–by Joanna Hallac
As Americans, we know very well that today marks the eleventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, acts that ultimately took down the Twin Towers, left the Pentagon smoldering, a field in Pennsylvania afire, stole the lives of nearly 3,000 innocent Americans (not to mention the thousands of our servicemen and women who have died or been injured in combat since that day), and left our country and world forever changed. Despite the passage of time and finally eliminating the mastermind behind the attacks of that day, the wounds still remain open, unable to ever fully heal. This is a day for remembrance for those lost, acknowledgement of the service of the men and women in our military still fighting on the front lines in the “War on Terror,” and for the recognition that we stood together as a nation and as a people that day, refusing to allow the actions of madmen to defeat our collective American spirit. Today, however, also marks a different anniversary that most forget about now.
On this date in 1990, President George H.W. Bush addressed a Joint Session of Congress to explain the American military build-up that was beginning in the Middle East and the response that was necessary in the wake of the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in early August of that year. The invasion sparked outrage throughout much of the world, as it was viewed as nothing more than a clear and unwarranted act of aggression against a sovereign country by a cold and ruthless dictator. In addition to having support from the UN, President George H.W. Bush wanted to ensure he laid out the plans to the Congress and the American people. Congress would authorize the action early in 1991, leading to the very short, very successful Operation Desert Storm.
In speaking that day to the Joint Session, the president made clear his goals in the military action, which included the unconditional withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait and the restoration of the Kuwaiti government, and very clearly stated that Iraq could not be allowed to invade or annex a sovereign nation. He also continued on to say, “Out of these troubled times . . . a new world order can emerge: a new era, freer from the threat of terror, stronger in the pursuit of justice, and more secure in the quest for peace.” For a time, the president’s message seemed to be true, and while there were increasing terrorist attacks and threats throughout the world as the 1990’s came to a close, no one could have imagined the horror that was to come here to the United States on what began as a brilliant fall day on a Tuesday in September eleven years ago.
So here we are, over a decade removed from the 9/11 attacks and over two decades from that speech by the elder President Bush, still doing our best to fight for the freer, more peaceful world that we have all long envisioned and so desperately hope to see in our lifetimes. We cannot ever forget about what happened on September 11, 2001 or the difficult times that have followed it, but neither can we forget that while times may have seemed easy all the days before 9/11, this country has had many difficult and trying periods to endure over its history, and we have weathered all of them, sometimes more easily than others, but always in the end leading us to better and brighter days.