September 23, 2023

Prologue to Sept. 11, 2001

Posted on 13. Sep, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in Social/Cultural, Uncategorized

In the years that have passed since our great national tragedy, our friendships with the nations that poured out their compassion to us in the wake of 9/11 have ebbed and flowed.

The search for the terrorists, the sponsors of terrorism and the invasion of Iraq, have been the subject of dozens of articles, interviews and books detailing the events that led up to the War and the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Our allies that comprised the coalition forces spent their own native blood and treasure in support of the hunt for the perpetrators of the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon and the foiled attempt that left hundreds dead in a Pennsylvania farmer’s field. For years, our friendships with these nations have been tested by America’s foreign policy and will continue to be. Americans, too, have come down on both sides of the issue of whether the hunt for the terrorists should have precipitated the invasion of Iraq instead of a more narrowly targeted ‘surgical’ dragnet.

One thing is for certain, America will never be the same, and the tragedy of 9/11 set in motion a widespread national debate on war, terrorism, personal liberty, torture, incarceration, due process and security, not to mention geopolitics. Americans of all ages and persuasions have weighed in on  the advisability of preemptive use of force, and the political winds that blow hot and heavy throughout the Congress have carried this debate to the floor of the Senate and House on more than one occasion.

These debates, which are reminiscent of those of the Vietnam War years, will not go away, and each  Congress and President must take them up and try to square them with our Constitution and with our values as a nation. That is the responsibility of free people and the promise of freedom entrusted to us by the framers of our Constitution. Tyranny will always be with us and is a parasite on democracy. We will never totally eradicate tyranny; we can only hope to show it for what it is, a mutation of humanity.

I have a good friend, a kind and decent man I have known for over 25 years, who was called upon to be the Civilian Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, III. ‘Jerry,’ as his friends call him, was not a man that sought fame and adulation. He was a career diplomat who began his career as a junior officer in Afghanistan and worked his way up the State Department’s ladder. Retiring earlier than most at his pay grade to take a position in the private sector, he did so to ensure his children of the best education possible and to spend more time with them and with his wife of many years.

Answering the President’s call to become the U.S.’ top man in Iraq and take on the gargantuan task of reconstituting a government and helping stabilize a country in ruins was a daunting responsibility – one that most people would never even entertain. I was relieved when President Bush chose him because I knew there was no better qualified, resilient and resourceful man for the job. I mention him here because he is a well-known figure to many and to show that one man’s (or woman’s) dedicated actions can make a difference in righting the wrongs visited upon us by evil people.

Ordinary citizens in vastly different situations than his have done all they could over the past ten years to try make sense out of the senseless acts of 9/11. Thousands of our brave men and women  in uniform have given their lives in defense of our liberty, and many thousands more have come back to us badly wounded and suffering from severe battle trauma. We owe them a debt of gratitude. While that debt can never fully be paid, we pay it down by acknowledging their sacrifice during these days immediately following 9/11.

Our Creator has endowed us with the ability to evolve and to learn from our mistakes. We live our lives in the present, but we must remember that history did not begin with our birth nor with the births of countless generations of decent human beings that came before us. Finding fault is never as important to our human condition as finding truth and acting responsibly.

To borrow a currently-used phrase, “one cannot lead from behind,” and only we the living have the luxury of hindsight. Whether the decisions made from 2001 on were correct or not will be left to the survivors of this national holocaust to decide, not the victims. It is our solemn duty to honor them by getting it right… for the next ten years and beyond.

- The Editor


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