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Summer of discontent

By Beau Elliot - The Daily Iowan
Published: Tuesday, August 23, 2005

If nothing else, the events of recent weeks have demonstrated the growing doubts the American people have about the great adventure in Iraq, the pit-bull eagerness of many on the right wing to blithely smear anyone who speaks out against the great adventure or the Cowboy-in-Chief, and the utter vacuity of said Cowboy.

And to think it only took one grieving mother.

Well, all right - that's simplifying life to the point of absurdity, and life does just fine in the absurdity department all by itself; it doesn't need our help. Not overtly, anyway.

So, yes, the American people's doubts about the war have been steadily increasing for the past year, to the point that only around 34 percent approve of Bush's handling of the war (which, interestingly enough, is just about where LBJ's approval rating on the Vietnam War was in March 1968, when he decided he didn't want to ride herd on the corral anymore and announced he wouldn't seek re-election).

But the grieving mother camped outside Bush's vacationland certainly focused the media's attention on our summer of discontent. That mother, of course, is Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son, Casey, in a gun battle in Baghdad on April 4, 2004, with some of Moktada al-Sadr's militia. That Shiite cleric, it's worth noting, is still a force to be reckoned with in Iraq.

It's probably also worth noting that Casey Sheehan's death came just around a year after the Cowboy-in-Chief famously set down on an aircraft carrier (which had been turned back to sea in order to accommodate the landing of the famous Texas Air Guard no-show) and declared the Iraq deal to be "Mission Accomplished."

It was also a month after Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld declared that there were more than "200,000 Iraqis that [sic] have been trained and equipped" to deal with the insurgency and those troops were "out on the frontline, taking the brunt of the violence."

We now know that, thanks to a declassified Pentagon document, almost a year and a half after the Defense secretary's words, Iraqi troops and police officers number 171,500, and only a "small number" can battle the insurgency without help from American troops.

You can see why Cindy Sheehan might be a tad peeved. And the American people a tad disbelieving. Especially given the administration's meandering reasons for invading Iraq: WMD (nope - there were so many administration tall tales about Iraqi mushroom clouds that you had to wonder if White House officials were doing mushrooms), ties to Al Qaeda (nope), ties to 9/11 (nope), Iraq wanting to put the first manned mission on Mars (possibly, but then, Saddam was spending a lot of his hours writing romance novels - or doing mushrooms).

So Cindy Sheehan camped outside Bush's ranch to meet him and ask him why her son had died. Predictably, that didn't happen. And equally predictably, the smear campaign cranked up. If you're critical of the Cowboy-in-Chief, you can depend on being Swift Boated (to steal a locution from Frank Rich of the New York Times). So Sheehan was called a "crackpot" (Fred Barnes, fair and balanced Fox News). She was "exploiting" her son's death (Rush Limbaugh). She was "anti-Semitic" (G. Gordon Liddy, one of the famous Watergate criminals.) Ann Coulter, the right wing's debutante princess, wrote, "To expiate the pain of losing her firstborn son in the Iraq war, Cindy Sheehan decided to cheer herself up by engaging in Stalinist agitprop outside President Bush's Crawford ranch."

Have these people (using the term loosely) no shame?

Apparently not. Limbaugh, the Einstein of the airwaves and famous pill-popper, also said Sheehan's "story is nothing more than forged documents."

What? Her son didn't die in Iraq? She made the whole thing up?

Yeah, right. And Saddam really was planning a manned mission to Mars.

And what was the Cowboy's response to all this, to Sheehan's grief, to the anguish of all the tens of thousands of Americans and Iraqis who have lost family and friends in his dirty little war?

He was on vacation. "I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life."

You ever notice how much "vacation" sounds like "vacant"?

Beau Elliot comes from a long line of Irish nomads who have wandered the Earth for centuries, searching for equality, justice, and Red Sox victories. Why he is looking here, we don't know.



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