Worldview: Remembering the warning we ignored

Today is the 10th anniversary of the bombing of the USS Cole at Aden, Yemen by operatives of al Qaeda. The bombing killed seventeen sailors and wounded another 39.

The US response to the Cole bombing may well go down as one of the biggest mistakes in foreign policy history because it emboldened al Qaeda to take even bigger risks. A year later, 9/11 happened.

This chain of events cannot be more important to our current state of affairs. Actions have consequences, even when the action is failure to act. The bombing of the Cole is an example of what happens when nations do not take care of their problems or the threats arrayed against them.

We live in a time where the national instinct is to give up, and if we do so, we consign ourselves to the real risk of even worse things happening because of an emboldened enemy that will think it has won a great victory. We failed to act after the Cole bombing, and that failure helped bring 9/11. If we fail to finish the job in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, what consequences will we bring on ourselves?

DLH

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Worldview: 9-11

I solemnly swear that I will always remember what happened on September 11, 2001.

I will not forget.

I will not forget that nearly 3,000 of my fellow Americans were murdered in the name of an ideology of hate.

I will not forget that my inalienable right is liberty.

I will not forget that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance.

I will not forget that the price of liberty is mine to pay.

I will not forget my brothers and sisters who give freely of themselves to ensure the liberty of others.

I will not stand by and watch my liberty or anyone else’s be taken away.

And I affirm that I will do everything within my power to uphold and advance the cause of liberty.

I will succeed on the merits of my own work.

I will, as I am able, encourage and help others to do the same.

I will not forget charity.

I will stand for liberty for as long as I have breath.

And when my time comes, I will do my best to ensure what I have done lays the foundation for those who follow after.

To this I pledge myself, my honor, and my life. May the God of my fathers grant me success.

Dennis L Hitzeman

September 11, 2011

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Worldview: 9-10

Sometimes, it seems like it was just yesterday. I remember sitting at my desk at work when the news the first plane hit broke. We were all clustered around the television when the second one did. A dozen military men, we all knew, even at that moment: we were at war.

In the next few days, the speculation in the circles I traveled in at the time was rampant, but many of us had a feeling: al Qaeda. The memory of the attack on the USS Cole was fresh enough that they were the first and most likely suspect. Who else would hijack planes as weapons? Yet we knew, whoever it was that did this to us, we were at war.

In the next weeks and months, our government confirmed that the attack was, indeed, carried out by al Qaeda, and our commander-in-chief dedicated us to rooting them out of Afghanistan and delivered a stern warning to the world: stand with us or stand against us. There was no middle ground. We were at war.

Except we weren’t.

A lot of people said in the days after 9-11 that everything changed, and in a way they were right. In the days since that horrible event, and unbelievable number of Americans have convinced themselves that everything but the truth is true.

Ivory tower academics and self-deluded pundits declare that America was to blame for what happened on 9-11. The news and the internet are full of journalists and talking heads insisting that our response to those events were overwrought, unjustified, even criminal. An entire segment of American society chose to respond to the recent death of Osama bin Laden by chiding Americans for celebrating the death of a bloodthirsty enemy.

In the ten years since 9-11, something has changed, something deep, sinister, and self-destructive. We now live in an era when a rapper can declare “Fuck the army troops” and claim gangsters are harder than combat veterans and people just shrug. We live in a society when reporters can write and say that the war in Afghanistan was an unjustified exercise in nation building, and most people believe that is true.

Instead of being at war with our enemy, we are at war with ourselves, and we seem very close to victory.

The sad fact of 9-11 ten years on is that, I believe, we have doomed ourselves to repeat history like we have so many times before. We have not learned anything. Instead, we have deceived ourselves into believing in a reality that never has been true, and it is almost inevitable that we will pay the price for that deception again.

For me, what remains ten years since 9-11 is the lingering thought that those of us who understood what changed that day must prepare ourselves and anyone who might listen for the eventuality of what may come next. We have to face the fact that things have changed and that someone has to be ready, even if everyone else believes it can’t possibly happen.

For those of us who get it, who understand what changed ten years ago, we cannot forget, we cannot tire, we cannot fail. Let’s roll.

DLH

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Worldview: It’s monumental news, but we need to keep it in perspective

The news that Osama bin Laden has been killed is certainly monumental, incredible news, especially since he managed to evade capture for such a long time. Yet, as important as his death may be, it marks but a single event in a much larger, longer conflict.

To a great degree, bin Laden was a figurehead, a rallying figure for the millions upon millions of people around the world who use their interpretation of Islam to justify violence, oppression, hatred, and fear. While his death removes that figurehead, it does not remove the justification.

This conflict is not and never was going to be won by simply killing bin Laden any more than Iraq was secured by simply capturing Saddam Hussein and killing his sons. This conflict is not even going to be won by the application of military force alone. Instead, this is a conflict over the hearts and minds of people held in tyranny for generations, and it is going to take conviction and diplomacy as well as force to win.

Because of this fact, we must resist the powerful urge to conclude that we have won and that it is now time to wind things down. There may yet be a time when that reaction is appropriate, but it must be a time when the future of Afghanistan is as secured as it ever will be. Yes, it has been a long war, and many of us who have been paying attention to these things all along have said it was going to be, but we cannot quit before the job is done, because the consequences of quitting will be worse than those of outright failure.

So, we should celebrate the victory bin Laden’s death represents, but we should do so with the caution born of the knowledge that a rough road still lies ahead. And, we should resolve ourselves to walk that road until its end.

DLH

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