The bloody slaughter and grievous wounding of innocents abroad compels us to focus today on the tough truths underlying any chance we have for winning the war against global terror. Or at least not losing it.
We must start by calling out the failings of all who need to rise to the urgency and become our heroes.
TOUGH TRUTH: Tomorrow’s only true heroes in the worldwide war against terror know who they are. And we know where they are (even though many of us think it is wrong to say publicly what we know). They must be – and can only be – the peace-loving and patriotic leaders of the Islamic communities in America, Europe and throughout the world.
In the United States and Europe, patriotic young citizens who are Muslims enlist in our military, serve, fight and die to safeguard our freedom. Then they return home and resume their duties of citizenship in communities. Sometimes they are conflicted by the presence of a small fraction of radical religious zealots who may believe in honoring their supreme being by mass murdering; and they know Islamic State terrorists have murdered many fellow Muslims in the Middle East.
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Do our patriotic Muslim fellow-citizens feel the same urgency to say or do something to prevent an evil-intentioned few from hijacking their faith and murdering their fellow citizens? Probably, but unfortunately, we rarely hear about such valor.
There is nothing President Obama or the leaders of Europe and other world powers can do autonomously that will solve our ultimate security problem. Our security cannot be achieved without the forging of a new level of courageous, very public determination – led by Muslim leaders in their communities – to identify and defeat evil-doers before they attack.
TOUGH TRUTH: President George W. Bush, who was wrong on many things, was absolutely right after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks when he told the world there can be no safe harbors for global terrorists – either they are with us or they are with the terrorists. But it’s a warning siren we stopped hearing – until the bombs echoed through Brussels.
Pathetically, passive Belgian authorities long permitted their large Muslim community to exist as a mostly impenetrable safe harbor where radicals often seemed to come and go – terrorize and slaughter – with frightening ease. We remember how Islamic jihadist terrorists drove three hours from Brussels’ Maelbeek neighborhood to Paris, slaughtered, then at least one of them drove back across the allegedly closed border and became invisible, yet again, to Brussels authorities. Months later, that one terrorist was finally arrested – and a few days later, Brussels officials were shocked, shocked when other Islamic State terrorists in their midst struck back by bombing Brussels.
So French and Belgian leaders raced to meet anew. But there is nothing they couldn’t have said – and done – months ago.
TOUGH TRUTH: We must also recognize that at least some of our patriotic citizens today may feel a greater urgency and tension than the rest of us do – because, as Muslims, they may occasionally see or sense something that leads them to fear the worst. Could a neighbor or family member have been co-opted by radicals who may be plotting terror? Do they always feel they know what they must do – what to say and whom to tell to prevent a tragedy?
The world will always remember the freeze frame of history when Bush was sitting and reading to small children when he was told of the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Now the world will also forever see with the mind’s eye the picture of President Obama clapping alongside Raul Castro at a baseball game in in Cuba – making history but looking pathetically in the wrong place, as the world’s split screens also focused on those bloody visuals of terrorism in Brussels.
Let Obama come home from Latin America and, in perhaps his last chance at a bold new legacy achievement, finally make positive use of his Muslim affinity and community organizing past by promoting a new patriotic activism and leadership within Muslim communities.
Let America’s finest Muslim community leaders forge a new heroic determination to defeat the terrorists where they live, here at home and around the world.
Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org.