Most adults can remember where they were and what they were doing when Al Quaeda terrorist crews seized commercial aircraft and flew them into American landmarks and killed 3000 people on September 11, 2001. It was a 21st Century Pearl Harbor. America responded to the Japanese threat in 1941 and effected a Japanese surrender. Are we prepared to vanquish radical Islam today?
There were plenty of warning signs of organized Islamic terrorist activity in the years leading up to that tragic attack 15 years ago. In 1993, the “blind sheikh” planned an explosion in an underground parking garage designed to bring down the World Trade Center in New York. Hezbollah blew up the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996 and killed 19 American airmen. Al Quaeda took credit for bombing American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. In October 2000, less than one month before the Presidential election, Al Quaeda bombed the USS Cole in Yeman, killing 17 sailors.
Media reports described each of these attacks as isolated incidents, rather than the products of organized Islamic terrorist groups. Polling from the time shows that the American people did not recognize a terrorist threat from radical Islam, and it was not even an issue in the 2000 Presidential campaign.
Many of the problems that existed on 2001 still exist today. Many of the 9/11 hijackers were on student visas which had expired. We still don’t have a background check system for visa applicants or a tracking system to ensure that the terms of the visas are being enforced. America’s borders are still not secure. The emergence of ISIS in recent years indicates we have a failure in intelligence-gathering and counter-terrorism efforts.
Radical Islamic terrorism is not a recent phenomenon. America waged war with the Islamic Barbary Pirates in the early 19th Century. They would board American merchant ships, seize cargo and behead crew members. The American government even paid tribute (ransom) to the terrorists to release our ships. President James Madison ended the piracy with the use of decisive Navy and Marine Corps forces in 1815, ending with the victory at Tripoli (now in Libya).
The Islamic Koran includes a concept called a global caliphate, in which Islam would conquer all other peoples of the world. The Ottoman Turks ransacked several European cities in the 16th and 17th centuries. They would seize valuable assets, enslave the native inhabitants, and convert churches into mosques. On September 11, 1683, a network of European armies surrounded the city of Vienna and routed the invading army. In Islam, dates and anniversaries hold significant meaning.
Donald Trump states that radical Islamic terrorism is the greatest threat America faces. He said in his recent foreign policy speech, “If you can’t say the words, you’re never going to solve the problem.”
We need a new James Madison who is committed to identifying the enemy and vanquishing it.