spectrum of liberal responses to Cindy Sheehan has come into sharper
The message is often anti-Bush... but not necessarily anti-war.
Frank Rich spun out his particular style of triangulation in the New
York Times on Aug. 28. While deriding President Bush's stay-the-course
stance, Rich also felt a need to disparage the most visible advocate for
quick withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Putting down Sheehan -- and, by implication, the one-third of the U.S.
public that wants all American troops to exit Iraq without delay -- Rich's
column mocked "her bumper-sticker politics" and "the slick left-wing
political operatives who have turned her into a circus."
Rich criticized "the utter bankruptcy of the Democrats who had
rubber-stamped this misadventure in the first place." Yet, in effect, he
was willing to help rubber-stamp continuation of the "misadventure" in the
The president, Rich lamented, "pretends that the only alternative to his
reckless conduct of the war is Ms. Sheehan's equally apocalyptic
Equating what George W. Bush is doing with what Cindy Sheehan is
advocating? Is there really an option for non-reckless "conduct of the
war" that would be better than ending the U.S. war effort in Iraq?
Rich praised Sen. Russell Feingold's "timetable theme" -- along the lines
of getting U.S. troops out of Iraq by the end of next year. That would be
a "target date," Rich explained approvingly, "as opposed to a deadline."
But no realistic explanation is available as to what conditions will exist
in December 2006 that won't exist in December 2005 in Iraq. Are we
supposed to believe that all the Americans who die next year -- and all
the Iraqis they kill and all the Iraqis who die at the hands of other
Iraqis incensed by the U.S. occupation -- should be ultimately sacrificed
so that pundits, politicians and their reliable sources can wait a decent
interval before (in Rich's words) "our inexorable exit from Iraq"?
For that matter, we should question just how "inexorable" a U.S. exit from
Iraq is. After all, it's hardly certain that the worst and dumbest or the
best and brightest in Washington will opt for evacuation of the U.S.
military bases in Iraq. And can we really assume that the president will
order complete withdrawal from a country with so many billions of barrels
of oil under the sand?
While many anti-GOP pundits insist that a fast withdrawal is no way to go,
numerous leaders of the Democratic Party are even more eager to
triangulate. "Senior Democrats sought to distance themselves Sunday from
Sheehan's protest," the Washington Post reported on Aug. 29, a day
after Sen. Byron Dorgan appeared on a Fox network show and said: "If we
withdrew tomorrow, there would be a bloodbath in Iraq. We can't do that."
Yet a bloodbath is already well underway in Iraq and shows no sign of
abating under the U.S. occupation.
Meanwhile, a more overt pro-war position is explicit from the
Washington Post, which seems bent on replicating its blood-soaked
history of editorial support for the Vietnam War.
In August 1966 the Post's owner, Katharine Graham, discussed the
war with a writer in line to take charge of the newspaper's editorial
page. "We agreed that the Post ought to work its way out of the
very supportive editorial position it had taken, but that we couldn't be
precipitate; we had to move away gradually from where we had been," Graham
was to write in her autobiography. Many more deaths resulted from such
unwillingness to "be precipitate."
In August 2005, while noting the latest setbacks for the U.S. agenda in
Iraq, the Post's editorial on the last Saturday of the month did not waver
-- and was certainly not precipitate: "There is no cause for despair, or
for abandoning the basic U.S. strategy in Iraq, which is to support the
election of a permanent national government and train security forces
capable of defending it with continuing help from American troops. But it
is dispiriting, and damaging to the chances for success, that President
Bush still refuses to speak honestly to the country about the challenges
the United States now faces, or how he intends to address them."
This is an inventive proclivity of the Washington Post and many
other corporate media outlets that are eager to advise the president on
how to build a better war trap.
Meanwhile, by any measure in this country, the summer has brought a
grassroots upsurge of insistence that the Iraq war is not suitable for
tinkering or for a long goodbye. On Aug. 29, two days after the Post
published its editorial claiming that "there is no cause for despair," a
news article in the paper quoted one of the activists who has been working
for years against this war. Nancy Lessin, a co-founder of Military
Families Speak Out, is working on preparations for bus tours that will
soon depart from Crawford and travel various routes to Washington, with
activists aboard from MFSO, Gold Star Families for Peace, Iraq Veterans
Against the War, and Veterans for Peace.
"The questions that Cindy Sheehan has for George Bush are now questions
for members of Congress and decision-makers across the country," Lessin
said. "We are not here to make deals with the lives of our children. We
will be calling on all decision-makers to bring the troops home now."
Commentators who dismiss such a plea as "bumper-sticker politics" have
failed to truly grasp the significance of the Vietnam War and its somber
memorials, including the one in Washington. Those pundits do not
comprehend the writing on the wall.
Norman Solomon is the author of the new book
War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death,
from which this article is excerpted. For more information, visit:
He can be
reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
* Read an
Interview with Norman Solomon about War Made Easy by Adrian
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