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Exploiting the Dead By: Ben Johnson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, August 12, 2005


ANTIWAR EXTREMIST CINDY SHEEHAN HAS CAPTURED HEADLINES by camping out in front of President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. There, the 48-year-old founder of Gold Star Families for Peace claims she is hounding the president to end the Iraq War in the name of her beloved son, Casey, who died in Iraq, and in the name of grieving families everywhere. The image of a grief-stricken mother traveling by caravan from California to Texas, then living in a tent, merely so she can have a brief meeting with the president has deep propaganda value for the antiwar Left. Thus, the New York Times noted longingly in its headline Thursday, “One Mother’s Loss Becomes a Problem for the President.” However, none of the mainstream media accounts of this beatified mourner recognize her long history of extremist rhetoric, her close association with far-Left and anti-Semitic figures, or the way she has seemingly rewritten her own history when it suited her purposes.

Sheehan says if granted a (second) consultation with President George W. Bush, she wants to ask him, “Why did you kill my son?” Both the question and the blame are misplaced. Sheehan and the media have emphasized that Iraqis killed 24-year-old Casey Sheehan in Sadr City last April, just five days after his arrival in Iraq. Cindy Sheehan’s tale of motherly grief is gripping. She told the leftist blog Buzzflash:

 

Casey told me, “Mom, this is what we trained for. I’m ready. It’s my job. Because the sooner I get there, the sooner I’ll come home.” And he came home three weeks later in a flag-draped coffin.

 

However, the media have ignored two important facts. First, Casey initially signed up in May 2000 and voluntarily re-enlisted in the service in August 2003, knowing he would likely be called into active duty in Iraq. Secondly, as a mechanic in the 1st battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, Casey did not have to go into the battle that claimed his life. When some of his fellow soldiers encountered resistance, he and others in his unit chose to go into combat to save his friends. Cindy Sheehan herself recounted it this way:

 

[T]he sergeant said, “Sheehan, you don't have to go,” because my son was a mechanic. And Casey said, “Where my chief goes, I go.”

 

Where this young man went, tragically, was to an early grave. But his death was an act of patriotism and human compassion, one which should tinge her understandable maternal grief with deep pride.

 

Instead, Cindy Sheehan threw herself into shrill, anti-Bush and anti-American activism. Shortly after his death, she founded Gold Star Families for Peace, an “antiwar” group whose first stated purpose is “To bring an end to the occupation of Iraq.” (Emphasis added.) She presently has a blogspot on MichaelMoore.com and spouts extremist rhetoric alongside many of the Hate America Left’s most potent bomb-throwers.

 

A Legacy of Leftist Anger

 

One might speculate that her son’s death freed Cindy Sheehan to take a more prominent role in stating the convictions she long held. Her hatred of President George W. Bush apparently harkens back to well before her son ever set foot in Iraq. In “An Open Letter to President George Bush,” published in the Not In Our Name newsletter shortly after the 2004 presidential elections, she wrote:

 

George, in 2000 when you stole that election and the Democrats gave up, I gave up, too. I had the most ironic thought of my life then: “Oh well, how much damage can he do in four years?”

 

According to San Francisco-based talk show host (and acquaintance of the Sheehan family) Melanie Morgan, Cindy Sheehan’s antiwar animus dates to well before her son’s death. [1] The Sheehans always opposed U.S. involvement in Iraq. Asked about the views she and her husband, Pat, had toward the Iraq War before their son’s deployment, she answered: “We didn’t understand why the United States was there. We never thought that Iraq was an imminent threat to the United States.”

 

She has taken advantage of her status as an aggrieved mother to spread her poisonous brand of far-Left politics. Her natural target was the Iraq War. Sheehan testified at John Conyers’ “impeachment hearings” on June 16, regarding the Downing Street Memo. She said, “The so-called Downing Street Memo dated 23 July, 2003, only confirms what I already suspected: the leadership of this country rushed us into an illegal invasion of another sovereign country on prefabricated and cherry picked intelligence. It appears that my boy Casey was given a death sentence even before he joined the Army in May of 2000.” To be sure no one missed the point, she added, “I believed before our leaders invaded Iraq in March, 2003, and I am even more convinced now, that this aggression on Iraq was based on a lie of historic proportions and was blatantly unnecessary.”

 

However, she has branched out into denouncing the military and the United States itself. According to FPM contributor Lee Kaplan, Sheehan likened convicted terrorist lawyer Lynne Stewart to literary hero Atticus Finch at a rally at San Francisco State University. Stewart passed on messages from convicted 1993 World Trade Center bomber Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman to his terror cell in Egypt and often pledged her belief in the morality of anti-capitalist violence. According to Kaplan’s account, Sheehan’s rhetoric that evening could as easily have been written by the “Blind Sheikh” himself; she, too, regarded America as the “Great Satan”:

 

America has been killing people on this continent since it was started. This country is not worth dying for.

 

She furthered this belief with a pronouncement on her official website, in which she describes her vision of a utopian future in America: “I will rejoice to hear the sounds of the collective Mea Culpa and the beating of breasts.”

 

To deprive this evil empire of a sufficient military, Cindy endorsed the San Francisco citywide measure known as “College Not Combat,” which would encourage the city’s high schools to deny military recruiters access to their student directories, from which they seek military enlistments. The fact that the cause she championed in the name of “the children” would be a violation of section 9528 of the “No Child Left Behind” Act, an infraction punishable by the revocation of federal education funds, did not cause her or her ideological comrades to bat an eye. The “College Not Combat” coalition includes a host of socialist and anti-American organizations, including International ANSWER, Code Pink, the National Lawyers Guild, the International Socialist Organization, Socialist Organizer, the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (which hails convicted cop-killers as “political prisoners”), and others. Such left-wing organizers often speak of the need to reduce the number of young people joining the armed forces, in order to frustrate “imperialist” U.S. foreign policy.

 

One such radical leftist is Medea Benjamin, the founder of Code Pink, Global Exchange, and the mastermind behind the violent anti-World Trade Center riots in Seattle. Benjamin enjoys a close working relationship with Cindy Sheehan as part of the professional antiwar fringe. Medea, a longtime admirer of Fidel Castro, with the help of fellow Castroite Leslie Cagan, founded the International Occupation Watch. Established in the city of Baghdad during the height of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Benjamin said its stated goal was to get as many U.S. troops as possible to declare themselves conscientious objectors and be sent home. Through Code Pink, she even managed to take $600,000 of cash, medicine, and supplies to “the other side” in the Iraqi terrorist capital of Fallujah (possibly the whereabouts of Casey Sheehan's murderers). In an essay in Nation magazine, Benjamin spelled out a long-term strategy to deflate the U.S. military presence in Iraq and around the world.

 

Benjamin’s anti-American foreign policy views are seemingly shared by Kathy Kelly, with whom Cindy shared the stage during antiwar protests. Kelly is the Director of Voices in the Wilderness, which violated UN sanctions against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the 1990s. Kelly visits “political prisoners” held captive by the United States…in Iraq. She has spoken at numerous campuses, often with radical Islamists, and has supported the Nicaraguan Sandanistas. In late 2003, Kelly received a three-month sentence for trespassing at Ft. Benning, Georgia, during a massive protest against the anti-Communist “School of the Americas.”

 

David Fenton has been laying the propaganda groundwork the Left needs to justify its anti-American policies for nearly a generation. A one-time photographer for the Weathermen, a left-wing terrorist organization, as well as a partisan calling for the “liberation” of South Vietnam, Fenton went on to angle the U.S. media on behalf of the Nicaraguan Sandanistas and the Marxist regime of Grenada. Fenton Communications was soon enlisted to popularize the George Soros-funded MoveOn.org and the Win Without War Coalition. In 2004, Cindy Sheehan appeared in an anti-Bush TV commercial, paid for by a 527 group known as “Real Voices,” which were distributed by…Fenton Communications. Coincidentally, David Fenton also promotes the September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, another organization of left-wingers making political capital from the death of their loved ones. 

 

Fenton is not Sheehan’s only public relations conduit. Her statements are also distributed by the Institute for Public Accuracy, the organization that sponsored Sean Penn’s trip to Baghdad on the eve of war. The day after September 11th, this taxpayer-funded entity offered “expert” testimony on terrorism to credulous media outlets. One IPA-sanctioned spokesman said Osama bin Laden’s handiwork “holds up a mirror to U.S. policy of causing massive civilian suffering in Iraq…[W]e hope that along with the grief, we can…form deeper compassion and understanding.” The IPA is a member organization of United for Peace and Justice, the “mainstream” face of the antiwar movement, which held many of the major antiwar demonstrations in 2003 and was founded by…Communist Party member Leslie Cagan.

 

It appears Sheehan embraces the anti-American views of the far-Left, possibly even advocating that soldiers disobey their officers. An online interview reveals that after defining “supporting war and killing” as “anti-Gospel, anti-religion, and anti-Christ,” she told American troops they were being “misused,” and finally exhorted them: “Refuse to kill innocent people.” Yet no U.S. officer can legitimately order someone to kill “innocent people”; it seems she has joined Medea Benjamin and Leslie Cagan’s crusade to mint ranks of conscientious objectors who will study (anti-terror) war no more.

 

Blame the “Murderous Thugs” (Jews)

 

Sheehan does not just lay the blame for her son’s death on evil America, though. She recently wrote:

 

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.

 

Such rhetoric echoes the line being taken by David Duke and his ilk at their most recent recruiting website, NoWarForIsrael.com: neo-cons run foreign policy; neo-cons are Jews; therefore, the war on Iraq was cooked up by a “cabal” of rapacious Jews to benefit the nation of Israel.

 

Sheehan also applies dehumanizing rhetoric to “neo-con” officials in the Bush administration. In an antiwar speech this April, Sheehan said of a well-known Jewish conservative, “As soft-spoken and sincere-sounding as Paul Wolfowitz is, is there yet any sane adult in this country whose skin does not crawl when this murderous liar opens his mouth and speaks?” She fumed, “Our country has been overtaken by murderous thugs....gangsters who lust after fortunes and power.” It is possible her target is “merely” capitalism. But her vicious rhetoric leaves open the possibility that she makes room at her altar of hatred for Jews, as well.

 

Take the Left’s Bus to Crawford

 

This extremism has not kept Cindy Sheehan from becoming an overnight star, endowed with all the righteous mysteries of suffering motherhood. Nor has her rhetoric and continued association with fringe figures barred her from enjoying the fellowship of the larger Left. After she began her multi-week camp out near the president’s ranch, legendary leftist agitator Ralph Nader dispatched a letter declaiming, “This rogue regime, led by two draft-dodgers and officially counseled by similar pro-war evaders during the Vietnam War, is not ‘our country.’”

 

Former Howard Dean presidential campaign strategist Joe Trippi made an appearance in the flesh. Trippi joined with Jodie Evans and the website Democrats.com to produce a web broadcast hailing Sheehan. (You can listen to it here. N.B.: Cindy, like, totally sounds like she’s from Vacaville.)

 

In this podcast, Sheehan’s venomous vacuity is on display in its every facet. She intimated the Secret Service might have murdered had she not placed a notice with the blogosphere, saying the Secret Service told her she would get run over by a car if she stayed there. “Thank God for the internet, or…we would already be a fascist state,” she foreswore. “The mainstream media is a propaganda tool for the government.” Sheehan likewise derided “the elections, um, you know the ‘elections’ quote/unquote, that happened in November.”

 

Then came the callers. Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, D-IL, who described herself as a member of the “Out-of-Iraq Coalition,” called in for the broadcast. Rep. Schakowsky, a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, gushed, “I’m just so proud of you…My heart is with you.” (Schakowsky, like Medea Benjamin, gushes over Fidel Castro, as well; Schakowsky has consistently tried to ease travel restrictions to the island gulag. For these and other “progressive” efforts, Schakowsky received an award from the Democratic Socialists of America.)

 

Sheehan also received a question from “journalist” Greg Szymanski, who has covers Sheehan for the ArcticBeacon.com and the American Free Press. According to its website, ArcticBeacon.com is dedicated, in part, to covering the “Alien Presence on Earth and UFO Phenomena.American Free Press is the newest incarnation of THE SPOTLIGHT newspaper, which the Anti-Defamation League classifies as “the most widely read publication on the fringe Right.” Both were published by Willis Carto’s Liberty Lobby, an organization with ties to neo-Nazism and anti-Semitism that is “presently the most influential right-wing extremist propaganda organization in the United States.” Szymanski has written numerous articles for the publication, including one hinting President Bush was complicit in 9/11.

 

Perhaps this constellation of anti-American extremists explains her blog entry for Day 5:

 

We had a little bit of trouble with locals today. We are beginning to feel a little unwelcome here.

 

Bush Far Too Amenable

 

Despite the fact that Cindy Sheehan and an entourage of 50 rolled into town in a bus with the words “Impeachment Tour” emblazoned upon it – fresh from attending a Veterans for Peace convention, no less – the Bush administration has not given this odd woman an icy reception. National Security Adviser Steve Hadley and Deputy White House Chief of Staff Joe Hagin spoke with Sheehan for 45 minutes.

 

This high-level (and unwarranted) meeting has not satisfied Sheehan’s leftist friends. Code Pink founder Diane Wilson is leading a hunger strike until Bush meets with her in person…for a second time. The website AfterDowningStreet.org also demands a face-to-face meeting. That website’s coalition members include Code Pink, Global Exchange, Rainbow/PUSH, Louisiana Activist Network, the Earth Island Institute, Historians Against the War, Veterans for Peace, Radio Left, and others. Notable individuals offering their support to the website include Daniel Ellsberg, of Pentagon Papers infamy; Robert Shetterly; and Joel Wendland, Managing Editor of Political Affairs, a journal of the Communist Party USA.

 

And some 40 Congressional Democratic have signed a letter urging President Bush to meet Sheehan, as well. Among its signatories: Reps. George Miller, Barbara Lee, Zoe Lofgren, Mike Honda, Lynn Woolsey,  and Pete Stark (all those listed, Democrats from California)..

 

The Second Time Around

 

As noted, Cindy Sheehan already met with Bush last June, two months after Casey’s death, along with a delegation of grieving military families. After that meeting, Sheehan initially said President Bush was caring, and the two spoke of their deep religious convictions. “I now know he's sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis,” Cindy declared. “I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a man of faith.” She says she and her husband thought about broaching their discontent with the war but held back out of respect for what they thought their late son would have wanted. She instead enjoyed the commiseration of the also-bereaved. She concluded by saying, “That was the gift the president gave us, the gift of happiness, of being together.”

 

Sheehan has begun telling another tale in recent days. During her podcast this week, Sheehan told Greg Szymanski, “Your account, that you wrote, is a true one.” In one of Szymanski’s two identical accounts, Cindy Sheehan claimed during their visit President Bush was “acting cocky and it was probably one of the worst experiences in my entire life.” He bounced around the room in a jovial manner. Szymanski quotes Sheehan as saying her 25-year-old daughter, Carley, “told me that after he made [a] remark, he gave her one of the filthiest looks she had ever had gotten in her life.” And, she says, Cindy was not alone; every other family felt this, as well. Cindy sums up: “Looking back, all I can say is that the meeting with Bush was one of the most disgusting experiences in my life.” (She also referred to President Bush as the “Führer” and called the War on Terrorism “blatant genocide.”)

 

When asked to rectify these varying statements – which, for the most part, she isn’t – Sheehan said she was “still in shock” when she met President Bush in 2004 and could not recount her horrible ordeal properly for nearly a year after the fact.

 

Despite the fact that she has apparently lied about one of their meetings already, and despite the fact that she willingly forfeited the right to raise the subject of politics with him, President Bush took a conciliatory tone in a press conference Thursday. In a move that was both compassionate and politically brilliant – a suspension this president has proven adept at mixing – he told the press:

 

I sympathize with Mrs. Sheehan. She feels strongly about her position, and she has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America. She has a right to her position, and I thought long and hard about her position. I've heard her position from others, which is: Get out of Iraq now. And it would be a mistake for the security of this country and the ability to lay the foundations for peace in the long run if we were to do so.

 

To do so, he rightly noted, “would send a terrible signal to the enemy.” President Bush noted the sympathy he feels for anyone who has lost a loved one in a war. (I believe that in Bush, unlike his predecessor, this feeling is genuine; this president is notorious for offering glimpses of his deep-seated emotions, especially around the military.) He has stated that he understands her political position, has given it due consideration (which should have been three seconds), and concluded it is not in the best interests of the country. Thus, he can show the country he has no need to meet with this quite sympathetic character who is sleeping in a pup tent in the Texas summer heat for several weeks. It is a beautiful political maneuver – far more eloquent than Moonbats of Sheehan and Medea Benjamin’s ilk deserve.

 

Disavowal

 

The fact that Cindy Sheehan has used her son’s coffin as a political soapbox has not set well with many members of Sheehan’s extended family. In a backlash, patriotic members of Casey’s father’s family have distanced themselves and their late, heroic relative from Cindy’s anti-American ways. KSFO-AM radio talk show host and Move America Forward leader Melanie Morgan received the following e-mail from Cherie Quarterolo, the late Casey Sheehan's aunt and godmother, and is sent on behalf of Casey Sheehan’s family:

 

Hello again Melanie,

 

Our family has been so distressed by the recent activities of Cindy we are breaking our silence and we have collectively written a statement for release. Feel free to distribute it as you wish. Thanks – Cherie.

 

In response to questions regarding the Cindy Sheehan/Crawford Texas issue: Sheehan Family Statement:

 

The Sheehan Family lost our beloved Casey in the Iraq War and we have been silently, respectfully grieving. We do not agree with the political motivations and publicity tactics of Cindy Sheehan. She now appears to be promoting her own personal agenda and notoriety at the expense of her son's good name and reputation. The rest of the Sheehan Family supports the troops, our country, and our President, silently, with prayer and respect.

 

Sincerely,
Casey Sheehan's grandparents, aunts, uncles and numerous cousins.

 

Thank goodness someone in the Sheehan family puts family, country, and dignity above political motivation. At last we see where Casey got the heroic sense of duty and patriotism that led him to lay down his life for his friends. R.I.P.

 

ENDNOTES:

1. I was privileged to be a guest on “The Lee Rodgers and Melanie Morgan Show” on KSFO-AM on Thursday morning, when Melanie read the e-mail from Casey Sheehan’s aunt. She noted Cindy Sheehan’s long opposition to the president’s foreign policy at that time.

Ben Johnson is Managing Editor of FrontPage Magazine and co-author, with David Horowitz, of the book Party of Defeat. He is also the author of the books Teresa Heinz Kerry's Radical Gifts (2009) and 57 Varieties of Radical Causes: Teresa Heinz Kerry's Charitable Giving (2004).


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