Paul  Kengor

Everyone in elite Washington was there: Former presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford sat in the third pew, as did Al Gore. The Clinton family sat in the front pew. An ailing Billy Graham, in a poignant display, struggled to address those gathered. President Bush approached the platform at 1:00 PM. He stated:

We are here in the middle hour of our grief. So many have suffered so great a loss, and today we express our nation’s sorrow. We come before God to pray for the missing and the dead and for those who love them.

On Tuesday our country was attacked with deliberate and massive cruelty. We have seen the images of fire and ashes and bent steel. Now come the names, the list of casualties we are only beginning to read….

Just three days removed from these events, Americans do not yet have the distance of history. But our responsibility to history is already clear: To answer these attacks and rid the world of evil.

War has been waged against us by stealth and deceit and murder. This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger. This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others. It will end in a way, and at an hour, of our choosing.

Note that last word, “choosing.” Indeed, here is where both President Bush and President Obama—not to mention America and history—found common ground: This war, and that awful attack on September 11, 2001, crafted by the diabolical Osama Bin Laden, had not been our choice. Both Bush and Obama pledged that justice against Osama would come at a time of our choosing.

That time arrived, at long last, on May 1, 2011. Justice, indeed, has been done, and on America’s terms, not Osama Bin Laden’s.