Student, veteran reflects on the lessons learned and lost since 2001 terrorist attacks

Michael Woodruff, Guest Columnist

Michael Woodruff, Guest Columnist

Michael Woodruff


“Those bastards did it again!” I said to my buddy, Specialist Rob Robinson, when we heard the news of two airplanes flying into the World Trade Center. 

We both recalled the first attempt in 1993 by Islamic terrorists who parked a Ryder truck filled with fertilizer in front of one of the buildings and killed seven people. 

“Looks like we may be going to war,” I added. The question, “Who do we declare war on?” was yet to be answered. Over the next weeks Specialist Robinson, a few other friends and I spent our lunch hours watching CNN and speculating about our units’ part of the war on terror.

Since basic training, I learned war as we knew it would be more unconventional compared with the wars our uncles or even grandfathers fought. With lessons learned from fighting the Vietcong, the fall of the USSR and desert operations in 1991 when we liberated Kuwait, armed forces training doctrine began leaning toward a Mid-Eastern enemy. 

My first duty station, Fort Riley, Kan., further instilled that doctrine, as every vehicle from Hum-Vee to tank was painted tan — the color of the desert. 

Unlike conventional wars, where all sides have signed treaties that prohibited nuclear-chemical-biological weapons, many Mid-Eastern countries never signed them, or the ones that did were replaced by others, thus making them null and void in the eyes of new regimes. Learning how to put on a gas mask, detect contaminates, decontaminate personnel and how to defecate while wearing an NBC suit became ongoing topics found on quarterly training schedules. 

Physically the United States military was ready to fight. Philosophically, it was not. 

Historically, the United States tries to stay out of war, and when we do fight it is only because our interests are threatened. We saw this reluctance in both World Wars, where we sat and watched millions of Europeans die at the hand of tyranny, deciding to jump in only when our naval influence was threatened. 

On 9/11 history was repeated, but unlike previous enemies, this enemy targeted unarmed people to include women and children. As the horror unfolded, many in Mid-Eastern countries cheered and burned American flags. Words like Muslim, jihad, Al-Qaeda and Taliban became part of the American lexicon. 

America did not understand her new enemy nor did she understand the war she was about to enter. And it showed , as our leaders swore we were not at war with Islam. This was naive. 

As the French nobleman Alexis de Tocqueville wrote in 1830, “Mohammed professed to derive from Heaven, and has inserted in the Koran not only religious doctrines, but political maxims, civil and criminal laws, and theories of science. The Gospel, on the contrary, speaks only of the general relations of men to God and to each other. This alone, besides a thousand reasons, would suffice to prove that the former of these religions will never long predominate in a cultivated and democratic age, while the latter is destined to retain its sway at these as at all other periods.” 

What Tocqueville observed long ago is proving to be true. A survey conducted by the NGO Freedom House concluded, “a non-Islamic country is more than three times more likely to be democratic than an Islamic state.” 

In the West and in other countries worldwide, society has progressed. We value democracy, liberty, education, diversity, religious freedom, equality and, in many cases, individuality. 

When one looks at Freedom Houses map of free countries, the countries that are predominantly Christian have the most freedom. 

On top of that list is the United States, ergo by sheer percentage of over 75 percent of 300 million claiming to be Christian, the United States via the association of that 75 percent makes her a Christian nation. 

Like the burning of the library of Alexandria by the Muslim army of Amr ibn al-As in 640 AD, Al-Qaeda wants to convert or destroy anything that is not of Islam and will sacrifice whatever and whoever to make that happen. 

Sadly, the democracies of the world don’t have that passion in defending their beliefs and values. 

This is ironic when one looks at the things over which democratic people riot. In Greece, riots broke out because the government wanted to cut public spending. 

In Vancouver, BC, rioters burned parts of the city because they were unhappy with the outcome of the Stanley Cup. Recently in Milwaukee, nearly 300 black youths randomly attacked and robbed whites at the state fair, and the cause for this lawlessness is still being debated. 

When presented with quantitative evidence like this, it’s tempting to conclude we don’t deserve the freedoms we enjoy. We use them up like toilet paper and think another roll will magically appear. 

We’ve wasted the past 10 years and have learned nothing from it. 

Imagine if we actually focused that anger we had on 9/11 and repeated the same passion for freedom as our grandparents and great grandparents had in beating Hitler and Hirohito by overwhelming them with numbers of volunteers from all walks of life. 

On the battlefield, we enacted quick justice by not wasting our time and resources by operating a place like Guantanamo Bay or treating this conflict like a cops and robbers situation At the airport we didn’t pat Granny down but actually found a fair and logical way to look for the bad guys. 

Once we won the war on terror, we could have done the Christian thing by reconciling with and redeeming our enemy simply because he would have had no other choice. 

The Middle East would have been more stable and it’s possible Muslims and Christians could have coexisted.

I admit there are more pieces to this puzzle, but we need to treat this enemy the way he treats us. 

He has continually proven he doesn’t understand diplomacy or care about democratic values. He wants jihad. 

Although I applaud President Obama for coming around and giving Bin laden justice. 

I hope he follows the same path as FDR by claiming we are fighting for a just God against an enemy that is a threat to our nation and world.