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The Duplicity of Cindy Sheehan

by Carlos

August 21, 2005 - Cindy Sheehan hardly needs an introduction. She has been camping out near Bush's Texas ranch for weeks, creating publicity for the anti-war movement. She insists it is the President's duty to meet with her - even though he already has - and has been using her son's tragic death to promote her political views in an increasingly circus-like atmosphere.

Her strategy is transparent. If Bush does not meet with her, he's the bad guy. If he does meet with her, he gives her a platform, a national headline, and a chance to humiliate him. It is clear that nothing he can say will satisfy her. So she has him right where she wants him: in a situation where no matter what he does, he loses.

It is considered unseemly to say anything bad about a grieving mother. But grief confers neither automatic sainthood nor infallibility. Nor does having suffered loss excuse a lack of integrity. Sheehan has been called a "victim" and a "pawn" of the anti-war movement. She is anything but. She is a political activist who knows exactly what she is doing. Her actions are not the expression of a grieving heart thrown into chaos. They represent a calculated political strategy.

Cindy Sheehan on Foreign Policy

Cindy Sheehan would like to determine America's foreign policy. As a policy architect she comes from the radical left. In an interview with Chris Matthews(1) she stated that she not only opposes the war in Iraq, but also the war in Afghanistan that toppled the Taliban and drove out Al Qaeda. "We should have gone after Al Qaeda and maybe not after the country of Afghanistan" she said. Matthews reminded her that is just what we did: Al Qaeda had its headquarters and shelter in Afghanistan, and would still be freely operating from there today had Sheehan's view prevailed.

So her views may be a little extreme. What would be wrong with Bush meeting with her? A grieving mother who has sacrificed so much? Just what could happen at such a meeting that would be so terrible? Might it even lead to a reconciliation?

Media coverage of Cindy Sheehan has been sanitized. She is portrayed as temperate and soft-spoken. But her own words belie that image. Sheehan is a master manipulator of the media, knowing just what to say and how to say it depending on her audience. In a speech at the Veterans for Peace National Convention on August 5 she revealed how she really feels about President Bush, and also just what she would say to him if they were to meet. So we don't need to speculate about what would happen. We have it in her own words.

First, she called Bush a "lying bastard" and a "filth-spewer and warmonger." Then she outlined her plans for their meeting:

But I don't care, I'm goin'. And I'm gonna tell them, "You get that evil maniac out here, cuz a Gold Star Mother, somebody who's blood is on his hands, has some questions for him."

And I'm gonna say, "OK, listen here, George. #1, you quit, and I demand, every time you get out there and say you're going to continue the killing in Iraq to honor the fallen heroes by continuing the mission; you say, 'except Casey Sheehan.'"

"And you say 'except for all the members of Goldstar Families for Peace' cuz we think not one drop of blood should be spilled in our families' names. You quit doing that. You don't have my permission."

And I'm gonna say, "And you tell me, what the noble cause is that my son died for." And if he even starts to say 'freedom and democracy' I'm gonna say, bullshit.

You tell me the truth. You tell me that my son died for oil. You tell me that my son died to make your friends rich. You tell me my son died to spread the cancer of pax Americana, imperialism in the Middle East. You tell me that, you don't tell me my son died for 'freedom and democracy.'

Cuz, we're not freer. You're taking away our freedoms. The Iraqi people aren't freer, they're much worse off than before you meddled in their country....

And if you think I won't say bullshit to the President, I say move on, cuz I'll say what's on my mind.(2)

This hardly leaves much room for diplomacy. Sheehan would use her meeting with the President to subject him to a profanity-filled tirade. Is it any wonder why Bush won't meet with her? Who in their right mind would?

Sheehan presents herself to the media as well-mannered and polite, a typical American mom. But when speaking to her fellow radicals, she is often caustic and certainly not shy about using profanity. Here are statements from a speech to a rally at San Francisco State University on April 27, 2005:

And I just want to say to George Bush and I want to say to the people who are here, that are still sheep {unintelligible} and following him blindly: if George Bush believes his rhetoric and his bullshit, that this is a war for freedom and democracy, that he is spreading freedom and democracy, does he think every person he kills makes Iraq more free?...

If he thinks that it's so important for Iraq to have a U.S.-imposed sense of freedom and democracy, then he needs to sign up his two little party-animal girls....

It's okay for Israel to occupy Palestine, but it's – yeah – and it's okay for Iraq to occupy – I mean, for the United States to occupy Iraq, but it's not okay for Syria to be in Lebanon. They're a bunch of fucking hypocrites!(3)

And on the subject of profanity itself:

I got an email the other day and it said, "Cindy, if you didn't use so much profanity... there's people 'on the fence' that get offended..."

And you know what I said? "You know what? You know what, god-damn-it? How, in the world is anybody still 'sitting on that fence'?

"If you fall on the side that is pro-George, and pro-war, you get your ass over to Iraq, and take the place of somebody who wants to come home. And if you fall on the side that is against this war and against George Bush, stand up and speak out."(4)

Cindy Sheehan on Israel

This kind of language may be appropriate for those whose views are as extreme as Sheehan's, but Sheehan wants to promote her cause to more general audiences by eliciting their sympathy. Thus the abrasive, anti-Israel loudmouth is not quite the image she wishes to present to mainstream America. So when an e-mail she sent to ABC News surfaced and put her in a bad light, she tried to kill the story. Here is the text of that e-mail:

Am I emotional? Yes, my first born was murdered. Am I angry? Yes, he was killed for lies and for a PNAC Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel. My son joined the Army to protect America, not Israel. Am I stupid? No, I know full-well that my son, my family, this nation, and this world were betrayed by George [W.] Bush who was influenced by the neo-con PNAC agenda after 9/11. We were told that we were attacked on 9/11 because the terrorists hate our freedoms and democracy... not for the real reason, because the Arab-Muslims who attacked us hate our middle-eastern foreign policy. That hasn't changed since America invaded and occupied Iraq... in fact it has gotten worse.(5)

The clash between the language of this message and Sheehan's public persona damaged her image. So on August 15 she appeared on CNN's "360 with Anderson Cooper" to deny she had written it: "I saw somebody wrote that and it wasn't my words. Those aren't even words that I would say." Nevertheless, ABC News has confirmed that they did receive the letter and that it was signed by Sheehan. Sheehan now claims her message was "doctored" by a "former friend who is anti-Israel and wants to use the spotlight on me to push his anti-Semitism." The supposed friend, James Morris, denies it.(6)

It is always difficult to prove a negative, in this case that a message signed by Sheehan and sent to ABC was not in fact altered. But does it really matter? Are the words in that message really not "even words that I would say"? Hardly. The message itself is irrelevant, since Sheehan has expressed the same sentiments on other occasions.

From the San Francisco State University speech:

What they're saying, too, is like, it's okay for Israel to have nuclear weapons. But Iran or Syria better not get nuclear weapons. It's okay for the United States to have nuclear weapons. It's okay for the countries that we say it's okay for. We are waging a nuclear war in Iraq right now.(7)

From the speech at the Veterans for Peace National Convention:

You get America out of Iraq, you get Israel out of Palestine and you'll stop the terrorism.(8)

Finally, with my own eyes and ears I saw Cindy Sheehan on CNN this month (August 2005) saying that the reason so many Muslims hate America and want to attack us is because "our foreign policy favors Israel."

So whether or not Sheehan's memo to ABC was doctored, her claim that "those aren't even words that I would say" is simply not credible.

In fact, the pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel cause appears to be one of Sheehan's favorites. It is reported that at the San Franicisco State University rally Sheehan was wearing a sweatshirt advertising the website for United for Peace and Justice.(9) UPJ is a pro-Palestinian organization that states on its web site:

On the issue of Palestine the community calls for: The immediate elimination of all discriminatory practices and institutions that are based on race, culture and/or ethnicity on which Israel law is founded. The return of all Palestinian refugees to their homes and properties. End Israeli Occupation. The Right of the Palestinian people for self determination.(10)

The statement accuses Israel of racism (ignoring the fact that Israel is far more tolerant of different religions and ethnic groups than are Muslim countries), and advocates a "right of return" of Palestinian refugees into Israel that would destroy Israeli society.

UPJ is not the only anti-Israel organization with which Sheehan is involved. The Crawford Peace House is one of her most prominent supporters. At present its home page proudly states: "We are mobilizing support for Cindy Sheehan's action in Crawford Texas." Recently the New York Sun reported the following:

It turns out that the Crawford Peace House Web site includes a photo depicting the entire state of Israel as "Palestine," and it carries a link to a report that when Prime Minister Sharon visited Crawford, the "peace house" greeted him with an "800-foot-long banner containing all of the United Nations resolutions that Israel is in violation of." The Crawford Peace House site also features a photo of Eugene Bird, who has suggested that Israeli intelligence was responsible for the abuses at Abu Ghraib.(11)

When criticism of Israel becomes this extreme it verges into anti-Semitism. While Israel's policies are no more above criticism than those of any other nation, making Israel the prime reason for terrorism, as Sheehan has done, defies both history and rationality. American policy toward Israel is not the only, nor even the principal reason for the Islamic terrorism that has erupted all over the world. Exaggerating the role of Israel in the rise of worldwide terrorism recalls the myth of the powerful Jew destroying the world, a classic anti-Semitic theme. Sheehan herself appears to realize her anti-Israel views cross this line, since she has tried to disavow such views published under her name as the work of a "former friend" trying to "push his anti-Semitism." This is certainly duplicitous, since even if she did not write the particular message in question, she has expressed similar views elsewhere.

Cindy Sheehan on Terrorism

Cindy's problem is bigger than Israel. Her view of terrorism is so bizarre that she actually seems to sympathize more with anti-American terrorists than with America. She compares America to Nazi Germany, calling President Bush "Führer" and accusing the United States of committing "blatant genocide."(12) Here is a sampling of her views on terrorism:

From "A Lie of Historic Proportions":

Casey [Sheehan's son] was killed in the Global War Of Terrorism waged on the world and its own citizens by the biggest terrorist outfit in the world: George and his destructive Neo-con cabal.(13)

From her speech to the rally at San Francisco State:

First, I want to give my little story about Lynne [Stewart]. Of course, you all have read To Kill a Mockingbird. Lynne is my human Atticus Finch. He did what he knew was right, but wasn't popular. And that's what Lynne is doing....

The biggest terrorist in the world is George W. Bush....

I'm going all over the country telling moms: "This country is not worth dying for."(14)

The rally at SFSU was in support of Lynne Stewart. Stewart is the New York lawyer who was convicted of assisting the terrorist operations of her client, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who was implicated in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Atticus Finch is the hero lawyer in Harper Lee's classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, who defends a young black man unjustly accused of raping a white woman. If Lynne Stewart is Atticus Finch, then Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman is that innocent black man persecuted by a white racist society. Meanwhile, George W. Bush is the "biggest terrorist in the world" (including, presumably, even Osama). These comparisons speak volumes about Sheehan's values and priorities.

Cindy Sheehan did suffer a real tragedy in the loss of her son, for which she deserves our respect. But she is using that tragedy to repackage herself, to camouflage her radical leftist background, which she prefers to reveal only to selected audiences. By so doing she hopes to achieve a broad appeal that will galvanize the entire country into a revolt against not only Bush and his Iraq war policy but the whole enterprise of the war against terrorism.

Cindy Sheehan and the Democrats

And she has been making great progress. Cindy Sheehan has become the darling of the Democratic Party's leftmost flank. now features her prominently on its home page. Democratic strategist Joe Trippi, former campaign manager for Howard Dean, is a big defender of Sheehan's and tries to play down her radicalism on his web site. And Florida Senator Bill Nelson recently said "Cindy has become a symbol of all the grieving mothers in this country."(15) The apparent willingness of large segments of the Democratic Party to tolerate or even embrace people who stand for causes with anti-Semitic overtones is shaking the traditional Democratic-Jewish alliance.

Liberal columnist Maureen Dowd has practically conferred sainthood on Sheehan. She urges Bush to meet with her, and says: "The moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute."(16) While this statement may appeal to sentiment, logically it is absurd. Many other gold star mothers disagree with Sheehan, and the authority of all of them cannot be "absolute." Bereavement, especially under such tragic circumstances, does call for our sympathy, but it does not demand our adulation.

Sheehan is a grieving mother, but she is also using her son to sway the feelings of those to whom her radical politics may not appeal. "All of this other BS just clouds my message," Sheehan said. "My message is that of a brokenhearted mom sitting down in front of George Bush's ranch, wanting to know why my son died."(17)

Whose heart is so hard they could resist such a message? Yet in the context of her political background, and juxtaposed against her very own words in other situations, this shot to the heart sounds manipulative and hollow. The pretense of political innocence is not convincing. While generally quite astute about the art of public relations, at times she can go over the top, as when she flashed baby pictures of her son to the TV cameras. Cindy Sheehan is an expert at playing America's heartstrings. But her attempts to exploit people's feelings are becoming a little too transparent.


1. "Sheehan Plays 'Hardball' with Matthews," MSNBC, August 16, 2005.

2. "Cindy Sheehan at the Veterans for Peace National Convention,", August 7, 2005. Also posted on Democratic Underground, August 7, 2005.

3. "Transcript of Pro-Stewart Rally,", April 27, 2005.

4. See note 2.

5. Douglas Maher, "Cindy Sheehan Denies Anti-Israel Remarks," All Headline News, August 16, 2005.

6. Brit Hume, "E-mail Was Doctored?" Fox News, August 19, 2005.

7. See note 3.

8. Mike Ferner, "Cindy Sheehan in Dallas: What One Mom Has to Say to Bush," Counterpunch, August 9, 2005.

9. Lee Kaplan, "SFSU Hosts a Terrorist," Front Page Magazine, May 2, 2005.

10. "On the Issue of Palestine," United for Peace and Justice.

11. Editorial, "Cindy Sheehan's Crowd," New York Sun, August 11, 2005.

12. Cindy Sheehan, "Still Not Worth It,", July 4, 2005.

13. Cindy Sheehan, "A Lie of Historic Proportions,", June 6, 2005.

14. See note 3.

15. CNN, "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer," August 14, 2005.

16. Maureen Dowd, "Why No Tea and Sympathy?," New York Times, August 10, 2005.

17. Michael A. Fletcher, "Sheehan Feeling the Glare of the Spotlight," Washington Post, August 17, 2005.

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