9/11 At 20: My Take

9/11 At 20: My Take


Leonard Zwelling

I specifically avoided any commentary about the twentieth anniversary of the attacks on this country before 9/11/21 because I had not really thought I had anything useful to say. But after having seen how the nation paid tribute, I wanted to integrate the coverage of that day by the major media outlets into my comments about how America is dealing with these events twenty years on.

I found the coverage of the twentieth anniversary lacking a great deal. Mainly gravitas. Oh, it was somber and respectful, but could not cover up the deep divisions plaguing America in 2021. I believe that it was ten years ago when NBC ran the videotape of that morning in real time. I thought that was a fitting tribute to both those who covered the news and those caught up in it—survivors and victims. Since that time, the country has had to contend with both the events of that day and our government’s response to those events. In retrospect, it is virtually impossible not to have tremendous regret about how the Bush, Obama, Trump and Biden Administrations handled the aftermath of 9/11 and how useless Congress was as a representative body then and now.

Let’s first start by defining what exactly happened that day. War was not declared on the United States by some enemy power. This meant sending troops overseas invading another country might have been risky, especially in the case where one of the countries invaded had nothing to do with 9/11 (Iraq). Al Qaeda had been attacking America since at least the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and on to the Khobar Towers and the USS Cole. Let’s start our review of 9/11 by admitting that the Clinton Administration did not take the threat of Al Qaeda seriously enough or surely it would have found and killed Osama Bin Laden long before 2001. Monica Lewinsky may have had a greater effect on our response to terrorism than we ever imagined.

We had more than enough warning of what Al Qaeda was up to. We just got complacent.

Al Qaeda is an international terrorist organization that is still very much alive in areas of Asia and Africa with tentacles out to the west, including in this country. One of the good responses to 9/11 is the greater cooperation among government intelligence and security agencies afforded by the Department of Homeland Security. Still, we should not mistake Al Qaeda or its various terrorist branches as some sort of conventional foreign enemy. Thus, having the greatest military in the world will not protect us from these guerilla-like outlaws. Only great intelligence and pre-emptive strikes will be able to keep us as safe as possible. To date, that has largely worked, but as we leave Afghanistan, so do our eyes and ears on the ground there. It will take extra effort and a great deal of cooperation from governments that may not be our friends (the Taliban, Pakistan) to continue our run of being largely terrorist attack free from the outside.

The Obama Administration really did little beyond killing Bin Laden, ten years too late. Bush should have had him at Tora Bora. Another screw up.

To his credit, Donald Trump wanted to largely disengage from our foreign commitments, but left it to Joe Biden to formally pull out of Afghanistan only to find that the country is pretty much the way we found it when we invaded with the Taliban in charge only with twenty more years of fighting experience under its belt and close ties to Al Qaeda and other terrorist networks with members of those networks formal members of the new Afghani government. It is virtually a given that Al Qaeda will try to reproduce its activities of 9/11 again with launches from Afghanistan and Pakistan as well. How do we prevent that with no presence there at all?

Then factor in the cohesion this country displayed in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and how splintered we are now. Where once we rose as one to honor the fallen of 9/11, we now squabble about whether or not to get life-saving vaccinations and wear masks. We have regressed as a nation because our leadership has been unable to capitalize on the threat of outside forces and has been overwhelmed by the strife of forces from within.

I found the tributes on 9/11 amazingly lacking in weight as our country is caught up in divisive nonsense. Our true foreign enemies in Moscow and Beijing are laughing while we solemnly read the names of the fallen without behaving like we actually honor their sacrifice by unifying.

If you want to memorialize those who died on 9/11, how about the following:

Try to find something on which you agree with your neighbor who voted opposite to the way you voted in 2016 or 2020.

Get vaccinated and wear a mask so that we can start to gain some control over the spread of covid.

Stop thinking along party lines and try to support what is actually needed for the country and which we can afford. America did not withstand 9/11 to turn into a socialist haven for tax payer giveaways.

We have made far more mistakes and missteps since 9/11 than we have made good decisions. That starts with the selection of our leaders from both parties and their decisions to go to war with the acquiescence of Congress. The government has been dreadful.

Let us resolve today to use the primary system to put forward two honorable presidential candidates who represent different economic philosophies but a common commitment to freedom and liberty without scapegoating immigrants and reducing every discussion to a political battle. Maybe then, on the thirtieth anniversary of 9/11 we will have something to celebrate and can do so as a united country.

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