August 17, 2005

Opinions on Cindy Sheehan

The following is a good collection of opinions on the Cindy Sheehan spectacle

"Cindy Sheehan, the mother of Casey Sheehan, an American soldier who was killed in Iraq…." That's the sentence Cindy Sheehan and her increasingly lugubrious PR machine wants every news story about her to begin with. Nobody likes the idea of criticizing a woman who's lost her son in such circumstances. The hope has been that the high wall of Mrs. Sheehan's "moral authority" will allow her to say whatever she pleases and that nobody will say boo about it for fear of seeming insensitive to what must be unimaginable anguish. Still, even some of her supporters must realize that her anguish has caused her to find meaning in a wildly partisan, orchestrated publicity stunt. What's interesting, to me at least, is that Mrs. Sheehan represents simply the latest installment in a long, nasty, desperate ideological campaign — and one that demonstrates the logical limits of identity politics....Maureen Dowd wrote of Sheehan in The New York Times this week that "the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute." This is either a sincere but meaningless platitude or it's a charge made in grotesquely bad faith. Surely Dowd recognizes that there are a great many mothers of fallen soldiers who believe the war was worthwhile. Is their moral authority absolute, too? If so, then moral authority can't really be very relevant to public debates. Or does Ms. Dowd claim that only those moms-of-the-fallen who say things critical of George Bush have absolute moral authority? If that's the case, does Dowd truly believe — as Sheehan seems to — that this war was fought to line the pockets of Texas oilmen and to serve the interests of a treasonous Zionist cabal inside the United States? I think that's batty, and I'd need proof to believe it. Mrs. Sheehan's word isn't good enough for me on anything — save the fact that she loved her son.

James Lileks:
It finally struck me tonight what has come to gall me most about the ghoulish mummery of the et al types who’ve glommed on to this woman. Besides the infantilization of the soldier, who was not a man acting of his own free will but a child seduced by American myths spoonfed to his gaping maw by his mother. Besides the thick-headed bullet-proof talking points about shifting rationales, besides the dunderheaded believe that the Iraqi people about whom they purport to care so much would be better if the US bugged out, besides the gleeful desire to see Bush get a black eye even if it made America look tired and timorous, a weak horse with a sagging spine. Besides all that. Imagine if she was a pissed-off mom who wanted to meet with Bush to demand that he talk to her about her plans to help the troops – Care packages from Soldier’s Angels, more PR about their accomplishments, tax breaks for families whose breadwinners have been deployed, more post-service benefits, better VA funding. You could put together quite a list of demands, and if she was sufficiently aggravated with the President, the press would be just as happy to cover her. After all, it’s the fact that he doesn’t meet with her that keeps this story alive, no? She probably would have as much support from the pull-out organizations; they’d love to show how much they support the troops, after all. But no. No, she yammers on about oil and Israel. Big help, she is. Big help.
From James Taranto:
"The mainstream media have largely ignored Sheehan's crackpot views, and not only--perhaps not even primarily--for ideological reasons. Members of the White House press corps find the annual sojourn to Crawford deathly dull. They need something to do; they want bylines--and "heartbroken everymom" makes for a much more compelling story than "extremist hatemonger." The journalists will soon move on, and her political allies may do so as well. For them she is a mere instrument. The White House press corps will discard her as soon as they return to Washington where there's real news going on. Serious opponents of the war in Iraq will cast her aside if her foul statements make her an embarrassment. When that happens, we can only hope that someone still cares about Cindy Sheehan--not as a story or a symbol, but as a human being."
More from James Taranto at Opinion Journal:

And Cindy Sheehan does not actually speak for Gold Star Mothers, most of whom remember their children as heroes, not dupes; and hardly any of whom agree with Sheehan that "this country is not worth dying for."Sheehanoia is a sign of the desperation, not the strength, of the left in America. Publicity stunts are no substitute for an actual political program. Joan Walsh writes in Salon: "Even as Sheehan's public relations victories give people reason to be optimistic about the administration's unraveling in Iraq, liberals and war opponents have to be careful not to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory." Rooting for "the administration's unraveling in Iraq"--that is, for America's defeat in the central antiterror battleground--is not what we'd call a political program.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Sheehan's tale has been her co-option by the far Left, but that part of the story has been largely ignored by the mainstream press. James Taranto, editor of, this week unearthed comments Sheehan made at an anti-war rally at San Francisco State University in April: "I'm going all over the country telling moms: 'This country is not worth dying for.' If we're attacked, we would all go out. We'd all take whatever we had. I'd take my rolling pin and I'd beat the attackers over the head with it. But we were not attacked by Iraq. We might not even have been attacked by Osama bin Laden if 9/11 was their Pearl Harbor to get their neo-con agenda through . . ." Were these just the ravings of a distraught mother, who in the same speech called President Bush a terrorist and accused the United States of using nuclear weapons in Iraq? Sheehan made her odd remarks at a rally for attorney Lynne Stewart, who represented the mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and was convicted earlier this year of providing material support for terrorism when she acted as a conduit for terrorist instructions from her client Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. Interestingly, of the journalists who have canonized Sheehan, none has seen fit to report her earlier remarks or her advocacy on behalf of Stewart. The media seem desperate for a vibrant, Vietnam-style anti-war movement in the United States. But so far, not even America's college students are obliging. Certainly large numbers of Americans have misgivings about the war in Iraq, but with an all-volunteer military, the young don't have the same impetus to take to the streets in protest. More importantly, most Americans still recall those scenes of the World Trade Center collapsing and the Pentagon in flames. Perhaps Mrs. Sheehan truly believes the Bush administration and its "neo-con" — read pro-Israel — allies orchestrated the horrific deaths of 3,000 Americans in order to justify going to war with Iraq, but if so, she's gone mad. More likely, she's spouting the lies fed her by conspiracy theorists who hate America and Israel in equal amounts. But the public, who've been treated to a sanitized version of Cindy Sheehan's story, won't ever learn that by reading the front pages of the nation's leading newspapers.

Michael Graham has an excellent column:

I cannot, for example, join the many critics who dismiss Ms. Sheehan an irrational " left-winger." Is it true that she parrots the looniest of left-wing conspiracy theories, that she wants to meet with the president so he can "tell me that my son died for oil. You tell me that my son died to make your friends rich. You tell me my son died to spread the cancer of Pax Americana, imperialism in the Middle East?" Well, yes. And, yes, it would be very easy to challenge her with the obvious question "If the war was for oil, then why don't we have it? Why are we paying $2.50 a gallon for gas?" But I'm not the person to do that.

Is it true that, as some charge, she's a knee-jerk Bush basher exploiting her personal tragedy to make outrageous charges against the president? OK, so calling President Bush a "murderer" and "That lying bas****" might, technically speaking, be viewed as bashing. So, too, her comments that: "My first born was murdered… Yes, he was killed for lies and for a PNAC Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel. My son joined the army to protect America, not Israel…my son, my family, this nation and this world were betrayed by George Bush." So she's not going to be a guest speaker at the Israeli Embassy any time soon… And speaking of Israel, some right-wingers have suggested that there might be a hint of anti-Semitism in Ms. Sheehan's obsession with "neo-conservatives" (liberal for "Jews") at the Project for a New American Century. They sense bigotry in her repeated references to "George Bush and his cabal of neocons" and her demands that the president "get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine." But I'm not going to call Cindy Sheehan an anti-Semite, even if (as the New York Sun reports) the webpage supporting her mission, Crawford Peace House, includes a photo depicting the entire state of Israel as "Palestine."

Edmund Morris of the New York Times:

CINDY Sheehan's attempt to have President Bush tell her - again - how sorry he is about the death of her son in Iraq is escalating into a protest more political than personal. As such, it is a legitimate expression of antiwar sentiment. But the individual cry for attention at the heart of it - "Mr. President, feel my pain!" - is misguided. Ms. Sheehan cannot expect a commander in chief to emote on demand...Maybe one day some such document will reveal what President Bush really feels about his own "honored dead." For the meantime, he is our elected president, with the business of a nation to run. Ms. Sheehan has gotten more time with him than most grieving mothers, and if she felt, during those unsatisfactory minutes, that there was a glass wall around him, it unfortunately comes with the job. A president has to protect himself from emotional predators, or he'd be sucked dry within a week of taking office.

I don't begrudge Sheehan her grief. Hell, no.But when she starts talking about getting "Israel out of Palestine," I have to wonder: Who brainwashed her? Sheehan said those words just days, hours really, before Israel began its painful and bloody pullout from the Gaza Strip. Later, Israel will abandon settlements in the West Bank, too. And let's not forget that ever since the Oslo Accords, large swaths of the West Bank have been in Palestinian hands. So when Sheehan talks about Israel getting out of Palestine, I can't help but think that she means, "Let's get six million Jews on planes bound for Miami, pronto." Who brainwashed this woman? If six million Jews must be displaced in a modern diaspora to assuage her grief… well then, who are the Mass Media to question her? Have you seen one, just one, non-blog juxtaposition of Sheehan's demands on Israel, with the self-inflicted violence Israel is suffering today? What Sheehan demands, Ariel Sharon is already trying to deliver - at a price paid in lost blood and political support. Who brainwashed Cindy Sheehan? What made her snap? Why is she taking out her excusable rage on a people who have nothing to do with her grief? Sheehan's grief over the loss of her son has apparently turned into a hatred of All Things Western. She says she won't pay the taxes President Bush already reduced for her. She seems to think that Israel – not radical Islamists – are to blame for her deaths. She says that this war is about cheap oil, even as we pay ever-higher prices for light, sweet crude.
See this post and this post on Michelle Malkin's blog for more coverage on the spectacle.

From Dean's World:

Cindy Sheehan has asked for attention, in a world where her free speech is as protected as ours. So far as I am concerned, this has nothing to do with "defending the President" (he's a big boy, he can take care of himself) and everything to do with countering the horrible fascist propaganda she's been spouting--about how our people over there are just murdering and killing, about how those who died did so for nothing, and so on. Those of us who've got family and friends over there have a right to respond to the things Sheehan is saying. She's not a martyr--she's a person who suffered a horrible loss but instead of respecting her son's choices she's trying to use his death in a cause he almost certainly wouldn't agree with, and that most of her family doesn't agree with. It's not mean or nasty to point this out, and neither is it mean and nasty to point to the horrible people she's snuggling up with and accepting help from.

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