What IS Their Answer?
For the last several weeks in this space, I've tried to engage my fellow entertainers and the strident politicians and all the loud and angry critics of our commander in chief and our military leaders, asking them, "If, as you keep declaring, war is not the answer – what, then, is your answer?" I guess we're about to find out.
We're just starting to fill that gaping, hideous hole where the World Trade Center was, and where 3,000 fellow Americans perished on the 11th of September 2001. The families of the passengers of American Airlines Flight 93 are still struggling to get on with their lives without their brave loved ones. So are the families of those who were slaughtered in the assaults on the USS Cole and the Marine compound in Lebanon.
We may not want war to be "the answer," but try convincing Osama bin Laden and the crazed zealots who tried to destroy the Twin Towers the first time in 1993; tell it to those mad men and women who were on the brink of blasting 10 packed jetliners out of the sky as they arrived from London over American cities, one couple of them having filled the baby bottle of their 6-month-old child with liquid explosive; maybe Nancy Pelosi can convince the Islamic terrorists who beheaded Nick Berg and Daniel Pearl that they shouldn't do things like that, that they should "give peace a chance."
I really, really hope so. But I'm doubtful.
It seems painfully obvious to me that the years of pre-meditation and "embedding" in our unsuspecting communities, the absolute dedication of the al-Qaida terrorists as they took and held jobs, trained to fly our planes and coordinated the worst attack on American soil since the Revolution, all this gives every evidence that we are at war, and we have been for years now. Have I misread something? Am I just being pessimistic or unnecessarily suspicious?
Almost all of our newly elected representatives and senators campaigned against our military involvement in Iraq, demanding that we announce an end to the fighting and bring our soldiers home. They declared most emphatically that we "should never have been there," that the war was mismanaged and was badly damaging our reputation in the rest of the world, especially in the rapidly growing Muslim populations.
Their confectionery dialogue worked its magic on a desperate citizenry, so eager to wish away the ominous facts and get on with our normal existence. After all, nobody wants war, and it's just human nature (especially if you've already and always led a charmed, privileged life) to want to put the unpleasant past away and resume busy, self-absorbed, peaceful lives. To growing numbers of Americans, 9-11 seems long ago – and nothing like that has happened since, has it? So, what then? Let's give peace a chance?
The House of Representatives and, sadly, the Senate are now under the control of those who railed against the president and our military for taking the battle against religious terrorism to the Middle East, its birthplace and training ground, serving notice that America will not tolerate assaults on our soil and that we will pursue our attackers and make them pay a fearful price. Many of the "new guys" not only want to get our troops out of Iraq, regardless of the consequences to the Iraqi people who affirmed hopes for their future by voting by the millions, but they also oppose telephonic surveillance of suspected terrorist enemies, who are most certainly at work plotting the next 9-11s and likely far worse catastrophes.
Their sugary promises sounded so good, and though they couldn't be specific in any way, they made millions of Americans sure there was a 'better way." And now, with our lives and the very existence of America on the line, they have the chance to produce. Let's all hope – and pray – that this new Congress will actually find some alternative to a bold and frontal assault on those who are committed to our destruction.
Having said these things, I add my congratulations and a personal salute to the voters who took their duties and privileges seriously. A slim majority replaced many of those who supported our troops and leadership with new voices who swear they can come up with a better plan.
But, to our everlasting shame, there are 20 or 30 million eligible, even registered voters who couldn't be bothered, who stayed home or went to movies or decided their votes wouldn't matter. Our future was in their hands, and they sat out the election. In Iraq, some 12 million people literally risked their lives to vote, proudly brandishing their purple thumbs afterwards. And close to 200,000 young American men and women voluntarily risked – and over 2,000 gave – their very lives to bring democracy to Iraq and defend ours back home. We can be deeply disgusted with these non-voters here, and immeasurably proud of our young soldiers who are still representing and exemplifying our character and purpose to an Islamic region that still has never tasted our liberties.
And so, our democratic process, our divided citizenry, may have moved us all out of the frying pan … and into the fire. I prayed for the leaders who've just been voted out of office; I resolve that I'll pray for their replacements even more fervently.