Aug. 19, 2002: 9/11 A Year Later: Disappointment Reigns

We are approaching the first anniversary of the Arab terrorists attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In the next couple of weeks, you are going to be swamped by a tidal wave of commentary, analysis, soul-searching, pontificating and second-guessing by those of us who have opinions and are paid to subject you to them.

If I wait to say my piece, my thoughts will become lost in the cacophony. If I say it now, you will have the benefit of one man’s opinion and I will feel better for having gotten some things off my chest.

I still can’t look at pictures of the airplanes crashing into the twin towers without feeling ill. That there are people so demented that they think cowardly acts are heroic is incomprehensible in what is supposed to be a civilized world. Many people would celebrate the deaths of thousands of innocent people by staging celebrations and burning American flags shows that much of our world is still uncivilized.

I am disappointed in our government. We should have retaliated before the smoke cleared on Sept. 11. Is the most powerful nation on earth capable of punishing those who kill American people on American soil, or are we too worried about our image in the world? Even the terrorists must be surprised at our lack of action.

I am disappointed that those people who perpetrated this evil act and those who supported them show little or no remorse. For some reason, our government feels compelled to assure Saudi Arabia that we don’t hold them liable for anything that happened. The Saudis have responded by refusing to allow us to use their airbases in case we attack the terrorist state of Iraq and by holding telethons for the families of the terrorists. Some friends.

Speaking of friends, we have none. The sooner we understand that, the better. There is no question that Iraq is developing weapons of mass destruction intended for use in the United States but our allies in Europe, who wouldn’t be here today if not for our aid after World War II, won’t lift a hand to help us. We are going to have to go it alone and to hell with what the rest of the world thinks.

About the only good news to come this past year is that self-described comedian Bill Maher was kicked off the air after informing the plebeians that the terrorists were “courageous.” His departure wasn’t a freedom of speech issue as some claim. We were so disgusted by his smugness and arrogance that we threatened his network and his sponsors, who promptly deserted him. Gay rights groups have been employing this tactic for years. It was about time we plebeians learned to use it, too.

Since the attacks, we have had to wrestle with the question of how to increase our security without losing our individual freedoms. To date, we haven’t found the answer. The much-vaunted Department of Homeland Security has the look of a bumbling, ineffective federal bureaucracy. The idea of suggesting that ordinary citizens and delivery people act as spies and snitches gives me the shudders. So do civil libertarians, who stick their heads in the sand and act as if nothing unusual has happened.

The news media have shown over the past twelve months that we could do with a little soul-searching of our own. Are we really neutral observers like sportswriters at a prizefight, or do we have a stake in the outcome? Do we have an obligation to publish leaked war plans and possibly endanger those charged with the execution of those plans? Do we understand that the First Amendment will apply only if we remain free? Journalists need to remember that we are Americans first, media people second.

Of all that has happened to us, the biggest tragedy is that my children and grandchildren will never know the security that I have enjoyed. Suicide bombers and technological and biological terror will become a way of life. Your family and mine have done nothing to deserve this. That is why I am so unforgiving of those involved directly or indirectly in the attacks last September.

I wish I could be optimistic about the future, but I’m not sure where we are headed or how we are going to get there. I just wish we didn’t have to make the trip.