Explain five years?

Spetember 11 is one of those dates which rolls off the keys as a sort of common expression instead of a date. There isn't much I have to say that I haven't said, other than that much of my perspective was changed, and in many ways I'm still adjusting. After all, I spent 47 years in this country before September 11, 2001, and five years since. Until then, while I'd thought about the nuances and contradictions inherent in American freedom, I hadn't had to grapple with what a serious attack on freedom does to the thing it's attacking.

I do think this country is better off now than I would have thought it would be had you asked me five years ago. American freedom has survived. Whether it will survive the next attack, who knows? I like to think the country is more prepared, but then there's this huge capacity for denial which not only won't go away, it seems to take on a life of its own.

It's as if there's a sort of internal war going on in the nation's consciousness between the forces of remembrance and the forces of forgetfulness. Paradoxically, I'm enough of a contrarian that those who want to forget make me remember, and there's no way for me not to write a post in remembrance of the attacks, despite the fact that I have nothing new by way of philosophical observations that I haven't made before. I do wish that people would remember that there's plenty of time in the future to forget and to deny, to make everything go away. It's a thing called eternity, also known as death. Because I think denial of reality is a form of death, I'd rather put it off, but I know I'll never persuade the people who need it.

More than anything else, though, I think there is something important that needs to be restated.

We are at war.

It would seem difficult if not impossible to forget something like that. For me, to remember September 11 is to remember we're at war. Painful as it is. Unexplainable though it often appears to many. The Inquirer's John Grogan has an excellent column remembering September 11, but is short on explanations for the war:

Sept. 11, 2001. Is it possible that half a decade already has passed?

We have come so far and moved so little. Our troops have chased terrorists into the most remote corners of the planet. Our country has marched into a war no one, not even the president, can quite explain.

Good point. He's right that the war needs explaining. Things that can't be explained are the easiest things to deny.

Fortunately, our enemies have never ceased reminding us of the overarching reason they went to war with us -- the why of September 11 and of the war.

They want to change our mind.

Al Qaida's American traitor Adam Gadahn explains, by way of an invitation:

Why not surrender to the truth? Escape from the unbelieving army and join the winning side. As for those who have expressed their respect and admiration for Islam, and acknowledged that it is the truth and demonstrated the support and sympathy for the Muslims and their causes like George Galloway, Robert Fisk, and countless others, I say to them, isn’t it time you stopped sitting on the fence and came over to the side of truth?...Abandon unbelief and accept the truth.
This is of course a classic call for surrender. (It only takes the form of asking us to change our minds.) While I'd like to think that no one in his right mind would take it seriously, there are plenty of people who call for the equivalent of surrender, and who think the way out of this war is for us to change our minds.

From a think tank located in the U.S. ally of Germany, a a leading academician explains:
Germany, like any Western country, is vulnerable, said Michael Brzoska, director of Hamburg University's Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy Studies, because it generally supports U.S. policy, is close to Israel and has sent troops to Afghanistan.
More on Dr Brzoska here. The goal of his organization is, simply, disarmament, and "conversion" of the military to other uses:
BICC is an independent, non-profit organization dedicated to promoting peace and development through the efficient and effective transformation of military-related structures, assets, functions and processes.

Having expanded its span of activities beyond the classical areas of conversion that focus on the reuse of military resources (such as the reallocation of military expenditures, restructuring of the defense industry, closure of military bases, and demobilization), BICC is now organizing its work around three main topics: arms, peacebuilding and conflict. In doing this, BICC recognizes that the narrow concept of national security, embodied above all in the armed forces, has been surpassed by that of global security and, moreover, that global security cannot be achieved without seriously reducing poverty, improving health care and extending good governance
throughout the world, in short: without human security in the broader sense.

I can't think of a better way to lose a war than to abandon allies and eliminate national defense. While I'd like to think that Brzoska's is an extreme position shared by few if any academicians, thinking that would be an act of denial.

I'd also love to deny that American universities would be hiring professors who think and teach Bush was behind the September 11 attacks, but it's happening. (I wonder what they think of al Qaida's latest boasting videos; did Bush make them too?)

Via Pajamas Media's excellent roundup, Christopher Hitchens sees September 11 as more than an attack on America, but as "an attack on civilization itself." Despite the commemoration, he sees the war as far from over:

The time for commemoration lies very far in the future. War memorials are erected when the war is won. At the moment, anyone who insists on the primacy of September 11, 2001, is very likely to be accused--not just overseas but in this country also--of making or at least of implying a "partisan" point. I debate with the "antiwar" types almost every day, either in print or on the air or on the podium, and I can tell you that they have been "war-weary" ever since the sun first set on the wreckage of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and on the noble debris of United Airlines 93. These clever critics are waiting, some of them gleefully, for the moment that is not far off: the moment when the number of American casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq will match or exceed the number of civilians of all nationalities who were slaughtered five years ago today. But to the bored, cynical neutrals, it also comes naturally to say that it is "the war" that has taken, and is taking, the lives of tens of thousands of other civilians. In other words, homicidal nihilism is produced only by the resistance to it! If these hacks were honest, and conceded the simple truth that it is the forces of the Taliban and of al Qaeda in Mesopotamia that are conducting a Saturnalia of murder and destruction, they would have to hide their faces and admit that they were not "antiwar" at all.
I'm wondering whether inviting Mohammad Khatami to Harvard -- right on the eve of the fifth anniversary of September 11 -- constitutes being "antiwar." Glenn Reynolds has a roundup, and I was most drawn to this observation from Miss Kelly:
There were Iranians, Harvard students, Jewish organizations, Protest Warriors, local talk show host Michael Graham, and just plain folks. No feminists or gay activists that I could see, despite the horrendous record of Iran against both groups.
Why do I suspect that had Condoleeza Rice (to say nothing of Rick Santorum) been invited instead of Mohammad Khatami, not only would the overall protests have been larger, but there'd have been more feminists and gay activists protesting?

Why is it that being "antiwar" always seem to exclude protests against the enemy?

How is it "antiwar" to submit to an enemy which calls for submission?

I know I've said this before, but September 11 is a day I'll always remember as a day for defiance. The enemy wants us to submit, and to submit is die. (In more ways than one.) The only "submission" coming from me is another blog post of deliberate defiance.

I think they started it, and it is they who should submit. Their minds are the ones which need to be changed; not ours.

September 11 still makes me very angry, not only because it happened, but because we remain at war, and it will be a long and protracted one. It's a war against an enemy which utilizes clever propaganda calculated to foster denial, and which makes submission look like the easy way out.

It angers me that this should require explanation.

To end on a note of optimism, I'm just glad that there's a blogosphere, and if any good has come of 9/11, it's the blogosphere's birth:

Since 9/11, the rise of "warbloggers" and online political commentators like Glenn Reynolds' Instapundit has been, in many cases, a direct response to the U.S. government's post-9/11 foreign policy, kickstarting a culture of questioning, poking and prodding from which no public figure is safe.

But the volume of another attack, should one occur, could be amplified still further by newer technologies. The growth in ownership of cell-phone cameras since 9/11 meant that commuters' contributions to coverage of last year's southeast Asia tsunami and the July 7 terrorist attacks on London tube trains were more pictorial and more immediate; eyewitness accounts could be sent to moblog websites without having to find a desk or a docking station.

(Via Glenn Reynolds, who who also has a roundup of 911 roundups.)

The blogosphere never forgets, nor will I.

To repeat what I've been repeating over the years:

The Twin Towers stood as gigantically strong, seemingly indestructible, twin pillars of freedom. I will never be able to shake that awful memory of how, in the instant these giants came crashing down, they were suddenly not strong at all, and certainly not to be taken for granted. Instead, they appeared very frail and delicate.

And now, I know that American freedom is frail and delicate. It cannot and must not ever be taken for granted.

I'm optimistic that it's stronger than I thought. (Cautiously optimistic, though....)


MORE: From the Grand Stand wrote this reminder last month which is perfectly applicable today:

What if you woke up tomorrow and realized that somewhere between 180,000,000 to 300,000,000 adults were ready and willing to go to war with The West–that they had been fully radicalized into militant Islam and were chomping at the bit to destroy Europe and the United States?

That morning was 9/11, whether you realized it or not. Today was just a reminder.

It is ESTIMATED that 15%-25% of the 1.2 BILLION member Muslim world is radicalized. That doesn’t include people who hate America or want Israel destroyed. That is just the estimate of people who HAVE BEEN radicalized and are actively working in support of terrorist activities or groups.

It is mind-boggling, astonishing, in the realm of surreal, that we are facing an enemy currently three times the size of Nazi Germany, with plans equal to or more vile than those of Adolf Hitler’s, and we’re not yet serious.

The parallels with the 1930s are blatant, brutal, and horrifying.

Yet, we repeat history again. We sign Anglo-German style treaties, signed by soft leaders who can’t get a majority among their populations to understand the threat. We send Ambassadors to talk and to negotiate, and some people actually believe, ACTUALLY BELIEVE, after all evidence to the contrary has blown up on their faces, that these terrorists want a negotiated peace or a treaty.

Wishing war away does not work, especially in the middle of a war. Might as well imagine that defeat is victory.

MORE: Via Glenn Reynolds, Kenneth Anderson looks at how 9/11 affected his daughter:

[The smoke rising from the Twin Towers] has had an effect on my own daughter. Of course things are changeable, especially for the child of a conservative father and liberal mother, but when I asked her why she, practically alone among her Upper Northwest DC limousine liberal classmates and teachers, was willing to call herself a conservative, her answer was unhesitating.

"Liberals," she said, presumably referring to her endlessly politically correct private school (the same National Cathedral that hosted ex-president Khatami last week), "always want to tell you what to do and what to think, but then they don't even keep you safe."

Democratic Party politicians might want to reflect on that awhile. They think of themselves as defenders of freedom, protectors of civil liberties. To my daughter, however, they are merely authoritarians who tell you what to think, but then, when push comes to shove, these liberal authoritarians don't even protect you from existential risk. In my thirteen year old child's political imagination, smoke from the burning Pentagon and the wreckage of the plane continues to rise. Does it in yours? Does it in theirs?

It's bad enough that people who would run my life would (by working against national defense) deliberately not protect the lives they want to run. But many of them are also against personal self defense.

It's as if they're stuck in an endless replay of John Lennon's "Imagine." Trouble is, they don't want to just "imagine." They want to enforce the lyrics.

I wish it was all in my imagination.

MORE: Via Pajamas Media, Claudia Rosett thinks denial may also be fueled by success in the war, and by insufficient beating of war drums:

If anything, the president in recent years has not beaten those tom-toms enough. War drums are appropriate. So are flags, anthems, and threatening retorts to the likes of Ahmadinejad and Khatami. We are in a war. We have already been attacked at home on a massive scale. And whether we classify the enemy as an axis of evil or a web of Islamo-fascists and tyrannical affiliates, we face very real foes, who watch and learn from each other.

The paradox is that, in this war, we have done just enough so far to be in serious danger of becoming victims of our own success. Sept. 11 brought us in hideous close-up the landscape of war: the wreckage, burning and body count. Wisely, we took the fight abroad. With that, we have so far been spared further massive horrors in our own streets. Apart from the brave Americans who have served on the front lines, most of us have had no direct experience of this conflict.

And although we will be deluged in coming days with commemorations and footage of the attack that burst upon our Eastern Seaboard in 2001, most of us enjoy a level of ease that makes it hard to believe we are still seriously threatened.

I especially agree with "Wisely, we took the fight abroad." A growing chorus, though, thinks that it wasn't wise to take the fight abroad, but stupid. Does that mean the smart way to fight the war is to wait for more attacks? Or not to fight it at all? Considering that the two leading antiwar groups -- "A.N.S.W.E.R." and "Not In Our Name" -- were formed not in response to Iraq, but Afghanistan, I suspect that for some, the idea is not to fight at all.

MORE: For a great roundup, be sure to check out the RINO Sightings tribute to the September 11 anniversary.

AND MORE: Don't miss Victor David Hanson, now blogging at Pajamas Media (an announcment which makes me proud to be a PJM-affiliated blogger). In today's September 11 post, he asks some good questions:

Do any Americans finally see through these killers? On Monday they are mad about East Timor, on Tuesday Kosovo. Wednesday they wake up and shout about Israel, while on Thursday it’s American troops once in Saudi Arabia. Does anyone see a pattern here, especially when they talk of lost “honor” and “humiliation”? War-torn Rwandans are humiliated. There is no honor in Serbia. But what in God’s name is the complaint of radical Islam, when billions of windfall profits accrue to the Middle East, to countries like Iran or Syria or the Gulf States, who pump oil someone else found at $5 and sell it at $60, and can’t make or mend on their own any of the apparatus needed to profit?

posted by Eric on 09.11.06 at 07:30 AM


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