The loss of a child is the single most tragic event that can befall a family. When my younger sister died at age 6, my parents seemed to withdraw into their own private world. I was 12 at the time, too young to fully understand the depths of their despair but old enough to experience the terrible sadness that crept into our lives, turning even happy moments wistful. Maybe that's why I've been slow to blame Cindy Sheehan for her anti-war antics outside President Bush's Crawford ranch, but that doesn't let the media off the hook for turning her into an icon of resistance to the Iraq War.
Sheehan, whose oldest son was killed in Iraq more than a year ago, has been front-page news in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and dozens of other major newspapers ever since she took up residence outside the president's private retreat. She says she won't leave until the president meets with her, and she's now been joined by about 100 other protesters. A bored press corps stuck in West Texas without much news to report has latched onto her story with a vengeance. The New York Times credits Mrs. Sheehan with having "invigorated the antiwar movement, altered the landscape of the president's vacation town and [drawn] a Hollywood celebrity ["Lord of the Rings" star Viggo Mortensen] out into the Texas heat," while acknowledging that her success "may be as much the result of external factors as Ms. Sheehan's compelling tale." But is Sheehan's story "compelling" beyond the sad fact she has lost a son, as have hundreds of others in a war that has gone on longer than all of us hoped?
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Sheehan's tale has been her co-option by the far Left, but that part of the story has been largely ignored by the mainstream press. James Taranto, editor of OpinionJournal.com, this week unearthed comments Sheehan made at an anti-war rally at San Francisco State University in April: "I'm going all over the country telling moms: 'This country is not worth dying for.' If we're attacked, we would all go out. We'd all take whatever we had. I'd take my rolling pin and I'd beat the attackers over the head with it. But we were not attacked by Iraq. We might not even have been attacked by Osama bin Laden if 9/11 was their Pearl Harbor to get their neo-con agenda through . . ."
Were these just the ravings of a distraught mother, who in the same speech called President Bush a terrorist and accused the United States of using nuclear weapons in Iraq? Sheehan made her odd remarks at a rally for attorney Lynne Stewart, who represented the mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993 and was convicted earlier this year of providing material support for terrorism when she acted as a conduit for terrorist instructions from her client Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. Interestingly, of the journalists who have canonized Sheehan, none has seen fit to report her earlier remarks or her advocacy on behalf of Stewart.
The media seem desperate for a vibrant, Vietnam-style anti-war movement in the United States. But so far, not even America's college students are obliging. Certainly large numbers of Americans have misgivings about the war in Iraq, but with an all-volunteer military, the young don't have the same impetus to take to the streets in protest. More importantly, most Americans still recall those scenes of the World Trade Center collapsing and the Pentagon in flames.
Perhaps Mrs. Sheehan truly believes the Bush administration and its "neo-con" -- read pro-Israel -- allies orchestrated the horrific deaths of 3,000 Americans in order to justify going to war with Iraq, but if so, she's gone mad. More likely, she's spouting the lies fed her by conspiracy theorists who hate America and Israel in equal amounts. But the public, who've been treated to a sanitized version of Cindy Sheehan's story, won't ever learn that by reading the front pages of the nation's leading newspapers.