The anniversary of our war is fast approaching. America has been at war since September 11, 2001. I suppose it would be more accurate to say we have been under attack for many years before that, but since September 11 we are fighting too. It seems perfectly obvious. We've already brought down the Taliban, scattered al Qaeda, and assisted the Philippines. We are spreading a net worldwide to catch or kill those who try to kill us, and we are about to bring down a cornerstone of the house of terrorism in Iraq. I somewhat dread the first anniversary and wonder how the media and we will view the war at this milestone. I don't understand how some Americans can wonder if we are really at war. I don't understand how some can ask if the American people have the patience for a long war against terrorists and states that sponsor them. Is it really true that the anger is dissipating? I just plain don't get how some people can even question that fighting this war against terrorism is just (and who persist in objecting to paying for the military in the aftermath of September 11).
Exactly what would it take to provoke them? If the terrorists had flown a 767 into the Women's Studies Department at UC Berkeley, would that have been enough? Heck, the hijackers were all men. Doesn't a violation of Title IX come into play here? If the hijackers had worn real fur coats or leather would that insensitivity have been sufficient to raise their ire? Honestly, how can 3,000 deaths in attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Flight 93 not be a cause for war?
I still remember that morning. I was at work and the first report from a co-worker alerted me that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center. I assumed it was an accident. It didn't register that a tragedy might have occurred. It didn't even seem real yet, I guess. I asked if there were reports of a giant ape involved. Eventually, I found video of the attack on the web and I thought a small plane had crashed. The scale of the World Trade Center was lost on me in that tiny screen. Even watching the video, I thought a Piper Cub had crashed or something. Then came the second attack, and then the Pentagon attack. Then rumors of other explosions and other planes headed for Washington, D.C.
I was stunned.
It isn't as if I never thought terrorism would come here. I assumed our enemies would try to use the most horrible weapons they could get their hands on to attack us. Still, the audacity of it all shocked me. When the towers crumbled, I just could not believe it even as I watched it happen. Surely, that great building was designed to withstand anything. Right?
I knew al Qaeda was the main suspect. I immediately assumed bin Laden was behind the attack since few others have the hatred and capability to carry out the attack. A state could do it, but has lots of assets to lose if caught. My disbelief and shock quickly gave way to anger and a determination that we must strike back and win. It was not blind anger for vengeance. I did not want to bomb "them" back into the stone age. I wanted a global struggle with all our elements of national power used; and I assumed military power would be only one part and only used on a large scale occasionally. An article I wrote within a few days of the attack has not been published and I may yet post it on this site. It still has value even as dated as it is. Our aim is to win, not lash out.
The main thing is, I felt at war. It was no mere intellectual exercise of determining war is required to defend "vital" interests. I felt attacked. I can't even bring myself to despise New Yorkers any more. They--we--were attacked in a particularly brutal fashion. For two weeks after the attack, I marched again. I didn't just walk. My finger tips were properly curled. My shoulders held back. My head held high. My jaw set. Old cadences long forgotten rolled through my mind as I marched. I felt guilty that I wasn't in the service any more. I felt guilty that "we" hadn't stopped the bastards that did this to us. I was just an Army radio operator and a reservist to boot, but I felt as if I had let my fellow citizens down.
So when I read that people complain that the display of an American flag creates a "hostile environment," I just don't get it. When I hear stories of people accusing us of "war crimes," I just don't get it. When people urge us to "understand" the rage of those who attacked us and how we "contributed to it," I truly don't get it and don't even want to get it.
Let our enemies contemplate how we have been pushed to war. Let them explain away our rage. Let them mull over how they contributed to our Army marching on their capital; our Air Force and Navy wrecking their terrorist infrastructures, our Marines landing on their shores to punish them for attacking us. Let them understand us.
Let them fear us.
We are at war I remember the complete emptiness in the sky after the attacks. No planes flew. No sound of jet or even piston engines. Just an unnatural void temporarily created by our enemies. I feel at war in my very bones. I do not dwell on it. I am not emotionally crippled by it. I am not glued to cable news channels. I do not hate Islam for what a small band of Islamists did to us. I go about my life. But the knowledge that we are at war is always there. I have the patience to fight this war smart. I want to win this war. At least I no longer feel guilty that I am not one of the soldiers carrying our banner across the globe to smite our foes. I am forty and well past my Signal Corps days, so I know this was really a hollow feeling anyway. I'm glad I'm a civilian who doesn't have to leave his five-year old son. I know I will not go in harm's way. The feeling is there a little bit nonetheless. Our soldiers, marines, airmen, and sailors have my support and my gratitude for their service. I thank them for protecting me and my family. Rip their hearts out. We are at war, after all.