Cindy Sheehan's moral blackmail.

A wartime lexicon.
Aug. 19 2005 4:44 PM

What Cindy Sheehan Really Wants

Now imagine if she gets it.

Caught in a lie? Click image to expand.
Caught in a lie?

When are the bureau chiefs of our newspapers and networks going to snap out of their own vacation-induced trances and send some grown-up correspondents down to Crawford, Texas? For weeks now, Cindy Sheehan has not been asked a single question that is any tougher than "How does it feel?" The media have been acting as her megaphone. After Slatepublished her real opinions on politics (a weird confection of pacifism with paranoid anti-Zionism) last Monday, she was eventually asked about her statement that her son Casey had been killed in a war for Israel, and she denied ever having made it. So, we must now say that, as well as being a vulgar producer of her own spectacle, and an embarrassment to her family, Cindy Sheehan is at best a shifty fantasist.

Christopher Hitchens Christopher Hitchens

Christopher Hitchens (1949-2011) was a columnist for Vanity Fair and the author, most recently, of Arguably, a collection of essays.

After Slate published an extract from a letter that she wrote last March to ABC Nightline, Anderson Cooper of CNN asked her about the anti-Israel remarks the letter contained. She denied making them and proceeded in her blog to assert that someone had gotten hold of her original letter and somehow doctored it. This dark and murky allegation—evincing further paranoia on her part—has been easily and convincingly refuted, as can be seen in this sidebar. Cindy Sheehan, not content with echoing the Bin-Ladenist line that the president is the real "terrorist" and that he is the tool of a Jewish cabal, has dug a pit of falsehood around her own wild story.

Advertisement

This week, before family matters called her away from Crawford, she mutated her demand—that the president lower himself into that pit and join her down there—into the shameless request that he join her for Friday prayers. The nerve! We all know how much the MoveOn.org forces believe in the power of prayer, and in the president's sincere religious convictions (their contempt for this is the only thing on which I agree with them). But, hey, try anything once for a tear-jerker or a bit of moral blackmail—what Maureen Dowd has so laughably called "absolute moral authority."

What do these people imagine that they are demanding? Would they like a referendum to be held, among the relatives of the fallen in Iraq, to determine the future conduct of the war? I think I can promise them that they would heavily lose such a vote. But what if the right wing were also to demand such a vote and the "absolute moral authority" that supposedly goes with it?

One of three things could then happen. The ultra-right anti-Zionist forces of David Duke and Patrick J. Buchanan, both of whom approvingly speak of Ms. Sheehan's popular groundswell, would still lose the vote. So would the media fools who semi-automatically identify Sheehan and her LaRouche-like drivel with the "left" or "progressive" forces. This would leave us with a random pseudo-majority, made up of veterans and their relatives. Who wants this to be the group that decides? One might as well live in a populist, jingoist banana republic. Never mind the Constitution, or even the War Powers Act. Only victims and martyrs can decide! Get ready to gather under the balcony of a leader who speaks rotundly of such glory.

Then there is the question of humanitarian or pacifist emotion. Some have perhaps been drawn to "Camp Casey" out of reverence for life. Their demand, however, is an immediate coalition withdrawal from Iraq. Have they seriously asked themselves how humane the consequences of that would be? The news of a pullout would put a wolfish grin on the faces of the "al-Qaida in Mesopotamia" brigade, as Mr. Zarqawi's force has named itself in order to resolve all doubt. Every effort would be made to detonate every available car-bomb and mine, so as to claim the withdrawal of coalition forces as a military victory for jihad. I can quite understand Ms. Sheehan's misery at the thought of her son being killed on some desolate road. But will she be on hand to console the parents whose sons are shot in the back while being ordered to surrender and withdraw?

I hope I don't insult the intelligent readers of this magazine if I point out what the consequences of such a capitulation would be for the people of Iraq. Paint your own mental picture of a country that was already almost beyond rescue in 2003, as it is handed back to an alliance of homicidal Baathists and Bin-Ladenists. Comfort yourself, if that's the way you think, with the idea that such people are only nasty because Bush made them so. Intone the Sheehan mantra—repeated this very week—that terrorism is no problem because after all Bush is the leading terrorist in the world. See if that cheers you up. Try it on your friends. Live with it, if you are ready to live with the consequences of what you desire.

This is an argument, about a real war, that deserves moral seriousness on all sides. Flippancy and light-mindedness have no place. Cindy Sheehan's cheerleader Michael Moore has compared the "insurgents" in Iraq to the American minutemen and Founding Fathers. Do I taunt him for not volunteering to fight himself in such a noble cause? Of course I do not. That would be a low and sly blow. Do I say that he is spouting fascistic nonsense? Of course I do. Is Cindy Sheehan exempt from any verdict on her wacko opinions because of her bereavement? I would say that she is not. Has she been led into a false position by eager cynics who have sacrificed nothing and who would happily surrender unconditionally to the worst enemy that currently faces civilization? That's for her to clarify. While she ponders, she should forgo prayer, stay in California, and end her protest.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The End of Pregnancy

And the inevitable rise of the artificial womb.

Doctor Tests Positive for Ebola in New York City

How a Company You’ve Never Heard of Took Control of the Entire Porn Industry

The Hot New Strategy for Desperate Democrats

Blame China for everything.

The Questions That Michael Brown’s Autopsies Can’t Answer

Foreigners

Kiev Used to Be an Easygoing Place

Now it’s descending into madness.

Technology

Don’t Just Sit There

How to be more productive during your commute.

There Has Never Been a Comic Book Character Like John Constantine

Which Came First, the Word Chicken or the Word Egg?

  News & Politics
The Slate Quiz
Oct. 24 2014 12:10 AM Play the Slate News Quiz With Jeopardy! superchampion Ken Jennings.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 23 2014 5:53 PM Amazon Investors Suddenly Bearish on Losing Money
  Life
Outward
Oct. 23 2014 5:08 PM Why Is an Obscure 1968 Documentary in the Opening Credits of Transparent?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 6:55 PM A Goodfellas Actor Sued The Simpsons for Stealing His Likeness. Does He Have a Case?
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:47 PM Don’t Just Sit There How to be more productive during your commute.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 24 2014 7:00 AM Gallery: The Partial Solar Eclipse of October 2014
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.