I was nearly finished writing a column on a different topic when news of President Bush's address at the Air Force Academy graduation ceremony flashed on the Drudge Report Web site.
"Bush drops 'crusade' from Eisenhower's D-Day message," read the headline.
What? He couldn't; he didn't ... did he? Thanks to instantly accessible archives on the Internet, I quickly found Eisenhower's Order of the Day given to the men of the Allied Expeditionary Force as they prepared to begin the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944.
It went like this: "Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed people of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world." And so, stirringly, on.
Sixty years later, facing another global threat from another totalitarian ideology, President Bush saw fit, wisely and importantly, to link essential aspects of our past and present struggles. These include the totalitarian nature of both Nazi fascism and Islamofascism, and the fact that freeing Europe then and the expanding freedom in the Middle East now are crucial to American security. In so doing, Bush invoked the opening lines of Ike's order -- but with a shameful, history-defiling cut. "Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force," Bush said, quoting General Eisenhower. "The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you."
Missing, of course, is Eisenhower's loin-girding line about those tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors and airmen being about to embark on "the Great Crusade" -- the reason "the eyes of the world" are upon them in the first place. This cut may not strike everyone as a reason to tear up Page One. But to me the omission hits at the heart of what is lacking in the so-called "war on terror" -- the courage of clarity.