I do not think that even at this point, eight years later, many Americans fully realize what we are facing. Our initial national paroxysm of rage and call to action is now replaced with resignation and complacency. There is an elephant in our collective parlor which most now fail to acknowledge. An accurate picture of where we are is so distasteful that we would rather turn away -- pretending it is not there. But it is and left unattended disastrous damage is sure to follow.
For reasons that most understand, obliquity is useful if not necessary to address this issue. But let us start by being clear about the men who hijacked those planes on Sept. 11, 2001. They were mass murderers, assassins, bigots, terrorists, racists and thugs. The leaders they followed, directly and indirectly, were and are the same. They adhered to a creed that demanded nothing less than they give their lives in a quest to kill as many infidels as possible. No civilized person can believe that there was anything redeeming about what they did or by what they believed.
We do what we can to protect ourselves from further attacks, but it is costly. It costs money, time, liberty, freedom and piece of mind. We spend huge sums of money to gather intelligence, fight wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, patrol our borders, stake out our airports and provide first responder resources. We spend countless hours being searched, screened, X-rayed, sniffed and waiting to assure that one of us is not one of them. We probably don't even know what agency has listened to our phone calls or read our e-mails. We've accepted not having with us the things we want when we travel. We even blame ourselves when we see someone suspicious and wonder if they are a real threat or are we just as bigoted as they.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan leave our precious soldiers dead, wounded and scarred. Nearly unworkable rules of engagement have resulted in pools of our young warriors' blood running in the streets in these foreign lands. It's all but impossible to give them the credit they deserve for taking up this fight on our behalf in such difficult situations. Our soldiers, and by that term I mean all men and women who wear the uniform of the U.S. military, have done us proud. They have stood on that wall between us and those who would kill us en mass if given the opportunity. Unfortunately, the very walls that protect us, to some extent also hold us hostage.
Someone, who I now cannot recall, recently said that this is a war that we cannot shoot ourselves out of. I suspect that the reference was to somehow we need to make peace; we need to understand; we need to be more forgiving. Such an edentulous response against a determined enemy will surely fail. That is because for those like the 9/11 hijackers there are only two acceptable outcomes for the rest of us: death or subjugation. That is their fundamental belief. Unless there is a mass renaissance of those who share the beliefs with the murders of 9/11 nothing will change.
There are two roads to peace. Capitulate or continue fighting. War is harsh. It's tiring. It's awful. The fear now is that we may have become too ovine to fight for our liberties; too tired to continue struggling for freedom; too nebbish to face the malodorous beliefs that allowed a flight attendant to have her throat sliced open. We live in false security resulting from ignorance and disbelief that others would really want us slaughtered. The real truth is that we may have to choose between liberty and death. Choose wisely.
I'm now four decades removed from effectively shouldering a weapon, strapping on a rucksack, calling a hole a bed and heating a meal with plastic explosives. Nevertheless I will stand my ground should it come to that.
But on this eighth anniversary of one of the most ensanguine events in our nation's history I shall fly the colors of my country, stand at attention and salute those who have fallen as a result of these contemptible cowards.
I hope you do the same.
Lickness, a resident of San Diego and general counsel for Golden Eagle Insurance, served in the infantry in the Vietnam War. Two of his nephews served in the war in Iraq. Only one came home alive. This piece is dedicated to Cpl. Jeffrey B Starr, USMC, killed in action 30May2005.