It was a peaceful morning. I was flying to Chicago for a business trip, so I had eagerly anticipated the arrival of September 11, 2001.
As I looked out the airplane window over the patchwork of farms in America’s heartland I had no conception of the horror that my fellow countrymen were facing at that very moment. When American Airlines Flight 11 hit the north tower of the World Trade Center at 8:45 a.m. I was chatting with my boss. When United Airlines Flight 175 slammed into the south tower at 500 miles an hour at 9:03 a.m. I was marveling at the beautiful farmland below us. American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon at 9:40 a.m. as we began our descent into Chicago.
Nineteen al Qaeda militants hijacked four airplanes that fateful day. At the World Trade Center, 2,763 lives were lost, including 343 firefighters and paramedics, 23 police officers, and 37 Port Authority officers. At the Pentagon, 189 lives were lost. On Flight 93, 44 people were killed when the plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania – likely after the passengers fought the terrorists for control of the plane.
As we exited the plane on the ground in Chicago, we were met at the door by a national guardsman, armed with a rifle who was allowing passengers off the plane, and keeping others from getting back on. We hurried to the nearest television set and witnessed for the first time the image of the burning World Trade Center towers. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing. Turning to my boss I declared, “Our lives have just changed forever. It will never be the same.”
How Have We Changed
Nearly twenty years have passed since that fateful day and America has changed, just as I knew it would. Ours has become a security-focused world. There was a time when my children could walk to the gate with me at the airport to say goodbye and watch my plane take off. That all ended with the September 11 attacks.
Like the attack on Pearl Harbor, the 9/11 terrorist attack reminded Americans that we can no longer hide behind two mighty oceans. During the frightening days immediately after 9/11, the leaders of the Bush administration analyzed the ongoing threat to America from Jihadist terrorism. In what became known as “the one percent doctrine,” Vice President Dick Cheney declared, “If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It’s not about our analysis … It’s about our response.”
Since that time, America has fought the “War on Terror” around the world as key leaders of terrorist groups have been smoked out of their holes. This effort has transcended three presidential administrations – the highlight being the finding and killing of 9/11 mastermind, Osama bin Laden.
This effort has been both praised and condemned by people around the world. Some see these operations as American police actions, protecting the world from terror, while others see it as American aggression or colonialism, imposing western ideology on the world.
Since 2001, we have fought two hot wars in the overall “War on Terror.” Many on both sides of the political aisle criticized the war in Iraq as a diversion from the true threat from the terror group al-Qaeda, which was hiding out in Afghanistan. Yet while the Iraqi War ended with the capture of Saddam Hussein, the war in Afghanistan continues on – now the longest war in American history. And there is no clear cut victory in sight – if you consider victory to be eliminating Islamist terrorists while creating a representative government.
On the Home Front
The attacks on September 11th polarized America even further than it had been in the 2000 election less than a year earlier.
Like in the days of Vietnam, today we seem to have the “hawks” who believe the War on Terror is necessary to prevent another massive terror attack. Their philosophy is that it is better to fight them “over there” than to have them attacking us here.
Then there are the “doves” who criticize the War on Terror and promote their idea of tolerance and understanding between different religions and cultures. The problem tends to be that this brand of tolerance often morphs into appeasement and compromise, opening the door for more attacks by the Jihadist.
We are also seeing a disturbing trend of ‘self-hate’ among certain segments of society – primarily among many young people. In a conversation with a young man about September 11th, I was asked if somehow the terrorism attack was somehow our own fault – that somehow American activities around the world invited these attacks. I was aghast. My only answer at the time was, “No, this was simply an act of pure evil.”
The Jihadists attacked America on 9/11 because we are the leader of the free world and we defend liberty around the globe. They attacked America because we reject tyranny. And they attacked the United States because we support and defend Israel – our staunch ally and friend, and the only democracy in the Middle East.
It was NOT because of any American foreign policy other than this.
In a recent forum, commentator Brigitte Gabriel was asked by a Muslim to comment on the peaceful Muslim majority in the world and why they don’t receive more attention from the media and politicians.
Thanking the person for the opportunity to address this question, Gabriel responded: “There are 1.2 billion Muslims in the world today. Of course not all of them are radical – the majority of them are peaceful people. The radicals are estimated to be between 15 and 25 percent according to all intelligence services around the world. … But when you look at 15 to 25 percent of the Muslim population, you’re looking at 180 million to 300 million people dedicated to the destruction of Western Civilization.”
“So why should we worry about the radical 15 to 25 percent? Because it is the radicals that kill. Because it is the radicals that behead and massacre. … On September 11th … we had 2.3 million Arab Muslims living in the United States. It took 19 hijackers – 19 radicals to … kill almost 3,000 Americans that day. The peaceful majority were irrelevant.”
Finally, we see a growing trend in America of syncretism – the combining of different religious beliefs and the blending of various theological schools of thought for the purpose of tolerance and inclusivity. The problem with this viewpoint, of course, is that the major religions are vastly different. To try to make them the same is to create something that does not, in reality, actually exist. In other words, it is a naïve approach to solving the problems of this world.
America values freedom for all people – freedom of speech; freedom of religion; freedom of assembly; economic freedom. We end our pledge of allegiance with the words “one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” So everyone in this country has the right to worship God in the way that they choose – or to not worship at all. But no one has the right to use their religious beliefs as a means to take away another person’s rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
Tolerance – in order to be real – has to be a two-way street. It can never be used, as it has been as a means to silence, intimidate, blacklist, or injure.
Those who love liberty lost much that we hold dear on the fateful day of September 11, 2001. Now, all these years later, we must remain resolute in our determination that the American ideals of freedom that were threatened that day, though strained in the years since then, will not be rejected. Liberty will be defended, both in America and around the world.
The words of President John F. Kennedy, spoken in the midst of an earlier global struggle, the Cold War, are just as true for us today:
“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
May God bless America, and may we remain that shining city on a hill carrying the torch of freedom on this earth – and the eternal liberty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the nations.
Dr. Craig von Buseck is Digital Editor of Inspiration.org.