Weekly remarks: GOP's Jon Kyl and Obama savor 9/11 unity, but draw different lessons
On this date nine years ago, Islamist terrorists hijacked four commercial jets and killed almost 3,000 innocent people. Americans finally realized that the sporadic attacks that had occurred earlier were not isolated events – they were all part of a war that had been declared by leaders of militant Islamist groups and had to be confronted as such.
In the unity that immediately followed September 11, a number of actions were taken. Congress and the nation resolved that Afghanistan could no longer serve as a sanctuary for Al Qaeda. So Congress authorized the use of force and also passed the Patriot Act allowing our intelligence and law enforcement communities to work together. The president directed our intelligence agencies to better use modern technology to gather information.
The U.S. military drove the Taliban and Al Qaeda from Afghanistan. After the defeat of....
These and other actions have made us safer; but, ironically, the very fact that we have less fear of being attacked has frayed the bonds of unity that enabled us to act so boldly in the aftermath of the attack. The fact that none of the subsequent attempts to attack us have succeeded seems to have removed some of the urgency and commitment so necessary to succeed in war.
Some in our government have even refused to speak the name of our adversary lest they somehow offend. Yet, one of the first rules of war is to know your enemy, the better to confront him on your terms than his.
The enemy is the militant Islamist ideology that candidly, boldly and uncompromisingly seeks to destroy liberal Western culture and governments and replace them with the medieval concept of an Islamist caliphate governed by Sharia law.
Like communism before it, the concept is totalitarian and relies on brute force, intimidation and subtle manipulation. A failure to appreciate what the enemy wants and how it intends to win would be fatal to our efforts to combat this ideology. It is also important to differentiate this militant political ideology from the Muslim faith practiced by over a billion people all around the globe. Focus on Islam rather than the real adversary diverts attention and insults those Muslims.
Terrorism is but one of the tactics of the militant Islamists. The insidious effort to gain political influence, not just in the Middle East, but in Europe and the U.S. as well, could sap our capacity to respond. Even now, some Western countries have tolerated the imposition of aspects of Sharia law in their Muslim communities, thus denying some of their citizens the protection of their liberal laws and constitutional rights.
The ninth anniversary of 9/11 should cause us to think hard about the enemy that attacked us and will do so again if we relax our efforts. And we need to remember that direct terrorist attacks are but one of the tactics of this determined enemy.
Today we should remember the victims of 9/11 and their families. We should also recall the sacrifice of those in our military, including the loved ones of those lost. Others, civilians and intelligence officers, deserve our deepest gratitude.
Tomorrow and beyond, we should recapture the unity that allowed us to come together as a nation to confront a determined enemy.
That is neither a Republican nor a Democrat challenge -- that is an American challenge. ####
Remarks by President Obama, as provided by the White House
Today, we pause to remember a day that tested our country.
On September 11, 2001, nearly 3,000 lives were lost in the deadliest attack on American soil in our history. We will never forget the images of planes vanishing into buildings; of photos hung by the families of the missing. We will never forget the anger and sadness we felt. And while nine years have come and gone since that September morning, the passage of time will never diminish the pain and loss forever seared in the consciousness of our nation.
That is why, on this day, we pray with the families of those who died. We mourn with husbands and wives, children and parents, friends and loved ones. We think about the milestones that have passed over the course of nine years – births and christenings, weddings and graduations – all with an empty chair.
On this day, we also honor those who died so that others might live: the firefighters and first responders who climbed the stairs of two burning towers; the passengers who stormed a cockpit; and the men and women who have, in the years since, borne the uniform of this country and given their lives so that our children could grow up in a safer world.
In acts of courage and decency, they defended a simple precept: I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper.
And on this day, we recall that at our darkest moment, we summoned a sense of unity and common purpose. We responded to the worst kind of depravity with the best of our humanity.
So, each year at this time, we renew our resolve against those who perpetrated this barbaric act of terror and who continue to plot against us – for we will never waver in defense of this nation. We renew our commitment to our troops and all who serve to protect this country, and to their families.
But we also renew the true spirit of that day. Not the human capacity for evil, but the human capacity for good. Not the desire to destroy, but the impulse to save.
That is why we mark September 11th as a National Day of Service and Remembrance. For if there is a lesson to be drawn on this anniversary, it is this: we are one nation – one people – bound not only by grief, but by a set of common ideals.
And that by giving back to our communities, by serving people in need, we reaffirm our ideals – in defiance of those who would do us grave harm. We prove that the sense of responsibility that we felt for one another was not a fleeting passion – but a lasting virtue.
This is a time of difficulty for our country. And it is often in such moments that some try to stoke bitterness -– to divide us based on our differences, to blind us to what we have in common. But on this day, we are reminded that at our best, we do not give in to this temptation. We stand with one another. We fight alongside one another. We do not allow ourselves to be defined by fear, but by the hopes we have for our families, for our nation, and for a brighter future.
So let us grieve for those we’ve lost, honor those who have sacrificed, and do our best to live up to the values we share – on this day, and every day that follows. Thank you. ####
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Photos: Associated Press (Shanksville, Pa. site of United Flight 93 crash on 9-11-01); Dennis Cook / Associated Press; Lawrence Jackson / White House.