Twelve years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, al-Qaida, the terrorist organization that masterminded the attacks on New York and Washington, is still very much with us. The killing of Osama bin Laden decapitated the group but it still functions, and its presence in Syria is a source of great concern and, unfortunately, considerable misinformation.
In criticizing the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt earlier this week, Republican Representative Michelle Bachmann of Minnesota declared that "We remember who caused 9/11 in America." It definitely wasn’t the Muslim Brotherhood who not only are unaffiliated with al-Qaida but, as David Kirkpatrick of the New York Times reminded readers, condemned the attacks of 9/11 and has been in turn criticized by al-Qaida for advocating non-violence. Ms. Bachmann may have been spouting the party line of the Egyptian military or simply speaking out of ignorance but either way, Washington’s elected officials -- in fact all Americans -- must know the players and their causes to understand the complexities of the Middle East.
Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas declared that if the Obama administration launches an attack on Syria our military will "serve as al-Qaida’s air force." Al-Qaida is affiliated with the Syrian rebel group called the Nusra Front but it could just as easily be said that America would serve as the air force of the Free Syrian Army, a foe of both al-Qaida and the Assad government. There are plenty of reasons to be skeptical about the rationale for an American assault on Syria but the senator’s simplistic statement was just a political cheap shot designed to spark the still raw nerve of 9/11.
That nerve will always remain raw, but the pain has eased through time and effort. In lower Manhattan, the 104-story One World Trade Center is scheduled to open early next year on the northwest corner of the 16-acre trade center site. It will include a 9/11 museum featuring artifacts from the day two hijacked airplanes brought down the twin towers. America won’t forget that horrific day but it has moved on from it. Some in Washington still have something to learn about it.