For two presidents, terrorist attacks have been ongoing threat

WASHINGTON — The country has moved on. To the presidents who lead it, Sept. 11 never ends.

The ramifications of the worst terrorist attack in American history live on, bridging the decade from George W. Bush to Barack Obama.

Two wars. Huge debt. The Guantanamo Bay quandary. The evolving threat of terrorism. The end of Osama bin Laden. The hardening of executive power. And the remains of fallen soldiers still coming home in flag-covered cases.

Sept. 11, 2001, defined Bush’s presidency. It drives Obama’s, even if more quietly.

"I remember President Bush used to warn people that it was going to be a long slog," said Michael Chertoff, Bush’s second homeland security secretary. "There wasn’t going to be a Battleship Missouri moment. The critical issue for us was to persevere without being overwrought. I think that was an accurate prediction."

But persevere for how long?

That is perhaps the biggest legacy at the presidential level: a new mindset.

The expectation now is that terrorists are always plotting to attack America. The realization is that they have succeeded once on a grand scale.

The old model of security, including military might and war overseas, and law enforcement at home, has given way to a vastly integrated system designed to prevent terrorism across the spectrum.

For the public, 2001 seems a different time. Those maligned color-coded terrorism warnings are gone. So is the fear that the country lived in at the time.

The al-Qaida attacks killed nearly 3,000 people in New York City, at the Pentagon and in Shanksville, Pa.

Right before the horror began, in a Gallup poll conducted as late as Sept 10, 2001, not even 1 percent of those surveyed said terrorism was the most important problem facing the country. A month later, that number was 46 percent.

And now? Terrorism is all the way back below 1 percent as the chief concern.

"In some ways, that’s what victory is going to look like," said Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications.

Rhodes called it a good sign that there is "an American people that is resilient, that sees terrorism in a broader context, that sees it as something that doesn’t have to dominate their attention and our broader discourse."

Presidents view it differently. They begin their day reviewing the latest threats from people seeking to kill Americans.

TWO TOWERS AND TWO WARS

On the morning the towers fell, Bush and Obama recognized that the world had changed.

One was a new president establishing his footing after the most disputed election in American history. The other was a state senator in Illinois who was years away from being famous.

"The story of that week is the key to understanding my presidency," Bush wrote in his memoirs.

Obama, looking back on Sept. 11 in a book of his own, put it this way: "Chaos had come to our doorstep. As a consequence, we would have to act differently, understand the world differently."

Some analysts of war and politics say it was not Sept. 11 that forever changed America, but rather America’s response to it in all the choices that followed.

The Iraq War, launched on bad intelligence, grew out of a post-Sept. 11 push to contain Saddam Hussein.

Obama opposed the war in Iraq, then inherited it. He has since ended the combat mission and plans to pull out all troops by the end of this year, although it was Bush who put the United States on the path to ending the war before he left office.

The United States still may keep some forces in Iraq beyond 2011.

On Afghanistan, Obama took the footprint he got from Bush and went the other direction.

He saw this as the necessary and forgotten war, and he tripled the number of forces to blunt the Taliban and target al-Qaida. He has started to pull them home now, but the U.S. combat mission is not expected to end in Afghanistan until the end of 2014.

That would be more than 13 years after the terrorist attacks.

Combined, more than 6,000 members of the U.S. military have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 45,000 have been wounded.

The wars have cost roughly $1.3 trillion since Sept. 11, 2001.

OVERBOARD AFTER ATTACKS?

So many of the challenges now facing the United States tie back to the effects of Sept. 11, said James Pfiffner, a professor of public policy at George Mason University.

The United States has had to deal with rebuilding its standing abroad and cope with rising competitors such as China.

But had the White House not responded aggressively to the attacks or kept after bin Laden, that would have caused outrage, too.

"I guess it’s a matter of degree," Pfiffner said. "A lot of it was necessary and legitimate; certainly the stuff that’s related to al-Qaida seems justified and important. But I think we went far beyond that, first with the Iraq War and then the creation of a whole lot of new intelligence agencies. It does seem like we went overboard."

Obama has been unable to keep his bold promise to close the post-Sept. 11 prison camp for suspected terrorists that sits on a U.S. Navy base in Cuba.

The Guantanamo Bay center and the fate of the detainees imprisoned there are proving enormously thorny problems. Some detainees are being held indefinitely as a matter of policy.

The underlying threat to America all along has been the al-Qaida network that sent men on a suicide mission to hijack jetliners and cause historic destruction.

The signature moment of U.S. success came this year, when American forces killed bin Laden, mastermind of the attacks, in his Pakistan hideaway.

Obama ordered the raid and phoned Bush with the results.

"Good call," Bush told him.

AL-QAIDA’S DEFEAT

New Defense Secretary Leon Panetta now says the strategic defeat of al-Qaida is within reach.

Yet that is hard to visualize for a country that has grown accustomed to being in a rather constant state of war.

"The question that no one has addressed is: How do you know when you’ve won against al-Qaida?" said Joshua Rovner, associate professor of strategy and policy at the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island. "When are you comfortable declaring victory? When is it good enough? There is going to have to be a time in the next few years when the administration is going to have to make a hard political decision."

Chertoff, Bush’s homeland security chief, said the real story is the degree of continuity between the Bush and Obama administrations.

National security has not been a massive partisan entanglement.

Yet Chertoff, too, spoke of a persistent threat for which an end point will be hard to ever determine.

Even if the threat from al-Qaida diminishes, other transnational networks could pose a risk, and the types of potential attacks are changing.

Chertoff said of al-Qaida: "Once they were able to land a significant blow, they’ve set a mark for other groups that will be hostile to the United States, whatever their ideological motivation. We’re just going to have to recognize that we live in a much more fragmented world."

Obama says his biggest concern is no longer a grand orchestrated attack. He told an interviewer just ahead of the 10th anniversary of 9/11 that he worries about a "lone wolf terrorist."

"When you’ve got one person who is deranged or driven by a hateful ideology, they can do a lot of damage," the president said.

Obama promised the United States will not drop its guard.

WHAT PRESIDENTS SEE

On Sunday , Obama and Bush will be together at a memorial service at ground zero in New York City.

In the days leading up to it, Obama plans to honor the service of people who have joined the military in response to the terrorist attacks.

Like Bush, who says Sept. 11 redefined sacrifice and duty, Obama says those who have served in this decade of war deserve honor.

"How do we honor these patriots, those who died and those who served?" Obama said recently. "In this season of remembrance, the answer is the same as it was 10 Septembers ago. We must be the America they lived for and the America they died for."

ad-high_impact_4
News
A record breaking donation of nearly $9 million to Girls Scouts of Southern Nevada
A record breaking donation of property valued at nearly $9 million was made to the Girls Scouts of Southern Nevada by the Charles and Phyllis M. Frias Charitable Trust. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal. @bizutesfaye
Multi-agency DUI Strike Team focused solely on arresting impaired drivers
The newly formed DUI Strike Team made up of Las Vegas police officers and Nevada Highway Patrol Troopers have hit the streets looking for impaired drivers. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Christmas Tree Inspection
Nevada Division of Forestry employees search for illegally harvested Christmas trees in local lots during the holidays. (Michael Scott Davidson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
One dead in a suspected DUI crash in east Las Vegas
The crash was reported just before 4:10 a.m. at Washington and Eastern avenues.
Vegas Homeless Remembered
Las Vegas vigil remembers 179 homeless people who died over the past year in Clark County. (David Guzman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A look inside Tesla’s Nevada Gigafactory
Tesla's Gigafactory east of Reno produces the batteries that fuel the company's electric cars. Production has created more than 7,000 jobs, and the campus that includes one of the largest buildings in the world is expected to triple in size by the time it is completed. Tesla Vice President Chris Lister leads a tour of the facility. (Bill Dentzer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Garnet Interchange Ribbon Cutting
The Nevada Department of Transportation celebrated the completion of the $63 million I-15-US 93 Garnet Interchange project. The project includes a modified diverging diamond interchange and a 5-mile widening of US 93.
State Foresters Hunt for Record Trees
Urban foresters from the Nevada Division of Forestry hunt for record setting trees.
Rick Davidson directs NFR satellite feed
Rick Davidson directs the Wrangler NFR's live satellite feed from a production trailer outside the Thomas & Mack Center. (Patrick Everson)
Scott Boras, Bryce Harper's agent, speaks to media at baseball's winter meetings
Baseball agent Scott Boras updates media on the contract negotiations of his client Bryce Harper during baseball's winter meetings at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Dec. 12, 2018. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Achievement School District
The achievement district faced strong opposition from traditional schools back in its beginnings in 2016. But with schools like Nevada Rise and Nevada Prep, it's slowly and steadily growing. Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Fresno State QB on record-breaking receiver
Fresno State quarterback Marcus McMaryion talks record-setting receiver KeeSean Johnson. Video by Mark Anderson/Las Vegas Review-Journal
The annual 'Shop with a Cop' event at Target
This year’s "Shop with a Cop" event gave about 40 children the chance to shop at Target alongside a North Las Vegas Police officers. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Bizutesfaye
Melvin Dummar dead at 74
Melvin Dummar has died at 74. Dummar was famous for claiming to have saved Howard Hughes in a Nevada desert in 1967. Dummar claimed to have been left $156 million in Hughes’ will. The will mysteriously appeared after Hughes’ death in 1976. It was dismissed as a fake two years later. Dummar never saw a dime of the billionaire's fortune. Dummar died Saturday in Nye County.
Officer-involved shooting in Nye County
The Nye County Sheriff's Office gives information about a shooting in Pahrump on Thursday night after a man began firing shots outside of his home. (Nye County Sheriff's Office)
Law Enforcement Active Shooter Training Exercise
Multiple Las Vegas Valley law enforcement agencies held an active shooter drill at the Department of Public Safety’s Parole and Probation office on December 6, 2018. Officials set up the training exercise to include multiple active shooters, a barricaded suspect and multiple casualties. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Public memorial service for Jerry Herbst
Archiving effort hits milestone at Clark County Museum
The Clark County Museum catalogs the final item from the bulk of Route 91 Harvest festival artifacts. (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pearl Harbor survivor Edward Hall talks about his memories of Dec. 7, 1941
U.S. Army Corps Edward Hall, a 95-year-old survivor of Pearl Harbor talks about his memories of that horrific day. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Final Route 91 Harvest festival remembrance objects catalogued at Clark County Museum
The last of the more than 17,000 items left at the makeshift memorial near the Las Vegas sign after the Oct. 1 shootings have been catalogued at the Clark County Museum in Las Vegas. The final item was a black-and-white bumper sticker bearing "#VEGASSTRONG. An additional 200 items currently on display at the museum will be catalogued when the exhibit comes down. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dozier execution timeline
Scott Dozier was set to be executed July 11, 2018, at the Ely State Prison. Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez delayed the execution.
Grand Jury Indicts Constable for theft
A Clark County grand jury indicted Henderson Constable Earl Mitchell. A Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation prompted the criminal probe. The newspaper found Mitchell wrote himself thousands in checks, took out cash at ATMs and traveled on county funds. He faces four felony counts of theft and a county of public misconduct. Mitchell and his attorney could not be reached for comment.
93-year-old WWII veteran arrested during visit to VA hospital
Dr. S. Jay Hazan, 93, a World War II veteran, talks about his arrest during his visit to VA hospital on Friday, Nov. 30. (Erik Verduzco Las Vegas Review-Journal @Erik_Verduzco_
Pearl Harbor survivor struggles in her senior years
Winifred Kamen, 77, survived the attack on Pearl Harbor as an infant, works a 100 percent commission telemarketing job to make ends meet. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Metropolitan Briefing 18th street gang
Las Vegas Metropolitan briefs the media on the recent arrests made regarding the 18th street gang.
Man shot in Las Vegas traffic stop had knife, police say
Police said the man fatally shot by an officer during a traffic stop in downtown Las Vegas had a “homemade knife.” Demontry Floytra Boyd, 43, died Saturday at University Medical Center from multiple gunshot wounds after officer Paul Bruning, 48, shot him during a traffic stop. Bruning pulled Boyd over on suspicion of driving recklessly at 7:41 a.m. near Sunrise Avenue and 18th Street.
Catahoula dogs rescued from home in Moapa Valley
Catahoula dogs were brought to The Animal Foundation after being rescued from home in Moapa Valley.
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses in California wildfire
Intuitive Forager Kerry Clasby talks about losses she suffered in California's Woolsey Fire in Malibu in November. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Benefit dinner for Kerry Clasby, the Intuitive Forager
Sonia El-Nawal of Rooster Boy Cafe in Las Vegas talks about having a benefit for Kerry Clasby, known as the Intuitive Forager, who suffered losses on her farm in California’s Woolsey Fire in Malibu. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like