Lessons from our betters

Posted: Nov 21, 2003 12:00 AM

Some things are so obvious, it seems silly to even say them. And then the president goes to Great Britain, and it becomes necessary to point out that the United States is the greatest defender of freedom in the world.

Sadly, many Europeans don’t see it that way.

In a recent opinion poll taken by the European Commission, the U.S. was ranked as the number two threat to world peace. We trailed only Israel, and outpolled such actual threats as terrorist-supporting countries Iran, Syria and North Korea.

Even in the United Kingdom, our closest ally in the war on terror, a poll prepared for The Sunday Times showed 60 percent consider President Bush a “danger to world peace.”

These people need to stop answering polls and start reading newspapers. Out in the real world, the threat to peace comes from terrorists, not Americans. And Europeans ignore terrorism at their own peril.

The evidence is right on their doorstep.

On Nov. 20, explosions destroyed the British consulate and a British bank in Istanbul, Turkey. At least 27 people, including Britain’s consul-general, were killed. Hundreds more were wounded.

Hours later, tens of thousands of people marched through London -- not to condemn terrorist violence, but to protest President Bush’s aggressive response to terrorism.

The protesters also toppled a giant statue of President Bush, likening him to actual terrorist Saddam Hussein. “You will never change the hearts and minds of terrorists by bombing them,” opined one marcher, 37-year old lawyer Mischa Gorris.

Unfortunately, you can’t change reality by pretending a threat isn’t real. The United States and our allies did use force against Saddam, just as we earlier did to depose the terrorist-supporting Taliban regime in Afghanistan. That’s because force is the only thing terrorists respect. Trying to “change the hearts and minds” of terrorists with anything but force is a waste of time, and doing so will only put more innocent people in danger.

Consider: Just days before the Nov. 20 attacks, an additional 23 people were killed and more than 300 injured when a pair of car bombs rocked synagogues in Turkey. Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for those blasts.

“We tell the criminal Bush and his Arab and Western tails -- especially Britain, Italy, Australia and Japan -- that cars of death will not stop at Baghdad, Riyadh, Istanbul, Nasiriyah, Jakarta, etc. until you see them with your own eyes in the middle of the capital of this era’s tyrant, America,” the terrorist group announced.

Reason won’t stop people who say things like that. Only force will.

By their own admission, the terrorists make no distinction between ethnic groups -- they’ll kill anyone they consider a “westerner.” Their recent actions prove that. In Iraq, for instance, they’ve attacked a United Nations compound, Red Cross headquarters and an Italian military post. Many of the victims in those attacks were Iraqis. Many more were Europeans. The terrorists don’t care -- they simply want a high body count.

Where do Europeans get their misguided notions about the United States? Maybe they’ve been listening to their elected leaders.

On the eve of the president’s visit, London mayor Ken Livingstone called President Bush the “greatest threat to life on this planet that we’ve most probably ever seen.” Really? Greater than Saddam, who killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis? Greater than North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il, whose policies have caused millions of his people to starve to death? Talk about ignoring reality and seeing only what you want to see.

The London protesters seem to think the recent violence is entirely our fault. “[The attacks in Turkey] wouldn’t have happened without Iraq,” announced German sociologist Ziggy Dlabal. “America is creating their own terrorists.”


America is responding to terrorist attacks, attacks that happened here, on our soil.

In the years before Sept.11, we made a critical mistake -- like Europeans today, we didn’t take terrorists seriously. We virtually ignored attacks on our embassies in Africa and on our warship in Yemen. Then terrorists slaughtered thousands of innocent Americans within minutes. We realized then, as Europeans must now, that we can’t ignore terrorism or wish it away. We must aggressively stamp it out.

This is war. And we -- the voice of international freedom -- will win. Let’s hope it doesn’t take an attack on their soil to convince Europeans to help us earn that victory.