Sam North takes a step back and considers the
consequences of the New York tragedy
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
THE BOSTON GLOBE 12th September
''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. Ill
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.
THE DEATH OF WORLD TOURISM?
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 wont 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 worlds largest tower in Malaysia was evacuated on Sept 12th following
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
isnt 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 70s?
Ill 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 cant 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
hasnt 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 wont
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 cant 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
Americas 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.
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 ".
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
24 Soi Chidlom, Bangkok, Thailand 10330. T: (66-2) 2551480, 2537590. Fax:
GLOBAL ECONOMIC REACTION:
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.
IMPACT ON U.S. TRAVEL:
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.
TRADE SHOW, BUSINESS TRAVEL:
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? Lets 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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