Threats to our Freedom Remain

Sep 12, 2014 Issues: Foreign Affairs

Like many other Americans, I’ll never forget where I was on September 11, 2001. I saw firsthand the damage to the Pentagon, passing plumes of black smoke rising as I drove to the Capitol on that morning.

These horrific attacks, which killed over 3,000 innocent people, were sudden, and jolted the country out of a decade of relative calm after the downfall of communism.

Thirteen years later, our country, which in the previous century defeated totalitarians called fascists and ones called communists, continues to face the specter of totalitarians around the world, some using the Muslim faith as their pretext.

We have sacrificed greatly since then. As the world’s indispensable nation, to whom all free peoples look for hope, we have borne the heavy weight of the responsibility that comes with prosperity and power. It is neither a coincidence nor an accident, that the United States is the top target of terrorists: the very greatness of America, the success of our model of self-governing free people, is offensive to them.

Evidence coming out of Iraq and Syria, sad to say, confirms this. Minority groups are being driven by the hundred-thousand into exile or relentlessly pursued for extermination by the so-called “Islamic State,” or ISIL, which controls a territory the size of the United Kingdom. ISIL is well-funded, well-armed, and well-manned.

ISIL began as al-Qaeda in Iraq, but after ISIL refused orders from al-Qaeda Central to stop killing so many Syrian civilians, Bin Laden’s former group publicly renounced ties to ISIL on February 3. ISIL simply has no respect for human life, and no respect for economic or religious liberty, as they continue to remorselessly kill children, political dissidents, apostates, and religious dissenters by the thousands.

ISIL threatens our homeland. They have murdered two Americans, recruited hundreds of Americans, and, according to Francis Taylor of the Department of Homeland Security, ISIL supporters are plotting to sneak through our vulnerable southern border. In June, a jihadist social media posting showed a picture, with a dated, handwritten note, in Chicago and Washington reading, “we are in your cities.”

The President has rightly taken action against ISIL, authorizing airstrikes in Northern Iraq to prevent an outright genocide of the Yazidi people. I share his goal to “degrade and ultimately destroy” ISIL, and I am prepared to work with him to protect the American people and American interests.

The attacks thirteen years ago and the stark reality in today’s Middle East remind us also of the many blessings we enjoy in this country. Though Republicans and Democrats have our differences, we are both committed to this country, and we believe that our ideas will help our fellow Americans. It is more exciting of a headline, I know, to report on bickering and backbiting, but the reality is that we do work together on a variety of issues all the time.

I was pleased to speak recently at a conference entitled “In Defense of Christians” with colleagues on both sides of the aisle, including Reps. Darrell Issa, Brad Sherman, Chris Smith, Kerry Bentiviolio, and Dan Lipinski. Though we may not agree on absolutely everything, we stand together for the protection of the inalienable human rights for innocent civilians and minorities around the world.

We cannot count on these or any threats to freedom to go away: they won’t. As Ronald Reagan put it in 1961, at the height of the Cold War, “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. The only way they can inherit the freedom we have known is if we fight for it, protect it, defend it and then hand it to them with the well thought lessons of how they in their lifetime must do the same.” It might be tempting to pull back from the world stage and hope that freedom’s enemies will leave us alone, but we know that they will not.

As we mark this solemn anniversary of this mass murder, may we stand together once again, as we did in those dark hours thirteen years ago, and recommit ourselves to the principles that make this nation exceptional.