Today is the seventh anniversary of the al-Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and on another facility that was spared due to the bravery of the civilians aboard an airliner who sacrificed their
own lives rather than see the terrorists kill others.
President George W. Bush spoke to nation at 8:30 p.m. on Sept. 11, 2001. His words have not had the staying power that Franklin D. Roosevelt's had when he addressed Congress the day after Pearl Harbor was attacked, and arguably Bush's speeches at Ground Zero and D.C.'s National Cathedral on Sept. 14 were the real equivalent to FDR's words.
It was at the National Cathedral where he vowed "to answer these attacks and rid the world of evil." It was an echo of his comments three days earlier, when he said:
"The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts. I've directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them."
His task was quite different in those hours from Roosevelt's, and the results have been quite different since. FDR knew exactly who had attacked the United States, and where to find them. After outlining the other surprise attacks on U.S., British and Dutch possessions in the putative Co-Prosperity Sphere, FDR laid down the law:
"Japan has, therefore, undertaken a surprise offensive extending throughout the Pacific area. The facts of yesterday and today speak for themselves. The people of the United States have already formed their opinions and well understand the implications to the very life and safety of our Nation.
"As Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy I have directed that all measures be taken for our defense.
"But always will our whole Nation remember the character of the onslaught against us.
"No matter how long it may take us to overcome this premeditated invasion, the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory. I believe that I interpret the will of the Congress and of the people when I assert that we will not only defend ourselves to the uttermost but will make it very certain that this form of treachery shall never again endanger us."
Within four years, the perpetrators of Pearl Harbor, and their collaborators in Europe, were unconditionally defeated.
The results of the global war on terror have been less demonstrably successful, although there have been no subsequent attacks on American soil.
Seven years since 9/11, those who harbored al-Qaeda have been smashed - and now are resurrecting. The identified arch-villain behind the attacks, Osama bin Laden, remains at large, and according to a new CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll, only about half of America believes he'll ever be apprehended (and that's up from last year). His amorphous organization, in spirit if not in fact, continues to animate terrorists.
There will be no need soon to re-instate the Missouri to the Naval Vessel Register.