In the Weekly Republican Address, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani discusses the 10th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks and considers the lessons of that day and the decade since.
“Everyone can remember exactly where they were when they first learned that our country had been attacked. As with Pearl Harbor and the John F. Kennedy assassination, these defining events have a big impact on a nation because they’re not just a shared experience, they’re a shared memory.
“On the 10th anniversary of the attacks, we must take stock of what we’ve learned.
“The attacks had two purposes. The first was to kill as many Americans as possible. The second was to destroy America’s spirit.
“As we remember the thousands of lives lost on that day, there’s no doubt that the terrorists achieved their first goal and will leave us with a deep wound forever.
“When it comes to destroying our spirit, however…as we consider the rescue and recovery effort we witnessed at the time of and in the aftermath of the attacks, it’s clear that the terrorists failed.
“The country was not broken, but rather, it was more united in the days after September 11 than at any time in my lifetime. We displayed heroic spirit in many ways, but perhaps the most heroic was the unity of spirit that we shared as Americans. The American people demonstrated one of the most basic values that we share – our love of freedom and the value we place on individual human life.
“People often ask me, ‘Is America safer now than it was before September 11?’ The answer is: ‘Yes, but not as safe as we should be.’ We’re safer because we faced a difficult truth. A danger that we allowed to fester and grow without confronting properly, was suddenly staring us in the face.
“The engagement of Islamic extremist terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan is an important part of our having prevented additional large-scale attacks. We’ve made significant improvements in intelligence gathering and in airport security. But much work remains. We have not significantly improved port security and our state and local governments range from very well prepared to not prepared at all. We’ve even seen some massive breakdowns in security, as demonstrated by the near attack on Christmas morning in 2009, as well as the inappropriate decision-making and irrational application of political correctness in the attack at Fort Hood.
“Perhaps the most dangerous impulse we’ve developed since September 11 is impatience demonstrated by the calls to put our armed forces on timetables. It’s a re-emergence of a dangerous historical pattern that sometimes afflicts America – a desire to demilitarize by minimizing the dangers we face and that’s led to catastrophes in the past, including the ‘peace dividend’ taken in the 90′s as Islamic extremist terrorists were attacking us regularly.
“American security requires a long-term military presence in the part of the world where people and organizations are plotting to kill us. The timetable should not be based on a politically expedient calendar, but on when we’ve eliminated the threat of domestic attacks being generated in that particular part of the world. We must not allow impatience to prevent our military from achieving its objective in Iraq and Afghanistan and the objective is the elimination of the threat to our nation.
“Finally, America must take care of those who were harmed during the difficult and dangerous recovery effort. We must not forget what it meant to the country to watch these brave men and women work toward recovery and they shouldn’t be abandoned now. If they become ill, we are responsible for taking care of them. After all, they took care of us.
“The lesson of September 11 is that America is truly exceptional. We withstood the worst attack in our history, intended by our enemies to destroy us. Instead, it drew us closer and it made us more united. Our love for freedom and for one another had given us a strength that surprised even ourselves. At the same time, it’s a strength that must be guarded and nurtured. We must rediscover our unity. We must never forget what we witnessed on that day, both the incomprehensible face of pure evil and the depth of love and compassion. Today, ten years later, the fight continues and the memories remain etched into our national character.”