“Bring us the head of Osama bin Laden. $250 million reward. No questions asked. Just leave it on the steps and pick up that attache case with the bearer bonds.” You won't hear Georgie Bush say that, but what do you want to bet that a bunch of those Wall Street tycoons who lost their people and their offices aren't discussing it? It's called a targeted response, and maybe is a more efficacious method than the standard “Let's nuke the bastards” cry.

And what if bin Laden didn't do it? So what. He did plenty. His fingerprints are all over The Cole, and the Kenyan and Tanzanian Embassy jobs, not even to mention the first bombing of the WTC in 1993.

So what should the US government do? Send in troops? If so, in where? Fire off cruise missiles? At whom? And besides, it's not cost effective. A price on a terrorist's head might be better. Sooner or later, it's likely somebody close to him would want to collect the bounty. In this case, maybe even the Taliban themselves. The USA spent the Soviet Union into submission twenty years ago. There's lots of money available to target international terrorism, so why not go for the head of the dragon? Responsible diplomacy isn't cutting it; maybe money will.

Does that sound cynical? Damned right. Things have changed and changed circumstances demand different measures, maybe radical measures.

The American world took on a darker hue yesterday. Maybe we'll have to learn something about the reality of our enemies. No more can we be the land of the free and the home of the lax. We'll have to join the rest of the world in checking airline passengers, in making more than symbolic gestures at security, or even in finding out who our neighbours are. I'll mourn that loss of freedom, just as I quietly mourn those who were massacred, for everything I remember about freedom in the United States must now come into question. I've never carried an identity card in my life, but it's likely my children will have to. I've always moved freely from place to place, without the necessity to check in with the police or other authorities, but perhaps my children will need to register themselves with someone. I've always cherished a way of life that promoted individual freedom, but maybe today's circumstances require more fealty to the hive, and a bit less to one's own ego. Lord save us from paranoia, but maybe we've got to sacrifice some anonymity in the service of reassuring one another.

I'm proud of New York, the little I've seen from TV. The lack of looting, the free expenditure of energy and money and organisation in aid of the victims, the queues of people lined up to give blood. Like London in the blitz, adversity can bring out the best in people. I've little doubt they'll build those towers back, probably even higher.

And maybe - and here I must ask forgiveness for getting political - just maybe this horror will put an early end to the fatuous notion of building an anti-missile system, the project so close to the hearts of the corporate heads who manipulate George Bush like a glove puppet. The real threat has been more than amply demonstrated. It wasn't a missile from North Korea that we should have been thinking about preparing for, it was this, or the ship loaded with explosives sailed into New York harbour, or the doses of anthrax smuggled into the country to be released simultaneously in a dozen cities. It's time to wake up and look at how the twisted bastards think, increase security on the ground, and target them as individuals, but with money, not bombs. Let their own kind take care of them. Let them be betrayed by the capital they say they hate. Even fanatics have their price.

I mean it. If you had a wish to harm the United States, or indeed any civilised country, but if you knew that if you acted on that wish, lifted a finger against them, you'd be put on a bounty list, a million or five or ten or twenty millions of dollars, collectible without questions upon your death, I suspect you'd take pause before acting, would likely look askance at your prospective collaborators, maybe even just go on thinking, but not acting.

It's a thought.

George Scott.The author is a Majorca-based U.S. hotelier