So long ago, and yet so near


Ac­cord­ing to a Gallup Poll re­leased this week, “Americans’ trust in the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to han­dle in­ter­na­tional prob­lems has fallen to a record-low 43 per­cent, ... Sep­a­rately, 40 per­cent of Americans say they have a ‘great deal’ or ‘fair amount’ of trust in the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to han­dle do­mes­tic prob­lems, also the low­est Gallup has mea­sured to date.” (Poll con­ducted Septem­ber 4-7, 2014, with 1,017 adults, 95 per­cent con­fi­dence level, +/- 4 points).

In ad­di­tion to be­ing the low­est level re­ported by Gallup, “The level of trust in the gov­ern­ment to han­dle both do­mes­tic and in­ter­na­tional mat­ters is nearly half what it was at the high point Gallup mea­sured, shortly after the 9/11 ter­ror at­tacks. In Oc­to­ber 2001, 83 per­cent trusted the gov­ern­ment’s abil­ity to deal with in­ter­na­tional prob­lems, and 77 per­cent trusted its abil­ity to han­dle do­mes­tic ones.”

Thir­teen years ago, while pass­ing a tele­vi­sion that was play­ing with­out sound where I was work­ing out, I saw a video show­ing a plane crash­ing into a build­ing. Ini­tially, I thought that it was an er­rant, small, pri­vate plane that had lost con­trol and ac­ci­den­tally hit a build­ing. Half an hour later, I learned that it had been a de­lib­er­ate at­tack.

As the mother of a 23-month-old girl and a 6-week-old boy, I fled home to check on my chil­dren, ev­ery pro­tec­tive in­stinct aroused, to hold my chil­dren and watch the ter­ri­ble story un­fold with the rest of the na­tion.

As a na­tion, many of us were shocked, wor­ried, ner­vous and trou­bled as the news un­folded about who de­lib­er­ately at­tacked our coun­try. Th­ese at­tack­ers had used com­mer­cial air­lin­ers as weapons to kill civil­ians. Our at­tack­ers had lived for months and even years in our coun­try, plot­ting to kill us even as they co­ex­isted with us. Their goal was not only to cause de­struc­tion but to spread ter­ror: to make us afraid. They were de­ter­mined to de­stroy us and our way of life.

To­day, al-Qaida has been mus­cled out of the head­lines by the rad­i­cal Is­lamist or­ga­ni­za­tion Is­lam- ic State of Iraq and Syria or Is­lamic State of Iraq and the Le­vant. Its name may be dif­fer­ent, but its goal re­mains the same: an Is­lamic civ­i­liza­tion uni­fied un­der a caliphate.

On the night of Sept. 20, 2001, Pres­i­dent George W. Bush ad­dressed Americans from the well of the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. While iden­ti­fy­ing the en­emy as rad­i­cal Is­lamists, Bush care­fully dis­tin­guished them from the hun­dreds of mil­lions of Mus­lims who prac­tice their faith in peace.

His speech at such a cru­cial time — nine days after Amer­ica had been at­tacked, while the rub­ble at the World Trade Cen­ter site still smol­dered — re­as­sured the na­tion when we needed it most.

This week, Pres­i­dent Barack Obama will lay out his strat­egy to de­feat rad­i­cal ISIS. “The next phase is now to start go­ing on some of­fense,” he told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We have to get an Iraqi gov­ern­ment in place. And I’m op­ti­mistic that, next week, we should be able to get that done. And I will then meet with con­gres­sional lead­ers on Tues­day. On Wed­nes­day, I’ll make a speech and de­scribe what our game plan’s go­ing to be go­ing for­ward.

“But this is not go­ing to be an an­nounce­ment about U.S. ground troops. This is not the equiv­a­lent of the Iraq war. What this is is sim­i­lar to the kinds of coun­tert­er­ror­ism cam­paigns that we’ve been en­gag­ing in con­sis­tently over the last five, six, seven years.”

In 1979, I turned 13 the month that 52 Amer­i­can diplo­mats and cit­i­zens were taken hostage in Iran dur­ing Pres­i­dent Jimmy Carter’s ad­min­is­tra­tion. They were held for 444 days and re­leased mo­ments after Ron­ald Rea­gan was sworn in as pres­i­dent.

To­day, my daugh­ter — who was a tod­dler at the time of the Sept. 11 at­tacks — is a fresh­man in high school, and my in­fant boy is in 7th grade, the age I was when the Americans were taken hostage in Iran.

They face a fu­ture clouded by more than ter­ror­ism — against which we still have no co­her­ent strat­egy. As a na­tion, we are more in debt and have a lower per­cent­age of peo­ple in the work­force.

We can and we must do bet­ter — for the sake of our chil­dren — who are soon to be­come adults.

To find out more about Jackie Gin­grich Cush­man, and read fea­tures by other Cre­ators Syn­di­cate writ­ers and car­toon­ists, visit www. cre­

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