There are few days that reside in memory as clearly as those tragic days that the whole country recalls so vividly. For many Clevelanders the first of those days in the last three decades was that fateful Friday when President Kennedy was murdered. Arriving at work on the morning of September 11 is likely the second. Clevelanders likely heard that a jet had struck the World Trade Center on the radio as they arrived at work. Once there, they turned on the television to watch as the second jet struck the second tower and to learn of yet a third jet that breached the walls of the Pentagon. Shock, incredulity, fear and anger simultaneously affected so many, and then even before that shock has a chance to dissipate, the networks switched to a press conference hastily assembled in Kabul, Afghanistan where representatives of the Taliban government too loudly tried to disassociate themselves from the tragic events of moments earlier. Immediately their protests were understood for what they were, attempts to misdirect and mislead. The Taliban were harboring Al Qaeda, and Al Qaeda was proud to boast that it had attacked the evil empire on its home soil.
Later that day and on the morrow news accounts detailed the other events of the day. They recalled Arabs dancing on the streets in Jordan, on the West Bank and along the Gaza Strip.
In the aftermath of that day’s sorrowful events, Americans and Clevelanders could empathize more than ever with Israel. Americans understood that they had to react and deal with an enemy bent on destroying us. Americans could understand what unmitigated evil is. There was no shade of gray, and no action by the Americans in the past could even remotely excuse an unprovoked attack on innocents and civilians on American soil. Americans understood what it must be like when one can be attacked for no reason while sitting at home enjoying a conversation with loved ones, or meeting with friends in a Sbarro’s pizzeria. Americans could choose for themselves whether to follow the lead of President George W Bush and to avenge the innocent deaths, or to choose the path of Congressman Dennis Kucinich and his efforts to avid fighting terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Flash forward ten years. The entire country recognizes that all of us remain victims of the terror of September 11, but that the brunt of the evil was borne by citizens on the ground in Washington and in New York, and by four planeloads of travelers unfortunate enough to be on the wrong flights as they plowed into their targets. That sad day is about to be remembered with the opening of a Ground Zero memorial in the Bowery.
At the same time, Clevelanders cannot help but notice that the sad evil events of that day are ongoing. Ahmadenijad of Iran has vocally stated that when the General Assembly approves a Palestinian effort to be recognized as a sovereign country this fall it will be the beginning of Israel’s destruction. Al Qaeda.m continues seeking and attacking targets. Fatah and Hamas demand a right for Palestinian independence.
Kucinich is not seeking the presidency this time around, but the choices that Clevelanders face in the elections a year off remain quite similar with regard to our country’s foreign policy. Will the American government we are asked to elect continue an American tradition of standing firm in defending what is right and good, or will we avoid the issue and play ostrich? Will we stick by friends per treaty obligations that have been in place for years, or will we fail to recognize the chasms that divide American friends from our enemies and other associated? Will Americans become involved so that Palestinian statehood can at least be temporarily delayed?
As a columnist I am no prognosticator, but most Americans recognize that Palestinian independence is likely a fait accomplish. An unfortunate result of independence is that after it is a reality, any attack of Israel from the West Bank or Gaza will not only be the acts of independent terrorists, but an expression of the formally approved policy of “Palestine.” If Palestine’s government allows those attacks to continue it is openly accepting the attack of a neighbor, sovereign state. Such acts are acts of war, and they cannot continue without recrimination. So if Palestine does gain its independence it had better be able to rein in its most belligerent people. Otherwise the Palestine government will by its acts sanction the results of its deeds. When Israel defends its borders and citizens and takes off her gloves to repay Palestinian terrorism with stronger recriminations than any Israel has before allowed herself, she will be acting per the tenets of International Law.
Today Taliban numbers are diminished, Sadam Hussein is in a watery grave and the American government tries to successfully end its military mission. So if Palestine does unilaterally declare independence, it can stick out it s chins and be a good neighbor. Or Palestine can face the consequences and reach a time when Israel prevails once and for all time.
Ten years have passed since America was threatened by terrorism. Last time terrorists discovered the hard way that our government would defend her citizen, even after they died. Perhaps that is our ultimate lesson from September 11, to allow our friend, Israel, to do whatever she must.