On this date almost 3,000 of our countrymen were murdered in the name of God by a fanatical organization that persists, spread like a cancer because we reacted to those attacks by wielding a sledgehammer against a nest of hornets. Where do we go from here? Several facts must be put forward at the outset: (1) much of the Islamic world has seen our actions as a war against their religion, (2) our actions around the world have made us less safe and have failed to destroy the Qaeda threat, and (3) there has thankfully not been an attack on American soil in seven years. The second and third seem to contradict, but both are true.
It may be worth recalling the words of Jean-Marie Colombani, who wrote an editorial entitled “Nous sommes tous Américains” (“We are all Americans”) in the Sept. 13, 2001, issue of Le Monde. “How can we not feel … deep solidarity with this people and this country, the United States, which we are so close and to whom we owe our freedom, and thus our solidarity.” My apologies for the translation, which is entirely the result of plugging the French into a Web applet, with the help of my own reading. “In the eyes of the American public and its leaders, Islamism, in all its forms, may be appointed as the new enemy.” The hijackers had “a barbaric logic of a new nihilism” that the “grand majority of Muslim believers” abhor and reject, Colombani added. The “madness” of the extremists “is never a force that can remake the world.”
By December 7, 1948, the attack on Pearl Harbor had been avenged; the hole in the ground remains in so many symbolic ways an open wound yet to heal, its perpetrator yet to be brought to the light of justice. To the memory of the living and the dead: Never forgive, never forget.