Tag Archives: war on terror

9/11 stands alone

Americans are getting ready to commemorate one of the nation’s darkest days that, ironically, unfolded before us under cloudless sunny skies.

It was 20 years ago that two jets flew into the World Trade Center’s twin towers in New York City, while a third jet plowed into the Pentagon and as a fourth jetliner plummeted into a Pennsylvania field as passengers grappled with terrorists in an effort to retake control of the aircraft.

The day is now known simply as “9/11.” You say those numbers and everyone on Earth knows what you mean.

The terrorists awakened us to a threat we all knew instinctively was out there. The pain of watching the towers collapse, of knowing that the plane had damaged the Pentagon and of recalling the bravery of the passengers on that jetliner battling with the terrorists remains burned indelibly.

The monsters acted in the name of a religion. They weren’t practitioners of Islam. They were religious perverts. President Bush told us days later that we would not go to war against Islam, but against the monsters who perverted a great religion for their own demented cause.

We sought to eliminate the threat in Afghanistan by launching a war against al-Qaeda in October 2001. The war continued until just the other day, when President Biden called a halt to a “forever war.” Along the way we managed to kill thousands of terrorists. We disrupted al-Qaeda’s network.

And, yes, we managed to find and kill the 9/11 mastermind, Osama bin Laden.

I want us all to recall the heroes who rose to the challenge on 9/11. They sought to rescue those trapped in the WTC rubble, and at the Pentagon. We should honor the men and women who suited up for military duty to fight the terrorists abroad. We always must honor the memories of those lost in that horrific act of hatred.

Even though we have ended our fight in Afghanistan, we also should know that the fight against international terror must continue. The monsters won’t go away all by themselves. Our intelligence network must remain on the highest alert levels imaginable … 24/7. Our military must be prepared to act proactively to stem future attacks.

Twenty years later, our hearts still hurt at what we saw and heard.

May we never forget the pain.

johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Declaring victory?

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

President George W. Bush responded with strength and resolve nearly 20 years ago when terrorists declared war on this country.

He ordered the military into Afghanistan  to overthrow the government that had given the monsters safe haven. The war against international terror had begun.

I said at the time that I wondered how in the world we could declare victory. How could we ever know when we have defeated this enemy? I likened it a bit to the semi-cavalier approach espoused by the late, great Republican U.S. Sen. George Aiken of Vermont who said during the Vietnam War that we should “just declare victory and go home.”

President Biden has in a sense declared victory against the terrorists. He is bringing home the remaining U.S. troops from Afghanistan no later than Sept. 11, the 20th year since the beginning of the longest war in U.S. history.

We didn’t start this conflict, but today Biden declared that we are about to finish this particular phase of it.

My fervent hope is that we remain on the highest alert possible for any future evil intent. I heard the president say that it is time for us to look forward, that the terrorist movement has “metastasized” and moved into many other areas of the world. It is time, he said, for us to focus our efforts beyond the Afghan battlefield.

Joe Biden is not wild-eyed. He does not strike me as being prone to making decisions based on hunches and gut feelings. The president is a studied creature of the government he now leads.

I do hope with all that I can muster that he can remove the relative handful of troops from the field of battle while ensuring that we can remain focused sharply on danger when it presents itself. That we can take a proactive posture against threats to our nation.

We do possess the nation’s strongest military apparatus. A first-rate intelligence service complements that force with seasoned and dedicated professionals. We also have a commander in chief who listens and acts on the advice and counsel he receives from the pros who are trained to deliver it.

Can we truly declare victory on the Afghan killing fields? I hope that is the case.

Killing of murderer underscores nature of this fight

The killing this week of Qassem Sulemaini underscores a fundamental question about the crisis that was thrust on this country on 9/11: How we do declare victory in a war against international terrorism?

Sulemaini led the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. He had buckets of American blood on his hands. He needed to be hunted down and killed. And so it happened in a drone strike in Baghdad, Iraq, where he and his forces have been fighting against Iraqis and U.S. troops.

More than 18 years ago this country was dragged into a war of someone else’s choosing. Al-Qaeda terrorists pulled off a stunning and cunning surprise attack on this country from which we likely never will recover emotionally, at least not as long as there are Americans still living who remember that terrible day in 2001.

We went to war. President Bush said at the time that our fight was not with Muslims, but with those who perverted their faith into a demented justification for the act of evil.

And so the fight has gone on and on.

Our special operations forces killed al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden in May 2011. They went into action again in October of this past year and killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State. They, too, needed to die. Did their deaths or the death of Sulemaini spell the end of their terror networks? No. They all found someone to replace them; Sulemaini’s deputy commander has stepped into the commander’s role in Iran.

I don’t intend to suggest this country should give up fighting the terrorist monsters. I merely intend to seek to put this fight into what I hope is a proper perspective.

We should acknowledge that terrorists have existed since the beginning of civilization. The 9/11 attack at the beginning of this century emboldened them. They have become more brazen than before. Moreover, the rest of us are paying more careful attention to their hideous rhetoric and, yes, their actions.

We can take some comfort in the tactical victories our side is able to score: the deaths of terror leaders and the battlefield successes we can secure as we seek to defeat the terrorist monsters.

I cannot stop wondering, however, whether a declaration of victory against terror is even possible. The terrorists, I fear, possess a deep bench full of lunatics who are willing to die for some perverted cause.

Therefore, the fight must continue.

Support the strike; question the strategy

I want to be crystal clear, with no ambiguity about the events that resulted in the death of a bloodthirsty terrorist.

I support fully the air strike that killed Qassem Suleimani, the head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. No American I can think of is mourning the death of this individual. Indeed, politicians of all stripes are hailing the killer’s death.

What troubles me are the questions that are emerging about whether Donald Trump ordered the strike with a clear post-strike strategy in mind. I am developing growing doubt that the president had thought it out thoroughly.

Yes, the critics have emerged on the Democratic side of the congressional aisle. They were left out of the loop. Congressional leaders say they weren’t informed of the plan to hit Suleimani prior to the attack occurring. They want Congress to authorize any military action that might occur in the event Iran retaliates.

I, too, am concerned about all of that.

We also need to get real about one more important aspect of this raid. The death of Suleimani does not mean the end of the Revolutionary Guard. The Guard also already has elevated his deputy to top of the its chain of command.

Remember, too, that the May 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden did not extinguish al-Qaeda. Nor did the mission this past year that took out Abu Bakr al Baghdadi eliminate the Islamic State. The terror organizations are continuing their bloody campaigns against Muslims and against U.S. forces that are still fighting them on the battlefield.

It all arcs back to the most riveting question of the “global war on terror.” How will we be able to declare victory? My hunch is that we are engaging in a war with no end.

As for the death of this latest murderer, I am glad he is dead.

However, we now must be prepared to deal with the consequences.

War on terror: a conflict with no end in sight

While the world digests the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi at the hands of U.S. Delta Force and CIA commandos, it is grappling with what the Islamic State leader’s death means in the war against international terrorism.

I want to offer this perspective, which is that al-Baghdadi’s death won’t signal the end to the war against terrorists, let alone against the Islamic State.

It is my view at least that 9/11 signaled a new era in U.S. geopolitical activity that doesn’t appear to have an end anywhere in sight.

We’ve known for many decades that terrorists were out to “get” us. The 9/11 attack 18 years ago simply burst that awareness to the front of our minds. Al-Qaeda’s daring attack signaled to us all that we were perhaps more vulnerable than we ever thought.

So the war has commenced. I share the critics’ view that the war on terror has taken a bizarre turn at times, particularly with our invasion of Iraq in March 2003 and the misery that the Iraq War brought, given that Iraq had no connection with al-Qaeda, nor did it possess weapons of mass destruction.

However, the war on terror is likely to continue until the world no longer contains terrorists willing to die for the perverted cause to which they adhere.

In other words, we’ll be fighting this war forever.

Whether we fight at the level we have been fighting remains to be seen over the span of time. If 9/11 taught us anything it should have taught us that we cannot let our guard down for a single moment.

Not ever.

9/11 still seared into our memory

Many millions of Americans are recalling a terrible day that dawned 18 years ago today. It didn’t start out that way, but it got dark in a major hurry.

They’re remembering where they were when they heard the news. Me? I was at work at the Amarillo Globe-News.

My colleague walked into the office and stuck his head in the door: “Did you hear the news. Someone flew an airplane into the World Trade Center.”

I asked two questions: How big was the airplane? How was the weather? I don’t recall my colleague knowing it was a jetliner. He did say the weather in New York City was beautiful.

“What kind of moron would fly into a building?” I asked with all the appropriate derision.

I turned on a small TV I had in my office. I watched one of the towers burning. Then — in real and horrifying time — the world watched the second jet liner crash into the other tower.

In that moment, we knew what we had: an act of war!

The Pentagon was hit by a third jetliner. Then we heard about the Shanksville, Pa., crash involving a fourth hijacked airplane.

We would go to war in Afghanistan. We would toss the Taliban out of power in that remote land and then launch the hunt for al-Qaida terrorist leaders who masterminded the hideous attack.

I will admit to being frightened in the moment. Anger? Absolutely!

I wanted the nation to fill with resolve to defeat the bastards who committed this horrific deed. Sadly, I fear our nation has lost some of its collective resolve. We’ve been torn asunder by a war that President Bush launched against Iraq, telling us that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had “something” to do with the terrorist attack … when he didn’t.

To be honest, I remain puzzled on how we “declare victory” in this war. Or if we can ever actually make that victory declaration.

However, the fight goes on. It must go on.

Family encounter proves it: Life is much fuller than just politics

LA CENTER, Wash. — I affirmed something I knew long before today.

We attended a birthday party at my sister’s home in Washington state. The back yard was filled with family members and friends of my sister and her husband.

All of us had a grand time.

One of the party attendees happened to be a second cousin of mine. We disagree mightily on our respective world views, not to mention our political choices. He has expressed his “love” and admiration for Donald J. Trump; I have expressed, well, something vastly different.

The affirmation dealt with how love of family and friends supersedes politics. At all times!

My second cousin is serving in the U.S. Army. He has been deployed to the Middle East to participate in our nation’s war on terror. He challenges my blog posts on occasion. Every so often I’ll respond to his criticism. He gets fired up. My cousin is an intense young man, so perhaps we all can expect his emotions at times to get the better of him.

Today, though, we set aside all those differences. We sat at the same table and talked about, oh let’s see … family matters. We talked about his family, about our family; we shared some international travel experiences. He gave us a bit of history on how Greek soldiers’ attire came to be.

What’s the lesson here? Life does not revolve solely around politics. The love of family and friends goes far deeper than any political differences any of them might experience. Indeed, I have many friends with whom I have severe disagreements — but I still love them; I hope they feel the same way toward me.

So it went today in a rural Washington back yard. We came together to enjoy some barbecue and beverages with close and extended family.

We love them all … even those with whom we disagree politically.

Trump signs important bill … but lies about its context

I was glad to see Donald Trump sign an important piece of legislation into law this week, the bill that extends medical assistance to 9/11 first responders for the next several decades.

He did so in a White House ceremony under bright sunshine. Sitting before him were many of the firefighters, medical personnel and police officers who rushed into the infernos — in New York and Washington — on that terrible morning nearly 18 years ago.

But then …

Trump did something that has become almost a standard part of his performance as president of the United States. He sought to insert himself into an event in which he played no role. Perhaps you heard him during the bill-signing ceremony.

He talked about going to Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, hobnobbing with the first responders. He said he was “there,” but refrained from calling himself a “first responder.”

In truth, Donald Trump was not there. Reports surfaced immediately after the ceremony from New York fire officials who disputed Trump’s assertion that he was present in the rubble where the Twin Towers once stood. He was nowhere in sight, they said.

Trump did call a New York media outlet to tell reporters that Trump Tower was the tallest building in the city once the World Trade Center collapsed from the damage caused by the hijacked jetliners crashing into the towers.

This is the kind of behavior that is utterly reprehensible, so blatantly phony that it defies my ability to comprehend how this man gets away with it … time and again! I mean, for crying out loud, he didn’t even lift a finger to win congressional approval of the bill he signed into law.

He once claimed falsely that he watched “thousands and thousands of people cheer” while the Twin Towers burned and fell on 9/11. He said he lost “many friends” in the towers. Now he says he was present at Ground Zero while police, firefighters and medical officials did their grim job. He lied every single time.

This man cannot cease making himself part of whatever story is being told, no matter how tragic. A president needs to exhibit compassion, empathy and authentic humanity in these times. Donald Trump is utterly, categorically incapable of demonstrating any of those traits.

The president showed us yet again his absolute unfitness for the job.

The cascade continues

I’ll admit to not knowing anything about Brett McGurk . . . until today.

That’s when I learned that our nation’s leading envoy in the fight to eradicate the Islamic State has decided to quit early. He is angry with Donald J. Trump’s decision to pull out of Syria, to abandon the fight against ISIS in that country. It was a decision that prompted Defense Secretary James Mattis to quit.

Now it’s McGurk who’s hitting the road.

This is a big deal, too.

McGurk had planned to leave in February, but decided to submit his resignation to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

McGurk joined the George W. Bush administration and stayed on through the Obama administration, where he was appointed to his current post.

Two years into the Trump administration, McGurk seems to have had enough.

As NBC News reported: Trump’s decision left McGurk flat-footed, unable to explain to U.S. allies who have been fighting ISIS with the United States why they were neither consulted nor informed in advance. Nor have senior Trump administration officials been able to tell allies and Kurdish forces whether U.S. air strikes will continue in Syria to support the mission against ISIS.

Mattis was quite clear in his resignation letter that part of where he differed with Trump is in the treatment of our allies. They cannot trust us to be faithful to our pledges and commitments.

Neither can key administration operatives who are charged with doing the most serious work possible. In McGurk’s case, it is the task of working with allies in the fight to defeat the monstrous terrorists known as the Islamic State.

The chaos is showing signs of taking a terrible toll on U.S. influence in a world that has grown accustomed to what we once touted as our national indispensability.

No longer can we make that make assertion.

Bush Library and Museum: worth your time

I finally made my way to the Highland Park neighborhood of Dallas to see the nation’s latest presidential library and museum, the one carrying the name of George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States.

It’s a beauty. I want to share a couple of takeaways from it with you.

The 9/11 exhibit is stunning and so help me it doesn’t make it any easier to listen to the audio or watch the video of that horrendous day.

I want to call attention to a particular aspect of it. There’s a wall with thousands of names on it, reminiscent of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, which has the names of 58,000-plus fallen servicemen and women inscribed on that long black granite wall.

The George W. Bush Library and Museum has an exhibit with the names of the passengers who died aboard those four jetliners hijacked by the terrorists on 9/11. Two of them flew into the World Trade Center; one into the Pentagon; the fourth one into that field in Shanksville, Pa. It also has the names of the victims who died in the Twin Towers and the Pentagon.

One name jumped out at me: Todd Beamer. It was an amazing moment. I noticed Beamer’s name immediately upon approaching the wall. He, of course, was the passenger aboard United Flight 93 who famously declared “Let’s roll” while leading the passengers in their valiant effort to wrestle control from the hijackers of the jetliner that plunged into the Shanksville pasture.

Just as the names in the Vietnam Veterans Memorial remind us of the loved ones left behind, so do the names inscribed inside the Bush Library and Museum.

It is powerful, indeed.

The second takeaway, related to 9/11, is the realization that watching the videos and listening to the reporting and the statements from the president so many years later don’t make it easier. Indeed, I get more emotional as the years tick away. It gets harder to relive that terrible day.

The events of Sept. 11, 2001 defined the George W. Bush presidency. It thrust the still-new president into a wartime posture. It continued through the Barack Obama administration and is doing so now during the Donald Trump administration.

I am glad to have visited this marvelous exhibit. It contains much more, to be sure. It talks about the president’s HIV/AIDS initiative, his effort to reform education, the first lady’s desire to improve literacy among our children. It papers over, not surprisingly, the financial collapse at the end of the Bush presidency.

But . . . those names on the wall. Goodness gracious.