Dec. 14, Friday--Ground Zero Plus 94
Why Terrorism Will Never Surrender
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent Team
Terrorism will never surrender. It can’t. It
only knows how to die for its cause. Dying is its greatest honor.
Living is its penalty.
I know a little about that.
Thirty-five years ago the enemy had our company
surrounded. We were taking fire virtually from all sides. We walked
into a trap.
I remember the bullets cracking past my ear, snapping like thunder,
feeling their heat and deadly mission as I was pinned down, unable to lift
my head for fear the wall of lead would crush through my helmet, rip holes
in my body.
The Viet Cong had waited until the last moment and then opened up
with a fury that drove us all down to the earth. Marines screamed as
bullets tore into their flesh.
For a few deadly moments there was nothing but fear of dying raging
through my mind as I lay face down, enemy bullets chewing the earth around
me, inching toward me as the enemy’s aim grew better. I knew I must move
or die—but to move meant death. I would be more exposed than I was.
Suddenly, the fear washed itself away.
I remember the calmness as it oozed into of my pores, and my muscles
tensed. I had been trained to die. I had been grilled and disciplined
to charge and scream like a banshee, to become invincible to death.
The Marine Corps teaches its warriors The Way. They don’t call it
that, but it is the same as the ninjas are taught. That is—if you are
already dead, you cannot fear death. To believe you are dead, makes you
invincible to the fear of it.
That feeling that day enveloped me. I was already dead. Dying was
not a penalty. Living in fear was.
So I rose up. I grabbed my rifle and pistol and
began firing wildly at the enemy flashpoints. I screamed wildly, a
primal roar Marines are trained to emote in boot camp—a legacy they earned
from many enemies who tagged them “Devil Dogs” because they charged the
enemy screaming and ranting and firing, fearlessly, caring little about
whether they died—more concerned with killing the enemy than fearful of
That legacy saved my life that day. As I scrambled to my feet and
began squeezing rounds and yelling at the top of my lungs, around me other
Marines who had been driven to the earth by the ambush rose too. We
charged forward, guns blazing, a pack of vicious animals willing to die
courageously rather than cower in the face of death.
Miraculously, we broke through the enemy fire, crawled up a hill, and
most of us escaped the walls of fire trying to wipe us from existence.
We carried our wounded and dead with us, bullets smashing between our
legs, near our heads and shoulders—our rifles and pistols blazing at the
Viet Cong as though we were the aggressors, not the defenders.
I remember that day the most of all the battles
I fought. We escaped the jaws of
death by opening our jaws wider. There was no earthly reason for us to
have survived but for the sheer will and “guts and glory” of our training.
When the Taliban did not surrender on the day they were supposed to,
I thought back to that primal skirmish I was in over three decades ago.
Like the Taliban, we were outnumbered and out-gunned. The fierce
determination of our training and our beliefs saved us.
Terrorism, I believe, operates with the same kind of eternal passion
I felt that day over thirty years ago By the nature of its existence, it cannot die. It
fears nothing—not even death.
Americans who wonder why the Taliban fight on in the face of certain
death might never understand the equation. I think I do. As a warrior
trained to die, I understand their last gasping breath of defiance. Not
that I respect what they stand for—I do not—but I understand their “will
to die” for what they believe.
They believe, as I did, that death is honor. The difference between
American Marines and the Taliban, however, is that Marines often wear a
tattoo that says, “I’ll see you again in Hell!” The Taliban,
unfortunately, think they will go to Heaven. Therein, lies the rub.
Terrorism is a beast.
We can bomb it, blast it, rip it with bullets, cut off its leaders
heads, torture its prisoners, but, in the final analysis, it will
regenerate. It will return in different forms, but with the same
intent—to drive the wedge of fear and intimidation into the hearts of
those it attacks.
That’s why fighting complacency must be
America’s number one priority once the evidence of bin Laden’s death, or the seeming surrender
of the Taliban, is complete. Complacency is the false assumption
Terrorism will bow down and offer its hate, its envy, its resentment and
its anger over to the “infidels.”
It will never do that.
But, Americans, who historically love to
shove the past in a grave and bury it so they can get on with the “normal
way of life, will be rudely awakened by its outbreak in the
If we learned one lesson from the September 11th
Terrorist attacks, it must be about the “vulnerability” of America. To
counter potential complacency, we must be Semper Vigilantes, Always Vigilant.
Now that the crack in the dam is obvious,
we must prepare ourselves and our children to stand up to the future,
using our experience and knowledge of the past.
There can be no victory over physical Terrorism. But there can be
over its emotional impact. There can be an ongoing vigilance we, as a society, bring to
our children. We can teach them "The Way Of Vigilance." That
is, to learn to manage their fear, intimidation and complacency.
We can prioritize to our children the power
of replacing fear with
courage, intimidation with conviction and complacency with action.
Since Terrorism feeds primarily on fear, intimidation and complacency, our
best defense against these beasts is to recognize they will not give
up—they will not surrender. To admit otherwise, is to
start the engines of complacency.
A Reminder To
Never Forget Vietnam
Now, How Will We Never Forget September 11?
As a society, we are quick to teach our children not to talk
to “strangers,” or expose themselves to vulnerability of the
physical self. Accordingly, we can also teach them
to be vigilant about fear, intimidation and complacency.
If we believe Terrorism,
like evil, cannot be killed or eliminated from our lives, then
we become true Sentinels of Vigilance. We do not allow
the door to complacency to open. We keep one eye
open all the time.
We become the
Warriors of Peace. Then nothing, not even Terrorists,
can frighten us, or, our children ever again.
To December 13: "Is John Walker Really Jane Fonda In Drag?"
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