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Published: Friday, 9/2/2005

Gold-star mother accomplished her mission

CHANCES are you heard about the Army mom who set up camp next to the presidential digs in Crawford, Texas. That alone means the woman succeeded beyond her wildest dreams to stoke the conscience of the nation about the Bush War in Iraq.

It means that, whether you're pro-Bush or anti-war, Cindy Sheehan's summer odyssey made an impression on you.

Frankly, I think that's all the late Casey Sheehan's mom ever wanted. The grieving mother of a young soldier killed in Iraq last year hoped to personalize official policy on the Bush War in Iraq - and did.

Her mission was to make people in high places feel her pain, or at least feel uncomfortable about her presences

Mission accomplished.

By the time she broke camp a couple of days ago, the Gold Star mother turned anti-war activist had gained worldwide attention in her quest to meet the man who sent her son into harm's way. I'll wager the evasive commander in chief will rue the day he decided not to invite Ms. Sheehan into his compound for a heartfelt reception and hearing.

In hindsight, the California crusader said, "If he'd met with me, then I would have gone home, and it would have ended there." Instead, he refused and she waited, galvanizing a sleepy peace movement around the country.

Of course, Ms. Sheehan's stubborn stand outside Dubya's sprawling hideout also aroused the animosity of right-wingers who attacked not only the motivation of the forlorn mom - calling her a witless pawn of the left - but how she mourned for her dead son.

"To expiate the pain of losing her firstborn son in the Iraq war, Cindy Sheehan decided to cheer herself up by engaging in Stalinist agitprop outside President Bush's Crawford ranch," said the ever classy Ann Coulter. "It's the strangest method of grieving I've seen since Paul Wellstone's funeral. Someone needs to teach these liberals how to mourn."

Drug addict and chattering chickenhawk Rush Limbaugh also referred to the Wellstone memorial in deriding Ms. Sheehan and her growing band of supporters as "basically a bunch of miserable, angry people exploiting death."

Even Dubya, try as he might to imitate the Artful Dodger, was forced to acknowledge the party spoiler outside his ranch with restrained sympathy while he noted that protesters like her were weakening the country and emboldening the enemy.

The smug son of a Bush then trotted out another military mom as counterpoint to the one ruining his vacation. He hailed Tammy Pruett, whose husband and five sons have served in Iraq, as the reason "America lives in freedom." Yet mothers who have lost sons and faith in their government are wrong to say so.

Still, the depths of the unfolding tragedy of the Bush War cannot be hidden forever just like the returning assembly line of flag-draped coffins. Mourners can't all be expected to accept their soldier's fate without question, although for many it's understandably the only way. Profound grief stiffens the resolve to wholly embrace the mission of the deceased out of a sense of fierce loyalty and pride.

It is far better to believe a young man in the prime of his life died to advance a noble cause than the trumped up agenda of a White House cabal using 9/11 as an excuse to settle an old score.

To entertain the latter as the reason your son or daughter was killed in a war without end is to pour salt on a searing wound. It is more than a mother can bear.

Yet worse for Cindy Sheehan is the nagging, heartsick feeling that her Casey died for naught, or at least for some scaled back, ambiguous nation-building goal that will be scaled back again.

Worse for Ms. Sheehan is the creeping doubt within that her son didn't die to save the world from weapons of mass destruction, or spread democracy, or make the world safer from plotting terrorists.

Only after the administration's reasons for invading Iraq disintegrated one by one-the nonexistent WMD's, a smoldering theocracy by any other name, and civil war- insurgency-imported terrorism on the march - did Cindy Sheehan snap.

She had to know the truth.

She owed it to her son and all the others like him dodging death daily in Iraq.

She became, said one observer, "a crowbar to open the lid on what had been sealed, which is the human dimension."

Her action made people uneasy, defensive, dismissive, sympathetic, supportive, and sensitized to the grief of war. Whatever the response, she could not be ignored.

Casey Sheehan's mom wanted people to react to the personal price of the Bush War whether they were kindred spirits, snide critics, or the otherwise occupied leader of the free world. She succeeded.



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