Tag Archives: terrorism

‘You monster. You beast. You unspeakable bastard’

Of all the words written in the immediate wake of the 9/11 attack, which struck us 17 years ago, one essay stands out.

I want to share it here. It came from Leonard Pitts Jr., a columnist for the Miami Herald.

I was proud to publish it in real time on the pages of the Amarillo (Texas) Globe-News, where I was working on that day in 2001.

I feel the need to show it to you once again. Pitts captured fully our sense of rage, fear, pain once it became known that terrorists had plunged the weapon deeply in our national heart.

Read the essay here.

The war against international terrorism continues. Yes, we were able to “bring justice” to the mastermind, Osama bin Laden, thanks to the bravery and immense skill and precision of the SEALs and the CIA commandos who carried out the dangerous mission in May 2011. More evil men have stepped up.

I hope you get as much from Pitts’s essay as I did then … and as I continue to do to this day.

Will we stand alone at the next big attack?

A commonly held notion in the wake of the 9/11 attack was that we shouldn’t concern ourselves over if another attack would occur, but we need to focus on when it would take place.

It’s good to remember at this point that when we collected ourselves after the horror of that event and went after the terrorists who did the deed, we had much of the world rally with us. Our friends in Europe and the Middle East were there. So were our allies in the Far East and in South Asia.

The European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization both rallied behind us in our retaliatory strikes against the terrorists. Their fighting men and women died alongside ours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

OK, so let’s fast-forward to the present day.

Two previous presidents — George W. Bush and Barack H. Obama — have come and gone. We have a new one at the helm, Donald J. Trump.

Whereas Presidents Bush and Obama courted our allies and sought to ensure they would be there when the chips were down, we now have a president who has decided to call the EU a “foe,” he has denigrated NATO’s value in today’s world, while excoriating its members for failing to pay more for their shared defense.

All the while, Donald Trump has thrown himself at the feet of Vladimir Putin, the Russian strongman, and Kim Jong Un, the North Korean despot. He calls them “strong leaders,” “intelligent,” and people he “trusts.”

This leads me to the question that is lurking in the back of many observers’ minds. When the next terror attack occurs — and while none of us wants it to happen, we must be mindful that it very well could — are we going to be able to call on the very allies the president has insulted time and again?

My fear is that we’ll fight the next war alone.

You can take this to the bank: Never mind that Trump says that

“I, alone” can repair the nation’s ills, not even the greatest nation on Earth can fight wage this international fight all by itself.

Thus, we might be forced to reap what Donald Trump has sown.

Look out, ‘radical Islam’

President George W. Bush told us in clear and unequivocal terms while the nation grieved over the 9/11 attack: We are not at war with Islam.

President Barack H. Obama followed that message to the letter. On the night he announced the death of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, the president told us that bin Laden was not a “Muslim leader,” but that he was a “mass murderer of Muslims.”

A new president has taken over. Donald J. Trump has just nominated Mike Pompeo to be secretary of state and has appointed John Bolton to be the new national security adviser.

These two men — not to mention the president — seem intent on changing the narrative. They want to take direct aim at “radical Islam,” as if the terrorists with whom we are at war represent a great world religion. They do not. They have perverted Islam to fit some ruthless ideology.

As Politico has reported: Both Bolton and Pompeo will now be working for a president who has alleged, with no evidence, that American Muslims celebrated the 9/11 attacks, and who has proposed banning all foreign Muslims from U.S. shores. Critics say the personnel moves suggest Trump’s worst instincts on how to approach the world’s 1.5 billion Muslims will find receptive ears among his foreign policy aides.

Rex Tillerson and H.R. McMaster, who will be leaving the State Department and the National Security Council, respectively, were thought to have some sort of moderating influence on Trump. But the president has shoved them aside, elevating two more fiery confidants to help formulate U.S. foreign policy. They are likely to seek to steer the president toward a position that mainstream Muslims might interpret to be more hostile to their religious faith.

That, I suggest, is a dangerous trend.

The killers with whom we have been at war since 9/11 need damn little pretext to recruit new militants to follow their perverted cause.

Recalling the last time we were truly ‘united’

I heard a cable news talking head make an interesting point the other day. He spoke of the issues that drive wedges between the political parties — and between Americans. He was speaking of the intense divisions existing today.

The United States has been “truly united” just twice in the past century or so, he said. The first time was after the Pearl Harbor attack by Japanese aviators, the act that pulled us into World War II. The second time? It was 9/11, when those terrorists flew hijacked jetliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Oh, how those of us old enough to remember that day can recall the rage we all felt at the monsters who committed that dastardly act.

Today I saw through a two-hour film that transported me back to that time of unity. It’s called “12 Strong.” It tells the true story of a dozen U.S. Army Green Berets who were sent into Afghanistan a month after the terrorist attacks. Their mission was to destroy a Taliban military operation. They rode into battle … on horseback!

The film speaks of their loyalty to each other and of the commitment the unit’s commanding officer made, that all of them would survive their mission of extreme danger.

The mission only was recently declassified. Indeed, after these Special Forces returned home from their mission, they weren’t given anything like the heroes’ welcome they deserved. Their mission was kept super-secret. No one outside those who were involved directly knew what they did.

The film is intense to the max.

But I sat through it, cheering the bravery of our soldiers — and the bravery of the Northern Alliance Afghan fighters with whom they were teamed to fight the Taliban.

The film does remind us that this country is able to unite. Americans are able to coalesce behind a common cause. The 9/11 horror produced our nation’s most recent sense of unity.

I pray, however, that we can join together without having to endure the tragedy and misery through which we have suffered. Pearl Harbor and 9/11 were unique events in our nation’s history.

I am left to wonder whether the unity those events produced must be attached uniquely to such heartache. I hope that’s not the case. I fear, though, that it is.

We’re winning the ‘war,’ but the fight will go on

Iraq has declared victory in its war against the Islamic State.

It has declared that ISIS is defeated in Iraq. The terrorist fighting force no longer is able to wage war against the Iraq military machine. Good news, yes? Of course it is.

But wait. What about the terrorist who tried to kill innocent victims in New York? He is “ISIS-inspired,” according to the FBI and New York law enforcement officials. How are we going to stop these monsters? How do we prevent the so-called “lone wolf” terrorists from perpetrating their evil acts against civilized society?

We cannot?

A Bangladeshi immigrant is now recovering from his injuries after he terrorized people in a New York train station. He tried to blow himself up, but failed.

Bold pledges and declarations of our intent to “destroy” the Islamic State shouldn’t be ignored. Indeed, our military forces have taken out many thousands of ISIS fighters; they killed or captured many ISIS leaders; they have disrupted ISIS’s command and control network.

The fight should go on. It must go on.

We are going to fight this war, however, for as long as terrorists exist anywhere on Earth. U.S. and Allied forces bombed Germany to ashes during the World War II; our forces killed thousands of Nazis; Adolf Hitler killed himself in that Berlin bunker.

Did that eradicate Nazi sympathizers in Europe — or in the United States of America? No! Nazi lone wolves are still on the prowl throughout the world.

This post-9/11 world continues to teach us a hard but necessary lesson, which is that we cannot let our guard down — ever — against those who would do us harm.

They are everywhere.

Trump chides our most reliable ally … nice!

Donald J. “Tweeter in Chief” Trump campaigned for the presidency on the promise that he would shake things up, that he would do things differently.

Oh, brother. Has he ever!

Take the tiff he initiated with the United States’ most trusted, reliable and steadfast ally: Great Britain.

He retweeted an inflammatory anti-Muslim message that originated from Britain First, a fringe right-wing group that hates Muslims.

Pressure is now mounting in the UK for British Prime Minister Teresa May to disinvite the president, who is set to make a state visit before the end of the year. Trump’s conduct via Twitter has demonstrated quite graphically that he doesn’t seem to give a royal flip about offending our nation’s political forebears.

Matthew D’Ancona, a commentator for The Guardian, wrote this: As it happens, I came to the conclusion that Mr. Trump’s visit should be canceled in August, after the murderous white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. When the most powerful person in the world fails the simplest test of democratic leadership — answering the question “Were the Nazis uniquely bad?” — the whole world is involved. The president failed that test conspicuously and gave comfort to the loathsome “identitarianism” that understands society as a competition between races, tribes and religion.

Read D’Ancona’s column here.

Trump and May engaged angry tweets over the video. May chastised Trump for inflaming prejudices in the UK; Trump responded that she shouldn’t worry about the president, but should worry more instead about the threat of terrorism.

This is a ridiculous way to treat a trusted ally.

I’ll stand with those who are urging Prime Minister May to cancel the state visit. Now!

Terrorism is terrorism, no matter who commits it

A terrorist drove a truck into a crowded New York City recreational area, killing eight people and injuring many others.

A terrorist also opened fire on a crowd of music revelers in Las Vegas, killing more than 50 of them, injuring hundreds more.

The media and the government, though, are calling only one of them an “act of terror.” It’s the NYC event. Why is that? I guess it’s because the perpetrator is an immigrant from Uzbekistan who happens to be a Muslim and who has professed allegiance to the Islamic State.

The Las Vegas shooter? He was just a madman who happened to possess a lot of firepower, which he used to slaughter those victims from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino.

I’m a bit baffled as to why we call one incident a terrorist act but not the other.

My take on it goes like this: The spectators who fled the gunfire in Las Vegas were scared out of their wits; they were terrorized by the sound of automatic gunfire that was raining down on them. They were not expecting to be shot by a lunatic perched high above them. Did the gunman commit an act of “domestic terrorism”? Yeah, I believe he did.

The media coverage of that act, though, didn’t make that connection. Neither did the president of the United States, Donald Trump, who said immediately after the Las Vegas massacre that it was “too soon” to comment on it. The president experienced no such reticence about the Uzbek loon who drove the truck into the crowd.

Why is that? Oh, it’s because he’s a foreigner … and a Muslim to boot!

Terrorism has the same impact on its victims, no matter who commits such a heinous act or the motivation behind it.

A second ‘Day of Infamy’ still burns

Sixteen years ago our world changed.

Americans started the day, Sept. 11, 2001, like any other day. Then the news came bursting forth from New York City and from Washington, D.C.

Jetliners crashed into the World Trade Center in Lower Manhattan. The images still burn seemingly as brightly as the flames that burst from the Twin Towers.

Then came news that the Pentagon had been hit by yet another jetliner. That image isn’t recorded. But the crash hit at the heart of our vast military complex.

We would learn later that morning of a fourth jetliner that crashed into a Pennsylvania field. Passengers sought to wrest control of the aircraft from more terrorists. A struggle forced the plane to plunge into the ground.

I was at work that morning at the Amarillo Globe-News. My colleague came in, stuck his head in the door and asked: “Did you hear about what happened in New York?” I responded, “What?” He said a plane crashed into the World Trade Center.

My next response was another question: “What’s the weather like?” My colleague said it was gorgeous. I blurted out a profanity while wondering out loud, “What kind of bleeping idiot would crash an airplane into the World Trade Center?”

I turned on my TV. I watched the tower burn. Then I watched, right along with the rest of the nation, the second plane crash into the second tower.

That … was no accident.

And, thus, our world was shattered into a million pieces. Three thousand lives were lost. The families and other loved ones of those who died were shattered permanently. There never will be repair coming for them.

As for the nation, I am not sure we’ll recover fully, either. We would go to war in Afghanistan. Later we would take the fight into Iraq. We are now waging a war without a foreseeable end against terrorists who claim to be acting on behalf of fellow Muslims. They are murderers; they are not religious zealots, let alone leaders.

President Roosevelt called the attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii not quite 60 years earlier a “date which will live … in infamy.” It has done exactly as FDR predicted.

The other day of infamy that we’ve all shortened into “9/11” will share forever that frightening distinction.

The enemy is different than those who bombed our ships and planes. Today’s enemy does not represent a sovereign nation. It represents a profoundly perverted ideology. It is more cunning, more elusive than those we defeated so many decades ago.

This fight will require maximum perseverance.

Travel ban now in effect: Do you feel safe now?

Donald J. Trump’s travel ban is back in force now, thanks to a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The court struck down previous lower-court rulings that set aside the ban, giving the president a limited victory in his campaign against Muslims around the world.

The president hails it as a way to make Americans safe from international terrorists. The ban affects those seeking to come to the United States from six Muslim-majority nations. If they do come here from any of those six nations, they must have some tangible, identifiable connection to this country: a relative, enrollment at a U.S. college or university.

He has vowed to protect us from those who seek to do us harm. The president asserted during the 2016 campaign that potential terrorists were “pouring into” our country and that, by golly, he intended to stop it.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t believe I’ll feel one bit safer down the road when the travel ban becomes fully implemented.

This ban doesn’t account for the home-grown terrorists who have brought misery to fellow Americans. It doesn’t deal at all with the terrorists, or terror groups, opening fire in crowded movie theaters, in nightclubs, at a U.S. Army post, in a Charleston, S.C., church.

We all remember 9/11. We recall the hideous nature of that dastardly act. We scorned the terrorists as cowardly bastards. We have gone to war against them.

Have we been hit by terrorists in an attack even remotely similar since that terrible day? No. Our national security apparatus, though, has stopped many attempts during the past 16 years.

It’s the so-called “lone wolf” terrorist who is so very difficult to detect in advance of their act.

In my view, a travel ban cannot stop someone from sneaking into this country from, say, Sweden or France, or Brazil or Russia who then would commit an act of terror.

Hoping ISIS leader is a goner … finally!

The Russian government usually isn’t to be trusted to tell the truth about anything.

The country’s foreign ministry, though, has put out a tantalizing morsel: Russian air strikes might this past month have killed the leader of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Before we get all a-flutter over this possibility, it’s good to ponder some elements that ought to keep us grounded.

Is the terrorist really dead?

Al-Baghdadi’s death would not mean the end of ISIS. It opens the door for another madman to step forward to take his place.

You might recall that when U.S. special forces killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May 2011, there was dancing in front of the White House and chants of “USA! USA! USA!” Sure, we got the 9/11 mastermind, but the fight against al-Qaeda goes on.

There also have been earlier claims of al-Baghdadi’s death. The Russians have been hitting ISIS targets in Syria with air strikes and ground-based artillery. Are the Russians to be believed now? Do we hold out hope that they actually got this monstrous madman? Furthermore, are the Russians to be believed?

I guess I could remind all of us that terrorism doesn’t exist within the ranks of international organizations. “Lone wolf” terrorists lurk among us. They skulk out from under rocks. Latest example? The guy who shot the Republican lawmakers practicing for a charity baseball game, wounding several people, including the House GOP whip, Steve Scalise.

I am going to hope the Russian claim that they might have killed al-Baghdadi. I am going to retain the realism of the fight in which we are engaged against terror. The fight likely never will end.