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Editorial: 6 months later

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Six months ago, the world was turned upside down, the United States transformed, when four hijacked jetliners were crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a field in southwestern Pennsylvania. It is fitting this St. Patrick’s season that we recall the thousands of victims of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. It is also fitting that the hundreds of St. Patrick’s Day parades throughout the country have chosen to honor the heroes of that day, most notably the more than 400 New York firefighters and police officers who gave their lives trying to save others.

What normally turns into a raucous celebration of Irishness will no doubt be a more somber and reflective affair this year, especially Saturday in New York City. At 12:30 p.m., 90 minutes after the start of the 241st annual parade, marchers will do an about-face, turning to the south to face Lower Manhattan and the site of the World Trade Center, Ground Zero. A period of silence will follow.

It will be a time, of course, to recall the selfless sacrifice of the men and women of the uniformed services, so many of whom were of Irish descent. But we would also do well, then and in the days and months ahead, to ponder seriously the state of the world today as well as our place in it, as Irish people and Americans. No longer immune to large-scale terror from abroad, we as a nation are struggling mightily to put in all into perspective, and to determine what are appropriate responses to the new threat we face. America’s military campaign in Afghanistan to crush the Taliban and al Q’da was an obvious first move. The decisions now become harder — much harder.

Are we prepared, for example, to give up, or suspend, some of those hard-won personal freedoms that are the bedrock of our democracy? How many — and which ones? Are we prepared to take our war on terror beyond Aghanistan? To where — and to what extent? What should our objectives be? Are we willing to contemplate wider circumstances under which we would respond to threats with nuclear weapons?

In the six months since Sept. 11, the U.S. Congress has given the Bush administration largely free rein in determining how to conduct the war against terror at home and abroad. But just as six months is a sufficient period for a nation to grieve so terrible a loss, so too is it time to get back to the business of governing the country. We, the citizens of the United States, now need to give Congress free rein to probe and to poke and to demand a say in how America’s foreign and domestic policies are conducted.

Yes, we need to be vigilant — now more than ever. But we must also return to being a fully engaged citizenry. The stakes have never been higher, the answers never more elusive.

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