Monday, September 10, 2012

Remembering 9/11

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By Terry Orr

We shall never forget
We shall keep this day,
We shall keep the events and the tears
In our minds, our memory and our hearts
and take them with us as we carry on.

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This was the one of the first images I saw that morning – just after my wife called to tell what was going on and to find a TV.  I came around the corner and we were in shock as that second plane flew into the tower.

Over the past few days, I have been thinking about this article and what to write about that might be different and worthy of your time. 

Lots of folks have written, spoken and shared their emotions, facts (as they know them) about the events leading up to and after the attack.  My Google search on “Putting 9/11 into perspective” yielded 27.3 million hits in 0.27 seconds.  As you can imagine, these cover the entire spectrum.

Connecting some of the dots that got us to September 11, 2001.

In 1998 while supporting a customer in hosting a large defense conference, one of the presenters gave a briefing on the topic on “Terrorism”.  He was from one of the defense training organization and this was his area of expertise – he was really well versed and interesting speaker.  He mentioned two possible dates for a significant event in America – 411 and 911. Sure wish I still had my copy of the presentation.

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In October 1983 I was serving about the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower CVN-69 in the eastern Mediterranean off the coast of Lebanon.  We had spent several weeks conducting wide variety activity in support of the Multi-National Peace Keeping Forces operations.  A week or so prior to October 23rd, I had flown ashore to coordinate and help some of the Marine intell folks.  Shortly afterwards, we sailed into Naples, Italy for some much deserved down time.  Early Sunday morning, I was awaked at a friend’s home to the news of the Marine Barracks attack. That afternoon, we departed and returned to our station off the Lebanon coast.  This was my first exposure to terrorism – and the loss of friends as a result.

US Marine Barracks 
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The attack, which killed 241 American servicemen (220 Marines, 16 Navy personnel, and 3 Army soldiers), was the deadliest single-day death toll for the Marines since the World War II battle of Iwo Jima and the deadliest for the U.S. military since the 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam. The suicide truck bombing, along with a similar bombing that day that killed 58 French paratroopers, was perpetrated by the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah (“Party of God”), which was created, supported, and directed by Iran.

The bombing led to the February 1984 withdrawal from Lebanon of the Multinational Force (MNF), a peacekeeping contingent composed of American, British, French and Italian troops, that had been deployed to stabilize Lebanon after the September 14, 1982, assassination of Lebanese President-elect Bashir Gemayel by a Lebanese faction aligned with Syria. Although the United States had mounted two previous successful peacekeeping operations in Lebanon in 1958 and earlier in 1982 (to facilitate the evacuation of P.L.O. forces from Beirut that had been defeated by Israel), the ignominious end of the MNF intervention brought disastrous consequences.

The failure of the peacekeeping mission led to renewed fighting between Lebanese factions and the ascendancy of Hezbollah, backed by Iran and Syria. Moreover, the Marine barracks bombing, which was the deadliest terrorist attack against Americans before the 9/11 attacks, later inspired Osama bin Laden, who viewed the United States as a “paper tiger” because of its rapid withdrawal of peacekeeping forces from Lebanon and Somalia after suffering casualties. Al Qaeda members were later dispatched to Hezbollah training camps in Lebanon, according to the 9/11 Commission Report (p. 68). This assistance is believed to have significantly boosted al-Qaeda’s killing power, which dramatically increased by the end of the decade. Al-Qaeda’s 1998 bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania killed 224 people, including 12 Americans, and wounded more than 5,000 people in simultaneous operations that used huge truck bombs similar those used in past Hezbollah operations.

Terrorists and terrorism cannot be eliminated any more than we can rid the world of disease. There will always be those who will resort to force against innocent men, women and children in pursuit of political (or ideological) goals. ~ Richard N. Haass

Indeed terrorism is not anything new, we have a very long list of historical events dating back thousands of years ago.  What we have not done well is learning from our past and finding ways to effectively deal with the subject.  Carrying the biggest stick is not always the right solution.

In closing, Clark Kent Ervin, Special to CNN, writes:
“What we need, then, as everyone agrees, is "perspective." But, putting terrorism in perspective shouldn’t mean all but forgetting about it if few - or, for that matter, no - people are killed. It should mean doing everything within our power to reduce our vulnerability to terrorism and to limit terrorists' ability to attack again, while recognizing that we can never be 100% safe and that, one day, terrorists will strike again.”

We look forward to reading your comments, thoughts and ideas. ~ The Team

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