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9/11: One Year Later

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Guest TSMAdmin



The sky turned as dark as black sackcloth, and the whole moon became as blood. – Revelations 6:12


At 8:45 in the morning of September 11, 2001, American Airlines Flight 11 out of Boston was deliberately flown into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Initially reported as a "small plane" striking the tower – and thus dismissed as an accident by many people not at the scene – the horrifying intent of the first attack became apparent eighteen minutes later. At 9:03 AM, United Airlines Flight 175, also from Boston, crashed into the South Tower. Both buildings were ablaze, and New York City was in a panic. At 9:17 AM, the Federal Aviation Administration shut down all New York area airports. At 9:30, President Bush, speaking from Sarasota, Florida, informed Americans that their country suffered "an apparent terrorist attack." Ten minutes later, it got worse, as American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.


In fifty-five short, agonizing minutes, the image of America as the invulnerable champion of the free world had been shattered. Three airplanes had been used as deadly, fully-fueled missiles, and only the heroic actions of its passengers prevented a fourth from joining that list. Two burning towers in New York and a partially-ruined Pentagon in Washington reminded us that we were indeed vulnerable, and that we could bleed just as much as anyone else.


Vulnerability usually implies a weakness of some sort, a fatal flaw that allows a coup de grace to follow it. On September 11, 2001, however, America’s vulnerability became a strength. An unnamed man, wishing to be identified only as “an American,” waved Old Glory until his arms were tired on a paralyzed New York highway. Rescue workers, facing the very real possibility that their next walk into the rubble could be their last, toiled tirelessly to find survivors, even when there was little hope for finding any. Ground Zero in New York City was not just a place to grieve for the dead; it became a place to witness bravery and selflessness in action, as countless men and women displayed the principles that have made this country so great for so long.


While the country was still reeling from the vicious and unexpected terrorist attacks, the government responded quickly to stem the damage. All planes were ordered down from the skies, and all upcoming flights were grounded. The intelligence community began gathering data and looking at a pool of likely suspects for the culprits. President Bush assured us that we would persevere and come through this tragedy stronger than before, because we are Americans and that is what we do.


We paused to grieve, to remember our dead, and to promise terrible vengeance on those who had wronged us. The stock market was closed for a week, then plummeted rapidly before recovering. The airline industry, shaken by fear and a lack of consumer confidence, needed a bailout from the government to stay afloat. Professional sports stayed off the field, marking one of the few occasions that athletes and sports commissioners have shown a whit of common sense. We were bruised, we were bloodied, but we remained unbowed.


Those who are willing to sacrifice liberty for safety deserve neither. – Benjamin Franklin


While the worldwide intelligence investigation centered on the only man who made sense as the culprit – Usama bin Laden – law enforcement officials in the United States looked at ways to prevent another September 11th from happening. Airport security was stringently tightened, and remains higher than it was on September 10th of last year. Immigration records were examined in the hunt for Al’Qaeda operatives within our own borders. In an unfortunate denouement, the USA Patriot Act was pushed through Congress, granting sweeping powers to law enforcement agencies in the interests of catching terrorists.


Those who devised this very un-American piece of legislation ignored the driving principle behind the founding of this country: liberty. A lot of people panicked and decided that liberty-for-safety was an effective trade to make. However, there is only one place that safety can be found with any certainty: the grave. The Patriot Act was the government's only significant misstep in the aftermath of September 11th, but it was a very large one indeed.


The Patriot Act gave federal law enforcement officials powers they had never before held: the ability to collect information about electronic communications without the need for warrants or the hassle of judicial review, the ability to compel disclosure of any type of records – even those previously kept confidential – based on the simple claim that the information is needed in a terrorist investigation, and the power to search someone's home or office without notifying them for weeks afterward, a power not confined to terrorist investigations.


The intentions behind the Patriot Act was unquestionably good. Americans should feel safe in their own country, and all reasonable methods to ensure that safety should be used. However, the Patriot Act exceeds the standards of reason in its measures, trampling on basic freedoms in the hope of catching people who are probably beyond its scope. It is in the erosion of our basic freedoms that the despicable terrorists who planned and perpetrated the attacks of one year ago can claim their only victory.


The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance . . . – John Philpot Curran


On a visit to Ground Zero in New York, President Bush assured the gathered rescue workers, relatives of the deceased, and citizens, that, "The people who did this are going to be hearing from all of you." The Taliban government in Afghanistan refused to hand over Saudi exile and infamous international terrorist Usama bin Laden. In a speech on the evening of September 11th, President Bush said America would make no distinction between the terrorists and those who harbored them.


The Taliban soon learned that lesson. Operation Infinite Justice (later renamed Enduring Freedom) descended upon Afghanistan with a swift and potent fury, sending the Taliban scurrying for their lives. With their key members dead and their support eroded, the Taliban was removed from power after only a few years of illegitimate rule. The renegade Northern Alliance rose to power in Afghanistan, supported by US military forces who scoured every nook, cranny, and cave in the country for the elusive Usama bin Laden.


Even with the Taliban deposed from their corrupt throne, the search for bin Laden continues. American forces are ever-vigilant in looking for the terrorist mastermind and other officials in his Al'Qaeda organization. Several members of Al'Qaeda were killed in the raids on Afghanistan, but the group is composed of many independent cells and is thus still able to function. The quest to hunt the terrorists down and bring them to justice has not been put on hold, however. Our President told us this could be a long war, and we are prepared for that. We will pay any price to bring the terrorists to justice. Three thousand dead Americans demand nothing less.


The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. – Edmund Burke


One year later, President Bush is doing all he can to make sure that evil does not even get the barest sliver of a chance to triumph. US forces are still in Afghanistan, still continuing their search for Usama bin Laden. Another Middle Eastern terrorist has made himself all too visible to America, also: Saddam Hussein, eleven years after his march into Kuwait led to his subsequent defeat at the hands of a US-led international force, is the next target in the War On Terror.


Hussein's reputation as a miserable human being and a ruthless dictator is well-deserved. However, intelligence reports have also uncovered him as a sponsor of terrorism. He met with Usama bin Laden several times in the 1990s, and gave him a significant amount of money in 1995. Hussein also compensates the families of Palestinian homicide bombers in Israel, paying them for having a relative both heartless and stupid enough to strap explosives to his chest and detonate himself in a public place. Years ago, he had the raw materials available to make nuclear weapons, and it is believed he will have one within the next year. This, combined with his store of chemical and biological weapons – including the deadly VX nerve gas – makes it easy to see that Saddam Hussein is not just a threat to his smaller neighbors or to America, but to the world at large.


It is long past the time that Saddam Hussein's bloody reign in Iraq came to an end. His despotic history and his blatant support of international terrorism are ample reasons to remove him from power by any means available. Our allies are finally starting to see this, with reliable Britain being the first to jump to our side. Where America must be careful, however, is in filling the power vacuum that his death will create. If another extremist Muslim regime comes to power, we will have accomplished nothing. Despite our President's sensible aversion to "nation-building," we will need to do some of that to ensure that whoever comes to power in Iraq rules with the guiding principles of freedom and justice.


Remember all those renowned generations,

Remember all that have sunk in their blood,

Remember all that have died on the scaffold . . .

– William Butler Yeats


The images of September 11th are forever etched on the memories of anyone who witnessed the events firsthand, and anyone who saw the tragedy unfold on TV. Who can forget the shots of United Airlines Flight 175 crashing into the upper stories of the South Tower, trailing fire, glass, and smoke in its wake? Who can forget the heartbreaking images of people in the World Trade Center holding hands and leaping into the flaming abyss below, choosing a swift certain death over a slower, more painful one? Who will ever forget seeing rescue workers rush into the smoke, fire, and debris, or seeing their intrepid Mayor doing his job amidst the chaos and carnage, or seeing the American spirit refused to be extinguished?


We will mourn for our dead even as we look to the future.


We will seek justice until it is done.


We will always remember.


We will never forgive.


We will never forget.



Dr. Tom

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