by David T. Bruce
As on the day that al-Qaeda terrorists took over 3,000 lives, my heart today – the day that Osama Bin Laden, the founder and leader of the al-Qaeda was assassinated in response to these attacks – goes out to the family members who mourned the loss of those they were close to. Maybe today they will find some peace of mind, some peace within. I truly hope they do. For the rest of us, I worry.
Those families who lost loved ones sought justice, at least in an honorable sense. I struggle within myself as to what the rest of us America sought. Is our pride so easily wounded? Our response to the successful attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (and the failed attack on the White House) was a knee-jerk reaction. Up until the terrorist attacks on our country, we lived behind a veil, submersing ourselves in “reality” shows, living a fantasy funded by credit and caprice. Al-Qaeda opened our eyes to true reality. This reality, however, is not one that can be turned off or pre-empted.
While we can enjoy a measure of success and comfort in at least incapacitating the Al-Qaeda by permanently removing Bin Laden as the head of the terrorist organization, we are foolish to believe that we have stopped al-Qaeda or any other extremist group. Like the multi-headed Hydra, a new leader for al-Qaeda will replace Bin Laden, and the cycle of events pitting one ideology against another will begin anew.
We must ask ourselves “what have we gained by assassinating Bin Laden?” Outside the Capitol, citizens chanted “USA, USA,” reacting to the news they had heard about the death of Bin Laden. How is this different from the throngs of people in the Middle East who cheered at the collapse of the World Trade Center towers? Do our different ideologies, religions, skin color, or clothes make us all that different? We are all still human, and the taking of any life diminishes us as humans. The celebration of taking a life strips us of our souls.
Hypocritically, to some extent, I do feel a sense of relief that this chapter has come to an end. Almost ten years to the day that Americans were reminded that they were a part of a larger community, we may enjoy some closure. At the same time, I feel a sense of apprehension that we will again become complacent, retreating into our “reality.” Will we learn from this chain of events?
The al-Qaeda will not turn the other cheek, and their convictions will carry them into the future. We must adapt to this reality, not necessarily fighting a war that we cannot win by conventional means, but instead living cautiously, with our eyes wide open instead of wide shut. We do not need to remain on the offensive to remain safe; we do have to safeguard our home by adopting a lifestyle and strategy that deters future terrorist attacks. We have Guard and Reserve units who may best serve their country at home, not in the Middle East. By conducting ourselves proactively instead of reactively, we stand the best chance of winning the war against terrorism every day.