It's time for every American to step back for a minute, take a hard look in the mirror, and begin to understand what it means to be at war.
We've heard the question about whether we should be using the terminology "being at war." The armchair pundits and Monday-morning quarterbacks are debating that point. What foolishness! In 1998, two U.S. embassies were bombed and hundreds of people died. In 2000, the U.S.S. Cole was nearly destroyed by suicide bombers in Yemen. We all know the deadly toll of September 11, 2001, and you cannot separate that event from the bioterror attacks on our postal system. Don't mince words. September 11 was an attack, another battle in the war. Americans must accept the reality: we are at war with an enemy who wants to destroy all of us and our way of life.
War is never pretty. It is ugly. It has never been, and never will be, a neat, precise process. It requires the sacrifices of everyone, not just the soldiers going off to combat, but civilians on the home front. The support of every citizen in our nation is critical to our long-term success in the war on terrorism.
Democracy thrives in a world of informed patriotism. But legitimate national debate over conflicts like Vietnam -- a war fought thousands of miles away with no attacks on our soil and justified only by dubious threats to our national security -- should never be confused with a war that has already struck at the heart of our sovereignty and at the very foundations of Western civilization. Just as in the Second World War, the intentions of the enemy are clear. The Osama bin Ladens of the world will not rest until they have murdered us and vanquished our free society. Already, they have forever altered our worldview and affected our lives, our businesses, our future. Now, we must not rest until they are defeated and eliminated.
From the very beginning, the U.S. government has suggested this was not going to be a short or easy war. It would involve risks and test our resolve. We must stand firm in that resolve. We must be patient. We must understand that our enemies have used tactics rare in the history of warfare: surprise attacks on civilian populations and use of biological weapons. No government could have prepared completely for such attacks, and it is all too easy to underestimate the extent and magnitude of those assaults in their immediate aftermath.
Our task today is to stand firmly behind those who devote their efforts to eradicating the threat and providing unceasing security for the future. Regardless of our political party affiliations, we should praise the efforts of President Bush and his administration and their uncompromising commitment to doing what has to be done.
Not long after September 11, a French executive told an international gathering in New York, "You saved us from fascism, and you saved the world from communism; now you must save us from terrorism." That is our task, our responsibility and burden. And, we, the American people, accept it.
In the wake of September 11, Americans must be more committed and determined than ever before.
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