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History will record September 11, 2001 as a turning point in the struggle of democracies against fanatical terrorism. President Roosevelt said December 7, 1941 was "a day of infamy" that would go down in the annals of history - but the sudden attack on Pearl Harbor was merely the start of America joining World War II, and thus the beginning of the slow end for the forces of evil.

No doubt America, as leader of the free world will similarly shake off yesterday's dreadful assault and declare war on its enemies and fight them to the finish. Osama Bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, or whoever it was that orchestrated the most grandiose mass terrorist attack in history has not learned the lesson that brought gloom to the face of Admiral Yamamoto who oversaw the Pearl Harbor attack.

At the moment of apparent victory, Yamamoto stood out as the mourner in the midst of celebrations. He was quick to realize that the wounds to the American "tiger" would cause it to leap from its lair and never rest until it had finished off its prey. Yamamoto did not survive to see the atom bomb being dropped on Hiroshima or Nagasaki - he was killed when his plane was deliberately shot down over the Pacific.

The latest failure of the American defense establishment, 60 years after Pearl Harbor, will no doubt lead to painful and thorough soul searching. The $30 billion invested every year in the most sophisticated intelligence technology - satellites, planes, computers, photography, monitoring, decoding - has not yielded the hoped-for returns.

A hostile regime, or a hostile organization helped by a state infrastructure, planned, collected operational data, and succeeded in carrying out a simultaneous attack on the focal points of American power and prestige.

Every separate element in the plan - from the hijacking of the planes to crashing them one after the other into the Twin Towers, and from there to attacking the Pentagon and other targets in Washington - all is in itself a glaring failure a the defense system that failed to reveal and foil it.

When a terrorist campaign like this catches the U.S. off guard and powerless, without the slightest clue of what is about to happen, without any capability to take action to foil the plot (which succeeded at the moment the pilots' cockpits were overrun - no one would dare order the shooting down of a plane filled with passengers) then it is a most grave failure indeed.

On the Potomac and the Hudson, the rivers of Washington and New York, the foundations of power and the skyline changed shape before the eyes of the world. The human landscape will also change when the commissions of inquiry get working because many heads will roll - all the well-known heads of the FBI, the FAA and the CIA.

On the first anniversary of the Six Day War, Sirhan Bishara Sirhan assassinated Senator Robert Kennedy, a contender for the Democratic Party's nomination as president, and thus altered the course of the election. Since that time, Middle Eastern terrorism - the obvious suspect this time - has not been so involved in the vortex of American political life. The attack on New York and Washington, the readiness to kill thousands of civilians and to defy the very symbols of the American system, have put the common enemies of Israel and the U.S. - their Moslem or Arab enemies - on the firing-line.

Beneath the proper facade of urging one's fellow man to show restraint and cut off the circle of violence, lies a wounded American animal - made cruel by pain and feelings of vengeance - which will know how to use all its power to punish its attackers and to destroy them.

This is a repeat of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in the summer of 1990 when Saddam was mistaken in his reading of the father of the present president. It is thus also another opportunity for Israel, if it is wise enough to participate in an alliance that is both combative and peace-seeking, to be seen as a member of the Club of The Good vs. the Club of Evil that includes Yasser Arafat and the fanatical terror groups, Hamas and Hezbollah, with a nuclear-arming Iran backing them.

A new countdown began yesterday, a kind of third world war against terror.