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The war of semantics

By Angela R. Wheeler
web posted November 5, 2001

September 11 was perhaps the most devastating day in American history. The shock of the attack of our nation resonated within every ounce of my being as I watched the events unfold minute-by-minute, as I listened to the death toll rise.

It took several weeks for the panic to subside. The ever-growing number of homes and vehicles adorning American flags encouraged and strengthened me. My fright began to slowly dissipate as I saw the unity of America emerge.

As my fear dissolved, I felt as the Lion must have when he received his dose of courage in Oz. But Toto, I am here to tell you that we are not in Oz anymore. And as discouraging as it is to say, I doubt even Dorothy would be wishing for Kansas these days.

Why my sudden change of heart? Why the renewed sense of trepidation? It began Halloween night. My four little boys and I did our last-minute costume shopping. As every shopping trip for us, it was quite rushed and chaotic. "I want to be a cowboy…" I want to be an Indian…" "I want to be a soldier…" Without a second thought I scooped up the costumes and headed for home.

In a rush to prepare for the events of the evening, I ordered pizza. The pizza delivery box was accompanied with an American flag decal for our vehicle – a gesture honoring and remembering the Americans lost so tragically September 11. It was also an effort to keep the focus on our patriotic duties and responsibilities. But as my children devoured their pizza, I looked at the flag decal and I just didn't feel that sense of assurance – that feeling of American preeminence that I knew I should.

I was overcome with feelings of angst as my children sat at the dinner table in their costumes. There was my 8-year-old as a cowboy; my 7-year-old an Indian; my 17-month-old too irritable to be anything but irritable; and my 3-year-old . . . a soldier. He was all decked out in his "cammies", his boots, his face smeared with black and green face-paint, with an American flag cascading his shoulder. My disconcerted feelings became understood as a tear came to my eye while gazing upon my young soldier sitting across the table from me. I imagined the day that our country may have to call my sons to war, and others of their generation.

Will our children still be facing threats of terrorists? Is it possible that our beloved America could become another Ireland…or Israel? Let's face it: We are being bullied. America is looking like the scrawny freckled-face little schoolboy, while our enemy is taking our milk money. Why? Because, for America, the name of the game is not exactly "win at any cost" – it's about semantics and "Enduring Freedom" and being Mr. Nice Guy. Our war for justice has been stifled by a war of semantics. Although the Bush administration has sought international support for the mission, it has caused digression from the mission. We are asked to show exceptional deference to the Muslim faith, but born of that faith is the ugliness of terrorism. We even drop food for our enemy while dropping bombs on them. "Look how NICE we are – we're at war, but we're still the Nice Guy."

But are we being nice at the expense of the next generation of Americans? I care about the innocent people of Afghanistan, but I also care about having to put my four little boys in real soldiers' uniforms someday. My husband has dedicated his career, and thus his life, as a reporter exposing threats to our national security such as weapons technology being transferred to Communist China, and weapons of mass destruction smuggled from America to the Middle East. I didn't always understand his dangerous missions; as his wife, it always seems needless for him to risk his life for a story, when we need him so much with us. But now I understand. If someone isn't warning our nation of the looming threats, then our children will face formidable evil on the battlefield later. If we don't face down terrorism now, the responsibility of a much heavier burden will fall upon our children.

This war has just begun and yet there are already reports the war is lost. This war is NOT lost. But the fact is, if we are going to win this war, some things are going to have to change. Many respectable pundits are likening our efforts to Vietnam. As Charles Krauthammer said in a recent column in the Washington Post, "Half-measures are for wars of choice, wars like Vietnam. In wars of choice, losing is an option. You lose and still survive as a nation. The war on terrorism, like World War II, is a war of necessity. Losing is not an option."

I am not implying that the Bush Administration has considered losing an option, but I believe the time has come to let them know that they have our permission to do whatever it takes to win this war. Polls show clearly that this administration has the support of almost every American. They have our permission to take drastic action to end the threat of terrorism once and for all.

Well, with all due respect to the Bush Administration, I say let's get down to business.

No more semantics.

No more bending to appease our part-time coalition partners.

And no more Mr. Nice Guy.

Angie Wheeler is the editor of Notable News Now, a daily email newsletter of the Free Congress Foundation in Washington, D.C.

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