My Turn: Choose sides in war on terror

Posted: Tuesday, October 19, 2004

There is very little middle ground on the Iraqi war as both teams square off upon the gridiron. Supporters tout the removal of a sadistic family leadership purported to be a comfort to terrorists, a threat to National Security and the tenuous stability in the Middle East. Opponents call foul over errant intelligence, haste and misdirection. Others are fine with just stepping up to the plate for freedom. Anyone's freedom. Our country has been on an emotional roller coaster since 9-11 but I clearly remember supporting military force when my fever was pitched. How does one reconcile the lives lost these past years?

No longer is it enough to extol the sacrifices of those before us. The modern American finds it difficult to personally connect to past global conflicts because those success stories have been passed down two generations and more. In fact most of us today rely upon black-and-white documentaries to inform us of past historical events. The History Channel has kept up with technology and style to compete with Hollywood but how many theater seats can you fill with the War of 1812? There are those connected to the Hollywood mainstream who wish to redefine the art of documentary films. I pray their efforts are unsuccessful. I want future generations to have the real facts from multiple viable perspectives, hence I was a bit relieved to read Michael Moore wants to redefine his own documentary to the status of fiction so as to enable his work to be recognized by his peers as exemplary in its own right.

Today's technology is also exemplary and we rely upon established news sources to be equal to the task. News sources are overly abundant today so anyone without some knowledge of the issues truly must be living in a cave. But this abundance also raises the competitive stake and at times discretion has been set aside. Case in point: Al-Qaida leadership's communication network relied heavily upon the cellular phone. This became a news release and now low-tech prevails. Smooth move. Very expensive. That particular media outlet got its ratings spike but people died. Where was the outrage? Above all the public's right to know was satisfied. So tell me. Do you feel satisfied?

As for lives given in the pursuit of freedom the end may not justify the means, to a significant number, but in the Iraqi war I just cannot bring myself to lament over the end of rape rooms, torture, mass graves, invasions and constant war with the promise of another generation of the same. To put it into perspective: I am not a young man and this has been going on for most of my life.

In the war on terror I am compelled to choose my ground. No mixed signals during half-time and I choose to stay with the coach and quarterback because regardless of the election results our enemy will continue to test our national resolve. President Bush has my utmost confidence because I have seen some of his play book. Candidate Kerry's play book is reminiscent of internal strife during Vietnam, his participation in it, and former President Johnson's pledge to end poverty in America on the side.

The terrorist's play book is transparent: Kill women and children in front of the men. Behead the men. To paraphrase a news release from terrorist leadership, we are dealing with an enemy who cherishes death as much as Americans cherish life. No mixed signals there.

In a postscript I am unwilling to pass onto my grandchildren intrusive government scrutiny if we are not at war with anyone. Our choices are limited. Bring down the barriers and recognize acceptable routine collateral damage for not acting fast enough to state-sponsored terrorist demands (they always have demands), plan the kids' education (K-12) around color-coded threat levels, or fight this war to end it.

• Ken Dunker is a Juneau resident and a Vietnam-era Navy veteran.

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