Reflecting on this dark anniversary in American history, Clifford May thinks back to a conversation he had in early September 2001 with the late Congressman Jack Kemp and the late diplomat and political scientist Jeane Kirkpatrick.:
[Kemp and Kirkpatrick] told me they were concerned that, with the cold war concluded, the United States had taken a holiday from history and a premature peace dividend. [For] who attacked us in Beirut in 1983, in New York City in 1993, at Khobar Towers in 1996? Who bombed two of our embassies in Africa in 1998 and the USS Cole in 2000?
The answers, respectively: Hizballah, a group connected to al-Qaeda, Hizballah again, and al-Qaeda.
Meanwhile, Israel was being hit by waves of suicide bombers and too many people seemed to be saying, “Well, you know, the Palestinians have grievances.” When did grievances become a license for murdering other people’s children? And those who harbor grievances against America—will we excuse the violence they inflict on us, too?
They asked me to do a bit of research, to determine whether any serious attempts were being made to understand what was happening and to devise policies to defend America and other democratic societies effectively from terrorists, their masters, and their financiers. . . .
As became all too clear a few days later, too few attempts had been made. May concludes:
Sixteen Septembers ago, enemies emerged out of a clear, blue, late summer sky. In truth, of course, the storm had been gathering for decades.