September 11th and Syria

By Mike Lange
Staff Writer

    Twelve years ago today, I was putting the finishing touches on the front page of the now-defunct Moosehead Messenger in Greenville. At that time, the newspaper office was next to the Whiskey Cove, a blue-collar watering hole that also went by the wayside a few years ago.

    We had keys to the tavern in case they had deliveries when the owner wasn’t around. Routinely, we’d let the delivery guy in and turn on the TV once in a while because we didn’t have cable in the office. Around 8:30 or 9 a.m., office manager Leroy “Busta” Koppenhaver opened the bar up for a delivery and came back 15 minutes later, white as a sheet. He told us that an airliner crashed into the World Trade Center in New York City. We rushed next door to watch the aftermath. I kept thinking it was a bad dream — a really, really bad one.
    The rest of the day was like working on a morgue. I couldn’t wait to get home.
    All kinds of thoughts ran through my head. This wasn’t Pearl Harbor when enemy jets destroyed an entire military installation and sank dozens of ships. These were civilian commercial passenger planes filled with men, women and children. What kind of enemy were we dealing with?
    Today, we’re still asking the same question. But this time, it’s about Syria. At press time, Congress was still debating whether we should intervene in the Mideast nation because the regime unleashed chemical weapons on its people.
    You’d think after 12 years, the elusive enemy we’ve been fighting in Iraq, Kuwait, Somalia and Afghanistan would be weary of war. But we don’t think like the Taliban, Al-Qaeda or other extremist groups. It’s either their way or the highway.
    Saddam Hussein was hanged after a trial by his own people. Osama Bin Laden was given an appropriate sendoff by our Navy Seals. But nothing has really changed.
    So the question now is: are we still in a position, militarily and monetarily, to intervene once again in a region that goes up in flames every five years or so? What do we really know about the Syrian rebels’ intentions?
    We’ve got troops on their fourth combat tour in Afghanistan. At what point do the generals say “I don’t have enough boots to put on the ground anymore?”
    I never served in combat. My only overseas tour was in Korea in 1962-63 when things were relatively peaceful. At that time, the country was rebuilding from a war that ravaged the country 10 years beforehand and claimed the lives of almost 34,000 American troops.
    It seems that we’ve been in some type of conflict continuously since Vietnam ended. It’s not a partisan issue, either. Democratic and Republican presidents have both vowed to try and keep the peace in a volatile world. So no matter what we do in Syria, the decision will be criticized.
    Today, however, we should take a few minutes to remember the innocent people that lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001. We should never forget the firefighters, police officers and EMT’s who risked – and sometimes lost – their lives in rescue efforts.
    And let’s hope that we made the right call about Syria. The risk is too great to do otherwise.
    Mike Lange is a staff writer with the Piscataquis Observer. His opinions are his own and don’t necessarily reflect those of this newspaper.

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