Sometimes you read a story which shakes you to your core.
Michael Ledeen’s Why Do The Iraqis Hate the Terrorists? did it for me:
The horror of the terrorist onslaught rarely is brought home to the American public. Indeed, it is sometimes so grisly that not even American troops in the field can even talk about it without swallowing hard. Listen to Michael Yon, in his latest update from Diyala Province. This is really something:
Speaking through an American interpreter, Lieutenant David Wallach who is a native Arabic speaker, the Iraqi official related how al Qaeda united these gangs who then became absorbed into “al Qaeda.” They recruited boys born during the years 1991, 92 and 93 who were each given weapons, including pistols, a bicycle and a phone (with phone cards paid) and a salary of $100 per month, all courtesy of al Qaeda. These boys were used for kidnapping, torturing and murdering people.
At first, he said, they would only target Shia, but over time the new al Qaeda directed attacks against Sunni, and then anyone who thought differently. The official reported that on a couple of occasions in Baqubah, al Qaeda invited to lunch families they wanted to convert to their way of thinking. In each instance, the family had a boy, he said, who was about 11 years old. As LT David Wallach interpreted the man’s words, I saw Wallach go blank and silent. He stopped interpreting for a moment. I asked Wallach, “What did he say?” Wallach said that at these luncheons, the families were sat down to eat. And then their boy was brought in with his mouth stuffed. The boy had been baked. Al Qaeda served the boy to his family.
Even as we do battle with such pure evil, some American politicians blissfully state that just walking away from the battle will make the evil go away. Diana West reports that things are no better in Great Britian: “The new British prime minister, Gordon Brown, has directed ministers to omit “Muslim” when discussing (Muslim) terrorism. And forget the generic “war on terror”; even that pathetic phrase is off limits.”
But, in spite of the vacuous nature of our politicians and mainstream media (a day later, more here and here), Daniel Henninger explains in It’s Not the Economy, Stupid: No matter how low George Bush falls, terror remains the No. 1 issue why he thinks the American people intuitively grasp how the Islamic terrorist problem cannot be wished away:
…our 20 or so presidential diviners and their retinues will continue to belly-flop into towns across America, trying to connect, trying to discover the one thing that will still animate voters when the final bell rings Nov. 4, 2008.
How about this issue: cars filled with nails and tanks of propane gas, blown up by people whose goal in life is to murder Western infidels…
This is an unusual election to handicap. Setting aside the trick of a candidate avoiding statements now that would look irretrievably dumb 15 months from now, the campaigns have to contend with an American public fixated on a paradox: About 70% of polled people say the country is on the “wrong track,” notwithstanding that the scenery along the track includes some three years of strong-to-moderate economic growth, 4% unemployment and a stock market that’s been on an upward march for three years. So what’s the problem?
Two weeks ago when Mike Bloomberg was in the news, wisdom had it that the mind of the “independent voter” was the Rosetta Stone for decoding American politics. This past weekend the Washington Post outputted a massive and dense polling analysis of the independent voter. If one assumes as I do that the partisan intensity of our politics has widened the number of voters who feel the parties are “not speaking to them,” then the Post’s numbers may serve as a useful proxy for their views…
The generalization that emerges from the Post survey’s data is that independent voters (this includes Democratic and Republican leaners) have deep concerns about . . . everything. Combining those who say an issue is “extremely important” to them or “very important” puts the totals well above 50% for health care, the economy, terrorism, immigration, taxes, corruption and of course “the situation” in Iraq, with a combined 89% importance ranking, most of it negative.
This is the Worry Wart vote, a condition brought on by spending too much time with politics…
Rethinking political management amid deep partisan division would be a dandy avocation if we lived in normal times, say Sept. 10, 2001. But we don’t. Last weekend, the forces of civilization foiled planned barbarian bombings and mass death for innocent civilians in London and Glasgow. One month ago, they foiled a plot to blow up the gasoline fuel pipeline at JFK airport. A month before that they arrested six men, enraptured by jihadist videos, who concluded it was their life’s goal to blow up soldiers at Fort Dix, N.J. Before that they foiled a well-advanced plot to demolish U.S.-bound airliners over the Atlantic. This week Spain completed its trial of 28 people charged with the 2004 Madrid train bombing that killed 191.
I haven’t conducted a poll, but my guess is this is the real reason many in the U.S. feel the country is on the wrong track. The possibility of mass, mortal risk is the one constant in life today; it’s always floating beneath the changing surface of stock prices, gasoline prices or Sen. Obama’s blueprints for universal health care…
In a wide-ranging interview with the Journal’s editorial board last week at our offices in lower Manhattan, Rudy Giuliani talked a lot about terrorism. It may well be that 9/11 made the Giuliani presidential run possible, but I think the better political comparison isn’t New York in September 2001 but New York in 1993, when Mr. Giuliani unseated Mayor David Dinkins. He described it to us:
“I was elected to reduce crime. That was the rationale for my being mayor of New York. They weren’t going to elect a Republican prosecutor in New York unless they were desperate. And they were desperate: It was, ‘We’ll even give him a chance to do it.’ ”
This was the period of screwing stacks of deadbolt locks onto apartment doors in New York. Amid this, Republican Giuliani defeated Democrat Dinkins by 49% to 46%. This means that a lot of New York liberals, beset by the loss of physical well-being, went into the voting booth, pulled the lever for Giuliani, and walked out to tell their friends, “I voted for Dinkins.”
This isn’t an endorsement for Rudy Giuliani. It’s an explanation for why this candidate, despite the presumed baggage, has polled strongly for months. In his meeting with us, Mr. Giuliani said something else unexpected: “George Bush’s speech on September 20, 2001 is still the best road map for what to do about terrorism.”
That’s right. It’s not the economy this time, stupid. It’s terrorism. No matter how low George Bush falls in the polls the next 18 months, “what to do about terrorism” is going to be the No. 1 voting issue in November 2008 because the Glasgow/JFK/Fort Dix/Heathrow/Madrid bombers are still going to be at play in November 2008.
This may well be the election decided by the Worry Wart Independents. But don’t be surprised if a lot of them walk out of the voting booth that day and say with a straight face, “I voted to solve the health-care crisis.” Right. They also voted for Dinkins.
All of us rightfully fault President George W. Bush for many things. But, for the moment, put aside those thoughts and go reread his September 20, 2001 speech. And then contemplate how you would respond to a wickedness which serves a stuffed, baked 11-year-old boy on a platter to his parents.
We may not know exactly what will be the most effective strategy for winning the War on Terror. And it is no doubt true that the strategy will have to adapt to changing circumstances, something the Bush administration has failed miserably at in recent years.
The requirement that we adapt is why we must give the surge effort in Iraq a genuine chance to succeed. No matter how difficult the battle may be, we also need to call the enemy by name, a point made by former Senator Rick Santorum here and here.
Finally, whatever the proper strategy might be, all of us must accept that walking away from pure evil and then expecting to remain safe from danger is not a viable option. It is only a fanciful delusion – which will bring death to our children and our American way of life.