(Were I President, Which I am Not.)
By Brad Friedman
Written for family members on September 14, 2001
Published here for the first time, twenty years later, on September 13, 2021
The events of Tuesday, September 11th, 2001 will never be forgotten. To paraphrase Franklin Delano Roosevelt, this day too will live in Infamy. It will never be forgotten. Not by the people of this nation, nor the peoples of the world. Never before has such cold-blooded aggression struck so deeply, so suddenly and so without warning into the very heart of the civilized world.
The perpetrators of this unholy massacre must - and will - be brought to swift, and harsh justice. Without question. Without delay. And without fail.
They must not be allowed to accomplish their goals of bringing this great country, the greatest the world has ever known, to it's knees. But greatness is earned. Not assumed. Greatness is tested each and every day. Greatness must be demonstrated to the world. And our Greatness is being tested today more than ever before.
This is a turning point in history. From this day forward, life on this planet will never - and must never - be the same. The seeds of this tragedy must now be used to grow the abundant fruits of life and freedom across the globe in a way that our fathers, grandfathers and fore-fathers could have never foreseen.
We must avoid the easy, and well-justified, temptation to avenge. To create more hostility, and, as Nobel Peace Laureate Nelson Mandela so wisely said, "to avoid any course of action that will be as unpopular as the terrorists" in the eyes of the world. For if we fail to do so, certain death and destruction that will inevitably be borne from it. Borne by rash and imprudent action. Both by us, and by those that wish to destroy us. For every Usama bin Laden that we destroy, a thousand will be born in his place.
While we [may] take momentary solace from a swift and thorough retribution, we must, as Americans set an example for the world. We must take this opportunity to change the direction of history itself.
The world has become too technologically advanced, too dangerous, and too easy for the smallest of hate groups, the most desperate of individuals, for a singular madman to cause too much death and destruction in ways never dreamt of before.
We cannot protect every border, every building, every airplane, bus, water supply, the very oxygen we breathe, against madmen bent on the destruction of human life and civility. And our love of freedom and liberty will not allow us to turn our civilization into a police state.
We must instead turn our intelligence, our strength of leadership, the greatness of our ideas, the ingeniousness of our technology, our freedom-loving faith in humanity and our singular ability to set an example for the entire world towards a new course of history. This starts here, this starts now.
No longer can we lead by destruction and vengeance. Destruction that will one day bring us a sense of strength and superiority but will as surely bring us further revenge and destruction in the future. The endless and futile cycle of tit-for-tat stops here.
We do not coddle zealots. We must no longer find ourselves in a position to destroy those who we have, for so many years, propped up when it served our financial, economical and political interests. Madmen that we - America - have brought to power like Sadaam Hussein, Usama bin Laden and Manuel Noriega. Now we must change the way that we think, and do business. The way that we run our foreign policy and the basis for our decisions. We must now set an example by basing our foreign policy on humanity and what is right, rather than economic gain and political expedience.
When Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa after decades of apartheid, injustice, intolerance, murder, torture and the rape of his people, he could very easily have taken retribution out on those who perpetrated those unspeakable crimes for years without end. Instead, a National call for Reconciliation was begun. Conferences held, criminals exposed, victims heard from and a new more hopeful day was born.
This was not done to give horrendous criminals a get-out-of-jail free pass. Certainly Mandela, as much a victim of the haters as anybody in his country, would have been justified in the eyes of the world to destroy all of those that were a party to those many long years of atrocities..But he looked ahead. He looked to the future. He was able to see that vengeance brings more vengeance in an unending cycle of anger and destruction. We must look forward to that same future.
Make no mistake, I am firmly Pro-Israel. But I am also Pro-Humanity. And if Humanity cannot survive, neither can Israel. And we have seen the way in which Israel has been militarily strong throughout the years in it's own defense. We have also seen, that after 60 years, they still fight the same battles each day, and live in fear each day as the enemy lies in wait, possible around every corner. America cannot, should not, and will not live that way.
We do not excuse those who have perpetrated this atrocity on America and the entire world. But until we pause, every American, to try and come to an understanding of the sort of thinking that would compel 19 human beings to hijack four airplanes, murder the occupants, and go down with it in order to destroy thousands of innocent human lives, we are destined to see it repeated over and over again.
The rhetoric and cycles of hate must stop. And it begins with us.
History can and will change now.
These criminals will be brought to justice. And as we do so, it will be our highest priority that not one drop of innocent human blood gets spilled. Not one. We will be as diligent in our quest for justice as the criminals were reckless in their quest for blood. "Collateral Damage" is no longer an acceptable turn of phrase used to justify the cost of bringing vengeance. For as surely as we do it, it will once again bring more hatred and retribution towards us: The leaders of the world. We must instead, set an example for that world.
We will further begin a dialogue across the globe in an attempt - not to excuse the behavior of those who despise us - but to understand it. To understand what these actions are that have caused so many millions in the world to target their hatred upon us. We will listen to them. We will not acquiesce to their demands and fanaticism. But we cannot rid the world of such hostility, until such time as we can come to understand it.
I say all of this tonight, with a heavy heart. And an understanding that the words I speak may be harshly judged by even those who have been supportive of me throughout the years. These are very difficult words to speak and a difficult decisions to make and a difficult time. But in these difficult times, one small courageous act may just light a thousand hearts to move in a new direction. For the good of the United States and for the good of all Humanity for a thousand of years to come.
Good night. And God Bless America.