Politics Thursday: Thinking about Cindy Sheehan

Last night I joined 60-70 people in Juneau for a candlelight vigil in support of Cindy Sheehan's effort to get some straight answers from President Bush about what the “noble cause� her son died for.

One of the notable features of this candlelight vigil was a flag-draped casket brought by the local chapter of Veterans for Peace (VFP). The casket represented the 1856 (and counting) US soldiers killed in Iraq. The speaker from VFP, a veteran and retired librarian, noted that the figure of 1856 did not include the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed as a result of this war. He didn't mention, but could have, the thousands of post-Saddam Iraqi police and military killed trying to do the best for their country. Or the hundreds of civilian contractors of many nations killed while trying to supply the troops. Still, it was a somber moment and the casket was given the greatest respect. I heard NOTHING negative about front line soldiers during the whole event. Just sorrow that our civilian leadership stuck them in a no-win situation.

The best moment came when a mother related how she had marched in the Juneau 4th of July parade wearing a peace crane with the message "Mother of a soldier in Iraq." She related how she was verbally abused with labels like "traitor" and "your son would be ashamed." She said she told her son what she did at the end of July. The son was proud of her, thanked his mom for marching and said that he didn't believe in the Iraq war either!

After that, a song was sung and all departed in silence. That's what we did here in Juneau in Cindy's name in response to her call for candlelight vigils.

So what about Mrs. Sheehan herself? First, I don't think there is any excuse for the vilification of this Gold Star Mother by many (but not all) “leading lights� of the Right. The sight of so many people who haven't had to sacrifice ANYTHING at all for Iraq screaming “Shame!� at a woman who lost her son is itself shameful. That they (Rush, Ann, etc) could accuse Mrs. Sheehan of using her son's death in the cause of peace without acknowledging that not a day goes by without the President trying to use our thousands of soldier deaths as justification for “staying the course� is personally revolting. It's also sad when Matt Drudge's misleading piece that distorted the original account of Mrs. Sheehan's first meeting with the President is picked up and reported as gospel truth.

I'm not saying that criticism of Cindy Sheehan is out of bounds – just the outright distortions and accusations of treason and terrorist supporter. Tony Blankley of the deeply conservative Washington Times criticized Mrs. Sheehan on a recent KCRW's Left, Right and Center. for portraying her point of view as a majority belief among military families. This is a valid point. I also don't mind anything that challenges asserted facts by Mrs. Sheehan. But most of what I've heard has been attacks on personal character and everyone on LISNews must know by now what I think of ad hominem attacks. I attended tonight's vigil because I wanted to support the right of a Gold Star Mother to ask critical questions of her government without being made to feel like a traitor for doing so.

Having said all that, should the President meet with Cindy Sheehan? While I think he has a lot to answer for, I'm not sure. After all, Mrs Sheehan did have a prior meeting with the President with some other families who had lost sons and daughters who died inadvertently making Iraq safe for Islamic fundamentalism, though that wasn't clear in March 2004. If the President had to meet with EVERY family (even just military) who had lost loved ones in the Iraq war, he wouldn't have time to do anything else. As tempting as that is for me, the President does have other duties.

On the other hand, President Bush is hosting Lance Armstrong at Crawford for some bike riding this weekend. If his schedule is clear enough for bike riding with a celebrity, he should make time to meet with a Gold Star Mother who has waited in the hot Texas sun for 10 days. The Right crucified Hilary Clinton for allegedly not immediately meeting with some other Gold Star Moms who showed up without an appointment. Why should the President get a pass? Because the War Party cares more about loyalty than family sacrifice?

Before you come to a decision about Cindy, read for yourself what Mrs. Sheehan has to say.

Putting away the political journal entries till next Thursday!

Comments

article

I'll post later when I've had time to think it over but here is an appropriate article from a father who also lost a child.

Grieving families

A coalition of family members known as the Sept. 11 Advocates blasted 9/11 commission leaders Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton for pooh-poohing Able Danger's findings last week as not "historically significant."

Imagine how angry these folks must be not only at the “wall� in place during the Clinton administration (to protect the privacy of people visiting in the U.S.), but the cavalier way the 911 Omission folks treated the information that the hijackers were already “outed.�

By this time, they are probably tired of the candles, memorials and promises. But since their sons and husbands and family members didn’t volunteer to be blasted, burned and buried, they’ve got more cause for complaint than Mrs. Sheehan.

bipartisan

This mother seems to conveniently forget that Democrats in both houses of Congress overwhelmly voted for her son to go to war, and continue to overwhelmy support the war. Remember, the leading Democrat, Mrs. Clinton, voted for the war and continues to be pro-Iraq. Why isn't she marching outside their vacation spots? While I support her right to be anti-war, I also support the right of Democrats to be pro-war.

Re:Grieving families

Imagine how angry these folks must be not only at the "wall" in place during the Clinton administration . . .

Ah! -- There you go again with the Clinton baiting.

People who so blindly insist that the WTC attacks were Clinton's fault are probably too stupid to educate, but I'm just going to have to say it again: Clinton was not the president when the towers came down, Bush was.

Aside from which, Clinton did what he could to protect the U.S. from Uncle Usama, it was Bush who opened the door for Al Qaida and who didn't even believe America was at threat or that terrorism had to be addressed at all.

So why aren't you angry with Bush over that? Or with your Pentagon? If you read Richard Clarke's book, you can find out about how Pentagon officials were obstructionist with Clinton when he wanted field ops against terrorists, and then lied to the troops about how Clinton wouldn't authorize those operations.

Re:bipartisan

Nothing to argue with in your posting. Thanks for bringing up these points.Since Democrats now have plenty of information to the effect that the President's original justifications for the war had little evidence to back them up, their continued support for the occupation makes them as responsible as the President for the continued loss of US soldiers.

Re:Grieving families

1) Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and so doesn't belong in discusions on Iraq. If you have new evidence that eluded two national commissions on the subject, please bring it forward.2) Secrecy News discredited the new "able danger" claims, noting that even Rep. Weldon is backing away from his prior claims. The same news item points out that Rep. Weldon has had to withdraw stunning claims in the past.

Re:Grieving families

I find it interesting that many of the same folks who try to toss blame for the WTC attacks into Clinton's lap seem to cover up their ears and sing "I'm not listening!!" when it is pointed out to them that the military that went in and achieved the early victories in Afghanistan was the one built up and prepared for the task by Clinton.


The army sent into Iraq, now suffering almost 2000 casualties, is the one that was (under-) outfitted by Bush et al.

Re:article

All this article says is that different families are entitled to different opinions, something I noted as a valid criticism. I agree with the father to the extent that some number of military families support the war and that he is right to point it out. You won't see me criticize him for doing so.I should point out that current military members can get into trouble if their immediate family are outspoken against the war, and current military members can be subject to the USMJ for speaking against the war, but publicly praised by their superiors for publicly supporting the war effort. So I'm willing to believe that some (but not most) military opinion is being driven by this factor.

Alternet misses another

People who so blindly insist that the WTC attacks were Clinton's fault are probably too stupid to educate, but I'm just going to have to say it again: Clinton was not the president when the towers came down, Bush was.

True. But we are discussing culpability here, not trivia.

    Able Danger was a military intelligence unit set up by Special Operations Command in 1999. A year before the 9/11 attacks, Able Danger identified hijack leader Mohamed Atta and the other members of his cell. But Clinton administration [emphasis mine] officials stopped them -- three times -- from sharing this information with the FBI.

    The problem was the order Clinton Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick made forbidding intelligence operatives from sharing information with criminal investigators. (Gorelick later served as a 9/11 commission member.)

    "They were stopped because the lawyers at that time in 2000 told them Mohamed Atta had a green card" -- he didn't -- "and they could not go after someone with a green card," said Rep. Curt Weldon, the Pennsylvania Republican who brought the existence of Able Danger to light. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via Lexis-Nexis; 8/14/05)

(Walt, we can assume this story is not a part of Alternet's reflection of reality?)

More on so-called Bush haters

Norma:

She's a victim of the left anti-war, Bush haters, and is swept up in something she's lost control of.

Me:

I'm also very, very tired of the idea that you cannot oppose the President's policies without hating him personally

Someday I will learn not to reply when I'm irritated. Let me try again now that I'm not so emotional about it.I stand by my remark that your (and other supporters of the President) assumption that all opposition to Administration policies stem from personal hatred of the President to be both wrong and logically worthless. If this doesn't represent your position, let me know.I admit that some people DO oppose the President's policies out of blind hatred of George Bush.Other people may have come to hate the President as a result of his policies, which have pushed America towards bankruptcy, practically broken our military, and made us less safe and free in the bargain.Some of us can separate our feelings for the President from our frustration with many of his policies. Some of us, myself included, can even praise him for his worthwhile policies while continuing to oppose his bankrupt ones like so-called "preventive war."But let's take another look. I assume that you were uncomforatable with some of President Clinton's policies -- so was I. Were you a "Clinton-Hater"? I wasn't. I did find him extremely disappointing and ultimately morally bankrupt, but I never laid awake at night nursing my grudges for Clinton. Can you imagine people in 1995 saying:The Clinton-Haters kept us from having national health care!The only people who didn't want to go to Kossovo were the Clinton-Haters!People SAY that intervening in Haiti is problematic, but they're JUST CLINTON-HATERS!The people on the other end of these statements would point out that their criticisms weren't with Clinton the man, but with the problems they perceived in Clinton's policies. They'd be right. Why are you so unwilling that current critics of the current Administration policy might be acting in the same spirit?

Clarification

A friend reminded me over lunch that the Congress did not directly vote for war, a fact that I've written about before. They authorized the President to launch an invasion if certain conditions were met. Looking back on what was likely known in Administration circles at the time, the conditions of the resolution were not met and the President's certification that they were was likely false or at least dangerously mistaken. If his certification had been given the same level of scrutiny that Cindy Sheehan's motives have been, the invasion wouldn't have happened.The majority of pro-war Democrats do so because they believe that leaving would lead to chaos (as it would), not so much because they believe in the original war justifications.

The tawdry left using Sheehan

Blogger John Moulder describes himself as a liberal who is pro-Iraq War. But he sees pretty clearly what's happening to her.

"But then came the circus & my sympathy became tinged with repugnance. You do not do what Ms. Sheehan does now without calculation. These are not acts of spontaneous sorrow she exhibits. What she does now has to be rehearsed; there is no other way to perform it. One has to become conversant with length of sound bite & angle of camera. One has to wait until the curious onlooker steps out of the shot so CNN can tape the tears in front of the mock grave.

She doesn’t grieve now, no, now she goes for the gold – or perhaps tinsel. Tawdry is another word that comes to mind. And does her act have legs? Perhaps she can parley her present condition of celebrity into a permanent place in the pantheon of the left – but I doubt it. Maybe 2 years from now we will see her on the dais of a cspan panel hosted by a think tank or university. But I wouldn’t bet on it. When her moment in the sun is done will her new-found friends still be around? I think not. And then notorious will shade into pathetic. Then a new brand of sympathy will be needed."

I don't agree with him that she calculates this. She's a victim of the left anti-war, Bush haters, and is swept up in something she's lost control of.

Re:The tawdry left using Sheehan

I don't agree with him that she calculates this. She's a victim of the left anti-war, Bush haters, and is swept up in something she's lost control of.

I definitely appreciate that you're willing to give Mrs. Sheehan the benefit of the doubt and the honesty of her loss.However, what makes you think that she's a victim? Perhaps she's using the antiwar movement to draw more attention to her son. That's not inconsistent with her grief and rage being genuine.For that matter, maybe the thousands of soldiers forced to stay in Iraq through the use of stop-loss orders (and no longer volunteers) are victims of the President's severe lack of planning and members of the War Party who believe that the solution to a conflict that has taken 2,000 American lives without denting the opposition is to throw more lives at it.I'm also very, very tired of the idea that you cannot oppose the President's policies without hating him personally. Some people do, but not everyone does. I personally detest all the stupid nicknames and scatological based pictures of the President I've seen on the 'net. I don't hate him as a man, but this "preventive war" in Iraq has been a practical and moral failure from the moment it was launched. The sooner we realize this and stop our losses, the better it will be for America.

Re:article

I'm posting because I said I'd post but frankly your attitude on this Daniel is the most biased I've seen you.

Your response to Norma: "1) Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and so doesn't belong in discusions on Iraq. If you have new evidence that eluded two national commissions on the subject, please bring it forward."

You don't mind putting Bush's noble cause in " " but you're willing to buy into whatever the commissions had to say. You seem to think that Sheehan has some special right but parents who speak in favor of the war must be being strong-armed into, or at least into not saying anything negative. That's absurd.

My take? The woman has no more or less rights then any other citizen. She also has no special shield from critics either, because of her loss. She's said some pretty nasty stuff. If there was still fresh dirt on her son's grave I could see her saying anything but that's not the case. She's had time to grieve and she's had time to think about what she wants to say. If what she has to say is that this is about oil or Israel then shame on her no matter what her loss.

Re:article

You don't mind putting Bush's noble cause in " " but you're willing to buy into whatever the commissions had to say.

What noble cause are you referring to? And where did I put that particular cause in scare quotes?What evidence do you have to contradict the 9/11 Commission and the Senate Select Intelligence Committee that Iraq had nothing to with 9/11 and had no operational links with al-Qaeda? Has this evidence been examined publicly? Has it already been disavowed by the Defense Department like that Weekly Standard article that appeared it 2003?Considering that 9/11 Commission was appointed by the President and that Senate Committee was run by Republicans, why do you have trouble accepting their conclusions on al-Qaeda and Iraq? If anything, the Senate Republicans would be motivated to support the Administration as much as the evidence allowed.I'm biased against the morality and efficacy of "preventive war" as I am against the idea that a person's personality can be predicted from the bumps on their skull. Both are ideas that are morally and practically bankrupt. The war in Iraq has raised the number of terorists and terrorist incidents worldwide and has failed in its secondary mission of preventing either North Korea or Iran from becoming nuclear powers. Plus, it has drained us of thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars without accomplishing anything worthwhile except the temporary autonomy of the Kurds, which I predict we will try to take away in a fruitless effort to satisfy the Sunnis.

Re:article

"I'm biased against the morality and efficacy of "preventive war" as I am against the idea that a person's personality can be predicted from the bumps on their skull. Both are ideas that are morally and practically bankrupt."

Then why even try and discuss it? The only reason you brought up Sheehan is because you agree with her.

Re:Alternet misses another

True. But we are discussing culpability here, not trivia.

And since Bush was the president, it's his fault. Especially in light of those facts asserted by Clarke which you are attempting to frame as trivia. One of the rules of leadership is: You're in charge, it's your fault. The towers came down on Bush's watch, not Clinton's.

And to use your brand of illogic against you: there was nothing trivial about the death of almost three thousand Americans in one blow.

You can get the facts about Bush's incompetence and perfidy here:

Against All Enemies
Richard A. Clarke
ISBN 0-7432-6024-4
Dewey # 973.93I C599A

I know you won't consider these facts to be an accurate reflection of reality since they don't support your prejudices, but that's your problem, not ours.

Re:article

Reading my mind again, eh?I've defended you and I've defended the President on LISNews. If someone here or some big lefty celebrity started talking about how Deborah Johns hated her son because she won't march against the Iraq war, you'd bet I'd complaining and defending her right to her views. If a Gold Star Mother camped outside Chuck Hagel's vacation spot to try and get him to change his mind about Iraq, I'd support her right to an appointment.That's because I think people have a right to their opinions without fear of nationwide harrassment or accusations of traitor or babykiller unless they're inciting violence.

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