9-11 Remembered

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New York, New York- It is the 8th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks that killed almost 3,000 people in the United States mainly at the World Trade Center Towers in New York, but also at the Pentagon in Washington and in Shanksville, Pennsylvania in separate airplane crashes.

The world changed that day when the 19 terrorists affiliated with Al-Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden inflicted the worst attack on American soil and forever changed the course of history. Eight years later, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are still raging as the US is fighting the terrorists and militants on their soil. Osama Bin Laden is still at large and has not been caught. There is now a clear understanding in the US of who is the enemy.

The problem is that in many Muslim countries such as Pakistan and elsewhere, the fundamentalists are intimidating the population into their version of Islam. Although the Taliban have been on the defensive due to the pressure from the Pakistan army in places like the Swat valley and elsewhere, there is still reluctance by the government to go after the fundamentalist leaders of various groups that are not militant but espouse hatred and intolerance that incites others to violence.

The First Amendment allows for the freedom of speech in the United States. But hate speech that incites violence and where the threat of violence is imminent, becomes criminal. In the same manner, Muslim countries where clerics are giving sermons and preaching violence against various countries and peoples should be dealt with harshly. Leaving these individuals unchecked allows them to spew their hatred and jihadi beliefs on to a younger generation that becomes indoctrinated into this contempt and inevitably some follow through on it and act out violently against the West.

One sad but important outcome of 9-11 is the realization that we must take the war to the terrorists instead of waiting for them to bring it to our shores as George W. Bush famously put it days after 9-11. A vital part of that strategy must be not just militaristic actions but also a  precisely executed strategy to counteract the vile and hate filled sermons that perpetuate from many clerics mouths in the Muslim world. To do this requires the assistance of the governments of the countries where this problem is presently in abundance such as in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It requires winning the hearts and minds of the citizens who have only seen bombs raining down on their lands and not enough flowers and goodwill. Both Pakistan and Afghanistan are desperately poor countries. American goodwill and economic development assistance and real jobs for citizens of these countries will go a long ways in improving the situation and in making the US safer from such very tragic and horrific attacks of September 11 eight years ago.

Also vitally needed to end terrorism around the world is a real solution to the Arab-Israeli crisis of the last 60 years. As long as there is not a peace between Israel and Palestine and the other Muslim countries in the region, and also between India and Pakistan to a lesser extent, the militants such as the Taliban and the terrorists such as Al-Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba are going to continue their violence in order to reach their objectives. But if there was peace in the Middle East and peace between India and Pakistan, most of the fuel that burns the fire of these fundamentalists, not to mention the arms race between Israel and  its neighbors such as Syria and Iran and between Pakistan and India would come to a screeching halt.

Eight years after going to Afghanistan and making war on Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, the strategy in Afghanistan has come into question by both the US military and members of Congress. Ask a returning soldier from Afghanistan and he will tell you that the situation has gotten worse over there 8 years and countless lives and dollars later, the country is far less safer for both American troops as well as the average Afghan civilian. Clearly the situation is becoming difficult to manage and quietly the whispers of Afghanistan becoming a new Vietnam are beginning to surface. In the coming weeks and months, the Obama administration will have some difficult decisions on the course of the strategy in Afghanistan. It is hoped that on the anniversary of that tragic day 8 years ago, the powers that be realize that to truly win and defeat the terrorists, we must get to the root of the problem and deal with the difficult task of making peace instead of continuing to make war.

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