It’s zero-sum time for the U.S.

The U.S. is obviously in a zero-sum game with terrorists. The president has put every nation on notice that they are either “with us or with the terrorists.”

President Bush has been properly commended for his efforts at underscoring that America’s response to terrorist attacks are aimed at terrorists — not at Islam or Arabs. We don’t want a holy war, just a wholly justified military response to a despicable act of war perpetrated not by “warriors” but by craven agents of evil.

On the rhetoric front, we now need internationally respected Islamic clerics to step up and say what the president said — without qualification. In effect: “Those who pervert Islam through horrific murders and suicides deserve the harshest punishment and condemnation by Muslims.” And don’t stop saying it until this scourge has been vanquished.

America, however, only wins the war with evil if we are more committed to our cause — freedom and our way of life — than our enemies are to theirs, the destruction of same. To that end, it would be wise to remember:*How the Israelis took care of the Black September terrorists from the 1972 Munich Olympics. They painstakingly and methodically hunted them down and assassinated them. No headlines, no Muslimmania backlash. Of course, the sheer scope of the New York and Washington attacks and continued threats to the U.S. is far greater than what the Israelis faced, but the principle is the same. Not all of our commandos will be in fatigues.

*We are not the United-States-of-Hyphenated-America. We are Americans. Period.

*The critical issue with the media is not whether its members wear patriotic symbols, but that it remain mindful that in the global village, its broadcasts go everywhere.

*Never again should we refer to celebrity athletes as “heroes.”

*Should the Rev. Jesse Jackson ever make that mediation trip to Kabul, it must be with two provisos. His ticket is one-way and that he be accompanied in similar fashion by California Rep. Barbara Lee, the only member of the House who didn’t vote in favor of giving use-of-force powers to President Bush.

*There’s a lot to criticize about our culture, but that’s our call. Those who treat their women as chattel, dress them as speed bumps and enjoy a good public beheading haven’t earned that right. No more than those who believe executing the innocent punches your ticket to paradise and guarantees a virgin lay-away plan.

*America is well served by adopting contemporary counterparts of WW II “victory gardens” and war-bond drives. That means not being intimidated out of our routines. Loving and counseling our families; looking after our neighbor; doing our jobs; showing the flag; making purchases; riding planes; enduring inconveniences.

It’s zero-sum time.

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