Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Actions only a 'peace mother' could love

Commentary by David Reinhard


David Reinhard

I think most Americans have wanted to give Cindy Sheehan their pity, their prayers and a wide berth. I know I have.

True, the "peace mom" doesn't seem to be representing her family, which has asked her to stop her crusade, or her dead son, Casey, who actually re-enlisted and volunteered for the mission on which he was killed. True, she has spouted a lot of vile nonsense -- calling Iraq's jihadist terrorists "freedom fighters" and President Bush an "evil maniac" and the globe's "biggest terrorist," and laying her son's death at the feet of neoconservatives out to aid Israel. But there is, in the end, this:

Cindy Sheehan is a grieving, distraught mother who lost her good son. She has every right to make her views known, however much her views have changed over time. In fact, a parent of a dead soldier has secured that right in a way most Americans have not.

My contempt has been for a media that has lavished outsized, bouquet-scented attention on a mother obviously unhinged in her grief and intoxicated with her 15 minutes of fame instead of averting its glare in simple decency. My contempt has been for a "peace community" that has used Casey's mom and Casey.

Yet Cindy Sheehan's peacenik allies have now crossed some lines -- lines that the mother of a dead soldier, of all people, ought to appreciate.

There are, you see, folks who don't want their loved ones' names on protest crosses in Crawford. Some have gone there to remove the crosses with their kids' names. Cindy doesn't speak for them. And, even if she speaks for her child, she doesn't speak for theirs.

According to The Washington Times, however, anti-war protesters have replaced the crosses that were removed.

Louis Qualls and Justin Garvey will never be as well-known now as Casey Sheehan. But they, too, were killed in Iraq. Their families -- and the families of other dead soldiers -- don't want their sons' names to be appropriated for someone else's politicized publicity stunt. The Crawford anti-war protesters "never asked for my permission to put up a cross for my son for their cause," Gary Qualls told the Times. "They are not respecting our sons and daughters." Exactly.

Maybe you can chalk up the failure to seek the parents' permission to thoughtlessness. Maybe. But how to explain the cruelty of replacing the names of soldiers whose parents want them down? Do they not have the same standing, the same right to their views, as Cindy Sheehan? Do they make no claim on the Crawford protesters' pity?

Moms or dads of the fallen, whether a Cindy Sheehan or Gary Qualls, have no more moral authority in matters of war and peace than other Americans. They have no special insight into a war's justness. They even may have a warped sense of it -- in either direction.

It's hard to believe Sheehan's fans would want our Iraq policy decided by the surviving families of men and women who've lost their lives there, because her supporters' views would likely not prevail. But these moms and dads should, at least, not have their children's names used to make points that they don't embrace. They've had enough pain. They've had enough taken from them.

In fact, even ghastlier peace news came to light last week. reported that wounded Iraq war vets at Walter Reed Army Medical Center have been the target of anti-war demonstrations since March. Most take place on Friday evenings when family members often visit. Along with mock caskets, protesters hold up placards that read, "Maimed for Lies."

Instead of the peace that passeth understanding, we have a peace movement that passeth understanding.

Never mind the families of these mangled men and women, Cindy Sheehans of a different kind. How might these signs affect the recovery of soldiers who've lost so much? Yes, these demonstrators obviously have a right to their protests. But do they have any sense of humanity or was it long ago crushed by a stone-hearted commitment to anti-war action?

It's now up to Cindy Sheehan to rise up to denounce these despicable acts. For better or worse, she's become the face of the anti-war movement, rallying figures from David Duke to Al Sharpton to her cause, and promising to take "Camp Casey" on the road.

In the name of mercy for the other parents who've lost their children in Iraq, Cindy Sheehan needs to seek a separate peace in this war.

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