Yes, Bush landed on the carrier; But don't overlook his speech

By James Whorton
Thursday, May 15, 2003

While the Democratic Party whines about President BushÕs landing and speech on the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, our war against radical Islamic terrorists continues.

The Monday bombings in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, remind us of this fact. These bombings were a clear statement by our enemies that their war against us continues. That fact makes the DemocratsÕ complaints against Bush all the more interesting.

The Democrats propose that the carrier visit was purely political, designed solely to boost BushÕs 2004 election campaign. They seem to have forgotten what Bush actually said on the Lincoln, and they seem not to understand that his message was meant for many audiences. They seem also not to understand that we are at war, and that the war we are engaged in is not the 2004 presidential election.

LetÕs stop for a moment and consider briefly what Bush said and the multi-faceted nature of his audience. Let us do so even while the rubble from the Riyadh bombings smolders, and even as American troops continue to keep the peace in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In his speech on the Lincoln Bush made his clearest statement yet directly linking the invasion of Iraq to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States.

"The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on 11 September, 2001, and still goes on," Bush said on the flight deck of the Lincoln. There were many reasons for action against Iraq, but the primary reason was the riposte against the radical Islamic terrorists who attacked us Sept. 11, and against those who support them.

Bush called the actions against Iraq and Afghanistan "battles" in a war on terrorism, a war that is not over. "We will continue to hunt down the enemy before he can strike," Bush said.

We have won an important victory, but the war is far from over. That was BushÕs primary message. It was a message meant not only for Americans but for those who support us and oppose us around the world, and for those who havenÕt figured out yet whether they support or oppose us.

There was the obvious message for American military personnel ø well done. A President who obviously loves and admires our troops delivered that message, and he delivered it in a way meant to elicit pride in their service. Anyone who doesnÕt think that message was well received by the sailors of the Lincoln and other military personnel around the world is a fool.

There was also a message to the American people, most of whom support our troops and supported the war against Iraq, a message that although one battle is won, the war continues. That message was meant also for those Americans who opposed the war, a reminder that our enemies remain determined to do us harm, as they have succeeded in doing in Riyadh.

And there was a message for friend and foe around the world. Bush reminded the world that he is not afraid to unleash the most powerful military force in the history of world to defend America against those who would attack us and those who would provide aid to our enemies.

Some accused Bush, once again, of being a cowboy, criticizing the carrier landing in a Navy combat plane and BushÕs appearance on the Lincoln in a military flight suit. But it is well for our enemies to nurture the image of Bush as cowboy, as a straight shooter, as a leader willing to use force, willing to do whatever is necessary to defend America.

Better a cowboy intent on defending America and seeking justice, better a straight shooter striding the flight deck of a powerful warship in a flight suit, fresh from a fight and ready for another fight, better all this than a president parsing the definition of "is" while lobbing a few cruise missiles in the direction of our enemies.

James Whorton of Monroe, La., teaches English and social studies at Delta High School in Mer Rouge, La. He is a U.S. Army Reserve Retired Major who served 15 years active duty in the period from 1973 to 1992.

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