North Texas Daily

Remembering tragic anniversary, speculating on the future

Remembering tragic anniversary, speculating on the future

Remembering tragic anniversary, speculating on the future
September 11
08:00 2013

Melissa Wylie / Assigning Editor

As the 12-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks arrives, the U.S. faces involvement in the turmoil of yet another Middle Eastern nation.

Potential U.S. military action in the Syrian conflict is stirring up comparisons to America’s engagements in Afghanistan and Iraq, which directly resulted from the Sept. 11 tragedy.

On this day in 2001, two hijacked airplanes decimated the World Trade Center towers in New York, killing more than 2,700 people and sending a shockwave through American culture.

“We all watched on television America being savagely attacked,” international studies professor Hugh Parmer said.

The attacks caused lasting material and emotional destruction, and the U.S. armed forces were subsequently launched into a decade-long conflict in the Middle East.

The War on Terror took U.S. troops through the bombed streets of Baghdad and the mountains of Afghanistan in search of elusive terrorist leaders and weapons of mass destruction.

Twelve years later, President Barack Obama is withdrawing troops from the area and shifting focus to the tumult in Syria.

Congress is scheduled to vote today to approve President Obama’s request for limited military strikes on Syria. The request came at the recent discovery of the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons on its own people and rebel groups.

“It’s a very complicated situation, one of the most complicated I’ve ever seen,” Parmer said.

Parmer acted as the assistant administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development during President Bill Clinton’s administration and was appointed to the position by President Clinton himself.

The Syrian government is at war with numerous rebel groups, including Islamist extremists and Al Qaeda affiliates. Parmer said the involvement of Al Qaeda, who took credit for the Sept. 11 attacks, provides a link.

“The 9/11 attacks certainly influenced the American public and attitudes toward the Middle East,” Parmer said. “The Al Qaeda presence does have an influence on what Congress is thinking.”

Another influence on Congress’ decision is the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, Parmer said.

The supposed presence of nuclear weapons brought U.S. troops into Iraq, and though those weapons were never found, Parmer said the use of gas in Syria will not be as difficult to prove.

“It’s a pretty universal consensus that chemical weapons were used,” he said.

International studies junior Colin Wood is the president of UNT organization Engaged Beyond Borders, a group that aims to create constructive discussion about international events.

Wood said comparison of the Syrian conflict can be made to Iraq, though there are marked differences.

He said military action taken in Iraq was part of the broader response to the Sept. 11 attacks and the War on Terror, whereas large sectarian conflict is causing Syrian violence.

“We cannot forget, however, that what is being debated is, in the end, whether or not the U.S. has a responsibility to protect or punish in a war which has already taken an egregious human toll,” Wood said. “Whether or not the U.S. and others act, it is the Syrian people who suffer.”

Wood said the Syrian conflict has become a moral argument for most people.

“Public attitude seems to be torn,” he said. “There is a recognized need to assist in the humanitarian catastrophe that is playing out but unwillingness to engage militarily, coming out of over 12 years of war in Afghanistan and 8 years in Iraq.”

Political science professor Paul Hensel specializes in international conflict and said speculations on the similarities should be limited.

“I don’t think we should see everything today in light of what happened then,” Hensel said. “Al Qaeda today looks very different than it did then. The U.S. situation is very different than it was then.”

Hensel said though the conflict is currently a hot topic, commemorating the 9/11 tragedy is still appropriate.

“It’s never a bad idea to remember what happened there,” he said.

Feature photo courtesy of MCT.

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