Needed: Old war spirit in a new war

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Tony Blankley, editorial-page editor of The Washington Times, describes the present danger posed by militant Islam and what must be done to counter it in his new book, “The West’s Last Chance: Will We Win the Clash of Civilizations?” (Regnery Publishing)

Second of three parts

American writer and social historian Studs Terkel memorably called World War II “the good war.”

Terkel interviewed hundreds of GIs and their families many years after the war. They recalled that the struggle lifted them above their personal lives to fight on behalf of something they believed was greater than themselves.

World War II was good, despite the millions of deaths, the limitations on daily lives, the encroachment on peacetime liberties and the arduousness of wartime life. The war was good because the sacrifice was for a noble cause, for the perpetuation of America and the American way of life.

The struggle against Islamist terrorism is an equally good war — and for the same reasons. We have just as great a responsibility to win our struggle against insurgent Islamist aggression as our parents and grandparents had to win World War II.

There is no other cause so urgent. If we do not pay with our sacrifices now, we (and our children) will pay in greater losses later. We must be prepared to be just as ruthless and rational as the “greatest generation” was in defeating fascism.

Just as their generals and admirals made no compromise to the imperative of total victory on the battlefield, so British and American political leaders, courts and popular opinion let the requirements for victory define the powers of their government on the home front.

Prior to America’s entry into the war, Congress passed laws that, collectively, authorized President Franklin D. Roosevelt to instruct the FBI to investigate suspected subversive activity.

The Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938, the Smith Act of 1940 and the Voorhis Act of 1941 were the grounds for Roosevelt’s wartime domestic surveillance of American citizens whose political activity might lead them to serve the interests of opposing nations.

Attorney General Robert Jackson described the targets and responsibility of the FBI’s domestic intelligence activities as involving “steady surveillance over individuals and groups within the United States … which [are] ready to give assistance or encouragement in any form to invading or opposing ideologies.” Roosevelt authorized the FBI to use wiretaps (without a warrant), surreptitious entries and “champering” (secretly intercepting and reading private mail without consent).

Between 1941 and 1943, the Justice Department’s Special War Policies Unit took extensive action on the internal security front by interning thousands of enemy aliens, denaturalizing and deporting members of the German-American Bund, an American Nazi organization formed in the 1930s. The government prosecuted individuals for sedition and prohibited the mailing of some publications.

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