- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2001

Can a politically correct America win this war? The short answer to that question is "No." The nation's moral stance and resolve have been corrupted by a decade of political correctness, and we are now paying the price.

In this war, political correctness is the willingness to yield to the sensitivity of others, including the enemy. This new weakness has now caught up with us on two fronts: the war in Afghanistan and the domestic war against terrorism.

In the war 6,000 miles away, we are displaying a lack of nerve that manifests itself in several self-defeating ways.

The first is the need to regularly confess that we have injured Afghan civilians.

Because of our technology, we believe we can fight a surgically antiseptic war that we can hit a tank but spare a home 100 feet away. No one can always fight such a war and the occasional failure feeds enemy propaganda.

"Sorry, sorry," our politically correct government utters while American television and newspapers show close-ups of injured Afghan children, a portrait that can weaken our resolve. Instead we should endlessly repeat that civilian casualties are an absolute necessity of any war.

Acknowledging incidents of "collateral damage," as we now regularly do, only serves an enemy propaganda. Our commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Tommy Franks, even foolishly stated we will always tell the truth about civilian casualties. We might as well take over the propaganda chore for the enemy.

What should be done?

Acknowledge nothing about any specific incident. Merely repeat that our government does not aim at civilian targets.

A second aspect of political correctness is so-called purity, the need to tell the enemy the truth, even when it hurts us by creating defeatism. This was displayed by a Pentagon spokesman, Rear Adm. John D. Stufflebeem, who stated that "I am a bit surprised at how doggedly they're [the Taliban] hanging on to their to power."

He should be placed in a Pentagon backroom, never again to speak to the press, who love to latch on to a case of American bad luck or failure.

The third politically correct failure is our insistence on telling the enemy that we are sorry about killing him and that we will try to respect his religion and holidays. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who once said of the Iraqis, that "we'll cut them off and then kill them," has apparently found political correctness, acknowledging "sensitivity" to the enemy's Ramadan holiday, which lasts for a month. Helping the Taliban to celebrate their holiday would virtually destroy our military campaign.

Is that sensitivity like the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on the Sunday sabbath morning? Or the Arab attack on Israel on Yom Kippur, or the Iraq-Iran war when Ramadan was suspended for years. War is hell, Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman once advised us. There's no room there for religious holidays.

The fourth politically correct activity is the temptation to put down our own allies as not being pure enough. The American press has begun to talk about the Northern Alliance as being too weak and even as "bad guys," injuring our coalition. They are "pure" enough to hate and fight the Taliban, which makes them freedom fighters in any lexicon.

The fifth case of foolish political correctness involves the domestic war against terrorists, where our attitudes are crippling us. While we're fighting the Taliban to stop the training of terrorists there, we are importing their recent graduates, a new Fifth Column, under the PC doctrine of free and open American borders, even for our enemy.

Of the 19 suicide hijackers, 15 came here on "Multiple Use" Saudi visas, good for up to two years of stay. Are there many Saudis still here? Some 60,000 total Saudi visas are granted each year, too many for anyone to check their backgrounds.

Attorney General John Ashcroft, who has been doing a good job within the confines of the present law, has also fallen into the politically correct trap. Given new authority last week, he now states that "if they overstay their visas by even one day," he'll arrest them. Does that mean that if their visas are not overdue, which was the case in nine of the Saudi killers, that's it's OK to plan and execute terrorism here?

The villain here is the comment, made to me regularly by government personnel, that to tighten our borders to Middle Easterners would be "racial profiling." This is an incorrect use of a phrase used to discriminate falsely against our own people. But in the case of aliens, especially potential enemy aliens, the use of word "racial profiling" to describe security matters is a self-defeating, politically correct attitude.

To properly tighten our borders, all we need do is reduce the visa quota of some 250,000 Middle Easterners a year by 90 percent, carefully checking the remaining 10 percent. If we are blocked by PC champions in Washington, especially in the State Department or the Immigration and Nationalization Service, we should go across the board and eliminate 90 percent of all 7 million visas a year. Most important, we should reduce the length of all visas to only 30 days, fingerprinting all and requiring them to reapply for any extension.

(This wouldn't inhibit travel by citizens of 29 nations, mostly Europeans, who don't need a visa to come here.)

The present open visa policy, with it overconcern for aliens, including enemy aliens, is ludicrous. It even stretches to the fact that now some eight weeks after Sept. 11 a terrorist is still able to take flying lessons at any of the flight schools in America.

"I haven't received any directives from the government to stop training foreigners," says the operator a of a flight schools in Danbury, Conn.

If nothing else, that is the ultimate victory of political correctness over common sense, once a great American virtue.

The assault on the World Trade Center was our Pearl Harbor, killing twice as many as died on Dec. 7, 1941. In addition to the plethora of flags, we should add a reminder, a poster of the once-gallant Lower New York skyline with the motto, "Remember The Twin Towers."

That might help dispel the tendency to call on the politically correct concern for the sensibilities of the enemy. Anger and the desire for revenge and victory would be the more appropriate and sincere emotions.

Martin Gross is a nationally syndicated columnist.


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