On this 8th Anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attack, we are without question safer today than we were on that crisp, clear September morning in 2001. With each passing year, the challenge to remain vigilant grows harder as many Americans struggle to make ends meet after losing their jobs, large percentages of their retirement funds, and, in some cases, their homes. The cacophony of noise surrounding America’s debate on health care drowns out the unity of purpose we all felt as the sun set just eight years ago. After suffering the loss of 3,000 people, the destruction of over 220 stories of buildings in downtown New York City, the penetrating hole in our Pentagon, and the charred swath of land in the picturesque hills of Pennsylvania, Americans from across the political spectrum save the finite few too jaded by discarded ideologies came together to pray, console, and communicate in unequivocal terms that, though the scars of a fight we did not seek were now etched into our collective body, we would not be defeated or go quietly into the night.
We are, after all, Americans. It was an American who wrote down five words that would change the course of human history by so simply, but boldly, stating that “all Men are created equal.” It was Americans who threw down the yoke of tyranny to show the world that “We the People” could “form a more perfect Union.” It was an American who resolved to honor “the last full measure of devotion” of those who died to give us “a new birth of freedom.” It was Americans who twice beat back the forces of darkness in Europe when staying home was the safer choice. It was an American who looked an evil empire in the eyes and bravely challenged it to “tear down this wall” so that millions could taste the sweet joys of Freedom. And still again today, it is Americans who fight and die in distant lands to destroy the enemy of Freedom…of America.
Of course, we are safer. Our presence in Afghanistan since 2001 has made it very difficult for al Qaeda to plan, to train, and to execute another terrorist attack. Our unheralded efforts to shutdown the global financial pipelines has made it difficult for al Qaeda to raise the funds for another terrorist attack. Our interrogation program at Guantanamo Bay provided us with valuable intelligence to detect and to stop additional terrorist attacks. Our surveillance programs have made it harder for al Qaeda to communicate. Our victory in Iraq sent a vital message to al Qaeda that we are not the “weak horse” and an equally critical message to the Muslim world that we do not seek to occupy your lands, but merely free your people. Our efforts to secure our physical borders and extend our virtual borders further out have kept the terrorists and their weapons of terror away from our shores.
But, will our gains last? Despite the freedom from another terrorist attack over the last eight years, rather than thank President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, Democrats want to investigate them. Rather than maintain the key programs that have kept us safe, President Barack Obama seeks to shut them down. Rather than expand our counterterrorism efforts, Attorney General Eric Holder seeks to investigate the men and women who did their patriotic duty and kept us safe, thereby chilling any chance we had at keeping our enemies on defense. Rather than give our military the right tools to fight, President Obama seeks to scrap the weapons we need most. Rather than protect the West from the threat of nuclear missiles, President Obama breaks the promises made to our allies and cancels the deployment of missile defense. Rather than seal our victory in Iraq and fight for one in Afghanistan, the signs of retreat grow larger.
It should be no surprise to anyone that as President Obama rejects the use of hard power in all its forms and depends almost entirely on the rhetoric of soft power, the world over the last nine months has only gotten more dangerous. Al Qaeda is reemerging in Iraq. The Taliban are winning in Afghanistan. North Korea launches its missiles as it pleases and continues to enrich nuclear material. Iran gets dangerously close to becoming a nuclear power. Pakistan frees the man responsible for the proliferation of nuclear technology to rogue nations. Russia grows more active in the near abroad. China quietly builds a blue water Navy. Venezuela joins forces with Iran. Libya publicly honors the homecoming of a terrorist. Somalia…Sudan…the list of dangerous places only grows. The believers in soft power see that America is liked again in some European capitals, our foes see the return of the “weak horse.”
In September 1862, over 3,000 Americans died at the Battle of Antietam. It was 139 years until America again experienced the death of almost 3,000 people on its soil. We must not let the passage of time dull our memories or lull us into another holiday from history. America has enemies who spend every hour of every day of every year trying to plan, to train, and to execute catastrophic attacks on us. Our continued safety depends on our ability to dedicate as much effort preserving our freedom as they dedicate in taking it away. On this 8th Anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attack, let us honor the thousands who have died and been injured to preserve our freedom by doing as an American once said and dedicate ourselves to the “great task remaining before us” and “resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.”