Continuing to remember why we are fighting
How could the deaths of over 3,000 innocent men, women and children have been prevented? What cost is too great to ensure it never happens again? What can we do to make our country safe once again?
These are some difficult questions to answer, but they are questions that run through my mind every time I think about the young men and women who are fighting every day for our right to live in a country free from the threat of terrorism. I think about the families they have left here in the United States and about the fears and anxieties their parents, spouses, children and friends are feeling.
Following the horrific events of September 11, 2001, the government decided that something needed to be done -- and done quickly -- to prevent any future attacks from ever taking place on American soil.
As the war on terror has progressed in the two years since that time, we have witnessed many major victories. The joint Taliban -- al Qaeda regime in Afghanistan is a memory. Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants are either on the run or were possibly killed in allied air strikes on their mountain stronghold.
Terrorist cells around the world have been rooted out and destroyed.
Certainly, the world is in many ways safer than it was on September 10, 2001. However, the struggle against these faceless cowards is far from over.
Great progress has been made
In the course of carrying out the war on terror, it became necessary to go after the government of a nation that represented a significant threat to nations throughout the Middle East and across the globe. Indeed, it represented a threat to the very people under its control.
As you will recall, it had been known for several years that the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein had been harboring various types of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs in today's world of news snippets and sound bites). In an effort to find these weapons, the United Nations sent several teams of inspectors to Iraq to find these weapons and destroy them.
Just prior to the war, a team of investigators headed by chief inspector Hans Blix was sent to Iraq to find proof that WMDs did exist. As a result of a lack of cooperation from Iraqi officials, these weapons were not located. However, the team did conclude that there were significant numbers of banned weapons for which an accounting could not be provided.
With that in mind, and after repeated demands for compliance, the United States military and troops for several key allies entered Iraq to eliminate the threat these weapons posed and to free the Iraqi people from nearly three decades of brutality and neglect.
Since the successful conclusion of formal military operations in May of this year, an allied Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) was formed to help with the creation of a new, representative government. With the CPA's assistance, a new New Iraqi Governing Council has been established as a bridge to an autonomous, self-sufficient government. Comprised of many former tribal leaders and representatives from within the Iraqi population, this council has already made great strides in providing economic stability and growth, national security and a strong, responsive and compassionate government.
Recognizing heroes here, abroad
The road to freedom for the Iraqi people has not been an easy one. For our own part, the three months since Operation Iraqi Freedom ended have seen U.S. soldiers come under near-constant fire and be subjected to frequent acts of terrorism by Saddam loyalists and, most recently, cells of al Qaeda.
Many of you are aware that, on August 19, a car bomb exploded just outside U.N. headquarters in Baghdad, killing many innocent victims -- people who were in Iraq to help a struggling people and a weakened nation get back on its feet. Among the dead was the chief U.N. representative in Iraq, Sergio Vieira.
More recently, one of Iraq's most important Muslim clerics, Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir, and nearly 80 of his followers were killed by an al Qaeda car bomb as they departed from daily prayers.
As I watch the news every day, I can see the positive strides that our soldiers and advisers are making on a daily basis to permanently rid Iraq of the remnants of Saddam's destructive regime. Sadly, the great strides have not come without a cost. As of the end of August, 282 of our finest young men and women had lost their lives in this struggle.
As I consider these casualties, I can't help but feel sad that so many lives were cut so short. However, I also can't forget the tremendous job they have done and their fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines continue to do. They have done nothing short of a remarkable job, and we should all be extremely proud of their sacrifices and ongoing commitment.
Recognizing that many in south Alabama are currently separated from a spouse, child, sibling or friend who is proudly serving our country in Iraq and other points around the world, it is important that we keep these families in our prayers as well and provide them with all of the support they deserve.