Kathleen Parker

As presidential candidates try to stake out an electable position on the war in Iraq, Americans are justified in wondering: Is it reality, or is it just politics?

Can anyone's judgment be trusted during an election cycle?

Some measure of comfort may be found in the dual reality that is Washington. What you see on TV isn't necessarily what you get away from the cameras. Off the set, honest discussions about Iraq and the war on terror have a different tone and content than one might expect based on the gibbering of talking heads. Even pundits are sometimes of a different mind off-camera than on. There's no underestimating the power of peer pressure in the green room.

Serious people, in fact, are increasingly concerned that our media-driven political environment makes honest debate impossible. Iraq has become a case in point.

Is bringing home the troops in our national security interest, or is it merely politically comfortable and expedient?

Behind closed doors, more-honest debates are taking place among Republicans and Democrats, led in part by members of the recently resurrected Committee on the Present Danger.

Its Tom Clancyish title is not far removed from its purpose, which is to strategically fight the bad guys -- through education and advocacy rather than espionage. Members include such familiar names as Sens. (and honorary co-chairs) Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., and the co-chairs, former CIA Director James Woolsey and former Secretary of State George P. Shultz. Among international members are Jose Maria Aznar, former prime minister of Spain, and Vaclav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic. (For more information, go to fightingterror.org)

Originally formed in the 1950s as a bipartisan education and advocacy group to deal with Soviet expansionism, the committee was reorganized early this year to address the global threat of ``Islamist totalitarianism'' -- the committee's new name for our enemy.

Part of the committee's concern has been the Bush administration's failure both to adequately communicate our mission and to properly name the enemy. Our war is not against ``terror,'' but against a specific enemy -- a virulent, religion-based ideology.

Not all of Islam, we always hasten to add, but Islam as distorted and hijacked by radicals.

Although most of the committee's efforts will be focused on educating Congress, a broader goal is to break through the politically correct sensitivity about religion that prevents us from confronting the real enemy.

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker is a syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group.
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