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Where credit is due

Opinion | When it comes fighting pirate terrorists, we're all in this together with President Obama

One can be sure that had things gone badly and Captain Richard Phillips been killed, or if the president had gone to the UN for a resolution condemning his kidnapping, or if the ransom was paid and the terrorists escaped, conservatives would have been all over the president, claiming they were right when they said during the campaign (as did Hillary Clinton) that Obama is too inexperienced to be in charge of America's national security.

Will conservatives now hide behind the excuse that it was the Navy Seals, the FBI and the bravery of Captain Phillips that were solely responsible for the success of the mission and that the president played only a supporting role, at best? One could make the same argument about Iraq; that the troops and not President Bush should receive sole credit for toppling Saddam Hussein and planting the first seeds of democracy there.

We have become so polarized in America that one side cannot bring itself to praise any job done well by the other. In fact, the idea of "sides" further divides us in ways that are not beneficial to the country. Polls will now be taken that will probably show a rise in public confidence about Obama's ability to handle our national defense. Would someone argue if he had failed and his numbers declined that somehow an improvement in Republican poll numbers would make us safer? The last I checked, terrorists were equal opportunity killers.

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The hijacking of the merchant ship and the kidnapping of Captain Phillips are two more pieces in the much larger combat operation against terrorists (or as the administration has suggested calling it, "overseas contingency operation"). What comes next is equally important.

The United States should start calling these "pirates" by their true name. They are Islamic terrorists who make millions in ransom from ship hijackings and kidnappings. They don't buy fancy cars and big houses like members of some drug cartels. Instead, they use the money to finance terrorism around the world. Our notion of pirates is of a "Peg-Leg Pete"-type with an eye patch, a parrot on his shoulder and a cup of rum in his hand; more of a character than a killer. That's not the profile of Somali pirates.

There is word from some of the terrorists that they plan revenge. On Monday, a few of them fired mortars at the Mogadishu Airport just as Rep. Donald Payne's plane took off. Payne, D-N.J., the highest-level U.S. official to visit Somalia in years, was there to meet with the country's prime minister and other Somali officials to discuss the growing pirate-terrorist problem.

The Obama administration is reportedly going to help Somalia form its own Coast Guard so that it can defend itself from terrorists. This, as well as a plan to put marshals on the vessels to deter future ship seizures, is a good start. But right now Somali terrorists are believed to be holding more than 200 hostages from other nations. If they won't agree to release these people now, how about a little military intervention?

The best thing the president could do for the country-and himself-is to prove he is not a milksop. And if the president takes on the terrorists, he should have the full support of all Americans, conservatives included. We can argue about the left's hypocrisy later. When it comes to combating terrorists, we are all in this together.
©2009 Tribune Media Services Inc.

Cal Thomas
Cal Thomas

Cal, whose syndicated column appears on WORLD's website and in more than 500 newspapers, is a frequent contributor to WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Cal on Twitter @CalThomas.

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