The passage of time — 10 years and beyond — cannot diminish the horror of those terrifying images of two airliners plunging into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City.
On that morning, Sept. 11, 2001, another hijacked plane dived into the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., and a fourth airliner burrowed into a field in Shanksville, Pa.
Those demented acts shaped the decade to follow in ways still being revealed. We mourn the loss of nearly 3,000 lives, and shudder at the enormity of the assault.
America is winding down two wars emotionally leveraged by the attacks. Iraq and Afghanistan were products of exploitable fears about what might happen without a sustained war on terrorism.
One lesson for those who would attack the United States is that purveyors of terror are held accountable.
Among the most constructive reactions was creation of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. A bipartisan cross-section of political leaders — including former Washington Sen. Slade Gorton — demanded information from a prickly, defensive federal bureaucracy. Events were dissected and remedial measures proposed.
Subsequently, the chairman and co-chairman of the 9/11 commission, former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean and former Indiana Rep. Lee Hamilton, presided over a review panel that looked at the status of the 41 recommendations from 2004.
The original commission described congressional oversight of intelligence gathering as dysfunctional.
An erosion of civil liberties resulted from the executive powers implied and assumed with the war on terrorism. The USA Patriot Act casts a long shadow. Key provisions were hastily renewed this spring.
The review commission found “significant privacy and civil liberty concerns.” A failing grade was assigned to the dormant Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board created to monitor government behavior.
The 10th anniversary of 9/11 combines lingering grief and a renewed sense of obligation to protect the liberty and values that were attacked.
The Seattle Times (Sept. 14)
Don’t give up on Somalia
Famine has pummeled the Horn of Africa generally, but Somalia has been the hardest hit — and the situation is getting worse. Severe drought-induced scarcities of food and water would pose a daunting challenge for any nation. It is even more daunting for Somalia, where a barely functioning central government and ruthless militant groups are undermining international efforts to respond to the most devastating famine in 60 years.
It is easy to be discouraged since Somalia has long been a failing state, but the international community must not give up on urgent efforts to help the innocent victims.
United Nations officials last week said tens of thousands of Somalis died over the last three or four months, more than half of them children.
Because it is dangerous for Westerners to operate in Somalia, the United States and other donors are trying to be more creative and use local traders to get food and medicine to vulnerable populations. Arab nations like Saudi Arabia and other gulf states — Somalia’s major trading partners — need to use their influence to persuade both the government in Mogadishu and militant groups to do more to help donors get aid to the starving. That includes water and vaccines as well as food.
East Africa is prone to famine, and the United States is working with Somalia and other countries to improve long-term food production and avert future crises. East African leaders, meeting last week in Kenya, agreed to invest in solutions to recurring droughts. That’s only a start. Saudi Arabia and the gulf states should use their clout to ensure that this time Somalia makes real progress.
The New York Times (Sept. 15)
Iran nuclear plant a danger
The first nuclear power plant in Iran ramped up production last week. The event prompted rounds of celebrations there and in a few other locales, but generated considerable worry elsewhere around the globe. Iran says the facility is designed to produce electricity and nothing else. Other nations — including the United States and its allies — worry that the plant is a cover for the development of nuclear weapons. There is reason for the international concern.
Rumors that Iran continues to pursue nuclear weapons abound.
Whatever the case, events involving any nuclear activity in Iran require careful scrutiny. That’s especially true since the International Atomic Energy Agency said “many member states” have provided “extensive and comprehensive” evidence that Iran continues to work toward the development of nuclear weapons. Indeed, credible reports suggest that Tehran is installing equipment to enrich uranium in an underground bunker designed to withstand heavy air attack. If true, that is an ominous sign.
Enrichment can produce nuclear fuel both for energy production or scientific research, as well as weapons-grade material.
Iran can say what it wants about its commitment to the peaceful use of nuclear energy, but until it allows regular inspections and monitoring of all its nuclear sites, it should be regarded as a danger to global equilibrium.
Chattanooga (Tenn.) Free Press (Sept. 15)