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Sam North takes a step back and considers the consequences of the New York tragedy
12/13th September

How does one begin to digest the greatest most devastating attack on the United States since Pearl Harbour? Millions of words will be written and the images of the World Trade Centre in flames being struck by fully fueled passenger jets will haunt our memories, just as the day Kennedy died haunted our parents, or the moment the Shuttle exploded in mid-flight.

Now we know that 5000 people have died, with perhaps more not yet accounted for. Not just Americans, but possibly 300 British and hundreds of many other nationalities, including it should be noted, many muslims.The pain is shared across the globe. Some have said that we should remember that 78,000 died in Hiroshima. Others recall that probably a hundred thousand died in Chechnya when the Russians dismantled and terrorised that country two years ago. There are still many alive who recall the bombing of Dresden. What is remarkable about the dreadful events of September 11th is that it has happened on American soil and without warning. Some say this is an act of war. But it is never about comparisons.

America was at war with Germany in 1942-5 and the devastation of Europe and Japan was a byproduct of that war. You expect huge losses in a war. But in an unprovoked attack of this magnitude in peacetime, at the very core of the defence and financial heart of America it is surely calculated to do damage to the global economy, defeat capitalism if you will. More than this blast, the deaths and the shock to the American psyche, it is the timing that is so astute, with the US economy on the midst of a recession. Right now Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani is talking the right language: urging New Yorkers to ''get out, don't feel locked in. Go to stores, go to restaurants ... get on with our lives,''

Manhattan in distress
''I guarantee you that no building in the country will do business the same way tomorrow that they did business yesterday,'' said FleetCenter president Richard Krezwick,

Boston College psychology professor Joe Tecce. ''Right now people are in shock, like they were after the JFK assassination,'' Tecce said. "That will give way to anger, guilt, and finger pointing. But the permanent changes will probably come at the higher policy levels. I don't think those of us in the trenches can afford to stress too much about this.''

Authorities in Massachusetts have identified five Arab men as suspects in Tuesday's attack on New York City and have seized a rental car containing Arabic-language flight training manuals at Logan International Airport, a source told the Boston Herald newspaper. Two of the men were brothers whose passports were traced to the United Arab Emirates, the unidentified source told the Herald. One of the men was a trained pilot, the paper reported on its Web site Wednesday.

It is easy to have this knee jerk reaction that Arabs did this terrible act, that Bin Laden is the man responsible for coordinating it, but America was wrong with Oklahoma and could be wrong again. This took organisation, extraordinary will and self-sacrifice, fanatical devotion and above all money. I’ll let others contemplate all this, but in the end, no one should be surprised to discover that Americans, perhaps naturalised Americans, but Americans nevertheless aided and abetted these terrorists. This could be a bigger shock and will have more impact than the explosions themselves if the truth is ever known. Nevertheless the finding of the car with flight manuals in arabic is a sign that indeed the source of this terror is Bin Laden. What will this mean for the future of Afghanistan? Already the Taliban and assorted rebel leaders there have relocated in anticipation of an attack. CNN News reports on the 13th now state that up to 50 people were involved in organising this attack and arrests continue as far away as Germany.

And what will happen to American arabs now? The American Japanese will recall especially those survivors of the forced internment of 1941-45 on American and Canadian soil. Could the same thing happen to another racial group? Where would human rights and justice for all be then? How do you expose the invisible terror in peoples’ hearts. How do we know who is friend or foe? The terrorists did more than blow up buildings and kill innocent people (of all nationalities). They have sown the seeds of a new McCarthyism and that may not be pretty.

For the people of New York however this is their sorrow, their problem and we share their grief. For them and us it is a reminder that in the end peace is worth protecting. Our way of life, practising and striving towards equality and opportunity for all, tolerance for anothers opinion and religion, is a better way of life than the extreme intolerance and hatred of fundementalist regions. In the end, I suspect, somewhere down the road we shall have to fight for it.

A Disney spokeswoman said Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland in southern California had been closed. Disney's water parks, shopping areas and affiliated sites near the parks, too, have been shut down.

(This was the intial reaction of Disney, they since reopened the parks later in the day)

One huge casualty of this barbarous act will be air travel and leisure travel in general.
If Americans choose not to fly, then millions of trips to Europe and elsewhere will be canceled, hotel rooms unbooked, airports empty, tourist destinations deserted, and that is just the visible sign. What then happens to options on aircraft ordered? What happens to a world economy that depends on tourism for its economic survival? It won’t all stop, that would be stupid, we need our breaks, but Americans may choose to vacation within the Canada-America borders where they feel safer. Europeans and Japanese may think twice about weekend trips to LA or New York or vacations in Disneyworld.

Airlines, hotels, tourist destinations, restaurants, credit businesses, insurers, employ millions to service the millons each year who use them. If they get laid off, then a downward spiral begins.
‘We have nothing to fear except fear itself’, Roosevelt said long ago, about a collapse in the financial markets. Well we have everything to fear about an unseen enemy who can strike with impunity at some world famed icons in the USA. London has already cleared the airspace over the city.

The worlds largest tower in Malaysia was evacuated on Sept 12th following bomb threats.
There is nothing new about terrorism. I have already lived through one volatile period when the IRA was blowing up everything in London and all the restaurants were sandbagged. (Today - the 12th- a bomb has exploded in Northern Ireland injuring soldiers to emphasise that that conflict isn’t over by a long way). The PLO were blowing up airplanes and killing people on a regular basis in the '70s and Yasser Arafat was Mr Evil himself, rather than ‘Mr Shocked, how terrible someone could do this to New York’. What happened to tourism in the ‘70’s? I’ll give you an example. I once flew with TWA from London to LA as the ONLY passenger. (It was a great flight) TWA eventually went bust.

When was the last time you flew on an empty jet.? Then it happened a lot. People were scared, security was tight and the tourism industry suffered. Twenty-five years on, the tourism industry in one hundred times bigger, the jets are larger, the consequences of a global death of leisure travel would be catastrophic to the world economy.

"This may be what throws us into recession," said Maureen Allyn, chief economist with Zurich Scudder Investments. Source CNNfinance.

Think it can’t happen? Figures out for the UK in 2001 show that there has been a ten percent fall in inbound tourists to London and the UK in general because of Foot and Mouth disease. Add terrorism to the ongoing disease problem and the fact that Japan now has CJD which they are blaming on UK meat imported up until 1996, you can see that one country in particular, the UK has got a major problem, one that hasn’t fully registered on the radar yet.

People will still travel to the USA. We cannot believe that this crazed act could happen again. They have made their point. This was an attack, not war. War is continuous.
But already this morning I have spoken with family and friends on either side of the Atlantic,all have canceled travel plans to or from the USA. That is eleven people I know times their partners. Twenty-two seats and hotel rooms and eleven hire cars, meals and purchases that won’t be eaten or made...

The death of world tourism is coming. Todays rise in the stock market notwithstanding. This year we have seen ETA murder people, blow up cars by airports in Spain. In Greece bombs exploding now are a warning that the next Olympics will be fraught to say the least and many Americans, fully aware of how lax Greek security is at the best of times, will not book a flight. We are entering a phase where it is apparently acceptable to kill innocent people for political gain. It is easy to lay the blame at the foot of Israel for electing a right-wing war monger, but how do you blame the Spanish people who have been incredibly accommodating to the Basques, yet still can’t please them. Which part of any religion explains the inhumanity of the Taliban against their own people?
It is good to remember that terrorists hide behind nationalistic ambitions and flags, but in reality do this for personal power. The fall-out from America’s day of grief will be great. It will be felt in the world economic downturn. What may have been mild, may now turn out to be deeply damaging and who knows from misery what new evils and discontentment will be spawned.

Something Positive
To completely negate all of the above, the alternative scenario is that with the increased spending on rebuilding lower Manhattan and the Pentagon and beefing up America's security in EVERY walk of life, you could see a year from now an economic boom in the USA, as the impact of the Federal and company security spending spins out across the economy. As SLATE magazine's Scott Shuger says today: "... in believing that in seeking to harm America, terrorists will probably end up in making it more prosperous. They can make us die, and they can make us weep, but they can't make us poor ".

How is the rest of the world responding to this event?
These reactions from the on-line newswire in Bangkok 12th September
Newswire, the region's only no-holds-barred travel industry information service
24 Soi Chidlom, Bangkok, Thailand 10330. T: (66-2) 2551480, 2537590. Fax: 2544316.

Oil prices are up which is going to clearly lead to higher air-fares and currency swings. Insurance companies are talking of paying out damages in the millions, not to mention legal claims.
Islamic websites are reporting hate-mail and phone calls coming in. If the United States strikes at Muslims, it is likely that Muslims in Islamic-dominated countries will hit back at Americans / Europeans living in those countries. Many Americans / Europeans live quite peacefully in several Islamic countries. As American power mobilises to defend those people, too, we have the makings of a full-fledged world war!
This will now become a permanent fixture, meaning long delays at check-in counters, immigration and baggage inspection. Visas will almost certainly be reintroduced in many countries, with applications by Muslims being especially closely scrutinised, almost certainly landing up with intelligence agencies. Over the last few years, much effort has gone into improving technology specifically in order to move the travelling throngs more quickly through security checkpoints without compromising safety. Israeli-style checks at every few points are going to irritate millions of innocent people, leading to the inevitable question: Why bother to travel at all? Hopefully, then, people will better understand the humiliating checks Palestinians face daily under the illegal Israeli occupation and the years of desperation and frustration they, too, have had to suffer.
This could be severe, which could in turn impact on business world-wide. Travel to Islamic and Middle East countries will probably fall off immediately, especially by Americans, I suspect people will avoid staying at US brand-name hotel chains, or using US airlines. After all, why take the risk? This could affect expansion of these chains in many parts of the world. While publicising a US brand-name may once have been a ticket to fame and fortune, a lot more caution is likely to set in. Investment will dry up by US travel companies as they weigh very carefully where and how they expand. On the other hand, I wouldn't rule out product boycotts by anti-American groups, which will further affect investment.
Expect major cutbacks in business travel as well as travel for conventions, conference and exhibitions. Video-conferencing could become a good substitute for internal meetings. The European trade show season is about to start with Top-Resa in France, BIT in Milan and World Travel Market in London. Attendance at these will depend entirely on what happens in the next few days or weeks. Participation by American delegations in international conferences is bound to require additional security.
The high season for outbound travel from the northern hemisphere countries was approaching as winter neared. No doubt cancellations have come in thick and fast around the world. I suspect Americans and Japanese, those most security-conscious of travellers, will be the first to start staying home until the situation stabilises, if at all. The evacuation of US and other friendly country citizens from any country will be the first sign of a strike to come. Visitor arrivals to non-Islamic countries (like Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar in Southeast Asia) may still survive. In turn, upper-income citizens of Gulf and other Islamic countries will try and avoid any places where they will feel unwelcome or victims of irrational Islamophobic prejudice and stick more to Islamic countries like Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan or Malaysia and Indonesia, among others.

Gloomy, exaggerated? Let’s hope so. To this analysis you can add the impact on all kinds of industries. The book trade jamboree in Frankfurt next month, the Christmas travel trade, the impact on bank and retail jobs and the negative implications that will follow from that will mean economic pain for all. But no one is fooled, modern life is dangerous and running away from it will solve nothing. Is there anything that can make us feel safe or secure? Aiming for a more equitable world might be a start. Taking time to reflect on why this happened might help and doing something to bring calm to the situation will help. Will cool heads prevail? The signs are not good. Quotes today that 'You are either with American or against it' may fan the flames. Time will tell. Meanwhile, as America grieves, we share their shock and bewilderment and pray that reflection not anger will rule over the next few months.

© Sam North 2001

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