Cindy Sheehan is the mother of a fallen soldier, Casey Sheehan, a man who volunteered to serve his country and gave his life so that people in Iraq might have a government that did not threaten them, and us. As such, she is entitled to our sympathy and gratitude.
Unfortunately, she has lately become something else: the poster child for surrender. With her decision to camp out near President Bush’s home in Crawford, Texas, to demand immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, Ms. Sheehan has morphed into a pawn in the hands of partisans who are indifferent whether the United States is defeated on the central front in this global war — as long as Mr. Bush, his administration and party are laid low.
The media circus that has surrounded and amplified all of Ms. Sheehan’s increasingly strident rhetorical outbursts (she says she won’t pay taxes until she gets her son back and wants the president impeached for war crimes) may, by so doing, have filled a void in their August doldrums programming. Their 24 hour per day, seven days a week coverage of Casey Sheehan’s mom has done something else, however: Together with polls showing flagging support for the president, it has further encouraged the conviction of our Islamofascist enemies that, as they expected, an indolent and self-indulgent United States cannot stand up to determined, ruthless foes.
That perception can have but one effect: It puts an even bigger premium on the lives of every one of Casey’s comrades in Iraq and elsewhere, and to foreclose the outcomes for which he and the other fallen gave their lives. Even before his mom became a spectacle, the Islamists hoped — as in Beirut in 1983 and Somalia in 1994 — killing enough American troops would make the rest withdraw ignominiously. Handing the U.S. such defeats enhances the claims to leadership and power of those responsible for driving them out, effectively eliminating alternatives that may have been more sympathetic to Western values and interests.
A test case is under way at this writing. Israel is forcibly removing settlers from the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank that will be turned over to Palestinian control. Already, the Islamofascists of Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and factions of Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah movement are claiming their terrorism forced the Israelis to “disengage.”
The perpetrators of such terror are sure to dominate the emerging Palestinian state, even while insisting they will continue their violent intifada until achieving “occupation” of the rest of “Palestine” by Israel’s complete destruction.
Does anyone really believe that, having rewarded the terrorists, Israel will see less terror against Israel in the future? Common sense tells us that, as the Palestinians obtain billions in financing from the West, arms (at U.S. insistence) from Israel, unimpeded and unmonitored use of a seaport, airport and land border with Egypt, the ability of Israel’s enemies to increase the number and lethality of attacks on the Jewish State from behind internationally recognized boundaries will only grow.
It is inconceivable we would fare better if the United States and its coalition partners in Iraq yielded to the demands of the Surrender-Now crowd. Iraq would become at best a new safe-haven for terrorism against the West, at worst, a renewed state-sponsor of such terror. The promise of an Iraqi partner in this war would be squandered, the best hope of encouraging emergence in the Mideast of moderate, peaceable and prosperous states foreclosed, America’s enemies emboldened and her friends forced to reconsider their allegiance to us.
Worst, at least from the perspective of their loved ones, the sacrifice made by people like Casey Sheehan would be for naught. Yet his mom insists, “You get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine and you’ll stop the terrorism.”
Ms. Sheehan is entitled to her pain and anger. She is, of course, entitled to express them appropriately, as well. But her loss of a son does not give her particular standing with respect to analyzing the nature of this conflict or the consequences of abandoning the fight.
The foes who wield terror against us are not animated by grievances, real or perceived, as much by a totalitarian political ideology. Its stated goal is a global caliphate under a Taliban-like religious code. Withdrawal under fire — surrender by any other name — will not “stop the terror.” It will ensure there is more of it here, en route to subjecting the U.S. and every other nation to the Islamofascists’ dominance and Shari’a.
One hundred and forty-three years ago next month, the single bloodiest battle of the Civil War was fought at Antietam, Md. From the perspective of the more than 20,000 mothers who lost their sons that day, their sacrifice must have been no less wrenching or hard to justify than was Ms. Sheehan’s. Had Abraham Lincoln given up at that point, the nation would have been divided, slavery perpetuated and prospects for freedom in the world darkened. Now, as then, we must stay the course.
Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.