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Jewish World Review Nov. 28, 2001/ 13 Kislev 5762

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Pacifism is nice, but war doesn't care -- THE nice thing about pacifists is that there are so few of them.

That's the kind of bait one can't resist tossing upon the waters. It's probably true that there aren't many pacifists - only two dozen showed up for a White House demonstration this week - but most "ists" can't resist responding to insults to their "ism."

Thus, I expect to hear from every pacifist in America, but how bad could it be? At least I won't get slapped upside the head.

And the truth is, on certain days, I'd welcome the visit. On a day when, for instance, I'm youthfully gazing out over non-mortgaged acres of allergy-free daisies framed by a non-coalition rainbow, nuzzling a non-cloned newborn lamb while feeding straw to a non-violent lion. On such a day, a pacifist would be tolerably poetic.

But today, brittle from reality, I'm not in the mood for pacifists. As our Marines go head-to-head with the vermin Taliban in Kandahar; as at least one American boy lies dead in Afghanistan; as New York City firemen and police continue to look for their fallen, and children hug pictures of their slain mothers and fathers, I'm in the mood for Godzilla Returns to Kabul.

Not that I want anyone to get hurt. Ghastly thought. I'd rather we not have to engage this nasty bunch of (insert politically incorrect term of choice), but alas, they started it. They're the ones who flew their airplanes into our buildings and killed thousands of innocent Americans. They're the ones who have vowed to destroy us .

So sorry, but pacifism won't work here. Pacifist demonstrations may work against the occasional repressive government or program, especially if the media are handy, but not against terrorism. In fact, terrorists love pacifists. Think about it. If you were a terrorist looking to make a big splash, what could be more convenient than 5,000 people sitting at their desks in the World Trade Center towers?

How about 20,000 pacifists squatting in the city of Washington, D.C.? If innocence is your target, and terror your objective, pacifists are the terrorist's dream team. Symbolically, it's rich. What's more American, after all, than a war protester? And who's more innocent - symbolically - than a pacifist?

Most Americans don't need reminding that the war protestor gets to enjoy all the benefits of freedom that someone else's unlucky experience with violence has permitted. The pacifist who demonstrates against his own country's military policies is exercising a right that was created with blood and born of violence. Not random violence, like the terrorist act, but violence resorted to out of necessity. That single fact is what makes the pacifist's complaint so unpalatable.

Among those marching against the U.S. military in Afghanistan was Amber Amundson, a 28-year-old mother of two and the widow of one of those who died in the 9/11 attacks on the Pentagon. She hand-carried a letter to the White House in which she protested our military response to the attacks.

"I am not doing well," she wrote. "I am hurt that the U.S. is moving forward in such a violent manner. I believe you have a responsibility to listen to me and please hear my pain. I do not want anyone to use my husband's death to perpetuate violence."

America does hear this mother's pain and mourns her husband's death. And no one wishes to judge her political beliefs during such an emotional time. But we should be clear: Pacifism in the face of terrorism is strictly an emotional response.

Fighting back in this case is an act of purest logic: Kill or be killed. It doesn't get any clearer than that. Fortunately, our nation's leadership is acting on reason rather than emotion. We won't invoke Amundson's name if his widow doesn't want us to, but we will defend her life, and her children's, nonetheless.

That's the nice thing about living in a freedom-loving country.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.

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