- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 16, 2005

In the midst of one of the greatest challenges we have ever faced, we in the Western World have developed a serious communications problem. In this era of hypersensitivity and political correctness, words no longer have meaning.

The good are too often portrayed as evil; indefensibly wicked acts are made less so by how they are described. Words like “hero” and “hatred” have lost definition. In a struggle for survival, the inability to discern attackers from allies, friends from foes and heroes from cowards can be catastrophic.

Scotland Yard and MI5 — the British domestic intelligence service — concluded three of the four young men who killed 52 people with backpack bombs in London on July 7 were home-grown. Law enforcement and security officials suspect plastic explosives used to create the carnage originated in Bosnia and were smuggled into Britain “by a criminal enterprise” after transiting much of the European Union.

Investigators described the perpetrators as “criminals” and characterized the event as “unlawful.” The government-subsidized BBC referred to them as “bombers” and the act as “barbaric.” But for reasons too arcane for most of us to comprehend, none of these public-safety stewards call the killers what they are — or their deed what it was. Those who planned and carried out the killings are, of course, radical Islamic fanatics who committed a horrific act of terrorism.

In the Netherlands, Mohammed Bouyeri, confessed murderer of Dutch documentary filmmaker Theo van Gogh went on trial in The Hague last week. Instead of mounting a defense, Bouyeri rose in the court and announced he was proud of what he had done, would have killed more if he could and would do it all again if given the chance.

The charge Bouyeri faces is “aggravated murder,” not terrorism Describing the crime, Dutch prosecutors have steadfastly refused to call Bouyeri an Islamic radical — though he calls himself a “soldier of Allah.”

Here in the United States we’re not doing much better. The U.S. media have made the Abu Ghraib story Page One “news” for nine months — and left the impression that aberrant behavior of a few was commonplace in the U.S. Armed Forces. An edited tape of a U.S. Marine firing at what he thought was a wounded, but armed and hostile, enemy combatant in a mosque in Fallujah was broadcast countless times by our television networks. Yet when the Marine’s court-martial resulted in an acquittal, it was barely covered.

Sen. Dick Durbin, Illinois Democrat, compared the men and women of our Armed Forces to those of Cambodia’s Pol Pot, Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler — and there were U.S. politicians who said there was no need for an apology.

The flip side of all this is also painfully obvious. The word “hero” no longer means one who has willingly put himself in grave physical jeopardy for the benefit of another. Heroes are people who overcome evil by doing good at great personal risk. Succeed or fail, heroes by self-sacrifice, fortitude and action provide a moral and ethical framework and inspiration for the rest of us.

Unfortunately our modern idea of “hero” has been corrupted to include all manner of people who do not warrant the title. The athlete who just set a new sports record isn’t a hero. Nor is the “daring” movie star or even the adventurer out to be the first solo climber to scale Mount Everest. They may be brave but they don’t meet the definition of a hero: Whatever they achieve benefits only “self.” Real heroes are selfless.

U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Jonathan Holsey really is a hero. A nine-year Army veteran, Sgt Holsey was serving in the 1st Battalion of the 503rd Infantry Regiment — one of the units I’ve been privileged to cover in Iraq for FOX News. A roadside bomb — placed by a terrorist, not an insurgent, not a “bomber,” a terrorist — so severely wounded him that his left leg had to be removed below the knee at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He now wears a prosthetic leg — yet he plans to stay in the Army. When I asked him why he replied: “because my soldiers need me. We have a war to win — and my country needs me.”

Marine Lance Cpl. Jake Knospler is another hero. On Nov. 12, 2004, Cpl. Knospler led his fire team in the 1st Battalion 8th Marines during the fight to liberate Fallujah from terrorists — not “freedom fighters,” terrorists. An enemy grenade hit him in the face, blowing away his jaw and part of his skull. He miraculously survived his terrible wounds and more than a dozen surgeries since. In the next two weeks, doctors at Bethesda National Naval Medical Center will re-install part of the corporal’s shattered skull that was removed and sewn into his chest until he was healthy enough to withstand the operation.

Cpl. Knospler told me, “I have to get better. My country, my Corps and my family are counting on me.”

These are just two of the countless heroes I’ve been blessed to see on the battlefield — and in hospitals around the country. Unlike Her Majesty’s government, Dutch prosecutors, much of our media and too many of our politicians, they have no trouble telling good from evil. They have confronted terror and persevered. In this age of ruptured rhetoric and garbled language we should be grateful we have such young Americans who know the difference.

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist and founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance.

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