TAMPA, September 11, 2013 — Twelve years after terrorists perpetrated the most deadly crime ever committed on American soil, Americans still hold vigils and other events to commemorate the tragedy.
The 9/11 attack shocked the nation in a way people outside the western hemisphere probably cannot understand. Unlike most nations, Americans have not seen a war at home in over a century.
For the host nations of hot wars, 9/11 happens every week.
NBC reports that 9-12 civilians were killed by a NATO airstrike in Afghanistan on Saturday. According to Abdul Ghani Mosamam, spokesman for the Governor of Kunar Province, four Taliban insurgents and 12 civilians died. The civilians were four men, four women and four children. NATO denies any civilians were killed, but no one denies that civilians are killed in airstrikes and offensives. Thus the term, “collateral damage.”
For the civilian victims, every strike is their own personal 9/11. Missiles raining down from the sky and destroying buildings, killing loved ones and rendering others homeless is no less terrifying than what happened in New York City in 2001. One might argue that the New York City attacks killed far more people than last Saturday’s NATO attack in Afghanistan, but that misses the point.
Attacks like Saturday’s are routine in Afghanistan, as they were for eight years in Iraq. The death toll of innocent civilians is in the hundreds of thousands. The refugees number in the millions. For the people of Iraq, 9/11 happened every day for eight long years. It wasn’t two buildings. It was whole cities and their entire civilization that was reduced to rubble.
Americans simply have no concept of what the face of war at home really looks like. Outside of Pearl Harbor, an attack by military men on a military facility, warfare has not occurred on American soil since 1865. Even servicemen who have deployed to foreign wars do not understand. For them, their combat service is performed while “in country,” meaning someone else’s country. They have no point of reference from which to understand “taking fire” in one’s own house or having that house destroyed in an instant by an airstrike aimed at someone else.
It is good for Americans to remember September 11, 2001 and how horrifying it was to see a presumably inviolate city touched by the face of war, to see loved ones running for their lives and some not making it out in time. It would be better for Americans to imagine that happening every day or every week. That is reality for the civilians “in country” when war comes to them.
Remembering 9/11 that way might change the conversations we have here about whether or not we prosecute wars of choice. Imagine if we were to see foreign governments casually discussing whether to perpetrate 9/11 on us every week for the foreseeable future, based purely on whether they had any “compelling national interests” or “clear path to victory.” We would burn with hatred and rightly so.
War is the complete abandonment of reason, as John Locke wrote in his famous treatise. It is the last resort when survival is truly threatened. It is the answer to a violent aggressor who has committed acts of war and will not relent. There is no lesser justification for unleashing its indiscriminate destruction.
Let’s hope that Congress remembers 9/11 in its debates about Syria. Each legislator should ask himself: How can I justify a new 9/11 for the people of this country?
Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.