Thirty years from now, we will get a full account of the White House strategy for dealing with Cindy Sheehan. In the meantime, we are obliged to depend on available fragments of information and our past experience with Karl Rove’s smear machine. So far, we know that the president has altered his vacation plans to cope with a sudden and unexpected outbreak of anti-war fever. As he interrupts his five-week summer siesta to resell the Iraq war, a full-scale smear campaign has been set in motion to discredit the lady from Vacaville. The Rove squads are out in force to change the subject and cast doubt on whether Cindy has the qualifications to argue with the president on the merits of this war of choice.
Artful Texan dodgers have been commissioned to paint a canvas portraying a compassionate commander in chief who feels Cindy’s pain but disagrees with her position and her policy recommendations. The desired effect is to convince the public that Sheehan is a distraught uninformed mother of a fallen soldier who needs compassion -- not answers. If things go according to plan, Cindy will be perceived as a weak and vulnerable woman who is being victimized and manipulated by the sinister forces on the extreme left -- a fringe movement that apparently includes every other American. On the other half of Rove’s canvas, the spinmeisters will project a resolute president who wants to ‘stay the course’ and ‘complete the mission’ to honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice to “fight the terrorists over there before we are forced to fight them over here.” Bush will throw in a couple of obligatory references to 9/11 insinuating that the invasion of Iraq was a legitimate part of the ‘war on terror’ -- and wrap it up with a bit of fiction about spreading democracy in the Middle East.
While Bush postures as a gallant leader who sympathizes with the families of the fallen, the Rove brigades will be up to their usual mischief in a coordinated malicious campaign to defame Cindy. The full force of their media arsenal is already on display. Acerbic and insolent right wing bloggers, vicious hate radio pundits and the clowns who habitually posture as journalists in the infotainment industry have all united in a sustained attack on the character and motives of one Cindy Sheehan.
Virtually all the mainstream media outlets -- including CNN, the wire services, the New York Times and The Washington Post -- are engaged in guerrilla assaults against a single citizen who had the courage and audacity to stand up and challenge the war policies of the President of the United States. The only variance is in the tone and acidity of their vocabulary.
While Cindy is being dismissed as an unpatriotic leftist ‘crackpot’ by the unabashed Bush partisans on FOX and hate radio, the mainstream lads are taking a more subtle approach. If you sort through their dispatches, it’s easy enough to find a common theme. Is the president obliged to meet every angry petitioner who shows up in Crawford or Lafayette Park? Wouldn’t a meeting with Sheehan set a dangerous precedent? Besides, they argue that Cindy has already had a meeting with Bush who graciously gave her more than her fair allocation of face time.
So, Why should Bush meet her a second time?
To debunk Cindy’s critics, it is worth revisiting her ‘first meeting’ with the president. It took place in Seattle, two months after her 24-year-old son -- Casey Sheehan -- perished in Baghdad while on a voluntary mission to save his wounded comrades. The Sheehan family was not alone at that meeting. A total of fifteen families had a brief audience with the president to honor the sacrifices of their loved ones who died in Iraq. It was hardly the setting for a debate on the wisdom of the war.
For those who pay more than casual attention to the administration’s shifting rationale for the invasion of Iraq, it should be quite clear that Cindy has very good reasons to demand a second meeting with her president. Their first encounter took place in June of 2004 -- four months before Charles A. Duelfer completed his investigation of Iraq's phantom WMD arsenal.
Until October of last year -- when Duelfer made a final determination that “we were wrong” about the WMDs -- Bush continued to assert that the Saddam’s fictional weapons would eventually turn up. If Cindy had asked him why her son died during their brief encounter in Seattle, the president would have looked her straight in the eyes and repeated the mantra that “we had to disarm Saddam before he handed his lethal stockpiles to Bin Laden.”
Duelfer’s final report was no surprise to the neo-con authors of the WMD hoax. After finally admitting that Saddam had no chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, they wrote the whole scam off to an ‘intelligence failure.’ To make it all look legit, the CIA took the blame and George Tenet fell on his sword and resigned. So even after October, if Sheehan had raised questions about why Casey died, the President could once again look her in the eye and tell her: “after 9/11, we couldn’t take any chances. I made the decision to go to war on the intelligence we had – not the intelligence we would have liked. Besides, the world is a better place without Saddam.”
A few weeks after Duelfer presented his findings; Bush was reelected to a second term in office. In effect, the public fell for the ‘intelligence failure’ scam and awarded him with a mandate to continue his war. It wasn’t until six months later that the Downing Street Memos surfaced. They provided concrete evidence that the WMD scare was concocted by Bush and Blair to market the war to a vulnerable public that was still in shock after the 9/11 atrocities. The truth is there was no intelligence failure. The Downing Street Memos confirmed that that the President and the Prime Minister systematically lied their way to war. As early as the summer of 2002, the two leaders conspired to dupe the public and “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”
For Cindy Sheehan and millions of Americans, the Downing Street memos were the last straw. It confirmed their darkest suspicions that the declared agenda for the war was a smoke screen and that Bush invaded Iraq for reasons that still remain a state secret. Is it not entirely appropriate for a mother who lost her son in a war launched under false pretenses to question the president about the real reasons Casey Sheehan was sent to fight and die in a distant foreign land?
Of course, none of these facts deterred the Seattle Times from publishing a Washington Post article under the headline: “Why Bush refuses to meet Sheehan 2nd time.” This article is typical of what passes for journalism at the Post. Instead of dealing with the issues, it passes off Bush’s refusal to meet Sheehan as a matter of ‘style’, ‘his insistence on protocol’ and ‘his concern with precedent’.
Every American should be concerned with the ‘precedent’ of a commander in chief who refuses to disclose his rationale for invading a foreign country. The Bush administration’s ‘style’ of governance is all about evading legitimate inquiries and smearing any dissenter who dares to challenge their dismal performance. As for ‘protocol’, Karl Rove’s smear tactics are the vulgar and obscene product of a man who wrote the book on how to play the Plame game. Rove is hardly endowed with the civility of Miss Manners. He constantly lowers the bar on how far he can stoop in the gutters of the politics of personal destruction.
By now, the White House recognizes that ignoring Cindy Sheehan is not an option. That doesn’t mean they have any intention of engaging her in a debate. With the capable assistance of the Judith Miller clones that marketed the war, Bush has reduced Cindy’s petition to a single question. “Should we withdraw from Iraq immediately?” He knows that a majority of Americans believe the war was a mistake and that his adventure in the Gulf has increased the threat of terrorism. Even so, the polls also show that the idea of leaving Iraq in a state of chaos or civil war is not something most Americans are comfortable with. That is the soft under belly of the silent majority that opposes the war but disagrees on the pace of disengagement.
Good people can disagree on where to go from here. That is why -- after three years of bamboozling the public with concocted and shifting rationales for the war and uninterrupted deceptive ‘progress’ reports -- Bush believes he can get away with making a reasonable pitch on the speed of withdrawal before resuming his vacation.
Arriving at a consensus on how to exit Iraq is the last item on Cindy’s list. But what about Cindy’s other questions? What was the secret agenda behind the war that killed Casey Sheehan and nearly two thousand other Americans? Who engineered the WMD hoax and the subsequent ‘intelligence failure’ cover-up? Shouldn’t we take into consideration the ample evidence that the neo-con praetorian guards were ‘wildly off the mark’ in estimating the cost of the war in blood and treasure? Shouldn’t we hold the deluded ideologues of the War Party accountable for the eventual outcomes of this war of choice -- a theocratic republic allied with Tehran?
Given the administration’s track record, is it safe to assume that Bush and Cheney have the competence and judgment to dig their way out of this hole? Why is Congress not providing this failed administration with a little supervision and a lot of scrutiny? Can we depend on Bush to develop a rational exit strategy when he can’t even remember why we invaded a country that posed no threat to our national security? Will it be any cheaper to get out next year than this year?
We are now stuck between Iraq and a smear campaign against Cindy Sheehan. Meanwhile, The artful dodgers in the White House are tap dancing their way out of a debate about the consequences of their folly. We can’t depend on the corporate media to question a war they helped design. A homicide in Aruba is distracting the MSM crowd from covering the carnage in Iraq. While American and Iraqis continue to shed blood, George Bush goes on another public relations campaign to convince the public to ‘stay the course, fight and win’. Win what? A few Senators and Congressmen from both sides of the isle are starting to question the war -- but most members of our parliament of sheep continue to sit on the fence doing cost-benefit analysis of the price they might pay in next year’s mid-term elections.
Is it fair to pin our hopes on the courage of one single citizen from Vacaville? Can’t we all do our little bit to convince the government to give her the answers that we all deserve? What better way to honor our soldiers than to stand up for them against a president with a cowardly aversion to taking responsibility for the miserable decision to put them in harm’s way?
The debate on how we got into Iraq and how to get out is long over due. Bush should not be given the option of evading the consequences of his disastrous debacle. We need answers and we need them now. So, stop the dodge and smear campaign, Mr. President. Now, take a seat and answer Cindy’s questions. You have sixty minutes. You cannot substitute your own questions for Cindy’s. Empty slogans will be considered incomplete answers. A British language version of this exam will be presented to Tony Blair. We reserve the right to compare your version of events against his. Both responses will be verified against the historical record. Any disparaging comments from Karl Rove concerning the lady from Vacaville will be held against you and result in additional questions. You can’t peak at Dick Cheney’s answers. Use of neo-con Cliff notes is strictly prohibited. If you fail to give candid answers, we will ask the same questions again and again. We, the people of the United States, have every right to demand that you come up with complete answers in a timely manner. American and Iraqi lives are at stake. Failure to show up and take the test might result in impeachment.
Other Articles by Ahmed Amr
“Operation Cindy Sheehan”