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September 11, 2017 6:40 pm

Sixteen Years After 9/11 Attacks, Giuliani’s Co-Author Reflects on Lessons Learned

avatar by Ben Cohen


Ken Kurson at Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, September 17, 2001. Photo: Ken Kurson.

In early 2001, author Ken Kurson began working with the then mayor of New York, Rudy Giuliani, on what was to become a best-selling book entitled simply “Leadership.”

The Al Qaeda terrorist attacks on September 11 of that year meant – as Kurson told The Algemeiner on Monday, in an interview to mark the sixteenth anniversary of 9/11 – that “it became a very different book.”

“I’m so proud of New York City – its spirit and resilience inspired the world,” Kurson reflected. “I believe, as Rudy [Giuliani] said many times, that Al Qaeda thought their master stroke would break the back of America and force us to crawl to some kind of negotiated settlement.”

Instead, Kurson continued, “Al Qaeda and the whole world saw what tough motherf***ers we actually are and our willingness to rain hellfire on them, coupled with the incredible togetherness and kindness all of America displayed toward New York, reminded them – and us – what we’re made of.”

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The trauma of that day has become easier to bear with the passage of time, Kurson observed, but the flip side is that time can erase memories as well as heal them.

“Forgetting is why it will inevitably repeat itself,” he said. “Sixteen years ago, we swore that we’d wipe out Islamic Terrorism. And yet, this year alone, we’ve seen high-profile attacks on a nightclub in Istanbul, 30 Christians killed on Palm Sunday in Egypt, four shot in Fresno, multiple shootings of police in Paris, plus the usual daily car bombings and insanity in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Kurson recalled that he had been visiting Manchester on May 22 – “the day that Salman Abedi blew himself to bits to kill 22 teenagers at the Manchester Arena who were at an Ariana Grande concert.”

“The memory of September 11 is easier to bear because time has passed, but also because we are numb,” Kurson said.

Kurson sees a parallel between popular attitudes to natural disasters and those towards terrorism. “Last year on  9/11, I wrote about exactly that,” he said. “How the language has evolved to view these attacks as akin to earthquakes, unfortunate events that claimed a lot of lives. There remains, amid all these attacks a shocking unwillingness among decent people to understand what we’re dealing with here and to call it by its name.”

Nor do the polarizing effects of domestic politics assist much. “There’s an absurdist streak running through the entire electorate,” Kurson said. “The idea that it’s ‘racist’ to condemn terror is so twisted and dangerous. And it’s condescending to Muslims, who comprise the overwhelming number of victims of Islamic terrorists.”

“Because Americans are good, we have this childlike need to assume that others are just as inclined to kindness and generosity,” Kurson continued. “But our obsession with things that are not a meaningful threat – like these losers and buffoons who carry Confederate flags and swastikas in Charlottesville – and our refusal to understand the difference between powerless idiots like that, versus terrorist groups that control large swaths of land and the tools of government, is extremely dangerous.”

Kurson is deeply critical of what he regards as myopia  among American liberals when it comes to the Muslim victims of Islamist terror groups.

“What did you hear from Hollywood on May 31, when a car bombing killed 150 in Kabul, or on April 21, when the Taliban killed as many as 256 Afghanis, or on April 15 when a car bomb by (Sunni terrorist group) Tahrir al-Sham killed 126 people in Aleppo, including sixty kids?” he asked. “If you care about Muslim people, as I do and all civilized people do, you should be the loudest to condemn Islamic terror.”

Kurson is confident that the new generation that has grown up since 9/11 will understand the significance of an event they are too young to recall. “My best friend just sent me an essay his 17-year old daughter had written to deliver today to her class in New Jersey, and it was clear how profoundly 9/11 has shaped her worldview,” he said. “She was too young to remember the attacks, of course, but just as the Holocaust feels present to me because of the value my family placed on education and firsthand accounts, this young lady — and hopefully her friends and future young people — will carry around the collective memory of both the horror and the heroism we saw 16 years ago.”

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