April 10, 2006
I came back for my own purposes, said the Time Traveler, looking around my booklined study. I chose you to talk to because it was . . . convenient. And I dont want you to do a goddamned thing. Theres nothing you can do. But relax . . . were not going to be talking about personal things. Such as, say, the year, day, and hour of your death. I dont even know that sort of trivial information, although I could look it up quickly enough. You can release that white-knuckled grip you have on the edge of your desk.
I tried to relax. What do you want to talk about? I said.
The Century War, said the Time Traveler.
I blinked and tried to remember some history. You mean the Hundred Year War? Fifteenth Century? Fourteenth? Sometime around there. Between . . . France and England? Henry V? Kenneth Branagh? Or was it . . .
I mean the Century War with Islam, interrupted the Time Traveler. Your future. Everyones. He was no longer smiling. Without asking, or offering to pour me any, he stood, refilled his Scotch glass, and sat again. He said, It was important to me to come back to this time early on in the struggle. Even if only to remind myself of how unspeakably blind you all were.
You mean the War on Terrorism, I said.
I mean the Long War with Islam, he said. The Century War. And its not over yet where I come from. Not close to being over.
You cant have a war with Islam, I said. You cant go to war against a religion. Radical Islam, maybe. Jihadism. Some extremists. But not a . . . the . . . religion itself. The vast majority of Muslims in the world are peaceloving people who wish us no harm. I mean . . . I mean . . . the very word Islam means Peace.
So you kept telling yourselves, said the Time Traveler. His voice was very low but there was a strange and almost frightening edge to it. But the peace in Islam means Submission. Youll find that out soon enough
Lets imagine, said the Time Traveler, that on December eighth, Nineteen forty-one, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt spoke before a joint session of Congress and asked them to declare war on aviation.
Thats absurd, I said.
Is it? asked the Time Traveler. The American battleships, cruisers, harbor installations, Army barracks, and airfields at Pearl Harbor and elsewhere in Hawaii were all struck by Japanese aircraft. Imagine if the next day Roosevelt had declared war on aviation . . . threatening to wipe it out wherever we found it. Committing all the resources of the United States of America to defeating aviation, so help us God.
Thats just stupid, I said. If Id ever been afraid of this Time Traveler, I wasnt now. He was obviously a mental defective.The planes, the Japanese planes, I said, were just a method of attack . . . a means . . . it wasnt aviation that attacked us at Pearl Harbor, but the Empire of Japan. We declared war on Japan and a few days later its ally, Germany, lived up to its treaty with the Japanese and declared war on us. If wed declared war on aviation, on goddamned airplanes rather than the empire and ideology that launched them, wed never have . . .
I stopped. What had he called it? Category Error. Making the problem unsolvable through your inability or fear of defining it correctly.
The Time Traveler was smiling at me from the shadows. It was a small, thin, cold smile holding no humor in it, I was sure -- but still a smile of sorts. It seemed more sad than gloating as my sudden silence stretched on.
Go there. Now.
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