Two features dominate our thinking about terrorism at home. We are, first, complacent. Nothing has happened since 9-11, and we have begun to believe that nothing ever will. Grimly tolerant of what passes for security at airports and train stations, we are -- second -- annoyed at the thought that more and different security measures may be needed. The London bombings last Thursday, the Brits' reaction to them, and the revelations of how the problem has been building there are highly instructive. Or will be if we look at the unvarnished facts.
What happened in London last week could happen here today, and will -- in one form or another -- all too soon. We can, and must, do more to control our borders, but the sad fact is that -- like Britain -- the people who are intent on conducting such attacks are here already, and are allowed too much support from too many quarters in America, as well as abroad. Just like those who struck London, and apparently are still at large to strike again.
The Brit reaction was, on one hand, all stiff upper lip and, on the other, unrestrained irresponsibility. Those whose voices count -- such as Tory MP John Redwood and historian Paul Johnson -- were adamant in condemning the terrorists and compassionate in mourning the dead. Johnson, in particular, almost scoffed at the idea that such small attacks were going to change British policy. Those who have to call the TV bookers to get attention, such as former Labourite Tony Benn, were unrestrained in moral equivalence and "give peace a chance" cant. It was too much for even his BBC interviewer. Benn went so far as to equate the people killed in London with those "innocents" we'd killed in Fallujah. Tell it to the Marines, Mr. Benn.
The surprising element in this was Redwood's reflexive hope that there would be no backlash against the Muslim community. Redwood, who is one of the best thinkers on the Tory side, said it almost in passing. His sentiment is rightly placed. But it masks a real problem that we and Britain face. No one should want to oppress any minority. No one -- here or in Britain -- wants to say that all Muslims are responsible for the acts of the terrorists. That's fine, as far as it goes. But we have to go much farther.
It matters not whether the terrorists are Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Buddhist, or American Indian snake dancers. It is sufficient that they are an identifiable group dedicated to the destruction of our freedom. Religion is a factor in this war only to the extent that it helps us identify and defeat the enemy.
IT'S PROPER TO BE CONCERNED about oppression of minorities, but this concern has so governed British self-defense over the past decade or more that London is now the hottest of terrorist hotbeds in Europe. Tolerance is one hallmark of democracy. But when it is given importance beyond its proper measure, it becomes a recipe for national suicide.
According to a newly leaked Brit intelligence dossier, al Qaeda's recruitment of terrorists is well organized and successful on British campuses. The al-Q recruiters are focused on the affluent Muslims who should be among the best assimilated in British society. But, according to the report, entitled "Young Muslims and Extremism," up to 1% -- some 16,000 British Muslims -- are actively engaged in terrorist activity in Britain and abroad. Couple that with the statement of Lord Stevens, the former London police chief, who said that up to 3,000 British-born or British-based people have passed through bin Laden's terrorist training camps, and you get some idea of how Britain has allowed itself -- by lax immigration policies, political sensitivity, and all the rest in the name of "tolerance" -- to become a terrorist haven.
It's probably not that bad in the United States, but if the al-Q recruiters, the radical imams in mosques and the other terrorist sympathizers here aren't watched and -- when they break the law arrested and imprisoned -- we will have the same problem Britain has. Is this a condemnation of Islam? No. It's only a recognition of reality that should be characteristic of American political speech. Instead, we have the Durbin-Kennedy Deanocrats hammering our soldiers and aiding the enemy.
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the al Qaeda chief in Iraq, sent a thank you note to the Dick Durbins and Ted Kennedys of Congress in a message to his followers and sympathizers on July 5. According to an unreleased translation read to me by a Defense Department source, Zarqawi's message exhorted his terrorists to greater effort, because, Zarqawi said, it is very clear that America was being defeated in Iraq. Zarqawi's proof? His message said that the proof that America is losing is that some American congressmen are saying just that.
IT IS ESSENTIAL TO THE war that our enemy has no reason to doubt our resolve. Winston Churchill knew that. His ringing speeches, throughout the war, and especially in its darkest hours, were literally the fuel that propelled British courage when everyone, including many of his closest advisers, thought all was lost. When Dick Durbin compared our people at Gitmo to Nazis, Gulag guards, and Pol Pot's mass murderers, there was a short burst of outrage, quelled by his phony apology. Senate Republicans never demanded -- or got -- a clear and unequivocal apology from Durbin. By their failure to do so they give credence to Zarqawi's message.
Republicans in the Senate and House are failing in one of their key wartime tasks: to take on the political opposition in the debate. Not to shout people down, but to take them to task. On the floor, we should be hearing one speech after another critical of the irresponsible rhetoric of the left. Why don't we? Because they want comity, to pass laws we don't need, spend money we should save, and give themselves pay raises without voting for them. What they should be doing, instead, is taking on the tough problems they were elected to tackle. Like what do we do about the terrorists who are within our borders, and those who preach violence and hatred to young Muslims here. They should read carefully the newly leaked dossier on recruitment of terrorists in the U.K. And they should not allow those who apologize for terrorists scare them out of it.
TAS contributing editor Jed Babbin is the author of Inside the Asylum: Why the UN and Old Europe Are Worse Than You Think (Regnery, 2004).
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