My Photo
Location: Montgomery Area, Alabama, United States

Former BUFF driver; self-styled military historian; paid (a lot) to write about beating plowshares into swords; NOT Foamy the Squirrel, contrary to all appearances. Wesleyan Jihadi Name: Sibling Railgun of Reasoned Discourse

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five Years On

I was certainly cutting a very undignified pose when I first heard of the 9/11 attacks. I was Operations Officer of the Ops Support Squadron at Laughlin AFB, right along the Texas-Mexico border, and the Air Education and Training Command (AETC) Commander was scheduled to fly into Laughlin that morning in a brand-new T-6 Texan II trainer that he was getting a chance to joy-ride for the first time (with the help of a seeing-eye instructor pilot, of course). My Ops Group Commander (OG) -- a good guy, mind; one I'm still in contact with, but a little high-strung that morning due to the visit -- was having me, my Chief of Airfield Manangement (a retired CMSgt with 15 years post-active duty time mananging airfields), and any bodies that could be spared from base ops pulling tiny fragments of weed and grass from cracks in the cement near the "red carpet" painted on the concrete outside base ops, where the AETC/CC would park. The OG was marching about, pointing out where "my" grounds-keepers (Mexican contractors, actually) had failed to make the tarmac sufficiently Ship-Shape and Bristol-Fashion, making us pull the weeds by hand, as a form of punishment I suppose. In other words, just another day of typical Air Force bullshit.

A call from the tower ground controller came over the OG's 'brick:' "Sir, you need to come inside." The OG made certain that we would continue our endeavors and he ducked inside base ops. He talked to the dispatcher, then got on a land-line. He talked for a short time and then came back out to the red carpet: "Forget that shit and come here." We went inside and saw what was happening on the brand-new flat-screen we'd bought to show weather data, now tuned to Fox News. The second plane had just hit the WTC, so we knew it was an attack. That made it a little after 0830 local. The AETC/CC was airborne and due in at 0900. The OG said, "go get Max (my boss, the Ops Support Squadron Commander). This is going to be a cluster-...."

It was. I ran across the street from base ops to the squadron's offices. I started, "Max..." He said, "I know." The squadron's exec, a young lady Captain usually known for her unperturbability, was crying. I said foolishly, "there could be fifty thousand dead! My God!" Max said, "let's get the General on the ground, then we can worry about this." We headed back to base ops.

The CSAF arrived without incident, but air traffic was shut down nation-wide and the borders were put on the highest level of alert. Several airborne military aircraft were diverted into Laughlin. We had to arrange a staff car and drive the AETC/CC back to San Antonio. The latter barely spoke to the Wing and OG/CCs; he was tied up on his cell trying to sort out what was happening command-wide. My wife went to a memorial service in Del Rio and got caught in the traffic jam that followed the order for everyone assigned to the base to report to their work stations (a "full recall"). Another cluster-.... What a target the traffic jam outside the base front gate would have made, had our muslim brothers but known.

Sorting all of this out and getting KAHN and the kids back on base (all the schools let out, too) occupied the better part of the day. The wife/kids situation worried me more than anything else.

Once all the aircraft were parked and the squadron had reported, it got very quiet. We sat and watched the replays. We all had time to reflect. Everyone knew who was behind the attacks. My reaction was anger. I remember saying then, "it's finally happened; the next campaign in the war that started in 632 (or thereabouts). I knew it was only a matter of time before they succeeded." (Everyone had expected The Big One on 31 Dec 99.) I was in a "let no stone remain standing upon another" mood. Most of the rest of the squadron was somber. Many cried. Many began to worry about the fate of friends in the Pentagon, or in the campaigns that we all knew would be coming soon. Several, including me, said, "good; now we finally have an excuse to take out Iraq and the Taliban and get this lobbing cruise missiles at empty camps bullshit over with." No one of our senior officers (myself included) had any doubts as to where this would all lead next for us. Those who'd reflected on the nature of what had happened in the years leading up to 9/11 were not surprised at all. We expected it in some form at some time and it was obvious to us that the unfinished job we left in Iraq in '91 had contributed to the enemy's hubris in making these latest attacks, even if no one could prove material connections, as had our tepid aspirin-factory bombing responses to other provocations in the intervening years.

This didn't make us unusually prescient. The patterns were just obvious to anyone who followed military and foreign policy matters in the previous decade. That is, most of the senior officers at my base, anyway. Me? I would have had the Saudi Royal Family roasted in napalm after the Cole bombing, just to "encourage the others." I even remember quoting Hobbes "war of all against all" comment, as I have many times in the five years since, concerning the The War.

Not all got it, however. Hugh Hewitt relates part of his morning:

AROUND 9:45, MY COLLEAGUE who was scheduled to join me at [a] meeting at the Hancock called and chirped an upbeat sing-songy “Good morning!”

“Hi,” I responded.

Maintaining his annoying good cheer, he inquired, “How ya doin’!”

Slightly annoyed and a little emotional, I said, “You must not know what’s going on today.” He told me he did, but he said it was happening in New York and then immediately asked me where we should meet at the Hancock Tower.

Honestly, I couldn’t believe my ears. This was a highly intelligent man on the other end of the line. I told him, “Don’t you understand – America is under attack.” He responded by condescendingly telling me that two buildings were under attack. I told him I didn’t want to argue with him. Obviously it was an inopportune time to go to a top floor of a major city’s most prominent high rise, but whether or not we agreed wasn’t really material. Every high rise in America would be officially evacuating itself within the hour, I told him. Even if we wanted to attend the meeting, it wouldn’t be an option available to us.

It was the first time I dealt with someone who just didn’t get what 9/11 meant. It wouldn’t be the last.

Yep. I'd guess well over half of America still doesn't get it and about 80% of the rest of Western Civilization not only doens't care or believe it's at war, but is openly hsotile to the only two nations carrying our banners forth into battle: the US and UK.

Another astute observer, daughter of a prominent blogger, was in third grade when the attacks happened and is approaching high school now. Commenting on conclusions she's come to since 9/11, she sums up the first night of the 9/11 docu-drama very well indeed:

"Liberals," she said, presumably referring to her endlessly politically correct private school (the same National Cathedral [School] that hosted ex-president Khatami last week), "always want to tell you what to do and what to think, but then they don't even keep you safe."

Democratic Party politicians might want to reflect on that awhile. They think of themselves as defenders of freedom, protectors of civil liberties. To my daughter, however, they are merely authoritarians who tell you what to think, but then, when push comes to shove, these liberal authoritarians don't even protect you from existential risk. In my thirteen year old child's political imagination, smoke from the burning Pentagon and the wreckage of the plane continues to rise. Does it in yours? Does it in theirs?

It does indeed and it always will.

I'll write at greater length later about how I (truly) fear this will all end. In the meantime, reflect on what 9/11 and our five-year response to it really mean. I'll post any responses as updates.


Update 11 Sep 06
: Karl of Noneya, who corresponded last week, leaves the following comment:

I blogged on a similar topic today, although the military angle of your post was interesting to read. I am glad that some people realize that there's still a war going on out there and we need to finish it from our side. The enemy is certainly willing to finish it from theirs.

Yes. The enemy certainly realizes there's a war on. They have have an overhwleming incentive to continue trying to "impose effects" (as we say in MilSpeak these days) worse than those of 9/11 and their state sponsors (Iran, Syria, et al) have a similar incentive, since a distant, evil foreign foe keeps local minds off of troubles that might mean revolution at home. (Admidhinijad, for all his bluster, has significant prolems at home; not a very stable poltical situation). So...they'll keep trying, and every success, however small, will rally more of the muslim world behind them and further weaken Western resolve.

As a Christian, however, what I most fear is that the enemy will succeed someday beyond their wildest dreams and tens, or hundreds or thousands, or millions will die here. Then we'll get pissed. Then all the academic types, the hug-a-tree ideological squishy-dolls, and the Democratic fops and courtiers will be brushed aside as the West (led by Red America) finally decides to take an Old Testament view of islam. Then tens or hundreds of millions will die, and those who live will rock back and forth on their knees from their caves and hovels, scraping their sores with broken shells as they try to suckle their dying babies, screaming, "NO MORE! NO MORE!"

Let me make this clear: I DON'T want this to happen. This is an outcome almost as bad as our abject surrender to radical islam. But I'm enough of a student of general and military history to realize that this probably is what the future holds. Who knows; maybe it will betoken the final battle and the end of the age. I'm skeptical of all apololyptic talk, however.

Yes; some of us still realize there's a war on. Some of us also think that failure now, in the war we're in, will mean a much worse war later. How many times in human history have we repeated this mistake?

Thanks for writing back!


<< Home