NEW YORK -- Aboard ship, every announcement from the bridge is preceded by that phrase. Here in the Big Apple, it's Fleet Week. Set to coincide with Memorial Day weekend, it's an opportunity for the citizens of America's most populous metropolitan area to see and touch the hardware the Navy, Coast Guard and Marine Corps use to defend this land. More importantly, it is a chance for our countrymen to meet and actually talk with a serving member of the U.S. armed forces. Notably, nearly all of the Marines and sailors aboard the USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) and a good number of the guardsmen posted here are veterans of overseas campaigns in the war against radical Islam.
Unlike the late '60s and early '70s, when veterans of Vietnam were cautioned not to wear uniforms in public, these young heroes proudly wear proof of their service on their chests. It is equally evident that the Americans who braved long lines and inclement weather to visit this display of military prowess admire the courage and commitment of those serving in uniform.
All of this is an interesting counterpoint to what the masters of the mainstream media have been telling us in this very political year. Public opinion polls show widespread disapproval for the war. The major networks and newspapers routinely carry stories about U.S. military fiascos, failures and abuses. Yet none of that is evident in the crowds of civilians thronging around the warriors visiting New York. It's something to be heeded by some who aspire to be the next commander in chief.
Both Sens. Clinton and Obama repeatedly cite the canard that "there is no military solution in Iraq." But that's precisely what has happened in Mesopotamia. Brave Americans in helmets and flak jackets have become the protectors of Muslim women. The women in turn have voted to give their children hope for a better future. Iraq is fast becoming a vital ally in the war against radical Islam and a bulwark against the theocracy in neighboring Iran. Both are crucial to U.S. national security.
But Sen. Barack Obama continues to claim that "on day one" -- his first day in office as president -- he will give our military "a new mission" and start withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq. This week, he reiterated his naive belief that "negotiations without preconditions" can provoke despots to alter their stated goals and brutal behavior. In defending his proposition that he meet and "reason" with such leaders, he says: "Iran, Cuba, Venezuela -- these countries are tiny compared to the Soviet Union. They don't pose a serious threat to us the way the Soviet Union posed a threat to us."
Such statements deny the reality of both current events and history. Even a cursory examination of John Kennedy's disastrous summit with Nikita Khrushchev in June 1961 reveals how the Soviet dictator's response was to dispatch nuclear weapons to Cuba and bring us to the brink of war. Kennedy's concession -- removing U.S. nuclear weapons from Turkey -- and the Politburo's pragmatic desire to survive "mutually assured destruction" -- ended the standoff. Unfortunately, the "Supreme Islamic Council" now ruling Tehran has a far more apocalyptic vision of the future. They see a suicidal, Armageddon-like confrontation with the U.S. as "inevitable."
Sen. Obama now appears poised to become the Democratic nominee in November's presidential election. But his professed desire to sit down and chat with the Iranians doesn't seem to have gained much traction with soldiers, sailors, airmen, guardsmen and Marines -- or the civilians who have come to see them this week. Though all in uniform have been strictly abjured to avoid politics while they are in town for Fleet Week, they privately profess little support for Obama's position on either Iraq or unconditional negotiations with Iran.
A good many of the Marines I have spoken to here in New York this week are troops with whom I have been embedded in Iraq and Afghanistan for Fox News. Some of them have had repeated tours of duty in combat. Nearly all of them have lost friends in Iraq or Afghanistan. In off-the-record discussions, they express disdain for Obama's "weakness" and willingness to "abandon what we fought and bled for."
I well recognize that these volunteers in uniform are hardly a representative sample of American public opinion. But they may well prove to be a major factor in this year's presidential contest because they vote in far higher proportions than their civilian peers. They also know -- as apparently the mainstream media do not -- that some of their comrades in arms have been killed and grievously wounded by explosives and weapons supplied by Iran.
These young American heroes also know that the regime in Tehran poses a serious future threat. One, a staff sergeant with two Purple Hearts, put it bluntly, "I sure as hell hope the ayatollahs don't get nukes." Hear that, Sen. Obama?
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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