Ten years ago, this morning, the Colonel put on his uniform and eased bedside to kiss the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda goodbye, before heading to the office. He hadn't slept.
How could he?
How could anyone?
The last twenty hours had seemed to last weeks.
A young Marine had tapped on his office door frame the morning before and said simply, "Colonel, you need to turn on your TV."
The set was across the office and rarely on. Not a good example for the boss to have the boob tube on during working hours, even if it had become a military tradition to keep CNN on to find out where the next hot spot was -- CNN's field reporters had become our best strategic scouts. He could tell by the look on the Marine's face that there was something big happening and the Colonel waved his permission.
The picture that filled the screen was instantly recognizable, if incongruous. One of the towers of the World Trade Center was afire at the top, black smoke billowing downwind against a vividly clear sky. The news anchor was breathlessly and a bit incredulously repeating the first reports that a small plane had accidentally crashed into the tower. Clear blue skies and huge gash in the building belied that. The Colonel's worst fears were confirmed only a minute later when the next hijacked airliner bored in on, and exploded into, the South Tower.
Our Nation was under attack.
For the previous two decades the Colonel had been privy in varying degrees to the shadowy, half-hearted battle these re-United States had been fighting against terrorism -- enough to come to the conclusion, shared by many of his fellow military professionals, that our small scale retaliatory actions were doing nothing more than demonstrating a lack of resolve, emboldening the enemy, and feeding a cycle of violence.
That morning, as he sat on the bed beside his Lady, the Colonel was convinced that the nation was about to go to war. The Colonel quietly told the comely and kind-hearted Miss Brenda that she needed to be prepared to see her man and their two sons (not then in uniform) go off to fight in what he was sure would be a war rivaling the major wars of the previous century and eclipsing totally the "drive by" that had been the quick campaign to free Kuwait.
"Are you sure?", Miss Brenda asked.
"No doubt in my military mind." The Colonel answered confidently.
The Colonel seriously over-estimated the wisdom and fortitude of our nation's political leadership.
Instead of DECLARING and waging WAR on the states fomenting and funding terrorism, our political leaders waged war on their own people, and their rights and freedoms.
Oh, they talked big: "You are either with us or against us!" But, our actions were small and shadowy and ineffective; and we left many, many terrible regimes in place who were solidly "against us."
It has been the Colonel's contention for the better part of the last ten years that the United States was frittering away time, opportunity, blood, and treasure in what has become "The Lost Decade."
A real war, ruthlessly prosecuted against the states backing militant fascism and using its tactic of terrorism, might just have had the same result as our real war, ruthlessly prosecuted against the militant fascist states that had threatened freedom in the first half of the last century -- relative peace and unprecedented prosperity for the American people in the second half of the century.
Oh, and a real war to end the threat of terrorism from militant fascist states would have been OVER six or seven years ago, and would have cost the same if not less than the phony war in which we are currently in the tenth year.
Despite the pandering politicians' pronouncements to the contrary, the Colonel must have you know that we are no more safe from the threats against our liberties and way of life than were we ten years ago. If anything, we are more at risk than ever. And, the American people are paying the price for our leaders' (the Colonel uses that word in this context as loose as a newborn's diaper deposit) lack of exceptional American statesmanship.
But, what does the Colonel know? He's just a graying centurion who reads history books.