London, UK — Those who think that U.S. political and media elites have “exclusive rights” to negative perspectives on how the War on Terror is being fought need to visit this ancient capital of a once great empire.
Here in London, the valor of 5,600 British troops in Afghanistan and roughly 7,000 in Iraq is rarely mentioned. Nor is this week’s apparent success by police and intelligence officers in deterring yet another radical Islamic terror attack — this one in the industrial city of Birmingham — a cause for acclaim. Instead, all the talk in the press and parliament is about how to “bring the boys home” and ways to “find common ground” with those who would blow themselves up just to kill Anglo Saxons.
Our FOX News “War Stories” team is here to shoot two documentaries — one a biography of Winston Churchill and the other about Americans who served in the Royal Air Force during World War II. Having now spent the better part of a week on these endeavors, it is clearer than ever that both our English speaking democracies have changed dramatically in the six decades since a terrible war united us in common purpose against horrific adversaries.
Then, most Americans and Britons knew who they were, who the enemy was, what they needed to do about it — and were blessed to have leaders who could mobilize and motivate their populations to get it done. Now, the people of neither country know who they are, who the enemy is or what to do about it.
Worse, leaders in both nations seem unable to mobilize their countrymen to the challenge of fighting radical Islamic extremists who are literally dying to kill us. Both London and Washington are beset by a hostile media seemingly intent on snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. The purveyors of pessimism on the Potomac are little different from the transmitters of trepidation on the Thames. In both places powerful people ignore good news, accentuate the bad — and seek to reap political advantage from the situation. It’s enough to make one wonder how we managed to win World War II.
Case in point: Last week the much maligned Iraqi Army — trained, equipped and advised by the U.S. military — inflicted a stunning defeat on a well-armed Shia militia in a pitched battle. The Iraqi 8th Division, based in the Al Sadr stronghold of Najaf, conducted precisely the kind of operation that’s necessary for the government of Nouri al-Maliki to assert control over areas heretofore heavily influenced by Iran. Though President Bush declared, "My first reaction on this report from the battlefield is that the Iraqis are beginning to show me something," the U.S. and British press generally disregarded this good news.
Instead, media and political elites in Washington and London decided that that “the big story” was an anachronistic anti-war rally on the Mall in Washington, D.C. led by faded actress Jane Fonda. Though many of the marchers were too young to remember “Hanoi Jane” posing atop a North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun or her description of American POWs as “war criminals,” potentates of the press on both sides of the Atlantic fell over themselves to cover the event. One British commentator trumpeted, “It’s about time!”
Watching here in London, it was apparent that the thrall on the Mall included the usual fellow travelers in the “Blame America First” coterie — including the aging Hollywood starlet Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Sean Penn and Rhea Perlman, and a handful of elected officials. Among them was left-wing Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) — whose message was the only one that really mattered: “The founders of our country gave our Congress the power of the purse because they envisioned a scenario exactly like we find ourselves in today,” he told the thinning crowd.
And then, in words reminiscent of the barbs thrown at Winston Churchill as he futilely urged his countrymen to prepare for the storm that was about to descend upon them in the 1930s, Mr. Conyers added, “Not only is it in our power, it is our obligation to stop Bush."
That may be “red meat” to those in the U.S. who despise this President. But the message isn’t lost over here where advocates of a strong defense have just lost out in Parliament to those who want to scuttle the Royal Navy. One Member of Parliament, appalled at the number of ships to be deactivated asked me if Congress really would “de-fund the war in Iraq like they did with Vietnam.”
I replied that “given the makeup of Congress, it’s hard to tell,” and then asked, “What did Sir Winston do in such a circumstance?”
He smiled and answered, “He went to the people — and eventually they listened. But by then it was almost too late. Can President Bush do that?” We should hope so.
"I want to see your name on the 2008 Presidential ticket. You have so much dignity and honor; you embody what America's president and commander-in-chief should represent. Think about it, seriously. I admire you and the country would too and the world would have to respect America then!” — Barbara
Barbara: Many thanks for the expression of support, but if I came home from my present overseas trip for FOX News and told Betsy — my wife of 38 years — that I was planning on running for office, I'd probably need Secret Service protection! — Semper fidelis, OLN
“How can we change the modern mind set to grasp the reality of Jihadistan? Will it take a smoking glass ashtray where one of our cities was? You are a breath of oxygen in a cloud of methane gas.” — Mike
Mike: Your words are appreciated. I too am deeply concerned that not enough of our countrymen understand the serious threat we face. All of my novels address the issue — as will my next “War Stories” book. Hopefully our “War Stories” special broadcast, “Jihad” will soon be out on DVD. All I know how to do is to keep on trying. — Semper fidelis, OLN
“Is there a place online where the public can see the rules of engagement? Could you discuss them in an article?” — Paula
Paula: The rules of engagement are classified in order to keep them from the enemy. If the terrorists in Afghanistan or Iraq know the R.O.E., they will find a way to attack us in ways that our troops cannot respond. — Semper fidelis, OLN
“Thank you Colonel North — it is so uplifting to finally hear a voice from the "other side." We have the best military in the world, and I wish our media/politicos understood the global implications of failure and the dedication of our armed forces as well as the rest of America does. Thank you again for your reporting and stories.” — Kenneth
Kenneth: Your support is an encouragement to me, my fine, brave producers — and the courage of the troops we cover! — Semper fidelis, OLN
“You neglected to point out that the 767 was 25% cheaper to buy than the A-330, and has much lower maintenance and operating costs. It isn't just the $200 billion, it is 50 years of higher costs to the taxpayer to keep an inferior product flying. (Reuters 19 Jan; Boeing 767 facts)” — Alan
Alan: You're right! But there's only so many words that the editors will allow in a weekly column. Hopefully, the rest of the information was useful — and people like you will continue to urge our government to “buy American.” — Semper fidelis, OLN
“Col. North: On his radio program, Paul Harvey said, 'If ever there was a real life Rambo, he's Oliver North.' I agree. I thank you for your perspective on our military and for your encouraging presence on FOX News, which has become the conservative voice of America.” — Richard
Richard: I have the best job in all broadcasting. My only “beat” is the military — and I get to keep company with heroes every day. It's my belief that the best way to let the American people know what's happening is to let the eyewitness participants tell their story. That's what we do. — Semper fidelis, OLN
“What can we do, Lt. Col, considering that just this past weekend Hanoi Jane was back in form at the latest anti-war rally in Washington, D.C. What can we do when her co-conspirators were given free reign to spray paint the Capital Building undeterred. I worry that there won't be any major improvement in getting support from all of America.” — Michael
Michael: All we can do at FOX News is to tell the story straight — and dig for the truth. That's what we've done in eight trips to Iraq and two to Afghanistan. Spread the word. — Semper fidelis, OLN
“I too wondered whom Mr. Webb spoke of when he said the majority of the nation no longer supports the way this war is being fought, nor does the majority of our military. The active duty support is solid. We know we're in this fight, (GWOT), for the long haul. Too bad the mainstream media, celebrities and some politicians don't have the stomach for it. I've leaned that things that are worth having, like freedom, don't often come easily, cleanly or quickly. ” — Mike
Mike: Right on! — Semper fidelis, OLN
“You have always struck me as a man highly respected and trusted by the majority of our country. A 'can-do' guy in opposition to 'talk about how others can't-do' politicians. I also find you an eloquent man who is 'on-point' with many issues concerning the current war and our nation's place in the world. Your article, 'Who Cares About The Military?' is a fine example. This is a message that seems to desperately need more attention! I would call on you to spread this word, even further. You might be interested to hear that the blogging world has picked up on this article and word IS spreading in that community, especially amongst the mil-blogs, though that is much like preaching to the choir, where everyone seems to echo many of your sentiments, already.” — Marc
Marc: Many thanks! — Semper fidelis, OLN
Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, the host of “War Stories” on the FOX News Channel and the founder of Freedom Alliance, a foundation that provides scholarships to the children of military personnel killed in action.
Lt. Col. Oliver L. North (ret.) serves as host of the Fox News Channel documentary series "War Stories with Oliver North." From 1983 to 1986, he served as the U.S. government's counterterrorism coordinator on the National Security Council staff. "Counterfeit Lies," is his novel about how Iran is acquiring nuclear weapons and the means of delivering them. Click here for more information on Oliver North.