Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Failure to Communicate

There's been a lot of commentary about Cindy Sheehan, the grieving mother of Casey Sheehan, who died in Iraq last year. Liberals are glomming on to her high-profile protest near the President's ranch in Crawford with predictable anti-war intensity; conservatives damn her as a nut-case traitor, dishonoring her son's service to his country as a Marine.

First and foremost, I have pity for this woman and her grief. She's no traitor. And secondly, through all the polarized haze generated by both parties, what really shows up in this story is our political leaders' failure to communicate in a time of war.

This war is vital -- and it is vital that it is understood. Is that possible? A friend of mine was whining about the price of gas the other day. Her SUV costs about $50 a tank now. No talk about how the SUV doesn't fit in the era of Islamic terrorism emanating from the sands of Arabia. We have our tax breaks, but no talk about financial sacrifices for this war. The President of the United States is seen strolling on his ranch holding hands with now-King Abdulla of Saudi Arabia, home of Wahhabism. Nuclear terror threats develop here within our borders while our two main parties argue about when we should remove troops from Iraq. On and on, there's endless examples of how Washington is failing to communicate the strategy and purpose in the Third World War, where Iraq is a battleground.

Here's a dose of reality, care of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a member of the Dutch parliament for the Liberal Party, in yesterday's Opinion Journal. She doesn't spare either liberals or conservatives:
It seems strange to associate the context of Canada with that of Iraq, but a closer look at the arguments used to reassure the demonstrating women in both countries reveals the similar ordeals that Muslim women in both countries must go through to secure their rights. It shows how their legitimate and serious worries are trivialized, and how vulnerable and alone they are. It shows how the Free World led by the U.S. went to war in Iraq, allegedly to bring liberty to Iraqis, and is compromising the basic rights of women in order to meet a random date. It shows how the theory of multiculturalism in Western liberal democracies is working against women in ethnic and religious minorities with misogynist practices. It shows the tenacity of many imams, mullahs and self-made Muslim radicals to subjugate women in the name of God. Most of all, it shows how many of those who consider themselves liberal or left-wing see their energy levels rise when it comes to Bush-bashing, but lose their voice when women's rights are threatened by religious obscurantism.

Hamam Hamoudi, the head of Iraq's constitution committee, refuses to discuss the article that worries the Muslim women. He also refused to put in the draft constitution that men and women have equal rights, creating a bizarre situation whereby the women had more rights under Saddam Hussein's regime than in post-Saddam Iraq. Mr. Hamoudi insists that women will have full economic and political rights, but the overwhelming evidence shows that when Shariah--which gives a husband complete control over his wife--is in place, women have little chance to exercise any political rights.

Does Mr. Hamoudi realize that it took the removal of Saddam and the establishment of a multiparty democracy for men to vote, while if his draft constitution is ratified, women will need the permission of their husbands to step out of the house in order to mark their ballot? I thought that President Bush and all the allies who supported the Iraq war aspired to bring democracy and liberty to all Iraqis. Aren't Iraqi girls and women human enough to share in that dream?
Ayaan Hirsi Ali knows what this war is about. She understands the yoke of Islamicism -- she wears it around her neck. For speaking out on behalf of Islamic women, she has a fatwa on her head. She lives in hiding in Dutch society -- home of live-and-let-live Amsterdaam, and a dead man named Van Gogh, butchered by Islamofascism. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is clear: so-called liberals don't understand this war. The policy of multiculturalism has left a back door open for religious fascism to consume the West. And so-called neoconservatives are failing at their pretense of expanding liberal democracy abroad: the Iraq war is a sham if all it produces is a constitution based on Shari'a law.

Somewhere, somehow, both parties in our system have lost the ability to communicate -- and we've lost the ability to listen. And so we have distressed mothers of dead Marines speaking out against this war, and real liberals showing dismay over Iraq. If people are satisfied that Sheehan is simply seditious or traitorous, they're part of the problem. If people simply want to slap Sheehan's face onto anti-war bumper stickers and posters, and rally around how this war has no purpose, they're part of the problem too.

That problem is a failure to communicate what is at stake in this war. That it is indeed a war. That the cause is our freedom, our democracy, our way of life. And that to win this war, we might actually have to buy fewer things, pay more for gas, eschew wasteful energy practices, question the morality of multiculturalism, develop and share a strategy for winning, question our assumptions, and give up the notion that this is all for pretend.

Cindy Sheehan knows this war is not for pretend. But she certainly doesn't know what this war is about. I can't blame her for not knowing -- it hasn't been articulated. Personally, as every day goes by, I feel less and less lead by our President. I don't feel inspired by this administration. And I certainly see even less leadership coming from the Democrats. President Bush's way keeping the war popular is to keep it transparent. In the end, transparency may not be up to him or anyone else. Wars are opaque. They're horrible, and because of that, you get through them as boldly, quickly and decisively as possible.

It's about time we started acting like a civilization that is prepared to make broad, deep sacrifices to retain our way of life. Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Cindy Sheehan are two women who understand sacrifice. We should listen.