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Column - Terrorists learn their lesson; the hard way, again and again

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Just the other day, on the morning of September 11, I was writing a news story on my computer in my office. The television was on in the living room, and as I often do, I was half-listening to the news as I wrote. Suddenly, I heard a news alert. A female newscaster was talking to a woman who had called in on her cell phone. The woman, with a mixture of alarm and disbelief in her voice, was saying she had just seen a plane crash into a New York City skyscraper.

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I stopped typing. A sense of sinking dread hit me like a two-by-four in the gut.

"No!" I said aloud. "Oh, my God, not again!"

I kept listening as the woman continued to describe what she had just seen: a plane out of nowhere smashed into the building and then a giant fireball erupted, smoke gushing from the tall structure. Then she said something about one of the Twin Towers. Only then did it dawn on me that the newscast was a recap of that abysmal day 11 years ago, one of the darkest days of my life, of every American's life: September 11, 2001.

I'm glad I lived long enough to wake up one morning and hear that Osama bin Laden had been killed by an American Navy Seals team. I know I shouldn't gloat about the death of anyone, but gloat I did. I let out a loud whoop of joy, then I gloated, rubbing my hands together. I not only gloated -- I celebrated. That day, with jubilant neighbors at my house, I popped open a bottle of champagne, and we enjoyed toast after toast to the death of bin Laden. That day, for me, was as bright and happy as September 11, 2001 was dark.

In the years since those vicious attacks, we have much to be thankful for. Our surveillance network has become much tighter and more coordinated, with increasingly sophisticated electronic devices for keeping tabs on fiends who plot our destruction. Yes, such spy techniques are worrisome in a free society as they can be turned against us, too. However, make no mistake, massive, intricate surveillance is an absolute must in today's world, when terrorists far and wide keep hatching their homicidal schemes. We can also be deeply grateful for our military men and women who have served so selflessly overseas. Their tracking down and killing of al Qaeda extremists has hugely helped in the wider war on terror. Their relentless pressure on the Taliban has helped squelch those who harbor terrorism and inculcate the forces of irrational hatred.

I have said this many times, and I will say it again: The attacks on America on September 11, 2001 gained the terrorists absolutely nothing. They scored no points among any civilized people. They achieved no triumph, and they not only did not win a thing -- they lost big-time, and they continue to lose because they are a pack of deranged losers whose only cause is suffering and death to others.

All that bin Laden proved is that he has become one of the most reviled monsters in the pages of history. He and his goons might just as well have blown themselves up into oblivion, and now the American military, with help from other countries, is doing it for them.

Unfortunately, it takes thugs and tyrants so long, too long, to learn that their evil deeds are utterly self-defeating. May they continue to learn that relentless lesson -- the hard way.

***

Dennis Dalman, a former reporter for the Echo Press, is a regular contributing columnist to the Opinion page. He is currently the editor of the St. Joseph Newsleader. He can be reached via e-mail at dennisdalman@jetup.net.

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