Tags: The | Tragic | Lessons | 9/11

The Tragic Lessons of 9/11

Saturday, 09 September 2006 12:00 AM

In the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, Americans were in a state of shock.

The unthinkable had happened.

The worst terrorist attack in U.S. history had taken place - a sneak attack had struck in the very heart of our greatest city, killing almost 3,000 innocent victims.

We were staggered by the immensity of the tragedy. For weeks afterward, many of us were still unable to accept the reality of what our eyes had seen; it was simply too horrifying, and our minds simply would not grasp it.

Five years have passed now, and while it is still painful to reflect on the events of Sept. 11, it is important to look back and consider what lessons we should learn from that horrific day.

Those letters became symbols of America's heroism. Courage is not a dead virtue in this nation, as some had believed prior to 9/11.

As we sat transfixed before our television sets, we saw New York's police officers and firefighters willingly enter the burning hell that had been the twin towers of the World Trade Center, knowing full well that many of them would not live out the day.

There is a story of one priest who gave immediate absolution to the firefighters who entered the building that day and died as a result of his exertions. One person fleeing the building said the firefighters making their way up the stairs had the look of knowing they would never leave.

And many did not.

But they had a job to do, and they did it - magnificently. Some climbed the stairs in the towers in a sometimes-successful effort to save lives. Many refused to leave as long as there were people in need of their help, and the buildings collapsed around them.

On that terrible day, 346 active firefighters went to their deaths in valiant efforts to save the lives of those trapped in the flaming inferno. Three others, although retired, worked alongside their former colleagues. Their selfless heroism cost them their lives.

In their final moments, Capt. James J. Corrigan (FDNY 23 years), firefighter Philip T. Hayes (FDNY 20 years), and firefighter William X. Wren (FDNY 25 years) ushered children from one of the WTC day-care centers to safety.

They then returned to their posts inside the twin towers, where they perished trying to save still others.

A total of 23 NYPD officers perished as they sought to save lives, along with 37 Port Authority police officers, who also died as heroes on 9/11.

They were not alone - there were many more heroes on that day. There were the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93, who took on the terrorists who had hijacked their plane and were determined to crash into another target, as the other three hijacked planes had done.

Typical of these heroic passengers was Todd Beamer, who could be heard over his cell phone saying, "Let's roll" as he and the other passengers surged forward to attack their captors.

Their actions caused the plane to crash, thereby preventing an unknown number of deaths in Washington, D.C. - the terrorists' designated target.

There were also the ironworkers and other craftsmen who labored day and night to clear the thousands of tons of wreckage, choking on clouds of dust as they dug into the rubble, hoping to find some victims still alive, or bodies that could be given to grieving families for a decent burial.

There were the doctors and nurses and other medical personnel who for days fought to save the lives of countless victims. All heroes, selfless and dedicated to doing their jobs no matter what the risk.

Since then, we have seen thousands of young men and women risk their lives in Afghanistan and Iraq, fighting to rid the world of the monsters who were behind the attacks on 9/11. They are all heroes. More than 3,700 Purple Hearts have been awarded to our troops in Iraq, and nearly 3,000 American servicemen and women have given their lives defending their fellow Americans.

Prior to Sept. 11, the intelligence community was neither well-organized nor well-equipped, and it did not adequately adapt to meet the challenge posed by global terrorists focused on targets within the domestic United States. As a result, starting as early as 1994, intelligence that suggested terrorists were planning to use aircraft as weapons was largely overlooked.

The intelligence community failed to infiltrate known al-Qaida and other terrorist cells, partly because of rules established during President Clinton's administration that banned use of agents who had poor "human rights" records.

Although by the summer of 2001 the intelligence services were convinced a terrorist attack on U.S. interests was imminent, they erroneously believed it would occur overseas.

The various intelligence-gathering agencies failed to share information that, if assembled from all sources, might have alerted the nation to an imminent attack in the United States.

Middle Eastern individuals attending flight schools in the United States were not monitored, even after at least one of the hijackers told instructors he wanted to learn only how to take off and fly, but not to land.

On July 10, 2001, an FBI agent in Phoenix sent an "electronic communication" to four agents at FBI headquarters and to two agents on international terrorism squads in the FBI's New York field office.

The agent warned that there was a coordinated effort under way by Osama bin Laden to send students to the United States for civil aviation-related training. However, FBI headquarters personnel did not take the action requested by the Phoenix agent prior to Sept. 11, 2001. The Phoenix communication generated little or no interest at either FBI headquarters or the New York field office.

The committee found that two future hijackers, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, had numerous contacts with a longtime FBI counterterrorism informant in California, and that a third future hijacker, Hani Hanjour, apparently had more limited contact with the same informant. The FBI missed the opportunity to assign a uniquely well-positioned informant - who denies having any advance knowledge of the plot - to collect information about the hijackers and their plans within the United States.

The committee found that prior to 9/11, "the intelligence community was neither well-organized nor equipped, and did not adequately adapt to meet the challenge posed by global terrorists focused on targets within the domestic United States. Serious gaps existed between the collection coverage provided by U.S. foreign and U.S. domestic intelligence capabilities. The U.S. foreign intelligence agencies paid inadequate attention to the potential for a domestic attack."

Also, the CIA's failure to watch-list suspected terrorists "aggressively reflected a lack of emphasis on a process designed to protect the homeland from the terrorist threat."

If the man at the helm is seriously dedicated to protecting the nation and its citizens from threats from foreign and domestic sources, the country will be more secure. If he is negligent in this area, the nation will be at risk.

Examined in this light, it can be said that Clinton's legacy is nothing short of disastrous.

As NewsMax.com has reported, best-selling author Gerald Posner says much of the blame for 9/11 and the U.S. government's negligence falls squarely on the shoulders of Clinton and his administration.

Posner reports that Clinton ignored more than one opportunity to arrest or kill Osama bin Laden, and claims are more than justified that 9/11 could have been prevented had Clinton nabbed the terrorist chief when he had chances to do so long before the attack on the WTC.

In one incident in 1996 that Posner described, Clinton gave up an easy opportunity to nab bin Laden. "When bin Laden leaves Sudan on a chartered commercial airliner with 150 of his top aides and his family, he goes to Qatar to refuel on his way to Pakistan," Posner told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly.

"And Qatar, being an ally of the U.S., calls up and says, 'What should we do with this guy?' And the word comes back from the top of the [Clinton] administration: 'Let him land and proceed on to Pakistan.'"

President Bush, a wartime president, needs the backing of the nation, especially when American troops are fighting overseas. Partisan sniping at the president, which has reached a crescendo in the anti-Bush movement, endangers the American people. Whether one agrees with the president's decision to attack Iraq, the fact remains that we are there, our troops are in harm's way, and their mission is imperiled by the politicization of the war. Gen. Douglas MacArthur put it well: "In war, there is no substitute for victory." Bush understands that; his enemies here at home do not. They are willing to accept defeat if it helps them politically.

The importance of this was tragically shown last year in New Orleans, where both the state and city governments failed utterly to live up to their responsibilities and resorted to blaming the federal government and the president for much of the chaos that resulted from their inaction.

By contrast, the way in which then-New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and his administration and New York Gov. George Pataki and his people dealt with 9/11 serves as a model on how to be prepared for and react to a disaster of the magnitude of the attacks on the World Trade Center, or the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

While they were dealing with a tragedy none of them could have foreseen or even imagined, their public safety personnel, police, firefighters, and medical workers were prepared to deal with it, thanks to the intensive training these first responders had undergone over the years. New York's city and state governments took matters into their own hands instead of passing the buck up to the White House.

That kind of preparation should be mandatory at every level of local government. First responders must be equipped with whatever would be required in the event of a chemical or biological attack, bombings, natural disasters, or even a nuclear assault. They should be prepared to cope with massive disasters on their own, without waiting for a remote federal government to step in.

Intelligence sources say that more than 70,000 terrorists went through bin Laden's training camps, and many of these people are spread throughout the world, even here in the United States, waiting to carry out attacks on the American people. It is bin Laden's stated aim to bring down the U.S. economy, and even if Hurricane Katrina was not the work of terrorists, it showed America how vulnerable we are.

The intelligence community is warning that al-Qaida is still planning to use aircraft as weapons, and it is probably already in possession of chemical and biological weapons -- and perhaps even nuclear "dirty" bombs.

The anthrax mail attacks in 2001 also showed how easy it is to spread terror through the U.S. Postal Service using 5-cent envelopes and stamps costing less than 50 cents. We are going to have to resign ourselves to the idea that we are going to be attacked, and resolve to be ready for that inevitability.

Moreover, we will be at war for a long, long time, until every terrorist on the face of the Earth is either dead or in prison. We are facing determined, deadly enemies who seethe with hatred for America and our way of life, and who are willing to die to bring death and destruction to America.

All restrictions impeding the CIA and other intelligence agencies should be carefully studied and removed wherever they are not necessary.

Absurd bans on recruiting agents with less than savory backgrounds should never again be allowed to prevent the retention of any intelligence asset capable of providing vital information about the enemy's intentions and plans.

The agencies also must be provided with whatever resources they need, and care must be taken that all the various intelligence-gathering organizations work closely together and immediately share whatever information comes to their attention.

In the recent incident in England, where terrorists planned to down a number or aircraft, intelligence agencies such as MI5 had the assistance of at least one undercover operative who infiltrated terrorist groups. U.S. intelligence agencies must have the ability to plant their own undercover operatives within al-Qaida both here and abroad, something it has been unable to accomplish. This is especially true in Iraq, where the United States has largely failed to insert Iraqi agents into insurgent groups.

Where necessary, the military must be allowed to take preventive measures, including air strikes and ground actions, when clear and present threats to the security of the United States and our armed forces are present.

The administration's secret operations, such as the monitoring of overseas communications from known terrorist sources to suspected terrorists or terrorist sympathizers, must be allowed to continue without interference by Congress or the courts, and the media must be warned that they will face criminal prosecution when they expose the existence of such operations.

Finally, despite the rhetoric of anti-war fanatics, the war in Iraq is a part of the overall war on terrorism. It is a war we must win - failure to prevail will sooner or later bring the war home to America. We are surrounded by tens of millions of Islamofascists who hate us and are determined to destroy us.

If we don't have the will to resist with all our might, they will prevail.

That many have learned little from the lessons of 9/11 has become apparent in recent months, with the partisan attempt to cripple operations designed to prevent future attacks, especially the program monitoring communications between known terrorists abroad and their suspected allies in the United States.

The exposure of that program by the New York Times alerted al-Qaida that its communications were under surveillance, crippling the operation to an unknown extent. Moreover, Democrats and some Republicans attacked a program that has helped protect the United States from terrorist attacks.

Equally shocking was the exposure of the operation tracking terrorists' financial transactions that until its exposure was hitting terrorists where they are most vulnerable - in the international movement of funds meant to finance terrorists operations and attacks.

Moreover, all the post-9/11 hearings haven't changed the disarray within the CIA, where dissident, leftist anti-Bush forces within the agency have endangered our security with unauthorized disclosure of sensitive information relating to the government's anti-terrorist operations.

Sept. 11, 2001, taught us lessons we must not ignore. Those who fail to learn from their mistakes and lapses are destined to repeat them.


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In the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11, 2001, Americans were in a state of shock. The unthinkable had happened. The worst terrorist attack in U.S. history had taken place - a sneak attack had struck in the very heart of our greatest city, killing almost 3,000 innocent...
Saturday, 09 September 2006 12:00 AM
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