Selfishness vs. Selflessness

Last week marked the second commemoration of the worst terrorist attacks in American history, and was characterized by both painful and poignant moments. At Ground Zero, children solemnly read the 2,792 names of those who were murdered. In Washington, President George W. Bush presided over a silent memorial service on the South Lawn, while Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld went to Arlington National Cemetery to pay tribute to the 184 military and civilian employees killed at the Pentagon. In Pennsylvania, 44 crew and passengers of Flight 93 were remembered as heroes for bringing down their plane and saving the lives of potentially thousands of other Americans.

As memorials were observed at home, overseas U.S. troops continued to “carry the fight to the enemy,” as President Bush said in his address to the nation. The president reiterated what he told Congress and the country just nine days after those horrific attacks — that the war against terrorism will be fought over a long period of time on many fronts. Winning it will require many resources so Americans don’t return to a “false comfort in a dangerous world.” But some members of Congress seem to have different ideas.

“Congress is not an ATM,” snapped West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd in response to the president’s request for $87 billion to fight the war on terrorism. Byrd, the ranking member on the Senate Appropriations Committee and the King of Pork, has never met a tax dollar he didn’t want to spend — especially if it was for a road or building bearing his name in West Virginia. Yet Byrd, who has used public money to put his name on more buildings than Ronald McDonald, says that when it comes to protecting our national security, he refuses to “simply rubber stamp” the president’s request. But Byrd would undoubtedly have no problem “rubber stamping” pork for West Virginia.

One might think that partisan selfishness is an isolated incident at a time like this, but Byrd is not alone. Sen. John Breaux, a moderate Democrat, was even more blunt about his desire to spend money on what will help him get re-elected. “I got things that need to be built in Louisiana,” he demanded. Teddy Kennedy suggested that instead of spending the money to root out terrorists who want to kill Americans, it should be used to train teachers who can’t teach and for a universal health care system that’s already been rejected by the American people. Rep. Rahm Emanuel is demanding that for every dollar spent on efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, an equal amount be spent on domestic projects.

It seems too many Democrats, who are eager to expand federal entitlements by $400 billion for prescription drugs, don’t understand that the United States is engaged in a war against jihadist terrorists — the “enemies of civilization” like Al Qaeda, Hamas, Islamic Jihad and others. They think that if we just capture Osama bin Laden, the world will return to normal again. It won’t. These terrorists don’t all report to one man, but act much like a franchise operation. They are recruited, trained at “Terrorism University” for a few months and sent out into the world to “go into business” for themselves. Their existence threatens this generation and the next, and failure to defeat them is not an option.

But failure is just what we could have if these selfish games continue. Kennedy is reportedly ready to cut off all funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan if he doesn’t get what he wants from the administration. Calls to bring home the troops, cut off funds and hand things over to the United Nations are selfish demands of historic proportions. Somebody needs to remind Teddy that Americans have before, and will in this case, “pay any price and bear any burden” to guarantee the defense of this nation and her people.

We will also ensure that the sacrifices of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are not forgotten. Nor will we forget the sacrifices of hundreds of rescue workers, like 34-year old firefighter Stephen Siller who, on the morning of Sept. 11, had just completed an overnight shift and was driving to his home on Staten Island when he learned of the attack. Unable to drive because of traffic, he was forced to run three miles — with his heavy gear — from the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the World Trade Center. Ignoring danger in an attempt to save lives, Siller perished on Sept. 11, 2001 in the first battle of the war on terrorism, but his family refuses to let his memory die.

They have organized a “Tunnel to Towers” run for Sept. 28 in New York City to trace the heroic steps Stephen took that fateful day. While thousands of New Yorkers are running to commemorate the memory of Siller, some members of Congress will still be threatening to cut funding or reduce our commitment to defeating the terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan. The heroes of Sept. 11 deserve better.

Thankfully, George W. Bush will make sure they get it.