Has it been ten years already?
Much has changed since the terrorist destruction of the Twin Towers, an awful event which has produced awful consequences.
If the attack was designed to reduce the US presence in Muslim states it surely back-fired. A decade later the US continues to have massive military forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Osama Bin Laden is dead, as are many of his followers.
The commentary below was written after 9/11. See how much has changed since these words were first published.
We all remember such days. We remember where we were when we first heard of the deaths of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King. We remember when we heard of the Oklahoma City bombing and those who are older surely remember Pearl Harbor.
And now, until the end of our lives, we will remember September 11th.
In the U.S., at least, such terrible days are not frequent. We are insulated from genocide, civil war, and famine. Suicide bombers are a rarity rather than a daily event. We do not have hostile nations at our borders. Considering the full term of human history and looking around the globe, we live remarkably well.
Unlike any number of countries, we have a government which does not torture its citizens. We voice political opinions without fear. Our government does not tell us where to live, what job to hold, or which religion to prefer. As someone once expressed very well, no one cares what book you read, what day you pray, or if you pray at all.
As a nation we have our arguments and disputes. We have racism. We have faults.
And yet we understand that whatever our differences, we do better together than apart. We realize that debate and friction are necessary, and we act together as a nation not because we agree on everything, but because we have learned to channel disagreements without destroying the fabric of our society. Few nations, as an example, could have endured the close presidential contest we saw last year — a matter settled without the need to call up a single soldier.
The Nature of Terrorism
Blowing up civilian planes and buildings is terrible, barbaric and horrifying. The victims are wholly innocent.
Terrorists know this. The whole point of terror is that it’s illogical, unpredictable, unfair, and inhuman. It’s an effort by the few to cow the many.
What terrorists don’t understand is that a bombing, no matter how horrific, will not end our common purpose. The U.S. will be hardened by the events now taking place in New York and Washington, and no one will forget what has happened. Not since World War II has there been a greater sense of national unity.
Pearl Harbor is the immediate parallel which comes to mind when considering the events of the past week. The surprise Japanese attack on December 7, 1941 resulted in the murder of thousands of individuals and massive destruction.
But as Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto said after the attack, “We have awakened a sleeping giant and have instilled in him a terrible resolve.”
By June, 1942 — just seven months after Pearl Harbor — the U.S. Navy won the Battle of Midway, an event which largely ended Japan’s ability to control the seas. Never again would Japan pose a threat to the U.S. mainland.
As bad, as awful, as frightening as the events of the past week have been, as terrible as the personal losses experienced by so many, we remain the world’s most-powerful nation. Our farms and factories are productive. Ninety-five percent of our people are employed. Homes are being bought and sold, and loans are being made. Grocery stores are filled, electricity flows, TV and radio stations are on the air, schools are open, government offices are busy, newspapers are being published, and the nation’s business is being done.
Now as before, we are a great and powerful nation, and we are a democracy.
News reports and online postings are filled with descriptions of the perpetrators of last week’s attacks as “Arabs” and “Moslems.” But in this matter let us be careful not to generalize, not to condemn people on the basis of their group identity. Our fight — the fight that has been brought to us — is only with those individuals, groups, and governments that seek our destruction.
What is to come will not be easy and it will not end quickly. We are at war, but rather than fighting for land, oil, or power, the issue is culture — the existence or destruction of the modern society we represent and the values that terrorists despise.
The good news is that we have much on our side, we are not defenseless. Each day people worldwide can see the benefits of a society where education, medicine, science, security, entrepreneurship, and technology are valued.
Our most potent weapon in this battle is the ongoing spread of modern culture and the political democracy and pluralism it requires. But while it’s hard to imagine, huge numbers of people do not have access to information and ideas simply because basic technology is unavailable to them.
“There are 1 billion telephones in the world and the 48 least developed countries have some 1.5 million of them,” says the United Nations.
“More than 50 per cent of the world’s people have never made a phone call,” according to the U.N.
Think of it this way: If our world population includes six billion people, then three billion have never placed a phone call. Is a diversity of ideas possible, is progress plausible, in an environment where free access to information does not exist?
As more and more people are connected to one another via television, satellite, telephone, and the Internet, it will become increasingly difficult for even the most remote populations to ignore the benefits of modern civilization. It’s an appeal no terrorist can contain, and a threat to repressive governments everywhere.
(Published originally on September 18, 2001 by Realty Times and republished with permission. Photo copyright 2000 Peter G. Miller, all rights reserved.)