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Four years ago today...

By Scott Tibbs, September 11, 2005


The images are still burned into my mind. A group of Islamist terrorists hijacked four passenger jets. They crashed two jets into the World Trade Center and crashed one into the Pentagon. The passengers on the fourth jet revolted when they realized what was happening, fighting with the terrorists and causing the jet to crash into a Pennsylvania field. The terrorists picked planes bound for the West Coast, so they would be filled with fuel for maximum damage. The fanatics willingly killed themselves for a chance to slaughter thousands of innocents.

I was doing a temporary assignment at the Indiana University Admissions Office when I heard that a plane had crashed into the WTC. I pictured in my mind one of those small personal airplanes, only to later realize it was a huge passenger jet. On my lunch break, I spoke with some friends and watched the coverage on television. It was surreal, like a movie. It did not seem real at all. Later, I would see gas lines stretching down the street and all of the milk and bread were gone from the downtown Kroger store.

We have been fighting a War on Terror since the 1970's, but September 11 raised the stakes dramatically. It was not the first terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, as other Islamist terrorists bombed the WTC in 1993, shortly into Bill Clinton's first term. Later that year, terrorists would slaughter American troops in the Mogadishu Massacre. Over the next few years, the Khobar Towers were bombed, American embassies in Africa were bombed, and the USS Cole was bombed.

What is still stunning is how the terrorists were able to accomplish so much with so little. They did not have chemical, biological or nuclear weapons at their disposal when they woke up that Tuesday morning. Instead, they had box cutters. They used their box cutters to hijack four jet liners and crash them into buildings. The worst terrorist attack in American history, an attack that as even more devastating that the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, did not involve a single Weapon of Mass Destruction.

Four years later, we are fighting a war in Iraq. We invaded Iraq two years ago to remove Saddam Hussein from power. The justification for that war was the strong possibility that Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction. For two years, the anti-war crowd has shrieked that the war was based on a "lie" because we have not found the expected stockpiles of WMD. They argue Iraq was not a threat and what we should never have invaded. Some are calling for us to leave now.

I point you to the pictures above to make this point: with or without WMD, Hussein was a threat. He has documented ties to terrorists. He helped fund Palestinian suicide bombers who were slaughtering Israeli civilians. He tried to assassinate President George H. W. Bush. The 9/11 terrorists turned our own transportation infrastructure against us using nothing more than box cutters and the knowledge of how to fly a large jet.

No, Hussein was not involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Those despicable acts were masterminded by Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization. Nonetheless, 9/11 changed the way we look at foreign policy and national defense. Because of the large threat that small cells of terrorists represent, we could not stand by and wait for Hussein to do something. He needed to be taken out.

We are not fighting a conventional war with enemies we meet on a battlefield. We are fighting an enemy that is simultaneously so fanatical that they will kill themselves in order to kill "infidels" and is so cowardly that they will hide behind women and children in order to drive up collateral damage. Whether we like it or not, this is a war we have no choice but to fight.