WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama and other national leaders tried Wednesday to put aside partisan differences and commemorate victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but tensions over Syria, Libya and other hotspots reminded Americans how that day sparked a new and troubled era that is still playing out in American politics.
On the tragedys 12th anniversary, Obama, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, House Speaker John Boehner and others noted that the terror attacks have taken almost 10,000 American lives the 2,996 who died in New York, outside Washington and in Pennsylvania, plus thousands more who have fallen in the wars it spawned in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Today, we remember not only those who died that September day, Obama said as he laid a wreath at the Sept. 11 memorial at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., we pay solemn tribute to more than 6,700 patriots who have given their full measure since military and civilians.
Before crossing the Potomac River for the ceremony, the president and first lady Michelle Obama held hands on the White House lawn as a bell tolled at 8:46 a.m., the moment 12 years earlier when the first hijacked plane struck the World Trade Center in New York. An American flag flew at half-staff above the South Portico of the executive mansion.
Despite the paeans to national unity, Boehner of Ohio, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and other Republicans criticized Obama for the failure to find and punish the perpetuators of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
It is disgraceful that one year later, even though a number of terrorists who participated in this attack have been identified, not a single one has been brought to justice, Boehner said. For the past year, this administration has failed to provide sufficient answers, fully comply with (congressional) subpoenas and make available relevant individuals to provide testimony.
Attorney General Eric Holder did not respond to the barb, but he did include the names of the four Americans who died in the Benghazi attacks in a sweeping homage to terrorisms victims.
We pay tribute to each of them, and to many others who have given their lives in the service of this country since 9/11; from the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have fought on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, to patriots like Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods, Sean Smith and Ambassador Chris Stevens, who were taken from us just one year ago in Libya, Holder said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., laid down his own partisan marker during a Senate speech in which he segued from remembering the Sept. 11, 2001, victims to challenging members of Congress to back Obamas plan to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons, with a possible military strike if a new diplomatic push fails.
Even as we pay tribute to Americas tradition of freedom for every citizen, across the globe an evil dictator denies his citizens not only their right to liberty, but also their right to live, Reid said.
Saying that Obama had made a compelling case for military action against the Assad regime in his prime-time speech Tuesday evening, Reid called on Congress to follow the presidents lead.
Diplomacy is always the first-choice solution, Reid said. President Obama has asked us to temporarily suspend consideration of a Syria (war) resolution to allow the administration time to explore every diplomatic avenue.