From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime. Our nation has been put on notice, we’re not immune from attack. We will take defensive measures against terrorism to protect Americans.
~George W. Bush/September 20, 2001
With these words, in the aftermath of September 11th, President Bush sent a clear, unequivocal message to every nation that claimed it believed in democracy. You are either with us or against us. You did not need to be an active participant in a physical attack against Americans at home or on foreign soil. Nor did you need to voice support for the terrorists. Silence, in the face of a growing threat directed at the very freedom and lifestyle of citizens of all free nations, was an offense.
Over the last 24 hours, as I watched testimony by Capitol and D.C. Metropolitan police during the first session of the House Select Committee on January 6th and the response of some who still believe the event was a walk in the park, I wondered who might issue the same warning today. Not to foreign terrorists and the nations who allow them to spread their propaganda and train their mercenaries. But to Americans who voice support for domestic terrorists, who call them “patriots” or who prefer to remain silent while these forces continue to spread “the big lie” and prepare for the next insurrection.
Imagine if airport security in Portland, Maine had discovered the security breach as Mohamed Atta boarded his connection to American Airlines Flight #11 in New York. And imagine if, when Atta pulled out his box cutter, he was shot and killed. Do you think any congressman would have held a press conference in front of the newly created Department of Homeland Security and claimed that Atta had been “executed?” Yet, that is EXACTLY what U.S. Representative Paul Gosar (R-AZ) did yesterday. Location: the U.S. Department of Justice. At the same time four police officers shared their experiences on January 6th, Gosar described the death of Ashi Babbit while attempting to force her way into the House Chamber as an “execution” and demanded the officer who shot her be tried for murder.
Has Gosar already forgotten he was one of the people in the line of fire on January 6th? Did he really believe the insurrectionists could differentiate between Democrats and Republicans? As we now know, Douglas Austin Jenson announced he was “at the White House” as he took a selfie at the base of the U.S. Capitol. Or Josiah Colt who proudly claimed he was sitting in Nancy Pelosi’s chair, even though he was in the Senate chamber. These are not people you want making a split-second decision whether you are friend or foe.
While Gosar and comrades-in-arms Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) and Louie Gohmert (R-TX), might be brushed off as fringe members of the GOP, the same message was somewhat more tactfully delivered by House minority leader Kevin McCarthy. He called the select committee a “partisan sham” and claimed it was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s responsibility to protect the building from the rioters. (As many have suggested, if that was the case, why didn’t McCarthy call Pelosi instead of Donald Trump to do something about the attack?) Likewise, Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson continues to promote conspiracy theories that the January attack “was not what armed insurrection would look like,” was an inside job by the FBI or an effort by those “agent provocateurs” Antifa to take advantage of an otherwise peaceful protest.
To paraphrase an old adage, successful coups have many fathers; but failed coups are an orphan. That does not mean the orphans are not accountable. Consider the testimony of Capitol policeman Harry Dunn who asked the select committee “to get to the bottom of what happened.” When asked what he meant by that, he replied, “If a hitman is hired, and he kills somebody, the hitman goes to jail. But not only does the hitman go to jail, the person who hired them does.” Dunn is half right. In addition, the individual who drove the getaway car and those who obstruct justice by hiding or destroying evidence often end up behind bars as well.
In this case, the “orphans” include media outlets such as Fox News, NewsMax and One America News Network (OANN). Attorneys such as Rudy Giuliani, Sydney Powell and Lynn Wood. Social media giants Facebook and Twitter. Self-proclaimed purveyors of truth like My Pillow’s Mike Lindell. There is a lot of responsibility and blame to go around when it comes to aiding and abetting the January 6th insurrection.
But none of us can point a finger without looking in the mirror. Every American needs to ask themselves, “Am I for democracy or against it?” You do not need to be an elected official or have a television show. If you promote “a big lie” on social media, you are against democracy. If you vote to re-elect any member of Congress who challenged the results of the 2020 election following the assault on the Capitol, you are against democracy. If you are silent and let others deny the voting rights of any American based on false claims of election fraud, you are against democracy.
And especially next year, you have a choice. You can confront this threat to 240 years of the American experiment in self-governance. Or you can provide safe harbor for the domestic terrorists who are leading the assault. As George W. Bush suggested 20 years ago, “you have been put on notice the United States is under attack.”
For what it’s worth.