September 11, 2001 – 22 Years And A World Away

It is almost impossible to believe that it has been 22 years since 9/11. For those of my generation, the September 11 attacks were a defining moment. But at the same time, September 11 feels like it was a lifetime ago. We have all lived through so much over the intervening two decades – wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Trump Presidency and its never-ending cavalcade of scandal, COVID-19, January 6. As Amy Zeigart wrote it The Atlantic on the twentieth anniversary, the up-and-coming generations only perceive 9/11 through the lens of history.

What we have not lived through is another mass-casualty attack against the United States. Twenty-two years ago it seemed like 9/11 could have just been a prelude. The anthrax attacks later that year were a dire harbinger of the horrors to come.

Those horrors never came. There were no more major attacks—no more hijackings, no biological attacks, no dirty bombs, no chemical attacks. Yes, there were small-scale attacks, but those barely rated in the horrible shadow of everyday American violence. That we remember 9/11 as an isolated horror is a testament to the men and women here at home and abroad that sacrificed so much to ensure a safer world for everyone.

It is true that some of the things we did in the post-September 11 period proved to be destructive and unnecessary. Airport security remains mostly an exercise in security theater. The PATRIOT Act dramatically expanded America’s surveillance state and was often used far beyond what it was intended to do. Despite the wise calls of the Bush Administration at the time to separate out Islam in general from the attackers, the rise of anti-Muslim hatred was both counterproductive and against the spirit of unity that should have reigned for all at that time.

Today, the biggest threat this country faces is not an external enemy. It is not “Islamofascism.” It comes from good-old American-branded fascism. What al-Qaeda never did in 2001 or afterward was shake the foundations of this country to its core. Osama bin Laden could not and did not destroy American democracy. Instead, we have ended up doing it ourselves.

In those dark times when the World Trade Center’s towers smouldered, our country came together. Even during the threat of COVID we never achieved anywhere that sense of unity, at least not for long. We mourned together, we resolved together, we prayed together, we cheered together. That we have lost that sense of national unity in less than a generation only compounds the tragedy of September 11, 2001.

The Ghosts Of September 11

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a decade now since the World Trade Center fell. Time moves ever forward, and what was once a great psychic scar upon our nation has become just another part of history that the children born on that day now learn in school.

The World Trade Center attacked

But the inhuman events of September 11, 2001 should, must, never be forgotten. The ghosts of September 11 still haunt us today, and while we are fortunate that we haven’t been hit like that again, the world we live in no is in some ways more dangerous than the one that existed on September 10, 2011.

Even though Osama bin Laden is burning in the deepest pits of Hell, and al-Qaeda no longer exists as it did, the same factors that drove the terrorism of September 11 are still out there. Across the Arab and Muslim world, preachers of hate still find receptive audiences. The Muslim Brotherhood, the entity that was instrumental in informing al-Qaeda, is more powerful then ever. The same group that brought us Ayman al-Zamahiri and Mohammad Atta now runs all of Egypt. And rapidly, the Middle East is falling into tyranny rather than freedom. From Tunis to Tehran, radical Islamist groups are gaining new ground, taking over entire countries, and spreading their ideals across the world.

If there is one consolation to this, it is that when these groups try to lead, they fail. The beliefs of radical Islamism are anti-human. They cannot stand in the real world, and the only way they can survive is through nothing more than naked force. As it happened in Iraq, it may happen elsewhere: the people see what livinig under a violent theocracy is like, and they reject it. But that may be too hopeful.

We owe it to the victims of the September 11 attacks not to forget not only what happened on that terrible day, but to make sure than such atrocity never happens again. We are failing. A new iron curtain falls from North Africa to Central Asia, an iron curtain of radicalism and hatred. The roots of the next September 11 are growing silently right now.

As we remember the dead, let us honor them by not only carrying their names and their lives in our hearts, but by committing ourselves to a better world. On that terrible day eleven years ago, we showed the world that the forces of radicalism were nothing compared to the forces of democracy and freedom. They showed us the worst that humanity was capable of. We showed them the best. They murdered innocents in cold blood. We sent heroes into burning buildings to save as many lives as they could.

We would like to think that freedom will always conquer fear, that democracy will always conquer savagery, that peace will always beat out violence. Those are comfortable illusions for us, but they are only that. The ghosts of September 11 compel us to remember that the world is what we make of it, and that we must carry on in defense of the values that make us who we are.

The ghosts of September 11, 2001 whisper to us today. We should stop and listen.

The Decade Of War – Remembering September 11

It is hard to believe that it has been ten years since the events of September 11, 2001. A child born on that day would now be in the fourth grade.

In that time, the Taliban is no longer in control of Afghanistan, Saddam Hussein has been removed from power in Iraq, and at least two waves of democracy have crashed across the Arab and Muslim world. And Osama bin Laden, the central figure of al-Qaeda has met his richly deserved end at the hand of the Navy SEALS.

But at the same time, the Taliban is still wreaking havoc in Afghanistan. Pakistan still harbors the surviving leadership of al-Qaeda. At the same time that dictators from Hosni Mubarak to Muhammar Qaddafi have been deposed, the future of the region is still in doubt, and the forces of Islamist repression could still win out over the supporters of democracy. And Turkey, once a beacon of Muslim democracy is rapidly backsliding into political and religious repression.

The World Trade Center attacked

We have had a decade of war, and the war still isn’t won. If anything, the greatest risk we face is fatigue. Our populace has lived with this war for years, and they are sick of the war footing. And the military has made more sacrifices than anyone else—the stress of long deployments and years of battle have strained our military nearly to the breaking point. And yet the threat requires constant vigilance and a willingness to seek out and destroy groups who would pull off the next 9/11.

At the same time, there has not been another 9/11. No terrorists have gotten their hands of chemical weapons, biological weapons, or nuclear materials. There have been attacks since 9/11, but they have not reached to the level set on that terrible day. But that does not mean that there could not be another attack looming on the horizon. We have to foil every terrorist attack attempt—the terrorists need only succeed once.

The Legacy of September 11, 2001

The terrible events of September 11, 2001 changed our world, and changed America. On that terrible morning we saw the very worst of humanity meet the very best. The animals that drove those planes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Shanksville showed the world what they were. The first-responders and the brave men and women of Flight 93 showed what we are. They drove themselves without fear or hesitation straight into the jaws of death itself, and saved countless lives.

We should not forget either the barbarity of the terrorists who murdered indiscriminately that day or the heroism of those who saved indiscriminately that day. But the forces of political correctness want to bowdlerize September 11, 2001 into yet another day to celebrate “diversity” and “tolerance.”

This world would be better off with “diversity” not including al-Qaeda and their ilk. Tolerance of evil allows evil to flourish.

Let us remember September 11 not as we would want it to be, but as it was. Nineteen evil men committed an act of inhuman depravity. They were motivated by a twisted and evil sense of religious devotion. The leadership that sent them to their task was evil. Those who planned the atrocity were evil men.

As a society, we would like to think that the term “evil” doesn’t really apply. Political correctness says that there’s no real evil—that one person’s terrorist is another freedom fighter.

That ideology should have collapsed with the Twin Towers.

When we succumb to moral relativism, we forget the essential lesson of September 11, 2001: evil exists, and must be opposed. Mohammad Atta was not a downtrodden member of the Middle Eastern poor, he was a child of relative privilege with a Western education. Most of the 9/11 murderers had similar backgrounds. This was not about poverty, or U.S. policy, or any of the other things that are blamed for this atrocity. This was about evil, an act of sheer inhumanity.

It has been a long decade, a tiring decade, a decade of sacrifice and uncertainty. But ultimately this decade was a necessary one. This war has been long and difficult, but it has led to a world that is, on a whole, freer than the one that existed on September 10, 2001. The sacrifices that have been made across this decade have led to a blossoming of human freedom from Tunis to Baghdad and beyond.

Al-Qaeda wanted to change the world with their actions on September 11. They did, but not in the way they intended. It will be a long time before al-Qaeda and their ilk will be fully consigned to the ash heap of history, but they are well on their way.

September 11

Certain moments define a generation. The day Kennedy was shot. The day mankind took its first steps on the Moon. The fall of the Berlin Wall.

For this generation, that defining moment was September 11, 2001.

Nine years ago, our world changed. The post-Soviet peace was shattered with the steel of the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Our world became both smaller and more dangerous. Nineteen Arab men, some educated in the West, inculcated with hate by radicals from Saudi Arabia and Egypt, and trained in Afghanistan demonstrated that the United States was far more vulnerable than many of us feared.

This anniversary, we should not forget that the atrocities that occurred nine years ago were not just attacks against the United States, they were attacks against civilization itself. They were committed by an ideology that rejects the values not only of the West, but of human civilization itself. They stand against reason, against the universal rights of humanity, and against the concept that all human beings are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights. They are savages, monsters, and nine years ago they showed their true face to the world. Nine years ago, the existence of evil became undeniable.

Our civilization and our values are worth defending. The savages of al-Qaeda asked us a basic question: are you willing to defend your values or will you bend to our radical will?

We should answer with fire.

Eight Years Later

Eight years ago, an atrocity against civilization was committed. The events of that day were not merely attacks against the United States, or Western culture, or any of the other fashionable excuses. They were attacks against civilization itself, examples of an ideology steeped in barbarism.

Eight years later, and we have returned to a sense of complacency. The horrors of that day have become less visceral with age. We have, in some sense, fogotten the lessons we learned that terrible day. We have slipped back into the mentality of pre-9/11 America, when shark attacks and Gary Condit were more important than the barbarians at our gates.

We cannot be so complacent. Despite our best efforts, many of those responsible for these inhuman acts are still at large. Afghanistan is still threatened by the Taliban. Pakistan, a country possessing nuclear arms, still has the sword of Damocles over its head as the lawless frontiers continue to incubate terror.

The events of that day eight years ago changed our world. We owe it to those who died to never forget, and never allow this kind of barbarism to reign free again. The long war has not ended. Eight years ago, a city of millions mourned the loss of 3,000. The next attack could see it the other way around. We cannot bear that cost. We must be unflinching in our defense of our values and unyielding in our determination to fight groups like al-Qaeda.

We must never forget what happened eight years ago, or it will happen again.

Seven Years Later

It’s difficult to believe that seven years have passed since the terrible events of September 11, 2001. In the past seven years, we have not been visited by more attacks of that magnitude. What seemed inevitable seven years ago thankfully never materialized. Al-Qaeda is severely disrupted. Their leadership is scattered, their resources diminished, many of their plans thwarted.

But the real lesson of September 11, 2001 is that we can never be complacent in a world of threats.

Radical Islam is still out there. It still represents a threat not only to the United States, but to the rest of the world. An ideology that is so steeped in hatred cannot be ignored. Sooner or later, we will be hit again—unless we are willing to take action to prevent it.

Seven years ago, it seemed like the world would never be the same. Today, the world seems much more like September 10 than September 12. Yet it is our solemn duty never to forget what happened seven year ago. We owe that responsibility not only to the brave men and women who lost their lives that terrible day, but to ensure that such atrocities are never again allowed to happen.

Six Years Later, Lessons Unlearned

Like most people, I figured that the events of September 11, 2001 would change this country forever.

It hasn’t.

Six years after thousands were brutally murdered, we’re more interested in fighting each other than in fighting those who were responsible for this atrocity. Six years later, we have a group of people publicly arguing that what we all saw that day never really happened — at least not the way it appeared. Six years later we’re a nation more divided than we have been since the days of the Civil War. A decent discussion of the issues of the day is nearly impossible. Everyone is entrenched in their own viewpoint, and rare is it to see someone willing to look beyond their own ideological blinders.

In any democratic system, there’s room for debate — in fact, debate is essential. However, this country doesn’t even share the same first principles anymore. Some view this war as just another excuse for “fascism” and are instantly and irrevocably dismissive of anything our government does. Others find themselves unwilling to accept even rational and informed criticism of the government. Everything is filtered through the prism of red or blue, left or right.

Partisanship is one think. Unthinking, reactionary, crude, and childish partisanship is another.

What Osama bin Laden could not achieve on September 11, 2001, we have done to ourselves.

We have failed the memory of those who lost their lives that terrible day. We have once again become a nation that is self-absorbed and uninterested in our position in the world. Our political classes line their own pockets and play to their bases rather than do what’s right in the national interest. Our national culture is still a culture of malignant narcissism — instead of celebrating heroism, our culture degrades it. The image most commonly used to describe the brave men and women of our armed forces: Abu Ghraib, the actions of a few who brought dishonor to their country. Meanwhile, from Africa to Afghanistan and across the globe, our fighting men and women perform more good than any force in history.

During World War II, this country collectively decided to put their petty differences aside and think first and foremost of the nation. Republicans did not insinuate that FDR let Pearl Harbor happen. Party labels were almost immaterial — we weren’t Democrats or Republicans, but Americans.

For a short while, it was that way in the aftermath of September 11. Then our narcissism returned and it was back to the ways of political war rooms and cheap partisan theatrics. The left will blame the Bush Administration, their white whale. The right will blame left-wing anti-Americanism, of which there is plenty. The true culprit stares us right in the mirror. We are all too willing to put our own petty interests above that of the nation.

If we want to honor the spirit of those who died on September 11th, we should start by asking ourselves every day not “what can I do to make my party win in the next election” but “what is legitimately right for this country?” The answer to that question may not be the same for everyone, but at least it is based on some principle other than petty partisanship.

Six years ago, 3,000 people lost their lives. We owe it to them to first and foremost never forget them, and secondly to never let them down. There is so much more to life than the mindlessness of partisan politics. The values that this country stands for — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are values worth fighting for. Yet the only thing that our political classes seem to value is whether a given politician has a D or an R next to their name.

When the heroes of Flight 93 stood up to strike the first blow in this war, it didn’t matter who was a Republican and who was a Democrat. It didn’t matter who was gay and who was straight. The only distinction that mattered was between those who would kill and those who would stand against them. Six years later, we still need that moral clarity.

We will never be a nation united on every issue — nor should we be. What we should be is a nation united on a set of bedrock principles. We should be a nation that speaks with one voice, convincingly and clearly, and our enemies should know that we will never falter in our efforts to stop them. We live in a world created in large part by the Greatest Generation, people who stood against two of the most evil forces this world has ever seen, and defeated them forever.

When America stands united, miracles are possible. We owe it to all those who died this terrible day six years ago to stand united behind our values once again — else those deaths will have truly been for nothing.

President Bush Addresses The Nation

The President is due to speak to the nation on the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. I’ll be liveblogging the speech as it happens in just a few minutes. Scroll down for analysis from other pundits across the blogosphere:

8:00PM CST: The President will be speaking from the Oval Office tonight. The mood of tonight’s speech is supposed to be “reflective”.

“Today we are safer, but we are not yet safe.”

8:03PM CST: The President is right about the nature of our enemy — one thing I wish he’d do is quote someone like Qutb. Let the American people understand that when he says that these people hate freedom, that isn’t just a charge: indeed, it is an accurate description of why they started this war.

8:05PM CST: The President is talking about victory. It’s about time that he did. We have no choice but to complete what was begun five years ago when the heroic passengers of Flight 93 won the first fight against radical Islam. We cannot allow the Middle East to fall into the hands of tyranny and terrorism.

8:07PM CST: Bush deals directly with the issue of Iraq. “The world is safer because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power.” I don’t think Bush is persuasive here – Fareed Zakaria explained this so much better. Saddam Hussein wasn’t connected to the terrorists who hit us on 9/11, but Bush needs to make clear how he was part of the climate which fosters terrorists like those who attacked us five years ago.

Bush points out that bin Laden certainly thinks that this war is critical to our overall war. Indeed he does, and indeed it is.

8:09PM CST: Bush talks of the programs that have kept us from suffering another attack for the last five years. Programs decried by the Democrats and leaked by The New York Times. Bush is too polite to have said this. Part of me wishes that he would have.

8:11PM CST: Bush frames this conflict as struggle for civilization. He’s right. If we believe in the concept of democracy, our fight is now.

8:13PM CST: Bush’s rhetoric here is some of the best I’ve seen from him in a very long time. The speechwriter did a very good job here. We’re finally getting more of the wartime President that Bush was after the atrocities of September 11, 2001. Bush is always best when he is speaking of this war — he believes in what he says, and it shows.

8:17PM CST: I wish the President had been more explicit in tying Iraq to the overall war, and there were things that I wish Bush had said, but this was one of the best Bush speeches I’ve seen since 9/11. Bush is a President with many faults, but one thing is clear: he understands what the stakes are in this conflict. He understands that the only way we will achieve victory is to end the conditions that create groups like al-Qaeda.

Bush was clear in his belief and strong in his convictions. We’ve needed that side of Bush for a while, and it’s time that Bush made it clear what we’re fighting for and given the American people a reassurance that we will achieve that victory that will keep us safe from terrorism.

Red State has the complete text of Bush’s speech.

In related developments, Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has been captured by US troops in eastern Afghanistan. Hekmatyar was an anti-Taliban fighter who switched sides and has been helping the Taliban strike at Afghan and coalition troops. Hopefully we’ll get confirmation of the capture soon.

Typically, The Daily Kos is blaming everything on Bush. For some, it’s partisanship first, partisanship to the last, and partisanship always. Not a word of tribute.

UPDATE: Everyone must have been watching football… I’ll have more reactions tomorrow, if my schedule allows.

Never Submit

Ayman al-Zawahiri, the second-in-command of al-Qaeda delivered his own “commemoration” of the September 11 atrocities by calling on all Muslims to attack the United States.

I believe that Michelle Malkin has the best response in the Arabic phrase lan astaslem — “I will not submit”.

That’s exactly what the terrorists wish us to do — they take the very literal meaning of the word islam – “submission” — and make it not a voluntary act by those who choose to follow the Muslim faith, but a demand which must be followed at the penalty of death. Not only does this go against the Qu’ranic dictate that “there is no compulsion in religion” (Sura 2:258) but it also means that the ideology of those we fight is innately totalitarian.

We must never submit to those who would seek our destruction, physically and culturally. When Islamist radicals wish to force our citizens to submit to the will of shari’a law, we must tell them lan astaslem. When terrorists demand we end our protection of the people of Israel, Iraq, and Afghanistan, the answer must be clear: lan astaslem.

I will not submit.

That’s the answer al-Zawahiri, bin Laden, and the rest of their ilk should get, and he should get it loud and clear.


The events of September 11, 2001 were not a national tragedy for some. For some, they were an intensely personal tragedy. Many lost husbands, wives, fathers, sons, daughters, siblings, or friends.

One of them was Brian Hennessey.

Brian Hennessey was a vice president at Cantor Fitzgerald, working on the 105th floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. He was killed on September 11, 2001 in the collapse of the North Tower.

This tribute to Mr. Hennessey is one of the few things I could find about him:

I worked with Brian at Cantor when he first started there in 1993. He partnered with Wayne, and I recall that they worked very hard to build a business there. He was a sincere and good person at work who had a talent for driving business. Somehow, I had hoped that I would not find his name on the 9/11 list. Words fail to describe the sorrow and pain that I felt when learning of his loss (and Wayne) at the WTC. I know that he was a family man and my prayers are with him and his family.

We all were moved and saddened by the events of September 11, 2001, but most of us never had to look at the empty seat at the table left by one of those who never returned from that terrible morning. We never had to face the reality that someone we cared about was never coming back. While September 11, 2001 was a national tragedy, we cannot forget the fact that for many it was also an intensely personal one.

People like Brian Hennessey were embodiments of what made this country what it is — people who worked hard, cared for their families, and had the talent and drive to create success. What they built, no terrorist can bring crashing down.

I would encourage everyone to take a look at the other 2,995 memorials to victims of the events of September 11, 2001. The tragedy of September 11, 2001 was for many a personal one, and we cannot forget that the images of those burning towers didn’t just mean the end of an American landmark, but the end of many innocent lives. Their memories can and should live on as a testament to what they achieved and what no evil can take away.