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Official says war against terrorism will last longer than other recent conflicts

By Lalit Jha, Grand Forks Herald

The global war against terrorism led by the United States following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, most likely will last longer than any other military conflict of the past century, a senior Air Force official said Friday.

As such, the struggle will require the patience and commitment of the American people, said Col. Bill Bender, 319th Air Fueling Wing commander, speaking at a Grand Forks Air Force Base function held in remembrance of Sept. 11.

Bender said the war was expected to last longer because it was being conducted by an enemy that can’t be tamed by tolerance and accommodation, but who actually is spurred on by such gestures because they are taken as signs of weakness.

He said the “fanatics” who carried out 9-11 attacks were intent upon the ultimate destruction of free and open Western civilizations and they would stop at nothing to accomplish their objective.

“And, so despite the loss of life and the enemies we continue to make, and despite the risks associated with taking on huge amounts of additional national debt, this struggle requires patience and commitment of American people,” Bender said.

“Their support for our military, like yours for this wing, needs to remain strong because of what is at stake – literally everything,” he said.

Addressing the frequently asked question, “Is the struggle worth the cost?”, the colonel said: “I find myself tempted to answer this question, however, with another question: ‘Can we afford the cost of doing nothing?'” He said one could get the answer from the history of Europe.

“Appeasement, another word for doing nothing, cost millions of Jews their lives as England and France delayed and hesitated too long before they realized Hitler had to be fought, instead of negotiated with,” he said.

As recently as the 1990s, appeasement crippled Europe when genocide ran rampant in Bosnia and Kosovo, he said. Even when there was absolute proof of ongoing mass murder, Europeans kept debating till America showed great courage in hosting the Dayton accords, thus forging the path for peace that remains the best hope for Europe today, he said.

Bender said the nation has been at war against those opposed to the ideals of peace, freedom, tolerance and respect for human life.

“And throughout that time our wing, indeed the entire United States Military, has been part of an enormous worldwide struggle against terrorists and extremists, those whose rallying cries are hatred, intolerance and bloodshed,” he said.

The function remembered those who died in the 9-11 attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and at the Pentagon with a “Flag of Honor” that had the names of those who died stitched on it. The flag will hang in the foyer of the wing headquarters building at the base.

Along with those whose names are embroidered on this flag, we also should honor and remember the servicemen and women who paid the ultimate price, he said.

Speaking on the occasion, Lt. Col. Jeff Gillen, 319 ARW Director of Staff, gave his first hand account of 9-11, the day he was at the Pentagon.

A flyover by KC-135 and F-16 from Fargo, the playing of Taps and a 21-gun salute followed the retreat ceremony.