Monday, September 11, 2006 1:15 pm Daniel J. Summers
Working with mail is a big part of my duties while I'm here. Once a day, we pull a few letters out of a tray and write down where it came from and when it was postmarked - that way, we can tell how long it took to get to us and make sure these letters are flowing. It's interesting to look at the backs of these letters, which we see as we take one from the stack and turn it face-down onto another stack. There are, of course, the "We love you!"s, the "Happy Birthday"s, and the "Come back safe"s. Others have “SWAK” written across the back (Sealed With a Kiss). Today, I saw one that said “Go Vols!” - which I particularly liked.
Underneath that letter, the next one on the stack had printed across the bottom “Do Not Bend.” I'm sure that this wasn't an encouragement to the troops - there were probably photos in the envelope, so they didn't want them bent. But, on this 4th Patriot Day, 5 years after the attacks on September 11th, 2001, I think it is fitting advice for all of us.
The enemy we face is not ourselves. There are some among us who are going too far, but as we demonstrated with Abu Ghraib, we are willing to punish those who do. There are also some among us who intend us harm; that's for certain. However, there is a religious group that is not content to have their countries for their religious views, and live peacefully with the rest of the world. They want us dead because we do not believe the way they do. Our nation has decided (rightly, I believe) that we should take this fight to them, that we would rather fight on their soil than on ours.
I have not had access to ABC television, so I have not seen The Path to 9/11, although I have heard a lot about it. It sounds like an important film, one based on the research of the 9/11 commission, that dramatizes the failings in leadership that led up to this attack. Of course, it's really easy to connect dots in hindsight - but the barriers that had been erected to stop information sharing did much more harm than good. Both Presidential administrations #42 and #43 are criticized for their lack of taking the issue seriously, and doing what needed to be done. Thankfully, #43 has made a nice recovery, and we are now prosecuting the war on terror as we should.
We Americans have short memories - and since, for all but a few of us, this war isn't really impacting our daily lives, it is easy to grow lax, and forget that we were not the ones who started this war. But, we are the ones who will finish it. There has not been a major terror attack in this country in the five years since 9/11, and it is not because they haven't been planned. Time and time again, dedicated professionals in the CIA and FBI have been uncovering these plots, and stopping them. Every terrorist killed in Afghanistan or Iraq is one fewer terrorist that will try something - and while it's true that some cultures produce these terrorists, that's just another reason why we must continue, we must press forward, and we must prevail.
Do not forget why we are at war. Do not think about giving up before the job is done. And, yes, as the letter writer said so unknowingly yet eloquently - do not bend.