To Honor 9/11 Victims, Maintain Our Freedom
This editorial is reprinted with permission from The News & Observer of Raleigh.
The anniversary of the Sept. 11 tragedies roils many memories and fears, as the terrorism threat continues to challenge
The question is asked on this date by everyone old enough to remember: Where were you on 9/11? And everyone knows the answer: At work. At the store. School. Sleeping, until the phone call came. The intentional ramming of airliners -- directed, we knew shortly afterward, by trained terrorists -- into the World Trade Center towers in New York, the crash at the Pentagon, another in a field in Pennsylvania, froze us in our tracks.
George W. Bush, in the first year of his presidency in September 2001, responded with eloquence and leadership, and U.S. attacks were launched on Afghanistan, where al-Qaida's terrorists and their leader, Osama bin Laden, were said to be hiding.
Today marks the seventh anniversary of that day of infamy, and it will be noted with mourning and sad remembrance for as long as there is an America. It will be particularly painful for those families who lost loved ones. Memorials ensure they will not be forgotten by their country, but the grief of husbands and wives, parents and children cannot be erased.
In the years since, there has not been another such attack, and credit for that goes to those charged with protecting this country and to ordinary people who have borne inconvenience and remained on guard. There have been indications that other attacks were planned, and the darkness of the soul of al-Qaida cannot be underestimated.
The need for vigilance will extend far beyond this president and the next and the next, and the monitoring of terrorists' threats must also remain beyond politics. Not that 9/11 has not been politicized. The Bush administration points to the absence of another attack as evidence that its foreign policy and its anti-terrorism strategy have worked. But critics say the president's decision to wage war in Iraq, where there had been no direct link to al-Qaida from the late dictator Saddam Hussein and none of the much-anticipated weapons of mass destruction, diverted resources from the more important anti-terrorist mission in Afghanistan.
And now, even as the war in Iraq is going better, an apparent build-up of terrorist strength in Afghanistan and instability in Pakistan signal how much remains to be done.
Presidential candidates -- Republican John McCain, who has supported the president's policies in Iraq, and Democrat Barack Obama, who has opposed them -- cannot of course reveal their own strategies for dealing with al-Qaida. But they emphatically need such strategies, and specific ones, that can be put into place on Jan. 21 of next year.
How to honor the thousands of innocent victims who perished seven years ago? With moments of silence, certainly. Prayer. Not taking for granted our glorious democracy. Insisting that those who wish to lead it seek our top offices with honor and truth and not just with shades of both.
America survived 9/11, and make no mistake: Countries with people of lesser will and weaker faith in their systems of government might not have. The country has managed to maintain freedom, all those wonderful freedoms noted in the Bill of Rights, even as an ever-present threat looms.
There, right there, is the best evidence of the strength of this republic, and its determination to endure.
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