- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 18, 2011

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Watching all the network specials and tributes commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9/11 proved something very powerful to me — I’ll never be “over it.” I thought I was. I thought I could look back on the event more objectively and easily critique the errors we made following that awful day. But to even attempt to do so means lying to ourselves.

Last week, for the first time in almost 10 years, I watched the twin towers fall. I listened to the tales of widows, friends and comrades as they recounted that day. I saw footage I’d never seen of firefighters running into the towers as others staggered out, and once again remembered the virtues of courage, sacrifice and what it truly means to be a hero. And I cried. Just as hard as I had that day, maybe even more so because of what we’ve been through and where we are as a nation 10 years later.

All the pain, all the frustration, all the hatred for those who did this to our nation broke out again. I truly remembered what I felt that day. But there was more — I can see how that day changed me, this country and the world forever. It’s sad to think of how 9/11 united us, and the fallout has divided us, possibly more so than any other time since the Civil War.

It is always difficult, if not impossible, to vanquish fear and emotion and look at such an event rationally in the immediate aftermath. It is easy now to realize the mistakes our leaders made, but the 10th anniversary has allowed me to absolve some of those sins. It doesn’t necessarily justify all the actions of the past 10 years by the Bush and Obama administrations, but it puts them into context.

As president, your No. 1 goal should be to protect the American people. People who think President Bush didn’t feel the pain of those 2,977 deaths, or the deaths of the soldiers he put into harm’s way in the war on terrorism, are deluding themselves. And those who think President Obama doesn’t care about the troops who have died in the past three years are dimwits. Mr. Obama has expanded the war into Pakistan, strengthened the USA Patriot Act and kept the Guantanamo Bay prison open because he cares, and he never wants anything like 9/11 to happen again.

And I hope we have learned something else — another 9/11 will happen someday. Fortress America is no more. We need to adopt two traits — that of the “stiff upper lip” from the British, and taking the long view from the Chinese. The “stiff upper lip” means continuing on in the face of adversity, not that we Americans don’t, but we are prone to hysterics and our news media constantly try to scare us with one deadly problem or another.

We must realize that no person or group can destroy our country as long as we perceive and heed Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s warning: “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” The other trait, taking the long view, is the more difficult of the two, especially in the Internet age. Everything is immediate. We want information now. We want a reaction now. Sometimes we need to take a step back from events so we can sort out our emotions and act rationally. Sometimes we need to forgo immediate vengeance or action in order to make the best decision for the future of our well-being.

This goes not only for the events after 9/11, but also to the predicaments in which we find ourselves now. Rather than kick the can down the road or do what looks good for re-election without solving — much less dealing with — our problems, we need to do what is in the best long-term interest for this country, even if it means short-term pain.

Would you rather the U.S. had not become involved so deeply in Afghanistan, had not gone into Iraq, had not mortgaged the future, bought “stuff” in order to cover up our pain, and instead systematically struck al Qaeda, endured a bit of higher taxes and no insane housing boom in order to have the surplus back and be in a position to pay for Social Security and Medicare?

I hope that the 10th anniversary has given you time to reflect on everything that has happened. I hope it made you remember how you felt, and that it explains why our leaders have done what they have during the war on terrorism. I hope that our future leaders will learn not to make the same mistakes we made to avenge ourselves, namely becoming too much like those who hurt us. And I hope it helps us to remember to love our neighbors again.

We’re all in this together, and we need one another to succeed. “United we stand, divided we fall” is as true as ever.

Armstrong Williams is on Sirius Power 128, 7-8 p.m. and 4-5 a.m., Mondays through Fridays. Become a fan on Facebook at www.facebook.com/arightside, and follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/arightside. Read his content on RightSideWire.com.