- The Washington Times
Sunday, September 11, 2022

President Biden on Sunday underscored the duty all Americans have to “preserve and protect our democracy” while paying tribute to those who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

Mr. Biden marked the 21st anniversary of one of the darkest days in U.S. history during a wreath-laying ceremony held under a steady downpour at the Pentagon just over a year after the president marked the chaotic end to the two-decade war in Afghanistan launched in the wake of the terrorist attacks.

“There’s nothing this nation cannot accomplish when we stand together and defend with all our hearts that which makes us unique in the world: our democracy,” Mr. Biden said.

“That’s what those hijackers most hoped to destroy when they targeted our buildings and our people,” he said. “They failed.”

Mr. Biden extolled the courage of “ordinary citizens” who, in the face of the attacks and the aftermath, rose to defend the “character of this nation.”

“We saw the police officers and firefighters who stood on the pile at ground zero for months amid that twisted steel and broken concrete slabs breathing in toxins and ash that would damage their health, refusing to stop the search through the destruction,” he said. “They never stopped.

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“No terrorist could touch the wellspring of American power,” Mr. Biden said. “And it falls to us to keep it safe on behalf of all those we lost 21 years ago.

“It’s not enough to gather and remember Sept. 11, and those we lost more than two decades ago,” he added. “Because on this day, it is not about the past. It’s about the future. We have an obligation, a duty or responsibility to defend, preserve and protect our democracy.”

Mr. Biden’s somber reminder marking the anniversary of 9/11 mirrors his grim warning that has become the foundation of his campaign push ahead of the upcoming midterms elections.

The president has warned that the country stands at an “inflection point” and that democracy remains under threat from the “extreme” fringes of the Republican Party.

Mr. Biden’s remarks come amid continued criticism from Republicans over his messy withdrawal from Afghanistan that left the country in the hands of the Taliban.

Last month, Mr. Biden marked the first anniversary of the suicide bombing at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, by honoring the 13 U.S. service members who died in the attack, which also killed at least 170 Afghans and wounded another 45 U.S. service members.

The bombing became a symbol of what Mr. Biden’s critics said were his failures to adequately prepare for the withdrawal.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday criticized Mr. Biden for his handling of Afghanistan, which he said resulted in the downward spiral of the country now under Taliban rule.

“Now, one year on from last August’s disaster, the devastating scale of the fallout from President Biden’s decision has come into sharper focus,” Mr. McConnell said. “Afghanistan has become a global pariah. Its economy has shrunk by nearly a third. Half of its population is now suffering critical levels of food insecurity.”

Mr. Biden has dismissed much of the criticism of his decision to withdraw and has highlighted the costs of the two-decade engagement in which 2,461 U.S. troops were killed and 20,744 were wounded.

Mr. Biden also vowed to maintain pressure on terrorist factions that remain in Afghanistan in the wake of the withdrawal, highlighting the U.S. drone strike in Kabul over the summer that killed al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri.

Mr. Biden said American resolve to “defend ourselves against those who seek to harm us and deliver justice to those responsible for the attacks against our people has never once faltered.”

“We will never give up,” he said Sunday.

First lady Jill Biden spoke at the crash site in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, while in New York City, relatives spoke in remembrance of their loved ones lost.

Communities around the country marked the day with candlelight vigils, interfaith services and other commemorations, and some Americans joined in volunteer projects. Others observed the anniversary with their reflections. 

• Joseph Clark can be reached at jclark@washingtontimes.com.

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