Jewish World Review Oct. 4, 2004/ 19 Tishrei, 5765

Wesley Pruden

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Time to decide who we want to be | There's a question American voters must ask themselves, a question more important than any posed to George W. Bush and John F. Kerry.

Who are we? Who have we become? What kind of people do we want to be? These are questions for the debate that counts.

The extrusions of that vile species (erectus porcinus) who murdered 35 of their own children in the streets of Baghdad in the name of a malignant theology of an eighth-century religion, imagine that we're no tougher, no more resilient, no more courageous than the French, who can never even defend themselves; the Germans, who can't push themselves away from a plate of sausages long enough to recognize peril; or the Spanish, who demonstrated in the aftermath of the Madrid railway bombing that when the going gets tough it's time to cut and run.

The cowardly ingratitude of "old Europe," though depressing, is nevertheless old stuff. What's scary is that similar voices are raised in our own midst, that a serious, credible candidate for president of the United States encourages these voices of fear with articulate nuances, subtleties, modulations, explanations, variations, distinctions, innuendos and pious evasions. He imagines that an American president, in a world of evil run amok, must demonstrate leadership by submitting the security of Americans to something he calls a "global test," showing the practiced deference that a French poodle might show the rich widow taking him out for a stroll on the avenue.

Smug and vain, John Kerry presents himself as the John Paul Jones of the Mekong, the war hero who fears no foe. Maybe he doesn't. But he can't reconcile himself to the harsh and unforgiving fact that we're at war again, and this time against an enemy more vile, more depraved and more wicked than any America has faced before. Maybe he knows that. Whatever he may think, or feel in the marrow of his bones, he cannot jettison the dead weight of the leftmost elements of his party, either now, when his candidacy falters, or later, in the unlikely event he becomes the 44th president. He must be the cut-and-run candidate, just as he would have to be the cut-and-run president.

John Kerry must, to keep his candidacy afloat, pander not only to the prejudices of the dominating anti-war element — prospective voters who detest all wars fought in defense of the interests of America — and as well to the terrors of those, many well meaning, who keep counsel only with paralyzing fear.

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Monsieur Kerry exploits the revulsion of all civilized men at the gruesome tortures of Islamist "holy" men, and argues that al Qaeda affiliates operating in Baghdad are cutting off the heads of innocents only because the president ordered the invasion of Iraq — the devil made them do it, and George W. Bush is the devil. Monsieur Kerry knows this is not so. Abu Musab Zarqawi was killing Americans for years before the coalition of the willing invaded Iraq, deposed Saddam Hussein and cleared his killing fields. The United States asked Saddam in early 2003 to extradite Zarqawi for killing an American diplomat on the streets of Amman. Saddam declined, as expected, because even then Zarqawi was setting up his terrorist organization in Baghdad.

No doubt there are terrified Americans who see or read about the video beheadings of Americans in Iraq, or quail before the grim photographs of dead children in Baghdad, and imagine that if civilized men just give it up, tuck tail and come home the erectus porcinus, men who walk like men and behave like pigs, will show us mercy.

During the early months of World War II, when many felt the nation's war machine was running on empty and anxiety hovered over the land of the free, Life magazine published a cover photograph of a Japanese officer with a scimitar raised to behead a kneeling American flier with a cut that was no less gruesome for its swiftness. The photograph haunted the nation for weeks. There was sadness and anger, but no rebukes of FDR, no cries of despair, no mocking of American soldiers that they were fighting "the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time." The cruelty of the savagery enraged the grown-ups and fortified the fury that redoubled determination to win the war. We must determine again to show our enemies just who we can be, and passing a "global test" of approval be damned.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor in chief of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.

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