Politics with Peyton: Honoring 9/11

Saturday, Sept. 11 marks the 20th anniversary of 9/11: when 19 hijackers overtook four domestic planes and carried out the biggest terrorist attack in America history.  

Two of the planes, American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade center, killing 2,753 people. American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon, killing 184 people. United Airlines Flight 93 crashed into a field in Pennsylvania after the passengers attempted to retake the plane. All 40 passengers were killed. The death tolls above do not include the 19 hijackers.

After the attacks, former President George W. Bush sent American troops to Afghanistan, the place where terrorist groups al-Qaeda and the Taliban operated. Troops served there for 20 years, killing al-Qaeda leaders, destroying Taliban training camps and keeping the terrorists’ activities at bay.

“Never Forget” was a term coined to remember the fallen and honor that day. But have we forgotten?

Our troops have done an excellent job of keeping terrorists from initiating further attacks. Former President Donald Trump began decreasing our presence within Afghanistan. However, by the end of August, President Joe Biden pulled the remainder of American troops out of the country. Our troops are no longer there to serve as a deterrent to terrorists. And we have not only left behind vulnerable Afghan people, but Americans as well, to be ruled by the Taliban, a radical terrorist organization. 

Leaving Afghanistan will be one of the biggest international mistakes in American history. 

America had a responsibility after 9/11: prohibit this from ever happening again. 

We were faced with two options. The first: fire a nuke at Kabul. This was unpopular due to the unfortunate loss of innocent citizens; however, it would protect American citizens. The second option was to send troops to gain control of Afghanistan. And  make the repercussions for attacking us so extreme that any thoughts of further actions against the U.S. would be stopped in their tracks. 

“If you are not prepared to use force to defend civilization, then be prepared to accept barbarianism,” American economist Thomas Sowell said.

When Bush made the decision to send American troops into Afghanistan, we could not predict how long we would be there, although we held our hopes high for a short war.  Although 20 years seems like a long time, we should have remained within Afghanistan for at least 20 more.  

Now, we are out of Afghanistan and the Taliban, one of the groups we went to destroy, has retaken control. 

We cannot put a timetable on war. World War II was fought until we won, not fought on a preconceived timetable. In war we are either defeated or we are the victor; the minute we left Afghanistan, we were defeated. 

The American troops needed time in Afghanistan, not just to defeat the Taliban, but to defeat the stigma against Americans. Afghani children were being taught that Americans are bad. American soldiers needed to demonstrate to the Afghani citizens that Americans are not the bad guys – the Taliban is. They needed to witness firsthand that they have been lied to about Americans. This would have taken, at the very least, two generations. 

Not only did we lose Afghanistan to the Taliban, but we also lost the trust of the Afghani people. As far as they are concerned, we left them to be tortured or killed and all the stories they grew up hearing have become a reality. This is a tragedy. 

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never – in nothing great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the overwhelming might of the enemy” said former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Winston Churchill. 

Last semester I wrote an opinion article titled “We should honor our veterans and their families.” In this article, I give insight to what it was like living in a military family. My father was one of many American troops sent to Afghanistan after 9/11.

He gave me a perspective on this crisis I had not considered (or maybe one I didn’t want to consider). The minute we left Afghanistan, the Taliban regained control, and America’s presence over the past 20 years became void – meaningless. My father’s friends who died in Afghanistan, died in vain. My father, who suffers from PTSD, suffers in vain. We have done a disservice to Afghanistan and to our troops. This makes it an Afghani and American tragedy.

The war in Afghanistan began on 9/11/2001. Our troops were pulled out by Aug. 31, 2021. But is the war over? Will the Taliban threaten American democracy? In my opinion, we must be prepared that the Taliban will attack America again, and will be worse than what we saw on 9/11. 

As my favorite president, Ronald Reagan, once famously elaborated, “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected and handed on for them to do the same.”

This Saturday, I encourage you to go out of your way to gain perspective on this war in Afghanistan and educate yourself on the 9/11 attacks. Pay your respects to the fallen, thank a veteran for their service and most importantly, “Never Forget.” 

MacKenzie is the opinion editor. Follow her on Twitter at @PeytMacK.

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