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ISSUE 119 VOL 2 PUBLISHED 9/23/2005

Sheehan leaves limelight

By Evan Hall
Contributing Writer

Friday, September 23, 2005

Over a month and a half has passed since Cindy Sheehan set up camp outside President Bush’s Crawford, Texas, ranch, demanding a meeting with the president and an explanation for her son’s death in Iraq.

She could have never imagined the shockwave she would send throughout the nation as her demonstration’s cause caught fire and revitalized dormant anti-war protests.

Today, Sheehan has all but faded from the limelight as the horrific crisis of Hurricane Katrina rightly takes center stage. It would appear that the sun is setting on her saga, yet it’s still unclear what Sheehan’s legacy will be.

If nothing else, Sheehan put a painfully honest face on the tragedy in Iraq, which often seems so distant. She opened many Americans up to the grief, the confusion and the frustration they share with Sheehan but didn’t know how to express.

In effect, Sheehan personalized opposition to the Iraq war. Until her courageous stand, that opposition was largely an underground operation.

Though she may have disappeared from the headlines, Sheehan remains a thorn in President Bush’s side. Her message has resonated with the growing number of Americans – on both sides of the aisle – who are losing confidence in their leader and in his war.

A USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll taken on Sept. 16-18 revealed that only 32 percent of Americans approve of President Bush’s handling of Iraq, compared to 67 percent who disapprove.

Public sentiment towards the president, undoubtedly tied to his sluggish response to Hurricane Katrina, has soured; his 40 percent approval rating matches the all-time low set during Sheehan’s vigil in late August.

I’m not trying to blame everything on President Bush or to put Cindy Sheehan on a pedestal. Though I agree with her cause in many respects, I think Sheehan is being a bit hasty in blaming Bush for America’s vulnerability to Katrina and in calling for the immediate removal of troops from Iraq.

I do believe that a plan is needed, such as Sen. Russ Feingold’s (D-Wis.) call to bring home our troops by the end of the year. President Bush continually insists that the U.S. must “stay the course” in Iraq, yet it’s unclear just what that course entails.

What exactly is the mission, and is there a plan to get it done? The violence and destruction in Iraq grinds on as American troops and Iraqi civilians die at an alarming rate. The war is stretching into its third year and the U.S. death toll is near 2,000. When will we reach a breaking point?

Some contend that Sheehan is merely a talking head for a liberal agenda, using her son’s death for political gain. While it’s impossible to doubt that Sheehan has some political savvy, it’s also impossible to deny the genuine sorrow of a mother trying to make sense of her son’s death.

President Bush continues to exploit comparable emotions every time he mentions Sept. 11; as grounds to start a war; to endorse his “unwavering strength” in his 2004 reelection campaign; and as a promised blueprint for his leadership in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

As Sheehan wraps up her cross-country “Bring Them Home Now Tour” with a march in Washington, D.C., this weekend, she will undeniably be the subject of speculation.

Whether mainstream America accepts Sheehan’s cause or dismisses her as a radical jaded by her superstar status could be pivotal at this turning-point in the anti-war protests.

The question remains: Has Sheehan’s vigil succeeded? Granted, Sheehan never did get her heart-to-heart talk with the president, and she probably never will.

Yet she has accomplished so much more by awakening the nation to the human dimension of this senseless war. Perhaps President Bush could silence Sheehan and all the war’s critics by answering only one question: “What noble cause did my son die for?”

The problem is, he still has no answer to give.

Contributing writer Evan Hall is a first year from Luck, Wis. He majors in English.

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