On September 11 this year I was traveling on two connecting flights on my way back from our conference in upstate New York. . As I boarded a Southwest flight from Chicago, the pilot, lowering his voice and dispensing with standard Southwest banter ( a pleasant relief) , reminded all on board that we should spare a thought for those who died eight years before. The passengers were indeed quiet for a few seconds but within moments returned to their state of general merriment as the pilot continued to roll out his ingratiating
(or just plain grating ) shtick.
There are only a few dates on the American calendar which prod national memory and inspire an annual display of grief. Count Pearl Harbor Day as one; Martin Luther King Jr. Day as another. The other two – Memorial Day, and Veteran’s Day respectively, have been swept away by the current of history, no longer finding firm footing in national memory and leaving us wondering whether the date commemorates anything significant at all. .
Although only eight years have now passed since the most deadly single day attack on the nation’s soil, September 11th seems to be passing into the same unhappy void- with few willing to grapple with the day’s importance as a watershed in American history . No longer does it inspire anger at the heinousness of the unprovoked attack. No longer does one see flags displayed on homes and on cars. Newscasters quietly mention the attack and then , without too much comment, pass on to other news. The President makes an appearance at one of the scenes of the attack, but his speech is muted and it does not contain a rallying call for a vigorous national defense against an identified foe.
What is left is a gaping black hole in the national consciousness that no one these days seems quite prepared to fill. As the years pass 9/11 remains little more than a catch word – remembered in tangible detail as if it was a natural disaster such as Hurricane Katrina or the 2005 tsunami which devastated South Asia.
How did this state of affairs come to pass?. The answer might be found in 9/11’s bitter after taste, namely the war in Iraq, which wrung so much wasted emotion and misdirected hatred from our media, professoriate and Democratic leadership, that its dark cloud has obscured, perhaps forever, the significance of the very event which served as the war’s catalyst.
Fouad Ajami, in an op-ed in this Friday’s Wall Street Journal encapsulates the connection between 9/11 and everything that came after it quite brilliantly:
“ The impulse that took America from Kabul to Baghdad had been on the mark. Those were not Afghans who had struck American soil on 9/11. They were Arabs. Their terrorism came out of the pathologies of Arab political life. Their financiers were Arabs; and so were those crowds in Cairo, Nablus and Amman that had winked at the terror and had seen those attacks as America getting its comeuppance on that terrible day. It was important (for the U.S.) to take the war into the Arab world itself and the despot in Baghdad had drawn the short straw. The decapitation of his regime was a cautionary tale for his Arab brethren.”
Here Ajami rams his point home. Future historians will quickly dispatch the contemporary notion that the war in Iraq was ever prosecuted as an attempt for America to control Iraqi oil, for George W. Bush to settle a nagging personal grudge or to give expression to the U.S. military’s killer instinct. Rather it was designed to re-assert American strength in a part of the world that had come to mock it and to deal a decisive psychological blow to tin pot terrorist organizations and their state sponsors who believed that American national defenses could be easily penetrated and with little fear of retribution.
The consequence, of course, is that in the Age of Obama, it is now difficult to draw upon the memory of 9/11 as the single most important reason for defeating counter insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq or for confronting terrorist groups. So maligned have the efforts of the Bush Administration become, that, as Ajami reminds us, “ the appeal to 9/11 today rings hollow and contrived. In these past eight years, American liberalism has distanced itself from American patriotism and the results are there to see.”
Results indeed. It appears that today that not only does the notion of prosecuting a vigorous offensive war smack of Bush jingoism( see Nancy Pelosi’s comments on the lack of congressional support for increasing troops in the Afghanistan) but even the argument for building an effective missile defense, a worthy and urgent undertaking given the rapid proliferation of nuclear arsenals among rogue states – dismissed as just another carry over from discredited Bush policies.
I learned the depth of how truly vulnerable the United States is to a nuclear attack at our co-sponsored conference Permanent Continental Shutdown, in Buffalo New York last week. Over two and half days, 40 nuclear physicists, nuclear engineers, missile defense experts, commentators and politicians gathered to address the absolute failure of the last three U.S. Administrations to seriously address the likelihood of an electro-magnetic pulse attack on the United States. Simply put, an electromagnetic pulse attack occurs when a ballistic missile, loaded with a nuclear warhead, is launched at the United States and detonated at high altitude. The extraordinary pulse from this attack could cause a shutdown of the U.S. electrical grid. It could potentially send the United States back to a pre-industrial economy and society and render the nation dependent for its survival on aid from abroad.
While this sci-fi scenario might seem far fetched, it is in fact more real and more omnipresent than at any time since the end of the Second World War. America, similar to almost every Western country today, stands exposed and vulnerable to weapons of annihilation and nobody seems to want to hear the warnings.
But the warnings must be heard.
Those who live prosperous lives in the West and remain unworried by these threats to their social framework, their economies and their political systems, stand in exactly the same shoes as Europeans at turn of the century who could not fathom the outbreak of a continental war that would sweep away 60 million lives in the early years of the 20th Century. And they remain fixed in the same in exactly the same position as the 1930s British leaders who failed to understand that any reticence in meeting Nazi aggression with aggression would lead to a catastrophic future confrontation in which the lives of millions of innocent citizens would be needlessly lost.
At the American Freedom Alliance we see this as one of the gravest perils confronting Western civilization. With the success of the Buffalo Conference we announce the formation of EMPACT International– an international coalition of organizations pledged to promote awareness of the threats posed to Western civilization from an electromagnetic pulse attack.
We are proud to be one of the leading organizations in this effort and hopeon this eighth anniversary of a day that changed history, that from now on it will no longer be commemorated with only flowers, speeches and television specials, but with the construction of a muscular defense and an aggressive foreign policy.
This will announce to the world that the United States will never again abide a realizablae threat to its national security or to its citizenry. And never again will it be unprepared as it was on that warm September day in 2001.