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Dear Useful Idiot
On Cindy Sheehan's Dear President Bush.


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My teenage daughter, who is a more sympathetic person than I am, thinks baldly calling Cindy Sheehan an idiot is a bit harsh, so I’ll amend: Cindy Sheehan is a useful idiot, a rattle-headed tool of everyone from Not In Our Name, who even as the Twin Towers were still smoldering worried more about retaliation against the poor Taliban than about women oppressed by the Taliban; to pro-Palestinian terrorist apologists; to your friendly neighborhood Stalinists at various branches of International ANSWER, whose objectives range from freeing Mumia to putting a bright and happy spin on daily life in North Korea.

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And yet the most idiotic statement in Sheehan’s new book, Dear President Bush, comes not from Sheehan herself but from Howard Zinn, who writes in the introduction: “A box-cutter can bring down a tower. A poem can build up a movement. A pamphlet can spark a revolution.”

A box-cutter can bring down a tower. By now, I suppose, we should be used to the hard Left’s extending underdog status to the worst of mass murderers; still, the sheer gall of beginning a series of David-and-Goliath metaphors with that one is breathtaking.

So a spunky little box-cutter took on those big old capitalistic towers, the same way that a brave little pamphlet like Dear President Bush takes on Bush and his evil policies. (The publisher is City Lights’s Open Media Series; City Lights is the San Francisco bookstore famously dedicated to free speech, although it won’t carry anything by Oriana Fallaci because she’s “fascist.”)

That Zinn’s introduction overshadows anything in Cindy Sheehan’s book underscores what a puppet she is of the more experienced Left. She’s still their most useful symbol of that strange new notion of bleeding-heart entitlement: All citizens (or maybe, these days, all illegal aliens) who disagrees with the president are entitled to have him stop what he’s doing and listen to their complaints individually–especially if they’re parents of soldiers killed fighting in Iraq.
Cindy Sheehan’s maudlin narcissism has already been extensively examined, but for those unfamiliar with her philosophy, Dear President Bush is a good primer. “Was it freedom and democracy?” she asks rhetorically about the purpose of her soldier son Casey’s death. “Bulls**t. He died for oil.” This comes a few pages after her solution for problems in the Mideast: “We need to be more fair with policies that way too heavily favor Israel.”

But did Casey die for oil or Israel? Because if it’s Israel, then the obvious Peace Mom solution would be to do whatever those oil-producing, Israel-hating countries want. But if Bush only cares about oil, like she says, then why does he “way too heavily favor Israel”?

The Left hates it when our current situation is compared to World War II, but Sheehan argues that even that war wasn’t justified. “By the time we got into World War II it was pretty far gone,” she observes mysteriously, then asks: “How many generations in this country have we damaged by our policies of aggression?”

This new book reveals Cindy to be not just a historian and international-relations expert, but also a font of child-rearing advice. “I told my four children from the time that they were small that it is always wrong to kick, bite, hit, scratch, or pull hair,” she writes at one point. The italics are hers, so presumably any kicking or hair-pulling those passengers did on United Flight 93 was also wrong. Better to have let those spunky box-cutter-wielding Davids hit their Goliath targets.

A blunt object to the head, though, is apparently okay in some circumstances, such as when parents have adult children who are thinking of enlisting in the military. A few pages before she got into her anti-hair-pulling screed, Cindy expresses the wish that she had “knocked [Casey] out and taken him to Canada… it is too late for me and my son, but it is not too late for you.”

I guess I can call her Cindy, by the way, since in her open letter to Barbara Bush she refers to the president as George. Cindy also has an etiquette bone to pick with Bush’s mother: “He wouldn’t speak to me,” she writes about her unsuccessful trip to Crawford. “I think that showed incredibly bad manners. Do you think a president, even if it is your son, should be so inaccessible to his employers?”

Oh, and by the way, please don’t keep arguing that young adults in the military are, after all, adults. Cindy knows better, because she’s reproduced and they usually haven’t. “An 18- or 19-year-old is not an adult,” she explains. “My son was 24 when they killed him. He was single, no children. You know, by 24 I was already married with three children.”

You know, I wonder if her next cause will be to deny voting rights to childless people under 30, but what with being an expert on history, international relations, child-rearing, and etiquette, I guess her plate these days is already pretty full.

Cindy Sheehan is not your ordinary idiot. She continues to inspire idiocy in others, which is why she remains such an icon. Zinn’s introduction to her book is just the latest example, but it’s still rivaled by Maureen Dowd’s remarkable statement about Sheehan, that “the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute.”

I still wonder how that particular Dowd doozy was ever taken seriously. The law in civilized societies recognizes that grieving families are not always in their right minds. This is why we don’t, for instance, allow them the moral authority to form lynch mobs, however justified this may seem at the time.

But the Cindy Sheehan agenda extends far beyond her (or, actually, her handlers’) disagreement with the war in Iraq, which Cindy and her puppet masters have redefined to mean a disagreement with U.S. foreign policy in general, and in particular Israel’s right to exist.

“[My son] was killed for lies and for a PNAC Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel,” she said last year. “We were told that we were attacked on 9/11 because the terrorists hate our freedoms and democracy … not for the real reason, because the Arab Muslims who attacked us hate our middle-eastern foreign policy.”

Perhaps Cindy and those who pull her strings are correct: The Islamists would no longer mean us any harm if only we allowed them their dream of pushing every man, woman, and child in Israel into the sea. (And also, maybe we really should have left Saddam alone, with his torture rooms and expansionist ideas and mass gassings of his own citizens, even if the victims in Iraq weren’t Jews.) The rest of the world, finally Israeli-free, could then live in peace and harmony forever.

Inconveniently, though, that didn’t really seem to be Osama bin Laden’s goal when he attacked the United States–not Israel–and made a lot of noises about restoring the Caliphate around the world. But never mind: Let us suppose that Sheehan and those who share her ideas about appeasement are right.

You still have to wonder about the absolute moral authority of someone who considers the mass slaughter of civilians justified if it means her own particular soldier son might still be alive.

Catherine Seipp is a writer in California who publishes the weblog Cathy’s World. She is an NRO contributor.

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