It fell to President Bush himself to explain what had happened, what it meant, and how he would ensure that nothing similar could ever befall Americans again.
In a series of now iconic statements, Bush conceded that the United States found itself engaged in a very large-scale conflict, which he misleadingly and unhelpfully characterized as a “global war on terrorism.” In the presidential lexicon, terrorism was interchangeable with evil, so a war to destroy terrorism, as Bush vowed to do, necessarily became a war to destroy evil…
…To place the global war on terrorism in a suitable historical perspective, the president instead described it as a successor to the wars that in collective memory had defined the prior century. Whatever the United States may have done militarily in the Islamic world during the previous twenty years counted for less than what it had done in Eurasia from the 1930s to the 1980s. By extension, the central issue was reassuringly familiar.
“We have seen their kind before,” Bush said of America’s new enemy. “They are the heirs of all the murderous ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life to serve their radical visions—by abandoning every value except the will to power—they follow in the path of fascism, and Nazism, and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way, to where it ends: in history’s unmarked grave of discarded lies.” As with World War II and the Cold War, freedom itself was at stake and was destined once more to prevail.