Disservice to a Son

There is a broad consensus about Army Specialist Casey Sheehan. He enlisted in the Army in 2000 as a twenty-year old. When he completed his initial enlistment and during the run up to the Iraq War, he felt a duty to re-enlist in August 2003. He anticipated that he might be sent to Iraq and his expectations were realized when he was deployed in 2004. The young Humvee mechanic was attached to the First US Cavalry.

Casey Sheehan died a hero when his convoy was attacked in Sadr City. Sheehan did not have to be part of the convoy. His sergeant told him that because he was a mechanic, Casey did not have to go into combat. Casey chose to share the fate of his comrades.

Of course, Casey Sheehan’s family, like the families of all fallen soldiers was devastated. President George W. Bush has met with the families of hundreds of fallen soldiers. The Sheehan family was among a group of families that met with Bush months ago. At the time, Casey’s mother Cindy Sheehan apparently appreciated the consolation the president provided.

According to The Reporter, a Vacaville California paper in June 2004, the meeting of the families of parents of fallen service people with the president allowed the families to celebrate the lives of their loved ones and remember the good times they shared. According to Cindy Sheehan, “[t]hat was the gift the president gave us, the gift of happiness, of being together.” The WorldNet Daily has even uncovered photographs of President Bush giving Cindy Sheehan a friendly kiss during their meeting.

Over several months, Cindy has been transformed from a grieving mother, consoled by a president to a bitter person hating not only the president but her country as well. She has begun identifying with the vilest of the Left. Sheehen now favorably compares Lynne Stewart, a radical Left-wing lawyer convicted of providing material support to terrorists groups, with Atticus Finch, the fictional lawyer in To Kill a Mockingbird that defended an innocent black man accused of rape. The same radical Islamofacism that Stewart was convicted of helping, killed Sheehan’s son. Frontpage Magazine quotes Sheehan as claiming “The biggest terrorist is George W. Bush,” and that our government is a “morally repugnant system.” Cindy Sheehan is now staging an angry protest in front of George Bush’s ranch.

One wishes not to be too hard on Cindy Sheehan since she has suffered a great loss. Unfortunately, her anger is not redemptive, but self-consuming. Has she been exploited by the Left, or is does she really believe the anti-American rhetoric she is using? It is not possible to tell from a distance.

Clearly, the entire situation has divided her family. Cindy’s husband of 28 years, Patrick, has filed for divorce. Casey Sheehan’s paternal grandparents are upset with Cindy writing that “We do not agree with the political motivations and publicity tactics of Cindy Sheehan. She now appears to be promoting her own personal agenda and notoriety at the expense of her son’s good name and reputationÂ… The Sheehan family lost our beloved Casey in the Iraq War and we have been silently, respectfully grieving. The rest of the Sheehan family supports the troops, our country and our president, silently, with prayer and respect.”

According to a recent Rasmussen poll, a plurality of people with family members in Iraq, people who might empathize with Cindy Sheehan, view her unfavorably. The family of Marine Corporal Matthew Matula was so angry that Cindy Sheehan used the fallen Marine’s name on a protest cross that they traveled to Texas to insist that his name be removed. The more Sheehen speaks, the faster popular sympathy dissipates.

Whatever Cindy Sheehan’s real thinking, it is clear that her personal tragedy is being politically exploited by the Left. This is the same “politics is everything” approach to emotional exploitation on the Left that turned the solemn memorial service for Liberal Senator Paul Wellstone, who tragically died in an airplane crash, into a boisterous political rally.

The real political danger of Cindy Sheehan is not to President Bush, but to the Left and Democrats. The exploitation of Sheehan will be viewed by many as unseemly. It will hurt Democrats politically much in the same way that the callous reaction to the Paul Wellstone funeral helped defeat Democrat Walter Mondale who filled Wellstone’s vacant candidacy for senator from Minnesota.

Moreover, if the Left and Democrats embrace the heated and angry anti-American rhetoric of Sheehan that Bush is a terrorist and that we are as a country, “morally repugnant,” they will suffer politically. Americans can be appealed to by the loyal opposition — people who love America and its institutions, but who want it to move in a different direction. Cindy Sheehan’s voice does not sound like the loyal opposition. For their own political survival and to reduce the viciousness of political rhetoric, Democrats should not allow her voice to become their voice.

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