Latest News / MINNEAPOLIS – President Barack Obama Tuesday hailed America’s “9/11 generation” including 6,200 killed in a “hard decade of war,” as he set the tone for the 10th anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
Obama sought to forge a spirit of national unity and remembrance ahead of 10th anniversary celebrations of the world’s deadliest terror attack, skipping over political divisions spawned by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Today we pay humble tribute to the more than 6,200 Americans in uniform who have given their lives in this hard decade of war. We honor them all,” Obama said at the American Legion annual convention in Minneapolis.
“As we near this solemn anniversary, it’s fitting that we salute the extraordinary decade of service rendered by the 9/11 generation — the more than five million Americans who have worn the uniform over the past 10 years.”
Obama will lead national commemorations on September 11, visiting New York, where hijacked planes crashed in 2001 into the World Trade Center, and the Pentagon, set ablaze by another jet used as a fuel-laden suicide bomb.
He will also visit Shanksville, Pennsylvania where heroic passengers downed a seized airliner thought to be heading towards Washington, and will take part in an interfaith concert at Washington’s National Cathedral.
The cathedral event will also include mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves, country singer Alan Jackson, and R&B diva legend Patti LaBelle, along with songs of hope, peace and national unity.
On Tuesday, the president placed 9/11 generation veterans in a storied line of US warriors from two world wars, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, saying they had changed the way their country fights and wins conflicts abroad.
“Trained to fight, they’ve taken on the role of diplomats, mayors and development experts, negotiating with tribal sheikhs, working with village shuras, and partnering with communities,” Obama said.
“Most profoundly, we see the wages of war in those patriots who never came home. They gave their all, their last full measure of devotion, in Kandahar and the Korengal and Helmand, in the battles for Baghdad and Fallujah and Ramadi.”
In a survey of the US battle against Al-Qaeda and those who harbored the terror group behind the 2001 attacks which killed nearly 3,000 people, Obama praised US forces for toppling Afghanistan’s Taliban in weeks.
“When the decision was made to go into Iraq, our troops raced across deserts and removed a dictator in less than a month,” he said.
Obama did not mention that he vigorously opposed the Iraq war as a state lawmaker in Illinois, and ran hard against president George W. Bush’s decision to wage it in the 2008 presidential election.
“When insurgents, militias and terrorists plunged Iraq into chaos, our troops adapted, endured ferocious urban combat, reduced the violence and gave Iraqis a chance to forge their own future,” he said.
That was a reference to Bush’s surge strategy, which Obama also rejected at the time, but which many experts credit with allowing him to honor his pledge to withdraw all US troops from Iraq this year.
The president also noted his own 30,000-strong troop surge which he ordered to revive the US war effort in Afghanistan and his own triumph against Al-Qaeda.
“A few months ago, our troops achieved our greatest victory yet in the fight against those who attacked us on 9/11 — delivering justice to Osama bin Laden in one of the greatest intelligence and military operations in American history,” he said.
Obama strayed into political territory when he said he would not allow Republican spending cuts to curtail benefits for those who served.
“As a nation, we cannot, we must not and we will not balance the budget on the backs of veterans,” he said.
The White House has apparently been mulling for months how to mark the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that the administration had sent memos to US posts abroad and domestic agencies to ensure the events struck an appropriate rhetorical tone.
The paper said officials wanted to remember those who died in the attacks, to thank the military and law enforcement services and to warn that Americans to be prepared for any new attacks.
But White House spokesman Jay Carney said he was surprised “The New York Times thinks what might be called talking points qualifies as news.”