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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 â€œnoble causeâ€? 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) â€œleading lightsâ€? of the Right. The sight of so many people who haven't had to sacrifice ANYTHING at all for Iraq screaming â€œShame!â€? 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 â€œstaying the courseâ€? 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 â€“ 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!