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Archive for Saturday, September 13, 2003

Americans must accept war on terrorism won’t be short

September 13, 2003

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This week, newspaper and television stories have recalled the horror of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the Pentagon and New York City's World Trade Center towers.

One particular three-hour television show traced the development of the twin towers project, the political and behind-the-scenes maneuvering to launch the project, the many tests to verify the buildings could be built, how they were assembled, the role of David and Nelson Rockefeller, negative comments about the architecture of the structures, their impact on the city of New York and Manhattan Island, the individuals who played major roles in the design and engineering of the buildings, the problems of attracting tenants, the importance of the Windows on the World restaurant and, finally, the terrorist attacks.

The last portion of the program examined all aspects of the attacks: where the planes hit, what caused the extreme damage and how and why the buildings collapsed with the floors imploding into the stories-high pile of rubble with the terrible loss of life.

The television scene showed pictures of many individuals jumping from the upper stories of the massive buildings. Other pictures showed people climbing out of their office windows to escape the heat, smoke and fire and trying to attract the attention of would-be rescuers.

It is difficult to imagine anyone watching this portion of the program without becoming emotional. There was one brief scene of the giant plaza area between the buildings littered with bodies and body parts with the narrator noting those trying to escape the building were not allowed to leave at the plaza level because of the danger of being hit by the jumpers.

Just as it is difficult to imagine anyone not being moved by this program, it is equally difficult to understand how anyone could view this documentary and not understand why this attack on the World Trade Center was the beginning of an all-out war against terrorism.

In the days and weeks immediately after the attacks, the vast majority of Americans did not hide their outrage and their strong belief that those who planned and executed the attacks should be hunted down and punished.

But as time went by, this outrage seemed to subside, and it wasn't long before growing numbers of Americans started to find fault with the actions and policies of the Bush administration in attacking the terrorists.

The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan had the general support of most Americans, but this support seemed to lessen with the American-led effort against Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Now, with the 2004 presidential election on the horizon, most candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination are having a field day criticizing the Bush effort. In their opinion, Bush has not done anything right.

Protests against the war are not uncommon, Pentagon officials are second-guessed, and there are charges that either we don't have enough troops in Iraq or we should get out and abandon the effort.

Unfortunately, many Americans seem to think a war can be scripted like a television show with everything turning out all right and the good guys coming out on top at the end of the hour. They can't figure out why the war on terrorism is taking so long. They expect almost immediate success, and they think the war can be carried out without casualties.

At the outset, Bush told the American public the war against terrorism would be long and costly and would require patience. Apparently, too few people paid attention or believed him.

The formal "war" in both Afghanistan and Iraq went well, very well -- far quicker than most people imagined or hoped for, and with far fewer casualties than expected.

Granted, our intelligence community did not provide as much accurate information as it should have, and there is room for former generals and politicians to second-guess about any military operation. Nevertheless, the war went well. Again, there was a failure to accurately read what the postwar situation would be in Iraq, as well as Afghanistan, and now, Uncle Sam is engaged in the long, hard, often dirty work of fighting terrorist and guerrilla actions. Whoever thought this phase of the war would be easy and quick was mistaken, although some had suggested American troops would be welcomed by huge crowds of Iraqi citizens with little or no resistance after the formal military action was complete.

Bush is 100 percent right in trying to point out that unless we are successful in fighting and winning the war against terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, it won't be long before terrorists will launch far more deadly attacks here in the United States.

Americans fail to realize how fortunate this country and its people have been to have had World War I and World War II fought on foreign turf, not in the continental United States. Americans have been able to avoid the horrible destruction, loss of civilian life and the leveling of cities that accompanies a war. Far better to fight such wars in other countries than to allow them to take place here.

The attacks on the trade center should have given Americans the best possible evidence of what happens if and when war comes to our shores.

There should be no question in any American's mind that this country is, indeed, engaged in a war, a tough, nasty war that is going to take a long time. It is unfortunate so many people want to inject partisan politics into the debate and, in so doing, cause Americans to question whether the war on terrorism really is as important or necessary as Bush contends.

Anyone watching men and women jumping form the World Trade Center towers and climbing out of their office windows to try to escape death, watching the heroism of New York City firefighters and police officers, listening to the children, spouses and other relatives of those who died in the attack in New York and Washington, as well as those who died in the plane crash in Pennsylvania and all the other tragic scenes should have no question but that we are at war, and a war that cannot and will not be completed as neatly and quickly as some television scriptwriter might craft a made-for-TV war story.

Americans need to acknowledge their country is at war and needs their support, not armchair quarterbacking and political candidates trying to generate suspicion and mistrust.

There always is room for civil debate, but at a time when our nation is at war and when the lives of our military personnel are in danger, Americans should unite in doing what they can to help bring about a successful conclusion to the war, not engage in actions that divide and weaken the nation, giving comfort and encouragement to our enemies.

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