Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Remember September 11th


On September 11th, 2001, the world changed for the United States of America. That is the conventional story about the events of September 11th. In reality, September 11th was merely a wake-up call from our “holiday from history”.

Historical centuries do not come in neat 100 year blocks. The 20th century was born in the blood and mud of the trenches at Verdun, the Somme, Ypres, and the Meuse-Argonne. The 20th century became a century of conflict between good (the democratic capitalist West) and evil (totalitarian National Socialism and communism). That century ended on November 9th, 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Iron Curtain. The Soviet Union held on for a few more years before imploding in 1991.

Americans thought that the age of conflict, of competing superpowers and threats to freedom were over. The Bush and Clinton administrations slashed the size of the armed forces. The peace dividend allowed increased government spending while at the same time reducing the deficit. No longer would the survival of the United States be threatened by outside threats. The United Nations would be able to lead the world in a New Age of Peace.

It was only an allusion. Islamic jihadism revealed its true face and the extent of its threat to the United States on September 11th 2001. Americans awoke to the frightening reality that the end of the Cold War and the bloody twentieth century only opened the door for even greater evils. Islamic Jihadism or Islamofascism (to use a particularly common phrase for them) had as its one goal the death of the unbeliever and the establishment of Dar-al-Islam over the entire world. Al-Qaeda is but one faction of that wider organization, though at this time, the most spectacularly successful. September 11th was not the beginning of the jihadist war against America and the West. It was merely the moment when America was woken from her slumber to a cold new reality. It was the beginning of a new century.

Jihadism was born in the 1950s with the writings and teachings of Sayyid Qutb. His Islamic Brotherhood became the first franchise of Islamic terrorism to be unleashed on the world. What is of particular note is that Qutb’s hatred of the United States did not make America a target initially. The first target was the government of his country, Egypt. The first deaths in the Islamic Jihadist war against civilization were fellow Muslims. Qutb bred Zawahiri; Zawahiri taught and then followed Bin Laden. Osama’s Al-Qaeda rose up to inspire a great Jihad against the west. In that process, they have killed many more Muslims than they have Westerners. That nihilism of Al-Qaeda and their fellow Islamic Jihadists represents not their greatest strength (there is no deterrence for a nihilist), but their greatest weakness (their disregard for all human life).

The United States is now engaged in a war with these extremist fanatics. Yet many Americans look longingly back at the 1990s, the “September 10th world,” and wish it back. The world of September 10th, 2001 is dead. If history is a guide, “holidays” are temporary. The September 11th world is our reality now.

The freedoms of western civilization are threatened. I firmly believe that those freedoms are worth fighting for. Winston Churchill exhorted the English people during WWII to “Arise and take our stand for Freedom as in the olden times”.

Those words are just as relevant to us today. John Stuart Mill wrote, “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself”. Western civilization is worth fighting for.

As President George W. Bush said, “Freedom is not America's gift to the world; it is the Almighty God's gift to every man and woman in this world”.

We remember those who perished on September 11th, 2001. We remember those who answered the call to battle. We will fight for those who are lost. That is how we honor and remember those who perished; - by doing all we can so it won’t happen again. We honor them be fighting those responsible wherever they are.

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