Monday, May 28, 2007

Cindy Sheehan

Okay, Molly had "Cindy Sheehan" in the title of her e-mail so this was going to make it in regardless of the topic. (There's nothing wrong with the topic, it did suprise me. I'll comment at the end.) But as I started commenting, I decided to pull it from the previous entry and do it on its own. This is a lengthy excert (apologies to David Swanson) but it's not the full thing. From Cindy Sheehan's "'Attention Whore'" (AfterDowningStreet):

I have endured a lot of smear and hatred since Casey was killed and especially since I became the so-called "Face" of the American anti-war movement. Especially since I renounced any tie I have remaining with the Democratic Party, I have been further trashed on such "liberal blogs" as the Democratic Underground. Being called an "attention whore" and being told "good riddance" are some of the more milder rebukes.
I have come to some heartbreaking conclusions this Memorial Day Morning. These are not spur of the moment reflections, but things I have been meditating on for about a year now. The conclusions that I have slowly and very reluctantly come to are very heartbreaking to me.
The first conclusion is that I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party. Of course, I was slandered and libeled by the right as a "tool" of the Democratic Party. This label was to marginalize me and my message. How could a woman have an original thought, or be working outside of our "two-party" system?
However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the "left" started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used. I guess no one paid attention to me when I said that the issue of peace and people dying for no reason is not a matter of "right or left", but "right and wrong."
I am deemed a radical because I believe that partisan politics should be left to the wayside when hundreds of thousands of people are dying for a war based on lies that is supported by Democrats and Republican alike. It amazes me that people who are sharp on the issues and can zero in like a laser beam on lies, misrepresentations, and political expediency when it comes to one party refuse to recognize it in their own party. Blind party loyalty is dangerous whatever side it occurs on. People of the world look on us Americans as jokes because we allow our political leaders so much murderous latitude and if we don't find alternatives to this corrupt "two" party system our Representative Republic will die and be replaced with what we are rapidly descending into with nary a check or balance: a fascist corporate wasteland. I am demonized because I don't see party affiliation or nationality when I look at a person, I see that person's heart. If someone looks, dresses, acts, talks and votes like a Republican, then why do they deserve support just because he/she calls him/herself a Democrat?
I have also reached the conclusion that if I am doing what I am doing because I am an "attention whore" then I really need to be committed. I have invested everything I have into trying to bring peace with justice to a country that wants neither. If an individual wants both, then normally he/she is not willing to do more than walk in a protest march or sit behind his/her computer criticizing others. I have spent every available cent I got from the money a “grateful” country gave me when they killed my son and every penny that I have received in speaking or book fees since then. I have sacrificed a 29 year marriage and have traveled for extended periods of time away from Casey’s brother and sisters and my health has suffered and my hospital bills from last summer (when I almost died) are in collection because I have used all my energy trying to stop this country from slaughtering innocent human beings. I have been called every despicable name that small minds can think of and have had my life threatened many times.
The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think. I have tried every since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most.
I have also tried to work within a peace movement that often puts personal egos above peace and human life. This group won't work with that group; he won’t attend an event if she is going to be there; and why does Cindy Sheehan get all the attention anyway? It is hard to work for peace when the very movement that is named after it has so many divisions.

Molly notes she's "stunned." Not by the above but by Cindy Sheehan's announcement that she's done (read in full using the link). I'm less stunned -- and surprised it took this long. I hope she returns to public activism and I applaud everything she has done (including the thing we've excerted -- applaud it in full). There were attempts to take Sheehan and to shape her. It was done in the only article The Nation ran about her. Certainly, as Martha can tell you, early on when Dems finally became aware of Cindy Sheehan (the first Camp Casey), many felt no need to be honest. They reshaped her story, they robbed her of her power. Martha can tell you because when one Dem blogger got everything about Cindy wrong, Martha corrected the blogger -- nicely -- in the comments. Which led the blogger to go spastic and then offer that even if Cindy Sheehan was actually calling for troops out of Iraq, it didn't matter because our leaders will decide that. Now that was when Camp Casey first started. The blogger's an idiot. Not because of getting the facts wrong but because of the attitude that what happens in this country is up for leaders to decide. (It's a "democracy," not a "leader-ocracy.") But if you doubt the spaces that have been created, you only need to think of that blogger. Someone who sees themselves as left. And in 2005, the summer of, while Camp Casey was going on, they couldn't and wouldn't call for troops out of Iraq and they would distort Cindy Sheehan to remove that position from her and recast her to fit their political needs.

Last summer, I held off noting the fact that Cindy Sheehan was about to be ripped apart by some in the mainstream because independent media wasn't at all interested in Camp Casey. When a friend called and said "I just got assigned the piece" (a piece we all knew was coming), I did note it here. It was amazing to see that. (And the MSM actually didn't do the rip apart with a few exceptions.) It was amazing and shocking to see how quickly independent media didn't give a damn. This was the summer that they basically ignored Iraq. So did big media but less so. Big media seemed irritated that they had to cover Iraq (like small media they wanted to offer six weeks of wall to wall on the Israeli government wack-job). Molly Ivins and Jimmy Breslin stood alone in calling that b.s. out.

That was just one example -- one example you couldn't ignore. But the reality is that you've got this group trying to figure out how to give a nod to Iraq while pressing their "economics" and you've got that group trying to push their candidate and you've got another group that thinks they can tie Iraq into their pet issue and it just goes on and on.

I'm not talking about the peace movement here, I'm talking about independent journalists. In terms of the peace movement, Cindy Sheehan's comments about how this group won't do something with that group is (I'm reading) a criticism of the peace movement and that's valid. "OMG! We can't be associated!" It's nonsense and the thing is it's dying. It's not dying at some peace outlets but those peace outlets are going to find themselves marginalized. People aren't going to tip-toe anymore. Historically, they won't and if you visit campuses, you'll see they're tired of it. New orgs have sprung and are springing up and those that are considered the sort your parents might belong to are going to find themselves on the outs and that's reality and it's reality whenever this plays out. You can't stand still and have relevance. That's reality. And I'm not slamming any organization here. But there are many that are not speaking to the youth of today and if they don't find a way to connect they better learn to enjoy the fringes because new organizations and existing ones that do will step forward.

Let's use an example: Kip and Wendy. Kip and Wendy are young children. Ramona seems cool and with it, she's an adult. She offers to teach them how to ride a bike. Great! They want to know how to ride a bike! When Kip and Wendy are ready to drive, they're really not interested in Ramona coming over to talk to them about bicycles. It's part of the natural evolution and organizations that cannot evolve, that think doing today what they did in 2003 is enough, will find themselves on the fringes because no one's in the mood for it. On the one hand you've got the group rightly pointing out that it's four years later and if ___ didn't accomplish anything in 2003 what's doing ____ going to accomplish today. On the other hand you've got young adults who are feeling their power for the first time and wanting to run with it (a very natural response) and this treat them like your foot soldiers nonsense and play the "We know best" card renders them as worthless as Lawrence Welk.

Kip and Wendy may have warm feelings for Ramona, kind memories, but they're not interested in the bicycle anymore, they want to get behind the wheel of a car. This happened during Vietnam and it's going to happen now (and a number of organizations -- who do strong work -- should really be doing self-checks right now because, if they don't, they will be left out).

To close out on the issue of the peace movement, it created the space. It deserves tremendous credit. But only the devoted are going to show up, with their Bic lighters, screaming for the same song to be performed one more time. (Many organizations are aware of the need to grow and they are addressing it.) You get the oldies crowd but you're not going to the new people coming into the movement because you're offering something that's been offered too many times in the last few years.

Look at Iraq Veterans Against the War. That's the perfect example of a new group emerging. And you KNOW no one with that organization would say "I was so angry when my son got arrested for going AWOL" as someone at another peace organization recently did. That story has been circulating through the peace movement for several weeks. The first time I heard it I was stunned. Last week, there wasn't a campus I visited where that story wasn't brought up. (And it is true. It's not a gerbil rumor.) That organization has plummeted in the eyes of college students as a result. At the start of last week, I was trying to put a happy face on it and note that Cher was shocked and less than receptive when Chastity came out so sometimes it takes a parent awhile to adjust when it's their own child. (Cher fully supports Chastity and did after she got over her shock.) But it's been almost a month and the person has made no attempt to issue a statement or address the issue. If you're for peace and supposedly support war resisters, you might need to clarify why you're angry that your own child went AWOL. Self-check outs are okay for others but not your own kid? So Iraq Veterans Against the War was needed and thank goodness they came together because another organization has taken a huge hit. (And the longer that goes unaddressed, the longer that other organization will be doing self-damage.)

Iraq Veterans Against the War came along because it was needed, because things others weren't addressing needed to be addressed. And that's what will continue to happen and what you will continue to see. And those who can't progress or who shoot themselves in the foot by making idiotic statements (such as the one about their AWOL child) will find themselves irrelevant.

Back to Cindy Sheehan. She's given everything she has. If she's really out, no one can blame for her that.

She's been attacked from the right from the beginning. She's been distorted by the center-left (who play left) from the beginning. She refuses to be silent on the Democratic nonsense and she shouldn't have to be. Everyone should be calling this nonsense out. But because she has, she gets slammed. I don't read Democratic Underground. If that was a comment in a thread, that's one thing. If that's a post or featured post, that's something else and we would pull the link as we've done with others who've taken to slamming her.

One person who's slammed her is the pig Scott Ritter who should be behind bars if the mainstream media accounts of his two arrests for trolling online to find under age girls to meet up with are true. He, of course, won't respond to that. Surprisingly, The Nation's okay with that. They're okay with printing his books and his columns -- his worthless books and worthless columns. That pig declared war on the peace movement before he decided he wanted to take it over. (He can't. Even those who lack the guts to tell him he's trash to his face don't want him too close in the movement -- he should be kicked completely out.)

What does that say? If I were Cindy Sheehan and seeing Scott Ritter linked everywhere I'd be offended first of all because of his criminal record. I'd be offended secondly because what does he do? How many times is he going to tell us Iran is about to be attacked?

Seriously. Seymour Hersh too. I mean at this point (I know Hersh), you have to wonder are they hoping Iran gets attacked because, if not, how will they look?

But that's something that how many pages, how many hours and how many links have been wasted on for how many years now? If, next hour, the administration declares war on Iran, it still won't justify all the time that this topic has taken up and taken away from a very real, very ongoing war. Iraq is not a 'theory.' The war in Iraq is very real so it is offensive that so much hot air and time has been wasted on the war Ritter just knows is around the corner when Iraq's been left by the wayside.

Casey Sheehan died in a real war. Not in some jerk off fantasy that Ritter's jaw boned about for three years now. Casey Sheehan died and he's never coming back. He's one of 3455 US service members that have died. None of them are coming back. Families and friends have nothing but their memories. And you can jerk off about Iran for the 80 millionith time but the reality is there is still no war with Iran.

At best, the Iran obsession (on the part of the left) is an attempt to pre-empt a war. At best. Too often it plays out like a conspiracy theory -- you know that term, some love to use it to shut up discussion of events that actually have happened. But it's perfectly okay to continue to offer what-ifs on Iran.

It's disgusting. This didn't happen during Vietnam and it's why that war ended. We certainly didn't say, "South Africa has apartheid! That is our first priority!" Most knew South Africa had apartheid and were against it. But you put out the fires on your own property before you rush down the block with your garden hose.

Which is why this b.s. of "Save Darfur!" is so ridiculous. More Iraqis have died, there are more Iraqi refugees. But "Save Darfur!" Why?

Why does Darfur take precedent over ending an illegal war that the US started?

It's really easy to say, "Well we can do it all." What we've seen is that's not true. What we've seen is Iraq becomes an after thought and only gets independent media attention when something big blows up in the mainstream. Then they all rush back to it for a moment or two.
This is an ongoing illegal war that the US started so if you're an American citizen this idea that "Save Darfur" is your cause is b.s. Darfur can't be saved by military intervention (and anyone who makes that comment finds themselves kicked out of independent media domestically -- think of the Guardian columnist who we used to see, hear and read all the time who had the courage to point out the obvious and now he's just not heard from in this country).

All of this nonsense, "Egyptian Bloggers Jailed!" All of it, it's b.s. We're not in a time of peace in this country. So this hop-scotching around from cause to cause and issue to issue is ridiculous.
If you're not trying to end this illegal war it should be because you're apathetic or because you support it. It shouldn't be because you woke up in college and "felt like a Russian." Sorry to break it to you, but you went to an American college and however you felt, or whomever you felt up, you were still an American citizen.

I want to be clear that I'm not speaking of Nora Barrows-Friedman here. She reports from and on the occupied territories. That is her beat and has been for some time. I'm not talking about her or anyone like her. (And it should be noted the US bears responsibility because our government supplies the Israeli government with the money and weapons they use.) I am talking about these people who think independent media is a travelogue and they rush from tragedy to tragedy as if they are the Red Cross.

Nothing wrong with seeing yourself as a citizen of the world except when you use that as an excuse to avoid addressing what your own country is doing. Approximately a million Iraqis have died in this illegal war. 3455 Americans have died serving in this illegal war. If you think you're so wonderful because you're off to "Save Darfur," someone needs to break it to you that an illegal war is going on and if you're not addressing that, you're chicken sh*t.

It's really easy to point the finger at governments, regimes and tragedies outside the United States, but if you're an American and you can't point the same finger at this administration (and this Congress), you're chicken sh*t. You're not brave, you're not noble, you're not caring. You're someone avoiding dealing with what your own government is doing in public with no pretense of hiding it.

And when Democrats go along with it and buy the war, if you are a Democrat and you think your problem is Cindy Sheehan, you're an idiot because your problem is you. You aren't being a "good Democrat" because anyone who gave a damn about the party wouldn't enable it when it is so obviously wrong. A "good Democrat" would be screaming her or his head off.

There's nothing wrong with working on other issues but if you're in the United States, there are plenty of issues to work on including (but not limited to) immigration, violence against women, the death penalty, the prison crisis, the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay which every American is responsible for and silence will not free them or will not redeam anyone including yourself.

It's easy to say, "Of course, Cindy Sheehan cares about Iraq, her son died there." Yes and 3454 other sons and daughters died there and the number will continue to rise until Americans (the outside world can't stop it) rise up against this illegal war.

Riding your hog up to the White House doesn't end the illegal war. And bragging that you're above politics makes you look even more idiotic than you do normally. "I'm here to fight for veterans health care." Well guess what? You didn't. You rode up and gave Bully Boy the photo op he wanted and then you rolled on down the road. He got to pretend like he meets with citizens and you got to pretend like you accomplished something (", man").

During Vietnam, the movements were able to speak out against the illegal war, against racism against sexism and many other very real issues but the connection to all of them was the US involvement.

Our Modern Day Carrie Nations seems to think they are Mary Poppins and they can just open their umbrella and float away to wherever. If their feet touch US soil when they land, they need to be focused on what the US is doing. Civil wars in Africa are always ongoing and US military intervention never helped end one and provide democracy.

Our Modern Day Carrie Nations should be asked one question, "If 'saving' Darfur means allowing the illegal war to continue and more Iraqis and Americans to die, are you okay with that?" They should all be forced to answer that question. I think some would be surprised by how many would readily answer 'Yes."

Right now, the United States needs to save the United States -- Darfur and any other region needs to save itself. That's not isolationism, that is noting that you put your own fires out before you rush off to others.

The Carrie Nations would counter, "If ending the Iraq war meant that more people in Darfur died, are you okay with that?" My answer is yes because the United States started this illegal war, I am a citizen of this country and, as such, this illegal war is my responsibility. My first responsibility is always to stop the killing that my own government is responsible for. (And, historically, I'm aware that US 'saving' in Africa generally leads to even more dead.)

If I avoid that, anything I do or say is suspect. If I shirk that responsibility I'm a coward. The easiest thing in the world is to call out abuse outside your own country.

You think the State Dept. breaks a sweat when Nicky K churns out another of his pathetic columns? No, they don't. They love it as he calls for military action. They love the idea that war is an 'answer' to anything and probably are tickled that they're being begged (war criminals!) to invade another region.

But the peace movement has allowed this nonsense to invade it. In NYC, we saw that crap. "Bring the Troops Home and Send Them To Darfur!" Did Mad Maddie Albright make up those signs? Maybe she used what's left of her hair for a paint brush?

War is not an answer and only idiots who see it as a video game would think it was. (And nothing prevented any of those sign carriers from taking their own 'brave' asses down to Darfur. Nothing but a lack of courage. They have plenty of courage when it comes to sending other people to die for their cause which is probably one of the things that went unnoted when they met with the Bully Boy -- but it is a quality they share.) The US military is supposed to exist for defense. In this country, a standing military is not even historically significant. We are a young nation but, even so, a standing military is not something that has spanned our country's history. A country is only supposed to (legally) enter into a war for self-defense. (Not self-defense over a fear that something might happen someday.)

But think of, for instance, how often we're all bored with Darfur on Democracy Now! (when the Congo, a neighbor, has it much worse but they don't have evangicals and celebs to speak out for it). Think of all the time wasted by DN! on Darfur and there's only been one moment of truth in it:

AMY GOODMAN: John, we just have thirty seconds, but do you think oil is a secret motive with US relations with Sudan?
JOHN GHAZVINIAN: Possibly. I mean, yes and no. I mean, look, I think China is much more transparent about oil in Sudan. The US relationship with Sudan is a complex one, and for the last few years it’s had a lot to do with cooperation on counterterrorism and intelligence gathering, as well. The Sudan conflict is a lot more complicated than it tends to get presented out as in the media, to be honest, especially the Darfur conflict. And oil kind of plays a part, but it’s not the main driving factor.

That's from "'Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil'." And that's not me calling Amy Goodman a "liar." I don't think she is one. I do wish she'd relocate the program out of NYC. One of the reasons The Progressive is unique is because it's not centrally located in NCY. That was true of Clamor as well. In NYC (and the immediate area) you get the drum beaters. And I'm sure it's a case of "Oh, Amy, you've got to get on this issue!" repeatedly. NYC still thinks it's the center of the world (it's not even the center of the country anymore) and a lot gets missed by indymedia because they ape mainstream media's notion of NYC being the center. (And a lot gets missed on KPFA because some suffer huge NYC envy.)

Sending the military into Darfur has been rejected by the American people. Originally the Carrie Nations walked proudly and spoke loudly. Then they tried to front themselves with student activists when their own pasts were called into question. They've managed to fool some students who thinks they are academic gods but the rest of the country didn't buy into it. It's why Nicky K goes spastic over the issue. He's done his part! He's done as much if not more than Judith Miller ever did on Iraq! If only there was a photo of a puppy being harmed, he whines.

It still wouldn't matter. If you leave the pompous lecterns in the groves of academia, you leave behind the notion that "We need" to send the US military anywhere.

But hasn't Darfur been allowed to pollute and dilute the peace movement? By the way, these are my comments, not Cindy Sheehan's, for anyone who doesn't use the link.

The US government wages an illegal war in Iraq every day. Our independent media covers it sometimes. Sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes it checks out for prolonged periods.

All this time later and Pacifica has yet to provide one program whose topic is the Iraq war.

And of course The Nation cares about nothing (in total) except electing Democrats. They finished celebrating the wins only to start up coverage of the 2008 election. They didn't pause, they didn't take a breath and The Nation is not supposed to belong to any party. It's supposed to be an independent magazine. It's also not supposed to be obsessed with elections. (Or linked to centrist organizations such as the Council for Foreign Relations. It's supposed to be a left magazine.) The Nation has given us the food issue, the Cuba issue, the health care issue (new issue), the book issue, all these theme issues. What it won't give is the Iraq issue.

And it won't cover war resisters. It is amazing how few in independent media will.

I think it's hypocrisy for any on the left to avoid covering war resisters but I think it's even more so if you are the child of a war resister. And there are plenty of them in independent media who have stayed silent. Their parents were able . . . Forget that. They, the children, had lives because others helped their parents. For them to stay silent as a Joshua Key or Brandon Hughey or Jeremy Hinzman or Patrick Hart or Ryan Johnson or go down the list, while they fight for their survival is just ridiculous. There is no excuse for silence.

So I do understand Cindy Sheehan's frustrations (which probably do not include the things I've listed) but I hope she's not gone for good. I wish she'd spent more time on campuses because the frustrations she has are shared by students and she wouldn't have felt (as it appears she does) that she's alone on this. Her natural audience (other than those who have also lost a loved one in the illegal war) is college students. (Sheehan has visited campuses. I'm not suggesting she hasn't. I do know she spent a lot of time in DC and on various things with various groups. I also suspect that a mutual friend fed into her frustration with justifications and passes for the Democrats.)

If she is stepping away from public life, she should never have any doubts that she gave as much as anyone could (and more than most even attempt) while she was active. She inspired many and she punched through the silence in the mainstream media when no one else could. Her accomplishments are many but they don't bring back her son. She never thought they would. She did think by giving her all she could stop someone else's child from dying in Iraq (Iraqi, US, etc.). That hasn't been the case.

What she's experiencing right now is some cold realities. She's seeing how few care. She's seeing how many talk a good game but when it's time to do, they're off on something else. She's seeing, and this may be the big surprise, that the illegal war's not ending this year and some who pose as caring really don't give a damn.

It reminds me of two things (the last point). When I started going to campuses to speak with students, it was Feb. 2003. The war hadn't started. And there were a lot of 'leaders' telling young people that if we had this big rally the war wouldn't start. The war started. Despite the big rally. And it was very difficult for some students to take part afterwards. They could have handled the truth. They could have been told, "This may or may not stop the war from starting." They would have turned out still. But they were hyped and told that if they did this, the war wouldn't start. And it also reminded me of the people who basically packed up their bags after Vietnam. They were tired and they had fought hard. But they were also hyped and told that ending the illegal war meant everything would be perfect.

I can understand her being tired and I can understand her being frustrated. Selfishly, I hope she'll just take a rest. But whatever she does, she gave it her all. Some might say she "burned out." I don't think that's the case. I think she's tired (as most of us are), no question. But I think she would be calling for action right now if it weren't for the fact that she's been lied to and she's been attacked. Most of all, she's been used.

She didn't put up any walls of protection. She gave full out. And she expected people to mean what they said. She was being honest and she thought others were as well. They weren't. And that's probably (my guess) the biggest blow. She was used. And, my guess, if you asked her, she'd say, "If it will stop the illegal war, use me." But she didn't give everything she had to try to help cowards stay in office and win elections while the war dragged on.

Selfishly, I really hope she takes a rest and recharges. Selfishly, we need her still. In fact, we need her more than we did before. But she needs to take care of herself and her family and, after what she's been put through, if she doesn't feel like stepping back on the public stage, that's her business and no one can suggest that she didn't give everything she had.

[I asked Dona to read over this -- not fix typos! -- and see if she could follow. She noted two things. 1) The Darfur could be a pull quote. I don't care if it's taken out of context, screw it. 2) Some might see this as me saying "I'm burnt out." On that, I'm not. I am tired. But I'm not burnt out and I was very fortunate to have friends step in and tell me to put up walls. In one instance, that's Elaine who demanded that I talk to her first before donating anything. And in terms of time, Dona long ago appointed herself the scheduler of my travel. That's only two examples but I have and am putting up walls to avoid burning out. And, Dona said make this clear, this site will continue through November 2008 at least. November 2008 is the target date to go dark. Some think I will change my mind. But whatever happens, the community will continue. And, this site compared to the community newsletters, I think better work's done in the community newsletters. Ruth has a report ready -- has since Saturday, and Kat has had a review ready since Saturday. Kat just walked in and said, "How many entries did you post!" She suggests I consider holding one or both until tomorrow which I will be considering -- holding would mean less for me to do ideally.]

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