I still remember vividly the exact moment we first heard of the attacks that occurred on 9/11. I was sitting at a desk down in the hazmat locker onboard my ship when the Bos'n piped across the 1-MC, followed by the familiar voice of the Captain detailing all he knew of the horrific event. We were over a month into a six month operational tour (or "pleasure cruise", if it can be fairly called that) in the Mediterranean, and as I recall, had thus far been rewarded with a few days R&R in both Gibraltar and Malta. Our new orders, however, were reassignment to the Gulf, by way of the Suez Canal. It is there that we spent the next six months.
It has always been a point of pride for me that we, meaning my ship, was the second to send missiles soaring into what was thought at the time to be Bin Laden territory. I've never made the mistake of confusing our sacrifices for those of the ground-pounders (Marines, Army), but like all branches of the military, there is a cost to service that is common and persistent to all members. And things really change when the drills are over, and you realize that the stakes are now quite real. While not the same as the experience my Jarhead brethren (Semper Fi!) might enjoy, I can assure you that living in Gereral Quarters mode perpetually is not exactly a day at the spa either.
One thing seemingly shared by most, if not all members, wherever I saw them, was a sense of shared focus. Almost gone were the gripes and complaints of daily life onboard ship. For years we had trained, and now the day to put that training to the test had finally come. A certain Chief Fire Control Technician had adopted a particular phrase from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, courtesy of Marc Anthony - "Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of war!". This had become a motto for some of us, especially those of us in the operations/intelligence crowd. And so it was...we were at war, and we were one of the dogs now let slip.
In a mere four months it will have been a full decade that we have been engaged in war, whether or not one wishes to recognize it as such, and it seems like only yesterday. Now, after a long and very costly search, Osama Bin Laden, the head of Al Qaeda and the orchestrator of the deaths of thousands of innocents in America alone, is dead. Good riddance, you demented piece of trash...enjoy your 70 virgins, courtesy of the US Navy Seals.
But I am concerned even yet. To some it is almost a cliche to say "never forget", and it seems we are almost prone to do precisely that. Now I'm not talking about remembering the fallen, our heroes who have died in service. Yes, we should of course remember them, and honor them always. What I mean to say is that we (or many of us) tend to forget the important things from this war...how we got here, and what we have learned. We should have a completely new worldview since 9/11, particularly since we have gleaned more and more insight into the spectre of radical Islam.
Let us not forget that Osama Bin Laden was one man. He was neither the author of radical Islam, nor the primary vehicle of it. He was no more than a distinguishable cog in a much larger machinery, the head of one element within a larger network. The enemy was not simply this man, it was and is the ideology that propelled him. We forget this at our own peril. And forget it many will, despite the persistent evidence in a growing Eurabia that the problem only looms ever larger, regardless of how steadfastly we resolve ourselves to ignoring it. I'm no Nostradamus (whose record wasn't really all that great, when you really look at it), but I think I risk little when I predict that we are still on a course with self-imposed disaster, as our foolhardy notions of tolerance deliver us into the hands of the most intolerant.
As much as it pains me to state the obvious, I suppose I must here do so by saying that our problem is not with Muslims, or Islam per se. I say this for the benefit of the twits out there who see discrimination in every non-liberal statement and for those with a maturity / reason deficit. Or was that redundant? In any case, I've always held that both Islam and Muslims are just fine and dandy, provided they are the milquetoast variety found in the mainstream. Personally, there are some aspects of Islam that I find beautiful and very appealing. The problem is that the nut-jobs (who, coincidentally, I believe are unfortunately the more authentic Muslims) are the ones taking center stage all the time, and there are a lot of them. Hell, we have one twisted preacher picket slain veterans (which is of course despicable), and we're all over that with 24/7 coverage. At the same time we are as a country infested with Muslim radicals working towards the end of western civilization, and we stick our heads in the sand? The former is a kook with an unreasonable point of view, and we tongue lash him with accusations of "hate-speech". The former are conspirators of violence and hatred, but we have nothing to say to them?
My fear is that now that Osama will no longer be our sole focus regarding the whole Islamic terrorism thing, we will forget the big picture and maybe even drop the ball altogether. But the wannabe globalists and Euro-weenies would do well to understand that Obama...er, Osama, was not just an American problem, and neither is radical (or "classical", as I like to call it) Islam. They are global problems, and as of yet, few have the nerve to stand up against it while the neutered masses steer us to destruction. Far and few are the Geert Wilders of the Netherlands, or the Canadian Mark Steyn's, who grasp the insidious nature of what we face and correctly warn that through our self imposed weakness we are delivering ourselves into the hands of a very cruel enemy...one who has little use for mercy, much less tolerance.
I'll end my Islam rant at this point, but would not feel right if I didn't address what I think of as the Obama/Osama issue. Firstly, credit where it is due. I congratulate President Obama on this victory. He made the decision to execute this plan based on received intelligence, so some measure of credit is due him. Having said that, let's not pretend an ass is an elephant here.
What was the alternative? After almost ten years of hunting for this man, was he supposed to not give the order? Oh, he could have, but he's not that stupid. History would not have judged him very well had he passed on such a pristine opportunity. Despite his impulse to govern like Jimmy Carter, I think Obama also shares Clintons keen sense of legacy. So no, despite how ridiculously liberal he might be, there was no way he was going to pass on the opportunity to bring a ten year struggle to an end.
Secondly, let us for a moment remember who we are dealing with here. Obama the candidate was no less than a typical liberal in his relentless bashing of "the Bush War", and was committed to ending it immediately. Of course his perspective changed a little once he was in office and had to make the big-boy decisions instead of being a whiny little bitch, like his comrades he left behind in congress. It is a very curious thing, however, that much of the anti-Bush attack machine has been remarkably silent since Barry took the reigns, and continued the "Bush-war" in a very Busk-like fashion. Even Cindy Sheehan, an arguably unbiased anti-war nut who appeared to be willing to stick it to both parties if necessary, has been conspicuously absent.
The point here is that the only time liberals, including Obama, have shown any real support behind this effort was in the very beginning when it was a no-brainer to be behind it. It only took all of a couple weeks for them to start picking it apart at the seams however, and eventually morph the whole thing into a mind-numbing political propaganda machine whose primary purpose was to disguise BDS (Bush Derangement Syndrome). Modern liberals have historically shown no problems with using military force, as much as they like to wrap themselves up in the peacenik dressing. What they do have a problem with is engaging in a moral war where a commitment to good over evil is manifest. This tends to offend the relativist sensibilities that liberals embrace, impose, and struggle to defend, and therefore by default their inclination is to side contrary to the moral good. It's a twisted process to understand it, but i will submit that it is even more twisted to live it.
In closing, the point is simply that Obama and the Dems have fought this just war tooth and nail (all the while offensively claiming to support the troops, no less). It was Bush that committed to this war, and was savaged for it endlessly. Now we give Obama and the Dems a pass while they continue the war, and we're supposed to give credit to them too? When there is a criticism to be made they can refer to it as an "inherited" problem...as Bush's war, but now we are going to give them high fives for completing what should now be simply one of many objectives? I don't think so. If this was "Bush's war", then this is Bush's victory first and foremost. Of course liberals will never admit this, given the classless bunch that they are.
One thing is clear, the world is now rid of one more problem. Hopefully we can take care of another in 2012.