As our country marks the seventh anniversary of 9/11 we can only hope that Americans have not forgotten not only the price paid on that day, but the immense sacrifices that have been made by the citizens of this Republic in its history and through to today that allows us to actually have the time to debate the finer points of college football. It is very easy to forget how tough the life was for our forefathers and in many instances even for our parents and grandparents as the United States was emerging in the last century into pretty much the unchallenged superpower that we are today. Being in the crowd of one of our great college football stadiums, like a few of us here at Coaches Hot Seat will be at the Coliseum on Saturday night, provides a tremendous feeling of unity and pride that we as citizens of America can come together to watch two great football teams settle their differences on the field of play under a shared set of customs and rules. An equally powerful feeling is to be overseas onboard a United States Naval Ship as it is passes through the Straits of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf just behind the USS America aircraft carrier as it turns itself into the wind and commences flight operations. Yes, we live in a mighty country, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that there are storm clouds building on the horizon both domestically and overseas and we only hope that Americans everywhere are prepared for the huge challenges that are surely to come.
With the memorials and memories of 9/11 today, we all should understand that we are living in a very dangerous world, and that we should be eternally prepared for the next attack upon our country. A few of us here at Coaches Hot Seat spent a considerable amount of time in the Persian Gulf region of the world in the 1980s and early 90s, including Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and after seeing that area of the world and its people up-close, the recent attacks upon our country and all that it stands for were sadly not a surprise to us. In February 1993 a couple of us, only a few months after leaving the US Navy, were working for a bank in midtown Manhattan when suddenly a scene popped up onto one of the TV screens on our trading desks of people being carried out of the World Trade Center. Business being business it never occurred to us at that moment to do anything but keep working, because it only looked to us and our co-workers as if there had been a terrible fire in the World Trade Center, and we were glad to hear as the day went on that there were not many casualties in the “fire.” As we went to lunch and later that evening as we worked-out and played basketball at our local gym, the details of the “fire” at the World Trade Center were beginning to sound like something else all together. We put on our black ties and coats for a dinner at the Metropolitan Museum of Art that included the string section of the New York Philharmonic and we picked up our dates (a couple of hot NYU girls as we seem to recall!) for what promised to be another great night in the greatest city on the Earth. We dropped our dates off in front of The Met and drove around trying to park one of our “way too big for Manhattan” Chevy Tahoe’s and just as we found a parking spot we heard then Governor of New York Mario Cuomo on the radio in a press conference talking about the incident at the World Trade Center earlier that day.
Governor Cuomo said (paraphrasing all quotes since it was so long ago): “We may be looking at a bomb at the World Trade Center rather than a fire.”
Reporter: Why do you think it is bomb?
Governor Cuomo: “Well, when it quacks like a duck it is usually a duck, and this smells like a bomb to our people here, especially with all the damage in the underground parking deck.”
As the two of us sat in the Chevy Tahoe in the upper-80s on the upper-east side of Manhattan only a couple of blocks from Central Park and listened to Governor Cuomo say “bomb” we two long-time friends looked at each other and at the very same moment had the same exact thoughts and series of images running through our heads. We had spent time in the Persian Gulf region of the world while in the US military before Saddam invaded Kuwait in August 1990 and then again in the build-up to and during Operation Desert Storm, and we had been on liberty many times in the Middle Eastern cities of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, UAE; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Mina Sulman, Bahrain; and even Kuwait City, Kuwait before and after Desert Storm. We had seen the Persian Gulf region and its people pre-Desert Storm as they wearily accepted a US military presence during the Cold War and tanker wars of the 1980s. We also saw a growing resentment to the US as our power was increasingly flexed in the region to protect our national interests and economy at home. We two friends over many watches on “the bridge” and in “CIC” discussed what we saw and the implications for our country in a world that was growing smaller everyday. After Desert Storm when Coalition Forces destroyed the Iraqi Army we again went on liberty and this time when we looked into many people’s eyes in the Middle East we saw not only fear, but anger. We two friends continued to discuss the possibilities and challenges that our country would face into the future as some people in the world came to be both envious and fearful as this country’s influence continued to grow, especially with the downfall of the Soviet Union. Both of us vividly recall while on liberty in Europe in 1992 that we had discussed the chance that the same thing that happened after the US’s covert and overt operations in Cuba in the 1960s (a blowback that can be tied partially into everything from the JFK assassination to Nixon’s use of Cuban “plumbers” that were members of the Bay of Pigs operation, which of course led to Watergate, and later to Nixon’s resignation), could also happen with all that our country had been doing in the Middle East since the 1950s, which was accelerated after the takover of our embassy in Iran in the late 1970s.
Yes, all of those images ran through our heads as we heard Governor Cuomo use the word “bomb” as the probable scenario for what had happened at the World Trade Center earlier that day. We two friends looked at each other and we immediately thought that the perpetrators behind this attack on WTC were of Middle Eastern origin. As we all came to learn the attack on the World Trade Center in February 1993 was led by Ramzi Yousef and several other men of Middle Eastern ancestry that harbored a deep hatred of the United States and all that our country stands for. As Yousef said at his trial in 1995: “Yes, I am a terrorist, and proud of it as long as it is against the U.S. government.” It would be foolish for anyone to believe that Ramzi Yousef and his co-conspirators in the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center just naturally hated the United States. No, a human can only “learn” to hate something, and no doubt his twisted view of the world was created by the perceived and real actions of the United States in the Middle East over the past 50 years. Many times our country’s very real “national interests” collided with what would have been best for the Persian Gulf region of the world and its people, and that is one of the reasons we had Middle Eastern men trying to blow up the WTC in 1993, and why they came back in 2001. As Hosea wrote long ago, “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind: it hath no stalk; the bud shall yield no meal; if so be it yield, the strangers shall swallow it up.” The main problem with the West and the Middle East is that both us have “sown the wind” in dastardly ways, and each of us have alternated between “reaping the whirlwind” for the past 50 years. For the sake of all of our children, it is time for both sides to end this madness.
Both of us knew that night as we walked towards the Metropolitan Museum of Art for a dinner, that later seemed oddly suspended from reality with all that had happened that day in New York City, that the world had completely changed that day, and we only wondered if our fellow citizens realized what had happened that day as well. Over the next eight years both of us frustratingly watched as the Clinton administration missed one opportunity after another to appropriately address a growing terrorism problem in the Middle East that had to be apparent to anyone that was paying attention, and a problem that was getting closer to us everyday. Neither of us were that surprised in September 2001 when “they” came back for a second attack on the World Trade Center, because their motives and desire to attack our country were clear, as has been detailed in Lawrence Wright’s Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Looming Tower. What frustrated us even more was the Bush Administration’s reaction to 9/11 when they attacked and invaded a country in Iraq that had not attacked us nor posed any threat to our country. Instead of obliterating the Al Qaeda network and killing outright or holding Osama Bin Laden and the rest of the terrorists behind 9/11 to account for their dastardly deeds, we undertook an unnecessary war in Iraq when the real enemy was, and still is in hiding on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. You see, we have this odd notion that when our country is attacked, like when the Japanese attacked this nation at Pearl Harbor, that the country or people conducting that attack on the US will pay a very heavy price for their actions. Going back to the end of Operation Desert Storm in 1991 when we did not march to Baghdad and overthrow Saddam, there had been a very small and committed group of people in Washington DC and elsewhere that were determined to get this country into a war with Iraq, and with our current President they found a man that they could manipulate into violating the basic precepts and standards of a country that is founded upon the Declaration of Independence. It is not the right of any country to attack another country that has not attacked it, and our incredibly stupid decision to invade Iraq, when the Iraqi people did not have the guts to stand up for themselves and overthrow their tyrannical leader, diverted this country from going after the people that really attacked us 7 years ago. Needless to say, if we would have had a say in US policy during the 1990s and in the aftermath of 9/11, we would have unleashed our intelligence and military forces against the Al Qaeda in a manner consistent with our military’s determination to destroy Germany and Japan in World War II. Why that was not done will be one of the enduring mysteries surrounding 9/11 and if God forbid this country is attacked in the future by Al Qaeda the blame for that attack can be laid right at the feet of the men and women that believed attacking a country in Iraq that never posed any danger to the might of the United States, over the incredibly dangerous designs of terrorist groups that are probably plotting against our nation at this very moment. Now that the US has spent upwards of $500 billion dollars (all borrowed money by the way) in Iraq and we have approaching 50,000 total casualties counting both killed and wounded, the question must be asked, for what reason was the Iraqi war conducted? So the Iraqis could live in freedom? Please, for decades the Iraqis did not have the desire nor the will to break free of the dictator that ruled over them, and only incredibly stupid or foolish people believe that it is the right or obligation of any country to give people freedom, when those people have no basic understanding of the concept, nor are willing to fight for it in the first place. As all of us should know from our own American Revolution, that FREEDOM must be earned and fought for, it can never be given.
Now here we find ourselves on September 11, 2008, 7 years after the attack on New York and Washington, with Osama Bin Laden and many of his brethren still on the loose, when the United States was able to defeat the military empires of both Germany and Japan in under 4 years. As anyone knows that if you want to hit a particular target, you aim directly at that target and here we have the current Administration that seems to not care that many of the perpetrators of the attack on our country 7 years ago are still not accounted for, and that in so many ways is absolutely outrageous. Osama Bin Laden is just very lucky that he did not attack the US when we had a President in the White House that understood the vital importance of removing from the face of the earth anyone that would dare attack our country on our own soil. A well-armed Boy Scout troop could have overthrown the Taliban in Afghanistan, but the real work of aggressively going after the Al Qaeda and removing its presence from of face of the earth was never done. On its face, that is unexplainable.
All of us should recognize how precious the life that we have in this country actually is, and that we have brave men and women that are willing to stand up and fight for this country under very difficult and trying circumstances. These men and women, our citizen soldiers are often tasked to do things and to accomplish missions that make no sense nor help in any way to protect the United States’ national interest, but our fine soldiers shoulder on. For that, we here at Coaches Hot Seat say: THANK YOU. When we watch or attend college football games our soldiers are never far from our thoughts and their unselfish actions make all that we enjoy and have in this Republic possible. Without our mighty and the powerful US military we would not be the country that we are today, and our standing in the world would be greatly diminished. Let each of us remember the sacrifices that have been made and are being made as you read this blog entry by our servicemen across the globe, and be assured that every time that we see our flag flying or hear our Star Spangled Banner all of YOU are in our hearts and prayers.
To all of the families that lost loved one’s 7 years ago, we as always extend our deepest sympathies and wish only the best for you and your family. We only wish we were in a position to fully bring the people that were responsible for 9/11 to account for their actions. One day soon, maybe we will have a leader that knows right from wrong, common sense from stupidity, and knows that when attacked by someone to attack back in a very ferocious and very direct manner the perpetrators of that attack. That would seem to be obvious, but for some reason the obvious hasn’t been a common currency in our nation’s capital going on 16 years now.
God Bless to all that lost loved one’s on 9/11 and during this country’s wars over the past 7 years. God Speed to each one of you and your family.