8/15/2005

Asia Times: Cindy, Don and George

Cindy, Don and George
By Tom Engelhardt

Retired four-star Army General Barry McCaffrey said to Time Magazine: "The army's wheels are going to come off in the next 24 months. We are now in a period of considerable strategic peril. It's because [Pentagon chief Donald] Rumsfeld has dug in his heels and said, 'I cannot retreat from my position.'"

Cindy Sheehan testifying at Representative John Conyers' public hearings on the Downing Street Memo:

My son, Spc Casey Austin Sheehan, was KIA [killed in action] in Sadr City Baghdad on 04/04/04. He was in Iraq for only two weeks before [Coalition Provisional Authority head] L Paul Bremer inflamed the Shi'ite militia into a rebellion which resulted in the deaths of Casey and six other brave soldiers who were tragically killed in an ambush. Bill Mitchell, the father of Sergeant Mike Mitchell, who was one of the other soldiers killed that awful day, is with us here. This is a picture of Casey when he was seven months old. It's an enlargement of a picture he carried in his wallet until the day he was killed. He loved this picture of himself. It was returned to us with his personal effects from Iraq. He always sucked on those two fingers. When he was born, he had a flat face from passing through the birth canal and we called him "Edward G", short for Edward G Robinson. How many of you have seen your child in his/her premature coffin? It is a shocking and very painful sight. The most heartbreaking aspect of seeing Casey lying in his casket for me was that his face was flat again because he had no muscle tone. He looked like he did when he was a baby laying in his bassinet. The most tragic irony is that if the Downing Street Memo proves to be true, Casey and thousands of people should still be alive.

Rumsfeld testifying before the House Armed Services Committee in March: "The world has seen, in the last three-and-a-half years, the capability of the United States of America to go into Afghanistan ... and with 20,000, 15,000 troops working with the Afghans do what 200,000 Soviets couldn't do in a decade. They've seen the United States and the coalition forces go into Iraq ... That has to have a deterrent effect on people." (Ann Scott Tyson, "US Gaining World's Respect From Wars, Rumsfeld Asserts", the Washington Post, March 11.)

Bush on arriving for a meeting with families of the bereaved, including Cindy Sheehan and her husband on June 17, 2004: "So, who are we honoring here?"

A teaser at the "careers and jobs" screen of GoArmy.com: "Want an extra $400 a month?" Click on it and part of what comes up is: "Qualified active army recruits may be eligible for AIP [assignment incentive pay] of $400 per month, up to 36 months for a total of up to $14,400, if they agree to be assigned to an army-designated priority unit with a critical role in current global commitments."

Who is in that ditch?
Casey Sheehan had one of those small "critical roles" in the "current global commitment" in Iraq that, in Rumsfeld's words, "has to have a deterrent effect on people". As it happens, Sheehan was one of the unexpectedly deterred and now, along with 1,846 other American soldiers, is interred, leaving his take-no-prisoners mother Cindy - a one-person antiwar movement - with a critical role to play in awakening Americans to the horrors and dangers of the Bush administration's "current global commitments".

Over the past two years, administration officials, civilian and military, have never ceased to talk about "turning corners" or reaching "tipping points" and achieving "milestones" in the Iraq-war-that-won't-end. Now it seems possible that Cindy Sheehan in a spontaneous act of opposition - her decision to head for Crawford, Texas, to face down a vacationing president and demand an explanation for her son's death - may produce the first real American tipping point of the Iraq war.

As a million news articles and TV reports have informed us, she was stopped about five miles short of her target, the presidential "ranch" in Crawford, and found herself unceremoniously consigned to a ditch at the side of a Texas road, camping out. And yet somehow, powerless except for her story, she has managed to take hostage the president of the US and turned his Crawford refuge into the American equivalent of Baghdad's Green Zone. She has mysteriously transformed August's news into a question of whether, on his way to meet Republican donors, the president will helicopter over her encampment or drive past (as he, in fact, did) in a tinted-windowed black Chevrolet SUV.

Faced with the power of the Bush political and media machine, Cindy Sheehan has engaged in an extreme version of asymmetrical warfare and, in her person, in her story, in her version of "the costs of war", she has also managed to catch many of the tensions of our present moment. What she has exposed in the process is the growing weakness and confusion of the Bush administration. At this moment, it remains an open question who, in the end, will be found in that ditch at the side of a Texas road, her - or the president of the United States.


Asia Times Online :: Asian News, Business and Economy.

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