“September 11”, a date, that is burned into the consciousness of every American. Many wish this date did not come with the horrible events that occurred at the World Trade Center in New York. For some, the screams of people being burned alive and the sight of fellow Americans jumping from the tower to certain death still haunts them. Yet such was the plight of the denizens of New York on that day. 20 years after, as we remember those who lost their lives that day, and those who ventured into danger, armed and cladded with terrifying courage to rescue victims, Americans still ask “are we safe”?
This year’s vigil in remembrance of the tragedy 20 years ago hits different. And why not? Recently President Biden made the decision to remove American troops from Afghanistan. Many Americans support the decision, others do not. As Americans reminisce and pledge to defend their country from another September 11 event, America is presented with a dilemma; whether to defend America from home soil or from abroad.
In the wake of September 11, the world was reminded that terrorism was never too far from our doorstep. But also, from that tragedy emerged an enraged United States that was desperate for revenge and to send a message to the lands that housed the terrorist groups. So enraged was the United States that it refused to heed the warnings of the United Nations and descended into Iraq in 2003 with the excuse of disarming Saddam Hussein off his weapons of mass destruction that he did not even possess. In 2001, the United States attacked Afghanistan, aiming to destroy the Al Qaeda, the terrorist group responsible for the September 11 attack. 20 years after this invasion, Al Qaeda still remains largely unperturbed and the United States is withdrawing, having left Afghanistan almost desolate.
Having taken the responsibility of guarding world peace and democracy, the responsibility did in fact fall on America and its Western allies to respond in kind to the September 11 attack. But such a response ought to have been well-thought and meticulously planned, bearing in mind the long-term consequences of such an attack, for both America and the innocent denizens of Afghanistan. President Bush told the former U.N. Secretary General, the late Kofi Annan in October 2001, “During the presidential campaign, I said I would not use the military for nation building, and I intend to keep that pledge” (Interventions, pp 304). Consequently, as the United States and its allies were making clear their plans to leave Afghanistan by 2014, history looked much as though it would repeat itself, leaving the Afghanistan people once again pawns in games, great and small (Interventions, pp 304).
As vigils are held across the country, with American people standing in the dark with candles burning bright in remembrance of those who fell on September 11, we are reminded of the hope that burns in the darkness; hope of a better and a safer future. Yet we are also reminded that we must protect that hope from the swirling winds and darkness like we would protect the little light on our candles with our hands. We must protect reason when impulsiveness attempt to compel us to make ill-planned decisions. We must protect the hope and peace not only of America but the denizens of Afghanistan too, for America’s role as a guardian of peace extends to them as well. Remember them.