February 12, 2003

February 12, 2003 | Commentary on Middle East

From One Mom to Another

There we were, all together in our new home in Arlington, Va., watching the State of the Union address on television. I found myself struck by the simple eloquence of it all as President Bush ran through his domestic agenda, then provided the most gruesome details of his case against Iraq.

As he rattled off his domestic policy goals, I couldn't help but notice those that seemed to coincide with the longstanding goals of my colleagues at The Heritage Foundation. For years, we've urged Congress to use its own health-care program as a model for Medicare reform. We've called for personal retirement accounts to ease the coming crisis of Social Security. The intelligence center seemed to spring directly from proposals made by our Homeland Security Task Force.

But when the president turned to foreign policy and to Iraq, it wasn't pride I felt. It was out-and-out rage, coupled with heartfelt sympathy for the moms involved.

President Bush didn't need to convince me of the need to end Saddam Hussein's evil reign. Some Americans wouldn't be convinced even if Saddam told them personally of his plans to nuke every square inch of this country. But for anyone honestly on the fence - for anyone who truly could be persuaded - President Bush laid out a devastating case.

The numbers seemed somewhat sobering as the president ticked them off. The 25,000 liters of anthrax. The 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin. The 500 tons of sarin, mustard gas and VX nerve agent. The 30,000 munitions capable of delivering them. Who can doubt that Saddam has more than enough horrible chemicals to render much of the world dead or diseased?

And then, President Bush started in on the nature of Saddam Hussein's rule, on what it means to live in Iraq. He said the scientists who "cooperate with the inspectors in disarming Iraq will be killed, along with their families."

This is a familiar theme with Saddam - and for good reason. He knows that without such threats, few of his country's best and brightest minds would help further his reign of terror. And some, he knows, possess the strength of character to endure the torture - or worse - they would receive for revealing his secrets.

Then, the speech took a truly chilling turn. President Bush spoke of how Saddam has tested his weapons on villages in his own country, "leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind or disfigured." He told of Iraqi refugees who report that the government extracts confessions from adults by torturing their children and forcing them to watch.

When I heard President Bush recount how the Iraqis administer electric shocks to the children, burn them with hot irons, drop acid on their skin, mutilate them with electric drills, cut out their tongues - even rape them - my heart went out to those defenseless mothers. I know there's not much I wouldn't say or do to get my children out of such a situation. Take me - leave them - most any mom would say.

I mean, who brings the children into it? Throughout history, all but the most barbarous rulers have recognized that children have no place in conflict, that they did nothing to bring such horror on themselves. The president was right: "If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning."

Moms are always the last to support war, and for all the best reasons. It is the very essence of unfairness, in their view, that the children they brought into this world, then loved and nurtured, should be sacrificed to the dreams or evil of others. The next time you see a coffin with a flag over it, look above the coffin to the line of people behind it. The mom will be the one most in agony. Not the sisters. Not even the wife. They aren't there to bury their children. Only a mom can know this horror. Which is why I say to the moms of this country: The values we hold dear - that our children come first, that their well-being supersedes even our own comfort, that we'd do anything to protect them - mean that, at this time, in this situation, at this point in history, this man must go. If he goes without war, terrific. But if he can't be removed otherwise, then go to war we must. We can't allow moms to suffer in this way any longer.

Reprinted with permission of the Internet newspaper WorldNetDaily.com

Rebecca Hagelin is a vice president of the Heritage Foundation, a research and educational think-tank whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values and a strong national defense. She is also the former vice president of communications for WorldNetDaily and her 60-second radio commentaries can be heard on the Salem Communications Network.

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Rebecca Hagelin Senior Communications Fellow