August 10, 2005
The grieving mother who has become famous for her vigil outside President Bush's Texas ranch is reported to be feeling ill. Joe Trippi spoke with Cindy Sheehan this morning and says she's running a fever and her camp is soaked with rain. And she needs fresh supplies. With what Maureen Dowd calls the "absolute" moral authority of a mother who has lost her son to war, Sheehan's protest is giving voice to a question more and more Americans are—finally—asking: Why did we invade Iraq?
Matt Drudge and the conservative blogosphere are trying to discredit Sheehan by pointing to interviews from last year in which Sheehan sounded less critical of Bush and the war. Far from "smearing" Sheehan, these reports may well reinforce the role she has unwittingly assumed as spokesperson for ordinary Americans. Because, like Sheehan, ordinary Americans increasingly doubt Bush's intentions in Iraq. The latest Gallup poll finds that the percentage of Americans who believe that sending troops to Iraq was a "mistake" is at an all-time high of 54 percent. And the percentage who believe our nation is "less safe" from terrorism as a result of the war is also at record levels—57 percent. What's important is that many of these people supported the invasion originally. But—perhaps like Cindy Sheehan—they have changed their minds about the war in Iraq .
Readers of TomPaine.com know we opposed the invasion from the get-go. And probably most of our readers did, too. But most Americans did not. Now they do. Sheehan's evolving position on the war actually shows she has more in common with everyday Americans than conservative commentators would like to admit.
Thanks to favorable media coverage and Democratic support, the original White House justification for war was accepted by most Americans. Once Hussein was toppled, they even accepted the idealism expressed in the new rationales for staying in Iraq that involved spreading democracy, etc. But, one by one, Bush's flimsy excuses for war have collapsed under the weight of reality. As casualties mount, and as new evidence surfaces suggesting the White House lied to Americans about the threat Iraq posed, the consensus that Iraq is a just war is eroding.
And those of us who believe a serious fraud was perpetrated on this country could ask for no better interrogator than Cindy Sheehan, whose own understanding of the reasons for war has evolved in light of what she's learned about the war. Recently, she answered eloquently a question about the right-wing media's obsession with her past statements:
I think it's really ironic that they're so willing to assiduously scrutinize the mother of a war hero, a grieving mother, a mother filled with shock and grief, but they won't even scrutinize a president when he says Saddam has weapons of mass destruction, when everybody else is saying, "No, he doesn't." If the mainstream media and the right-wing media hadn't been such propaganda tools for Washington, D.C., my son might still be alive.
Sheehan's detractors seek to depict her as a "patsy" being manipulated by anti-war liberals. By accusing her of somehow impeaching herself a year ago with kind comments about the president, they fuel the publicity surrounding her protest. And in doing so, they may instead be drawing much-deserved attention to the president's own contradictions on Iraq.
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