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Friday, June 01, 2007

The Bitter Education of Cindy Sheehan

(By Chris Moore, -- Two embittered letters of resignation marked famous anti-war mom and citizen-activist Cindy Sheehan’s departure from both the Democratic Party and full-time activism in opposition to the war in Iraq. The tone in each reflected Sheehan’s frustration, disillusionment and ultimate despair at the two-party system’s craven betrayal of the voting public on the issue of withdrawal from Iraq--a withdrawal an overwhelming majority of Americans now support.

The first, titled “An Open Letter to the Democratic Congress--Why I Am Leaving the Democratic Party” appeared on the Internet May 28 following the Democrats’ latest capitulation to the Bush administration on the issue of ongoing funding of the conflict. The Democrats had just sent Bush a $120 billion war spending bill without any troop drawdown requirements attached, essentially issuing the president yet another blank check to wage the war as he sees fit through the rest of the budget year.

(“Bush got his $100 billion, then magnanimously agreed to let Democrats keep the $20 billion in pork they stuffed into the bill – to soothe the pain of their sellout of the party base,” quipped Pat Buchanan following the vote.)

Sheehan’s second letter appeared on her blog at the left-liberal (and Democratic Party-backing) web site Daily Kos on Memorial Day, just over three years after her son Casey’s April, 2004 death while serving in the Iraq war.

Sheehan’s anger, perhaps even her stages of despair, are shared by more and more Americans as it becomes self-evident that the entire Washington establishment has been co-opted by a coterie of special interests hell-bent on pursuing their own narrow and selfish agendas at the expense of the American military, the American people, and ultimately at the expense of the American republic itself.

Sheehan singles out in particular the Democratic leadership, whose party was swept into office in 2006 on a wave of public outrage over the Iraq war, and who, in the wake of that victory, promised it had gotten the message from voters on the Iraq issue loud and clear. As Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi said at the time: "The election of 2006 was a call to change — not merely to change the control of Congress, but for a new direction for our country. Nowhere were the American people more clear about the need for a new direction than in Iraq. The American people rejected an open-ended obligation to a war without end.”

Today it is clear to Sheehan that Pelosi and the Democrats have successfully carried out a massive public bait-and-switch scam. The goal all along was to exploit the public’s anger at Republicans over the Iraq war in order to attain a Congressional majority, without ever have had any real intention of changing the status-quo of the war’s conduct.

The Democrats apparently intend to give Bush and the Republicans enough rope over the next 18 months to finish the job of hanging themselves. But Sheehan correctly sees this as a sell-out of the thousands of US troops and Iraqis who will be unnecessarily killed as the Bush administration blunders on, financed by the Democratic congress.

“There is absolutely no sane or defensible reason for you to hand Bloody King George more money to condemn more of our brave, tired, and damaged soldiers and the people of Iraq to more death and carnage. You think giving him more money is politically expedient, but it is a moral abomination and every second the occupation of Iraq endures, you all have more blood on your hands,” Sheehan writes.

“Ms. Pelosi, Speaker of the House, said after George signed the new [war] funding authorization bill: ‘Now, I think the president's policy will begin to unravel.’ Begin to unravel? How many more of our children will have to be killed and how much more of Iraq will have to be demolished before you all think enough unraveling has occurred? How many more crimes will BushCo be allowed to commit while their poll numbers are crumbling before you all gain the political ‘courage’ to hold them accountable. If Iraq hasn't unraveled in Ms. Pelosi's mind, what will it take? With almost 700,000 Iraqis dead and four million refugees (which the US refuses to admit) how could it get worse? Well, it is getting worse and it can get much worse thanks to your complicity.”

“Being cynically pessimistic, it seems to me that this new vote to extend the war until the end of September, (and let's face it, on October 1st, you will give him more money after some more theatrics, which you think are fooling the anti-war faction of your party) will feed right into the presidential primary season and you believe that if you just hang on until then, the Democrats will be able to re-take the White House. Didn't you see how ‘well’ that worked for John Kerry in 2004 when he played the politics of careful fence sitting and pandering?”

As Sheehan and a growing number of Americans see it, this cold political calculus being employed by the Democrats is a premeditated sacrifice of a tangible, measurable quantity American blood--and puts that blood on the hands of the party that had heretofore been able to get away with laying the war at the feet of Republicans.

“So, Democratic Congress, with the current daily death toll of 3.72 troops per day, you have condemned 473 more to these early graves. 473 more lives wasted for your political greed: Thousands of broken hearts because of your cowardice and avarice.

“By the end of September, we will be about 80 troops short of another bloody milestone: 4000, and will hold nationwide candlelight vigils and you all will be busy passing legislation that will snuff the lights out of thousands more human beings.

“Congratulations Congress, you have bought yourself a few more months of an illegal and immoral bloodbath. And you know you mean to continue it indefinitely so ‘other presidents’ can solve the horrid problem BushCo forced our world into. It used to be George Bush's war. You could have ended it honorably. Now it is yours and you all will descend into calumnious history with BushCo.

“We gave you a chance, you betrayed us.”

But Sheehan’s angry condemnation didn’t end there. She also condemned left-liberal Democrat true-believers for their blind dogmatism and for enabling the continuation of the war by circulating the false notion that the Democratic Party would bring an end to the war if only the Republicans were driven from office.

“I have come to some heartbreaking conclusions this Memorial Day Morning. These are not spur of the moment reflections, but things I have been meditating on for about a year now. The conclusions that I have slowly and very reluctantly come to are very heartbreaking to me.

“The first conclusion is that I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party. Of course, I was slandered and libeled by the right as a ‘tool’ of the Democratic Party. This label was to marginalize me and my message. How could a woman have an original thought, or be working outside of our ‘two-party’ system?

“However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the ‘left’ started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used. I guess no one paid attention to me when I said that the issue of peace and people dying for no reason is not a matter of ‘right or left’, but ‘right and wrong.’

Sheehan now recognizes an unpleasant truth about the machinations of the two-party system: it rallies average Americans under this banner or that with spirited, soaring rhetoric even as it plots to stab them in the back on behalf of the power brokers and special interests that really run the show.

The rank and file Democratic Party loyalists have been turned into automatons. They have been conditioned to fixate on the faults of Republicans and avert their eyes from the betrayals by the Democratic leadership for so long now, they can’t see that the Democrat leaders have morphed into soulless, power-mad traitors to the public trust themselves.

For both parties, governing is all about attaining control. Neither party really cares about the fate of the nation or its soldiers anymore. The fate of Party Leadership, the internationalist moneyed elite, and the ability to exercise raw dominion and intimidation at home and around the globe is all that matters to the venal political class and those who purchase its policies.

“I am deemed a radical because I believe that partisan politics should be left to the wayside when hundreds of thousands of people are dying for a war based on lies that is supported by Democrats and Republican alike,” Sheehan continues. “It amazes me that people who are sharp on the issues and can zero in like a laser beam on lies, misrepresentations, and political expediency when it comes to one party refuse to recognize it in their own party. Blind party loyalty is dangerous whatever side it occurs on. People of the world look on us Americans as jokes because we allow our political leaders so much murderous latitude and if we don’t find alternatives to this corrupt ‘two’ party system our Representative Republic will die and be replaced with what we are rapidly descending into with nary a check or balance: a fascist corporate wasteland. I am demonized because I don’t see party affiliation or nationality when I look at a person, I see that person’s heart. If someone looks, dresses, acts, talks and votes like a Republican, then why do they deserve support just because he/she calls him/herself a Democrat?”

In the end, Sheehan’s palpable anger, frustration and disappointment returns to the death of her son and a hope for her children still alive, a duality of emotion which seems to ground her in a kind of tragic resignation combined with a redemptive spirit of perseverance that together show her a clear-eyed way forward.

“The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think. I have tried every since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most.

“I am going to take whatever I have left and go home. I am going to go home and be a mother to my surviving children and try to regain some of what I have lost. I will try to maintain and nurture some very positive relationships that I have found in the journey that I was forced into when Casey died and try to repair some of the ones that have fallen apart since I began this single-minded crusade to try and change a paradigm that is now, I am afraid, carved in immovable, unbendable and rigidly mendacious marble.”

The journey that Cindy Sheehan has traveled over the last three years has been one fraught with betrayal, shameless exploitation and acts of despicable treachery committed by her own government and even some of those who claimed to be sympathetic to her cause.

Her son and thousands of others were emotionally blackmailed into the Iraq war by Bush and Congress on a post-9/11 pack of lies. But when he was killed, rather than crumple into a ball and limply succumb to the perfidy of her government leadership, she fed off of her emotion and became an inspired opponent of those who cynically sent him to his death.

She helped change the public atmosphere and consequently the public opinion about the Iraq war that led to the removal by angry voters of the Bush-compliant GOP Congress.

That anti-war atmosphere was subsequently tapped into by shrewd Democratic political operatives who rode it all the way to a Congressional majority for their party--only to promptly betrayed Sheehan and the rest of the country yet again by voting Bush hundreds of billions more in funding to continue the slaughter of both Americans and Iraqis.

It’s no wonder Sheehan is heartbroken. Unfortunately, her tragic experience is one that thousands more Americans will suffer through in the coming years as more and more U.S. soldiers arrive home in body bags.

How many body bags will it take before a majority of Americans recognize that the two-party system no longer represents their interests? Apparently we are going to find out.

Chris Moore is publisher of