"Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." - George Santayana
(1863-1952) - Those were the words that kept echoing through my head as I blearily witnessed, with the rest of the nation, the events and aftermath of the egregious attack upon our nation. I held particular interest in the dawn which broke the following day - in the fresh rays of sunlight, diffused in the pale, dusty billows which rose above lower Manhattan; the new morn breaking through the black smoke which emanated from the still-smoldering Pentagon.
That the sun rose at all was not particularly surprising; but as it shed new light upon the carnage which was wrought by terrorist aims, it also bore witness to the overdue stirring of slumbering American resolve. While America slept, it condemned itself to repeat the errors of appeasement. Our quiescence permitted renegade nations to harbor terrorist cells and fanatic organizations within their borders, as we clung to a senseless refusal to eliminate those leaders who pledged eternal enmity to America, her principles, and her people.
As our country dozed, we forgot the cost of isolationism. Too long have we disinterestedly watched from afar as terror reigned over our friends, smug in the conviction that our shores were invulnerable. As Sir Winston Churchill once quipped, in the face of American isolationism in another time and place, "The Americans will always do the right thing... after they've exhausted all the alternatives."
In our lethargy, we failed to heed the wisdom in the words so eloquently spoken by Thomas Jefferson: The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
Our vulnerability lay in our unwillingness to pay that price. An overriding desire for rapid, unencumbered air travel proved our undoing - inexcusably lax airport security (most shockingly unmasked at Boston's Logan International), was the soft underbelly expertly exploited by terrorists.
Never again should we trade "convenience" for the safety of our skies, and those who live beneath it. Anyone who has traveled to Europe or the Middle East in recent years can relate the difference in their air travel "experience". Our allies have already learned hard lessons from lives lived under the same gut-wrenching, innocence shattering terror that the new century has brought to America's doorstep.
Yet our sworn enemies have also failed to remember the lessons of the past. It was, in the morns and eves which followed another "day of infamy", that an isolationist America, unwilling to fully commit to the fight against a madman's movement, was forcefully shaken out of its reticent slumber. It took a surprise attack on America's shores to bring the responsibility inherent in our country's ideals compellingly home. Our ultimate victory, while painful and arduous, was the result of our total commitment to defend freedom, at any cost.
The tragic events of September 11, 2001, so glibly referred to in the media as the "new millennium's Pearl Harbor", may in fact prove just such a catalyst. America's "entry" into the war against terrorism has come on much different terms than we could have imagined, but clearly, our nation's future depends upon the outcome.
If we have completely shaken sleep from our shoulders, then our enemies have condemned themselves to repeat the fate of those who previously dared to press an attack on American soil. If, as President Bush has vowed, no country who harbors terrorists will be spared our wrath, than the leaders of those governments must be presented with a clear choice: Immediately release the guilty parties to face justice, or suffer the consequences.
Otherwise, we may one day awake to a mushroom cloud quite different from the one that lingered where the World Trade Center used to stand, on that otherwise bright September morn.
"I fear all we have accomplished is to awake a sleeping giant, and fill her with a terrible resolve." - Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, December 8, 1941.
September 16, 2001
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