March 15, 2011 | Commentary on National Security and Defense
”We have real enemies in the world. These enemies must be found. They must be pursued, and they must be defeated.”
That was Barack Obama, speaking at the 2004 Democratic National Convention as a candidate for the U.S. Senate. He was right. His straightforward wording goes right to the heart of the matter: We live in a dangerous world, and it’s foolhardy to act otherwise.
President Bush wasn’t exaggerating when he said we were fighting a “long war.” And it can’t be won unless we’re always on our guard.
Fast-forward to the March 3 fatal shooting of two U.S. airmen at Frankfurt airport in Germany. Asked if it was a terrorist attack, then-State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said, “Was the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords a terrorist attack? I mean, you have to look at the evidence and look at the motivation, and then you make a judgment.”
Let’s see. According to the German prosecutor, the 21-year-old charged in the shooting, Arid Uka from Kosovo, said he went to the airport to shoot soldiers “as revenge for the American mission in Afghanistan.” He walked up to a U.S. Air Force bus parked at the airport and asked if those aboard were bound for Afghanistan. Told they were, he immediately boarded the bus and went on a shooting spree, shouting “Allah Akbar!” (Arabic for “God is great!”).
Yes, Mr. Crowley. This one’s a real head-scratcher.
Please. Yes, one shouldn’t jump to any legal conclusions prematurely, and yes, anything’s possible. But when Mr. Crowley was asked if it was a terrorist attack, he could have said, “It certainly appears to be. We’re still gathering details.” Instead, he makes a gratuitous comparison to the Giffords shooting, which actually does lack any evidence of being a terrorist attack, and always did. It’s one thing to be prudent. It’s quite another to make it sound as if terrorism is something found only in the eye of the beholder.
Unfortunately, Mr. Crowley wasn’t the only public official to shrink from delving into uncomfortable truths about the threat we face. Take the hysterical reaction to Rep. Peter T. King’s hearings into efforts to radicalize American Muslims. Two headlines from the opinion pages of the relatively sober Washington Post say it all: “Peter King’s Modern-Day Witch Hunt” and “King’s Red Scare.” A cartoon in USA Today shows Joseph McCarthy’s ghost supporting Mr. King. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas Democrat, denounced the hearings as “a way to demonize and castigate a whole broad base of human beings.”
Nonsense. That the vast majority of American Muslims are law-abiding citizens is beyond dispute. But so is the fact that certain terrorist organizations are attempting to deploy homegrown terrorists on American soil. As Washington Post columnist Marc Thiessen notes, the “top leaders of all three al Qaeda networks that now threaten the homeland have roots in this community.”
Why? It goes back to that long war we’re engaged in. The one that some liberals seem determined to ignore or downplay.
The fact is more than three dozen terrorist plots against the U.S. have been foiled since Sept. 11, 2001. There’s Richard Reid, the would-be “shoe bomber.” There are the six U.S. citizens of Yemeni descent arrested in 2002 for conspiring with terrorists (the “Lackawanna Six”). There are the seven men apprehended in Miami and Atlanta in 2006 for plotting to blow up Chicago’s Sears Tower. Just last year, Faisal Shahzad was arrested for trying to detonate explosives in an SUV parked in New York’s Times Square, and Mohamed Osman Mohamud was arrested for trying to blow up a car bomb at a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony in Portland, Ore.
The list goes on. It proves that we must take a serious approach to this threat. Small wonder that President Obama recently (and wisely) reneged on a campaign promise to close the detention facility at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Like it or not, we’re at war, and we have to act like it.
We have real enemies. And unless we want to lose this long war, we must find, pursue and defeat them. Not being afraid to call a terrorist a terrorist is a good place to start.
Ed Feulner is president of the Heritage Foundation (heritage.org).
First appeared in The Washington Times