Saturday, August 20, 2005

Hagel-ian Nonsense

It is, of course the right of every citizen, to express his opinion on political matters. It is further, the duty of our elected officials to publicly discuss their ideas and misgivings about current policy. Still one has to wonder what Sen. Chuck Hagel hopes to gain from his latest dissent. The president has begun a new public campaign to remind the public of the importance of the war in Iraq. But Sen. Hagel has publicly compared the war to Vietnam. He has done so in an essentially dishonest way.
Last Thursday Hagel said: “The longer U.S. forces remain in Iraq, the more it begins to resemble the Vietnam War.” While this kind of thinking has become dogma to the left, it is unusual and unhelpful coming from a Republican senator. According to Hegel, increased casualties means we can’t be winning, we must be losing. By that definition, every war becomes a losing proposition on day one.
Hagel’s one good point is that the longer this goes on, the greater the risk that casualties will erode public support. This is of course particularly true when American politicians choose to become the propagandists of enemy forces. While the war is certainly not won, it is far from lost.
What is required to win is that we sustain our will. The will to defeat the hardcore former regime Baathists who fight to restore a state modeled on Saddam’s, Baathists who would resume oppression of Shiites and Kurds. The will to defeat foreign fighters, also called terrorists pouring into Iraq to face off with our forces.
Hagel not only voted in October 2003 to authorize military force, but as a member of the Senate Foreign Relation’s committee, helped pass the bill. He acknowledges the need for Iraqis to step into the security role in their own nation. He also said, on Thursday, that it is un-wise to set a timetable for withdrawal, allowing that: “You must always have flexibility in these things, and a judgment call by the president.”
Is that the same president he is calling disconnected from reality?
Hagel has also criticized the president for not meeting with Mrs. Cindy Sheehan saying that: “He should give her some consideration!” Why because she is pathetically begging for a chance to criticize him face to face? Didn’t he give her some consideration the first time he met her?

You can’t have it both ways Senator. If this is another Vietnam, you voted to put us there. If the president is out of touch, why are you allowing him judgment calls? What are you really after?
Are you just making noise? Seeking publicity? Are you ginning up publicity for a 2008 presidential run. Or are you just thinking out loud? Whichever it is I wish you could remember a few things. With rights comes responsibility, and the duty of a Senator is not only to weigh in, but to weigh the facts first.
If you truly think that this war is a lost cause. That it has become a second Vietnam, remember this. We didn’t lose Vietnam on the battlefield. We lost it here. Because we couldn’t sustain the will to fight. Because too many voices at home wanted to quit.
Maybe Vietnam wasn’t worth fighting for. That has become the accepted doctrine of the entire left. But we allowed a vicious communist government to dominate Southeast Asia when we cut and ran. Will we do the same today? Allow a rabid anti-American minority to take over Iraq?
Make no mistake Senato,r Iraq is no Vietnam. It is a strategically located, oil producing state, on the Persian Gulf. It has millions of citizens who turned out to vote in January. It has a dedicated but small insurgency that would enslave those voters if we let them. Do we want it back in the hands of Saddam’s loyalists? We gave the Vietnamese almost twenty years. I think we can give the Iraqis another one or two.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Howard Dean and Human Rights for Women

On Sunday Howard Dean, chairman of the DNC, outrageously claimed that woman had more rights under Saddam Hussein, then under the new as yet ratified Iraqi constitution. Not only is this a premature assessment of the unfinished document. It is a misstatement of what it means to have rights, and a misunderstanding of Saddam’s Iraq. It is certainly important to Iraq’s future for women to be allowed to participate politically. But Iraq is not a nation in the western tradition and it will be a harder road.

The first mistake that Dean made was to assume that because women may be losing rights that were elaborated by law under Saddam’s regime they are losing something they actually had. But one can not be said to have rights under a Stalinist dictatorship, where the whims of one man are above any law that he promulgates. While it is true that women were legally accorded certain rights, it doesn’t mean they were worth anything.

As with African-Americans afforded the right to vote by fifteenth amendment, the assignment of rights to women by Saddam was not universally enforced in his regime. Women were still subject to tribal and religious mores where these were entrenched. This includes honor killings, and enforced prostitution of rape victims. Those women subjected by Baath party strongmen (wives, daughters, nieces) were afforded rights in name only. The only women who truly enjoyed some of the rights enumerated in Iraqi law under Saddam were those who lived in middle class regions of cosmopolitan Baghdad.

It is problematic to assert that women had “rights” in a society that had no basic concept of human rights. All citizens of Iraq were subject to imprisonment, disappearances, and state murder. Women in particular were subject to brutal rapes. The fact that women had a right to own property under Iraqi law, does not negate the lack of respect for any laws by Saddam and his cronies. In fact Saddam’s actions nullified the very concept of rule of law. In a society without rule of law, laws and any rights there enshrined are meaningless.

The events that unfolded in the city of Ad Dujail are a case in point. In 1982 men, belonging to the Shiite Dawa party staged an attempted assassination, ambushing Saddam Hussein’s motorcade as it moved through the city. As is now known Saddam ordered mass murders in retaliation. The killing a verifiable one hundred and fifty males in the immediate aftermath is one of the main counts against Saddam today. But the terror campaign against this tiny Shiite city in the Sunni heartland continued for years.

In 1991 a Sheik sat in the teahouse in Ad Dujail. He had retired from government service and owned a small business. He was already a saddened man, having lost a son in the aftermath of the 1982 ambush. This day years later a friend rushed into the teahouse and told him he had best go to his sister’s home where there was some trouble. The house was cordoned off by police under the local magistrtate. Inside lay the raped and beheaded remains of five women from teenager to grandmother. Continuing retaliation for the possible participation of one young male family member in the ambush.

Governor Dean, and all of those talking heads who support his assertion, you know not what of you speak. Yes Iraqi law offered women rights. But it was a sham. The law meant less then nothing. When police can rape and murder with impunity, there is no law and there are no rights.

The rights of women in Iraq remain tenuous. In my time in Iraq we constantly commented that the culture wasted half of its intellectual power by disenfranchising women. But if the Iraqi constitution should disappoint on this issue we need not despair. It is less than a century since women gained the right to vote here. The Iraqis, if they truly want prosperity will soon find women’s participation essential in today’s world. I hope they find it in the new constitution. But if they don’t the need to compete, and participate in a global economy may soon enlighten them.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Sheehan Thing

I wrote an editorial piece for the NY Post, published in Monday’s paper, ( I wrote the words on Saturday morning, well in advance, while the story was still developing. My editor at the Post suggested, and I agreed that we treat Mrs. Sheehan with some sympathy, while disagreeing with her position. It seemed like the kind and respectful thing to do, and still allowed for a critique of her message. Much of the blame for the situation seemed to fall on elements of the left who were exploiting her grief.

I have in the past ninety six hours become far less sympathetic. As a soldier and a son, I still deeply regret the pain she must be suffering; I have lost comrades in this war and that is painful. But when I address her in the future Mrs. Sheehan will find me less kind.

If Cindy Sheehan is a pawn of the left, she is a willing and a knowing one. She was deeply liberal even before her son deployed. She has chosen to stand with the likes of Michael Moore, accepting his website as a host for her blog. She had rather apparently changed her story of her encounter with President Bush, originally calling him sympathetic last year. She has used her new soapbox to address issues far beyond the ken of Iraq, such as the Israeli situation.

Her defenders on the left have assailed her critics, like Michelle Malkin and Bill O'Reilly for attacking a grieving mother. One of the reasons for the "kid glove" treatment that I gave her was to examine the issue without eliciting this response. But the defense of her stand on grounds that criticizing her is cruelty to a suffering soul has been exposed for the nonsense it is. Mrs. Sheehan is using her loss and her grief to make a political point. She has chosen to make the personal public. And she has done it in ways that are deceitful and manipulative.

Maybe Mrs. Sheehan thought that the American public would suddenly come around to her decidedly radical point of view out of sympathy. More likely, as with many on the left, she has no idea how far from the mainstream her views are. And where she does see a gap she likely attributes it to ignorance. Not her own, of course, but the public's. She quite possibly sees the loss of her son as an opportunity to re-educate the un-learned masses.

I'm still sorry that Casey Sheehan died. I feel great sympathy with his entire family. I even respect his mother's right to disagree with national policy, publicly if she chooses. But that doesn't mean that I will accept unchallenged any amount of inaccurate or disingenuous pabulum that she passes off as truth.

It seems that much of the media has accepted anything that she says at face value. Those had the courage to challenge her from the outset were viewed as monsters. It is the job of journalists to ascertain the facts. In this case many journalists let there sympathies, with her loss, her politics or both override their mission.

O'Reilly and Michelle and others have once again been demonized for advancing the cause of truth. But they haven't so much as attacked a grief stricken mother as exposed a deceitful woman using her loss to manipulate the media. Once again it's a shame. But at this point it seems the shame is on Mrs. Sheehan as much as her allies.