- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 21, 2005

Cindy Sheehan’s son Casey died in Sadr City last year, and that is supposed to put her beyond reproach. For as the New York Times’ Maureen Dowd informed us: “The moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute.”

Really? Well, what about the other parents who buried children killed in Iraq? There are, sadly, hundreds: They honor their loved ones’ service to the nation, and so don’t make the news. There’s one Cindy Sheehan and she’s on TV round the clock. Because, if you’re as heavily invested as Miss Dowd in the notion those “killed in Iraq” are “children,” then Mrs Sheehan’s status as grieving matriarch is a bonanza.

They’re not children in Iraq; they’re grown-ups who made their own decision to join the military. That seems difficult for the left to grasp. Ever since America’s all-adult, all-volunteer army went into Iraq, the antiwar crowd have made a sustained effort to characterize them as “children.” If a 13-year old wants to have an abortion, that’s her decision and her parents shouldn’t get a look-in. If a 21-year-old wants to drop to the broadloom in Bill Clinton’s Oval Office, she’s a grown woman and free to do what she wants. But, if a 22- or 25- or 37-year-old serves his country overseas, he’s a wee “child” who isn’t really old enough to know what he’s doing.

I get many e-mails from soldiers in Iraq, and they sound much more grown-up than most Ivy League professors and certainly more than Maureen Dowd, who writes as if she’s auditioning for a minor supporting role in “Sex and the City.”

The infantilization of the military promoted by the left is deeply insulting to America’s warriors but it suits the antiwar crowd’s purposes. It enables them to drone ceaselessly that “of course” they “support our troops,” because they want to stop the Bush war machine from exploiting these poor confused moppets.

I resisted writing about “Mother Sheehan” (as one leftie has proposed designating her), as it seemed obvious she was at best a little unhinged by grief and at worst mentally ill. It’s one thing to mourn a son’s death and even question the cause for which he died, but quite another to roar he was “murdered by the Bush crime family.”

Also: “You tell me the truth. You tell me that my son died for oil. You tell me that my son died to make your friends rich. You tell me my son died to spread the cancer of Pax Americana. … You get America out of Iraq, you get Israel out of Palestine.”

And how about this? “America has been killing people on this continent since it was started. This country is not worth dying for.” That was part of her warm-up act for a speech by Lynne Stewart, “activist” lawyer convicted of conspiracy for aiding terrorists convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

You can see why Lynne is grateful to Mrs. Sheehan. But why is Elizabeth Edwards sending out imploring letters headlined “Support Cindy Sheehan’s right to be heard”? The politics isn’t difficult: The more Cindy Sheehan is heard, the more obvious it is she has thrown her lot in with kooks most Americans would rather avoid as much as possible.

Don’t take my word for it, ask her family. Casey Sheehan’s grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins issued the following statement: “The Sheehan Family lost our beloved Casey in the Iraq war and we have been silently, respectfully grieving. We do not agree with the political motivations and publicity tactics of Cindy Sheehan. She now appears to be promoting her own personal agenda and notoriety at the expense of her son’s good name and reputation. The rest of the Sheehan Family supports the troops, our country, and our president, silently, with prayer and respect.”

Ah, well, they’re not immediate family, so they lack Cindy’s “moral authority”. But how about Casey’s father, Pat Sheehan? Last Friday, in Solano County Court, Casey’s father Pat Sheehan filed for divorce. As the New York Times explained Cindy’s “separation,” “Although she and her estranged husband are both Democrats, she said she is more liberal than he is and now more radicalized.”

Toppling Saddam and the Taliban (Mrs. Sheehan opposes U.S. intervention in Afghanistan, too), destroying al Qaeda’s training camps and helping 50 million Muslims on the first steps to free societies aren’t worth the death of a single soldier. But Cindy Sheehan’s hatred of Mr. Bush is worth the death of her marriage. Watching her and her advanced case of Bush Derangement Syndrome on TV, I feel as I felt about that mentally impaired Aussie concert pianist who played at the Oscars a few years.

Yet in the wreckage of Pat and Cindy Sheehan’s marriage there is surely a lesson for the Democratic Party. As Cindy says, they’re both Democrats, but she’s “more liberal” and “more radicalized.” There are a lot of less liberal and less radicalized Democrats out there: they’re soft-leftish on health care and the environment and education and so forth; many have doubts about the war, but they love their country, they have family in the military, and they don’t believe in dishonoring American soldiers to make a political point.

The Democratic Party’s problem is that the Cindys are now the loudest voice: Michael Moore, Howard Dean, moveon.org, and Air America, the flailing liberal radio network distracting attention from its own financial scandals by flying down its afternoon host Randi Rhodes to do her show live from Camp Casey. The last time I heard Miss Rhodes she was urging soldiers called up for Iraq to refuse to go — i.e., to desert.

On unwatched Sunday talk shows, you can still stumble across the occasional sane responsible Democrat. But, in the absence of any serious intellectual attempt to confront their long-term decline, all the left’s energy is with the fringe.

The Democratic Party is a coalition of Pat Sheehans and Cindy Sheehans, and the noisier the Cindys get the more estranged the Pats are likely to feel. Sorry about that, but, if Mrs. Sheehan can insist her son’s corpse be the determining factor in American policy on Iraq, I don’t see why her marriage can’t be a metaphor for the state of the Democratic Party.

Casey Sheehan was a 21-year-old man when he enlisted in 2000. He re-enlisted for a second tour, and he died after volunteering for a rescue mission in Sadr City. Mrs. Sheehan says she wishes she had driven him to Canada, though that’s not what he would have wished, and it was his decision.

His mother has now left Crawford, officially because her mother has had a stroke, but promises to return. I doubt she will.

Perhaps deep down she understands her grief curdled into a narcissistic rage, and most Americans will not follow where she has gone — to the wilder shores of anti-Bush, antiwar, anti-Iraq, anti-Afghanistan, anti-Israel, anti-American paranoia.

Casey Sheehan’s service was not the act of a child. A shame you can’t say the same of his mom’s new friends.

Mark Steyn is the senior contributing editor for Hollinger Inc. Publications, senior North American columnist for Britain’s Telegraph Group, North American editor for the Spectator, and a nationally syndicated columnist.

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