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August 29, 2005

Another Response to Cindy Sheehan

Stephen Mansfield, author of The Faith of George W. Bush and The Faith of the American Solider as well as many other fine books recently posted the following letter to Cindy Sheehan. It is well worth taking the time to read carefully the thoughtful response to Ms. Sheehan's ongoing protests.

Dear Mrs. Sheehan,

You are in a firestorm of grief and what must be a disorienting swirl of world attention. For that reason, I will be as brief in my remarks as I hope to be compassionate.

I will not insult you by presuming to know your sorrow. The loss of a son in armed conflict abroad must be among the most soul-wrenching experiences possible. You are surely right to rage against the horrors of war, right to demand answers and right to reach for those of like mind.

I fear, though, that what began as a mourning mother’s righteous cry for meaning is becoming something that threatens to dishonor Casey’s heroism. Though I mean no disrespect, it is clear you are becoming swept up in a cynical drama that is far a field from the meaning of the war and your son’s sacrifice. From your blogging on Michael Moore’s web site to the pronouncements you feel obligated to make on the cause of Palestine, you have abandoned the moral high ground of a grieving mother and are in danger of becoming just another fleeting voice on the American pop culture landscape.

The central issue here is not whether George W. Bush meets with you again or whether your self-styled “peaceful occupation” of Crawford, Texas, ever wins you the explanation for “why our sons are dead” you say you want. The central issue is that when your son volunteered for military service, he placed himself upon an altar of sacrifice. Sadly, the ultimate sacrifice was indeed required. Yet he gave himself willingly, as all our soldiers do in this generation, and his death is therefore the noble death of a hero and not the needlessly tragic death of one accidentally or foolishly taken

What we must understand is that a pledge to military service is a surrender of rights, a surrender of comforts and, potentially, a surrender of life if the nation calls. What leaves us so stunned at the death of a soldier, beyond our grief for a life snuffed out and our personal loss, is often our failure to understand the noble calling of the profession of arms and the warrior code that gives this calling meaning. When your son, and the thousands like him serving today, pledged himself to military service, he did not just “join the army.” He offered himself to his God and his nation in an act of devotion that has been repeated for centuries. He entered the fellowship of those who offer their lives willingly in service to others. His death, though a horror, was a horror with meaning, willingly engaged.

I cannot know your sorrow. I can urge you, though, not to allow your son’s offering on what Lincoln called “the altar of freedom” to be tainted by the passing parade of trendy causes. I can also urge you to live now in the knowledge that your son’s passing ennobles our nation, just as I trust it will now ennoble you.

With deepest sympathies for your loss,

Stephen Mansfield

Posted by Tom at August 29, 2005 05:37 PM

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Our nation is not ennobled by the death of a soldier sent to suppress a threat to our nation (WMD) that did not exist.

Our nation is not ennobled by the death of a soldier sent to quell growing civil strife that did not exist before our citizens occupied Iraq.

Our nation is not ennobled by the death of a soldier sent to fight by a President and a Vice President who shirked their duties when they were called to fight in Vietnam and who, like every member of Congress who voted to send someone else's child to war, have no family member currently serving in Iraq.

Our nation is not ennobled by the deaths of soldiers that might have been prevented had our leaders provided them with proper armor.

Some disregard the fact that our nation was convinced to go to war based on the supposed imminent threat of WMD. Some have revised history to argue that we are in Iraq to liberate the Iraqis. How many Iraqis must die or be maimed before they are liberated? And why have we singled out the oppressed Iraqis for liberation, when our leaders won't even speak out against the Saudi government, which oppresses its people too. Saudi Arabia is after all, where over three-quarters of the 9/11 hijackers came from, not Iraq. Osama bin Laden, who our President never mentions anymore, reached his slimy hand into our backyard, not Saddam.

Some also disregard the fact that our current Secretary of Defense did not protest Saddam's use of chemical weapons against Iran or the Kurds, despite meeting with Iraqi leadership on behalf of the Reagan administration in Baghdad when one of these incidents occurred. Throughout the period that Rumsfeld was Reagan's Middle East envoy, Iraq was frantically purchasing hardware from American firms, empowered by the White House to sell. Our soldiers may now be fighting against some of that very same hardware that Rumsfeld was so anxious to sell Saddam years ago, even as Saddam gased his neighbors and then his own citizens.

I can't speak for Cindy Sheehan, but I know many people opposed to this war. We support our soldiers. But we believe there should be accountability from our government. Mansfield is right that when soldiers enlist they offer their service to their nation. But we as a nation have a pact with our soldiers: that we will not send them into harm's way unless necessary, and that we will make every effort to ensure their safety. President Bush violated this pact, and he should be held accountable.

Like most people I know who oppose this war, I also believe we should finish the job. This war has led to increased hatred of America and everything it represents. By our own government's admission, that makes us less safe, not more. If we can stabilize Iraq, perhaps we can reverse that trend. We also owe it to the Iraqis, whose lives we have cataclysmically changed, if not shattered. But we need our President to tell us what his plan is. "Stay the course" is not a plan. Playing whack-a-mole with insurgents is not a plan. And spreading our armed forces so thin they cannot respond to other crises is a very bad plan.

Again, without speaking for Cindy Sheehan, I believe most war opponents want our President to explain why our soldiers (and countless Iraqis) must continue to die or be maimed in this war. If he can't explain his plan to alter the course of the war, if he can't demonstrate progress or even benchmarks for success, then perhaps this war is unwinnable. This does not negate the sacrifices our soldiers have made, but it certainly precludes them from being asked to sacrifice more.

Posted by: dem at August 29, 2005 11:24 PM

dem, I won't bother to address each of your points, because it is clear that you choose to believe the propaganda and lies of the Left rather than the facts.

A threat that everyone in the world believes exists IS a threat that must be addressed, regardless of whether it actually exists.

Flying a supersonic jet with a reputation as a widow-maker is not shirking duty.

That you choose not to understand these basic tenets of reality disqualifies you from further comment.

Posted by: corrie at August 30, 2005 10:41 AM

Corrie, despite you insulting tone, I'd be happy to debate you point-by-point. For starters, you assert that Bush flew fast planes. Here's news for you: that is irrelevant. To simplify things for you, I'll skip over the accusations that his family's political clout got him a coveted Guard position that allowed him to avoid being drafted into fighting in Vietnam. Instead, let's focus on the FACT that Bush was never able to identify anyone that served with him while he was supposedly in the Alabama National Guard, nor was he able to provide any documentation (other than receipt of pay) certifying time spent there. Furthermore, Garry Trudeau, a political cartoonist, offered a $10,000 reward to anyone who could come forward and credibly claim he had served with Bush. Nobody earned the reward. Both of those FACTS are irreconcilable with the notion that Bush completed his Guard service in Alabama. Since you didn't challenge my claim about Cheney, I won't elaborate on that point.

Perhaps your memory has been clouded by time with regard to your second point. While many people thought Saddam might have illegal weapons (as do a lot of other countries), the FACT is that many challenged the assertion that he was a threat to the U.S. during the runup to the war. This included a lot of people in our country and much of the rest of the world. Various weapons inspectors were unconvinced. According to the head of British MI6, who was certainly in a position to know, "intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy". Even Colin Powell and his staff had serious doubts. And then of course there is the Pope, who vociferously opposed the war. Beyond the notion of "belief", which is apparently good enough for you, is the burden of "proof", which is reasonable to expect of our leaders when they call for war.

If you can enumerate the leftist propaganda in which you think I mistakenly believe, I am willing to provide links to news articles supporting my claims. Can you do the same? Or will you reject my FACTS because they come from the so-called "liberal MSM" that famously did not question the evidence for the non-existent weapons during the run-up to the war? If that is the case, I suggest you move to a country that has a free press. According to the Right, Iraq is looking really good these days.

Posted by: dem at August 30, 2005 08:40 PM


Is that supposed to be a reasoned response to dem? He gives a very reasoned response whether you agree with him or not. Your reply is just knee-jerk and lame.


Posted by: dem2 at August 31, 2005 09:22 AM

I agree with Dem2. Dem's comments weren't disrespectful and they were insightful and logical. They are deserving of a response, if you're capable of one. If not a response here, then at least a response within yourself.

Consider, "Could he be right? Have I been blindly following an immoral leader?" These are important questions to ask ourselves, whichever side we are on.

Posted by: Dan Trabue at August 31, 2005 01:36 PM