Just two years after the atrocities of September 11, it seems as though all too many of us have forgotten what we’re fighting about and why. As painful as images such as this are, they are also necessary. We cannot afford to forget that two years ago today, this nation endured a great human tragedy. Over 3,000 people were killed. Innocent lives snuffed out by a hatred that still festers in the Middle East.
I have little patience for those who are already calling this war a "quagmire" and demanding that we pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan and simply let the bloody status quo alone. In this war, we’ve lost many lives. However, in one hour in New York we lost many more.
The truth is, if we had not acted, September 11 would only be the first of many. There is little doubt that al-Qaeda would have paused their campaign of terror. Moreover, the people of Iraq and Afghanistan would still be under the bootheel of tyranny and oppression. Saddam Hussein and his bloodthirsty sons would still be raping and pillaging their own country. The Taliban would continue to oppress women, and execute them in the middle of the soccer field in Kabul.
Our war is at a turning point. Those who say that we should have waited for the international community ignore the reality that not all members of the international community have the will to fight. Those who do, like the Czech Republic and Poland are the ones who know all too well what true tyranny is like. Others have enjoyed the largesse of NATO military protection and no longer understand the conflict we face. Given the choice of placating them or finishing the job, it is clear that we must do the latter. Some will remain neutral even in the face of evil. That is their perogative. Our mission is to stand and fight.
We cannot afford to lose our nerve now. If we forget what happened to us and what we must do, we stand the chance of losing this war. In the end, our own doubt and division can be just as destructive as a dozen bombings. We have to realize what we’re fighting for – not just our security, but the security of millions in the Middle East that live under the shadow of great tyranny.
There are those who think that it is "simplistic" to view the world in black and white. Looking at images like this, if one cannot condemn these actions as evil without resorting to that cowardly word "but" then one’s moral compass is hopelessly off-kilter. The person who is jumping to his death in this horrible picture wasn’t in Chile in 1973. He didn’t have anything to do with our policy towards Israel. He had nothing to do with any of the litany of supposed sins that the United States committed. Can anyone say with any degree of morality that this man deserved to die for things that he had nothing to do with?
The truth is, there are those who would say exactly that. There are those who have lost the nerve and sinew that is necessary to preserve the very fabric of civilization. There are those who cannot see the enemy out there because they have been told that we are the enemy.
The President has declared September 11 as Patriot Day, a name that I first thought to be less solemn than it should. However, I’ve realized that it is an appropriate name for today. This is a day when American showed its true face to the world. An entire nation wept, then wiped away the tears and took care of each other. We found that the flag has a new meaning for us now, and images that should never be forgotten have been burned into our collective memory.
That is the meaning of patriotism, and that what it means to be an American, despite the small rhetoric of those who are motivated by little more than jelousy and resentment.
We must never forget what happened to us this day. We must also never forget the obligation we have to our children and theirs never to allow this to happen again.