September 11 – thirteen years later

September 11, 2001.   The whole reason we are at war.

September 11, 2001.
The whole reason we are at war.

Today is September 11, 2014 – thirteen years after an act of war was committed by radical Islamic fundamentalists. Through the administration of two presidents since, many Americans still do not understand the significance of September 11, 2001. Even after the release of the 9-11 commission report and its declaration that “they were at war with us before we were at war with them,” few Americans have looked beyond that day to understand how long this “war on terror” has actually been going on. Very few Americans recall the assassination of a young Democratic Party presidential candidate, Robert Kennedy by Palestinian Sirhan Sirhan. His justification for the assassination in 1968 of Robert Kennedy was that he, like his brother John Kennedy, had been outspoken in their support of Israel. In the opinion of this American historian, this was the first shot fired at the United States by radical fundamental Islamic elements within the Middle East.

In 1968, the United States did not want to think of the possibility that this assassination would be the first shot of many by a radical ideology against the nation. Already, the American public was strongly divided against the nation’s efforts in the Vietnam War and the thought of a second, more controversial military action in the Middle East was not something that was even being contemplated. Since the Eisenhower administration, the United States had become dependent upon the oil trade from the Middle East to feed its need for cheap gasoline. A war against the Palestinian Authority to punish the assassination of a leading presidential candidate would undoubtedly escalate to include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, into conflict with the United States. A war involving Saudi Arabia would run the risk of nearly destroying the American economy because of the thirst for cheap Saudi oil imports.

For the next thirty-three years, the world would witness an attack on the Marines barracks in Beirut, numerous airline hijacks, and even an oil embargo by the OPEC member nations to force the United States to change its policies towards the Middle East. Until September 11, 2001, most of the attacks against the United States had been small and easily ignored as isolated incidents perpetrated by a very small group of extremists. The national defense experts never considered these groups as a threat to American security; since the Second World War, American national security and defense strategy has been based on rogue nations with a traditional military strategy. It was never designed to consider threats from the Taliban, Al Qaeda, or similar groups. In fact, to keep the Soviet Union out of Afghanistan in the 1980s, the United States actually supplied the Taliban and its leadership weapons, training, and other support, not realizing one of the fundamental teachings of Islam: there is nothing that prohibits making an ally of an enemy to gain their trust. Once their trust has been earned, then the teachings of Muhammad claim you strike – while your enemy least expects it and while their defenses are down. It worked in the seventh century and it worked on September 11, 2001.

Since September 11, 2001, the United States has undergone tremendous change. Under the administration of George W. Bush, most of the policies enacted by the national government has been not only knee-jerk reactions, but have also gone against the classical understanding of the purpose of the national government itself. Under Bush, the nation witnessed the creation of the Department of Homeland Security with its cabinet level secretary and a broad range of powers that has never been fully disclosed to the American public. This new department increased the size of the national government by nearly 30% and literally has a reach into all activities performed by Americans. No Fourth Amendment protections afforded to Americans at the airport terminal, at home, or at the workplace. All now are presumed guilty of subversive activities, inciting civil unrest, or any other handful of accusations for the sole reason of expressing their concern and distrust of the expansion of governmental power.

Then comes the Patriot Act, enacted under the Bush administration, which was designed with the intent of monitoring communications originating from overseas. The American public was reassured that never would the NSA, FBI, CIA, or any other national government agency listen in on the phone calls of average Americans. In the past year, with the revelations of NSA leaker Edward Snowden, the world discovered the United States Government was recording every phone conversation (at least the numbers involved – described as metadata), every text message, every email, and that every piece of mail being delivered by the United States Postal Service was being photographed and archived by the NSA. This week, I discovered that it is ILLEGAL in the United States to install a Wi-Fi “sniffer” a device that will defend a home Wi-Fi network from unauthorized access by sending out a signal that will scramble the signal preventing the unauthorized device from detecting the network. The reason that it is illegal is because one of the tools used by the various American intelligence gathering and law enforcement agencies is accessing private Wi-Fi networks through various “back door” access points that are mandated to device manufacturers under the revised Patriot Act as signed into law by President Barrack H. Obama on May 26, 2011. Now many Americans have defended the Patriot Act by claiming, “if you’ve got nothing to hide, then what’s the deal?” The problem is that under the United States Constitution and the tradition of American jurisprudence, the government must prove in the process of getting a warrant signed by a judge, the reason why the data/search is needed. It is also is tradition that as an American citizen, innocence is to be presumed until proven guilty. This is no longer the legal stand of the government nor its numerous agencies. We have traded civil rights and liberties for security that cannot be truly given.

With the rise of political correctness under the end of the Bush administration and under the Obama administration, the Global War on Terror has become something that has faded in the memory of many Americans. President Obama, the liberal Left, and many Americans have forgotten the realness of the dangers that the nation faces. We are not facing an enemy that will fight us on a battlefield as the wars that the nation has faced in the past. We continue to face an enemy that regards all non-Muslims as legitimate military targets (which is why Hamas claims that it does not kill innocent Israeli citizens), considers death as bringing more honor than life (which is why they are willing to sacrifice themselves in a suicide bombing or mission), and where groups such as Al Qaeda, ISIS, Hamas, and Hezbollah has openly stated their desire to bring war to the United States. It will not be a war using tanks or ships, but a war where suicide bombers set targets such as the local hospital, mall, Wal-Mart, sporting events, or other shopping plazas – any place that will have great public visibility, mass casualties, and destabilize the support and trust Americans have placed in their government. The desires of evil such as these are to kill as many as they can at the least amount of effort while inflicting the most fear and terror on the American citizen. That’s what 9-11 was about and that is what the efforts of Islamic extremists will continue to focus on – to destabilize the populace of this nation. Have they succeeded? In my opinion, as we lose our rights, liberty, and freedoms for a false sense of security and increased national government power, I believe they are winning.

Alan Simmons

Alan Simmons is an adjunct instructor of history at Henderson Community College. He has been teaching at the college/university level since 2004. Within the scope of his degrees, his areas of emphasis are U.S. foreign policy, public policy history, political history, and U.S. history.

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