Many people don't realize it, but the United States is at war. I don't mean the war in Iraq. No disrespect intended to the men and women bravely serving in that conflict, but in the big picture the fight for Iraq is not the war. It is a major campaign in the war.

Way before 9/11, the United States was at war with a political movement in the Islamic world that is known as radical Islamism. This does not mean that all followers of Islam are the enemy. Radical Islamism is the equivalent of racism. Racists hate other people because their skin is a different color. Radical Islamists hate everyone who is not a Muslim, and they hold in disdain any Muslim who is not as militant as they are. Radical Islamists are the Ku Klux Klan of the Muslim world. And if that's not scary enough, they have aspirations of seizing power in much of the Middle East and creating Islamist states that will be as belligerent as Nazi Germany and just as fanatical.

It took a major cataclysmic event to awaken the American people to this threat. But now three years after radical Islamists used 21st-century kamikazes to kill thousands of our people, many Americans have withdrawn into the same complacency and petty domestic squabbles that captivated us on Sept. 10, 2001.

Quite simply, some people just don't get it. They don't understand that thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of Islamist terrorists are spread throughout the world with one mission: Destroy the United States of America and its allies.

It pains me as a lifelong democrat that many of the people who don't get it are leading my former party. In July, I was struck dumb when Sen. Edward Kennedy stood up before the Democratic National Convention and co-opted FDR's great Depression-era "fear" speech as, "The only thing we have to fear is four more years of George Bush." Shame on you, Teddy. You know better.

And if you don't, I'll do you a favor. I'll send you this issue of Police and you can read about how patrol officers must now think about what was once unthinkable: radical Islamist attacks in the United States.

What Teddy did at the Democratic Convention was pander to the people in the party who actually believe that peace should be preserved at all costs regardless of provocation or pending threat. I know these people. Some of them are my friends and I love them dearly, but they are terribly idealistic. Which means that a presidential candidate like John Kerry who draws his strength from this constituency represents a great hazard to America and to the world.

The idealists in the Democratic Party are the people who believe that we should find a way to address the grievances of the people who are trying to kill us. Such pacifism is admirable in its desire for a better world but clueless about how this one works.

The leaders of the Islamist terrorist movement have actually communicated to us their terms for peace. They amount to the following: The United States must totally withdraw from the Middle East, end its relationship with Israel, convert to Islam, and adopt Islamic law. Otherwise, it's them or us to the death. Personally, I'd prefer it be them.

But there are numerous people on the liberal side of the fence and therefore inside the Democratic Party who don't see it that way. They're looking for a third alternative that doesn't exist. And Kerry has convinced them that he represents that peaceful alternative.

So that's why I'm voting for George Bush. He's made mistakes like any leader, but he gets it. He lives in the real world where the enemy forces are very real, very motivated, very deadly, and there is no other outcome but their destruction or ours. We didn't start this war. But we damn well better finish it. And to do that we need a pragmatist in the White House, not a pandering Pollyanna.

If you are a law enforcement officer and would like to write a pro-John Kerry guest editorial for our November issue (deadline Sept. 15), please e-mail me at [email protected]