Cindy Sheehan: The Human Cost of Peace

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Although much
has been written and said about the casualties of war, there are
few mentions of the casualties of those committed to peace and opposed
to war. In demonstrations against past wars, protestors have been
beaten by police, imprisoned and rendered penniless by expenditures
on defense lawyers, as well as had their characters and reputations
lied about and smeared by government officials, war supporters and
the press. This is no less true of those opposed to President George
W. Bush's war against Iraq and his use of U.S. military forces in
a continuing occupation of what was once the "cradle of civilization."

On August 6,
2005, a peace activist named Cindy Sheehan arrived in Crawford,
Texas, and camped outside the gates of Bush's ranch. Her avowed
purpose was to meet with the president and obtain an explanation
from him for his preemptive, unconstitutional war against Iraq.
She had personal knowledge of the casualties of war. On April 4,
2004, her son U.S. Army Specialist Casey Austin Sheehan was killed
in Sadr City, Iraq, while on a rescue mission. Cindy Sheehan had
been against the Bush presidency and the war in Iraq before Casey's
death, but afterwards she began publicly traveling and speaking
against the war. What took her to Crawford was a television clip
from a speech by Bush that was broadcast on August 3. In it, he
described his war against Iraq and the subsequent occupation of
that country by American troops as a "noble cause" that
required continuation "to honor the sacrifices of the fallen."

Enraged at
the president's vacuous justification for what she perceived to
be a great wrong, and the use of the death of her son as an argument
in support of continuing that wrong, Cindy Sheehan went to Crawford
for retribution. As the mother of one of the victims of his unjust
war she wanted to confront the president and call him to account.
He refused to meet with her, but sent two of his staff – National
Security Advisor Stephan Hadley and Deputy White House Chief of
Staff Joe Hagin – in an attempt to mollify her. They failed, and her
subsequent vigil led to international publicity and her almost instant
celebrity as the "Peace Mom."

It also made
her the favorite target of pro-war and pro-Bush journalists, commentators,
pundits, talk-show hosts and political organizations. She was subsequently
arrested for demonstrating without a permit (September 26, 2005),
for unlawful conduct (January 31, 2006) and for criminal trespassing
and resisting arrest (March 6, 2006), the last of which was coupled
with an unnecessarily violent arrest and rough treatment by New
York City police. Thus, Cindy Sheehan joined the casualties of peace.

After her August
2005 vigil in Crawford, there followed a succession of lies, distortions,
misrepresentations and facile interpretations designed to paint
Cindy Sheehan as an opportunistic, self-centered, lying media whore
who uses her son's death as a means both to enhance her own celebrity
and to aid the political left in its war against George Bush. None
of this was, or is, true.

The following
are the main elements in the sliming of Cindy Sheehan, as well as
the simple facts of the matter:

  1. On September
    15, 2005, radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh asserted that Cindy
    Sheehan's story of her dead son was "nothing more than
    forged documents." Two days later, he pretended he had
    never said she was a fake and asserted that he had expressed
    sympathy for her loss on his program of September 12, but saw
    her actions as merely an opportunity to bash Bush. The facts
    of Casey's death are public knowledge and indisputable; in fact,
    on Monday April 4, 2006, a memorial dedicated to all the members
    of the 1st Cavalry Division who died on April 4, 2004, was dedicated
    at Fort Hood, Texas. Casey's name is among those listed. It
    is tempting to regard Limbaugh's conflicting statements as merely
    a case of his oral r.p.m. exceeding his mental rate, with the
    torque at the low end of the scale. He is, after all, a political
    pornographer. But, in his obvious recklessness Limbaugh presented
    himself as either a fool or a malicious liar. Either way, his
    actions seem conscienceless. One can only speculate on the personal
    and professional ethics of a man or woman who will publicly
    repeat unfounded rumors or tell deliberate lies about a mother
    grieving for her dead child and demanding that the man responsible
    for that death explain himself.

  2. Shortly
    after I wrote a positive article on Cindy Sheehan's actions
    and character, followed by a review of her book Not
    One More Mother's Child
    , I began to receive emails from
    people who claimed that Cindy Sheehan was divorced from her
    husband Pat while Casey was a toddler and that Pat and his new
    wife raised the boy to adulthood. So, my correspondents claimed,
    Cindy Sheehan was obviously using the death of her son for personal
    aggrandizement – not having had a parental relationship
    with him other than being his biological mother. Not one word
    of this vicious rumor is true. Cindy and Pat Sheehan were high
    school sweethearts, married on May 30, 1977, and subsequently
    had four children – Casey, Carly, Andy and Janey –
    all of whom they jointly raised to adulthood. The marriage lasted
    28 years until Cindy and Pat Sheehan separated on June 1, 2005.
    Pat Sheehan subsequently filed for divorce on August 12, citing
    "irreconcilable differences."

  3. And, there
    were those public-spirited correspondents who informed me that
    Cindy Sheehan's anti-war protests and speeches betrayed that
    for which her son lived and died and thus dishonored his memory
    – that he died willingly fighting for his country and his
    mother was just using his death for her own political agenda.
    This mirrored the August 11, 2005, letter from her aunt, Cherie
    Quartarolo, and other in-laws, to Matt Drudge that said that
    Cindy Sheehan was promoting her own notoriety and personal agenda
    at the expense of her son's good name and reputation. Quite
    aside from the point that one inherits one's in-laws –
    for better or worse – one can only respond with a question:
    "For what did Cindy Sheehan's son Casey fight and die?"
    Did he give his life for his country, or for George W. Bush?
    Congress did not declare war against Iraq, George W. Bush did.
    And for what reason? Every successive rationale for the war
    that George Bush, Dick Cheney Don Rumsfeld, Colin Powell or
    Condi Rice have presented to the American public has either
    gone down in the flames of evidence to the contrary, been exposed
    as a misrepresentation or an outright lie, or it has been expressed
    as an empty slogan like "noble cause." More to the
    point: Who is it that has used the bodies of Casey Sheehan and
    other fallen American soldiers and Marines as part of an obvious
    political agenda? The answer is not "Cindy Sheehan,"
    it is "George W. Bush." It is Bush who seeks to sanctify
    his war by pouring the blood of its victims over it. Cindy Sheehan
    wants him to stop the sacrilege; she wants no more victims.
    And why does it "dishonor the memory" or expend the
    "good name and character" of a fallen soldier to ask
    for a clear explanation of why he became such? Isn't it clear
    to the entire civilized world that the "honor" and
    "good name and character" in question is not that
    of a fallen soldier, but that of the commander who put him in
    the position of being fallen? Casey Sheehan's good name and
    character has never been in question; rather it is that of George
    W. Bush that Cindy Sheehan has been questioning – and with
    good cause.

  4. For an
    obnoxious example of the sort of political muggings to which
    Cindy Sheehan has been subjected for the past eight months,
    one need go no further than the Canadian website of Steve Janke,
    who bills himself as "Angry In the Great White North"
    and a representative of the Canadian conservative "right."
    Janke has made a cottage industry of scurrilous attacks on Cindy
    Sheehan's mental health, veracity, marital situation, personal
    finances, political views and true regard for her dead son.
    And he has done so on the thinnest of factual grounds. Almost
    every action, change in circumstances or statement by Cindy
    Sheehan has been used by Janke as the basis for a creative speculation
    that implies that she is a true villain. Only one example is
    necessary: In his article of October 17, 2005, Janke used the
    fact that Sheehan had recently purchased a new car, while there
    was as yet no gravestone on Casey Sheehan's grave, as obvious
    evidence of her moral depravity – or at least that's the
    implication of the juxtaposition of the two facts. Janke hammered
    in this accusation with a speculation that the money used to
    buy the car either came out of Casey's insurance payoff or the
    federal government military death benefit. What sort of mental
    sludge pit can manufacture an accusation like this from virtually
    no information at all? Janke has no information on why there
    is no gravestone; he has no information on whether Cindy Sheehan
    paid cash for the car and, if so, from whence the cash; he has
    no information on exactly what insurance amounts were paid to
    Sheehan and when. So, he takes this absence of knowledge and
    uses it to libel a woman he has never met, and knows virtually
    nothing about, except what he reads in newspapers or receives
    in gossip. Sludge from Janke's pit is still being circulated
    on the web despite origins that are reminiscent of the harvesting
    of the orcs from the mud in The Lord of the Rings. Anyone
    with the stomach to do so can "google" a veritable
    smorgasbord of similar baseless accusations against Cindy Sheehan
    as well as clumsy character assassinations.

  5. Three days
    after Cindy Sheehan began her vigil in Crawford, Fox News commentator
    Bill O'Reilly said that "she has been hijacked by some
    very, very far left elements…there is no question that she has
    thrown in with the most radical elements in this country…"
    He added that the other families who have lost sons and daughters
    to the Iraq war "feel that this kind of behavior borders
    on treasonous." Two days later in his August 11, 2005,
    "O'Reilly Factor" column he said that "far left
    ideologies are controlling access to Cindy Sheehan…." Given
    O'Reilly's personal moral character, as revealed in certain
    of his telephone conversations made public last year, one is
    tempted to dismiss this as proof of Samuel Johnson's adage that
    "Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel;"
    however, it is certainly true that Cindy Sheehan has allied
    herself with many "progressive groups" in her campaign
    against the war. On January 30, 2006, she appeared on a six-person
    panel on impeachment at a public forum held at the Bus Boys
    and Poets Bookstore in Washington, D.C. The forum was sponsored
    by Democracy Rising, ImpeachPAC, Backbone Campaign and Censure
    Bush. On March 6, 2006, she was arrested for criminal trespassing
    and resisting arrest outside the U.S.U.N. mission in New York
    City, along with Medea Benjamin of Code Pink. Code Pink is on
    the steering committee of United for Peace and Justice, which
    also includes Veterans for Peace, Military Families Speak Out
    and the Communist Party of the U.S.A. On August 8, 2005, syndicated
    columnist Michelle Malkin referred to Code Pink as anti-American,
    anti-military, terrorist-sympathizing agitators. Malkin is hardly
    a fount of objectivity on any issue, but many other commentators
    have similarly characterized Sheehan's choice of allies and
    criticized her for those associations. It only deepened this
    perception when her January 2006 trip to Venezuela to participate
    in the World Social Forum was sponsored by the Venezuelan foreign
    ministry, and that following her appearance arm-in-arm with
    Hugo Chavez at a rally she said that she admired him "for
    his strength to resist the U.S." Yet, left out of this
    characterization of her choice of allies is the fact that only
    a few weeks before she went to Crawford in August 2005 she lectured
    at the libertarian Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama.
    It is also a fact that many anti-war libertarians have joined
    with her and all the other groups mentioned above, as well as
    others not listed, to oppose this unconstitutional war. Several
    members of the Congress of the United States, including John
    Conyers, Jr., have united with Cindy Sheehan against this war.
    Several leading figures in the Civil Rights Movement, including
    Dr. Joseph T. Lowery, co-founder with Martin Luther King of
    the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, have united with
    Cindy Sheehan against this war. Prominent figures in the television
    and motion pictures industry have all united with Cindy Sheehan
    against this war. In the past few months, Cindy Sheehan and
    I have co-authored two anti-war articles that have appeared
    in online journals as politically diverse as LewRockwell.com,
    Michaelmoore.com, palestinechronicle.com and political affairs.net
    – a Marxist online journal. Anyone consulting my scholarship
    would discover that I have been a severe critic of "progressive"
    and socialist theories and practices for most of my academic
    life. The point is that mere association in a common cause does
    not connote a commonality of views on other matters. I would
    add that anyone who knows Cindy Sheehan is very much aware that
    she is not liable to be "hijacked" by anyone –
    she is an implacable foe of Bush's war and accepts all allies
    in that fight, despite other differences in views. Her allies
    stand with Cindy Sheehan; none of them "run" her.

What strength
of character, coupled with the conviction of the rightness of one's
cause, is required to wade through a daily sewer of lies and twisted
interpretations about one's character, motives, actions and personal
history? Cindy Sheehan has been subjected to an almost continuous
stream of conscienceless vituperation since she publicly raised
the question of the motives of George W. Bush in waging a preemptive
war against Iraq and continuing the devastating occupation of that
country. It is true that she has often not deleted expletives from
her speeches and has called the president and his closest associates
"war criminals," "liars," "murderers,"
"cowards," and deemed them "morally corrupt."
But, aren't they? And, isn't she justified in being angry? Shouldn't
all of us be just as angry at what is being done in the name of
our country by what appears to be a pack of cowardly, arrogant,
avaricious political terrorists? And what good does the argumentum
ad hominem used against Cindy Sheehan do in a debate over principles
and political actions? Don't the attempts to attack and discredit
her provide a strong sign that her critics dare not debate principles
or facts?

The George
W. Bush presidency is one that has made the act of lying to the
public the centerpiece of its administration. This is a regime that
appears to be dedicated to shredding the last tattered vestiges
of the Constitution of the United States for purposes that the members
of that regime either cannot or will not reveal. Kidnapping, torture,
imprisonment without due process, violation of the Geneva Conventions,
ad hoc trial procedures forced on prisoners brought to military
tribunals, domestic spying in violation of federal law; all of these
are features of the Bush regime.

To date, almost
2400 U.S. soldiers and Marines have died and over 17,000 have been
wounded in a preemptive and unconstitutional war and occupation
waged by the Bush regime. Tens of thousands of Iraqi men, women
and children have suffered the same fate. Cindy Sheehan has single-handedly
and publicly called the President of the United States to account
and has demanded the return of U.S. forces from Iraq if he cannot
provide a clear explanation for their being there. And he continues
to run from her. Rather than branding her as "unpatriotic"
and accusing her of aiding and abetting the enemy, of being "a
hardleaning leftie" (Jeff Quinton) or a "fascist fishwife"
(James Taranto), some of her critics need to refresh their memories
about what the United States of America used to represent to the
rest of the world. Ronald Reagan called it "a shining city
on a hill"; few outside its borders see much shine to that
city anymore. In spite of his almost constant use of the word "freedom,"
George W. Bush has taken us closer to the Britain of V for Vendetta
than to the "Atlantis" of Atlas
Shrugged
.

Those same
critics should also look within themselves to discover how they
managed to join the lowest common denominator in the vulgarization
of public debate over this war. They should be celebrating Cindy
Sheehan for her patriotism and love of country, rather than vilifying
her with terms that would have caused their mothers to wash out
their mouths with soap.

April
20, 2006

Samuel Bostaph [send him
mail
] is Professor of Economics and Chairman of the Department
of Economics at The University of Dallas. He is the author of numerous
scholarly articles on topics in intellectual history and economic
theory. A former enlisted Marine, who later served as a U.S. Army
intelligence staff officer during the Vietnam War era, he is the
proud father of Katie and Megan Bostaph and prays that they may
never go to war.

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