The “Tribute in Light” memorial is in remembrance of the events of Sept. 11, 2001. This photo was taken from Liberty State Park, N.J., Sept. 11, the five-year anniversary of 9/11. (U.S. Air Force photo/Denise Gould) Public Domain

The Timing Of Terrorism: The Obsessions With Dates

By Christopher C. Harmon

Last month was the black anniversary of September 11, 2001. It has many meanings for us, but was that date, in particular, selected by Al Qaeda? A few suggest there is a link to the last day of the battle in 1683 at the gates of Vienna, a titanic Moslem-Christian struggle for western Europe. Americans might also wonder whether 9/ll—numbers that cry “emergency” to this country—were a clever choice by the terrorists as psychological warfare.

Terrorism is very much about symbols and events—usually political, historical, cultural. Virtually every group has a date, or certain dates, which are sacrosanct. Among the most common: the birth or death date of some hero or martyr; the opening day of an insurrection; the formal founding date of a movement or political party; etc. Some terrorist groups name themselves after an awful date, a tragedy.

But, apparently, the nineteen men sent to their deaths by Khalid Sheik Mohammed were not thinking of a particular date for their attack. We have the meditative letter given to them called “The Last Night” and it was silent on that. Timing seems to have been based on operational needs. It may or may not have been coordinated with the team that murdered celebrated commander Ahmad Shah Masood in Afghanistan two days before airplanes hit American targets. But no Al Qaeda sources confirm special interest in Sept. 11, 1683--and in fact the Battles of Vienna finished the next day, the 12th.

Instead Al ...