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September 14, 2005

The Cindy Factor

Brian W. Kelly

      At first glance, Cindy Sheehan, the forty-five-year-old mother of the late Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, would not seem to bear much resemblance to a crusader bent on changing American foreign policy. Enter the Iraq War—a prolonged occupation with an eerie resemblance to Vietnam, combine that with an unconscionable five-week vacation by the President, and we find ourselves in a period which will challenge even President Bush's newly relaxed state of mind. For most of August, Sheehan found herself in a rather unique situation, camped outside the President's Crawford ranch, demanding an answer for the death of her son, Casey. Whether one agrees or disagrees with Ms. Sheehan politically, it's hard to question her commitment to her cause: ending the deployment of US soldiers in Iraq. Given the US's investment in the war, and the inherent instability in Iraq, withdrawal is certain to bring more problems, not less. Still, the question remains: where does one draw the line between 'staying the course' and a suicidal embrace? Sheehan, and those who support her, indignantly believe that point has passed.

      The President's strategists must be distraught over Sheehan's cause, and more importantly, the growing ranks of disaffected elements of society it represents. Cindy Sheehan remained the one political factor that the Administration failed to plan for. Foolishly, instead of appeasing Sheehan, the President stubbornly avoided her—this should not strike one as completely unbelievable, this was the same President who refused to meet with Sheehan a second time—who referred to her callously as "Mom" throughout their first encounter. The President's failure to learn the name of someone whose son died because of a decision he made was hardly a statement of compassion. This President has not been able to bring himself to attend one funeral, despite finding the time to take five weeks of vacation, clearing brush and taking bike rides with Lance. But we can't be too critical; there is a lot important work to be done on The Ranch.

      Were it not for the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, the President might have continued to hide from Cindy for the rest of August. Instead, the fully functional "Western Whitehouse" appears to have been a myth. Dubya needed to rush back to the office to actually attend to the duties of the presidency. I guess My Pet Goat rereads will have to wait.

      Although Camp Casey has been essentially disassembled and the President's vacation was cut tragically short, the book remains to be closed on the cause that Sheehan represents. News of Hurricane Katrina and of Roberts' nomination will overshadow Camp Casey's tour around the nation. The violent counter-protest by William Rivers Pitt desecrated soldiers' memorials by driving his pick-up truck over the white crosses erected by Ms. Sheehan drives home her message—we are in need of peace.

Front Page (September 14, 2005)

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