It has been 15 years since the horrific terror attack of Sept. 11, 2001, that rocked our nation and forever changed our world. With the barbaric acts of terrorists, 2,977 people’s lives were taken when four jet planes were hijacked and crashed into some of our nation’s most emblematic landmarks. In the wake of the collisions, 411 brave responders lost their own lives while attempting to rescue survivors and fight fires.
I don’t revisit these facts lightly, nor do I think that any American could ever forget the loss and terror of that day. Rather, I begin this way because we must remain clear-eyed about the continuing threats we face as a nation.
Our great nation is a symbol of freedom and democracy the world over, which is something that I’m unwaveringly proud. Yet, there are people around the globe that hate us for our liberty and the freedom that comes with being American.
That’s why it’s so important that we keep the detention facility in Guantanamo Bay open. Guantanamo Bay plays a critical role in keeping enemy combatants off the battlefield and as a source of intelligence to combat future attacks. Earlier this year, I traveled to Guantanamo Bay, and I remember vividly the eerie chill I felt walking past the cell of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the principal architect behind the 9/11 terror attack.
Individuals like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed do not belong on U.S. soil, nor do they belong in the custody of a nation that may allow them to return to the battlefield as we have seen before. We must ensure terrorists don’t continue to spread radical Islam throughout the world, and Guantanamo Bay serves an integral purpose for just that.
Just six years ago another tragedy occurred on Sept. 11, the massacre of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Benghazi, Libya — we have had to mourn far too many innocent lives due to terror and Islamic extremism.
As the world’s largest military power and defenders of freedom and democracy, we must remain vigilant in our fight against terrorism and religious extremism.
When I was elected to the United States Senate I took an oath — to protect and defend our nation from all enemies, both foreign and domestic — and that’s an oath I take very seriously. Protecting the American people is our constitutionally mandated duty.
As one of Montana’s two U.S. senators, I’m incredibly proud that Montana and the men and women stationed at Malmstrom Air Force Base play such a vital role in keeping our nation safe. And as an American I’m thankful to the men and women who so bravely serve our communities as first responders and our nation in the U.S. Armed Forces.
I hope that all Montanans will join me on this anniversary and take extra time to keep the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and their loved ones in your thoughts and prayers.
U.S. Sen. Steve Daines is a Republican from Bozeman.