I remember the tower burning; the second tower struck. I remember the horrific vision, surreal, of men and women leaping and falling to their deaths from the burning towers. The only choice left to them, how to die. I remember the scream of sirens, and the screams of onlookers. I remember the resolute faces of rescue workers. I remember the burning towers falling.
I remember three firemen raising our flag on a pile of smoking rubble. I remember the celebrations in the streets of Gaza (before Arafat threatened death to any who dared broadcast such images). And the Palestinians were hardly alone in rejoicing at the death and destruction wrought by the murdering terrorist jihadi that day.
Today we should all remember the innocent victims of September 11, 2001. We should remember the rescuers who gave their lives, and those who now suffer illness because they were there, trying to help. We should remember the heroes on Flight 93 who fought back, armed only with courage in the face of death. And we should remember every member of the armed forces, our defenders, who have given life and limb and the minutes and days of their lives, to protect us.
Since that terrible day, I have struggled to understand. The lives lost that day, and since then in our defense, the suffering of the injured and wounded, the grief of those who lost loved ones, demanded no less.
I have learned much, and I have begun to understand.
The world did not change on September 11, 2001. For most Americans, our view of the world changed. It was as if a monstrous kaleidoscope had been turned, and an entirely different vision of the world was presented to us. In this horrific vision, we were suddenly surrounded by enemies unknown, their evil motives and goals beyond our comprehension. But they had been there all along, and they were not hiding. We simply did not see them for the evil they are or the threat they represent.
We must learn to comprehend these evil motives and goals, and the evil men who advance them. I use the word evil advisedly, for evil exists just as surely as does goodness. These men are truly evil; failing to recognize their essential wickedness, we will suffer the evil fate they plan for us.
These men believe in global jihad and the establishment of a worldwide caliphate under sharia law. In this evil vision, we are all of us slaves. According to the tenets of their beliefs, we have but three options. We must convert to Islam, or we must accept second-class citizenship, pay a tax for the privilege, and submit to their rule and their law. Or we must die. There are no other alternatives.
This war upon the rest of humanity, this jihad, did not begin on September 11, 2001. It began centuries ago. It began even before the crusades. It is a fundamental tenet of Islam that all the societies of so-called infidels should made subject to the caliphate, by any means. And while some would have us believe that only a small minority of Muslims supports this jihad, the silence of so many Muslims in the face of this evil belies such claims.
The Koran itself proclaims that silence is assent. In fact, it is a tenet of Islam that no duty of truth or fairness is due to infidels, and deceit in the service of jihad is no sin. Therefore even the words of the apologists for Islam, those who deny the inherent evil, are untrustworthy. Their protestations of innocence and benevolence cannot be taken at face value. We must judge them by their actions alone, and be not deceived.
Despite the violence and criminal attacks of the terrorist jihadi, and our necessary resort to violence in our own defense, the real war against the terrorist jihadi and their fellow travelers will be fought in the hearts and minds of men and women around the world. Given the choice between freedom and dignity, and slavery to the evil mullahs, there is no doubt that the vast majority of the world's people will choose freedom. It is our task to promote and preserve this choice. To do so we must stand fast in the face of the wickedness and duplicity of our enemies; we must destroy them wherever they hide. We must support and protect the weak, and give them the chance to taste freedom and democracy, so that they can understand the choice before them. If we have the will to do so, we will prevail. If we do not, we will die, and our children will live in
I do not hate Muslims, or Islam. I recognize the threat that blind obedience to an ancient and evil ideology so rife with hatred and intolerance poses to our way of life, and to the hopes for freedom and dignity of all the world's people. I recognize the hypocrisy and duplicity of those Muslims who give lip service to peace and tolerance before Western audiences, with a wink and a nod to the evildoers in their midst. I have pity and contempt for the Muslims who may believe in peace and tolerance, but who cower in silent fear of retribution rather than speak out while their religion is smeared and stained with the blood of the innocent. I reserve my respect for Muslims like Abdel Rahman al-Rashed, general manager of al Arabiya, who has risked his life by calling out the murderous terrorist jihadi for what they are, condemning the apologists and silent assenters, and calling upon his righteous Muslim brothers and sisters to join him.
In some ways, I will forever feel unworthy of the sacrifices that others have made to preserve and protect our way of life. Do we not have a duty to do what we can, lest their sacrifices be in vain? I have become so much more proud to be an American. We are privileged to be members of the finest and greatest society that has ever graced this planet. We have many faults, but we believe that all men are created equal; we believe in liberty and justice for all. We sometimes fall short of these ideals, but we have established them to a degree previously unknown.
We must never forget, we must never surrender. It is the only fitting tribute we can give to those who have sacrificed so much.
Straley M. Thorpe is a recovering attorney and commentator on political and social issues.