By CLIFFORD D. MAY
SCRIPPS HOWARD NEWS SERVICE
Dear Cindy Sheehan:
I know you want to talk to President Bush about the conflict in Iraq, the war in which your son, Specialist Casey Sheehan, was tragically killed. I also know that while the president met with you previously, he is not eager to see you again -- not now that you are affiliated with Moveon.org and supported by David Duke and handled by slick public-relations professionals.
So let me suggest an alternative: Come visit with me. Our meeting probably won't get much publicity, but I can promise you an interesting discussion. I could have some people join us -- for example, a few of the many Iraqi freedom fighters with whom I've been working for the past several years, many of them women, as well as democracy and human-rights activists from Syria, Iran, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon and other countries.
You say you want to know, "What is the noble cause that my son died for?" They would answer: Your son died fighting a war against an extremist movement intent on destroying free societies and replacing them with racist dictatorships.
The Iraqis will want to tell you what life was like under Saddam Hussein -- the mass murders of hundreds of thousands, the women and girls who were gang-raped by Saddam's cronies, the creative forms of torture that were ignored by the "international community."
I know several Baghdadi businessmen whom Saddam suspected of disloyalty. He had their right hands amputated. Want to meet them? The doctors who were forced to perform these amputations are worth chatting with as well.
It's true, as you and others have pointed out, that we did not find Saddam's Weapons of Mass Destruction. But don't be misled into believing that Saddam never had any. Indeed, he used chemical weapons against the Kurds, slaughtering thousands in villages like Halabja, where mothers laid down in the streets and embraced their children in their final moments. We can show you pictures. We can introduce you to survivors.
Like you, I wish America's intelligence agencies had known more than they did about Saddam's capabilities. But Saddam's intentions were never in doubt.
Cindy, you've been calling for the United States to get out of Iraq at a time when our enemies in that country include the most aggressive and lethal branch of Al-Qaida, led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Can you not see that if we were to retreat from Iraq now, it would be a historic defeat for the United States?
And it would be a huge victory for Al-Qaida. Zarqawi would view himself -- not without justification -- as a giant killer. Recruits would flock to him for the many battles that would, inevitably, follow. We could not expect to do better in those battles than we did in Iraq.
We will never be able to make ourselves inoffensive to the racist death cults that have declared war on us. When these barbarians kill brave Americans like Casey Sheehan, we can't run and hide. Or rather we can -- but that only invites the terrorists to hit us again. For years we didn't understand that. The consequence was Sept. 11, 2001.
Remember: We fled from Somalia in 1993. We left Saddam in power after the first Gulf War in 1991. We did nothing much after the Hezbollah bombing of our Marine barracks in 1983. Our response to the taking of American hostages in Tehran in 1979 was toothless.
In each of these cases -- and too many others -- we demonstrated to our enemies that there would be no penalty for humiliating and even slaughtering Americans. In each of these cases Osama bin Laden saw evidence that Americans are irresolute and weak; that America's military -- for all its sophistication and technology -- would prove no match for determined hostage-takers, decapitators and suicide bombers.
One more thing: Your slogan has been "America out of Iraq!" and also "Israel out of Palestine!" I wonder if you understand that you are calling for the ethnic cleansing of Jews from their ancient homeland. I wonder if you understand that more than half of all Israelis fled from places like Tehran, Cairo and Tripoli -- and they are not welcome to return. I wonder if you understand that there is no way for Israelis to get "out of Palestine" that does not include genocide.
If you and your supporters are not, in fact, arguing for another Holocaust, would you be so good as to clarify your remarks?
X Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.