Monday, November 5, 2001
T u e s d a y ,  N o v e m b e r  6,  2 0 0 1
Wednesday, November 7, 2001

European Leaders Increase Support for War on Terrorism

Excerpts from an article iterating recent moves to up the ante on the part of European nations in supporting the war on islamic extremist terrorism:

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European leaders threw their military weight behind the war on terrorism yesterday, pledging thousands of troops and advanced military equipment for the American-led campaign in Afghanistan.

As Tony Blair prepared to travel to Washington today to help chart the course of the war, Chancellor Schröder of Germany asked the Bundestag for the mobilisation of nearly 4,000 servicemen.

France said it had already deployed 2,000 troops. The contributions included elite army units, chemical and biological warfare equipment, non-combat aircraft and ships.

Presidents Chirac and Bush
at the White House, 11/06/01

Britain has committed about 4,500 servicemen to the fight against the Taliban.

President Bush acknowledged the growing European contribution and signalled that other states should do more than pay lip service to the struggle. "It is time for action," he said. "A coalition partner must do more than just express sympathy; a coalition partner must perform. All nations, if they want to fight terror, must do something."

He underlined the high stakes of the battle against terrorism by issuing a warning that Osama bin Laden was trying to obtain weapons of mass destruction.

He said that the al-Qa'eda network posed a mortal threat to civilisation. "They are seeking chemical, biological and nuclear weapons," Mr Bush said in a speech relayed by satellite to 17 eastern European leaders gathered in Warsaw.

"Given the means, our enemies would be a threat to every nation and, eventually, to civilisation itself. We are determined to fight this evil - and fight until we are rid of it. We will not wait for the authors of mass murder to gain the weapons of mass destruction. We act now, because we must lift this dark threat from our age and save generations to come."

... Mr Bush ... raised his rhetoric against bin Laden and the Taliban to a new level, saying that Islamic terrorists posed a threat as serious as the Nazis and the communists who had blighted Europe in the past. "We see the same intolerance of dissent; the same mad, global ambitions; the same brutal determination to control every life and all of life. ...

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US Drops the Weapon That Packs an 'Atomic' Punch

Excerpt from article with details on the US 'daisy cutter' bomb and its use in Afghanistan:

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America has stepped up the pressure on the Taliban using bombs with the same destructive force as a small thermo-nuclear device.

... It is so large that it is normally dropped from a C130 transport aircraft. A 4ft-long detonation rod, which emerges from the 17ft-long bomb after it is dropped, releases a cloud of inflammable ammonium nitrate, aluminium dust and polystyrene slurry.

This is then ignited by a second detonator, scorching the surrounding area, consuming oxygen and creating a shock wave and vacuum pressure that destroys the internal organs of anyone within range. The bomb has the ability to clear a three-mile path through a minefield.

Like the B52 bombers dropping "long sticks" of bombs, commonly described as carpet bombing, the Daisy Cutter was used to great effect against Iraq's Republican Guard during the Gulf war.

(click for 'Daisy Cutter' Flash presentation)

Its use against the Taliban frontlines coincides with an escalation of attacks on the caves and tunnels where Osama bin Laden and his terrorist colleagues are thought to hide.

The increased number of special forces on the ground has provided better intelligence allowing the US aircraft to attack the caves, Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary, said on his way back from a visit to the region.

... The bombing also includes the use of the 5,000lb GBU-28 "Deep Throat" bunker-buster which burrows down through as much as 20ft of rock before exploding inside the cave. Its "smart" fuse can tell the difference between rock, concrete, earth and air. ...

Loading of GBU-28 bunker-buster bombs

Fuel-Air Explosives

Short excerpt and link to a presentation on the way in which fuel-air explosives are used:

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Fuel-air weapons exploit the devastating effects of detonating volatile vapour in air.
The explosion caused by igniting a fuel air mixture produces a fireball and a rapidly-expanding blast wave many times greater than that from conventional explosives.

The effects are similar to those from a small nuclear weapon, without the radiation.

The Americans used fuel-air bombs in Vietnam and dropped more than 200 during the Gulf War. The Russians used them in Afghanistan and in Chechnya.

Fuel-Air Explosives

(click for Fuel-Air Explosives presentation)

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Scientists Trying to Move the Universe Online

Ultraviolet galactic ring as observed
by the Hubble Telescope

Excerpt from article describing an effort to consolidate an ever-expanding array of astronomical information in a manner that makes it widely accessible and easier to deal with:

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A team of scientists are trying to move the Universe online. This ambitious-sounding task has captured the interest of astronomers from 17 research institutions who are working together to make it a virtual reality.

The National Virtual Observatory (NVO), headed by astronomer Alex Szalay of Johns Hopkins University and computer scientist Paul Messina of the California Institute of Technology, will unite astronomical databases of many earthbound and orbital observatories, taking advantage of the latest computer technology and data storage and analysis techniques.

... Advances in technology and technique now annually double the total information astronomers gather each year from observatories, Szalay says.

Messina says, "If we do not develop ways to distill information and insights from these floods of data, we will end up like shipwrecked sailors on a desert island, surrounded by an ocean of salt water and unable to slake our thirst."

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God Bless America? Wrong Song to Unite a Nation

Complete article detailing the flaws inherent in the "God Bless America" approach to patriotism:

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‘God Bless America’ makes nonbelievers
feel excluded.

If you watched the World Series, you might think “God Bless America” had become the national anthem. I admit it’s easier to sing than “The Star-Spangled Banner.” But it begins with the word “God,” and in a land of unprecedented religious diversity that is exclusionary language.

America is digging in for what may be a long war and people are clutching elements of their traditional identities closer, including the Christianity most Americans share. Most, but not all.

A new City University of New York study finds that a record 14 percent of American adults have no religion.

America’s Jewish minority holds steady at about six percent. Meanwhile Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, and other religious groups are rising sharply.

Given that, it’s astonishing that anyone can seriously expect all Americans to unite around “God Bless America.” As the war against terrorism grinds on, America seems poised to shut out the non-religious and members of non-mainstream faiths.

After 40 years of improving the way the nation treats religious outgroups, now is no time to turn back the clock.

What's the most appropriate anthem for Americans to sing?

  1. Star-spangled Banner
  2. God Bless America
  3. America the Beautiful
  4. This Land is Your Land
  5. None of the above

Vote to see results.

[results as of 10:13 PM, CT, 11/6/01]

  • Star-spangled Banner 35%
  • God Bless America 37%
  • America the Beautiful 19%
  • This Land is Your Land 6%
  • None of the above 3%

Survey results tallied every 60 seconds. Live Votes reflect respondents' views and are not scientifically valid surveys.

Living Without Religion

More than 30 million Americans live without religion. We felt no less devastated by the national tragedy than anyone else. If anything, our sense of loss was greater, since we envision no next-worldly existence in which the victims might be made whole for what was torn from them.

Yet what opportunities did we have to join with fellow Americans to express our anguish? After Sept. 11, religious services spilled out of the nation’s houses of worship and onto the steps and rotunda of the Capitol, into municipal sports arenas, public parks, and civic buildings.

Where were the secular memorial or remembrance events that all Americans could share?

A Public Square For All

In time of anguish, Christians, Jews, and Muslims naturally yearn for the solace of their faiths. But when they gather in the public square they should not remember that they are not alone there.

On Sept. 11, Rep. David Bonior (D-Mich.), spoke of “all Americans — Christian, Jewish, and Muslim,” excluding the nonreligious and also millions of minority believers. Sorry, Rep. Bonior, they’re Americans too.

In October, the House of Representatives voted 404-0 to encourage public schools to go on using “God Bless America” in the face of religious diversity concerns. Rep. Henry Brown, (R.-S.C.) who introduced the bill, cited lawmakers’ singing of “God Bless America” on the Capitol steps as precedent. Sorry, Rep. Brown, two wrongs don’t make a right.

No Crusade

Administration officials insist we’re in a war against terrorism, not a crusade of Christians against Muslims. Some Americans seem to think it’s a crusade of Christians against everybody else.

I hope our nation can relearn the lessons of inclusiveness. To say “Christians, Jews, and Muslims” is not to speak of all Americans. To say “people of every faith” still is not enough.

America includes people of every faith, and of none. The vocabulary, the music, and the allusions public officials choose when they address the nation should reflect that diversity.

Nonreligious Americans have money and energy to contribute, blood to donate, and emotional (if never “spiritual”) support to offer.

If you insist on freezing us out of the fight against terrorism, we’ll understand. But next time the call goes out for “all hands on deck,” forgive us if we assume you’re talking to somebody else.

Tom Flynn is editor of Free Inquiry, the quarterly journal of the Council for Secular Humanism.

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