LONDON -- Those who think that U.S. political and media elites have "exclusive rights" to negative perspectives on how the War on Terror is being fought need to visit this ancient capital of a once great empire. Here in London, the valor of 5,600 British troops in Afghanistan and roughly 7,000 in Iraq is rarely mentioned. Nor is this week's apparent success by police and intelligence officers in deterring yet another radical Islamic terror attack -- this one in the industrial city of Birmingham -- a cause for acclaim. Instead, all the talk in the press and Parliament is about how to "bring the boys home" and ways to "find common ground" with those who would blow themselves up just to kill Anglo Saxons.
Our FOX News "War Stories" team is here to shoot two documentaries -- one a biography of Winston Churchill and the other about Americans who served in the Royal Air Force during World War II. Having now spent the better part of a week on these endeavors, it is clearer than ever that both our English-speaking democracies have changed dramatically in the six decades since a terrible war united us in common purpose against horrific adversaries.
Then, most Americans and Britons knew who they were, who the enemy was and what they needed to do about it -- and were blessed to have leaders who could mobilize and motivate their populations to get it done. Now, the people of neither country know who they are, who the enemy is or what to do about it.
Worse, leaders in both nations seem unable to mobilize their countrymen to the challenge of fighting radical Islamic extremists who are literally dying to kill us. Both London and Washington are beset by a hostile media seemingly intent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The purveyors of pessimism on the Potomac are little different from the transmitters of trepidation on the Thames. In both places powerful people ignore good news, accentuate the bad and seek to reap political advantage from the situation. It's enough to make one wonder how we managed to win World War II.
Case in point: Last week the much maligned Iraqi Army -- trained, equipped and advised by the U.S. military -- inflicted a stunning defeat on a well-armed Shia militia in a pitched battle. The Iraqi 8th Division, based in the Al Sadr stronghold of Najaf, conducted precisely the kind of operation that's necessary for the government of Nouri al-Maliki to assert control over areas heretofore heavily influenced by Iran. Though President Bush declared, "My first reaction on this report from the battlefield is that the Iraqis are beginning to show me something," the U.S. and British press generally disregarded this good news.
Instead, media and political elites in Washington and London decided that "the big story" was an anachronistic anti-war rally on the Mall in Washington, D.C. led by faded actress Jane Fonda. Though many of the marchers were too young to remember "Hanoi Jane" posing atop a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun or her description of American POWs as "war criminals," potentates of the press on both sides of the Atlantic fell over themselves to cover the event. One British commentator trumpeted, "It's about time!"
Watching here in London, it was apparent that the thrall on the Mall included the usual fellow travelers in the "Blame America First" coterie, including the aging Hollywood starlet Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Sean Penn and Rhea Perlman, and a handful of elected officials. Among them was left-wing Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., whose message was the only one that really mattered: "The founders of our country gave our Congress the power of the purse because they envisioned a scenario exactly like we find ourselves in today," he told the thinning crowd.
And then, in words reminiscent of the barbs thrown at Winston Churchill as he futilely urged his countrymen to prepare for the storm that was about to descend upon them in the 1930s, Conyers added, "Not only is it in our power, it is our obligation to stop Bush."
That may be "red meat" to those in the United States who despise this president. But the message isn't lost over here, where advocates of a strong defense have just lost out in Parliament to those who want to scuttle the Royal Navy. One Member of Parliament, appalled at the number of ships to be deactivated, asked me if Congress really would "de-fund the war in Iraq like they did with Vietnam."
I replied that "given the makeup of Congress, it's hard to tell," and then asked, "What did Sir Winston do in such a circumstance?"
He smiled and answered, "He went to the people -- and eventually they listened. But by then it was almost too late. Can President Bush do that?" We should hope so.