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United States of America

My Country, 'Tis of Thee

Sweet Land of Liberty, Of Thee I Weep... And Plead

By Steve Schippert | July 28, 2008

"This, we will defend." It is a common refrain among brothers in arms. Yet, more pressing than the visible threat from terrorists and the states which sponsor them, we are at serious risk of losing sight of what “this” is while we call on those few dedicated men and women who defend it honorably and without hesitation. We appear at grave risk of losing our way. Right now.

In the Hamdan trial at Guantanamo Bay, we learn that bin Laden’s driver, captured and now on trial, said in interrogation that the United States could have killed bin Laden on more than one occasion in the 1990’s. The context is a far greater reflection upon us than our enemies.

The message was, ”You had these opportunities, America. You didn’t do anything,” FBI agent George Crouch Jr. testified Friday at Salim Hamdan’s war crimes trial.

The United States could have killed bin Laden in Khartoum, Sudan, before he moved to Afghanistan in 1996, Hamdan told his interrogators. They could have killed him after al Qaida’s 1998 twin bombings at the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Or after the October 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole, at the port of Aden in Yemen, which left 17 U.S. sailors dead.

Instead, ”Bin Laden was emboldened.” So he struck with the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, leaving nearly 3,000 dead.

None of the information is new. It is ‘news’ simply because of the source and the setting. No more, no less.

It is bitter irony that lawyers are conveying such through a trial. Remote controlled Tomahawks, the illusion of safety beyond the sanctuary of oceans, and the hot pursuit via attorneys and law both remote and unrecognized by murderous men who seek our death. This was how we convinced ourselves of our certain and active defense.

Long before the Hamdan trial, we already knew that we were offered bin Laden in transit from Sudan to Afghanistan. But we did not want him. Our lawyers had no battle, our leaders no mettle.

Most of us, though not all, have learned nothing. After thousands smote and seven years of war, we are back to our superior ways, demanding Habeas Corpus and noting in the very first trial that bin Laden’s deputy was read no Miranda rights upon his capture - or was it arrest?

They say history repeats itself. Never before has it applied so swiftly, within the same generation and within the same conflict.

A selfish society incapable of sacrifice is equally incapable of self-defense. Our greatest concern is not the pursuit of madmen or the states which feed them. It is not even the cost of oil and its affect on our economy and future. Our most pressing concern seems the cost of the gasoline that cycles through our tanks and its affect on our personal checking account balances.

Cowardice, cloaked in arrogance and concealed behind self-assured brilliance, charts a troubled path; one which appears circular, where constant motion deceptively passes for progress. Progress towards what, we disagree, though our enemies do not, as they laugh.

Many say it will take another catastrophic attack to bring us to our collective senses. But it will likely not come. For, if al-Qaeda (et al) is smart - and they are - they will leave us alone on our own soil while we rip ourselves apart. No explosives, no bombs, no weapons of war required. We are, after all, suddenly and finally waging their centuries-long war upon ourselves. Brilliantly.

We allow ourselves to be told that we are what is wrong with the world; torturous, greedy, destructive, with disregard for the poorest and bitter intolerance for anyone not like us. We Balkanize our society and point fingers at each other, laying these same charges against one domestic group or another with the venom and aggression once reserved for distant, oppressive enemies.

Can we awaken from our own self-destructive slumber? The decisive war is not in Iraq, nor Afghanistan, nor Pakistan or any other distant place where we perceive our enemies to be. The decisive battle is right here, from Maine to San Diego, from St. Louis to Atlanta.

If we are incapable of rediscovering that which Constitutes us and what distinguishes America form every other nation on this planet, and acknowledging that America, her people, our liberty and our unequaled charity are indeed good and our values just, then what does Iraq or Afghanistan matter?

Can we truly identify that which we are defending? For if we cannot, we are not. We are simply preserving soil and borders, protecting cities and people - that which can be found anywhere else on this planet.

What will America be, what will she look like when our children are thrust at the helm? Will they write that we defended her, or will they write that we devoured and discarded her? This, not al-Qaeda or the War on Terror, keeps me up at night.

For we can defeat al-Qaeda and yet have defended nothing at all in the long, painful process. And our children will be compelled to write of us, ”You had these opportunities, America. You didn’t do anything.”