The wake-up call

By Christopher Holton
Thursday, September 12, 2002

On Wednesday, September 11, 2002, we marked the first anniversary of a day in which America was horribly awakened from a decade-long slumber a slumber brought about by illusions of "everlasting peace in our time" and invincibility. Yet, as was demonstrated a year ago yesterday by the brave firefighters and policemen who rushed INTO the World Trade Center towers as civilians like you and me rushed OUT, though America may have been asleep and though our leaders may have chosen not to look forward, the soul of America is alive and well. And just as wounded servicemen and women rose from the ashes of the Pentagon a year ago yesterday to rescue their comrades, America has at least shown a willingness to rise from its slumber and do what is necessary to defend itself and its citizens where ever needed. Now, this is no doubt a small comfort to those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001 and it is also likely a small comfort to those who have lost loved ones in combat since then.

To most Americans, this war started a year ago yesterday. But clearly, the enemy was fighting a war against us for decades.

September 11th happened because America did not strike fear in our enemies' hearts. We were not feared because, for 20 years or more, we almost never brought to justice, or retaliated against, radical Islamic terrorists who committed repeated terrorist acts against Americans.

There was the takeover of our embassy in Tehran, Iran on November 4, 1979 and the suicide bombing of the US embassy in Beirut in April 1983, and the U.S. marine barracks at the Beirut airport in October of that same year. Then there was the long-forgotten TWA hijacking and the hijacking of the Achille Lauro cruise liner. In 1988 came the mid-air destruction of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The 1990s brought the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, the suicide bombing of the U.S. Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia, and the bombings of the two U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998. The year 2000 saw the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen. In each case, the terrorists got away with their dastardly deeds.

C. Bradley Thompson of the Ayn Rand Institute put it best: "And how has the United States responded to this 25-year Reign of Terror? It has done almost nothing; it has responded with shameless appeasement. They bomb, we investigate; they bomb, we call for "restraint"; they bomb, we negotiate."

Our enemies, the radical Islamic fundamentalists, held us in more and more contempt with each terrorist act. In fact, each terrorist act encouraged them to escalate the terror the next time. They became so emboldened that, finally, they carefully planned and attacked America on our own shores in horrific and dramatic fashion. And why not? The terrorists and the states that sponsor them thought that they would get away with it. They thought that they could terrorize us, and they were right. They thought that we would always accept their attacks as the price of being a superpower and always turn the other cheek. The radical Islamic terrorists sensed weakness and 3,000 Americans paid the ultimate price for that.

And we must realize that the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 were not terrorism in the classic sense. They were not meant just to "scare" or "terrorize" us. The targets were carefully chosen. This was a strategic attack on America meant to throw off the entire nation's center of gravity, perhaps in preparation for more attacks. The WTC attacks were designed to paralyze our financial system and cripple our economy. The Pentagon attack was designed to disrupt our military's command and control apparatus the means by which we would strike back. And Flight 93 appears to have been headed for the U.S. Capitol once again to cripple or paralyze our government the body that would be responsible for any declaration of war. It is likely that the attacks were not as successful as the enemy hoped they would be. The 9-11 attacks were not accompanied or preceded by threats or demands. Nor were they followed by claims of responsibility with the characteristic long explanations of why the attacks were carried out. No, these were not classic terrorist attacks. They truly symbolize the war that groups like Al Qaida and Hizbullah have been waging against us for a quarter century. The war that nations like Iran, Syria, Libya, and, yes, Saudi Arabia have sponsored.

Since 1979, the State Department has maintained a list of nations who sponsor international terrorism. Excuse my language, but, it should really SUCK to be on that list. We need to put a high price on just being on that list. Nations on that list should be appeasing us by turning their backs on terrorists. Instead, we have spent too much time appeasing them.

September 11 need not have happened. The best way to honor the victims of 9-11 is to prevent this from ever happening again. For decades we have appeased enemies that deserve the same treatment we gave to Nazi Germany 60 years ago. In order to ensure that our children will have a chance to live in a world better than the one we have seen over the past 25 years, we need to hand over to them a world free from militant Islamic fundamentalism. We must turn our righteous might on those nations that sponsor radical Islamic terrorism. We must stop worrying so much about the sensitivities of our imaginary "coalition partners." Other regimes should learn the lessons of the Taliban: sponsor or harbor our enemies and die right along side them. This war cannot stop in Afghanistan. As Sen. Bob Graham of Florida pointed out recently: Iran and Syria are the biggest sponsors of radical Islamic terrorism. We cannot afford to let them get away with their war on America any longer.

To quote General George S. Patton, Jr.: "The quickest way to get it over with is to go get the bastards who started it. The quicker they are whipped, the quicker we can go home."

General Patton's words have never been more appropriate. What are we waiting for?

Christopher Holton serves on the Advisory Board for World and has been writing about economics and national security issues for more than a decade. He can be reached at

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