I am often asked what it is that drives me to speak out about the challenges facing our nation. My answer always comes quickly: It is the same desire previous generations have had for their children and grandchildren — to leave to the next generation the healthiest, safest, freest and most prosperous America that we can.
This is my motivation, and at times, while communicating what I think has to be accomplished to meet that challenge, I have been accused of being too outspoken because of it. That is the risk I am now going to take, again.
If there were ever a time when the American people needed clarity from their national leaders about the war in Iraq, it was last week. But that need went unfilled.
On Tuesday, we learned about the savage deaths of two U.S. soldiers who had been missing since the previous Friday. Pfc. Kristian Menchaca and Pfc. Thomas Tucker were kidnapped while manning a traffic checkpoint 12 miles south of Baghdad. When their bodies were found four days later, it was clear that these two American soldiers had been tortured to death. They had been beheaded and their bodies desecrated. The horror was such that positive identification could only be made by using DNA. And not only had the barbarians who killed them booby-trapped their bodies, they had surrounded them with bombs in an effort to kill more Americans.
Where’s the Outrage?
Our hearts go out to the families of Privates Menchaca and Tucker. But as we grieve, we must soberly confront two challenges that arise in the wake of their murders. The first is that the kidnapping of U.S. soldiers represents a new and dangerous tactic for the anti-Iraqi terrorists. They hope to intimidate our servicemen and women by making them believe that they, too, are at risk of kidnapping and death by torture. Not only that, but they hope to create a climate of fear and suspicion between our troops and the Iraqi people — and they may well succeed if their tactics go unanswered.
The second challenge is the correct response — or lack thereof — by our national leaders to these barbaric killings. To put it plainly: Where is the outrage? The passionless response to the torture, mutilation and beheading of two young Americans is one of the most disheartening things I have seen in a long time. The fact that the President was traveling throughout the nations of Europe, most of which have been notably unhelpful with the war effort, as the details of the killings unfolded only intensified the American people’s desire for leadership and clarity.
The Iraq War is a winnable war. But what frustrates me and is surely frustrating to the American people is to learn that the brutality of our enemies is not matched by our own anger and outrage.
Lincoln’s Challenge, Bush’s Challenge
The historian in me recalls Abraham Lincoln’s fighting the Civil War. Lincoln had plenty of press opposition to his war leadership and endured a great deal of vicious and mean-spirited commentary. Yet he understood the need for him to educate the American people into getting the job done. He understood that he had to demonstrate his resolve to win the war. Lincoln’s ability to morally and emotionally commit to victory — despite overwhelming casualty rates that would be unimaginable today — was key to preserving the Union.
I think President Bush has the same obligation. The long war against the irreconcilable wing of Islam is a war that must be won. No less than the survival of our civilization depends upon it. When we consider the Canadians recently arrested for terrorism, the terrorist conspiracies stopped in Britain, the victory for Islamic extremists in Somalia and the recent uncovering here at home of a terror plot to attack the Chicago Sears Tower, how can any American believe that if we cut and run in Iraq, the world isn’t going to get dramatically more dangerous?
Mainstream Media Bias
But the President is not alone in his responsibility to declare our collective outrage over the torture murders of our soldiers in Iraq. The American media have a responsibility as well — a responsibility they are demonstrably failing to uphold.
The Media Research Center (MRC) compared the major networks’ coverage of the alleged atrocities committed by U.S. Marines last fall in the Iraqi town of Haditha and their coverage of the 20 Americans awarded the highest military honors since the war on terror began in 2001. What they found is, if not surprising, at least deeply disturbing.
The MRC found that between May 17 and June 7 ABC, CBS and NBC aired 99 stories on the alleged military misconduct — a full three and half hours of coverage in three weeks. But when it came to covering the heroism of our soldiers, these same networks gave that story only 52 minutes of coverage – 52 minutes in almost five years. Fourteen of the 20 Americans who received the highest recognition for bravery in the war on terror weren’t mentioned by the networks at all.
Which brings me back to my promise to my grandchildren. If we are to preserve for our children and grandchildren the freedom and prosperity our parents and grandparents preserved for us, we must assert our outrage in the face of the barbarism of our enemies. We must consistently take our outrage and turn it into resolution and resolution into action. And, over time, we will inevitably follow the path of sustained action to final victory. We can accept no less.
P.S. — The other trouble spot on the minds of Americans last week was, of course, North Korea. The reports that North Korea has fueled a nuclear capable Taepodong-2 missile that could reach the U.S. west-coast mainland are troubling. In case you missed it, I argued in an op-ed last week that the State Department’s strategy of “talk forever-act never” has failed and that the threat of this missile launch is such that the United States must act to destroy the missile before it is launched.
Each week, this newsletter will feature questions from its readers. Have a question? Send an email to Newt at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: You make very salient points as it relates to our need to “stay the course” and reject the “cut and run” politics now being brandished. I would like your opinion on the following: As we’re preoccupied with the War on Terror, it seems to some that we’re being downsized in our global economic leadership. Witness the solid recent economic gains in the international financial arena by China, as well as its sizable trade surplus with us, and a slowly emerging India, not to mention Russia, the European Union, et al., a European challenge to our effort to acquire Euronext, etc. Are we in a quagmire of winning the war and simultaneously losing the economic and financial leadership posture we’ve occupied for most of the 20th Century?
A: It is a good question, Ronald.
First, to the War on Terror, we must stay the course to victory in defeating our enemies, because if we do not, there will be no free markets to defend. Second, China and India, who are not our enemies, but who will certainly be our economic competitors, have every right to pursue happiness just as every American does. If they do well, we can benefit greatly from the wealth they create. However, prospering in a global economy in an era of economic revolution in China and India will require transformations in our litigation, education, taxation, regulation, environmental, energy and health policies. A daunting challenge to be sure, but if we refuse to make the changes required in these areas to compete and win in the global economy, I fear we will slowly decline as you indicate.
If we lose our economic dominance, over time we will be unable to create the wealth that enables us to defend our freedom by defeating those who wish to take it away. I am confident that notwithstanding these challenges, Americans will do what they have always done for almost 400 years: rise to every challenge that they confront and maintain America’s standing as a beacon of hope, opportunity, prosperity and freedom worldwide.