Why do so many Americans refuse to face the fact that our country is at war with international terrorism?
The leading terrorist group, Al Qaida, is fighting us on the ground in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Both Iran and North Korea are threatening nuclear war. And yet many Americans, including some Congressional Democrats, denounce President Bush, and in so doing, weaken our country’s ability to resist Islamic fascism. One Congressional Democrat, John Conyers of Michigan, announced his intention to impeach the President when Republicans lose control of both Houses of Congress.
There is something terribly wrong with people seeking to demean and weaken the president in war time, thereby strengthening our country’s enemies. As a result of the language and tactics of those opposed to our presence in Iraq, our enemies have been emboldened, believing the American public to be sharply divided on the war, and in fact at war with itself. To other countries, Americans appear pitted against one another not in an election, but in a verbal bloodbath, convincing the world we are impotent — a paper tiger.
The tyrannical forces in Iran led by its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, make clear that if they can destroy us, they will. Ahmadinejad has said about the U.S., “…Is it possible for us to witness a world without America and Zionism?...you had best know that this slogan and this goal are attainable, and surely can be achieved…” Ahmadinejad has also stated his goal of destroying the state of Israel several times, saying, “…Israel must be wiped off the map.”
If a sovereign nation makes such threats, do those who are threatened have to wait until the missiles are in the air before taking action? Or may threatened states defend themselves with preemptive action?
The U.N. Security Council has demanded that Iran stop developing nuclear technology leading to the creation of a nuclear bomb. Iran has refused, notwithstanding threatened sanctions. Iran’s conventional missiles can already reach Europe and Israel. Must Israel wait until the world knows exactly when Iran’s bomb has been built? Experts estimate that it may take years or as little as six months. No one knows with certainty when the cobra will be able to strike. Iran has lied to the U.N. about its nuclear development efforts before. Is there anyone who believes it is not prepared to lie in the future or is currently lying?
Many of those who attack the president, hoping to make him ineffective and bring him down, are opposed to our alliance with Israel. You can verify that and the signs of anti-Semitism by looking at the banners and listening to the anti-Israel invective in the speeches in the street demonstrations and marches against the war in Iraq and President Bush. Regrettably, many of those marchers are blind to the terrorism that faces the Western civilization, sympathize with it, or fear it less than they despise the governmental leaders of the U.S.
Recently, Scotland Yard arrested 25 British-born Muslims in the midst of plotting to blow up over the Atlantic Ocean ten U.S.-bound airplanes filled with approximately 4,000 people. The British authorities have indicted 14 and continue with its investigation of 11 more, having released several suspects. In a recent poll of British Muslims by NOP Research, broadcast by British Channel 4-TV on August 7, “Forty-five percent say 9/11 was a conspiracy by the American and Israeli governments. This figure is more than twice as high as those who say it was not a conspiracy. Tragically, almost one in four British Muslims believe that last year's 7/7 attacks on London were justified because of British support for the U.S.-led war on terror.”
I know of no comparable poll taken in the American Muslim community, which numbers 2 to 6 million. There are certainly enough Muslims here to poll. Are we afraid to learn the results?
When the government engages in racial and ethnic profiling at our airports, there is an outcry among those who call themselves civil libertarians. They seek to shame us, citing the actions taken in World War II against Japanese-American citizens. The difference is that no Japanese-American engaged in a single hostile act against the U.S. in World War II.
We know today that the 19 terrorists who brought the World Trade Center towers down were Muslims. We know that Muslims planned and implemented the attacks on our embassies in Africa, the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen and the army barracks in Saudi Arabia. So when our counter intelligence investigates alleged terrorist groups, shouldn’t suspected Muslim groups be first on the list?
At airports, shouldn’t those who speak Arabic or are identified by trained inspectors by clothing, actions, appearance or information as Muslims receive special attention? Most will undoubtedly be innocent, and understandably affronted and inconvenienced. Nevertheless, it is the rational measure to take when we are at war.
Protecting the nation does not mean silence in the face of criminality on the part of the U.S. military forces or improper government action. It means exercising restraint, responsibility, good faith and respect for other people. It means not seeking political gain at the expense of the nation’s security in war time. Knowing what to do can be likened to Mr. Justice Potter Stewart’s statement in a pornography case. Said he, “I know it when I see it.” We should not say “My country right or wrong,” as Commander Stephen Decatur did, but we should preserve our country’s values while not jeopardizing its very existence.
Edward I. Koch, who served as mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989, is a partner in the law firm of Bryan Cave.