President Biden on Sunday underscored the duty of all Americans to “preserve and protect our democracy” while honoring those who lost their lives in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Mr Biden celebrated the 21st anniversary of one of the darkest days in US history with a wreath laying ceremony held in the pouring rain at the Pentagon just over a year after the president marked the chaotic end to the two-decade war in Afghanistan launched in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
“There’s nothing this nation can’t achieve when we come together and wholeheartedly defend what makes us unique in the world: our democracy,” Biden said.
“That’s what these hijackers most hoped to destroy when they targeted our buildings and our people,” he said. “They missed.”
Mr Biden praised the courage of “ordinary citizens” who, in the face of the attacks and the aftermath, stood up to defend the “character of this nation”.
“We have seen the police and firefighters who stood on the job at ground zero for months amid this twisted steel and broken concrete slabs breathing in toxins and ash that would harm their health, refusing to stop. research through destruction,” he said. “They never stopped.
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“No terrorist could touch the source of American power,” Mr. Biden said. “And it’s our responsibility to keep it safe on behalf of everyone we lost 21 years ago.
“It is not enough to come together and remember 9/11 and those we lost over two decades ago,” he added. “Because today is not about the past. It’s about the future. We have the obligation, the duty or the responsibility to defend, preserve and protect our democracy.
Mr Biden’s grim reminder marking the 9/11 anniversary reflects his grim warning that has become the bedrock of his campaign ahead of the upcoming midterm elections.
The president warned that the country was at an “inflection point” and that democracy remained under threat from the “extreme” fringes of the Republican Party.
Mr Biden’s remarks come amid continued criticism from Republicans over his disorderly withdrawal from Afghanistan which left the country in the hands of the Taliban.
Last month, Mr Biden marked the first anniversary of the suicide bombing at Kabul airport in Afghanistan by paying tribute to the 13 US service members who died in the attack, which also killed at least 170 Afghans and injured 45 other American soldiers. .
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The bombing has become a symbol of what Mr Biden’s critics have called his failure to adequately prepare for the withdrawal.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday criticized Biden for his handling of Afghanistan, which he said has led to the country’s downward spiral now under Taliban rule.
“Now, a year after last August’s disaster, the devastating scale of the fallout from President Biden’s decision has become clearer,” McConnell said. “Afghanistan has become a global pariah. Its economy has shrunk by almost a third. Half of its population now suffers from critical levels of food insecurity.
Mr Biden dismissed much of the criticism of his decision to step down and pointed to the costs of the two-decade engagement in which 2,461 US troops were killed and 20,744 injured.
Mr Biden also pledged to keep up pressure on terrorist factions that remain in Afghanistan following the pullout, pointing to the US drone strike in Kabul over the summer that killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri.
Biden said America’s determination to “defend against those who seek to harm us and bring justice to those responsible for attacks on our people has never wavered.”
“We will never give up,” he said on Sunday.