ACT OF WAR: The coordinated attacks Tuesday on the political and financial capitals of the US constituted an act of war by whoever plunged those jumbojets into the Pentagon in Washington, DC, and the World Trade Center in New York.

The US has reason to cross international borders for a direct retaliatory attack on whoever planned and perpetrated the attacks. As we say, sorry na lang sa masasagasaan.

One obvious problem is pinpointing the persons and the organizations behind those insane kamikaze-type attacks that killed thousands of innocent civilians and delivered a searing terror message.

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TERRORISTS’ HOST JUST AS LIABLE: US intelligence is under pressure to identify the perpetrators right away — otherwise it would appear inutile. We have this creeping feeling that rather than admit failure, US intelligence would just point at international terrorist Bin Laden.

US President George W. Bush has raised the ante by serving notice that when it retaliates, the US will not distinguish between the terrorists and those who harbor them.

That is the logical stance for the US to take, because this is war. The commander-in-chief President Bush seems emboldened by the bipartisan support of Congress and the open sympathies of the major powers, including Russia.

But we imagine that before attacking an enemy lair in another country, the US would first demand that that country surrender the terrorists it is harboring or see American avengers streaming through the border in hot pursuit.

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SLOW TO REACT: We were disappointed that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo did not immediately declare our solidarity with the US government and the American people. That she was busy packing her bags for her trip to Japan was no excuse.

After all, Filipinos are one of the major ethnic groups in America and when we express concern for the safety of Americans we are also referring to the safety of our own relatives and compatriots in the States.

That ethnic footnote, of course, is a minor point. The real reason why we should align ourselves immediately and unequivocally with the US is that terrorism does not respect geographical or national boundaries.

When anyone anywhere is wounded by terrorists, all of humanity bleeds.

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R.P. ALSO A VICTIM: We should find affinity with the Americans because we are ourselves victims of terrorism. The Abu Sayyaf kidnappings and depredations in the Sulu area are glaring instances of how terrorists have been toying with our military.

For a while, there was a hint that the US might help us locate and annihilate the Abu Sayyaf terrorists after they kidnapped an American together with their other victims. But we’ve not seen such American involvement. Bakit kaya?

If only because we have a common cause against terrorism, we should have been among the first to show our sympathies after the attacks on the Pentagon and the WTC.

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FIRST MAINLAND ATTACK: To Americans, especially those who thought all along that the US was the safest place in this crazy world, the daring attacks were shocking. It was the first time that the mainland was ever attacked in this manner. Mainland USA has never tasted war in the scale of the last two world wars.

Pearl Harbor in 1941 was different, because Hawaii was a distant outpost way out in the Pacific and the targets of the Japanese invasion were mainly military. While Pentagon, the hub of the US defense network, could be classified as a military target, the WTC twin towers in lower Manhattan were not.

Although there is still no official count, we dare say that at least 99 percent of the casualties were innocent civilians, not military combatants. Most of them are workers at the World Trade Center, tourists visiting the tallest buildings in the US, and policemen and firemen who had rushed to the scene after the first tower was hit.

That makes the attack even more despicable.

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PREVIOUS BOMBING: The WTC complex consists of seven buildings and a shopping concourse. Most prominent are the 110-storey twin towers, one rising to 1,362 ft (415 m) and the other to 1,368 ft (417 m). The towers and concourse, designed by Minoru Yamasaki and Emery Roth, were completed in 1973 at a cost of $750 million.

In 1993, terrorists exploded a car-bomb and damaged portions of the complex, killing six people and causing more than $300 million in damages. Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman and nine other militant Muslims (American, Sudanese, Egyptian, and Jordanian citizens) were convicted two years later for the bombing.

The mastermind, Ramzi Yousef, was also convicted in 1998 and sentenced to life plus 240 years in prison.

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EMPIRE AGAIN RULES SKYLINE: With the WTC towers reduced to rubble, the older Empire State building on Fifth Ave. in central Manhattan, is again back as the tallest building in New York. It was designed by the firm of Shreve, Lamb, and Harmon and built in 1930-31.

For many years, Empire State was the tallest building in the world with its102 stories. On a very clear day one can see from its highest observation tower as far as 200 miles (320 km).

It accommodates some 25,000 tenants, one of them former Timesman Libertito Pelayo who publishes Filipino Reporter, the largest FilAm weekly in the eastern seaboard that, incidentally, runs a column of ours called “Manila Mail.”

The WTC towers themselves were eclipsed in 1974 by the taller Sears Tower in Chicago that rises 110 stories to a height of 1,454 ft (443 m); not to mention the 253 ft (77 m) television antenna topping it.

Sears Tower was itself topped in 1997 by the 1,483-ft (452-m) Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The $1.2-billion headquarters of the state-owned petroleum corporation Petronas were designed by Cesar Pelli & Associates.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of September 13, 2001)

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