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Remembering: With Pain, Anger, and Vigilance

Friday, September 9, 2011

Americans must remember that the terrible ideology that spawned the 9/11 attacks is still alive in the world.

“Nine Eleven.”

A number become a symbol.

A brand on the hide of history and the spot still raw.

Its gross incongruity still leaves Americans groping. Pearl Harbor, not with bombs but box cutters.

At least with Pearl Harbor there was the grim satisfaction of immediately knowing the enemy and having a faintly coherent reason for the attack.

Now, of course, we know about the enemy. We’ve had ten years to reflect.

And if we remain grudgingly astonished at the ingenious concept and scale of the 9/11 attacks, we are more astounded that such murder, such destruction, such economic and societal dislocation could be perpetrated by a handful of suicidal air pirates under the sway of a hate-crazed cult leader with vaporous, irredentist dreams of an Islamic theocracy in which all Jews would be slaughtered and all other infidels (including the “wrong kind” of Muslims) either eliminated or severely subjugated.

Somehow, even though Osama Bin Laden now “sleeps with the fishes” in the Indian Ocean, having suffered “ballistic trauma” at the hands of a U.S. Navy SEAL, it seems slim justice. We still feel kicked in the stomach. The heartache lingers. And the anger.

We still feel kicked in the stomach. The heartache lingers. And the anger.

What justice can there be? What real redress for a world turned upside down? And for what? A criminal conspiracy which, despite its cunning and its boss’s dark pretensions of “setting things right” in the Muslim world and beyond, had the approximate moral dimension of street vandalism or a drive-by drug murder.

That is why ordinary Americans have always been puzzled at all the political correctness about who did this, and annoyed at all the embarrassingly pathetic thumb-sucking by assorted scholars, analysts, pundits, and even clergymen explaining how the United States perhaps “deserved” 9/11 because of its foreign policy or its moral collapse or the effrontery of its very existence.

Ordinary Americans know that this was an undeserved sucker punch. They know that what happened that fine late summer day ten years ago was murder, pure and simple—mass murder of innocents for no higher cause than a black, seething envy from the darkest corner of what is politely called Islamism. The more one prunes away at the unoriginal babblings of Osama Bin Laden, the more one exposes a shriveled vine of self-destructive envy—envy of the West and all it has become, and particularly of the United States as the shining symbol of freedom and equality and capitalism and justly rewarded human achievement.

Americans have always been puzzled at all the political correctness about who did this.

Western freedom’s untidiness, its embarrassments, its occasional ugliness, and its inevitable head-shaking unpredictability gave Bin Laden the “moral traction” he needed. It confirmed all the jihadist venom he loved to channel from his favorite mullahs as he recruited his capos. Then, in a cynical reproach to every peaceful, nominal, or indifferent Muslim the world over, he and his gangsters exploited the envy and resentment that has left much of the Middle East such an unproductive morass. He and his underbosses passionately programmed his killers and sent them on their way.

Modern civilization, as has often been remarked, carries its own peculiar vulnerabilities. Girt and laced through with marvelous infrastructure and ever-advancing technology, it is target-rich for the haters, the unbalanced, the vandals, the social Luddites, and evil schemers. It provides the tools, the cover, and the crowded venues with which these little creatures may do big things. Bin Laden was one of these. The old civilization of Bin Laden’s fervid imagination had once dreamt of magic carpets. The West—ever impatient with dreams unrealized—built them. It perfected them to that final shining state which Bin Laden employed to kill and destroy on that fateful September day.

The more one prunes away at the unoriginal babblings of Osama Bin Laden, the more one exposes a shriveled vine of self-destructive envy.

We come to this anniversary with Bin Laden dead and his “Base”—al Qaeda—badly battered and scattered, but still fighting. The “International Islamic Front for Jihad Against the Jews and Crusaders” lost its most prominent member when those Navy SEALs arrived at his Pakistani compound on their magic carpet last May. But the beheaded snake still slithers. The campaign of suicidal attacks against the West and against millions of hapless Muslims continues.

We have spent much blood and treasure in a war for which we as yet see no end. We have done great things. And we have thrashed about blindly, trampling our own freedom for imagined security. We do not travel (at least by air or train) as freely as we once did. Nor, sadly, do we speak as freely. We come to this tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in a curious, tentative way. We have been told, through our media, politicians, and other elites, to damp down “the God thing” in our observances and even (in a suggestion from the White House to all government agencies) to not mention al Qaeda too much! Just concentrate, we are told, on the victims, the victims. There seems to be a predilection abroad in the country that what started out with a terrible bang ten years ago should be observed this weekend with a sort of whimper.

For millions of ordinary Americans this will decidedly not be so. Whatever may transpire in formal ceremonies, they will remember with pride those few who were able to mount a desperate fight against some of the attackers, and they will pray for their country’s strength against its enemies. They will reflect that their country stands strong; that it has survived the worst the demented gangsters could throw at it and even survived its own sometimes bungling responses.

Bin Laden and his gangsters exploited the envy and resentment that has left much of the Middle East such an unproductive morass.

And they know the evil still arrayed against them—not some indefinable Evil with a big E, as if it were an entity in and of itself, but a peculiarly sordid Islamofascism. It is murderous and vengeful in its very foundations and holds to a worldview that demands absolute control of mind and heart and the utter subjugation of women. It sees the very highest achievements of free men as objects of revenge and destruction. It is insatiable.

There will never be true redress for what happened on 9/11. What was torn away cannot be restored. Americans will always have this gnaw at them as they remember the death and destruction of that day. But they must also remember that the terrible ideology that spawned these attacks is still alive in the world. They must remember with pain, and a righteous anger, and with vigilance.

Ralph Kinney Bennett writes the Automobility column for THE AMERICAN.

FURTHER READING: Bennett also writes “This Astounding Enterprise” and “Fallen Heroes, Never Forgotten.”

Image by Rob Green | Bergman Group

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