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Let’s Hope "War on Terror" is Obama’s Dog, Too

April 6, 2009

I was reminded this week about an incident that occurred many years ago during my run for the state legislature.

Campaigning door to door on a rural road in Elizabeth Twp., Pennsylvania -- it was getting late in the evening -- but I had just three more houses remaining to finish off the street -- the last house being one that sat far off the road.

Drudging up the long driveway I could see the homeowner sitting on the front porch and there appeared to be a good-sized dog sniffing around his yard. Being mindful of neighborhood canines -- I asked the homeowner "Does your dog bite?"and felt reassured when he answered, "No, my dog doesn’t bite."

As I proceeded to the house the dog dashed toward me and bit off a pretty good piece of my trousers. "I thought you said your dog doesn’t bite," I asked, to which the man replied, "My dog doesn’t bite - but that’s not my dog."

And so we saw this political lesson play out in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s announcement this week that the Obama Administration had abandoned the Bush phrase "global war on terror."

President Obama, has had little to say about the dropping of the phrase -- but it’s clear that speaking about a "war on terror" is simply not his dog. The President wants to define his efforts against terrorism on his own terms -- and does not want to be identified with the Bush fight of the past seven years.

This is fair enough as far as it goes -- and while Secretary Clinton claims there were no specific orders to bar the term’s use -- she did say the term was disliked overseas and that the dropping of the language "speaks for itself."

Still, let’s hope this is simply semantics because a war on terror is vital to our country and we cannot let our guard down or we may be hit again by those who wish to see this country vaporized.

Put into context - since November of 1979 - when fundamentalist Islamic students took 52 Americans hostage the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran - there have been 26 major terrorist attacks against U.S. targets - although there have been zero during the past 7 ½ years.

These prior attacks have resulted in countless American deaths - including the 1983 car bomb attacks against the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut (killing 241 servicemen) and the U.S. Embassy in Beirut (killing 63); the 1985 restaurant bombing near the U.S. air base in Madrid (wounding 15 Americans); the 1985 hijacking of TWA flight 847 (killing U.S. Navy diver Robert Dean Stethem); Palestinian attack of the cruise liner Achille Lauro (elderly wheelchair-bound American-passenger Leon Klinghoffer was killed and thrown overboard); the 1986 bombing of the LaBelle discotheque in West Berlin - a well known disco frequented by U.S. servicemen (killing one American wounding 150, including 44 Americans); the 1988 Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland killing all 259 (189 Americans); the 1993 car bomb in the underground garage of New York’s World Trade Center (a prelude to 9-11) killing 6 and wounding over 1,000 people; the 1998 terrorist bombings of U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Tanzania resulting in over 300 killed and 5,000 wounded; the 2000 terrorist attack against the destroyer USS Cole in Yemen (killing 17 sailors and injuring 39); and, of course, the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania (killing 2,740 Americans and 236 foreigners).

This is more than a partial chronological listing of terrorists attacks against the U.S. -- these incidents represent a psychological helplessness that Americans felt for years - until President Bush announced an all-out offensive to capture and kill terrorists everywhere - in a "global war on terror."

The results speak for themselves - not once since November of 1979 had the U.S. gone through an eight-year stretch (September 2001-April 2009) - without a single terrorist attack against a U.S. installation.

The country is counting on President Obama to keep this record intact - and hopefully he will see the "global war on terror" as his dog too - regardless of what he wants to call it.