PORT HUENEME, CALIF. -- This sprawling U.S. Navy Construction Center, 60 miles north of Los Angeles, is "home port" for thousands of "Sea-Bees" who are deployed in the global war on terror. These "warriors who build" with a legendary "can-do" spirit are busy repairing schools and hospitals in Iraq, constructing roads and runways in Afghanistan and helping to forge a safer future in places most Americans can't even pronounce.
Though most of the men and women in the Naval Mobile Construction Battalions are reservists with good private sector jobs, all I have spoken with -- here in the U.S. or overseas -- support the mission we have undertaken in Iraq. Many express the hope that their commander in chief "bats one out of the park" next Tuesday when he addresses the Congress and the nation on the State of the Union. Those sentiments are fairly standard among the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Guardsmen and Marines that I cover for FOX News. Anyone who has doubts need only watch the troops interviewed for our War Stories Special Report, "Inside Iraq: Eyewitness to History." [FOX News Channel, Sunday at 8:00 p.m. EST/PST.]
Unfortunately, the courage and steadfast resolve of those who are serving is unmatched by those they serve. Whether it's polls, pundits or politicians, it's pretty clear that President Bush has his work cut out for him in convincing the American people that we are in a fight that we dare not lose -- and that we really are winning.
The anti-Bush partisan politicians who began howling even before his first inaugural in 2001 have now become a full-blown anti-military movement -- complete with a senior member of Congress advocating that young Americans spurn service in the Armed Forces and urging those in uniform to disobey orders. The potentates of the press have upped the ante as well. For more than two years, the left has made the claim, "We support the troops -- but not their fight." Now there is growing evidence that they support neither.
In Tuesday's Los Angeles Times, liberal columnist Joel Stein confessed, "I don't support the troops … I'm not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest (sic) positions the pacifists have ever taken." He continued, "I'm not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War, but we shouldn't be celebrating people for doing something we don't think was a good idea."
These growing sentiments -- shared by many who perceive that President Bush is already a wounded lame duck -- bode ill for the future, unless he can deliver a clear vision for the days ahead when he stands before the people on Tuesday evening. This will be no mean task.
The president's domestic opponents have been emboldened by the administration's paltry response to charges that the National Security Agency has been secretly "spying on American citizens." Some in Old Europe and others in Washington are taking seriously Osama bin Laden's recent audio tape in which the terror mastermind claims, "We don't mind offering you a long-term truce on fair conditions that we adhere to." Ariel Sharon's incapacitating stroke and the apparent success of Hamas -- an admitted terrorist organization -- in this week's Palestinian elections have thrown the Mid East peace process into turmoil. And now, the threat of an Iranian nuclear weapons program coupled with fear mongering over energy supplies is generating momentum among the same capitulationists who used to warn that we could never prevail against the Soviet Union.
It won't be enough for the president on Tuesday night to remind the American people that the economy is continuing to grow (4.1 percent last quarter) or that unemployment is now down to 4.9 percent. The masters of the media have already identified the United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America members they will put on the air to blame the Bush administration for 30,000 Ford Motor Company layoffs. Nor will it suffice to point out that troop levels in Iraq are already dropping -- as are U.S. casualty rates -- down 26 percent from a year ago.
On Tuesday evening, Bush must address all of these issues -- but most importantly, he must reassure the undecided and uncertain that he has a clear plan for victory in the global war on terror. He would do well to remind the American people that it is thanks to heroes wearing uniforms and intelligence operations, like those undertaken by the NSA, that we have had no terror attacks on U.S. soil since Sept. 11. He must reject bin Laden's "truce" bid for what it is -- a page torn from Ho Chi Minh's playbook on how to stave off an American military victory. And while the French, Germans and Russians dither over what to do about Tehran's nuclear weapons ambitions, Bush should point them in the right direction by rejecting an Iranian appeal for direct commercial flights to and from the United States. Finally, he should appeal directly to the American people to demonstrate the same kind of resolve that our Armed Forces have displayed in defending this union.
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of War Stories on the Fox News Channel, the author of the new novel Heroes Proved and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty. Join Oliver North in Israel by going to www.olivernorthisrael.com.
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