It has been 20 years since the attack that changed America, and in those 20 years not a single attack against us was planned and executed from Afghanistan.
In case you forgot, that’s why we went in — to destroy the al-Qaeda terrorist network and bring to justice its head, Osama bin Laden.
Yes, mission accomplished.
In the 20 years following 9/11, during which 3,000 Americans died, only 100 have died in the homeland resulting from Islamist terror planned from abroad.
Contemplate that fact.
And before I go forward, a moment of silence for the 2,416 service members who died in Afghanistan, and our deepest thanks to the estimated 21,000 who were physically or mentally wounded. You protected America. You protected me. Mission accomplished.
And yet, sadly, this 9/11 will find the white and black Taliban flag flying over Afghanistan, providing a PR victory for terror, and becoming a recruiting tool for nihilistic Islamic dead-enders the world over.
Because of world-wide Islamist terror, which began decades before 9/11, we have been forced to surrender some routine freedoms. We have to show ID more than before, and boarding an airplane is time-consuming and frustrating.
We’ve always known there are those in the world who hate us. 9/11 proved they can do something about it, something horrible.
And they are not done with us yet.
I disagree with those who say the U.S. lost the war or was humiliated. When we had our troops on the ground in force, they won, not every single battle, but the majority and the terrorist expansion was reversed.
In the end, the war was lost but Afghanistan, not the U.S., lost the war.
At the start of our War of Independence, when asked what kind of government we had, Benjamin Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”
We did. Afghanistan did not, despite the U.S. arming their troops, funding their government, opening schools to girls, and more. We did everything except wipe their ass. There was no lack of effort, money, blood, sweat, and tears. We gave Afghanistan everything it needed for success.
The failure is theirs, largely because of inept and corrupt leaders. Looking at them should make Americans feel gratitude about the quality of our patriarchy, the white European men who fashioned and sustained our government. We were truly blessed to have Washington, Jefferson, Adams, Hamilton, Franklin, Madison.
You remember where you were when you heard it, the astonishing news that an airliner had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m.
That kind of an accident was shocking enough, but it turned into flabbergasted terror when the second plane crashed into the South Tower at 9:03 a.m., replacing the idea of an accident with the certainty that the homeland was attacked by air for the first time since December 7, 1941.
At my desk, I stopped what I had been doing and focused on the TV and the reporting of wire services.
At the time, I was writing a fairly successful gossip column, but that would not run the next day. The entire paper would be devoted to our generation’s day of infamy.
Some reporters headed for New York, before learning the city’s entrances were shut. A couple of reporters who were New York natives wanted to get to their city, and hunted for ways to get in. Not so easy when you understand that Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island are all islands and the bridges were closed. The Bronx could be entered from the north, but there was no assurance anyone could get from the north Bronx to the financial district.
It was almost as if an atomic bomb had hit.
I remember dust-caked survivors running north, cops and firefighters barreling south, toward the stricken buildings that were soon to fall.
Some windows were shattered in my high school, a few blocks from the tragedy.
The lower tip of the city was enveloped in smoke, obscuring the Statue of Liberty, watching helplessly. Under her gaze a flotilla of pleasure craft, and working ferries, tugboats, and other craft pushed to Lower Manhattan to rescue survivors, taking them to the safety of New Jersey.
The Pentagon was struck later and — let us never forget — the 40 hero passengers on United Airlines #93, who responded to Todd Beamer’s call to “Let’s roll!” and attacked their hijackers, crashing their plane in the Pennsylvania countryside at Shanksville rather than into the U.S. Capitol.
We did not see that happen.
We did see jetliners strike the World Trade Center and the immediate result of the Pentagon being struck.
Amid the blizzard of images, the ones that freeze me are the ones of desperate Americans, with an inferno behind them, leaping from 100th floor windows to their deaths on the asphalt of the streets below.
I try to imagine what went through their minds as they leapt, and what they were thinking in the few seconds it took for them to meet their instant deaths.
The deaths of these innocent civilians is in the front of my mind when I ponder whether vengeance, and what kind, was appropriate.
I conclude we were justified in invading Afghanistan and breaking the Taliban, who were shielding the attackers.
It probably would have been best if we left after bin Laden was killed, but hindsight is always 20/20.
I suspect presidents and war planners feared the Taliban would surge back.
A few weeks ago, we did leave — and the Taliban did surge back.
It is a very unhappy ending to our 20-year struggle to help Afghanistan stand up as a free nation.
No America “lost” Afghanistan. American gave Afghans the weapons and training they needed, but could not instill in them the will to fight.
Afghanistan lost itself.