In Alaska, Biden commemorates Sept. 11 attacks, urging unity and defense of democracy – Pennsylvania Capital-Star

Twenty-two years after Al-Qaeda terrorists staged coordinated attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans, there is a threat to U.S. democracy coming from closer to home, President Joe Biden said in a memorial speech in Anchorage.

President Joe Biden stands between Maj. Gen. Brian Eifler, commanding general, 11th Airborne Division, and Chief Master Sgt. Amy Miller, U.S. Air Force, at a Sept. 11, 2023, event at Joint Base Elemdorf-Richardson that commemorated the terror attacks that occurred 22 years earlier. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

“Terrorism, including political and ideological violence, is the opposite of all we stand for as a nation that settles our differences peacefully, under the rule of law,” Biden told military troops and local and state officials during a stopover Monday at Anchorage’s Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.

The best way to honor those who lost their lives on Sept. 11, 2001, Biden said, is to unify to defend democracy.

“Every generation has to fight to preserve it. That’s why the terrorists targeted us in the first place,” said Biden, who stopped in Anchorage after attending a G20 summit in India and traveling from there to Vietnam.

Democracy is now threatened from within by “anger and fear” and “a rising tide of hatred and extremism and political violence,” he said.

“It’s more important than ever that we come together around the principle of American democracy regardless of our political backgrounds. We must not succumb to the poisonous politics of difference and division. We must never allow ourselves to be pulled apart by petty manufactured grievances. We must continue to stand united. We all have an obligation, a duty, a responsibility to defend, to preserve, to protect our democracy,” he said.

That includes being respectful to those with whom you disagree, Biden argued in his speech.

He talked about his visit in Hanoi just hours earlier, to the memorial site dedicated to “my friend” John McCain, the late Arizona senator who spent 5 ½ years in a Vietnamese prison camp. “Like two brothers, we’d argue like hell on the Senate floor. Then we’d go to lunch together,” Biden said. When he was near death, Biden said, McCain asked the then-former vice president to deliver the eulogy at his 2018 funeral.



There was a similar relationship, Biden said, with Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska. As with McCain, Biden delivered the eulogy at Stevens’ funeral in Anchorage after the long-serving Alaska senator died in a 2010 plane crash.

Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, who spoke before Biden took the podium, delivered a similar call for unity and respect, which she said should be the lesson of the tragedy of 22 years ago.

Alaska’s lone U.S. House member spoke about her memories of Sept. 11, 2001, when all flights were temporarily banned, including in the rural Alaska skies usually filled with small airplanes ferrying hunters and village travelers.

“While only a tiny fraction of the horror unfolding across the country, the silence above was an eerie symbol of how the world had suddenly and completely changed,” Peltola said.

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, speaks on Sept. 11, 2023, at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson at an event to mark the 22nd anniversary of the terror attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans.  (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

The anniversary of the attacks is a time for mourning, remembrance and honoring all those “who rushed into danger” to protect others, she said.

“And most importantly, I believe it should be a time of hope. Because alongside the darkest memories of today, I also remember what happened afterwards — how we all came together to rebuild and to heal. In the aftermath of devastation, we remembered what it means to believe in America,” she said.

Peltola repeated a line she has used in the past when asked about partisanship and division: “No fellow American is our enemy,” she said. “Our nation has real enemies in the world, and the events of 9/11 demonstrated that without a doubt. But they also demonstrated that when we come together, we can defeat any threat.”

And among the nation’s “greatest strategic assets” are Alaska’s location, its people – including the soldiers and airmen she was addressing in her speech – and its natural resources, she said.

“Alaskan energy is one of our nation’s best defenses against foreign aggression. It’s why the Naval Petroleum Reserve was originally created after World War I. It’s why the trans-Alaska pipeline was built in the 1970s to combat the Middle Eastern oil embargo and why China and Russia don’t want us to develop our natural gas resources in the present,” she said.

Left unsaid were any comments about the Biden administration’s actions last week to cancel remaining leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, all held by the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority rather than any oil company, and to enhance environmental protections in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska, known as the Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 4 until 1976. The Biden administration months earlier approved an important oil development in the western North Slope petroleum reserve, ConocoPhillips’ huge Willow prospect.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who also spoke at the event, emphasized Alaska’s strategic importance as well.

“There has been and will always be bad actors in this world who want to do harm to America,” he said. “And for Alaska, we are at the tip of that spear. From where we stand today in Anchorage, we are more than 3,000 miles away from the world trade centers in New York. Yet parts of Alaska are just 2.4 miles away from one of our nearest neighbors, Russia.”

JBER service members regularly intercept Russian fighter jets, Alaska is within reach of North Korean missiles and Chinese warships sail in waters off Alaska’s coast, he noted. And he reminded the audience that Alaska was invaded by Japan during World War II. Kiska and Attu in the Aleutians were occupied from 1942 to 1943.

It is a reminder to always be prepared, he said. “And I urge the president and Congress to continue to recognize the strategic significance that Alaska plays in our national security,” he said.

Alaska Beacon is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Alaska Beacon maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Andrew Kitchenman for questions: [email protected]. Follow Alaska Beacon on Facebook and Twitter.

Originally published at,by Yereth Rosen

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