A true anti-war movement, or just the latest event? Posted by: McQ
on Wednesday, August 31, 2005
I finally got around to reading Matt Taibbi's"Rolling Stone" article about his trip to Crawford, TX.
Interesting stuff. I have a tendency to agree with alot of his points. Taibbi's not a war supporter:
Iraq is an insane blunder committed by a bunch of criminal incompetents who have managed so far to avoid the lash and the rack only because the machinery for avoiding reality is so advanced in this country.
So, because of that, I was more interested, rather than less, concerning his view on what was going on down in Crawford.
Oh he took his swipe at the people at the pro-Bush camp:
But things were no better at Ankarlo's counterdemonstration. Aaron Martin, 31, had never heard the administration say that Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, but Martin did remember one thing about Iraq that he said he'd heard "prior to 9/11."
"They had a fuselage," he said. "It was like a 747 fuselage that they use for training purposes for terrorism."
Was there any other reason he believed Iraq was connected to 9/11?
"It's just a general feeling," he said.
Of course, there's more, not all of it unwarranted. But his take on them wasn't the reason I read his article. I wanted the opinion of someone who would be prone to be sympathetic to the effort on Cindy Sheehan's side of the road. I wanted to know how it all hit him as he soaked it up.
In some cases, it was just as bad as the pro-Bush camp:
At one point at Camp Casey, an informal poll taken around a campfire revealed that six out of a group of ten protesters, selected at random, believed that the United States government was directly involved in planning the 9/11 bombings. Flabbergasted, I tried to press the issue.
"Do you know how many people would have to be involved in that conspiracy?" I said. "I mean, start with the pilots . . ."
"The planes were flown by remote control," a girl sitting across from me snapped.
Taibbi concludes that a sense of soothing unreality premeates both camps. They each have their story and they're sticking with it. And we've all seen it. No matter how many times facts repudiate such beliefs as "the US was directly involved in 9/11", the meme remains active in certain circles, undamaged by reality.
Taibbi also blasts pro-war commenters such as Drudge and O'Reilly for suggesting her motives were political and that her acts were treasonous. OK. Fine. What he doesn't do, though, is examine what she's said or written. He seems to just assume that as an anguished mother, whatever she's said is okey dokey ... an apparent believer in the MoDo dictum of "absolute moral authority". Taibbi, in my opinion, is much too easy on Sheehan. I perceived an inclination in his writing that he was very sympathetic to her well before he showed up in camp. But as I said, I expected that given his feelings on the war in Iraq.
However, even that isn't why I read the article. It was the camp itself and it's denizens that fascinated me. I wanted to know more about it, who was there and what was really going on. Oh I'd read other accounts, most of them from opponenets who were going to characterize the place in a certain and predictable manner, but to read the thoughts of someone generally sympathetic with Sheehan seemed to me as something which would give me a better feel for the truth when I compared it to those other commentaries.
I have to admit, I was a little surprised by Taibbis forthrightness and honesty as concerns the camp. But I'll also have to admit that what he revealed didn't come as a huge surprise. It essentially confirmed the accounts of others who were less than sympathetic to Sheehan and her cause:
The movement likes to think of itself as open and inclusive, but in practice it often comes off like a bunch of nerds whose favored recreation is coming up with clever passwords for their secret treehouse. The ostensible political purpose may be ending the war, but the immediate occupation for a sizable percentage of these people always seemed to be a kind of rolling adult tourist attraction called Hating George Bush. Marches become Hate Bush Cruises; vigils, Hate Bush Resorts. Hence the astonishingly wide variety of anti-Bush tees (Camp Casey featured a rare film-fantasy matched set, home at various times to BUSH IS SAURON and DARTH INVADER); the unstoppable flow of Bush-themed folk songs. If you spend any amount of time involved with peace protests, as I have, you very quickly start to notice that Hating the President just seems like a little too much of a fun thing for too many of your brothers-in-arms.
"[A] kind of rolling adult tourist attraction called Hating George Bush." Good summary.
But the best summary was his impression of Sheehan, her oddessy and what it all meant, in reality:
But for all this, Sheehan seemed a very lonely woman. Tall, lanky and clunkily built, with the most common and therefore most tragic of faces—the forgotten housewife whom life, with all its best joys, has long ago passed by—Sheehan had begun to move around the compound with a preternatural slowness, like a ghost. She floated, rather than walked, into the trailer. After a week of media madness, she was like a superhero unable to return home after falling into a vat of disfiguring acid. Her past—the middle-class family life in Vacaville, California, with her four kids and the yellow station wagon they nicknamed the BananaMobile—all that was gone.
She had been through so much in the past week. In still more proof that red-blue politics often comes before family in this country, her in-laws had released a statement cruelly denouncing her. Her estranged husband, perhaps a coward and perhaps unable to handle the stress, filed for divorce. Revelations about her personal life were spilling into print, and all around the country, heartless creeps like Drudge and Ankarlo were casting themselves as friends and protectors of her fallen son and criticizing her for dishonoring him.
In return for all that, what Sheehan got was this: her own trailer, a couple of weeks' worth of airtime and a bunch of people who called themselves her friends but were really just humping the latest cause. They would probably be moving on soon, and Sheehan would be left with nothing. And meeting her now, I was struck by one more thing: At the end, when it was all over, her son would still be gone. I felt very sorry for her.
Now I'm not here to let Sheehan off the hook for the absurd, strident, silly and obnoxious things she's said. Unlike Taibbi, I'm not willing to overlook those as they are indeed her words and thus her responsiiblity. But I left the first two paragraphs in there because they so perfectly set up the third and the line which is the definitive one in this entire article. His impression that she was surrounded by ...:
...a bunch of people who called themselves her friends but were really just humping the latest cause.
Bandwagon jumpers. Exploiters. Professional protesters. Whatever you're comfortable calling them, they were there for the exposure. In fact, Taibbi illustrates that very well:
By the eighth day of her vigil, practically every anti-Bush movement under the sun had wiggled into Crawford to get a piece of the action, and it seemed to me that all had been lost and that Sheehan had allowed the illogic of a media hurricane—noise for noise's sake—to take over her protest. Particularly irritating was the sight of a giant school bus bearing the inscription "Free the Cuban Five" parked in front of the Peace House. Jesus, I thought. The Mumia people can't be far behind.
"What's the Cuban Five?" Sheehan asked when we finally sat down, alone.
"They're on the front lawn here . . ."
She shook her head helplessly. She had no idea who they were.
It's an interesting phenomenon to dissect. I think Taibbi rightfully chides both sides of this little circus in Crawford. But as hard as he was on the likes of Drudge and O'Reilly, he wasn't hard enough on the exploiters of Sheehan or Sheehan herself. If you read what she's said or written, you don't get the impression of a "forgotten housewife" or someone helplessly swept into a media and anti-war maelstrom. Cindy Sheehan, while certainly a grieving mother, has also set out upon a very calculated campaign which has suddenly caught fire.
Her first anti-war event wasn't Crawford TX. She'd been banging around the country for quite some time, virtually ignored until Crawford happened. What Taibbi didn't know or didn't bother to mention, when he called Sheehan's husband a coward, is the divorce isn't about Crawford. That apparently was just the final straw.
Having said all this, this is both an interesting and sad thing to watch unfold. I believe her grief is sincere. I also believe she's being ruthlessly exploited, and she knows it and, in realty, has accepted what comes with it as her due. I also believe she's going to try and make it last as long as she can. That may sound cynical, but I've seen nothing to disuade me of that opinion.
But as someone said, when the next "thing" comes along which draws the professional circus to it, Cindy Sheehan will be where she was before. Banging around the country, virtually ignored, voicing the same silly and shrill rhetoric about George Bush and his "criminal gang". And in 10 years, if shown her picture without an identifying caption, you most likely won't remember who she is.
Even with my digs at her personally, I feel sorry for her. I just don’t let my sympathy override logic which clearly indicates she is not the person to give a rat’s ass about what she thinks. A penny for her thoughts should yeild some change.
Losing anyone is rough. Losing someone to a cause you don’t feel worthy is even worse. But it just doesn’t excuse the behavior we’ve seen out of her.
From my perspective, she knows what she’s gotten herself into. She knows the media attention has nothing to do with Casey and everything to do with sticking it to GWB. But she wanted her message out and voluntarily allowed groups like Code Pink to amplify her voice knowing damn well they’d add their noise into the mix.
When all is said and done, she’s probably going to remain a sad, broken woman.
When people like Taibbi start from the premise "insane war", you know they’re not looking for any kind of truth, they’re looking for justification of their views.
I think that the only kind of person that would go to either camp in Crawford is the one absolutely convinced of his rightness and the others’ wrongness. That’s why you get the "The planes were flown by remote control," a girl sitting across from me snapped.". That’s why you get the "soothing unreality".
Even though he wrote "perhaps a coward", that was an uncalled-for low blow.
In spite of his over-the-top shrillness (as it would be called in any writer on the right), he puts his finger on the nature of the anti-war protestors: their obsession with the "hate Bush" song and dance. "Can the Mumia people be far behind?" - indeed. That describes the movement to a T.
According to Jon Henke channeling Maureen Dowd, Cindy Sheehan has the "absolute moral authority" to express the following:
"I have been silent on the Gold Star Moms who still support this man and his war by saying that they deserve the right to their opinions because they are in as much pain as I am. I would challenge them, though, at this point to start thinking for themselves. Iraq DID NOT have WMD; Iraq WAS NOT linked to Al Qaeda and 9/11; Iraq WAS NOT a threat or danger to America. How can these moms who still support George Bush and his insane war in Iraq want more innocent blood shed just because their sons or daughters have been killed? I don’t understand it. I don’t understand how any mother could want another mother to feel the pain we feel. I am starting to lose a little compassion for them. I know they have been as brainwashed as the rest of America, but they know the pain and heartache and they should not wish it on another. However, I still feel their pain so acutely and pray for these "continue the murder and mayhem" moms to see the light."
How dare she. No wonder her husband left her, the vile, shrieking b*tch.
As Maureen Dowd wrote, "the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute". Of course, as Maureen Dowd didn’t write, parents who have buried children killed in Iraq also frequently continue to support the war. Their moral authority to speak out on the war is every bit as absolute.
All of that, however, misses an important point. As much sympathy as I do have for Cindy Sheehan, it still remains that US foreign policy and military strategy is set by Constitutionally elected/appointed officials, not grieving mothers. Her loss—while it may give those officials insight into the costs of their foreign policy and military strategy—gives her no special insight into those policies and strategies.
Nor should the President entertain every grieving mother or agitated activist demanding an audience with the President. Imagine the downward spiral that would create, with every activist group in the country camping on the White House/Crawford lawn until 2009, at which point they’d be replaced by different activists camping on the White House/(somewhere else) lawns.
But you’d have known that if you’d ACTUALLY read his piece.
Robert, you are absolutely wrong in your call for an apology. Both you and furious are taking Jon’s comments out of context. McQ already demonstrated how furious was doing so. Your selective cherry-picking of Jon’s use of italics repeats the sin.
Jon italicized Dowd’s quote and balanced it with the italics on what she "didn’t" write. Jon also used italics (requoted by McQ) when he wrote
Her loss—while it may give those officials insight into the costs of their foreign policy and military strategy—gives her no special insight into those policies and strategies.
It is glaringly obvious that Jon’s point was the opposite of how furious was using it.
If you were looking for "emphasis", then you should consider how it’s used everywhere in Jon’s original post, no?
Cindy’s estranged husband has been reported to be a VietNam veteran.
That term is often used loosely in the media, and among veterans themselves. A lot of people who served their terms during the 60’s and early 70’s refer to themselves as "Vietnam-era" vets or more imprecisely "Vietnam vets" as they distinguish themselves from their age mates who sucessfully or luckily avoided conscription and who chose not to enlist as volunteers.
I have no idea whether Patrick Sheehan was in Vietnam, and saw the land and the people he fought for, abandoned and betrayed by the US government.
I have no idea whether Patrick Sheehan was sneered at or spat upon by US civilians while wearing his uniform.
I have no idea how Patrick Shehan spoke to his son about the role of military service in US government and society. I have no idea whether the notions of "duty, honor, country" and manhood were deliberately passed from father to son or whether Casey Sheehan re-enlisted for duty in Iraq based on values acquired elsewhere.
I have no idea.
But I grieve for Patrick Sheehan. He’s lost a son. And a wife. And he doesn’t even have 15 minutes of fame and a new hairstyle to show for it.
The poor bloody veteran gets shafted all over again.