September 11th, 2001; a day that will stand along December 7th, 1941 as a day which will live in infamy.
As I write this, rescue workers are still combing the rubble of the World Trade Center buildings for survivors of the cowardly attack against thousands of innocent civilians perpetrated, so it seems, by followers of Usama Bin Laden. A carefully orchestrated assault that has left thousands dead in the most vicious and destructive terrorist attack in the history of the world. Words cannot express the outrage, the revulsion, brought about by this crime against humanity; this act of war.
It is an act of war.
It is not a tragedy. A tragedy is when someone is killed in a car accident, or an aircraft crashes due to equipment failure or pilot error. It is a tragedy when a tornado whips through town leaving destruction in its wake. Tragedies are spawned by accidents, or acts of nature.
Likewise, it was not a "disaster", for the same reasons.
We should not call this act a tragedy or a "disaster", as though it was an accident. It was no accident. It was an atrocity. It was planed, deliberate, calculated. The events leading up to Tuesday's attacks were years in the making. And it is by no means clear that we have seen the end of it yet. Who knows if other targets were planned, perhaps on the west coast, thwarted only by the timely action of grounding all aircraft after the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were hit. Those who planned these attacks have no regard for your life, my life, or the lives of any Americans. They don't care if they kill women or children, grandparents, priests, or teachers. They don't care about age, race, or ethnicity. There was no discrimination on the part of those murderers; they were equal-opportunity butchers.
We cannot forget, for those who sent them certainly will not. And they will do it again, and again, given the chance. For them, it was a great "victory".
They have driven home, as never before, the fact that there are people out there who hate us simply because we are Americans. They hate our freedom, our wealth, our religion, and our way of life. Handouts, or attempts to "understand where they are coming from" will not placate them. They aren't interested in dialog, except where it furthers their agenda; an agenda dedicated to our destruction as a nation. This was made clear years ago, when the persons responsible for the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 were questioned.
It was made clear again in 1997 when Usama Bin Laden declared holy war, Jihad, against the United States. We blew him off then; after all, he was in Afghanistan. What could he possibly do to the mighty United States?
We ignored him, and others of his ilk, while he bombed our embassies overseas. Sure, we sent a few cruise missiles his way, but we quickly lost interest. There was no protracted campaign to root him out, and he continued to plan. For him, the embassy bombings were a victory. We had the Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia, and the suicide attack on the USS Cole, killing and injuring many of our US servicemen and women, and again we did nothing.
Palestinians, supported by terrorist groups, unleashed a reign of suicide attacks against Israel. We urged restraint. Itís easy to urge restraint when its someone else's citizens being blown apart on the other side of the world.
Now its happened here, on American soil, on a scale unimagined before now. Right in front of our eyes, on national television. Thirty years ago, television brought the Vietnam War to our living rooms. Today, for those in New York City, the war is in our living rooms. For the rest of us, it could be very soon. Shall we show restraint, in the face of tens of thousands of dead and injured Americans, lying in the rubble of American buildings, on American soil, as we have urged Israel to do?
I think not. I think it is past time that we stamp out the scourge of organized and state-sponsored terrorism around the world. It should never have been allowed to grow to this point in the first place.
It isn't enough to get Bin Laden. As powerful as he may be, he is just one man, to be replaced by another once he is gone. And make no mistake. When we kill him, he will be a martyr to his followers. We need to not only eliminate Bin Laden, and destroy his organization, but we need also to destroy the power base that allows such organizations to exist in the first place.
Countries that aid and abet must be forced to stop. Sources of funding must be dried up. Without funds for food and weapons, without bases for training in countries that turn a blind eye, or worse yet, actively aid terrorist groups, the activities of such organizations will be greatly curtailed.
The leaders of these groups must be hunted down and killed. These are not the heads of nations. They are the heads of criminal organizations. They have no "diplomatic immunity", no standing in the world community. They would kill our leaders, given the opportunity, as they have already demonstrated. The plane that struck the Pentagon, as well as Flight 93, which crashed in Pennsylvania, are now both believed to originally have been targeted at the White House.
This is to be a war, not merely a series of desultory actions, petering out after a few weeks or months. We must have the resolve to see this through to a conclusion. Not like the "war on drugs", or the "war on poverty", or even the Vietnam War. No, our model must be World War II, where our resolve was firm. The blood of our dead cries out for justice. At Pearl Harbor, the target was military. Here the target was the innocent, whose only "crime" was to be an American at the wrong place at the wrong time. This must stop. We will make it stop.
I have heard it said that our lives will never be the same again. That in view of what transpired on Tuesday, 11 September 2001, we must be prepared to give up some of our freedoms in exchange for security. This, in my mind, is a dangerous, seductive illusion. We all want security. After the events in New York and Washington D. C., we crave it. But we cannot, we must not, give up that which makes us different; that which makes us Americans in order to combat this threat. If we do, the enemies of freedom have won.
There will be temporary measures taken. Security will increase at airports, and other places in the United States. Many things that we have taken for granted before will change or disappear. Due to the nature of the conflict, there will be a great tendency for government at all levels to become more intrusive. But we must not forget what it is that we are fighting for. And when all is said and done, it will be up to us, we the people, to make sure that our leadership remembers as well. We must be vigilant, so that when the conflict is over, any temporary infringements of the basic liberties we enjoy as Americans remain just that; temporary. There is a human tendency for those in power to maintain or increase their power if possible. We must make sure that such temptations do not become realities.
Finally, letís take a moment to stop and smell the roses. The events of Tuesday, 11 September bring home quite vividly, just how short our tenure on this globe we call Earth really is, and how quickly it can end at any time. Lets take a look at what we have and appreciate it to the fullest. Tell those special to you that you love them. These words were some of the last heard by husbands and wives of those on the suicide planes, in the towers, and at the Pentagon. How much better to hear those words every day! There are many things we don't think about until we lose them. Don't take them for granted. Savor them. Share with them. Treat your loved ones as thought each time you part may be the last time you will ever see each other, for it may well be. And after they are gone it will be too late.
Treat your fellow citizens with respect. They may be the ones who pull you out of the rubble some day. Remember, we are all Americans. And Americans stick together.