Thursday, September 11, 2003
Remembering 9/11:Two years ago today 19 terrorists on four jumbo jets conspired to kill nearly 3,000 Americans. These young Muslim men committed mass murder for the promise of a paradise where their sexual desires would be sated by 72 virgins.
Much of the world mourned with us, as the horror of the day's events began to sink in. Fathers and mothers wouldn't return home that night to tuck their children into bed. Many children, still in their mother's womb, would never know their father. Photographs, home videos and stories told by relatives become the only basis for knowing their father.
Wives and husbands, sons and daughters - lives cut short by a hatred that we cannot comprehend.
While we mourned, some celebrated.
In the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Palestinians with an all-consuming hatred of the West in general, and Jews in particular, took to the streets where they cheered, chanted and passed out candy to children.
In Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden held court with his subordinates and took joy in the death of Americans.
As America slowly came to grips with the terrible crime, we realized that our powerful military and two vast oceans were insufficient defense against an enemy that wears no uniform and knows no allegiance to any state.
The Taliban in Afghanistan gave shelter to bin Laden and his cohorts - and they were destroyed.
Here at home laws were passed to tear down the wall that existed between the Central Intelligence Agency, with its focus on protecting America from threats from abroad, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, that focuses on solving crimes here at home. Law enforcement tools that were once limited to use against mobsters would now be directed against terrorists and their supporters.
And when we acted, in self-defense, to rid the world of an Afghan government that would give safe haven to terrorists, some of the goodwill that we had "earned" with the blood of innocents was lost. People at home and abroad who believe themselves intelligent and enlightened saw our attack on Afghanistan not as an eradication of evil, but as an act of evil in itself.
And when we acted at home to round up people here illegally, people who might wish to do us harm, cries of harassment and racism made the front page of the local newspapers and were trumpeted on the nightly newscasts. Once again, the enlightened elite took the opportunity to deride efforts to protect the American people as simpleminded hatred of foreigners.
And when President Bush, with honest clarity, identified Iran, Iraq and North Korea as evil nations that brutalize their own people and export terror abroad, the intelligentsia again cried foul. "These statements are not helpful," they said.
The only evil in this world, according to them, is calling something evil.
We fought a war in Iraq, to rid the world of a regime which brutally tortured its own people, a regime that provided safe haven and material support for terrorists, a regime which had used chemical weapons on its own people and on its enemies and a regime which continued to defy the United Nations' demands that it come clean about its programs to create more weapons of mass destruction.
We fought too to make an example. To show that to threaten America carried serious consequences. For more than a decade, those who hate America had learned -- from Beirut, to Somalia, to Yemen -- that if you kill a few soldiers, the paper tiger would retreat.
We are disabusing those that would attack us of that notion.
As we fought, the French, the Germans, and those of all nationalities who hate America gave support to a dictator who attempted to assassinate an American president.
The enlightened elite wished for our defeat. They wished for the continued torture and repression of the Iraqi people, because to wish otherwise would be to admit that the Americans were right.
And now, as we work to create a stable government and rebuild Iraq, those who supported Saddam Hussein and hate the Iraqi people continue to turn up their noses at the requests for assistance - demanding lucrative and exclusive contracts to pump Iraqi oil before they will support democracy and freedom.
As the days pass, we need to remember what it was that awakened America from its contented slumber. As the fight against terrorism shifts from Afghanistan to Iraq to the horn of Africa - or wherever radical Islamists try to hide - we must remain vigilant. They have not abandoned their efforts to destroy America and the freedom it represents. They have not resigned themselves to defeat at the hands of superior military force.
They hate us, and they will cease to be a danger when they're dead - not before.
Public opinion polls show that many Americans think little of the danger we still face from terrorists. News coverage has returned to the trivial: Judge Roy Moore's Ten Commandments monument, J. Lo and Ben's wedding, and whether Arnold's accent disqualifies him from being elected governor of California.
By general agreement, broadcasters no longer show the images of the Twin Towers collapsing, with thousands of people inside. We no longer see the images of people plunging 100 stories to their deaths. We no longer see that firefighter wondering: "How bad is it up there that the better option is to jump?"
The horror of that day has been sanitized. It has been forgotten by many who are convinced that a Sept. 11 cannot happen again.
But it can happen again. Soldiers are dying in Afghanistan and Iraq not because Shell wants a natural gas pipeline built or Halliburton wants no-bid contracts, but because that is where the terrorists are.
America seeks to build functioning democracy in cultures that have never known the concept because democracy and terrorism cannot coexist. We must be willing to spend the capital, in both money and lives, to succeed at this endeavor.
The alternative is thousands more dead. Civilians. Here in America.
The alternative is not acceptable.