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Brandywine versus 9-11

Brandywine versus 9-11

by William H. Benson

September 10, 2015

     Two historic events occurred on September 11. The first was at Brandywine Creek, west of Philadelphia, in 1777, and the second was 9-11-2001.

     In the first, General George Washington’s ragtag army tried to stop General William Howe’s superior troops from taking Philadelphia, the city where the Second Continental Congress convened.

     Washington’s army failed when Howe outflanked Washington and forced American troops to flee the battlefield. The terrified delegates to the Second Continental Congress streamed out of Philadelphia, reconvened at York and Lancaster in Pennsylvania, and on September 26, General William Howe and his British soldiers marched into Philadelphia.

     The second was 9-11, when nineteen terrorists—recruited, trained, and financed by Osama bin Laden—captured four passenger jets, when in flight, and then flew them into New York City’s World Trade Center and Washington D.C.’s Pentagon on a suicide mission.

     The first was a battle, fought between two opposing armies, both English, but one fought for King George III and Parliament, and the other fought for Congress and for independence. In the the second, foreigners came to America, took advantage of our nation’s freedoms, and executed a surprise attack upon innocent Americans, who were busy at their jobs, working for wages.

     In the first, Howe wanted to take Philadelphia in the vain hope that Washington would surrender. According to eighteenth-century rules of warfare, if an army captured the enemy’s capital, the enemy must surrender. Instead, Washington marched his pitiful army to Valley Forge, just twenty miles northwest of Philadelphia, and there he built a fort and settled in for a cold, harsh, and hungry winter, while Howe enjoyed Philadelphia’s comforts, food, lodging, and entertainment.

     When Benjamin Franklin heard that Howe had taken his city of Philadelphia, he remarked, “You are mistaken; Philadelphia has taken Howe.”   

     In the second, the 9-11 terrorists had no desire to create their own country. They had no declaration of independence, no statement of intention. By their suicidal mission, they wished to inflict terror, destruction, and death on a massive scale. They had zero chance that America’s government would collapse or its economy would dwindle. It only stiffened American resolve to find, capture, and kill those responsible.

     Despite Howe’s success at Brandywine Creek, critics back in England scoffed at his failure to destroy Washington’s inept army. In October of 1777, Howe heard the criticism, and was so upset that he submitted his letter of resignation and complained that Parliament had failed to support him.

     Although all the world’s leaders condemned Osama bin Laden’s murderous crusade in America, he did not resign. How could he? How can any terrorist resign? His only allegiance was to himself and his own twisted notions. For the next ten years, he was a hunted man, glimpsed on occasion on self-promoting videos. In one video he released in 2006, he admitted, “I am the one in charge of the nineteen brothers. . . . I was responsible for entrusting the nineteen brothers with the raids.”

      Then, on the night of May 1, 2011, U.S. Navy Seals landed helicopters inside bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan, stormed into his house, and shot and killed Osama bin Laden. Images from “Zero Dark Thirty” now reflect upon justice and retribution.    

     Thus, both aggressors—General William Howe and Osama bin Laden—received criticism, but whereas Howe retired with grace and dignity, bin Laden did not.

     In the first, those Englishmen who lived in the American colonies revolted against Parliament’s numerous schemes to tax the colonies. The colonists insisted that they paid their taxes to their respective colony, and they could find no reason to pay an additional tax to Parliament. Members of Parliament thought otherwise. Hence, the conflict.

     In the second, Osama bin Laden believed that U.S. foreign policy harmed and oppressed Muslims in the Middle East, and that he and members of Al-Qaeda possessed the right to kill civilians, including women and children. Thus, he supported a violent jihad against the U.S., and hence, the conflict.

     An estimated 300 of Washington’s Patriot soldiers died during the battle at Brandywine Creek on September 11, 1777, but a total of 2,996 people died on 9-11-2001: 2,606 at the World Trade Center, 125 at the Pentagon, 246 airlines crew and passengers, and 19 hijackers.

     Washington lost the battle at Brandywine Creek, but four years later, on October 19, 1781, he won the war when the British surrendered at Yorktown. Osama bin Laden achieved his dream of massive death across America on 9-11-2001, but his day arrived on 5-1-2011.

     Brandywine led to independence, but 9-11 led to a war on terrorism, to seek and destroy Al-Qaeda.

     The two historical events—one near our nation’s founding and the other more recent—illustrate the results of human conflict over two divisive issues: taxation and violent jihad.