Saturday, August 20, 2005

Their Blood Cries Out From the Ground

Genesis 4:9-10 (New Living Translation)

9 “Afterward the LORD asked Cain, “Where is your brother? Where is Abel?”
“I don't know!” Cain retorted. “Am I supposed to keep track of him wherever he goes?”
10But the LORD said, “What have you done? Listen--your brother's blood cries out to me from the ground!”

Cindy Sheehan has become the hero of the left. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida has crowned her as the symbol for all grieving mothers who’ve lost children in this conflict. She’s Maureen Dowd’s darling.

As I’ve read the account of her “vigil” over the past few days I’ve asked myself how she was able to gain such a foothold in the media while other mothers, whose losses were every bit as painful and tragic as hers, did not. I was trying to understand it all the other day as I read an editorial by Patrick Kelley in our local newspaper. According to him it was all about freedom of speech. He likened it to the same freedom Fred Phelps, the homophobe and America hater, has to spew his hatred.

There’s no doubt about it. She has a right to freely express herself. She has the same freedom, as an American, as her son, Casey, had to make a decision to re-enlist in the military. He did so, knowing that he would almost certainly be cast into harm’s way. Why? Was it a death wish that drove him? Was it sport? Was it the thrill of combat? No, no, a thousand times no. It was freedom that motivated him. He fought, and died honorably, serving a just cause. He died so that others might taste the freedom he’d always known.

The other night Ms. Sheehan was interviewed by Chris Matthews. What follows is the meat of the exchange:

MATTHEWS: “Can I ask you a tough question? A very tough question.”
MATTHEWS: “All right. If your son had been killed in Afghanistan, would you have a different feeling?”
SHEEHAN: “I don't think so, Chris, because I believe that Afghanistan is almost the same thing. We're fighting terrorism. Or terrorists, we're saying. But they're not contained in a country. This is an ideology and not an enemy. And we know that Iraq, Iraq had no terrorism. They were no threat to the United States of America.”
MATTHEWS: “But Afghanistan was harboring, the Taliban was harboring al-Qaida which is the group that attacked us on 9/11.”
SHEEHAN: “Well then we should have gone after al-Qaida and maybe not after the country of Afghanistan.”
MATTHEWS: “But that's where they were being harbored. That's where they were headquartered. Shouldn't we go after their headquarters? Doesn't that make sense?”
SHEEHAN: “Well, but there were a lot of innocent people killed in that invasion, too. ... But I'm seeing that we're sending our ground troops in to invade countries where the entire country wasn't the problem. Especially Iraq. Iraq was no problem. And why do we send in invading armies to march into Afghanistan when we're looking for a select group of people in that country?”

The words are eerily familiar to words spoken along diplomatic channels from Bill Clinton’s State Department to an official of Afghanistan’s Taliban regime:

“U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan William B. Milam held a secret meeting with an unidentified senior Taliban official in September 2000 and assured him that international sanctions on the Taliban would end if bin Laden were expelled from Afghanistan, newly declassified documents show.”

“The ambassador added that the U.S. was not against the Taliban, per se,” and “was not out to destroy the Taliban,” Milam wrote in a secret cable to Washington, recounting his meeting.”

“A declassified version of the cable was released Thursday, obtained by George Washington University's National Security Archive under the Freedom of Information Act.”

“Milam told the Taliban official — whose name is excised from the declassified document — that bin Laden was the main impediment to better relations between the Taliban and the United States.”

“If the U.S. and the Taliban could get past bin Laden, we would have a different kind of relationship,” Milam said he told the official.”

As I read back and forth between Patrick Kelley’s remarks and media coverage Ms. Sheehan has garnered, I saw that there was far more to this than grief or freedom.

I thought it all through for a day and then penned my thoughts in a short editorial response to the Gazette. That letter follows:

I read Patrick Kelley’s comments on Cindy Sheehan with great interest.

She has every right to express her opinion, as does Fred Phelps, but that’s not what this is really about. It’s all about access to have that opinion expressed.

The media, rightly so, has relegated Phelps to the back pages. To be honest, they shouldn’t even give him that. He’s defamed his country and the faith he claims to embrace. But I suppose he sells copy and that’s the mother’s milk of journalism nowadays.

If this were really about freedom of speech the Gazette and newspapers around this country would (or should) long ago have granted unfettered access to the other mothers who grieve over sons or daughters lost, yet still proudly support our effort in Iraq.

Perhaps, if Mssr. Kelley and his cohorts are as altruistic as they claim, the Gazette could give access to them or to the hundreds of thousands of widows and orphans of Iraq who had fathers and husbands run through Saddam’s shedders or loved ones whose eyes were gouged out by Saddam’s henchmen. But that won’t happen because these souls, forgotten in the media rush to lionize a grieving mother who shares their agenda, would, with quiet dignity, only say “thanks.” That doesn’t sell copy or serve the media’s agenda, so you probably won’t read or see much about it.

Just recently Ms. Sheehan broadened the scope of her internationalism. To the delight of MSNBC she declared that the liberation of Afghanistan was a mistake. Perhaps, in the interest of free speech, the Gazette could offer equal access to the widows of 9/11, made so by terrorists trained and tacitly supported in Afghanistan.

But, that’s not likely to happen. As I said before, this is all about access, agendas, and selling copy.

You see, what this current “vigil” and the attention the media and the Democratic Party are paying to it amounts to is a marriage of ideology. Cindy Sheehan is using the media and the media is using her. While I hope and pray that she is truly a grieving mother, I don’t feel very comfortable in believing so, based on what I’ve seen and read during the past week. But I have no doubt that to the media covering this story love or grief has little to do with it. Nor do I have any doubt that altruism is not what’s motivating Bill Nelson or other Democrats who are lionizing Ms. Sheehan. Do I believe that Maureen Dowd really cares about Cindy Sheehan? No! To Ms. Dowd this is, as it is for Patrick Kelley here in Emporia, about making copy.

Why do I say so?

I asked Patrick Kelley and the Gazette if they would give other grieving mothers access to their PAID subscribers. It was a rhetorical question, really, because I know what the answer would be. They haven’t before and they won’t now. And, the drive to sell copy and agenda is only more pronounced as the media outlet or newspaper gets larger or better known.

Since this seems to be the case I’ve decided to give voice to what other mothers have been unable to express in this agenda driven spectacle.

First, there’s this from the mothers of Halabja, the village that was gassed by Saddam’s cousin “Chemical Ali:”

Then there’s this. I wonder what the mother of this poor Iraqi soul might say to Maureen Dowd or Bill Nelson:

And I wonder what the mothers of those buried in these mass graves, courtesy of Saddam, might say if the Emporia Gazette were to grant them access:

Ms. Sheehan told MSNBC that Afghanistan under Taliban rule was “no problem.” So did Bill Clinton’s State Department. What do you suppose this mother of Herat might have to say to her?
Finally, I wonder what Ms. Sheehan, Maureen Dowd, and others on the left might say to these words, penned by Ronald Griffin, whose son died in Iraq:

“To many loved ones, there are few if any “what ifs.” They, like their fallen heroes before them, live in the world as it is and not what it was or could have been. Think of the sacrifices that have brought us to this day. We as a country made a collective decision. We must now live up to our decision and not deviate until the mission is complete.”

“Thirty-five years ago, a president faced a similar dilemma in Vietnam. He gave in and we got “peace with honor.” To this day, I am still searching for that honor. Today, those who defend our freedom every day do so as volunteers with a clear and certain purpose. Today, they have in their commander in chief someone who will not allow us to sink into self-pity. I will not allow him to. The amazing part about talking to the people left behind is that I did not want them to stop. After speaking to so many I have come away with the certainty of their conviction that in a large measure it's because of the deeds and sacrifices of their fallen heroes that this is a better and safer world we now live in.”

“Those who lost their lives believed in the mission. To honor their memory, and because it's right, we must believe in the mission, too.”

“We refuse to allow Cindy Sheehan to speak for all of us. Instead, we ask you to learn the individual stories. They are glorious. Honor their memories.”

“Honor their service. Never dishonor them by giving in. They never did.”

I well remember “peace with honor.” I served in Vietnam from 1965 to 1966. The Cindy Sheehans and Maureen Dowd’s of this world got what they wanted back then. All it took was abandoning twenty-five million people to tyranny. If they had their way today we’d abandon fifty-five million more to the Taliban and Saddam’s torture chambers.

That’s what’s being played out near the President’s ranch in Crawford. It has little to do with being our brother’s keeper. It’s, sadly, all about agenda, access, and money.


Hiker Hobo said...

god would use nukes

Jimmy said...

Phil, all I can say is AMEN! I've been a silent lurker to your site for a long time and just had to de-lurk to tell you what a heartfelt and compassionate piece you have written. Yet, you still maintained the professionalism and objectivity of avoiding the 'taking sides' trap. Thanks for such a great piece. I'll definitely keep reading.

James Fletcher Baxter said...

It is still true: no one can be a person of character without Principle - but some try.

No one can have honor without Loyalty - but some try.

No one can be a Truthful and lie - but some try.

No one is Courageous and ruled by fear - and some don't even try.

No one loves the approval of the crowd and respects The Individual.

No one can escape the ego-center without the God-center. Naturally.

Such is the life of a humanist, collectivist, relativist, liberal, compromiser making up the present-day mindless gutless political party now calling themselves 'progressive.'

The Constitution has their immoral title... (Please do your own homework.) JFB semper fidelis

Jo said...

Well said and thought out. Bravo

Gone Away said...

I agree, bravo.

Jay said...

It's finally happened. Conservatives are so invested in Bush and defending his war that they've resorted to slandering the mothers of fallen soldiers.

Shame has reached a new low for these keyboard warriors that cannot comprehend the meaning of sacrifice for country. So blinded are they with their devotion to their party.

Phil Dillon, Prairie Apologist said...


I'm a Democrat!

Jay said...

You bet...and I'm a Republican.

Rob in L.A. said...

The subtext to this post — and I mean no disrespect to Phil by saying this — seems to be that what came out of the invasion of Iraq was so good (namely, Saddam Hussein’s removal from power) that how this country went to war in the first place is irrelevant. But the fact remains that Bush’s rationale for going to war was based on exaggerations, half-truths, and outright lies. I think that’s very important and very disturbing. Bush obviously wanted to rush this country into a needless shooting war, and he did so by pulling a fast one the American people. This is a horrifying precedent, and all the fallen dictators in the world should not distract us from it.

The media is paying attention to Cindy Sheehan because she’s a ligitimate story. She represents a legitimate point of view, although I do not always agree with the way that she expresses it. But she is able to voice the anger that many of us feel over Bush telling us before the invasion that this was a war of necessity. We now know that this was a war of choice. Bush ordered Casey Sheehan to put his life on the line because of Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction. We now know that those weapons were never there. And I doubt that Bush’s unthinking invasion of a country that has now become a hotbed of terrorism has made America any safer.

With Democrats marginalized by their minority status in Congress, and therefore unable to hold meaningful hearings about the war, Cindy Sheehan puts a compelling human face on the human costs of Bush’s arrogance. The anti-war movement in this country is diffuse but real — Cindy Sheehan gave the movement a center. For all her verbal gaffes and strategic faux pas, she is calling attention to a very legitimate issue: no one in authority is holding Bush accountable for his falsehoods in the build-up to war. The fact that so many conservatives are now making excuses for Bush’s misleading statements is appalling.

By the way, the first extended news report about Cindy Sheehan that I heard included the voices of military parents who disagreed with her. The media isn’t as liberal as conservatives say. The mandate of the media is to scrutinize the government and report on it. Since Republicans control all branches of the government, that entails scrutinizing more Republicans than members any other political party. I didn’t think that the media was particularly “liberal” during its feeding frenzy over Clinton’s illicit liaison with Monica Lewinsky — which was about sex, so made for more lucrative “copy” than the war now does. Conservatives won’t be happy until the media is a mouthpiece for the Republican Party.

Clublint said...

Oh. Rob from LA pretty much said what I wanted to say and then some.

This was a well written piece, regardless of what side of the political fence you stand on.

via Blog Advance

penelope said...

anybody who killed vietnamese people or fought in that war is a criminal.

Glyn (Zaphod) Evans said...

I think the war is a lie. That's my opinion. I back Cindy's stance to end the war. Saddam was a bad guy but I don't think depoing him was the reason the US invaded. I always say, there are far more people in deep dark Africa that need freedom and help than there are in Oil rich Middle eastern countries.

BTW, your photo showing the hanging man on the inset isn't quite right. The backgrounds are different.

: JustaDog said...

Excellent post. You present pictures that NO liberal blogsite seems to have, and present the side of Iraq NO liberal discusses.

Gee - think they have some hidden agenda?

Kn@ppster said...

Well done! I disagree heartily with about 90% of what you're saying, but at least you say it well and, contra the accusation in another comment, respectfully to those who have lost loved ones in the war.

One factual correction: When the people of Halabjah were killed in 1988, the CIA's conclusion was that it was not Saddam Hussein -- through "Chemical Ali" or anyone else -- who conducted the attack. Halabjah was located near the front line of the war with Iran, and along the axis of an Iranian advance. The condition of the bodies was consistent with the use of cyanide, a weapon which the Iranians had (and used) and the Iraqis didn't.

It was only a couple of years later, when it became convenient for the US to recognize the atrocities of Ba'athist Iraq, that the US waved a magic wand over Halabjah and made it an Iraqi, rather than Iranian, attack.