[11 September: We will remember them.]Nine-and-ninety years ago, the world was at war. Had been for a few weeks. Had no idea that it should be for four years, and then have an armistice just long enough to raise up a new generation of reinforcements.
And next year, it will be the seventy-fifth anniversary of the second act of those wars, after the long intermission.
And twelve years ago?
Twelve years ago, in the city of New York, in the city of Washington, in rural Pennsylvania, the same evil walked once more. It did not don the raiment of what Winston called ‘perverted science’ this time; it vested itself in perverted religion. But then, the false ‘sciences’ – ethno-linguistic, blood-and-soil nationalism; Marxist dialectic; National Socialism – which had been the cloak of evil in 1914 and 1939, were simply ersatz religions in any case.
Twelve years ago, in the city of New York, in the city of Washington, in rural Pennsylvania, a criminal atrocity was committed. It was not ‘a tragedy’: a mudslide or a tsunami or a plague is a tragedy. Mass murder – and that is what it was – is a criminal atrocity, an act of terrorism.
Twelve years ago, in the city of New York, in the city of Washington, in rural Pennsylvania, the United States was not attacked as such; nor the West, as such; nor, so far as the term retains any meaning at all, Christendom. Civilisation itself was assailed – a civilisation of which the assailants were themselves a part.
Twelve years ago, in the city of New York, in the city of Washington, in rural Pennsylvania, the same forces and the usual suspects, as revenants, made the same sort of attack, from the same hatreds and pathologies, ideology become ideolatry. Those who attacked civilisation and all that it implies on that day were simply Princip and Apis – Dragutin Dimitrijević – again, they were Naujocks and all the seedy crew whom Naujocks served, returned for a time from Hell.
Like these, they were not martyrs or honourable, they were not warriors or soldiers entitled to an honourable name and status. Like these, they were not victims, or possessed of legitimate grievances, or misunderstood or excusable or excused. They were contemptible, crawling creatures engaged in a barbarian’s nihilist tantrum against civilisation. They were petty criminals who managed a murder that was not petty in the least. They were scum: the sort of scum who murder non-combatants, women and children, civilians, without warning and without being part of a legitimate force to which the Geneva Convention’s protections apply. The 11th September, over centuries, has seen real battles fought by real soldiers: Stirling Bridge; Malplaquet; Brandywine; Bita Paka. This was simply murder, committed by abject criminals.
They committed their atrocity, these hollow nihilist nobodies, twelve years ago, on United States soil and in its airspace; but they did so almost accidentally, incidentally. In one sense only did the United States contribute to the crime’s happening to happen there: American openness, American liberty, the American willingness to accept anyone, American pluralism, made it easier for these appalling little savages to commit their murders there.
But it was civilisation as a whole at which these pathetic no-hopers struck, from behind, cravenly. As that sort always do: for Greater Servia or the Reich or Marxism or Islamism or whatever twisted notion the next lot may advance as a justification and cause for their own pathologies, driven by their own pathetic inadequacies.
The convenience of these contemptible little savages, twelve years ago, the softness of the target for these easily daunted cowards, impelled them to commit their murders in the city of New York, in the city of Washington, in rural Pennsylvania; but they were attacking all civilisation, not America alone. Subjects of the Crown and citizens of Commonwealth nations were killed, to the number of some 157.
These were civilians, non-combatants, women, children, in a time of peace, slaughtered by no legitimate fighting force but simply by savage barbarians striking from cover. Yet they were thus made, in some way, by the inglorious act of inglorious cowards, our glorious dead, to be remembered always, having without warning given all the days they might have had. And so for them as for sailor and squaddie, jolly and airman, may we say:
With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
… At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.