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Advice to graduates: Don’t take our way of life for granted

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The rising 20-somethings graduating this month look forward to a future of American national wealth and prosperity. Why should they not be optimistic? All around them are the astonishing complexes built by their grandparents and parents in the 70 years since Hitler’s defeat. It is hard, from where they stand, to imagine national failure.

But their parents at least worry about the implications of the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the prospect of a nuclear Iran, and the nuclear dominoes falling immediately thereafter in Sunni Arab countries and Japan. They are even more fearful of the almost certain eventual transfer by some gangster state to some fanatic of a device … well, it chills.

That chill is deep and the shudders it produces mostly unseen but the consequences in politics are profound. Want to know why David Cameron had his generation of “shy Tories” boost him to victory? Read what his Home Secretary Theresa May, backed by MI-5, has been saying in recent months about the terror threat in Great Britain.

It isn’t Europe’s problem either. Google Del Wilber and FBI Director James Comey for a great report on the latter’s small briefing regarding the Islamic State’s influence in the United States. Chilling is the only word for it — and perhaps catastrophic will be the word if politicians and courts continue to treat the metastasizing threat as an unserious illusion.

Comey noted in Thursday’s briefing that “al Qaeda core would never give somebody an assignment to kill on its behalf until he had been vetted,” Comey said, referring to the terror group that orchestrated the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.

The director then added that the Islamic State extremist group, which has taken over large swaths of Syria and Iraq, “is testing people’s bona fides to go kill people.”

“‘Kill in our name, kill someone in uniform, all the better in military or law enforcement,'” Comey said. “The old paradigm of being inspired or directed, it all breaks down.”

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people in the U.S. who follow Islamic State supporters on social media, Comey said.

In the past, those interested in such rhetoric found kindred souls in chat rooms that were not always easy to uncover or navigate. Today, Comey said, the Islamic State’s “siren song, it sits in the pockets, on the mobile phones of the people who are followers on Twitter.”

Comforting, that. Comey added: “It’s almost as if there is a devil sitting on the shoulder saying ‘kill, kill, kill,’ all day long.”

I don’t mean to rain on the commencement parades, but serious people have to step up and serious questions be asked and answered. All this wealth, all this sophistication and technology, all this promise — it is very fragile. Without serious people doing serious things to defend it, it could all be gone in the blink of an eye.


This column was originally posted on


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