Sept. 11, 2001 was truly a devastating day. One amongst several reasons why: Not unlike millions of Americans, I lived through that grueling day, surreal scene by surreal scene. It seemed the day would never end. For me, it began innocently enough. I was lying in bed in that stupor state of being half asleep, half awake. Suddenly, my wife, Flo, burst into the room, crying out, "Now they are attacking the Pentagon," as she turned on the bedroom television. My stuporous state evaporated instantly. The day went down from there, "down" as in WTC One, WTC Two, and WTC seven.
It is now seven years later. Like everyone, I will never forget that day. Dutifully, we put the flag out in front of our house, just like we do every Sept. 11 since that fateful day, just as we do every Fourth of July and Memorial Day, and other selected dates. But, Sept. 11th is not like the Fourth of July, and it is not like Memorial Day. It is not even like Dec. 7, 1941.
There are very few similarities between 9/11 and 12/7, but there is one. Both days represent a devastating defeat to our beloved country caused by a surprise, unprovoked attack. However, 3 1/2 years after 12/7, with enormous aid from our allies, the United States defeated two heinous and powerful enemies, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, in a two-front, two-ocean war.
Sept. 11, 2001, remains a bitter day in our past, not necessarily because of the sad events of that day as time heals even the bitterest of events. The mourning is over. It is because of the unfortunate aftermath of 9/11. It is because the white hot anger is still there. It is because the virulent desire for revenge remains unsated. It is because of what has happened to our nation since 9/11. Seven years after 9/11, there is only sadness, anger, and enormous concern for our great nation. Unlike July Fourth, Memorial Day, and December Seventh, there is virtually no reason whatsoever to celebrate.
Osama bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, and other al-Qa'ida leaders remain alive and free in the mountainous region on the Afghani/Pakistani border. Worse, the organization, according to some experts, is re-surging. One is Richard Clarke. "Remarkably, seven years after 9/11, 10 years after the United States government started seriously trying to combat al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda is still there," said Richard A. Clarke, counter-terrorism czar under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. "According to the CIA director [Michael V. Hayden], it is still as powerful as it was six years ago, still capable of training people from around the world . . . and then sending them off around the world to stage attacks." The blame can be fixed squarely on the shoulders of our Commander-in-Chief as a consequence of his egregious strategic errors. In October 2001, we attacked al-Qa'ida and the Taliban who were shielding them in Afghanistan. Inexplicably, Bush called off the dogs and, depriving our forces in Afghanistan of needed troops and resources, invaded Iraq, which had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11. Indeed, the true irony is that he attacked the one nation on this Earth that would not allow Islamic terrorist organizations to exist within its realm. Saddam Hussein considered that such organizations were a threat to his regime.
Ken Pollack is a former CIA Mideast expert and Clinton White House adviser: "The Iraq war was a major distraction from our concentration on al-Qaeda. There was no link between 9/11 and Iraq, and Iraq was not a central front in the war on terrorism." Pollack added, "but we made it a central front by our own mistakes. At best, the recent improvement in Iraq gets us back to zero. Had we focused on eliminating al-Qaeda in 2003, rather than invading Iraq, al-Qaeda perhaps would not be a threat at all."
So, where do we stand on Sept. 11, 2008, seven long years later? Our economy is feeling the effects of two very expensive - and some say un-winnable wars. Since the attack on Iraq is centered in the oil-rich Mideast, drivers are being squeezed at the pump, trying to decide whether to buy food or gas. Our Constitution is being eroded by a unitary Executive. Bush recently announced a drawback of 8,000 troops. That is offset by two circumstances. That will still leave more combat troops in Iraq than before the surge. And two, reinforcements are being sent to Afghanistan. There is only one place as to where those troops will come from. Pakistan, an Islamic nation with nukes, has a government that is in disarray. The possibility of either the U.S. or Israel attacking Iran still looms. In Georgia, for the first time since World War Two U.S. and Russian troops are in the same grid square and they have already confronted one another. The Bush administration is bent on putting an anti-ballistic missile system in Russia's backyard, Poland and the Czech Republic. Reconstituting the Cold War also looms. In the meantime, during these perilous times, our two major parties thought this was a good time to nominate two novices to world politics, Obama and Palin.
Is it any wonder that on this day, Sept. 11, 2008, Americans are sad, angry, frustrated, and wary all at the same time. Celebration is not an option.