Just days after watching from my office window as the Pentagon burned during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I spoke to a group in Natchez. It was a Chamber of Commerce meeting that had been scheduled for a long time, yet the tragedy of that week overshadowed everything.
Like most Americans in 9/11's wake, Mississippians there that night were wondering how their government would respond and were looking to the Senator in front of them for answers.
I deviated from my planned remarks and candidly said the War on Terror would be a military campaign. It would be long, would take ground troops, and we would suffer many casualties. I said we would have to fight a very elusive enemy all over the world.
Six years later, all that still holds true. We’re still in a war against terrorists who will attack us whenever and wherever they can, maybe even in our home state. We’ve won battles, suffered casualties, thwarted attacks and eliminated scores of terrorists, but the war continues as long as the threat remains.
While some media polls state the obvious fact that Americans are naturally weary of war, I believe that our overall commitment to fighting terrorists, despite their location or sponsorship, is strong and that our patriotism and faith in our military are solid.
The organized theatrics staged in Washington by fringe groups last week – attacking General David Petraeus, the military commander in Iraq, as he gave his long-awaited report to Congress – were over the line. So was their blunt, full-page ad in The New York Times which called the General a traitor.
This is a man with a stellar career who was unanimously confirmed by the Senate and charged with getting results in Iraq. He’s doing that. As we think about where we are in the War on Terror, the activist groups’ disrespectful and tasteless display begs just two questions of rational folks: In whom do you trust with your security – our military or MoveOn.org? Whose word do you believe – that of our top General or a few in Congress?
The manufactured outbursts we saw two days in a row as the General testified, in no way reflect what Middle America thinks about our military and their efforts to fight terrorists or stabilize Iraq.
In the years following the 9/11 attacks, a few vocal Americans have opposed striking back at terrorists militarily, anywhere. A few believe we can somehow stop terrorists by changing our politics and policies. Most Americans know that’s absurd.
Concerns about specific Iraq strategy aside, those in Washington should understand that most Americans in places like Mississippi still respect our men and women in uniform. And the American people still want terrorists defeated by any means, including militarily. We know only our military can really defeat terrorists where they reside, before they can attack us at home.
Thanks to General Petraeus and our military, the troop surge is achieving its goals. The sectarian violence in Iraq is down. The explosions are down, so much so that General Petraeus said America can withdraw about 30,000 troops from Iraq by next summer. Does anyone really think this man would put his entire military career on the line to say that, if he didn’t believe it?
My message to Mississippians six years into the War on Terror is the same as it was in the serious, sobering days following the 9/11 attacks. They struck us all that day – from New York to Natchez and all points between. They would still be striking us at home, were it not for our military men and women. To maintain our national security we can earnestly listen to our military commanders in the field. Or we can put our faith in Washington political organizations. Who do you believe?
Senator Lott welcomes any questions or comments about this column.
Write to: U.S. Senator Trent Lott, 487 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20510 (Attn: Press Office) or Email