But Cindy Sheehan has failed to understand that her positive role in the anti-war movement has been pretty much played out. She's been believing her own press for too long. And now, she's gone far enough that she needs to be disowned by her colleagues on the left. On her blog last week, she wrote:
Let's set up Camp Caseys in front of recruiter's offices to stop our children from even enlisting to wear a uniform for the war profiteers. Let's set up Camp Caseys in front of the Pentagon… Congress… Congressional offices… embassies… the White House… propaganda media centers… war profiteers… President's vacation homes… Karl Rove's DC home… the list for valid protest locations is endless...but not in front of our troops.I'll grant that she was writing in opposition to the idea of setting up a "Camp Casey" in front of the military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, that is just off the NATO military headquarters on the U.S. air base in Kaiserslautern. I've been to both locations in the past, visiting my parents, and I agree with Sheehan that these are not appropriate locations for Americans to be protesting the war. First of all, seriously wounded troops coming from from Iraq will stop at that hospital in Landstuhl on their way home. They do not need to be exposed to political protest about the reason why they are suffering, at least until after they've had a chance to re-integrate with their families and other domestic support groups. Secondly, it's on foreign soil and in front of our allies and therefore a disgrace to the country. Like it or not, folks, we are in a fight and whether we ought to be in that fight or not is a matter to decide at home. I've no objection to protests here in the States, even very high-profile ones that made the world news. But the world needs to know that when we come for a fight, we're going to fight -- or else our efforts at diplomacy and peaceful problem-solving will not be taken seriously, and then we'll have to fight.
But these are not the reasons that the left should disown Sheehan. Read her quote above again. She said, in all seriousness and in active encouragement of her political entourage:
Let's set up Camp Caseys in front of recruiter's offices to stop our children from even enlisting to wear a uniform for the war profiteers.A blogger with whom I am unfamiliar got it exactly right:
No, let’s not. I have all kinds of problems with the government but the last thing that I want to do right now is starve the military for recruits. It’s like some denigrating leftie caricature. So we want out of Iraq, great. I’m on board. Now find some way to accomplish that which doesn’t leave the military even less equipped to handle real-deal threats and set up “the left” as some sort of enemy of national service. Seriously, this has to be the most counterproductive use of energy that I’ve ever seen.Quite so. The left in this country -- hell, even the Democratic party, which is not nearly so leftist as its "progressive" wing or the extreme fringes which now embrace Cindy Sheehan -- have a big image problem of appearing unpatriotic. Ronald Reagan first played that card in 1980 and damn if it doesn't keep on working. I've never believed that Democrats are unpatriotic or that they don't love the country just because they disagree with Republican ideas about foreign policy, military policy, or anything else for that matter. Offering a different point of view is not unpatriotic, it's how the country is supposed to work.
Protesting military recruitment centers is unpatriotic. The military is doing what its political leaders have instructed it to do. We certainly don't want the military to do otherwise. And if you're going to claim to be "pro-soldier," that means you have to admit that being a soldier is a good thing. Now, I have a hard time squaring that idea with Sheehan's dewey-eyed claim that "Killing other members of the human race is barbaric and abhorrent and should never be used to solve conflicts," seeing as killing people is what soldiers do. That's why we have a military -- so we can kill our enemies, who happen to be human beings. But I'm sidetracking myself here.
The military is the embodiment of our national strength. It is the only way available to us to project our will and our power in the world. It is the reason we are powerful. Without it, we would not be powerful -- we would be weak and at risk of being conquered by nations with far fewer scruples about how to deal with newly-acquired subjects than we have. While you may disagree with the manner in which that power has been used in Iraq (and that sort of dissent can be patriotic), protesting recruiting centers means that you believe there is something inherently wrong or immoral with joining the military.
And that, Cindy Sheehan, means that you believe that your son was part of an evil organization, and that you are actually ashamed that he fought in Iraq. If you play that card, it plays into the hands of your adversaries -- it feeds them ammunition that you are the opposite of a patriot, it lets them paint you as "anti-soldier." No matter how you clean it up, that sentiment is the one of a long-haired hippie who does not care about the country and reflexively hates the military. Cindy -- don't let Karl Rove make you out to be one of these guys (who I'm sure are very patriotic and love the military, but they look pretty silly).
Sheehan has crossed a line and made herself a tool for those whom she would oppose, which is politically very unwise. She's also crossed a line of honor and appropriate conduct, which is socially objectionable. There is patriotism in protest, but by abandoning her message and attacking the military -- whose members she claims to be protecting -- she has sacrified whatever claim to moral high ground she once might have had.