Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX): I was in the Pentagon on 9/11

Rep. Sam Johnson • September 9, 2016

It’s a day Americans have said they will never forget.

I was at the Pentagon when Flight 77 hit the building on September 11, 2001. Tensions were already high after the first two planes hit the World Trade Center less than an hour earlier. By the grace of God, I wasn’t on the Pentagon’s side of impact – though I should have been. The terrorists missed the front where I was and deviated from their target.

I remember rushing outside where I ran into a fellow representative from Texas. She couldn’t find her ride, so I told her to hop in my car and we headed back into Washington before Vice President Cheney closed the bridges. When we finally made it back to Capitol Hill, I went to my office to check on my staff. All of them were lined up in the office with their bags, and they were ready to get the hell out of dodge. Right about that time, we heard a huge sonic boom as a friendly F-16 flew by the Capitol. All my staff hit the deck – a visceral reaction to a clear and present threat.

As our Great Nation watched the towers fall and prayed for the victims and their families, we said we would remain vigilant in the fight against terrorists seeking to destroy freedom and democracy.

And yet, 15 years later, the threat has escalated. Under President Obama’s watch, ISIS has largely taken the place of Al Qaeda, and “there are now more Sunni violent extremist groups, members, and safe havens than at any time in history,” according to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.  In fact, over the past two years ISIS-linked plots exceeded a total of 100. The success rate of attacks in 2016 is at 56 percent, and the casualties per attack are increasing.

These attacks beg the question: are we as vigilant as we should be? And is our President even serious about defeating radical Islamist terrorists?

As an Air Force veteran who served in two wars and spent nearly seven years in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” I think the answer is clear: no.

It boggles the mind, but President Obama seems reluctant to take the fight to ISIS. Through an overly restrictive set of rules of engagement, our Commander-in-Chief has our service members fighting the enemy with one hand tied behind their backs. This is wrong, and Pentagon reports show his decisions are impeding the ability of American pilots to go after terrorists.

What’s worse, this August President Obama released his largest number of Guantanamo Bay detainees ever. Keep in mind that 30 percent of former Guantanamo Bay detainees have reengaged, or been suspected of reengaging, in terrorist activities. It is troubling indeed to think that the hard fought gains we’ve achieved could be undone in such a foolish way…not to mention that our President’s actions have already cost more American lives (the number of which is deemed classified).

Despite the President’s negligence on national security, House Republicans have been doing our part to support our military during these increasingly dangerous times. The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) the House passed earlier this year will provide much-needed resources and is a big step in the right direction. I hope the President recognizes his veto threat would only weaken our country’s ability to fight terrorism.

So on this 15th Anniversary of 9/11, we remember the 2,977 victims at the Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and on Flight 93. We remember the heroic deeds of our first responders. And we thank our servicemen and women who fight against terrorism. But let us also honor the memory of all terrorists’ victims by doing everything we can to prevent future attacks on our homeland and its citizens. The threat is still real and very much alive. Let us show the world that Americans’ love of country and dedication to defending our liberty is also still very much alive.

God bless you and I salute you.