Monday, January 30, 2006


Joseph J. Ellis argues in NYTimes essay, "Finding a Place for 9/11 in American History", that 9/11 was not as bad as we thought

Joseph Ellis is a professor and the author of the famous books, "His Excellency: George Washington" and "Founding Brothers". He is also known for being a world-class liar. Ellis maintained for years that not only did he spend time in Vietnam but he was on the staff of General Westmoreland. Ellis claimed that he returned to America and became an anti-war protester because of what he saw in Vietnam. Ellis's lies were exposed and he was suspended for one year by the university where he teaches, Mount Holyoke. (Here is more info on Joseph Ellis lying about serving in Vietnam) Now, Ellis is utlizing his skills of revisionist history by focusing on 9/11.

The thesis of Ellis's op-ed in the NYTimes is that 9/11 was not as bad, horrific or much of a seminal thought as we thought. Ellis asserts that the terror attacks on that horrible day were not a "threat to national security".

My first question: where does Sept. 11 rank in the grand sweep of American history as a threat to national security? By my calculations it does not make the top tier of the list, which requires the threat to pose a serious challenge to the survival of the American republic.

Here is my version of the top tier: the War for Independence, where defeat meant no United States of America; the War of 1812, when the national capital was burned to the ground; the Civil War, which threatened the survival of the Union; World War II, which represented a totalitarian threat to democracy and capitalism; the cold war, most specifically the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, which made nuclear annihilation a distinct possibility.

Sept. 11 does not rise to that level of threat because, while it places lives and lifestyles at risk, it does not threaten the survival of the American republic, even though the terrorists would like us to believe so.

Of course 9/11 was a threat to our national security and way of life. The hijackings of four commercial jets, destruction of the World Trade Center and damage done to the Pentagon were not isolated events that occured out of the blue. 9/11 represented the culmination of Al Qaeda's attacks on the United States that until then were met with indifference and passivity. If the United States continued to react in ways that it had done after the first World Trade Center attack, the bombing of the Khobar Towers and the attack on the USS Cole, America would have seen even greater loss of life and more destruction of essential institutions.

After 9/11, America was on shaky ground. Americans wondered if they could be protected, by the government, in their homes and offices. The economy was severely impacted. The airline industry was at its nadir. Two powerful symbols, the Penagaon and World Trade Center, were either smoldering or in ruins. Subsequent terror alerts, the anthrax scare and increased seucrity measures made Europeans cluck, "America is falling apart."

In the aftermath of the attacks on September 11, 2001 Americans were advised that terrorism would become routine in our lives. So called experts informed us, "We are now going to have like the rest of the world does. Europeans and Israelis have learned to deal with terrorism and now so will we." We were also told that fanatical Muslims could strike anytime, anywhere when those same experts told us, "The next terrorist attack is not a matter of 'if' but 'when'".

Ellis fails to notice that the Bush Administration would not take this "new way of life" lying down. Instead, the aggressive efforts in Pakistan, Iraq and other parts of the world have been carried out in order to ensure that Americans never to have see another event like 9/11 in their lifetimes. Intelligence gathering and novel law enforcement efforts on our own shores are integral to making sure we don't repeat the mistake of allowing 19 suicidal terrorists to live among our midst.

Joseph Ellis tries to compare mistakes of the past, gross violations of civil liberties, to actions undertaken during today's War on Terror. By bringing up the Alien & Sedition Acts, suspension of habeus corpus, and internment of Japanese Americans Ellis tries to draw parallels with today's efforts to deal with our enemies. The modern War on Terror does not impact or imperil 99.99% of Americans. There are a handful of American citizens who are fighting for their rights in the court system. But, you and I are able to go about our daily business because we don't meet Al Qaeda operatives in dark alleys or chat rooms. The violation of rights in the past like the internment camps in World War II was a terrible error. However, we do not see a wholsale roundup of innocent Americans being led away accused of sympathizing with the enemy.

Ellis is dead wrong when it comes to 9/11 being a minor problem when examining world history. America has faced down an outside threat to its national security and is handling the challenge quite well. Was 9/11 a threat to our national security? Of course it was. Will America succeed in facing this latest grave challenge to our way of life? Of course we will.

Finding a Place for 9/11 in American History - New York Times


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