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The Madness of Congressman Tancredo's Fulminations Threatening Mecca and Medina

08/09/2007 09:43 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

It has come to this. An elected Congressman of the American government and aspiring presidential candidate has spoken the unthinkable: that if attacked by jihadists, this nation should retaliate by destroying the Muslim holy sites of Mecca and Medina. On the campaign trail in Iowa, Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) has repeated time and again his firmly held position that the United States should reserve the right to bomb Islam's two holiest sites if there is a major terrorist attack on American soil: "If it's up to me, we are going to explain that an attack on this homeland of that nature would be followed by an attack on the holy sites..."

If an issue of such grandiloquent dementia can be tolerated as acceptable discourse in political debate, it is clearly a sign that we have all gone mad. Mad in the sense that we are losing our bearings of civil behavior, reasoning and morality. That madness is beginning to stalk our civilization as it has already infected swaths of the Islamist world. That the descent is accelerating and must be stopped by those harboring whatever reservoirs of goodwill that still exist on both sides of a growing divide that increasingly threatens to engulf civilizations, our future and ordered life on this planet.

While Rep. Tancredo talks of retaliatory bombings of Mecca and Medina, there has long since been a growing body of evidence that al-Qaeda and kindred jihadist groups are seeking the means of mass slaughter. Summoning his followers to access the deadliest possible weapons, a calling that has been likened by Osama Bin Laden as "a religous duty." Thus the frightening parameters of madness and mad ambition are drawn.

These are strong words, but I speak with some authority. As a young naval officer in the late fifties, I became the Assistant Security Officer of the Third Naval District headquartered in New York City in an office that, with near incredible premonition, now looks out over the gaping wasteland of what once was the footprint of the Twin Towers. In preparation for my assignment I was sent to a training regimen known as the Atomic Biological and Chemical Warfare Defense School. There I was given a total immersion course in the extraordinary savagery of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). It has haunted me ever since, and it has astounded me how little we, as a public are aware, or willing to acknowledge their existential and present danger. We view WMDs in the abstract. Yes, they are real, and we are aware of them, but how many of us truly consider what it would mean if they were unleashed on us? I may be wrong here, but I don't think so.

Let me say this, should al-Qaeda, their allies or those inspired by their rhetoric or example ever succeed in successfully detonating a nuclear weapon in an American city, or are successful in dispersing a virulent biological plague, or a nerve gas chemical attack, the horror would be beyond our ability to describe nor comprehend. Writ large it would be the 'unthinkable.' Hiroshima and Nagasaki was then. Today the weapons are many times more powerful, broadening from nuclear to thermonuclear, smaller in size and easier to transport. The refinements in biological and chemical weaponry are exponential.

Of one thing I am certain: the devastation would be so enormous that the anger and limitless rage to strike back would signal the end of rational discourse as to whether or not Mecca and Medina should or should not be attacked. The madness that seeks our mass slaughter would have made us equally deranged. The world would descend into a cauldron of communal madness.

Tancredo's exhortation is the canary song that our society is becoming unhinged in the face of a murderous hatred that would destroy us if it could and had the means to do so. That the means in the form of WMDs exist, and that it is probably only a matter of time before they are accessed. In its way it is a clarion call that the descent into mutual madness must be stopped while there are still people of goodwill on both sides of this treacherous and growing divide. Once unleashed, it will be virtually impossible to rein in the forces of mutual destruction.