Thirty-five years ago this summer, the United States was exploding in protest over the Vietnam War. And today, the radical left wants to revisit those awful days by replicating the anti-war movement over the Iraq conflict. Will they succeed?
As you know, the radicals have latched on to Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son, Casey, in Iraq. Sheehan strikes me as a decent woman who has no clue with whom she is swimming. Sensing a chance to humiliate President Bush, the Michael Moore crowd has rallied around Sheehan, and she has become the anti-Iraq war posterwoman. But it's sad to watch this woman being used by organizations that not only oppose the Iraq war, but also believe the U.S. is a fundamentally flawed nation. Sheehan's byline now leads the Michael Moore Web site. Is she really that bitter?
It is one thing to object to a war, it is quite another to throw in with people who are consistently hateful toward traditional America. Cindy Sheehan now calls President Bush a murderer and the U.S. an "imperialistic" country. But the woman has paid a price for her political leanings. Her husband filed for divorce last week, and some reports cited his wife's radicalism as one of the reasons.
I don't believe Sheehan and her radical-left pals will succeed in dividing the country this time around. It is true that most Americans now believe the Bush administration is fumbling the war, and that may well be true. Certainly, the continued violence in Iraq is troubling. But it is an open question as to whether the Iraqi people themselves will fight hard enough to win freedom, and that is the crux of this matter.
The communists prevailed in Vietnam because they had a stronger will to win than the U.S.-supported South Vietnamese. At great sacrifice, America gave the South Vietnamese a chance to be free. They did not step up. The result was decades of totalitarianism that continues to this day, and millions of South Vietnamese and Cambodians murdered by the communists. Funny how the radicals never mention that or the decades of atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein.
President Bush has made two major mistakes in Iraq. The first is keeping Donald Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defense. Rumsfeld, understandably, is simply exhausted. He needs to be replaced by a battle-hardened commander who will bring a fresh perspective to the conflict.
Second, Bush must define the danger he sees if the U.S. cuts and runs. The WMD controversy and poor post-Saddam planning does matter now. Terrorists want to kill us, and a victory in Iraq will embolden them and deliver huge momentum to their jihad. Why isn't the president on TV everyday saying this? If America cuts and runs in Iraq, the place will devolve into another terror state where al-Qaida will have free reign.
No one in their right mind would want Michael Moore, George Soros or Cindy Sheehan calling shots in the war on terror. If Sheehan had any perspective at all, she would also protest outside the homes of Bill and Hillary Clinton, John Kerry and Tony Blair, all people who understand that cutting and running will lead to disaster for the U.S. But in my opinion, Sheehan isn't interested in the big picture, she just wants to embarrass the president.
Will Americans buy what Cindy Sheehan is selling or, instead, focus on what is really going on here? Unlike Vietnam, we are now fighting a war against people who want to come to our country and destroy it. These people are the driving force behind the insurrection in Iraq. They have chosen this battlefield because America made a mistake by underestimating the difficulty of imposing democracy in a culture that does not revere it.
Once again, that mistake is history. What President Bush must do now is clarify the stakes in Iraq and rally Americans to support the global war on terror. If Mr. Bush does not do that, America will be in big trouble.
Veteran TV news anchor and author Bill O'Reilly is a host on Fox News. His column appears on Friday.