Georgetown, SC -- Sixty-seven years ago this week, U.S. and allied forces were racing across Germany and uncovering the deepest horrors of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. Liberated death camps and extermination centers where millions perished were evidence of a brutal Holocaust perpetrated in the Führer's "Final Solution." On April 28, 1945, Hitler's erstwhile ally, Benito Mussolini, was captured by Italian partisans and summarily executed as he tried to flee to Switzerland. Less than 48 hours later, Hitler, cowering in his bunker beneath Berlin, committed suicide. Eight days after that, Germany surrendered -- ending the bloodiest war in European history. By the second week of May, with combat still raging in the Pacific, tens of thousands of American troops were en route home from Europe for victory parades.
Thirty-seven years ago this week, North Vietnamese armor units closed in on Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam. Shortly after dawn on April 30, 1975, a U.S. Marine CH-46 helicopter lifted off the roof of the U.S. embassy in "Operation Frequent Wind" in a last desperate effort to evacuate U.S. citizens from the city before it fell to Ho Chi Minh's invaders. The fall of Saigon ended the Vietnam War, but the only victory parades for those who fought there were held in Hanoi. The U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who battled in Vietnam for more than a decade were welcomed home quietly by their families and comrades -- but few of their countrymen bothered to even thank them for their service and sacrifice.
Now it appears that another war has ended without a victory parade. According to an article this week in the National Journal, an unnamed "senior State Department official" has declared that "the War on Terror is over." This bold proclamation was amplified by a stunning claim that the Arab Spring has been a great success: "Now that we have killed most of al-Qaida, now that people have come to see legitimate means of expression, people who once might have gone into al-Qaida see an opportunity for a legitimate Islamism."
This must come as welcome news to members of al-Shabab, Abu Sayyaf, Jemaah Islamiyah, Hamas, Hezbollah, Boko Haram, the Taliban, the Haqqani network and the 38 other violent radical Islamist groups already on the State Department's list of designated foreign terrorist organizations. Knowing that the "war on terror is over" must also be a relief to the ayatollahs in Tehran and the brutal regime of Omar Hassan al-Bashir in Khartoum, Sudan. One can only hope the word gets out soon about the war on terror's being over so radical Islamists planting improvised explosive devices to blow up our Marines in Afghanistan's Helmand province and those ambushing our 10th Mountain Division soldiers in the shadows of the Hindu Kush will stop plying their deadly trade and just celebrate.
Unfortunately, the War on Terror isn't over. The White House tried to "clarify" the State Department's ludicrous claim -- but as usual, got it wrong. After the National Journal piece hit the wires, White House spokesman Tommy Vietor insisted: "We absolutely have never said our war against Al Qaeda is over. We are prosecuting that war at an unprecedented pace."
And therein is the problem. The Obama administration cannot seem to figure out who our enemies really are. The once global terror organization known as Al Qaeda is indeed just a shell of what it was when we were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001. The group has been decapitated and badly damaged. Usama bin Laden's successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is so deep in hiding he cannot order a new pair of socks without fear of a Reaper or Predator dropping a Hellfire missile on his head.
Al Qaeda is just one of more than 80 hyper-violent radical Islamist organizations committing acts of terrorism around the world today. Al Qaeda could disappear tomorrow, but the war being waged against the West by radical Islamists wouldn't be over. American civilians still would be their number one target. That's why Obama's pledge to "end these wars responsibly" by 2014 makes no sense.
Whether our president realizes it or not, radical Islamic militants from the islands of the South Pacific to Africa's Sahel are committed to their jihad. Those ruling in Iran -- while they rush to build nuclear weapons -- aren't deterred by flowery rhetoric from a Nobel laureate or "sanctions" from the U.N. Neither are the radical Islamists striving for power in Egypt, Syria, Yemen, and the "stans," as they terrorize Muslims and Christians alike.
The words "win" and "triumph" are rarely heard in Washington today. That means a victory parade for the young Americans who have been fighting this war for more than a decade is unlikely. Before declaring this war is "over," the O-Team ought to recall the words of Ronald Reagan: "There is no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there is only one guaranteed way you can have peace -- and you can have it in the next second: surrender."
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of "War Stories" on the Fox News Channel, the author of the "American Heroes" book series and the co-founder of Freedom Alliance, an organization that provides college scholarships to the children of U.S. military personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty.