Monday, September 11, 2006

9/11 Five Years Later: Still Trying To Make Some Sense Of It All

As the five year anniversary of 9/11 is being commemorated, I have struggled as to what I would say in this post. I even struggled as to whether I could say anything worthwhile, because even after five years, there is still an element of shock that exists in the back of my mind. It is still all too surreal, to this day.

I just don't just think about this when the anniversary gets here. I do not think that there isn't a day that I haven't thought about it. And believe me when I tell you, I have tried to make some sense out of it, despite the fact it was such a senseless act to begin with.

So now, we have the big political battle on whether or not a docu-drama should or should not be aired, developing. And wouldn't you know that this is happening, as we near an election? Surprise, surprise. But as I have watched this entire thing unfold (over the last 5 years), I have come up with some non-partisan analysis that I feel would be appropriate to share, at this time of reflection and remembrance.

Here is what I have sorted out, so far:

There are some people in this world that are thoroughly convinced that George W. Bush was to blame for the momentous event that occurred just 5 years ago. By contrast, there are some people that put the blame squarely on Bill Clinton, and his administration. Both sides are vehement in their accusations and they will not back down. Both are trying to sell a tainted version to the masses

But the truth is plain to most free-thinking and intelligent people that have a good working grip on history and current world events. There are many people that see that both are to blame. But that doesn't reveal the whole truth, either.

The whole truth is, all Presidents going back to Carter have failed to recognize a growing threat. It was a threat that had manifested itself so many times, in so many different ways. Yet, for various reasons, it was overlooked or put on the back burner because there were other pressing issues to focus on.

If we must start somewhere, we must start with Carter. He didn't show enough courage after the embassy was overrun by radical Islamists, on the orders of Ayatollah Khomeini. He allowed the Iranians to dictate the pace, he didn't show the leadership that he could have, while the Islamic Republic was in its infancy stages.

You see, the Vietnam War was still fresh in everyone's mind and Carter, himself, was a pacifist. Feeling empowered as a negotiator due to his success at Camp David earlier that same year, he felt that somehow, someway, he could talk his way out of the situation. Even when he decided to use force to rescue the hostages from the embassy, his subordinates botched it up.

They botched it, because they were all pacifists and hadn't counted on anyone being so bold as to spit in the eye of the U.S. Therefore, they had no one that could formulate a successful plan to resolve this issue. Nobody had the guts to make a stand, because no one had the analytical and strategic military know-how to pull it off. So, it failed. The U.S. failed and the Carter malaise and ague, threw the nation into a period of low national self-esteem.

Meanwhile, Iran grew bolder.

Then Reagan came along and re-vitalized the nation. He set the tone for a brilliant emotional recovery, by standing up to the Soviets. But as much as I respect him, he had his period of miscalculation, as well.

Who can forget the Marine Barracks blunder in Beirut. Hezbollah (sponsored by the Islamic Republic of Iran) blew the hell out of our men. And what did we do? We cut and ran. With Vietnam still fresh in the nation's minds, the Reagan administration felt the need to pack it up.

It is true that he was an instrumental force in the eventual demise of the USSR; I do not believe it would have happened when it did, if he hadn't been such a strong catalyst, in the matter. But because of the focus on standing down the Kremlin, the growing jihadist threat was being overlooked, or at very least put on the back burner. We swatted flies and made our retaliatory hits from time to time and we certainly didn't take it nearly as passively as Carter. But in the end the result was, we allowed Hezbollah to gain in strength, power, and influence, because we failed to take them on at that moment in time.

Meanwhile, Iran grew bolder.

George Bush, the elder had some lapses, as well. After the USSR fell, resources that could have been used to take on the threat were downsized out, until Desert Storm. But it wasn't the extraction of the Iraqi Army out of Kuwait that failed to do the job. That, in and of iteslf, was a good thing that had to be done. Saddam was a threat. The world could not allow him, a dictator of a national entity, to just annex what he wanted, when he wanted it.

But George the elder was faced with a difficult decision that would be second guessed, years later. For the purpose of keeping Iran in check, he allowed Saddam to stay in power. He theorized that his own people would overthrow him. Couple that with the fact that the UN Resolution was clear in its objective that Saddam's army be extracted from Kuwait and you see his reasoning ofr not marching to Baghdad at that time, despite how tempting it may have been.


In his last days in office, he made the decision to send troops to Somalia. I never really understood that decision. For a President to send troops to an area that the U.S. clearly had no interest at the time and at the same time was so close to the end of his term, was in my opinion foolish. It gave the distinct impression that he was trying to ensnarl the new administration into a quagmire (which it turned out to be).

Clinton's missteps were evident. After some losses in Somalia, he cut and ran. Even though Bush the elder, put us there, the worst thing Clinto could have done was pull out immediately after things got a little rough, It gave a signal to the enemy that Americans did not have the stomachs for casualties.

Add to that the unanswered WTC attack in 93, embassy attacks, and the attack on the U.S.S Cole; then add to that his refusal to accept bin Laden when offered to him, and it became painfully evident that the Clinton administration was content to treat this conflict as a law enforcement issue.

But in one sense I see where the Clinton team saw a need to (somewhat) beef up security in the mid-90s, for what was then explained to be non-specific threats to the airline industry. It was then that the airlines began asking certain questions about passengers' bags before boarding. It may have been explained as non-specific, but in my opinion there was more known about those threats that precipitated the extra screenings. We just weren't told what they were.

Towards the end of the Clinton terms, we then let our guard down again. And after George Bush the younger came to office, those guards were let down even further. And the nation had begun to get back into a state of complacency, that attitude led to the worst attacks on U.S. soil ever.

Why am I saying all of this?

Because to fully give an account of what happened leading up to this dreadful day, 5 years ago, one cannot just look the mistakes of Clinton and point to him as the leading cause. The story must begin with Carter and proceed from there. They all had a hand in it, they all had their opportunities but didn't capitalize on them, because they underestimated the Jihadist movements. (Al Qaida saw this, and recognized the fact that the Americans were not on a war footing, as was the Islamic militancy.)

The lessons of the past are with us. What has happened has happened. We cannot change this fact, no matter how many times we go over it in our minds. If we had only done this, or if we had only done that, does not make for productive reflection. To blame one person for allowing it to happen, does even worse.

But as we remember this day, we all would do well to not continue to focus on who is to blame, because we all were caught offguard. We would do well to look at where we have been, make the necessary adjustments to ensure that we do not take the same path again; and then we need to keep our guard up, thereby refusing to let these thugs beat us, psychologically or militarily.

To continue to politicize this issue, to me, is an abomination. To do it to purposefully keep the nation divided, is even more so. And to work against those that are working hard to make this nation safer, is a sure path to further pain and suffering.

Never forget this day.

I won't.

I can't.

4 comments:

Always On Watch said...

LA,
What an outstanding essay!

I just don't just think about this when the anniversary gets here. I do not think that there isn't a day that I haven't thought about it.

Not a single day goes by without my thinking of what happened on 9/11. In fact, I think I'm angrier now than I was on that awful day. Why? Because too many don't want to recognize that the danger of another attack is imminent; the ideology of Islam creates the mentality which allows for murder of all those who are not Muslim. I remain unconvinced that Western leaders 'get it'! I know that the Dems don't 'get it.'

LASunsett said...

Thanks AOW.

I feel like I half-assed it, because I have been a little under the weather as of late, and allergy medicine has not helped my cognitive processes either.

I know that even Clinton would not have purposely allowed this to happen had he had an inkling. At very least he would have wanted to bolster his legacy by being known as the President that stopped a horrendous attack. Even though that would have been the most selfish of reasons, if the end result would have been no attack, it would have been worth it.

Thanks again.

All_I_Can_Stands said...

LA,

I agree with AOW, it was excellent. I too am not feeling the greatest or I would point out some points I liked. So I'll just leave it at that. Hope you feel better.

AICS

LASunsett said...

Thanks AICS.

I always value your opinions, even when we aren't in complete agreement.