General Shares Thoughts as 9/11 Anniversary Approaches
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
BOULDER, Colo., Sept. 7, 2005 The approaching anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States gives Americans cause to think about things that happened before, during and after that day, the Army's chief of public affairs told an audience here Sept. 6.
Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks told the Boulder Valley Rotary Club it's important to "reflect on the circumstances that led up to 9/11, what we faced on 9/11, and what we continue to face today."
The general said he's reminded of Sept. 11 every day when he gets to his office, which is about 20 steps from where the left engine of the airliner that crashed into the Pentagon hit. While that serves as a reminder of the tragedy, he said, it also symbolizes the American character.
The Pentagon has "been reconstructed," he said, "showing our resilience and our resolve, and our continued work that engaged right away, undaunted, and how much more resolve has been shown since that point in time."
Noting that the terrorists took more than 3,000 innocent lives that day, Brooks praised the courage and depth of goodwill demonstrated by Americans who "stepped up and answered what we call 'the call to duty' that day."
Though most people believe the war on terror began on Sept. 11, Brooks said, that's really the day the war came to the homeland. It had its beginnings years earlier, he explained.
"The danger had been on us for some extended period of time," he said. "I can remember for the entirety of my military career that now is a quarter century, and even before I started we were dealing with the specter of terrorism."
The war, he said, is a long one that will require patience, courage and resolve. "We have to be successful," he said. "We don't have a choice but to succeed in this over time."
Brooks pointed out that as far back as the 1970s, the Irish Republican Army was using terrorism as its weapon of choice, and other groups began to follow their lead. The general cited various terrorist attacks on Americans and American interests abroad, beginning in 1979 when terrorists overtook the United States Embassy in Tehran, Iran, and held its occupants captive until January 1981, and continuing to the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in a Yemeni harbor, and finally to the Sept. 11 attacks.
"Our journey up to that point had already been marked by terrorism, by this ideology that spreads and says the world must be under a specific kind of Islamic dominance," he said. "Very hazardous, very dangerous, and something we can't take our eye off of."
Recalling his experience as a Joint Staff strategist, Brooks told the Rotarians that since Sept. 11, many successes have been achieved in the war on terror.
"We have made a lot of progress in a lot of areas against this global terrorist threat, in places that you may not even recognize," he said. "In North Africa, East Africa, the Horn of Africa, throughout the Arabian Gulf and the Indian Ocean, the Philippines, Indonesia, and certainly in Afghanistan and now in Iraq."
But despite the successes, he said, the terrorist network constantly seeks to regenerate itself. "So while we have been successful and while you should be certain that we've been successful, you should never be complacent, and neither will we," he said. "Because the moment we're complacent, that's the moment when the hazard returns."
U.S. efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq are "showing a bright glimmer of hope for people who have never known hope," Brooks said. He noted that Hamid Karzai is in office as the first elected president in Afghanistan's 5,000-year history. Eight million of the 10 million Afghans who registered to vote turned out at the polls for the presidential election.
"That's never happened in (the United States), an 80 percent turnout of registered voters," Brooks said. "It says an awful lot about (the Afghan people's) commitment to their future. And that light of freedom was brought to them by the commitment of our forces abroad to eliminate terrorism."
Brooks also noted progress in Iraq, beginning with 8 million voters defying intimidation to elect a transitional authority, while Iraqi forces successfully defended all 5,200 polling places in the country against terrorist attacks.
"These terrorists that we faced on 9/11, who continue out there right now, would seek to have all of that reversed," Brooks said.
The general urged the Rotarians to remember the courage and commitment the responders showed in the face of tragedy on Sept. 11.
"Remember it as a day of horror, but also as a day of honor," he said. "And remember also those who have continued to answer that same call to duty since that time in so many places around the world, so that in this place, in this city -- in Boulder and elsewhere in the United States -- we can be free, we can be safe, we can live our lives, and also impact positively the lives of others who are in this small global community of ours."
Brooks urged the audience to visit the Defense Department's "America Supports You" Web site, which he said spotlights efforts around the country "to try to help those who are answering the call to duty."