Eight years ago, a team of terrorists killed three thousand innocent people for the advancement of an evil conspiracy. On the eighth anniversary of the most horrific act of evil deliberately perpetrated against the United States, the man in the White House is arguably the least ready in memory to effectively deal with an enemy who would, if they could, repeat that act on an even greater scale. The Congress of the United States has taken steps to disarm the men and women who protect the nation, while all but apologizing to the colleagues of the murderers for the U.S. getting in their way during the Bush Administration. And the people of America, once united in the face of the crisis, are divided and worn out by petty bickering and farcical mockeries of the duties and obligations of politicians in both major parties.
The nation is at war. It is an obscene fact that many Americans have managed to somehow forget that fact, to take for granted the efforts of our military to secure stable, free nations in Iraq and Afghanistan, or that the war still continues to this day, with all the stakes and risk that existed from the beginning for those who put nation first.
Terrorists are not ‘criminals’, they are not ‘freedom-fighters’, they are not ‘misunderstood’. They do not have equal standing with the people they attack and kill. They do not have civil rights under any established law. They do not enjoy protection under the Geneva Convention. The Geneva convention was designed to protect combatants serving nations under certain rules of conduct, defined clearly and it’s not difficult at all to confirm that people who do not belong to any national army or militia, who do not operate under military protocols, who commits atrocities not in isolated cases but as deliberate strategy, do not enjoy identification as ‘combatants’ in the sense of that treaty. Terrorists commonly enter foreign countries to perform their murders, so it is not correct to presume that they enjoy the protection of law that is accorded citizens. And the very nature of their conduct and strategy makes it necessary to treat terrorists on a simple means of identification and extermination. Find them and kill them, end of story. If there is doubt, investigate, but if there is no doubt, then there is no quarter to be given. Terrorism by its nature is anathema to humanity, and therefore such groups must be exterminated in total whenever and wherever they are found.
Before 9/11, it was politically sensitive to deal directly against terrorists. This can be seen in the policies of airlines, for example, which told their crews not to resist hijackers, but cooperate in order to save lives. The 9/11 attacks made it clear not only that the old system was not functional, but hopelessly naïve. On the international level, as well, the clear focus and imperatives of the Bush Administration after 9/11 made it clear that informal wink-and-nod arrangements between terrorist groups and certain national political groups would no longer be tolerated. A new U.S. doctrine took effect, which required President Bush to set aside all his original plans and policies in deference to his commitment to defend America from the threat of terrorism.
Before 9/11, religious thought regarding terrorists was sparse, especially among Muslims. Since Islam does not emphasize a separation of Church and State (quite the opposite, the very concept of Dar-al-Islam presumes mutual religious and military conquest of all the world), there was no overt debate on the morality of terrorist actions – those who opposed such actions thought them too incidental to address in the context of the faith as a whole, and those who supported such actions thought it unnecessary to risk dissension by discussing the religious context of the actions. A few Muslim sheiks had observed Koranic prohibitions against killing known innocents, especially women and children, that suicide was permissible in defense of innocents but not in murder of same, even if Dar-al-Harb. After 9/11, Muslims found themselves more compelled to examine their faith in the light of such actions, to decide not only whether terrorism should be part of their faith but also what their response as Muslims should be to terrorism acts by Muslim extremists. Non-Muslims found that they knew little of Islam, and often judged the entire faith by the actions of its most extreme. As with all faiths, prejudice and history have been difficult for people to overcome, both outside of and within the community of faith.
Prior to 9/11, there was a belief in some quarters of the world that supporting a terrorist group could advance a national strategy, and in so doing produce an economic benefit for their country or government. It is now more generally recognized that Terrorism is economic parasitism. By its nature, terrorist groups consume goods and destroy people and materials; it is literally impossible for terrorism to create gain or improve economic conditions. Economics is not, and has never been and never will be, a zero-sum game; any farmer can tell you that his neighbor’s misfortune in no way helps his crops or livestock, and in many ways another’s loss threatens his own well-being. That fact is now more apparent than ever before, giving regimes pause in considering the results of supporting such groups.
Before 9/11, there was some discussion that American military force was not up to the job in all places, that “lessons” in places like Mogadishu and Haiti showed the limits to U.S. power and influence, and various apologists for defeatism and appeasement pushed to scale back the size and mission of the American military, and to replace pro-American doctrines with policies of retreat and surrender, similar to the British pull-backs following World War 2, on the theory that U.S. interests represented imperial designs. This lie ironically found increased support in the fiction of the “peace dividend” after the fall of the Warsaw Pact, as if the ensuing chaos in a part of the world with more than 50,000 nuclear warheads was of no concern, or that other nations would not rush in to fill the void of power left with the fall of the Soviet Union, with attendant threat to American interests and citizens. While America power was clearly impressive in the first Gulf War of 1990-91, critics charged that things would be far different if the U.S. were committed to a long war, or tried to actually change the political structure of a major Mid-East country.
The long war in Iraq and Afghanistan proved the critics wrong again. The war has been difficult, costly, painful, and if Obama lacks the backbone to stay the course, great damage could still be done to American goals and interests in the region, but at present any objective analysis of the war would conclude that the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan are a vast improvement on their predecessors, in terms of freedom, economic opportunity, and security for their citizens and the region. Whether the war’s cause was just or the results worth the cost may be debated, but the U.S. military clearly established an unsurpassed and undeniable ability to assert its power anywhere, anytime. The ramifications of this proof become obvious when the history of the region is examined.
In summary, 9/11 was a horrific atrocity, perpetrated by evil minds who have in some part come to a just yet terrible consequence, and in others deferred their reckoning to when they must stand before God. We have seen valor and heroism from many places, some unexpected, and loathsome hypocrisy and pusillanimity from others, especially those in privileged and public positions of celebrity and the avant-garde. We have seen the Mainstream Media sabotage its own credibility, and grass-roots bloggers rise to a degree of public acclaim and success. Our military has lost thousands of casualties in two campaigns, only to see the new President discount their sacrifice in hopes of gaining political coin for himself from our enemies. Both major political parties have demonstrated a grievous lack of commitment to fundamental American priorities and values, and few of the federal elected officials make themselves available to regular citizens, let alone accountable.
Yet for all of this, eight years after 9/11, our friends and enemies alike understand that there is a core of resolve in America unlike any other country, that there is a well of strength and purpose in this nation which no enemy may hope to overcome and no friend may fear will totally fail. We may be delayed, and we may take losses, but in the end, sooner or later we shall prevail. Not because Americans are better than other nations, but because this nation stands for the best of every nation, and while our methods may falter, our cause is just. No tyrant, no terrorist, no turncoat, no traducer shall win against us.