Guest Commentary / September 10, 2021

9/11 Revisited: This Time We Will Look Away

The sad reality of a second unthinkable debacle.

By Marilyn Quigley

Again flags fly at half-staff as they did 20 years ago on September 11. But now they also symbolize yet another debacle we will never forget.

Two decades ago, Americans stood in disbelief, our mouths open and eyes riveted to television screens. On that day we gaped at open wounds in the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and the Pennsylvania field. The smoke and twisted steel, jumbled and charred stones, debris-strewn grass — three places grabbed our gaze and wouldn’t let us look away.

We just could not look away.

When our flag was raised over the rubble, our leader vowed evil would not win. The hate of Afghan terrorists would never prove stronger than the values of democracy.

Yet once again, here we stand agape, struggling to comprehend how another unthinkable event occurred at the end of the Afghan struggle begun two decades ago.

In Afghanistan American flags lie muddied and bloodied beneath the wheels of our own army vehicles. Their jubilant drivers are the ideological and biological descendants of terrorists who used our own planes to bring us to our knees.

For a while, we fell to our knees in our houses of worship, begging for God’s help. “Never again!” we echoed the words of the Jews after their own holocaust. Then life moved on, American ideas changed, and a new, liberal president with different values leads.

We saw what those values caused the last week of August. Now in a distant land, our citizens and loyal supporters hide, still unable to grasp the truth that their leader left them behind. He deserted them so that he could meet his own deadline, smile in an anniversary photo opportunity, and brag about ending the long war.

How could an American commander-in-chief allow troops to slink out of an airport at night without telling allies? How could he remove military personnel before freeing American citizens? Surely the so-called leader of the free world would never leave behind expensive equipment along with the nation’s reputation and cherished people.

That’s not the American way. This must be a nightmare.

It’s a nightmare, all right, a horrifying dream from which those left in hiding will never awaken. Afghan women will spend the rest of their lives behind burqas and curtains. The interpreters face certain death. Americans and Afghan Christians now tremble behind doors sure to be flung open by men bent on slaughter. God help them.

The person who is responsible said this debacle would not happen. You heard him, the steely-eyed speaker who intoned words on the teleprompter, “And if there’s American citizens left, we’re going to stay until we get them all out.”

The president lied. The last military plane left, but all Americans did not. Unknown numbers are now left behind.

The turbaned Taliban know they won the war. Everyone in the world knows it.

Everyone, it seems, except the so-called leader of the free world, who is back to talking about Covid vaccinations as if nothing horrible happened the last week of August.

Somewhere along the way, this man also left behind a piece of personal equipment any halfway decent president must have — a moral compass.

On 9/11, he will stare into cameras and brag that he accomplished what three other presidents could not — ending the Afghanistan war.

This time we will look away from our screens.

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