On 9/11, 2001 America was attacked, and not for the first time by an implacable and radical enemy bent on our destruction. There is no negotiating with the likes of Al-Qaeda, there can only be a global knife fight that will end with either Western civilization or the terrorists & their allies face down, breathing no more. We didn’t ask for or want this fight, just as the American public had no desire to get involved in WW2. But Pearl Harbor, like 9/11, demanded a searing response. As Winston Churchill said,
“What kind of a people do they (Japan) think we are? Is it possible they do not realise that we shall never cease to persevere against them until they have been taught a lesson which they and the world will never forget?”
Then it was Japan and the rest of the Axis, today it’s the terrorists and the rogue states who back them. In many respects, they’re the same sort of people. As George Bush said 9 days after 9/11,
“We have seen their kind before. They’re the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions, by abandoning every value except the will to power, they follow in the path of fascism, Nazism and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way to where it ends in history’s unmarked grave of discarded lies.”
Our attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq have sent many of freedom’s enemies deservedly to those “unmarked graves”. Tens of thousands of Taliban thugs, terrorists, and Iraqi hatchet men are no longer going to be filling mass graves or training suicidal psychopaths on how to take over an airplane. Yes, we may not have gotten Mullah Omar & Saddam yet (I personally believe Osama has been long dead), but they’re now hiding in the deepest holes they can find instead of running their anti-American, pro-terrorist regimes. Moreover, time is not on their side. Every day, slowly but surely, we’re making a little more progress towards turning their countries into democracies while they fade deeper into obscurity and disrepute.
The progress of America and the remaining courageous nations of the West who joined us after that dark day 2 years ago has been notable. Not only have we toppled Saddam and the Taliban, but we’ve also taken the war to terrorists across the globe. We’ve pressured the governments that support terrorism, cut off terrorist funding, and many thousands of terrorists have died or been imprisoned. Al-Qaeda itself has been severely damaged. As President Bush said in a speech earlier this week, “nearly two-thirds of al-Qaeda’s known leaders have been captured or killed”.
But that doesn’t mean there can’t be another 9/11 or worse yet, an event that makes 9/11 look like birthday party. There are still terrorist organizations trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction and there are governments who might very well be willing to provide them. The world’s foremost terrorist supporters who rule Iran with an iron fist may be close to developing nukes and Kim Jong-Il in North Korea, an unbalanced tyrant with a desperate need for cash could sell nuclear weapons to the highest bidder. Then there’s Syria, a pro-terrorist country with biological & chemical weapons that has a deep and abiding hatred for the United States and Israel. The road we must walk to end the war on terrorism on our terms, leads through all of those nations in one form or another. Maybe talking softly to them while holding a “big stick” will be enough to stop them from supporting terrorism, or maybe we’ll have to unleash our military again and tell them not to stop until they’re pulling down statues in Pyongyang, Damascus, or Tehran. None of us want war, but there are things than worse than war, paying for an Iraqi occupation, enduring the jibes of feckless former allies, and suffering the bitter sting of our brave soldiers dying in the desert.
Imagine hundreds of thousands of Americans coughing up blood as they fade away, killed by the contents of a few vials of biological weapons given to terrorists by Syria or Iran. What about a half dozen American cities incinerated by blank eyed savages with nuclear weapons in tow, their fingers on the trigger, and dreams of 72 beautiful virgins floating through their heads? This is not idle speculation given that Al-Qaeda spokesman Suleiman Abu Gheith has said,
“We have the right to kill 4 million Americans – 2 million of them children – and to exile twice as many and wound and cripple hundreds of thousands. Furthermore, it is our right to fight them with chemical and biological weapons, so as to afflict them with the fatal maladies that have afflicted the Muslims because of the [Americans'] chemical and biological weapons.”
We cannot, we dare not, underestimate the threat, or worse yet, falsely believe the danger has passed. The consequences of doing so would be more terrible than we could bear. For all the complaints, carping, and whinging we’ve heard from some Americans, we have had to sacrifice very little compared to previous generations. Our under-supplied and outmanned Founding Fathers fought a war against the “super power” of their day and won. The “Greatest Generation” took on powerful and competent foes at a cost of hundreds of thousands of American lives. Then when the bloodletting was over, they helped much of the world rebuild, even their former foes. How small would our generation be to shirk the duties history has thrust upon us when other Americans gave so much for freedom? As Ronald Reagan once said,
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
We will not look one day into our children’s eyes and tell them that America had the strength to deal with the terrorists who took nearly 3,000 lives on American soil, but lacked the will. The challenges we face in fighting the war on terrorism are petty compared to those faced by other generations of Americans and yet they always prevailed. We too shall follow their example so that we can make sure that those who died on 9/11, did not lose their lives in vain.