OP-ED: Why Sen. Moran’s 9/11 K-State lecture was a tone-deaf disappointment

Sen. Jerry Moran laughs with the audience as he speaks during a Landon Lecture in the K-State Student Union. Moran spoke of the moment he knew he wanted to continue his work in Washington D.C. instead of heading back home to Kansas: 9/11. Moran visited K-State on Tuesday for a special Landon Lecture about the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. (Olivia Bergmeier | Collegian Media Group)

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For a speech titled “Answering the Call: Serving a global society post 9/11” that was delivered on the anniversary of the worst day in recent American history, Sen. Jerry Moran spent a lot of time during his Landon Lecture talking about himself.

When I first saw the title of his speech, I was hoping for a detailed foreign policy talk that would discuss our country’s actions after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, provide an update on the Global War on Terror and perhaps even give a moral discussion on the United States’ role in global society after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Moran spent perhaps 20 minutes discussing these things.

Most of his time was spent on issues a candidate running for re-election would address: humorous stories about his interactions with constituents, somber moments of bipartisanship immediately after 9/11 and emotional statements about his sacrifices for his family.

I do appreciate Moran’s sacrifices as a public servant, but the Landon Lecture on Sept. 11 was not the time to talk about himself, his family or even Kansas. It should have been spent honoring the thousands killed on that day by communicating a conclusion to the conflict we still find ourselves in.

Moran failed to address an interesting fact during his Landon Lecture. Sept. 11, 2018 represents the first day that Americans born after the terrorist attacks in 2001 can volunteer to fight in the war that started 17 years ago on that day.

Former President George W. Bush first declared the Global War on Terror on Sept. 16, 2001, saying, “This is a new kind of … evil. And we understand. And the American people are beginning to understand. This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while. And the American people must be patient. I’m going to be patient.”

On Oct. 7, 2001, less than a month after the terrorist attacks, combat operations began in Afghanistan to capture or kill the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden.

Bin Laden escaped to Pakistan, but the U.S. stayed in Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban government that supported his al-Qaeda terror group.

Now, 17 years later, Bin Laden is dead. Yet the U.S. is still fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and across North Africa. The U.S. government has never declared war on any of these countries, but the president receives justification from the unprecedented Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists, signed by Congress on Sept. 14, 2001.

During his lecture, Moran mentioned signing this document. It was a moment when he choked up and got emotional. I can only hope it was from grief and sadness due to the immense human pain and suffering the AUMF has caused in its 17-year existence.

Ten days before Moran’s Landon Lecture, Lt. Gen. Austin Miller took over the War in Afghanistan. In June, Miller told lawmakers, including Moran, that he could not guarantee an end date to the war.

Moran is a leader of our nation, and as a senator it is his duty to conduct U.S. foreign policy. For 17 years, he has been indirectly conducting our Global War on Terror.

In those 17 years, he has caused over 56,000 Americans to be wounded or killed while over 200,000 developed post-traumatic stress disorder. He is also responsible for the deaths of 82,000 to 1.4 million people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Somalia due to U.S. military combat operations.

Considering such sobering numbers and speaking on the anniversary of the precipitating cause of years of strife, you would think his speech would focus perhaps a little more on foreign policy.

I don’t claim to have the answers, but a U.S. senator with 22 years of service should.

Lucas Peterson is the news director for 91.9 KSDB and a senior in political science. The views and opinions expressed in this opinion-editorial are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Collegian. Please send comments to opinion@kstatecollegian.com.