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Twenty Years Later, the Long War Goes On

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The American flag flies at Camp Justice at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in 2009. (Brennan Linsley/Pool via Reuters) The five surviving, captured jihadists believed most culpable for 9/11 have still not even been tried.

‘Solemn annual observance” is a prolix term if ever there was one. I much prefer it, though, to “anniversary” when applied to 9/11. The atrocities of that day would be unimaginable if they hadn’t happened before our eyes, defying our assumptions about the depths of horror. Who’d have conceived of an inferno so monstrous that people would dive a hundred stories to gruesome death rather than submit to it?

I always dread this solemn annual observance. For those of us who, eight years before 9/11, started battling against the jihad in our earnest but inadequate way, there is no avoiding a profound sense of failure.

Don’t get me wrong: It remains the highlight of my professional life to have prosecuted the Blind Sheikh and his minions, who first bombed the World Trade Center on February 26, 1993, and then were thwarted in their plot to execute an even more audacious attack on various New York City landmarks. I’m proud of the work we did and honored — and more than a little embarrassed — to have gotten credit for the efforts of many more dedicated people than I can count.

Still, the other side of the ledger won’t be denied, especially today.

It was a great satisfaction for us that the Twin Towers still stood, despite what seemed in 1993 to be the best shot of determined terrorists — the 1,400-pound chemical bomb they’d built and smuggled via rental van into the Trade Center’s underground parking garage. That satisfaction, almost smugness, over the jihadists’ initial failure, was crushed 20 years ago today, in the rubble of the seemingly invincible skyscrapers. One couldn’t help but remember the vow of the ’93 jihadist Ramzi Yousef that they’d do it right the next time — and there’d be a next time, he was sure.

Even worse, though we convicted the Blind

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