The reviews of "United 93" have been mostly glowing, muting somewhat the objection by those who thought it was too soon
for such a stark and heartbreaking re-creation of what happened to that flight on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.
In truth, however, not only is it not too soon, it is inexcusably late for Hollywood's first serious contribution to the war effort.
It should not have taken almost five years since the bloodiest attack ever by a foreign enemy on US soil for a major studio to
release a powerful reminder of why and what we are fighting. What has happened to Hollywood, which wasn't always so
hesitant about enlisting in the struggle against evil? (Think of 1942's stirring "Mrs. Miniver," winner of six Academy Awards,
which Winston Churchill said was "worth a hundred battleships" in the war against the Nazis.) And what has happened to us,
that we would actually debate whether we could handle a movie that sets the murderous depravity of our enemy totalitarian
Islam against the American heroism that met it in the skies over Pennsylvania on that terrible day?
It isn't only Hollywood that is at fault. Within hours of the terrorist attacks on 9/11, the TV networks decided that
Americans must not be allowed to see footage of victims jumping to their deaths from the World Trade Center, or images of
the corpses at Ground Zero and the Pentagon. "It's stunning photography, I understand that," said Bill Wheatley, a vice
president of NBC News, "but we felt the image was disturbing."
But that was exactly why that video and those photographs should never have been suppressed. By not "disturbing" us with
the visual horror of 9/11, the media made it too easy to forget the nature of the enemy that started this war. Maybe the moral
clarity of 9/11 wouldn't have dissipated quite so quickly and maybe those for whom the United States is always at fault
wouldn't have gained so much ground if Americans had been confronted with those "disturbing" images more often. What
the jihadis did to 3,000 innocent human beings that morning they would willingly do the rest of us. We will not defeat them by
averting our gaze from the truth.
In state houses around the country, lawmakers are turning out the lights and calling it a year.
"The legislature enters the final week of the 2006 session today," the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported on Monday from
Missouri's capital, Jefferson City, "with Republicans sharply split on key issues ranging from lobbying rules to Medicaid fraud
to development subsidies."
In Tallahassee, the Florida Legislature wrapped up its annual 60-day session last Friday, once again failing to reach
agreement on funding a new baseball stadium for the Florida Marlins.
And in Iowa, Governor Tom Vilsack praised the now-ended session of the state Legislature in Des Moines. "The final
actions taken by legislators," he said, "will allow us to keep our promises to Iowa's kids, teachers, seniors, veterans, and
As Tennyson might have put it if he'd been a political junkie, in the spring a lawmaker's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of
adjournment. Legislative sessions in most of the country are short and sweet; rare is the legislature that hasn't tied things up by
May and sent its members back to the real world and their real jobs. Only in eight states Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan,
New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin do legislators think their presence is required year-round. It
never seems to dawn on them, or on the voters who keep electing them, that if 42 other states can survive without nonstop
legislatures, they probably can, too.
On "Meet the Press" recently, Senator Ted Kennedy pooh-poohed the suggestion that a unilateral withdrawal from Iraq
might lead to even more chaos and terrorism:
"First of all, I heard the same kinds of suggestions at the time of the end of the Vietnam War. The 'Great Bloodbath' we're
going to have over 100,000 people that were going to be murdered and killed . . . Those of us that were strongly opposed to
the war heard those same kinds of arguments at the time."
Even for Kennedy, such revisionism is shockingly dishonest. For in fact, the American abandonment of Vietnam led not to
100,000 murders, but to an even ghastlier toll.
"A gruesome holocaust took place in Cambodia, the likes of which had not been seen since World War II," James Webb, a
scholar, combat Marine, and former Navy secretary, has written. "Two million Vietnamese fled their country mostly by boat.
Thousands lost their lives in the process . . . Inside Vietnam, a million of the south's best young leaders were sent to
re-education camps; more than 50,000 perished while imprisoned, and others remained captives for as long as 18 years."
There was indeed a "great bloodbath" after the United States turned its back on Southeast Asia. Would there be another if
we gave up on Iraq? Let's not find out.