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Obama pays tribute to the fallen of Sept. 11, 2001
On the 12th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, President Obama and others noted the toll from the tragedy is now almost 10,000 U.S. lives: the nearly 3,000 who died in New York, outside Washington and in Pennsylvania, plus thousands more who died in the wars it spawned in Afghanistan and Iraq.
McClatchy Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — President Obama and other national leaders tried Wednesday to put aside partisan differences and commemorate victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, but tensions over Syria, Libya and other hot spots reminded Americans how that day sparked a new and troubled era that is still playing out in American politics.
On the disaster’s 12th anniversary, Obama, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, House Speaker John Boehner and others noted that the terrorist attacks have taken almost 10,000 American lives: the nearly 3,000 who died in New York, outside Washington and in Pennsylvania, plus thousands more who died in the wars it spawned in Afghanistan and Iraq.
“Today, we remember not only those who died that September day,” Obama said as he laid a wreath at the Sept. 11 memorial at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., “we pay solemn tribute to more than 6,700 patriots who have given their full measure since — military and civilians.”
Before crossing the Potomac River for the ceremony, the president and first lady Michelle Obama stood on the White House lawn as a bell tolled at 8:46 a.m., the moment 12 years earlier when the first hijacked plane struck the World Trade Center in New York.
A U.S. flag flew at half-staff above the South Portico of the executive mansion, where Vice President Joe Biden and wife Jill Biden, and members of the White House staff, joined the Obamas.
While Obama made no direct mention of Syria, he vowed to “defend our nation” against the threats that endure, even though they may be different from the ones facing the country during the 2001 attacks.
“Let us have the wisdom to know that while force is sometimes necessary, force alone cannot build the world we seek,” he said at the Pentagon.
Despite the paeans to national unity, Boehner of Ohio, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and other Republicans criticized Obama for the failure to find and punish the perpetrators of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya.
“It is disgraceful that one year later, even though a number of terrorists who participated in this attack have been identified, not a single one has been brought to justice,” Boehner said. “For the past year, this administration has failed to provide sufficient answers, fully comply with (congressional) subpoenas and make available relevant individuals to provide testimony.”
Attorney General Eric Holder did not respond to the barb, but he did include the names of the four Americans who died in the Benghazi attacks in his Justice Department homage to terrorism’s victims.
“We pay tribute to each of them, and to many others who have given their lives in the service of this country since 9/11; from the soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who have fought on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan, to patriots like Glen Doherty, Tyrone Woods, Sean Smith and Ambassador Chris Stevens, who were taken from us just one year ago in Libya,” Holder said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., laid down his own partisan marker during a Senate speech in which he segued from remembering the Sept. 11, 2001, victims to challenging members of Congress to back Obama’s plan to punish Syrian President Bashar Assad for the use of chemical weapons, with a possible military strike if a new diplomatic push fails.
Some lawmakers tried to steer clear of partisanship, for at least a day.
“Like all Americans, I will never forget where I was 12 years ago and the way our nation responded in the face of tragedy,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. “On that day, no matter our differences, our region, our race, religion or political party, we were all one thing — Americans.”
Attack anniversary bomb in Benghazi
TRIPOLI, Libya — A car bomb tore through a Libyan Foreign Ministry building in the eastern city of Benghazi on Wednesday, a reminder of lawlessness in the North African nation on the anniversary of a deadly attack on the U.S. Consulate there.
Prime Minister Ali Zidan issued a warning to militias blamed for much of the violence that has plagued Libya since the overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi two years ago, saying: “We will not bow to anyone.”
The Benghazi blast caused no deaths or serious injuries, but destroyed the Foreign Ministry branch building.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, which came a one year after al-Qaida-linked militants stormed the U.S. mission in Benghazi and a nearby U.S. building, killing U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
Material from The Associated Press is included in this report.