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Ex-Army Ranger Rep. Warren Davidson: 20 years after 9/11 we must wage war differently

Twenty years ago, America changed. On the morning of Tuesday,terrorism” target=”_blank”> September 11, 2001< was already a known threat on 9/11. They bombed America’s embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998 – while I was serving in the 75th Ranger Regiment. We were convinced we would be departing swiftly to deal a decisively fatal blow to al Qaeda in response. Unfortunately, President Bill Clinton chose not to attack them directly – one of several factors that influenced my decision to leave the Army.

In 2000, george-w-bush” target=”_blank”>President George W. Bush<

A year later, the United States invadedworld-regions– officially to locate weapons of mass destruction and take them from Saddam Hussein before he could distribute them to terrorists seeking to attack America.

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Somewhere between invading Afghanistan and pivoting to Iraq, someone changed the mission. Our military makes hard jobs look easy every day. And so, the Bush hoisted a new assignment upon them: nation building. 

Some of our fellow Americans continue to chip away at the freedoms that make America unique among all nations. Congress and multiple presidents have failed to correct the emotional decisions made after 9/11. 

That deceptively articulated change in mission proved far less effective than a narrow focus on eliminating terrorist sanctuaries – not to mention the far greater cost  in lives, injuries, and treasure.

CEO of 9/11 museum has a message for young people Video

Twenty years after the attack, and more than ten years after 9/11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden was brought to justice, our troops have left Afghanistan. Once again, it is in the hands of the Taliban.

September 11, 2001 saw 2,977 killed at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Shanksville, Pa. An entire generation of Americans became embroiled in a War on Terror that they could no longer ignore. In the conflicts that followed, we lost over 2,500 Americans in Afghanistan and over 4,000 more in Iraq.

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Immediately after 9/11, Congress seemingly surrendered its power over war—or more charitably—forgot to guard its war powers jealously from executive overreach. The 2001 authorization for use of military force (AUMF) made sense at a time of national crisis, but the language of the authorization remains in effect and has been tortured to apply not only in Afghanistan, but also to individuals, governments, and groups globally.

Some of these groups and individuals didn’t harbor hostility against America—or even exist—in 2001. In retrospect, grief and anger clouded Congress’s judgement. A bipartisan group of lawmakers and I are still trying to have this blanket authorization revoked so that Congress can reclaim its constitutional duty to declare our nation’s wars – and provide the accountability to ensure these wars are strategically fought and decisively won.

Graphic images show journalists beaten by Taliban Video

Afghanistan should make clear that Congress needs to provide clear, concise, and achievable mission statements and provide assertive oversight to ensure that whenever a war is declared, that America as a nation is at war—not just our military. 

“Great nations don’t fight endless wars.” However, they do decisively win them. 

As I learned in the Army, at West Point, and in business, failure must be met with accountability. The War on Terror has certainly not ended. It must still be won. And it must be waged differently.

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One enduring casualty from America’s reaction to 9/11 has been an erosion of the right to privacy, protected by the Third and Fourth Amendments to the Constitution. The PATRIOT Act empowered the intelligence community to spy on American citizens without first obtaining a warrant. The law had near-unanimous backing in the Senate (98-1) and strong bipartisan support in the House (357-66). Privacy advocates at the time raised the alarm, but fear and the sense that 9/11 could have been prevented drowned out the objectors for simply defending the Constitution. 

Josh Hawley: 'It's time to ditch the PATRIOT Act' Video

As Bin Laden accurately predicted, 9/11 also cost America’s government any sense of fiscal responsibility. The scale of the attack, Americans’ horror at watching the Twin Towers collapse on live television, and the national resolve to prevent it from happening again unified lawmakers and Americans. That unity swiftly eroded as the nation’s leaders committed essentially unlimited resources to nation-building in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. 

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By 2004, Vice President Dick Cheney even said, “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter.” Of course, Reagan did no such thing; he proved America can take on debt to win a focused war—in his case against the Soviet Union. Since 9/11, American deficits have exploded with seemingly unrestrained foreign and domestic spending. Bankrupt nations are hard to secure.

On the evening of 9/11, during his address from the White House, President Bush promised that the terrorists would not succeed in disrupting the American way of life. Government employees would return to work the next day and businesses would reopen. The light of American freedom would not be dimmed because of these attacks. 

Former Bush chief of staff says ‘we’re getting out of Afghanistan too quickly’ Video

Unfortunately, some of our fellow Americans continue to chip away at the freedoms that make America unique among all nations. Congress and multiple presidents have failed to correct the emotional decisions made after 9/11. 

Today, as we observe 20 years since the 9/11 terror attacks, I’m calling on my colleagues to revoke the 2001 AUMF, restore Third and Fourth Amendment privacy protections to Americans, and curb runaway federal spending. 

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Truly winning the war on terror isn’t just an elusive absence of war, but the restoration of our way of life. 

We owe it to those who have borne the burdens of battle, and to all future Americans, to defend freedom as we remain vigilant against all enemies—foreign and domestic. 

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