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Public Statements

September 11, 2011

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

Mr. BLUMENAUER. Mr. Speaker, we return to Capitol Hill, ending the summer recess with strong conflicting emotions. Today is the 11th anniversary of 9/11, the horrific attacks that rocked the Nation and were especially poignant for us on Capitol Hill.

As representatives of the government we had sworn to uphold and defend, these senseless, despicable acts exposed a real vulnerability. We all remember what we felt as we were watching the Twin Towers collapse, the plane crashing into the Pentagon, and then yet another plane going down in a lonely field in Pennsylvania, destined for us here on Capitol Hill.

People came together in an outpouring of support for one another and for our Nation. There was a sense of resolve, unparalleled at any time since the cowardly attacks on Pearl Harbor.

The response of the government since then, however, has been somewhat mixed. We have protected the United States so far against any repeat attack, but at great cost. We have thrown money at the problem. We have had significant bureaucratic overreach, particularly in terms of personal liberties. We will be paying the costs of the horribly misguided war in Iraq for generations to come.

After an original, terrific response routing the Taliban in Afghanistan, we took our eye off the ball. We allowed Osama bin Laden almost another decade of life and mischief. Later, we were sucked back into Afghanistan on the terms of the Taliban and al Qaeda, not on our terms.

Now, this is not merely a Republican problem, although George Bush and Republicans were in charge and made some of the worst mistakes. There was much bipartisan support for the excesses.

To this day, there is bipartisan confusion about the best path forward to protect the Nation while protecting civil liberties and the budget for the situation today and not the conditions of September 10, 2001. My wish for Congress and for the candidates span out on the campaign trails, is that we mark this anniversary with a commitment to allow a little common sense and good will to enter into the political discourse.

This can be an emotional job. I was thinking about the emotions that I expressed, having a chance 15 years ago to go through the hectoring and interfering military on Aung San Suu Kyi's compound in Burma, where she was held under house arrest by the dictatorship. My son, daughter, and I spent an amazing afternoon with this extraordinary woman. I could scarcely imagine then, what will happen next week when we will be awarding that courageous woman the Congressional Medal of Honor here in the Capitol and then she will return to Burma as a member of their nation's parliament.

The success of this woman, together with the steely resolve of the American public after 9/11, ought to give us all pause and, hopefully, a renewed commitment to do our job right. Since 9/11, the challenges and circumstances have evolved. We have greater challenges in terms of security, climate instability, natural disaster, and our own economic vulnerability. It's a tall order to deal with them; but, hopefully, we will all be inspired by the example of Aung San Suu Kyi standing up to the Burmese dictatorship and ultimately gaining a measure of success--and, of course, by the American public in their response to horrific attacks of 9/11.

It's time today, for the politicians to do their job: to listen, to speak the truth, and to lead.

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