NATIONAL PARTY NO MORE
By Zell Miller
Excerpts from The Washington Times 11-6-03 book review.
(The first two paragraphs refer to previous paragraphs about Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill.)
These two men, each the greatest of his century, knew the horrors of war. But they also knew wars are sometimes necessary, that there is more to civilization than just comfortable self-preservation.
Soft-belly peaceniks believe war is politically pointless and foreign policy like so much fuzzy-feeling social work. I reject that. Sometimes a short war must be fought to prevent a longer war. Sometimes hundreds may die to save thousands. Sometimes the long view of history must be taken.
In my Senate office in the Dirksen Building, I have a 3-foot-by-5-foot painting of the raising of the flag at Iwo Jima. I had it behind my desk at the State Capitol in Atlanta when I was governor of Georgia.
To me, that image of six men raising an American flag on Mount Suribachi in one of the bloodiest battles ever fought is one of the world's most vivid symbols of the price of freedom. The photograph from which it was painted is the most reproduced in the history of photography.
Those flag raisers were young men, just boys really, six of America's best from all corners of our country. A coal miner's son from Pennsylvania, a farmer's son from Kentucky, a mill worker's son from New England. Another farmer's son from Wisconsin. One came out of the oil fields of Texas, and one was a Pima Indian from the Gila Reservation in Arizona.
Three of those boys would never leave the island and would be buried in that black volcanic ash. One would leave on a stretcher. The other two would come home to live miserable lives of drunkenness and despair.
Only one would somehow be able to overcome that island and the event with any degree of peace of mind. He was the one who left on a stretcher, a Navy corpsman assigned to the Marines to help with their wounded and dying.
His name was John Bradley. In 2000, his son James Bradley wrote a memorable book, “Flags of Our Fathers.” The great historian Stephen Ambrose called it the best battle book he ever read. I recommend it highly.
It is easy to miss one of the most important things about this image of courage and sacrifice at Iwo Jima six decades ago. James Bradley points this out: There are six in the group, but unless you look closely you see only five. Only the helping hand of one is visible. Most significantly, they are virtually faceless. Only a somewhat vague profile of one can be seen.
Isn't that the way it has always been with most of freedom's soldiers - unknown and, all too often, unappreciated? They are those faceless, nameless “grunts” that fight our wars to keep us free.
One does not have to wear a uniform or hold a public office to be one of freedom's soldiers. One does not have to carry a gun or brandish a sword. One only has to be armed with courage and love of liberty.
Rosa Parks was a soldier of freedom when she refused to move to the back of the bus in Birmingham. That young minister named King up at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church took up the cause and, with words sharper than any bayonet and deadlier than any bullet, slayed the evil of segregation and brought freedom to millions. Young John Lewis risked his life at Edmund Pettis Bridge as he marched for liberty, just the same as those farmers had at Concord Bridge.
Abigail Adams, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cody Stanton, Lucretia Mott and Mary Wollstonecraft were all freedom's soldiers, fighting for women's liberty.
Some of freedom's soldiers used the pen instead of the sword. John Stuart Mill with his essay “On Liberty” and Thomas Paine in “Common Sense” provided inspiration to freedom lovers who read their words.
But there are times when the only solution is war, when, as that great hymn goes, we must “rise up and put our armor on.”
I admire the songwriter Kris Kristofferson. His words and music elevated country music to a new, inspiring level. But that line in “Me and Bobby McGee” about “freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose” has always disturbed me.
I do not believe it. I reject it. It is not true. Kristofferson wrote it in the late 1960s; about the same time I recall seeing a news photograph of a protesting student in the days of the Vietnam War. He was carrying a sign with the words “Nothing is worth dying for.”
I remember thinking then, as I do today, that if there is nothing worth dying for in our America, then there is truly nothing here worth living for, either.
I watched the war with Iraq with pride, but could not help marveling: “Where do we keep getting these young men and women?”
Consider how many young people on our college campuses and in our workplaces do not have this love of country and willingness to die for it. Either amnesia has set in or there is total apathy about our history and the huge price paid for freedom.
Hubris is best defined as “outrageous arrogance.” And if you study the lessons of history, which we don't anymore, you would find that hubris has time and time again brought down powerful civilizations.
We are in grave danger of that happening today. There is no greater example of outrageous arrogance than in Hollywood, from those who live in a make-believe world and think they carry more influence than they do.
I am fed up with Hollywood weenies like Martin Sheen and Sean Penn making millions of dollars playing soldiers in films like “Apocalypse Now” and “Casualties of War” and then, in real life, giving the finger to those who really wear the uniform. To me, they are lower than a snake's belly, hypocrites at best, all gurgle and no guts.
Rapper Ice-T is just as bad. This hypocrite got rich with “Cop Killer,” his hit in the early 1990s, and its refrain “Die, die, die, pig, die! [Expletive] the police.” And then he portrays a pony-tailed detective on the popular TV show, “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.”
That's hubris. That's hypocrisy. That's a disgrace.
It's time these so-called public figures wake up.
It's also time for a wake-up call in the House of Representatives. A few elected members there, sworn to preserve and protect, visited the enemy in Iraq and became unwitting toadies and tools for dictators and wannabe Hitlers through their reluctance to make tough decisions.
I also saw hubris in the Senate where, almost casually, a few union jobs were put above the security of a nation in wrangling over homeland security.
But where you would not see it was in the Bush White House and at 10 Downing Street in London. For President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair, like Lincoln and Churchill before them, understood there is always the ongoing struggle between good and evil - and one must have steel in one's spine to take a stand.
History will be especially kind to these two 21st-century soldiers of freedom.
I fear that some of the Democratic presidential candidates are treading on very dangerous ground for the party and, more importantly, for the country.
I do not question their patriotism; I question their judgment. They are doing what politicians often do, playing to the loudest, and most active and most emotional group of supporters, feeding off frustration while clawing to find some advantage. I've done it myself and lived to regret it. My concern is that, without meaning to, they are exacerbating the difficulties of a nation at war.
Some of the liberal media excuse these actions by calling them “populism.” Populism, my butt. It's demagogy, pure and simple. They should stop this, or at least modify it into a more civil discourse.
Howard Dean, while not alone, is the worst offender, and it says a lot about the current Democratic base that he has emerged as front-runner for the nomination. Angry and red-faced, these doom-and-gloomers need to take some “calm-me-down” pills. They should realize their overheated rhetoric is dividing the country when they should be helping unite it.
Republican presidential candidate Wendell Willkie didn't stoop to this demagogy in 1940 when he ran against President Roosevelt during those dangerous times on the eve of World War II. And Neville Chamberlain didn't do it to Winston Churchill, who had replaced him as British prime minister. They understood there are some things more important than making political points when a nation is in peril.
Frankly, I cannot understand the candidates' shrill, manufactured opposition. We've freed a nation from a cruel and oppressive dictator. A free Iraq, most everyone agrees, can transform the Middle East.
Isn't that what presidents have wanted to do for many years? Give it time. Of course, it's going to be difficult. Of course, it's going to be costly. Regrettably, more of our American sons and daughters will die.
There will be times when it looks like it's not worth it. But in the long stretch of history, it will be worth it.
Copyright Zell Miller, 2003. All rights reserved. For information, visit http://www.zellmillerbook.com.