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Thinking About the War That Has Been Visited on Us


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I don’t want the president to be a spiritual leader now. Let the churches, synagogues, and so on handle that. I want the president to see to the physical protection of the nation.

The president speaks poetically about how our enemies can strike at “the foundation of our buildings” but not at “the foundation of our country” (or whatever). Screw that. It’s the president’s job — the job of the government — to protect the foundations of our buildings. Just protect the foundations of our buildings — that’s enough. Keep us from dying at the hands of our enemies. That’s enough.

Save the Billy Graham talk for later. If at all.

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As Benjamin Netanyahu said, democracies had better “get off the fence.” France and Italy, in particular, have for years been coddling, appeasing, and protecting Arab terrorists. The Italians jailed the hijackers of the cruise ship Achille Lauro, the murderers of Leon Klinghoffer, the wheelchair-bound Jew whom they threw into the sea. Then they released the hijackers, one by one, lest they have Arab terrorism on their soil.

Anyone can understand why the Italians didn’t want terrorism on their soil — can’t blame them for that, sort of. But their appeasement and timidity have contributed to pushing that terrorism onto our soil (which, in a grim way, is kind of an honor). And we should make the Italians, the French, and others like them pay a price: If you’re not our allies in this instance, you are not our allies at all.

Period.

The PGA Tour has canceled its golf tournament. That’s a dumb idea. Our enemies shouldn’t be allowed to cripple us. They should be allowed to cripple us only to the extent that they cripple us directly — e.g., no one can go to work at the World Trade Center tomorrow. But the golfers can certainly play their tournament in St. Louis. Our enemies should not be permitted to deny us our way of life, to the extent possible. We should keep going, in defiance of them. Else they win more than they already have.

Politicians and other civic types like to talk about “our way of life,” or “the American way of life.” I always found this the cheapest of Fourth of July oratory: What did it mean, “the American way of life”? Americans live in different ways; we are strikingly dissimilar. “The American way of life” was just vulgar rhetoric.

But then, several years ago, I read a news story out of California: High schools were rescheduling their football games to Friday afternoon, rather than Friday night, in an attempt to prevent or minimize gang violence. And then it hit me: That’s what people mean, or could mean, by “our way of life.” These criminal thugs were, all by themselves, abolishing Friday-night high-school football, and if Friday-night high-school football doesn’t represent American life, what does?

And this reminds me of something else: Our fight against “terrorism” is not all that unlike our fight against crime generally. It is a fight against people who would deny us our way of life — a way of life that is rightful and worth defending.

Ever since childhood, I’ve been against flying flags at half-mast after something like this. That doesn’t seem to me like respect; that seems to me like submission, like an inappropriately bowed head. Our flag should fly higher than ever after we’ve been attacked. We should lower our flags when a beloved old statesman dies in his bed. We should not lower our flags under duress. If the Israelis lowered their flag every time their people were killed, it would never fly.

Our flag should wave proudly and high, in part as a big middle finger pointed at our enemies.

My wife is still reeling from the fact that the U.S. Open — the tennis tournament held here in New York recently — wouldn’t have the national anthem. You can’t force a private organization like the U.S. Tennis Association to have the national anthem. But you can try to force such people to feel a little shame.

Never has the anthem been more appropriate: Amid the death and destruction, is the flag still there? People love “America the Beautiful” because it celebrates only the physical beauty of this country: amber waves of grain, spacious skies, purple-mountain majesty, and so on. You can have physical beauty in any totalitarian country — Cuba comes to mind.

The national anthem, by contrast, celebrates the spirit, the pluck, the audacity of the country. That’s why the Left (to use an easy shorthand) hates it.

As John Podhoretz pointed out in his New York Post column, the New York Times — on the very day of the attacks on us — ran a fawning, nauseating, immoral profile of Billy Ayres and Bernadine Dohrn, the two starriest terrorists of the Weather Underground. These terrorists — homegrown — were bombers, and among their acts was the bombing of the Pentagon.

Some months ago, I wrote about Susan Rosenberg, the Weatherman whom Clinton pardoned in those last, frenetic, abhorrently irresponsible hours. Why Clinton pardoned Rosenberg — or rather, commuted her sentence — is a mystery, except that liberals have always had a soft spot for the hard, violent Left. They must consider the criminals truer, more admirable than they, at some level. Liberals in an earlier time (this is to be generous) were always kind of jealous of the Communists. They made the liberals seem so impure, so compromising.

Anyway, I ended that piece about Rosenberg and Clinton with a quote from Billy Ayres himself, culled from Collier and Horowitz’s marvelous book on the New Left, Destructive Generation: “Guilty as sin, free as a bird. What a country, America!”

Yes, what a country. And what a sickening newspaper of record, sometimes.

There will at last have to be a reckoning with the Arab world. And Arab peoples will have to look deep within themselves. All the correct people are saying that the vast majority of Arabs loathe this kind of violence, that only a tiny faction of people commit and support it. Oh? Can with know this for sure? Our liberal foreign correspondents — which is to say, our foreign correspondents — go to Arab capitals and meet with their friends in the best hotels and cafés, and their friends — their sources — tend to be the most liberal, most Westernized Arabs there are. Do our correspondents meet enough with the man in the street: with the man who is cheering his head off that thousands of our loved ones have been murdered by other Arabs?

Incidentally, where are those good, decent Arabs who despise what has been done to us? Are they so scared of the Arabs who are allowed to represent them before the world that they must remain mute?

And what of our Arab-American groups? Civil liberties, fine. Some guy gets held up for ten extra minutes at the airport — what a shame. Some kid gets taunted on the playground — another shame. Life is tough all over. But how about hearing some statements from Arab-American groups that these are evil acts and that they will support our government in seeking out and destroying all of those who have done this to us (meaning, the states that support them, too)?

Now is perhaps a good time for Arab-Americans to emphasize the American part of that name. In fact, why not drop the hyphen altogether, just as Teddy Roosevelt suggested?

In New York, policemen are ringing mosques, just as they are ringing synagogues. If this doesn’t say something about the greatness of America, I don’t know what does. But greatness doesn’t extend to allowing those to whom we extend our hospitality to kill us. If they are plotting death and destruction in those mosques, in addition to holding services: the FBI ought to have people inside.

Remember Arafat’s double game: He talks one way to the West, another way to the Arabs. He says one thing to the New York Times, Le Monde, ABC, and so on, and another thing to his followers in the streets and in the mosques. I have learned — over many years — not to care at all about what he says to the West. Let him have his photo-op, with his ostentatious and galling donation of blood. Let him save that blood for all the Israelis he has helped to kill and maim. All I care about is what he says to the celebrants and murderers in the streets. That’s all that matters.

Those who guess — even guiltily — that there may be some connection between the Durban conference and these acts aren’t guilty at all. In fact, they are quite reasonable. The goal of the Durbanites was to delegitimize Israel: to paint it as racist, cruel, and oppressive, and therefore as unworthy of existence.

And if this is true, what’s wrong with destroying Israel, and its one friend?

The European nations, naturally, are spared this destruction, because they won’t support Israel. Those Europeans should be ashamed of their very immunity.

Barbara Olson was a magnificent spirit, brave to the end — not wetting her pants, shaking in her boots, resigning herself to her fate, but working the phone, trying to do something to thwart her attackers’ evil designs. This is the authentic American spirit, the ideal one. May it rise up in the heart of every American, and person.



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