Ten years ago this Sunday—Sept. 11, 2001—over 3,000 people were murdered in calculated, dastardly terrorist attacks perpetrated by an enemy that has been somewhat stymied, but remains a constant threat to the security of the United States and its people.
The attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and United Airlines Flight 93 committed by members of al-Qaeda at the direction of Osama bin Laden led this country to a 10- year war in Afghanistan. Since Afghanistan harbored bin Laden, his band of al-Qaeda fighters and Taliban supporters, it was justifiable revenge to swoop into that country and try to nullify their ability to do any more damage.
The hunt for bin Laden finally ended on May 2, 2011, when a 40-man squadron of Navy SEALS, at the order of President Barack Obama, killed the terrorist leader in his hideout in Pakistan. His body was reportedly consigned to an undisclosed location at sea to avoid having his burial site turned into a shrine.
But bin Laden’s death has not stopped the war in Afghanistan, and though there is talk of eventually pulling out, there is still great risk to our soldiers who are fighting a conventional war against an unconventional enemy.
From Day One of the war in Afghanistan, an organized American military—playing by the rules of war established by the Geneva Convention—battled Taliban and al-Qaeda guerilla fighters who lived off the land, disguised themselves and moved from cave to cave, using the base infighting facilities of the many tribes that make up the country.
The first thrust by the U.S. decimated the Taliban and curtailed the movements of al-Qaeda, but then we turned our attention toward Iraq and so-called weapons of mass destruction presumably stashed by Saddam Hussein. The reasoning for this movement is still shrouded in doubt, but thousands of American men and women have died in both Iraq and Afghanistan in the past 10 years and removal of troops is proving difficult.
What’s more, the Taliban is re-emerging, and there are now calls to negotiate a peace deal with them.
America has a tiger by the tail. It can hang on for the damaging ride or let go and have the tiger turn around and kill. The threat of terrorism continues, and the mistakes of the past may one day come back to bite us.
Meanwhile, the horror of the 9/11 attacks is being remembered in a special way this year, as the National September 11 Memorial will be opened this weekend at the World Trade Center site. The reflecting pools, the rising “Freedom Tower” that is scheduled to open in 2013 and the names of those murdered etched for posterity are constant reminders of what was lost and the ongoing effort to recover from that “day of infamy” a decade ago.
This weekend, let us—as President Abraham Lincoln said in Gettysburg in 1863—resolve that the victims of 9/11 “shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
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