Monday, August 15, 2005

Time For Cindy Sheehan To Pack Up And Go Home

James Taranto, from the WSJ's Best Of The Web, sums up the Cindy Sheehan situation so well...

The Sad Story of Cindy Sheehan
Cindy Sheehan suffered a grievous loss for a noble cause: Her 24-year-old son, Army Spc. Casey Sheehan, died in combat in Iraq. Because of this, it seems churlish to criticize her. But enough is enough.

Sheehan has been camping out a few miles from President Bush's Crawford, Texas, ranch, staging a protest that has received extensive media attention. Her demand: a meeting with President Bush. "I want to ask George Bush, 'Why did my son die? What was the noble cause that he died for?' "

In fact, Sheehan has met with President Bush, as her hometown paper, the Reporter of Vacaville, Calif., reported in June 2004. At the time, although she clearly held antiwar views, she pronounced herself pleased with the meeting:

Sincerity was something Cindy had hoped to find in the meeting. Shortly after Casey died, Bush sent the family a form letter expressing his condolences, and Cindy said she felt it was an impersonal gesture.

"I now know he's sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis," Cindy said after their meeting. "I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a man of faith." . . .

The trip had one benefit that none of the Sheehans expected.

For a moment, life returned to the way it was before Casey died. They laughed, joked and bickered playfully as they briefly toured Seattle.

For the first time in 11 weeks, they felt whole again.

"That was the gift the president gave us, the gift of happiness, of being together," Cindy said.
That gift seems not to have lasted. The Vallejo (Calif.) Times-Herald reports that Sheehan and her husband, Pat, have separated and that "family members of Sheehan denounced her actions Thursday in an e-mail":
Sent to a San Francisco radio station Thursday, the first public acknowledgment of a family rift came from Cherie Quartarolo, sister-in-law to Cindy Sheehan and godmother to her son, Casey.

Reached by phone Thursday, Quartarolo said she consulted with other family members before releasing the brief statement, but she declined to elaborate. She signed the memo on behalf of Casey's paternal grandparents, as well as "aunts, uncles and numerous cousins."

Noting that her family is still grieving the loss of Casey, Quartarolo wrote: "We do not agree with the political motivations and publicity tactics of Cindy Sheehan. She now appears to be promoting her own personal agenda and notoriety at the expense of her son's good name and reputation."

Casey's father, Patrick, of Vacaville, was not mentioned. He has acknowledged that he and his wife are separated, but he has avoided the spotlight that surrounds his wife's high-profile protest.

The family's e-mail, however, said "The Sheehan family lost our beloved Casey in the Iraq War and we have been silently, respectfully grieving. The rest of the Sheehan family supports the troops, our country and our president, silently, with prayer and respect."
What are we to make of Mrs. Sheehan's demand for a second meeting with President Bush? She claims she wants an explanation of why her son died, but she acknowledges that her mind is already made up. This is an excerpt of a speech she gave Monday, as transcribed on the Web site of an outfit called Veterans for Peace, describing how she conceived of her protest (quoting verbatim):
I'm gonna tell them, "You get that evil maniac [the president] out here, cuz a Gold Star Mother, somebody who's blood is on his hands, has some questions for him."

And I'm gonna say, "OK, listen here, George. #1, you quit, and I demand, every time you get out there and say you're going to continue the killing in Iraq to honor the fallen heroes by continuing the mission; you say, except Casey Sheehan.' "

"And you say except for all the members of Goldstar Families for Peace' cuz we think not one drop of blood should be spilled in our families' names. You quit doing that. You don't have my permission."

And I'm gonna say, "And you tell me, what the noble cause is that my son died for." And if he even starts to say freedom and democracy' I'm gonna say, bulls**t.

You tell me the truth. You 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. You tell me that, you don't tell me my son died for freedom and democracy.

Cuz, we're not freer. You're taking away our freedoms. The Iraqi people aren't freer, they're much worse off than before you meddled in their country.

You get America out of Iraq, you get Israel out of Palestine

(massive round of applause)

And if you think I won't say bulls**t to the President, I say move on, cuz I'll say what's on my mind.
According to New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, "the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute." So we now have it on absolute moral authority that America is a cancer, that Iraqis were better off under Saddam Hussein, and that Israel must be destroyed? The question is somewhat facetious, of course; Dowd is not known for thinking through the implications of the things she writes.

Yet thousands of American parents have lost children in Iraq, and thousands more in, among other places, Afghanistan, Germany, Iran, Israel, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, New York, Pennsylvania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tanzania, Virginia and Yemen, either fighting Islamist terrorism or as a result of the failure to fight Islamist terrorism with sufficient determination. Although these thousands of parents doubtless have a wide range of opinions on the Iraq war and other subjects, we'd venture to say that not many--especially among those whose children were in the military--agree with Cindy Sheehan.

Indeed, we are now starting to see stories like this one, from the Gloucester County (N.J.) Times:
Marine Cpl. Marc T. Ryan, of Gloucester City, was killed in an explosion in Ramadi, Iraq in November.

"I would tell Cindy Sheehan that, as one mother to another, I do realize your loss is your loss and there's nothing you can do to heal from it," said the corporal's mother, Linda Ryan.

"George Bush didn't kill her son, it's the evildoers who have no value of life who killed her son. Her son made a decision to join the Armed Forces and defend our country, knowing that, at any time, war could come about," Ryan said. . . .

"George Bush was my son's commander-in-chief. My son, Marc, totally believed in what he was doing," she said.

Sheehan, she believes, is doing what she's doing because of the agony over losing her son.

"She's going about this not realizing how many people she's hurting. When she refers to anyone killed in Iraq, she's referring to my son. She doesn't have anything to say about what happened to my son," said Ryan.
Losing a child is probably the saddest thing that can happen to anyone. Unlike the death of a parent or a spouse, it is not part of the ordinary course of life. Yet somehow the vast majority of parents who suffer such a loss are able to maintain some perspective while coping with the experience.

That Cindy Sheehan has been unable to do so makes her story all the sadder. But it does not validate the hateful views she is espousing, nor does it make her pain more important than that of Linda Ryan or the thousands of others who have lost a child but maintained their dignity.