Give the Brits credit. When it comes to fighting terrorism, they know there’s no percentage in playing word games.
They know the threat today isn’t Irish terrorism. Nor is it some kind of ancient insurrection from the Scots or the French or the Norse.
It’s terrorism of the radical Islamic variety. And British leaders focus their attention, and their language, accordingly.
The latest to illustrate this is Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of the British intelligence agency MI5.
Two radicalized young men linked to al-Qaida murdered British soldier Lee Rigby in broad daylight in London. They screamed “Allahu Akbar” on a cellphone video as they attempted to behead the soldier’s body with a cleaver. Authorities have arrested 10 people in connection with the horrific act.
Rimington invoked the spirit of wartime to her country.
“The enemy is everywhere,” she said. MI5 can’t spot every danger in advance, so citizens have a duty to act as the “eyes and ears” of the police.
Can you imagine President Barack Obama uttering that? Four years later, he still can’t call the obvious terrorism at Fort Hood, Texas, terrorism motivated by radical Islamic ideology.
When Army Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, a Muslim inspired by Anwar al-Awlaki, shouted “Allahu Akbar” and opened fire, killing 13 people, President Barack Obama danced around the T-word.
He does so to this day. His Department of Defense calls what Hasan did “the criminal act of a single individual,” an unfortunate case of workplace violence. The irony of that piece of political correctness is that Obama then proceeded to drone Maj. Hasan’s imam, Anwar al-Awlaki.
Think about that slowly. Anwar al-Awlaki is worthy of death by drone, but Nidal Hasan is just a stressed-out soldier who snapped? Good gawd, Mr. President, lead us or get out of the way.
At least the British had the courtesy to immediately and rightly establish Rigby’s death as one of being killed in action. That is a meaningful distinction.
It’s a distinction, it is sad to say, that Obama won’t give to those soldiers killed at Fort Hood.
A proper Memorial Day
Almost every tweet I read from elected officials this Memorial Day paid tribute to the military.
Now I admit that I have a tendency to pick fly dung out of pepper, but mixing military praise and glory with remembering the war dead is a misuse of Memorial Day.
I had a Twitter exchange on this with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. She wrote: “On #MemorialDay in Pembroke Pines, we honor & thank our veterans for their service & sacrifice to our great nation.”
I replied “More misunderstanding of what Memorial Day is for.”
And she answered: “No misunderstanding. We honor the fallen on Memorial Day & should never miss a chance to thank our vets!”
I respectfully disagree.
Memorial Day has its roots in the Civil War, a time in which our war dead lay not in a far-off land, but on our own fields and farms. First starting in towns and cities as independent remembrances, it turned into Decoration Day, which was set for May 30 exactly because it was the date of no particular Civil War battle. On the first Decoration Day, we put flowers on the graves of both North and South soldiers.
We did this to find healing, not to keep alive past differences or to glorify war.
As Decoration Day morphed into Memorial Day, and Congress in its infinite wisdom turned it into a three-day weekend for federal workers, the holiday changed to also become the unofficial start of summer — another intrusion on the true function of Memorial Day.
Now look, I like hot dogs and baseball, and there’s nothing wrong with a good parade. But if you want to party only, do it another day. If you want to thank the vets, do it on Veterans Day. A proper Memorial Day remembers the dead.
And in doing so, we heal and look for a better way.
Sherman Frederick, former publisher of the Las Vegas Review-Journal and a member of the Nevada Newspaper Hall of Fame, writes a column for Stephens Media. Read his blog at www.reviewjournal.com/columns-blogs/sherman-frederick.