There’s a great and disturbing disconnect in America today.
While American soldiers are fighting to protect our national security, keeping jihadists from bringing terror to our streets in a replay of 9/11, many Americans lack gratitude for the safety they thereby enjoy. Instead they eagerly swallow intoxicating cocktails served by media, entertainment and political elites who accentuate the negative — asserting that if Iraq is not the wrong war, our leaders have at least executed it in the wrong way and, besides, the dream of democracy in Iraq is so wrong-headed as to render the war, rightly executed or not, "Mission Impossible."
Their motives are not always pure. For, President Bush has the opportunity to go down in history not as "the worst President," as Princeton historian Sean Wilentz postulated in Rolling Stone, but as a great President, with the courage of his convictions to break the jihadist stranglehold over the Middle East and, indeed, the world. Not unlike Abraham Lincoln who had the courage of his convictions — in spite of some 20,000 deaths per Civil War battle — and saved the Union. Heaven forbid that Bush would share a similarly glorious legacy.
So the disconnect continues — the same that gnawed at our souls in the late ’60s, early ’70s when broadcast giants ABC, CBS and NBC brought to our living room TVs unrelenting automatic gunfire accompanied by grisly footage of American soldiers dying in the jungles of faraway Vietnam, yet rarely accompanied by positive assertions about the war.
In stark contrast to the opinion-setters of the Vietnam era and today, John Wayne and other members of "The Greatest Generation" knew the importance of building morale as an essential, strategic element of winning World War II.
Ironically, Republic Studios rebuffed the Duke when, like his fellow Hollywood stars, he asked for temporary release from his contract so he could enlist and fight in the war. Thank goodness for Republic’s denial; for Wayne proved critical to the war effort by accentuating the positive in several films depicting American soldiers’ heroics starting with The Flying Tigers in 1942.
Now, Sean Penn — no John Wayne vis-à-vis morale — is all set to play former White House counterterrorism expert Richard Clarke in the film version of Clarke’s book, Against All Enemies.
The irony here is that Penn’s life was not just saved in the general sense in which our soldiers are protecting all Americans — but quite literally. Here’s how New York Times best-selling author Maj. David Rozelle, 3rd ACR, who lost his right foot defending our freedoms in Iraq, recounted it to me:
Rozelle: "Hollywood basks in self-glory and wealth and (has) the luxury of not having to deal with reality… (Penn) learned his own lesson. He went over there and tried to conduct interviews on the streets and portray himself as this sympathizer and they had to send in troops to bring him out because he was being attacked."
So they saved Sean Penn?
Rozelle: "Yeah, absolutely — (troops) had to pull him out before (terrorists) went in and cut his head off. So he learned a hard reality over there, for sure. Don’t sympathize with the enemy. It’s that simple. And, Americans support sympathizers. I don’t understand why."
Maj. Rozelle, I don’t understand why either — except I suspect it relates to our relatively pampered lives. "The Greatest Generation" grew up during the Great Depression’s hardscrabble years, developing stronger characters and clearer moral compasses. Undercutting morale — especially when the enemy acknowledges, as Osama Bin Laden has, that such efforts will help ensure their victory — would, for Wayne’s gang, be unthinkable.