Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The Summit in Summit, Pt. 4: Cindy Sheehan Annotated

Mimi's up again Introducing Cindy Sheehan.

Whatever else people say about her, Sheehan is never accused of being a concise, disciplined speaker. On this date, she apparently was additionally hampered by an ear infection. How much of her topical meandering can be attributed to that and how much is Sheehan being Sheehan, I'll leave to you.

She is introduced as a Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
Standing ovation

So here's what I took down, along with my comments in italics.

This is my first talk in Ohio.
Everyone feels connected to Ohio because of what happened in 2004.
Ken Blackwell should be run out of the state.
He and Kathrine Harris have done more harm to this country than any other two people.

Paul Bremer responsible for my son’s death and he got a Medal of Freedom.
Colin Powell went to UN and lied through his teeth and knew he was lying and gets $75,000 per speaking engagement. Here's the first sign we're in trouble. Powell certainly wears his share of brown applesauce, but he was also the most honorable of the administration officials. By all accounts, his was a voice of reason, so naturally he was nudged out the door as soon as the ink was dry on the election results. Picking him out of Bush's rogues gallery for special mention is a sign of extremism.

Two things I can say to get applause.
-Impeach
-Dennis Kucinich. On the right track because he wants a Department of Peace.

Neocons plan on endless war in middle east. 14 permanent bases. Have to shut down the war machine.

I’m almost as disgusted with the Democrats as I am with the Republicans. Need more than rubber stamp. We’ve lost the Supreme Court. Haven’t lost Congress. What bothers me about lines like this is the utter refusal to acknowledge that good people can differ about an issue as fraught and complex as whether to go to war.

Can’t wait for 2006. I’m a pacifist. Casey was a pacifist too. These people are going down. They would kick us when we are down. So we have to kick them and kick them. But use our words, not violence. So to answer one of the questions from comments yesterday, Cindy Sheehan is someone who is talking about not fighting terrorists. At another point she mentions families of 9/11 victims who did not want their loss to be an excuse for the intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq. When someone argues against taking out the extant terrorist network in Afghanistan, my eyes glaze over.

Dennis Kucinich gave a good talk yesterday about our brothers and sisters in Iraq.

Need to move from a paradigm of patriotism to matriotism. Yes, she really said that.

Bush didn’t win. They cheated in Ohio. They used wedge issues like gay marriage. Voting irregularities. If Bush was president of any other country he wouldn’t be president anymore. It's not clear whether she's talking about differences in the electorate or differences between our system and a parliamentary system. Or if she is clear on what she means by this.

We have the power to change things.

I believe Bush can be impeached and removed from office.

Standing O

Q&A

Q: Do you believe the number dead is closer to 6000? It’s higher. If a soldier gets on plane out of country, not counted as KIA. This time of the Bush regime will be known as the time America lost its mind.

Q: Do you see signs that people are clued in?

A: Low poll ratings. Poll against war. Before last summer, there was no honest debate about the war. I told media I had to come down here because you wouldn’t ask the questions. Media grilling McClelland. Media almost grilling Bush the other day he almost had a meltdown.

Q: Sen. Pat Roberts and blocking phase 2 of investigation.

A: Not up on this. Know that it happened.

Q: What do you think about Murtha's plan?

A: Don’t like his plan. He wants strategic redeployment, only means war somewhere else. Want troops home. The PDA plan is bring all the troops home. Again, her position is one of ethical pacifism. I flirted with ethical pacifism in college. It's a noble philosophical position. It just doesn't work in a world where evil exists.

Q: Running for office? Will you stay in politics. Diane Feinstein’s husband is a war profiteer. Why not run against her?

Yes, Feinstein's husband is a war profiteer. I thought it was more important to support more pro-peace candidates. It’s not about right and left its about right and wrong. Have to get these homicidal maniacs out of our government.

Cindy’s website:
http://www.gsfp.org/

Won’t fight terrorism by killing the terrorists. Root causes of terrorism and changing our policies. What happened on 9/11 was horrible. 3000 innocent people died. GWB a terrorist on a scale beyond OBL. She saves the best for the last. I understand the problem with conflating Iraq and fighting terrorism, but it goes both ways. Just as progressives can't let the right treat the Iraq occupation and combatting terrorism as one, we can't let the far left channel fatigue for a bad war into support for untenable defense policies.

I assume that when Cindy Sheehan talks about "root causes," she's talking at least in part about economic disparities in the Islamic world. She should know that's not a sufficient policy. After all, she acknowledges that there are bad people in the world who do evil for reasons independent of life circumstances. She just believes they all live in America and work in DC.

The reference to "policies" is similarly troubling. We should amend our policies if our policies are unjust or ineffectual. We shouldn't change them just because people who don't like them fly planes into buildings.

The fact is, a vein of fanatical anti-modernist religious fascism exists in the Islamic world and must be confronted. Bush's policies for confronting radical Islam have been almost uniformly disasterous, but fact is confront it we must, and with military force. These are times that really press a committed pacifist. The root causes shibboleth feels like a cop-out to me.

Then there's the comparison between Bush and Bin Laden. And yes, friends on the Right, the BJ didn't pick up the quote, and yes, they were wrong on that score. Comparing regretable civilian casualties to terroristic intentional targeting of civilians is unacceptable rhetorical hyperbole and should be spotlighted when it happens. Certainly, examples of overreaching with terrorism metaphors abound on the Right -- here's today's example -- but I can't very well criticize that and give Cindy a pass, now can I?

Aside from the skinny guy with the Toshiba on his lap, most of the room give Sheehan her third standing o.

Even if I agreed with everything Sheehan says, I wouldn't agree with her rhetoric because I read polls. As it is, Sheehan's speech is consistent with a policy of extreme pacifism; a policy I cannot applaud. I'd like to know that I can call myself a progressive without being called a sellout or militarist, but when people around me so fervently embrace a radical like Sheehan I wonder.

4 comments:

Tim Russo said...

great piece pho.

bryan said...

this is the toughest issue for progressives to really figure out. it goes to the heart of our idealism vs. pragmatism divide in the democratic party.

i agree that the pacifist response is irresponsible and flat out dangerous in the face of the 9/11 terrorist. and the "it's our foreign policy, stupid" response is a small piece in a much larger puzzle. there are cultural, religious, and "x-factor" issues that all play into this clash.

more importantly, i am still waiting for a reasoned response to the iraq crisis. one that will not lead to world war three -- or a us-sponsored invasion of iran or syria.

ok. that's enough. very thought-provoking piece. if we can't smash our own golden idols now and again, the right will surely do it for us.

Yellow Dog Sammy said...

Thanks, I enjoyed and appreciated this.

pendleton_jb@yahoo.com said...

Well said, Pho. I still have hopes that we can maintain civil discourse in this country.

I fear that Cindy and her cohorts are committed to a vision of a different America. I am absolutely certain that the vast majority of Americans (while we may wish we weren't in Iraq and that people weren't dying), do not share her larger vision. I am equally positive that she intends to force her vision upon us if she can.

I am 54 years old and grew up in Berkeley. I know these people. It's always incrementalism. It starts with the camel's nose under the tent. Look at who she links with, they are the most extreme of the extreme. She is one of the watermelon people, "green" on the outside and "red" on the inside.

We must always make room for divergent opinions in our democracy, but there comes a point where someone is saying "Let's all cover ourselves in gasoline and take up smoking." We must have a mechanism for indentifying those people and helping them to find a quiet place where they can rest and not spread their insanity. Cindy, in my opinion, has reached that point. It's time to get the net. She's not just different, she's dangerous.

John

Thank you again for your well-reasoned comments.