Friday, August 12, 2005

Let's Be Consistent, Ms. Sheehan

We've already heard the reports of Cindy Sheehan, the woman whose son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, was killed in Iraq on April 4th, 2004. Outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford, TX, Ms. Sheehan has been protesting the Iraq war, saying that Bush is to blame, that he doesn't care about her loss or the loss of other mothers whose children have been killed, etc. We've also heard how she changed her tune from her original statement about the president, "I now know he's sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis. I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a man of faith ... That was the gift the president gave us, the gift of happiness, of being together." When I say, "let's be consistent," I'm not referring to her changing her position. She has every right to change her mind. I'm referring to the inconsistencies in her current position.

No more tugging at the heartstrings with pseudo-analogies such as these,
"Some have compared Cindy Sheehan to Rosa Parks, and I certainly agree. But Cindy also powerfully reminds me of the little child in Hans Christian Andersen's famous story, The Emperor's New Suit."[1]
Let's not invoke some ancient mysticism,
"Casey Sheehan lives in his mother's being, and that's why Cindy Sheehan can't stop, won't stop."[2]
We might also invoke logical criticisms of the President, rather than empty rhetoric,
"If only we had a leader. If only he had a heart. The wounds that have killed, maimed and injured thousands of American soldiers in Iraq have been ripped open again deep in a heartless part of Texas."[3]
Let's stop substituting gut feelings about a person for well-reasoned argument,
"Even though we were talking via cell phone -- and had a crummy, staticky connection at that -- her authenticity and passion reached through the receiver and both touched my heart and punched me in the gut."[4]

Instead, let's see what Cindy Sheehan really has to say. First, she claims that President George W. Bush is to blame for her son's death, as evidenced by an interview in which she was asked, "Your son Casey died April 4 in Iraq. Whom do you hold responsible for your loss?" She answered, "George W. Bush." Why? The basic argument goes, "It was George Bush's war. He was the one who wanted it. He just wants the fame and the legacy. He's probably after oil too." Let's go back in history for a minute. Did George W. Bush singlehandedly send the military into Iraq? The record says otherwise. On September 18, 2001, Congress authorized the use of military force in response to the September 11th attacks, even providing that, "the President has authority under the Constitution to take action to deter and prevent acts of international terrorism against the United States."[5] In 2002, Congress made a joint resolution allowing the President to specifically use the military against Iraq, citing that, "in 1998 Congress concluded that Iraq's continuing weapons of mass destruction programs threatened vital United States interests and international peace and security, declared Iraq to be in 'material and unacceptable breach of its international obligations' and urged the President 'to take appropriate action, in accordance with the Constitution and relevant laws of the United States, to bring Iraq into compliance with its international obligations.'"[6] Even Congress did not act alone, but in accordance with the United Nations Security Council. Why does Cindy Sheehan blame only the President? To be consistent, shouldn't she also blame every one in Congress who voted to authorize the use of military force? But why not hold those who killed her son directly? In assigning responsibility for Casey Sheehan's death, his mother blatantly overlooked the person or people who actually killed him, those who attacked his unit with rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire.[7]

Who really sent Casey Sheehan to Iraq? Did the government take him against his will and send him to Iraq? Or had he joined the military of his own accord? As much as we sympathize with those who have lost their children, we seem to forget that we no longer have a draft and those who don't want to go to war don't have to. Compare this to Vietnam or World War II. Even those whose religious convictions prohibited them from engaging in warfare were drafted and went to war or went to jail. Had we seen a grieving mother demanding that politicians killed her son by sending him into war via the draft, I would be behind her 100%. This is simply not the case with Cindy Sheehan's son. For whatever reason, love of country, glory, college tuition assistance, patriotism, sense of duty, or skills for the workforce, he made the decision to assume that risk. If Cindy Sheehan did not want him to take that risk, she should have spoken up sooner.

[1] Bob Fertik, Cindy Exposes the Emperor's New Clothes
[2] Tom Hayden, Cindy Sheehan Can't Stop, Won't Stop
[3] Rep. Jim McDermott, An Open Wound
[4] Arianna Huffington, Cindy Sheehan Steps Into the Leadership Void
[5] Public Law No. 107-40, 09/18/2001

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