All Cindy Sheehan wanted to do was to discuss the issues surrounding the death of her son in Iraq, but in becoming a celebrity she unintentionally (and probably without any desire) exposed the disgusting tactics which have become so common in the right wing media and blogosphere. Just as during the entire Iraq war the right has been unwilling to honestly discuss issues such as the dishonesty behind Bush’s Iraq policy and developing an effective response to terrorism, they respond to Cindy Sheehan by resorting to character assassination and attempting to change the discussion to unrelated topics.
With Cindy Sheehan we see the right’s propensity to see everything as us versus them. While most liberal bloggers who have been following Cindy Sheehan don’t care if she is Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative, the right wing noise machine has generally resorted to their usual left versus right banter. It wouldn’t matter what party she has supported in the past–we’ve frequently seen them turn against long time Republicans who have spoken out against the abuses of the current Republican leadership.
Rather than allowing this to be an honest debate about Iraq, they are trying to turn it into a debate on Cindy Sheehan herself, using the techniques we have seen far too often. For example, they have taken some vague comments on Israel’s role in the mideast to attribute anti-Israel views to Sheehan which she has vehemently denied holding. They have even attempted to use misquotations of Sheehan to drive a wedge between Democrats and Jewish voters. Even if Sheehan has made some statements (and by no means has made the statements being attributed to her by the right) we realize that she is hardly a political expert, or someone experienced in dealing with this degree of publicity. We are not looking at Cindy Sheehan as someone to guide government foreign policy. This is just about a grieving mother who lost her son based upon lies.
The right wing noise machine has tried to discredit Sheehan’s grief by saying her son re-enlisted and therefore went willingly. Casey Sheehan re-enlisted based upon false claims that Iraq was threatening us with WMD. Casey Sheehan and many others enlisted or re-enlisted based upon claims we would be greeted as liberators and return home quickly. They did not join to fight a war based upon a lie which has had the result of undermining our national security and strengthening al Qaeda.
The divorce from reality which the right wing suffers from can be seen on the WMD issue. Although even the United States government has given up the hunt and concedes there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq before the war, the right wing pseudo-news sites and blogs still write as if the existence of WMD was a proven fact. Here’s just one example of how they distort the truth. Recently we had a conservative visitor commenting to one of our posts on Cindy Sheehan. Checking his site I found a reference to the chemical weapons found in Iraq last week, quoting another conservative blog as insisting nobody could believe that these weapons were not around before the war. The source of this report was a story in last week’s Washington Post which I reported on here. The same report quotes the United States military spokesman who reported on this find as saying “the suspected lab was new, dating from some time after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.” The Washington Post also summarized the issue by saying, “The Bush administration cited evidence that Saddam Hussein’s government was manufacturing weapons of mass destruction as the main justification for the invasion. No such weapons or factories were found.”
The right has even resorted to their usual “flip-flop” attack line in claiming that Sheehan is expressing different views now than she did when she met with Bush the first time after the death of her son. The Vacaville California Reporter has covered Sheehan extensively since Casey’s death and spoke out against these charges, noting that in the attacks starting by Drudge “only portions of our story were printed. Left out were the Sheehans’ reservations about the war.” They compared Sheehan’s views over time and stated, “We don’t think there has been a dramatic turnaround. Clearly, Cindy Sheehan’s outrage was festering even then.”
Outrage is what we should all be feeling. Outrage against this war, and outrage against the deceitful tactics of the right which have dominated the national discussion on Iraq as well as most issues which matter. These tactics are disturbing enough when applied to every day political arguments. They are especially odious when applied to a mother grieving over the death of her son.