By DONALD H. RUMSFELD
In January, al-Qaida's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, condemned Egyptians who supported multi-party elections. Zawahiri reportedly labeled them "stooges" of the United States for the crime of wanting a say in the direction of their lives.
That statement, and admonitions against democratic advances in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, seem to be generating a backlash by some Muslims against the extremists. Indeed, most of the victims of extremist violence are other Muslims. One comment in particular stands out. A spokesman for an Egyptian Islamist group -- no friend to the United States -- even asked of Osama bin Laden in frustration, "What results have his resort to violence yielded?"
As we reflect on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, the question takes on more significance. What have years of despotism, of murder and of acts of unimaginable cruelty yielded for the enemy?
The answer is clear: not much. Some sources of funding are drying up. Extremists have lost sanctuaries once used to train and launch attacks. As the president recently noted, two of the world's leading terrorist sympathizers -- Iraqi Ba'athists and the Taliban -- are gone. Those not already dead or in jail are under pressure every day.
But what about our country? What did that series of attacks five years ago bring to our country and to the Free World?
Extremists seem to have believed the rush of sorrow from a catastrophic attack would make us afraid. They hoped we would turn away from our freedoms. But the pain we felt that day as the twin towers fell, and as smoke rose over the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania, revealed our inner strength -- one that has been defined by the actions of heroes on 9/11 and by those defending our nation in the years that have followed.
We remember the courage of the many first responders who raced into the burning World Trade Center; those who helped others exit the burning Pentagon; and a group of passengers aboard Flight 93 who tried to retake their plane -- led by the rally cry: "Let's roll."
Legacy of that day
Those actions, burned into our collective memory, are the legacy of that day. We came away from September 11th and every day after with a renewed determination to embrace the values that set our nation apart -- that of service to a cause greater than ourselves, and of a devotion to liberty, equality and opportunity.
They are reminders that we must treat every day since September 11th with the same sense of urgency we felt on September 12th if we are to ensure the safety of the American people.
Americans no longer stand behind the glass walls of passive defense -- waiting to see where they will crack -- hoping the breaks are small. Thousands of America's young men and women are hunting extremists in dangerous parts of the world. They have brought the end of two cruel and dangerous regimes, and they continue to plant the seeds of liberty in their place. Their noble duty is a difficult one, but one they take on freely so that generations from now, Americans will not have to gather on anniversaries like this, questioning why evil men took still more of their loved ones away.
C.S. Lewis once noted, "God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks to us in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world."
In our grief and by our rise to action, America has made loud one truth to the world: our desire to live free is unwavering.
To those in uniform serving and sacrificing so that we may continue to live free, you have our unwavering support and our eternal gratitude. May God bless you and your families, and may God continue to bless our wonderful country.
X Donald Rumsfeld is U.S. secretary of defense. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services