Cindy Sheehan, whose son Casey was killed in action in Iraq on April 4, 2004, has become the face of the anti-war movement in the United States. While her grief is understandable, her rhetoric is outrageous.
As the mother of a son killed in battle in Iraq, she originally struck a sympathetic chord, whether you supported the war in Iraq or opposed it. One cannot help but empathize with the agony of a bereaved mother. But that has changed over the months, and I believe that many Americans who viewed her with sympathy no longer do so.
Many Americans, myself included, now see her as a person who has come to enjoy the celebratory status accorded to her by the radicals on the extreme left who see America as the outlaw of the world. These radicals are not content to be constructive critics. They are bent on destroying this country.
Some of them want to turn America into a radical socialist state. Others hope to create a utopia. But regardless of their agendas, how can Cindy Sheehan's supporters defend her shameful statement, "This country is not worth dying for." While we recognize the United States is far from perfect, we are still head and shoulders above most other countries in the world in every respect. We remain the place where almost all others, given the chance, want to come to live. We continue to be the land of opportunity. We are the world's leading economy.
Yes, there is far too great a difference between the incomes of the rich and the poor. Yes, we haven't provided universal medical care as a matter of right for all of our citizens. Yes, minorities still suffer from discrimination socially, in housing, jobs and education. But we have a political system that for more than 200 years has allowed the electorate to work its will through regularly held elections. The government follows the will of the people, or it will no longer stay in power.
Those who rail against the United States have simply failed to sell their message to the public at large. They keep losing elections, local as well as national. Rather than broadening their appeal, they have narrowed it.
I supported and still support the war in Iraq, because our Congress and president had every right to rely on the advice of the CIA that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Last Sunday, Tim Russert of "Meet The Press" summed up the situation prevailing before the war, saying, "Post-Sept. 11, there was a fear of terrorism, an inability to know whether there were weapons of mass destruction by the public or by the media. George W. Bush said there were. Bill and Hillary Clinton said there were. The Russians, French and Germans, who opposed the war, said there were. Hans Blix of the U.N. said there were." Iraq had fought an eight-year war against Iran resulting in a million casualties, using poison gas against the Kurds, who were citizens of Iraq, and against the Iranian army.
Yes, since the 2003 invasion, we have not found any present supplies of WMD. Nevertheless, based on advice from CIA counterparts advising every member nation of the U.N. Security Council, the Security Council, including Syria, adopted Resolution 1441 unanimously, finding Iraq had weapons of mass destruction for which it had not accounted and advising Iraq that failure to account was cause for war. Iraq refused to account for them to the U.N. We and our allies were right to invade, notwithstanding that other countries, terrified by the prospect of terrorism against them and tempted by corruption at the U.N. masterminded by Saddam Hussein through the Oil-For-Food program and lucrative vendor contracts with Hussein's regime, did not join us.
As I have often stated, we have accomplished our original goal to prevent Iraq from threatening us or its regional neighbors. We should declare victory and get out. Yes, there probably will be a civil war among the Kurds, Sunni and Shia. If the U.N. -- which is still under a cloud because of the "Oil for Food" scandal -- decides to take a military role in Iraq to stop the civil war, we can join them at that time. Having accomplished our original mission, we should no longer be fulfilling the obligations of other countries, such as Germany and France, which have had a free ride to date. Even in Afghanistan, the latter NATO allies, do not participate in combat duty, leaving that and the ensuing casualties for the United States to bear.
President George W. Bush summed up his views on Iraq when he stated, "When the Iraqi army stands up, the American Army will stand down." I have low expectations of that happening in the immediate future. The estimates provided by the Bush administration on our getting out range from two to 10 years. I do not believe we should wait that long, because of the casualties that would be involved. We should get out now, leaving the U.N. in charge. Although I believe that we should leave Iraq, I do not accept Sheehan's outrageous statements.
Sheehan has joined those who rail against Israel, labeling Israel as the culprit with her comment, "You get America out of Iraq, you get Israel out of Palestine and the terrorism will stop." Is that why Sunni and other terrorists have intentionally killed thousands of Shia civilians, labeling them, according to al-Zarqawi, infidels? Is that why Arab fundamentalists have declared war against all Christians and Jews? According to Wikipedia, on Aug. 15, on the Chris Matthews Show, Sheehan said, "she would not have responded differently to her son's death had he died in Afghanistan rather than in Iraq. Sheehan argued that the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan was 'almost the same thing as the Iraq war.'" Remember, the U.N. Security Council authorized the invasion of Afghanistan and the war against the Taliban government.
Sheehan's personal attacks on President Bush include comments in a speech on April 27, 2005, when she said, "We are not waging a war on terror in this country. We're waging a war of terror. The biggest terrorist in the world is George W. Bush." Shameful.
According to Wikipedia, Sheehan wrote, "Casey was killed in the Global War of Terrorism waged on the world and its own citizens by the biggest terrorist outfit in the world: George and his destructive neo-con cabal." In an interview on CBS, Sheehan referred to the foreign insurgents coming into Iraq, who are condemned as terrorists even by other Arab countries, as well as the Unityed States and Great Britain, as "freedom fighters." On Sept. 16, she said, "Pull our troops out of occupied New Orleans and Iraq." On the one hand, she and her supporters urge that the National Guard be brought back from Iraq to be used in New Orleans, and on the other hand, she condemns their use there now.
In addressing a veterans group on Aug. 5, she demeaned herself with the use of truly outrageous remarks hurled at the president, describing him as "a lying bastard," "that jerk," "that filth spewer and warmonger" and "that evil maniac." Sheehan appeared last weekend in Washington, D.C., leading the parade in a picture captured by the media that included Jesse Jackson, Julian Bond and Al Sharpton.
On Monday of last week, while Sheehan and her supporters were in Washington protesting at the White House against the presence of U.S. military forces in Iraq -- those forces there at the request of the democratically elected Iraqi government -- according to The New York Times, "Armed men dressed as police officers burst into a primary school in a town south of Baghdad on Monday, rounded up five Shiite teachers and their driver, marched them to an empty classroom and killed them, a police official said." Sheehan believes them to be "freedom fighters." Of course, Sheehan has the right to state her opinion in a country she believes shouldn't be defended. We who disagree with her statements, we who believe this country deserves our thanks, love and willingness to defend it, also have the right to express our views. Speak up, America.
Edward I. Koch is a former mayor of New York and a contributor to JewishWorldReview.com.