Twenty two years ago America was hit by a horrific terrorist attack. Like many readers, I can remember exactly where I was when I first heard that a plane had struck the Twin Towers.
An entire generation of young Americans has, of course, been born since that terrible day, with no recollection of an event many of us can never forget.
That makes it vital that we take a moment this year to think about September 11th 2001. We should remember the victims who headed out to work that day expecting to see their loved ones again. We should remember the heroes, too, especially those on flight 93, whose selfless actions saved many lives.
Let us not forget, either, why it was that a group of savages in a distant land should want to commit such an atrocity.
Over the past two decades a myth has emerged that the attack on the Twin Towers was somehow pay back against American interference in Iraq or Afghanistan. This idea, surprisingly widespread in Europe, puts the cart before the horse.
America invaded Iraq and Afghanistan in response to the attack on the Twin Towers. The invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan could not possibly have been a cause of it.
Islamist terrorists first attempted to blow up the Twin Towers way back in 1993. At that time, America’s direct involvement in the Middle East had been largely limited to the liberation of Kuwait – at the invitation of Arab leaders. Indeed, America had had precious little direct military involvement in the region since Ronald Reagan pulled US peacekeepers out of Lebanon in 1983.
No, the real reason Islamist terrorists attacked America 22 years ago is because America exists.
Why does the existence of America offend the Islamists? It’s not about Israel or George Bush. America is resented by Islamists because the United States represents not only a better way of life, but the best way of life yet lived by any portion of humankind.
Cultural relativism, an often well-meaning belief that every way of life is equally valid, is so pervasive among America’s elite, I fear it blinds them to the truth; there is no better place to live your life than in the United States of America.
The United States is founded on a revolutionary set of principles that emerged out of the European Enlightenment – that each of us is created equal and in possession of natural rights. The US is governed not by theocrats, but by a Constitution written by men.
Even more galling for the Islamist fundamentalist, this American system works.
Think of the southern US border today. Thousands of people from every part of the planet are clamouring to get into the United States. They are not trying to make their way into Yemen or Syria.
If, like the Islamists, you believe that the path of a perfect society is to order it in accordance with fundamentalist Islamist principles, the evidence from Iran, Sudan or Libya is not entirely encouraging for your cause.
One of the first acts of America’s first President, George Washington, was to state explicitly that it was not enough to merely tolerate religious differences. Henceforth in this country, he wrote to the Jewish congregation in Newport in 1790, people of every faith should “enjoy the exercise of their inherent natural rights”.
That idea of religious freedom must be hard to take if you believe that you alone have an understanding of the divine.
These are the principles on which America was founded, and they are a better way of organizing a society than every other way ever attempted.
Perhaps most important, we should remember the brave Americans who stepped forward after the attack on the Twin Towers to protect the American way of life. Thanks to many thousands of brave acts – some big, some small, some documented, others untold – they have helped keep this country, and the West, largely safe ever since. Thank you.