Jewish World Review Sept. 6, 2005/ 2 Ellul,
The high waves of emotion
The destruction of New Orleans breaks the hearts of everyone;
never in our history, not even in the Civil War, have we seen a great city
abandoned. Not even the most churlish critics of our military begrudge the
dispatch of thousands of National Guardsmen, Navy ships and Coast Guard
cutters to deal with pain and loss. At least not so far.
Tragedy on the Gulf Coast washed Cindy Sheehan off the front
pages and the television screens. The skirmishes at Prairie Chapel Ranch are
quickly forgotten, and where are the correspondents assigned to Aruba and
the search for Natalee Holloway now? For once, the cable-TV networks have
dropped their pursuit of obscure crimes to follow a bigger story.
Self-inflicted farce surrounds Cindy Sheehan, a mother whose
grief over the death of her son in Iraq made her a perverse celebrity. She
began her vigil to compel President Bush to grant her a second audience to
talk about the war in Iraq, but at summer's end she pronounced herself
"happy" that the president had declined to meet her again because otherwise
she never would have become the icon of antiwar sound and fury. Who does not
sympathize profoundly with a mourning mother? But she turned herself into an
embarrassing rival only of Jane Fonda as a would-be maker of national
Now there are new appeals to America's enormous and generous
heart. Infusions of money, blood and medicines must answer the pleas for
help for the helpless displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Flood and destruction
allow ordinary Americans to make sacrifices the war in Iraq has not
demanded. Pent-up frustrations over the war seek an outlet, with the urgency
of Lake Pontchartrain breaching the 17th Street levee, to do something for
Not many of us want to hear appeals for sacrifice to save
Iraqis, no matter that saving them is in our own interests. George W. Bush
frequently compares the moral rightness of the war in Iraq to the righteous
war fought by "the greatest generation," and it seems to me that he's
correct that taking democracy to Iraq is as important as taking democracy to
Japan six decades ago. But he should be more eloquent in explaining why.
It's not enough to remind us that the men and women who got up
and went to work in the Twin Towers, or who died in a corner of the Pentagon
or in a bean field in Pennsylvania, were the heroic dead of the first battle
of a genuine war against the United States. If September 11 is to become a
date to live in infamy, with the lasting iconic power of December 7, we have
to believe there is a strategy like that laid out by FDR. Just saying so is
Does Osama bin Laden understand, as Admiral Yamamoto did, that
sneak attacks on the innocent only "awaken a sleeping giant, and make him
very, very angry"? Indeed, do we understand that?
Hitler was surprised when the British did not give up when he
blitzed London, so he set out to break the British spirit with
"Coventrieren," a tactic to extend the destruction of Coventry to 20
additional cities. But instead of breaking the British spirit,
"Coventrieren" strengthened it. The people of Coventry began rebuilding
their houses and factories at once.
Hurricane Katrina and Cindy Sheehan must be similar tests of the
spirit. The winds of the storm, like the winds of war, beat against our
emotions and our will, and the American will to survive must prevail against
the despairing voices that, as the poet says, will wake us only to drown.
Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.
Comment on JWR contributor Suzanne Fields' column by clicking here.