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Editorial roundup: Collected thoughts from around the nation
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Editorial Roundup

Editorial roundup: Collected thoughts from around the nation

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Minute by minute, the news — the first plane slamming into one of the World Trade Center’s towers, then the second, then the Pentagon, then, then, then — hammered home the inescapable conclusion: The United States is at war. It has been at war.

The list of terrorist attacks includes the Cole, embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam, the Marine barracks in Beirut, a disco in Germany, Lockerbie. Terrorism poses a global threat; the United States is destined to lead the fight. Wars test the content of a nation’s character. They require stamina and faith.

Yesterday was terrorism’s Pearl Harbor. September 11, 2001, is a date which will live in infamy. As the 3,200 dead on Oahu roused a sleeping giant, so must yesterday’s dead impel this nation to victory.

— Times-Dispatch (Sept. 12, 2001)

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Today marks the 20th anniversary of one of the most shocking days in U.S. history. Shortly after the attack, President George W. Bush spoke to the nation and set forth a course of action that was passed on to three of his successors.

“The attack took place on American soil, but it was an attack on the heart and soul of the civilized world,” Bush said. “And the world has come together to fight a new and different war — the first, and we hope the only one, of the 21st century. A war against all those who seek to export terror, and a war against those governments that support or shelter them.”

Twenty years later, we are seemingly less vulnerable to terrorist attacks than we were in 2001. Yet the threat of a major cyberattack is increasing.

And if weakening the United States was Osama bin Laden’s ultimate goal, we have spent an estimated $5.8 trillion on the war in Afghanistan and other conflicts stemming from the attacks with very little to show for it. That’s a staggering number, the equivalent of hundreds of millions of dollars a day that could have been spent on a multitude of needs.

It’s a grim reminder that wars rarely go the way presidents — or military leaders — think they will.

So, yes, let’s use 9/11 to engage in thoughtful discussion about our ability to evaluate the pros and cons of going to war, and how we can best find the right balance between domestic and national security spending, as we stave off the ever-present threats to national security.

But first, let’s commemorate 9/11 by first remembering the nearly 3,000 who died that day — and the heroic efforts of those who risked their lives to save others.

— The Mercury News

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Statistics from Dr. David Prezant, the New York Fire Department’s chief medical officer, show that three out of four firefighters, paramedics and emergency medical technicians who labored on The Pile in the days, weeks and months after 9/11 where the World Trade Center once stood now suffer health ailments from the poison ground and the poison air. Twenty years on, Ground Zero continues haunting the heroes and victims of 9/11.

Prezant, a pulmonologist who was there on 9/11 to treat FDNY members and escaped the collapse of the South Tower, has been examining the impact on the department of the toxins from the very beginning, when that enormous grey plume rose when the WTC fell. It was studies he did with his now-retired FDNY colleague, Dr. Kerry Kelly, that established the terrible toll of illness and death the WTC was taking — and helped spur Congress to enact billions for a compensation fund and a health program. As Prezant told the Daily News’ Mike McAuliff, the constant monitoring and early detection of maladies such as cancer have led to significantly improved treatment outcomes for FDNY veterans of 9/11.

There’ll be plenty of talk from both sides of the aisle this week about never forgetting and honoring the memory of 9/11. That’s all fine, but don’t forget the living who carry the deadly legacy of 9/11 in their bodies.

— New York Daily News

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One of the most important lessons from the “global war on terrorism” is that the United States should be modest about what it can achieve with military force alone. Even the world’s most powerful military failed in its war to defeat the Taliban and stabilize Afghanistan. Addressing the challenges of failed states and violent extremism also requires diplomacy, international development and education for the marginalized populations, including women and children.

And yet, the hard power of military threat will continue to be a necessary component of U.S. foreign policy; the threat posed by jihadists remains potent. Given the magnitude of the 9/11 attacks and the psychological impact on the country, the United States had no choice but to respond. But it did so on al-Qaida’s terms, not America’s.

There are nearly four times as many jihadists as there were on Sept. 11, 2001. More than 230,000 of these fighters are spread across 70 countries. However, there has never been an attack anywhere near the scale of 9/11 on U.S. soil since then, a remarkable achievement that should not be overlooked.

In the face of major terrorist attacks, nations must be prepared to demonstrate resolve. Revenge can be a powerful elixir, but restraint can be a sign of strength in the face of extreme adversity.

— Colin P. Clarke, Soufan Group

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