August 23, 2005 [LINK]
The protest "sit-in" by Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a fallen soldier, outside President Bush's ranch in Texas was one of those red-hot polarizing issues that fails to excite me as much as it does most other political observers. Among the several lessons it offers, one is that family members of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice do deserve a full explanation of what is at stake in the conflict in Iraq. From her television appearances and brief statements, Ms. Sheehan strikes me as a person who is either quite naive or disingenuous. Since she is evidently distraught, however, I would not even think about casting aspersions on her own motives. The Bush-bashing political motivations of those who camped out in her midst are all too transparent, detracting from the sincerity of her cause. It would seem to be another case of self-righteousness veering off in the direction of self-delusion.
If Mrs. Sheehan really wants to know "why her son was killed," she should read a blog piece written by "The Idiom," cited by Donald Sensing, "Why Casey Sheehan Died." It is a no-holds-barred rejoinder to the pious indictment of Bush war policy, suggesting a chilling scenario of what would happen to American in the aftermath of a nuclear attack on New York. To those who pay attention to world events, the threat is all too real.
Another lesson is that many Americans have lost a sense of proportion as the war continues. The very fact that her demand to see the President is considered by many people as reasonable is itself an indication of the relatively light casualties American forces have suffered in this quasi-war* so far. Just imagine if during World War II President Roosevelt had to meet in person all of the hundreds of thousands grieving mothers. He would not have had time for anything else. If more Americans don't get a grip and view passing events in the war in a rational way, our troops' morale may suffer. Mrs. Sheehan already met with President Bush last year, and one would think that such an opportunity would be enough, given the large number of citizens who want the president's ear. Her reasons for demanding another meeting are unconvincing.
* (I hesitate to call the conflict in Iraq a real war, because the enemy combatants are not uniformed soldiers who openly resist foreign occupiers, but cowardly murderers who blend in with the local population. By comparison, the Vietnam War was much more of a real war, and even then some people questioned whether it was really a "war.")
A final lesson is that the President has fallen short in his obligation to explain American military objectives and political goals clearly enough for average citizens to understand. Every so often he comes through with just the right phrase or gesture, but more often not. It's good that he keeps trying, but it's just not good enough. It pains me to say it, but his limitations in the use of the English language, which most of his critics misconstrue as lack of intelligence, constitute a real weak spot in our nation's war effort. Donald Sensing wrote a long, thoughtful blog piece today critiquing the Bush effort to keep the public apprised of how the war is progressing.
Here in the Shenandoah Valley, folks are preparing a "Support Our Troops Rally" set for this Saturday in downtown Staunton. One of the speakers will be Rhonda Winfield, the mother of Lance Corporal Jason Redifer who was killed in action in Iraq last Janury 31. I'm hoping this event will be as non-political as possible, and am very eager to hear what this true Gold Star Mother has to say about her son's ultimate sacrifice.