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The Forgotten Lessons of 9/11

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As we approach the nineteenth anniversary of 9/11, we must be mindful; and the fact that next year is the twentieth should make us even more so.

Far sooner than anyone thought or wanted to think, the memory of that horrendous day is well on its way to becoming mere history, to which even many of those of school age at the time cannot relate. With not one but two generations — the Millennials and “Gen Z” — who have generally developed without any connection to country, history, or tradition rising to power, that day is swiftly being relegated to just another violent event from the distant past.

Still, the reason why such casual ignorance is so destructive, thus so concerning, is that 9/11 was only the beginning of something which affects all of us today.  Firstly, 9/11 marked the final demise of relative American invulnerability in the wake of the Second World War, and especially the Cold War.  On that day we learned that tyranny, violence, and zealotry are the global norm rather than the exception. For the first time, on our own soil, America the cooperative, free, tolerant society met the adversarial, un-free, warrior society head-on, and with hills of twisted rubble as proof. While one of the World Trade towers had been bombed eight and a half years earlier in 1993, that trauma was no equivalent. This time, the sadistic realities of the world had truly come to America, rather than the individualistic ideals of America coming to the world. That, symbolized by the crippling spectacle, was part of what shocked so many so profoundly. It was the beginning of a world where those old assumptions had to be left behind.

Secondly, it was the beginning of the word “Islam” entering into even remote American popular knowledge for the very first time. Some educated Americans had heard of the “three great religions” before, but almost none beyond a rather tiny group of academics had ever even read part of the Qur’an, or any other Islamic primary source. And with that introduction came one of our civilization’s most dangerous and infuriating self-instituted taboos: talking about Islam honestly and factually. Moving quickly even before  the dust and smoke cleared, powerful Muslims — most infamously the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), more than arguably a terrorist organization in its own right — told the well-meaning Bush administration that “Islam is peace,” and thus the discussion was over. “Extremism,” “Islamism,” and “radicalism” replaced the actual subject of the discussion we were forbidden from having, and continue to do so to this day, across party lines. Both Fox News and MSNBC forego the possibly titanic ratings boost which only one primetime interview with an eloquent ex-Muslim could bring them. Similarly, the Joint-Chiefs, Pentagon, and White House pass up all advice from self-taught scholars of Islam like Dr. Bill Warner, whose expertise could completely transform how America relates to Islam for the better, saving millions of lives and perhaps billions of dollars. No conversation. “Islam is peace.”

Thirdly, 9/11 was only the initial salvo in a global, universal war which continues to the present, and will, insh’Allah, stretch infinitely into the future. Though this applies to the Western world as a whole, Americans would deal hand-to-hand with ­Jihad in Fort Hood in 2009, Benghazi on 9/11’s eleventh anniversary, in Boston in 2013, in San Bernardino in 2015, Orlando in 2016, Manhattan in 2017, and Pensacola in 2019, to mention only the most well-known incidents. Crucially, the thread which connects all of these atrocities is that the system set up to protect us from 9/11’s most bloody implications failed. Time after time, people who hate us for who we are — not, as some gallingly claim, for what we do — were allowed to penetrate our borders and attack us from within. Though, as one of the many to whom we so wrongly entrusted our safety told us, “What difference, at this point, does it make?” Secretary Clinton’s outlandish statement before Congress still is shocking to this day!

Finally, 9/11 was the event which marked the end of Western demographic cohesion. In the ensuing years, Muslim immigration to the Western world, particularly to Europe, doubled — peaking in 2015 with suicidal European politicians welcoming millions of Muslims into their financially and physically defenseless societies. This, in particular, is where our institutional and social — indeed “multi-cultural” — ban on speaking candidly on the subject of Islam is most lethal. The state of denial into which we plunged after our own eyes saw that Islam had murdered 2,977 people made us incapable of dealing with an unprecedented, permanent demographic transformation, bringing with it mini-9/11s like the 2015 Bataclan theatre attack in Paris.

As stated, there are many legacies to 9/11, but perhaps the simplest of all is today’s indelible, daily reality of division. One of the most painful aspects of 9/11 slipping into history is that we forget the deep, emotional unity Americans felt as we initially mourned and struggled to our feet. Now, however, we are almost as divided as we were exactly 140 years earlier in 1861. The anti-Americanism 9/11 released on the part of so many has now become mainstreamed, and in their convenient cohabitation with Islam they seek similarly to divide and conquer.

Still, by remembering, accepting reality, speaking honestly, taking responsibility for our security, and actually uniting as a country, we may truly honor the victims of 9/11. Or, put more simply, if we do indeed “never forget,” with all of its underlying implications taken on board, then we may move forward into a world where America is healthier and even more powerful than before the New York skyline was altered forever.

By Barry Nussbaum, Son of Auschwitz survivors, Founder American Truth Project, Foreign and Domestic Policy Commentator