Like most of my generation, I’ll never forget where I was on 9/11. My day was unremarkable compared to those in New York City or the Pentagon or Shanksville, or any of those families. Nevertheless, I’ll never forget having dropped my son – who had just turned two – at daycare. As I drove toward the federal courthouse where I worked, I listened to music instead of the news. I happened to notice the white contrail of a jet, high in what that day was a brilliant blue Kansas sky, turning a wide arc. That’s unusual, I thought to myself. And then I noticed that every single contrail, of every jet I could see, was doing the same thing. Every airliner in the sky was being re-routed. And I knew from that single image – now etched in my brain – that something was horribly, dreadfully wrong.

I switched to the news, and the very first thing I heard was that a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. Even into that iconic building, a single crash wasn’t enough to warrant re-routing every jetliner in the sky. A moment later, I heard about the second plane. That, of course, justified what my eyes were telling me. As a federal prosecutor, I immediately recognized that our nation was under attack. Unfortunately, it appears the Biden administration is sending our country down precisely the same path that led us to that fateful September day in 2001.

At the time, I had no idea the extent to which 9/11 would change my life. The two-year-old that I’d just dropped at daycare is now an enlisted Sailor and a medic in the United States Navy. And although I was a federal drug prosecutor at the time, it wouldn’t be long before that job took me to Iraq and then to Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. I went to Iraq as a civilian volunteer to help the Iraqis prosecute Saddam Hussein’s regime members. On a larger level, I went there to help the citizens of Iraq emerge from generations of brutal dictatorial rule to implement a system of self-governance and democracy. I went to GTMO (shorthand for Guantanamo) again as a civilian volunteer, and I ended up spending nearly five years as the lead prosecutor against the alleged al Qaeda terrorist that Osama bin Laden had sent to Yemen to blow up the USS Cole. After returning to Kansas from that assignment, I prosecuted some of the country’s highest-profile and most significant national security cases – all right here in Kansas.

The last month I spent in Iraq, those of us working in the Embassy knew that a troop draw-down was coming. General Petraeus’ counter-insurgency strategy had been hugely successful. We went from enduring 88 rocket and mortar attacks on the Green Zone in the first 90 days I was there to just four in the final 30 days I was there. It didn’t take a crystal ball to see that the United States would be decreasing the number of troops in-country. My primary emphasis during those final days was to work with the State Department to obtain visas for the interpreters and others who had been so vital to the US mission in Iraq. We all knew that if we left those brave Iraqis behind, we would be leaving them – and their families – to inevitable slaughter.

One cannot help but forge a strong and unbreakable bond with the foreign nationals – whether Iraqi or Afghani – who sit knee-to-knee with us in those dangerous and overwhelmingly difficult circumstances to assist us in accomplishing our mission. Our government’s mission. And we know that abandoning those courageous people means that they will without question be kidnapped, tortured, and brutally killed – likely after being forced to watch the very same gruesome treatment of their family members. That’s why many of us cannot watch the events unfolding in Afghanistan without choking up. And it’s why I will never be able to forgive President Biden and his administration.

Unfortunately, President Biden’s foreign policy blunders don’t stop there. When former CIA Director and former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates (a proud Kansan) said in his 2014 book that Joe Biden had “been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades,” I suspect he had no idea what was yet to come. The events of 911 taught those of us who were paying attention (because we were the prosecutors or agents building cases against members of al Qaeda) that certain foreign countries were allowing al Qaeda a base of operations from which to plan and stage attacks against America. How I wish President Biden had been paying attention to that lesson. Instead, what he’s done in Afghanistan is to cede control of an entire country to the Taliban, a mercilessly and brutally violent organization that will allow America-hating groups such as al Qaeda a haven from which to plan and train for attacks that undoubtedly will kill multitudes of American citizens – just like happened on 9/11.

I fervently pray that our country will not have to endure another devastating and debilitating terrorist attack that results in the slaughter of thousands more innocent citizens. But I fear that the current administration has not just abandoned some of our most valuable and most vulnerable friends; it also has exponentially increased the chances that one day we will be mourning our next 9/11.


Tony Mattivi is a career prosecutor who retired from the US Department of Justice last year. He also worked in the Shawnee County DA’s Office and the Kansas Attorney General’s Office. Over his career, he prosecuted offenses ranging from speeding tickets to terrorism and from mail fraud to murder, including nearly five years as the lead prosecutor on the USS Cole bombing case. He was a paramedic before law school and is now vice president and in-house counsel for a health care company. He is a Republican candidate for Kansas Attorney General.