Cindy Sheehan, you are absolutely right.
It would have been powerful and deeply moving to see you in the gallery of the Capitol building at the State of the Union address, serving to remind the nation of the casualties of war, a reminder of the victims of unscrupulous leaders who refuse to carry the flag and parrot the party line. Instead, in your forced absence, you were a poignant reminder that, for all the hollow words, dissent has no place in American democracy.
(For those who seem to take perverse pleasure in the rejoinder that the wife of a Congressman was also ejected for wearing a pro-war tee shirt, you should take no joy in that either.)
It would have been telling to see your face contrasted with the senior Senator of California, who epitomizes the party line on the war in Iraq.
You are right to challenge Senator Diane Feinstein as a willing advocate of war. When the honorable senator begins her talking points about reservations going into the war, we should remember her vote on the abdication of war powers. When she protests that she was misled by false and distorted intelligence, we should recall that no informed citizen outside the halls of power was fooled by the manipulations of the war machine in the White House.
Not one of us believed that Saddam Hussein was a threat to our nation or any of its allies. Not one of us believed that there was any connection between Al Qaeda or the events of 11 September 2001 and the government in Baghdad. Everyone from Colin Powell to the clerk at Starbucks knew the president was committed to war regardless of the facts.
The only question unresolved was whether Iraq retained any weapons of mass destruction developed with the assistance of previous American administrations. That question -- an obviously false pretext for war -- was in the process of being resolved by a team of determined United Nations inspectors, who stubbornly insisted on doing their job despite all efforts at obstruction by the American and British governments.
There was no cause to support the drums of war and every informed citizen of the world knew it, including the Democrats in Congress who voted to authorize the use of force. There is a profound difference between being misled by faulty intelligence and being cowed by a self-proclaimed war president in a post 9-11 nation. The real excuse (should they care to employ it) is that virtually all of their spineless colleagues were equally cowed.
Now that the false justification for war and the disaster of the war, itself, are fully exposed, Senator Feinstein and the pro-war Democrats would like us to believe that the moral path “going forward” is to continue the assault on an innocent nation, where the insurgents are only adhering to the universal moral imperative of defending their homeland against a foreign occupier. They would like us to be content with a “flexible timetable” of withdrawal, contingent on establishing order where order cannot be established as long as the occupation is in place.
What a cozy little Catch 22 the Democrats have devised for our naïve consumption.
(Note to Senator Russ Feingold: As one who was withholding judgment on your potential candidacy for president, having read your response to the State of the Union, if that is the best you can do for an antiwar platform, don’t bother. You will lose and the antiwar movement will hammer the nails in your political coffin.)
Cindy Sheehan, you have stood your ground, resisting determined attempts by waffling Democrats to usurp your cause and reduce you to a partisan.
You are right to challenge Senator Feinstein but you are mistaken to challenge her from within the establishment of the Democratic Party. At risk of being crude, while the spectacle of a leading antiwar spokesperson challenging a Democratic senator in a progressive state may concern them, they will crush you like a bothersome insect. They will smear you by proxy and cast you aside like a broken toy. They will go about their business as if it never happened.
They are not afraid of you as a Democrat. If you wish to stage a symbolic protest and capitalize on media exposure, it could be a worthwhile endeavor, but if you wish to have an impact, to shake the Democratic Party from its pro-war slumber, challenge them as an independent.
The coming election is about the war. Yes, there are other critical issues (New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, trade policies, immigration, health care, tax cuts, environmental policy, alternative energy, mass transit, emergency preparedness and civil liberties) but it comes down to the war.
If you announce your intention to run as a serious independent candidate, Senator Feinstein would instantly become vulnerable and every pro-war Democrat in the land would take note. No fool to political dynamics, Senator Feinstein would reconsider her position as the Republicans scramble for a viable candidate in a three-way race, and the money begins to flow.
Cindy Sheehan, you are right. We can no longer be content to support the lesser of evils -- especially when the lesser of evils is the continuation of an endless war.
In the matter of war, as in all matters of conscience, there is no middle ground: You are with us or you are with them.
Let the people have an honest choice.
Jack Random is the author of Ghost Dance Insurrection (Dry Bones Press) the Jazzman Chronicles, Volumes I and II (City Lights Books). The Chronicles have been published by CounterPunch, the Albion Monitor, Buzzle, Dissident Voice and others. Visit his website: Random Jack.
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