As I try to do on Veterans and Memorial Days, I spent some time Wednesday walking among the grave markers in the vast, beautiful but somber Los Angeles National Veterans cemetery in Westwood. I read the names and thanked them out loud, as always.
My doctor friend Bob Karns and his dear wife, Stevie, joined me, and it was deeply moving.
As I looked tearfully over the rolling acres, studded with tens of thousands of stones and crosses and flat markers, I pondered as always the dreams and aspirations and relationships and family traditions that had been blotted out. I'm sure that each of these all-but-forgotten heroes trained and fought willingly and proudly for the country we all love. They stood against enemies we understood, against national militaries we had identified and that had attacked us and our allies.
And as I walked slowly among their graves, I asked out loud: "Would you make the same sacrifices in the conflict we're grappling with now? Would you enlist to ship out to Middle Eastern countries that have fought and killed each other for centuries, in an effort to address their problems and ancient animosities, in some vague hope that we might help them form some kind of Judeo-Christian democracy like ours?"
It won't surprise you that I was met with silence. But in that silence, I saw some things more clearly than I have for years.
Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the deluded fiend who killed 12 of his fellow American soldiers and a civilian, and wounded 30 at Fort Hood, Texas, inadvertently rendered his country a vital service. He made it starkly clear, to anyone with a brain, that we're at war, not with a country or a people – but with an ideology.
This demonic, lethal, and inhuman ideology knows no boundaries, no ethnic or racial definitions. It's not perpetrated by one government, one tribal heritage, or even one geographic base. It incubated deep in the Middle East but has spread to many parts of the world. It has found its home in a huge world religion, Islam, but millions of devout Muslims disavow the violence and depravity associated with this jihadist ideology and even discount the specific calls for death and domination found in the pages of the Quran. (See Sura 9:5, the "verse of the sword," as an example.)
But the ideology itself has a virulent life of its own, far, far worse and deadlier than any "swine flu.” Once it takes root in a human mentality, it can permeate the soul, change all perspectives of humanity and morality, and become highly contagious. It has been festering and growing in Saudi Arabia, in all neighboring countries, has been taught to children from kindergarten through university, and has found especially fertile ground in Islam.
Hasan, born in an Arab-American family, a trained psychiatrist and military man, sought spiritual and religious counseling from a jihadist activist, Anwar al-Awlaki, who is known to have been counselor and confidant to several of the perpetrators of the 9/11 massacre. The virus spread from this adviser into the brain and soul of Hasan, who then took two loaded guns into Fort Hood and began killing everybody he could, screaming "Allah is greatest!" in Arabic.
Rightly, spokesmen for Islam in America condemned his actions and the carnage that resulted. Most of the 4 million Muslims in America probably are repulsed by what Hasan did and feel threatened with all kinds of reprisals. But research reveals that perhaps 20 percent of the mosques in this country support or even preach some form of jihadism. It is becoming clearer that people infected with the jihadist ideology are embedded in our military, law enforcement, universities and various branches of government.
Ronald Kessler, in his book "The Terrorist Watch," underscores a Pew Research Center poll that found that about 25 percent of American Muslims ages 18 through 29 believe that suicide bombings can be justified. And generating those attitudes are imams who preach jihad and hatred in American mosques and postings on the Internet.
I want to emphasize that perhaps 75 percent of American Muslims don't necessarily approve of suicide bombings and jihadist activities — but it's in the nature of the religion and culture not to expose or repudiate the extremists. And so it grows. The problem is not just Islam; it's the jihadist ideology that has infected it.
You can't fight or change an ideology with guns or bombs; in some ways, you fuel and inspire it. Warped jihadists such as Hasan are the reverse of God-fearing patriotic Americans. They have been brainwashed to believe that their concept of God will honor and reward them for killing as many innocent men, women, and children as possible! We've never faced anything like this before. Never.
Our valiant soldiers did what they went to Iraq to do. They toppled Saddam Hussein and brought him to justice, and they searched for the WMDs he reportedly had already shipped over to Syria, for future use. They should have come home immediately, and triumphantly. But some in Bush's administration naively supposed a nation that had never known democracy would quickly and automatically create a junior America. Wrong. Sunnis and Shiites, all Muslims, just resumed their centuries-old violence toward each other.
No matter how long our guys stay in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan, or what they accomplish, the citizens of those countries will still harbor the old animosities and be infected by the lethal jihadist ideology.
Most experts feel the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan still will be corrupt and inept — and many in this country feel the same about our own government. Our young, totally inexperienced commander in chief can't decide whether to placate his leftist supporters or listen to our generals who call for 40,000 more troops just to maintain the conflict. For what?
Mr. President, here's the answer: Call our troops home, and NOW.
Forget "world opinion," forget conservatives like me; forget your own clamoring leftists. Don't waste one more American life on foreign soil; bring our finest young people home and employ them on our borders, in our cities, around our airports and bases — let them do what they signed up to do and what you swore to do: Defend our country.
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