WASHINGTON — A day after he made the case for why the United States must sometimes still go to war, President Barack Obama paid tribute on Wednesday to those who lost their lives 12 years ago in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, as well as the service members and civilians who died in the violent conflicts that followed.
“Today we remember not only those who died that September day. We pay solemn tribute to more than 6,700 patriots who have given their full measure since — military and civilians,” Obama said in a memorial service at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va. “We see their legacy in the friendships they forged, the attacks they prevented, the innocent lives they saved and in their comrades in Afghanistan who are completing the mission and who by the end of next year will have helped to end this war.”
The memorial also marked the first anniversary of an attack on the U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, in which the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other embassy employees were killed. The attack led to strong and often partisan debate about the Obama administration’s foreign policy.
In his remarks, Obama also honored those who died in the Benghazi attack.
“We pray for all those who have stepped forward in those years of war: diplomats who serve in dangerous posts, as we saw this day last year in Benghazi; intelligence professionals, often unseen and unheralded who protect us in every way; our men and women in uniform who defend this country that we love,” he said.
On Tuesday night, Obama argued that the nation must be prepared to strike Syria for its alleged use of chemical weapons against civilians last month, even though the president said he first would give a diplomatic solution a chance to work. Obama has said he was elected in part to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Wednesday morning, he began the memorial with a moment of silence outside the White House, and then took part in a wreath-laying and memorial event at the Pentagon, which was hit by one of the planes during the terrorist attacks.
“We pray for the memory of all those taken from us, nearly 3,000 innocent souls,” Obama said. “Our hearts still ache for the futures snatched away, the lives that might have been.”