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Weekly remarks 9/11: Giuliani warns on hasty troop drawdowns; Obama on time for nation-building here

New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani recalls the events of September 2001

 Weekly remarks by New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, as provided by Republican Party leadership<

Everyone can remember exactly where they were when they first learned that our country had been attacked.  As with Pearl Harbor and the John F. Kennedy assassination, these defining events have a big impact on a nation because they're not just a shared experience, they're a shared memory.

On the 10th anniversary of the attacks, we must take stock of what we've learned.

The attacks had two purposes. The first was to kill as many Americans as possible. The second was to destroy America's spirit.

As we remember the thousands of lives lost on that day, there’s no doubt that the terrorists achieved their first goal and will leave us with a deep wound forever.

When it comes to destroying our spirit, however … as we consider the rescue and ....

... recovery effort we witnessed at the time of and in the aftermath of the attacks, it’s clear that the terrorists failed. The country was not broken, but rather, it was more united in the days after September 11 than at any time in my lifetime. 

We displayed heroic spirit in many ways, but perhaps the most heroic was the unity of spirit that we shared as Americans. The American people demonstrated one of the most basic values that we share -- our love of freedom and the value we place on individual human life.

People often ask me, ‘Is America safer now than it was before September 11?’  The answer is: ‘Yes, but not as safe as we should be.’  We're safer because we faced a difficult truth. A danger that we allowed to fester and grow without confronting properly, was suddenly staring us in the face.

The engagement of Islamic extremist terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan is an important part of our having prevented additional large-scale attacks. We’ve made significant improvements in intelligence gathering and in airport security. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani walks the streets in September 2001

But much work remains. We have not significantly improved port security and our state and local governments range from very well prepared to not prepared at all.

We’ve even seen some massive breakdowns in security, as demonstrated by the near attack on Christmas morning in 2009, as well as the inappropriate decision-making and irrational application of political correctness in the attack at Fort Hood.

Perhaps the most dangerous impulse we've developed since September 11 is impatience demonstrated by the calls to put our armed forces on timetables. 

It's a reemergence of a dangerous historical pattern that sometimes afflicts America --  a desire to demilitarize by minimizing the dangers we face and that’s led to catastrophes in the past, including the ‘peace dividend’ taken in the 90's as Islamic extremist terrorists were attacking us regularly.

American security requires a long-term military presence in the part of the world where people and organizations are plotting to kill us. The timetable should not be based on a politically expedient calendar, but on when we've eliminated the threat of domestic attacks being generated in that particular part of the world. We must not allow impatience to prevent our military from achieving its objective in Iraq and Afghanistan and the objective is the elimination of the threat to our nation. 

Finally, America must take care of those who were harmed during the difficult and dangerous recovery effort.  We must not forget what it meant to the country to watch these brave men and women work toward recovery and they shouldn't be abandoned now. If they become ill, we are responsible for taking care of them. 

After all, they took care of us.

The lesson of September 11 is that America is truly exceptional. We withstood the worst attack in our history, intended by our enemies to destroy us. 

Instead, it drew us closer and it made us more united. Our love for freedom and for one another had given us a strength that surprised even ourselves. At the same time, it's a strength that must be guarded and nurtured. We must rediscover our unity.

We must never forget what we witnessed on that day, both the incomprehensible face of pure evil and the depth of love and compassion. Today, 10 years later, the fight continues and the memories remain etched into our national character.    ####

Barack Obama exhorts a crowd of union members in Detroit 9-5-11

President Obama's weekly remarks, as provided by the White House

This weekend, we’re coming together, as one nation, to mark the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.  We’re remembering the lives we lost — nearly 3,000 innocent men, women and children.  We’re reaffirming our commitment to always keep faith with their families. 

We’re honoring the heroism of first responders who risked their lives — and gave their lives — to save others.  And we’re giving thanks to all who serve on our behalf, especially our troops and military families — our extraordinary 9/11 Generation.

At the same time, even as we reflect on a difficult decade, we must look forward, to the future we will build together.  That includes staying strong and confident in the face of any threat.  And thanks to the tireless efforts of our military personnel and our intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security professionals — there should be no doubt.  Today, America is stronger and Al Qaeda is on the path to defeat.

We’ve taken the fight to Al Qaeda like never before. Over the past two and a half years, more senior Al Qaeda leaders have been eliminated than at any time since 9/11. And thanks to the remarkable courage and precision of our forces, we finally delivered justice to Osama bin Laden.

We’ve strengthened the partnerships and tools we need to prevail in this war against Al Qaeda — working closer with allies and partners; reforming intelligence to better detect and disrupt plots; investing in our Special Forces so terrorists have no safe haven.

We’re constantly working to improve the security of our homeland as well — at our airports, ports and borders; enhancing aviation security and screening; increasing support for our first responders; and working closer than ever with states, cities and communities.

A decade after 9/11, it’s clear for all the world to see — the terrorists who attacked us that September morning are no match for the character of our people, the resilience of our nation or the endurance of our values.   

They wanted to terrorize us, but, as Americans, we refuse to live in fear. Yes, we face a determined foe, and make no mistake — they will keep trying to hit us again. But as we are showing again this weekend, we remain vigilant. We’re doing everything in our power to protect our people. And no matter what comes our way, as a resilient nation, we will carry on.

They wanted to draw us in to endless wars, sapping our strength and confidence as a nation. But even as we put relentless pressure on Al Qaeda, we’re ending the war in Iraq and beginning to bring our troops home from Afghanistan. Because after a hard decade of war, it is time for nation-building here at home.

They wanted to deprive us of the unity that defines us as a people. But we will not succumb to division or suspicion. We are Americans, and we are stronger and safer when we stay true to the values, freedoms and diversity that make us unique among nations.

And they wanted to undermine our place in the world. But a decade later, we’ve shown that America doesn’t hunker down and hide behind walls of mistrust. We’ve forged new partnerships with nations around the world to meet the global challenges that no nation can face alone. And across the Middle East and North Africa, a new generation of citizens is showing that the future belongs to those that want to build, not destroy.   

Ten years ago, ordinary Americans showed us the true meaning of courage when they rushed up those stairwells, into those flames, into that cockpit. In the decade since, a new generation has stepped forward to serve and keep us safe. In their memory, in their name, we will never waver. We will protect the country we love and pass it safer, stronger and more prosperous to the next generation.    ####

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Photos: Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images (New York Mayor Giuliani recalls the events of September 2001); Bill Pugliano / Getty Images (Obama exhorts union members in Detroit, Sept. 5); Associated Press (Giuliani walks the streets of his city in September, 2001).

 
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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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