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Bringing the war home


San Francisco Chronicle
Tuesday, August 16, 2005

IT WOULD be easy to dismiss Cindy Sheehan's protest in Crawford, Texas, against the U.S. invasion of Iraq as one woman's response to the death of her soldier son in Iraq.

But the scrappy protest of the Vacaville mother could be the catalytic event that might help build a significant movement against the war.

Opinion polls show widespread opposition to the war, and to Bush's conduct in promoting it. Peculiarly, this unhappiness has yet to translate into anything that could be called an anti-war "movement."

But remember that it took several years before opposition to the Vietnam War began to congeal into what we now call the "movement" against that disastrous war.

In hindsight, demonstrations, such as the one outside the Oakland Army Terminal in April 1965, the departure point for many troops to Vietnam, and the march on the Pentagon in October 1967, were key events in motivating national opposition to that distant war.

Sheehan's campaign may one day be viewed in a similar light.

Some conservatives, including talk-show host Bill O'Reilly, are now desperately trying to discredit her. They're calling her actions treasonous, or implying as much.

But Sheehan is no "Hanoi Jane" Fonda. As a distraught mother with no ties to traditional anti-war organizations, she won't be as easily tarred.

What she is doing, at great personal cost, is piercing the comforting cloak of secrecy thrown up by U.S. authorities that has shielded most Americans from awareness of the full human cost of the Iraq engagement.

That may be what it takes to transform the deep unease most Americans feel about the war into a potent anti-war movement with far-reaching political ramifications.

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