Thursday, January 13, 2005

The Fight of Our Lives

The tedious drumbeat of war protest has begun with Ted Kennedy leading the charge in his customary bitter, bombastic style.

The Senator’s haranguing voice is joined by the 16 members of Congress, led by California Rep. Lynn Woolsey, who sent a letter to President Bush calling for an “immediate withdrawal” of our troops from Iraq.

Isn’t it interesting that none of these war critics are calling for us to immediately withdraw from Afghanistan? Oh, but where would be the drama in such a demand? In Afghanistan, we have the most stunning victory for democracy flourishing in its infancy. Of course, Old Media only wanted to talk about poppies on the day that Afghan President Karzai was sworn in. Never mind that poppies have always grown in Afghanistan. The pressing need was that the success of the Bush Doctrine must be ignored, and if spotlighting poppies and drug trafficking were the only way for Old Media to do it, well, too bad if it’s old news.

But let’s get back to Iraq. The terrorists are fighting back like the cornered beasts that they are, putting our troops in constant danger. Our soldiers are dying violently and bravely. Iraq is everything that constitutes the worst of war. It’s bloody, it’s messy, it’s ugly, it’s frightening. As any combat veteran would tell you, it’s also hard. It’s very hard work, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and of course, physically. And it will not be over any time soon.

Can we, as a people, do it? Can Americans face this challenge together and support our troops as they fight to achieve our security? When I listen to Ted Kennedy, or when I read about the letter of protest from Congress to the president, I’m worse than disgusted--I’m discouraged. I wonder if this nation is the same one that defeated the Nazis in World War II, at such great cost and sacrifice of our young servicemen.

After 9/11, it seemed for a brief time that we were again that nation. But some of us have forgotten. Life is too good for us here in modern America. We drive SUVs, drink expensive coffee, talk on cell phones, vacation in the Caribbean. We own stocks and summer homes. It’s easy to fool ourselves into believing we are safe. We think we have the luxury of relegating the horror of September 11 to history. And to the extent that we do not hold the lessons of that terrible day close to our hearts, we are in mortal peril.

Because we have grown as soft and spoiled as a rich man’s children, we are in danger. The danger comes not only from the terrorists, but from our own citizens who refuse to recognize the urgent necessity of our mission in Iraq. What will it take for them to realize we are fighting for our lives? More planes, more skyscrapers, more dead Americans? Maybe a suitcase nuke in Chicago or Seattle? What “proof” do you want that we are in a war?

“The War Against World War IV” by Norman Podhoretz is a long piece, but every American should read and learn from it. It is a thorough, comprehensive, insightful, intelligent, ultimately hopeful analysis of the stakes we Americans face in fighting the War on Terrorism, both at home and in Iraq. This war must be won. We can win it, in fact we are winning it. But do we have the staying power to see ourselves through to the finish?

I hope we do. It is truly the fight of our lives.