These phrases have been bantered about endlessly in the weeks leading up to the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
If only they held the true meaning that so many ascribe to them.
But to quote a line recently overheard: There’s what people want to hear; there’s what people want to believe; there’s everything else; then there’s the truth.
It’s time to cut through the emotion and get to the heart of where America really stands a decade later. Be warned: it’s not a pretty picture. And through it all, no leader has appeared who can steer the nation back on track and take the bull by the horns to avoid another major attack — and, God forbid, if there is one, lead the nation through it.
After spending hundreds of billions on homeland security, and over a trillion more on two wars, is America in a stronger position than it was in 2001? Not even close. In fact, despite the blood and treasure expended, this nation is in perhaps its most precarious state ever.
Manufacturing jobs have been hemorrhaging at an unprecedented rate, the economy is in shambles with absolutely no recovery in sight, the real rate of inflation is significantly higher than the government admits, and the incomprehensibly large debt has America on the brink of insolvency.
And most of this can be attributed to one thing: the lack of an energy policy. Or, more accurately, the abject refusal to institute an energy policy that utilizes America’s vast resources.
The result is complete reliance on foreign oil, especially from hostile Middle Eastern oil nations whose regard for America’s interests resides somewhere between zero and nonexistent.
Mammoth spikes in gasoline, diesel and jet fuel prices continue to drive up costs, which puts companies out of business, citizens on the unemployment rolls, and keeps bank foreclosure executives very, very busy.
Perhaps most tragic of all, American’s immutable sense of pride and nationalism has taken a hit.
Once, we possessed a "can-do" pioneering spirit that pervaded all aspects of American life, where "impossible" was not in the American lexicon. That resolve is what vanquished the Axis Powers in World War II. It’s what opened up the western United States, ultimately making California alone one of the largest economies in the world. It’s how we put a man on the moon a mere 66 years after the Wright brothers’ famous 120-foot, 12-second flight. And yes, it’s how, under the leadership of Ronald Wilson Reagan, America won the Cold War — and provided freedom for millions.
Failure to achieve success was the exception. Now it’s become the norm.
The best example of our malaise of mediocrity? Ground Zero.
The most startling aspect of that hallowed ground isn’t that the Twin Towers, once the sentinels of American free enterprise, are gone, but that NOTHING stands there. Sure, there are reflecting pools and trees, and a shell of a building. But that’s it.
It’s been ten years!
How is that possible? How can a decade have passed with no real progress? How could we have let the enemy win that important part of the battle?
As a comparison, if the Empire State Building had been attacked during World War II, it would have been rebuilt immediately. No questions asked, and no moral victories for the enemy.
And to those who naysayers who would argue "it’s a different time," think again. If the September 11 attacks had felled China’s buildings instead of ours, you can bet the ranch that they would have been resurrected — bigger, better, and bolder — in less than a year. Guaranteed.
Why? Because the Chinese took a chapter out of America’s playbook, and are mastering it to perfection. You know — the same playbook that we seem to have relegated to the dustbin.
Are We Safer?
Given the hundreds of billions allocated for our security, are we really safer?
Despite some advances in communications, intelligence and specific security measures, the ultimate answer is no, for there are two gaping holes in our defenses: the borders are wide open and we refuse to profile. Both are easily rectifiable, but because political correctness wins the day, Americans are living with a false sense of security.
Borders: What good does securing airports do if al Queda can simply walk across the border from Mexico — with a suitcase nuclear weapon? Incompetent as that organization has proven to be, especially now that bin Laden is dead, they’re not dumb. If they haven’t already smuggled weapons and terrorist cell members into America via our porous borders (fat chance of that, as intelligence experts concede cells are in place), they soon will.
Despite ample funds to build a wall — a clear deterrent to both illegal invaders and terrorists — neither Party chooses to do so for purely political reasons. So much for real Homeland Security.
Profiling: Grandmothers continue to receive prisoner-like exams at our nation’s airports, while olive-complexioned individuals from the Middle East stroll by, unquestioned, with smirks on their faces. Why the free pass? Precisely because they look like Arabs.
America’s lawmakers have caved in to a small element that shouts "racist" anytime profiling is employed, especially in, God forbid, airports. Such practice, they claim, singles out individuals just because they appear "Muslim" or "Arab" and, as a result, these flyers feel offended.
Get over it.
Profiling is simply a tool for law enforcement to determine who and what may be a threat, based on an ever-increasing array of data. Certain packages may be the hallmark container for a bomb – and they should be checked. A specific type of shoe may be the favored choice of shoe-bombers – so that footwear, and the owner, should be closely examined.
And yes, certain Arab and/or Muslim individuals, based on historical events, and along with appearance characteristics, mannerisms, suspect financial transactions and other patterns of behavior, should be singled out for closer inspection.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with profiling in security sensitive areas. Yes, it’s a form of discrimination. So what? All nineteen highjackers on September 11 were Muslim Arabs. And so was the twentieth, Zacharias Moussaoui. The 1993 World Trade Center bombings were also carried out by people of this ethnic group. As was the trans-Atlantic shoe bomber, the bombers of the U.S.S. Cole, the Madrid train bombers, and the London subway attackers.
What are we missing? Why are we so scared to profile? What will it take for America to demand policies that actually protect, not appease?
Sadly, probably only another terrorist attack.
This is because our elected leaders are, for the most part, too scared to tackle the issue, even though the majority of Americans support such measures. They are counseled to stay away from "hot-button" topics, instead focusing on 30-second soundbites on irrelevant issues.
To be clear, I am not advocating that random people on the street be detained and interrogated, with no probable cause, just because they "look Arab." This kind of harassment is contrary to the freedoms our country provides.
But it’s time we stop worrying about people’s feelings and reintroduce some common sense into our security measures.
One thing is for sure: al Queda will not stop. And if we continue to give them openings, they will gladly take them. While it’s not possible to guarantee another attack won’t occur, it will be unconscionable if it does — and if it was preventable.
If we truly want to honor the memory of the 3,000 soul who perished on 9/11, we need to jettison political correctness, enter the real world, and combat threats in a meaningful way.
God help us if we don’t.
An accredited member of the media, Chris Friend is an independent columnist, television commentator, and investigative reporter who operates his own news bureau, www.FreindlyFireZone.com
Readers of his column, "Freindly Fire," hail from six continents, thirty countries and all fifty states. His work has been referenced in numerous publications includingThe Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, foreign newspapers, and in Dick
Morris’ recent bestseller "Catastrophe."
Freind, whose column appears regularly in Philadelphia Magazine and nationally in Newsmax, also serves as a frequent guest commentator on talk radio and state/national television, most notably on FOX Philadelphia. He can be reached at [email protected]