Cindy’s question

Cindy Sheehan’s son gave his life in service to an ill-defined policy, and she wants that definition clarified.

Sheehan, a resident of nearby Vacaville, lost her son, Casey, in Iraq a little more than a year ago. Since she suffered that loss, she has become increasingly critical of the war that took his life. She has been seeking answers from George W. Bush, the man whose administration drafted the policy that took her son to Iraq. Except for a brief trip home to California to visit her mother in the hospital, she has been waiting outside the president’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, ever since Bush began his August vacation there. It is the same sort of extended vacation he was on during the month leading up to the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001. Though the president is fond of telling the nation that he is a war president and that we all must sacrifice in the war against terror, he has spent 20 percent of his presidential tenure on vacation.

He also has spent much of his time in office using the blood of fallen soldiers to deflect questions about the wisdom of his policies. He says the men who died gave their lives in a “noble” cause, but Sheehan wants Bush to explain “what is so noble about an illegal war of aggression.” She wants the president to “stop using my son’s death as justification for this war.”

Ironically, it may have been her first meeting with Bush that set Sheehan on the path to Crawford in search of a second meeting. Summoned to the White House for a ceremony to honor fallen soldiers a few months after her son was killed, Sheehan remembers Bush entering the room and asking an aide, “Who all we honorin’ today?”

Sheehan later would describe that meeting as “bizarre and disgusting. He didn’t even know our names.” Sheehan described Bush’s eyes as “hollow shells” and added that “there was nothing in his eyes or anything else about him that showed me he really cared or had any real compassion at all.”

Once apolitical, Sheehan grew increasingly disaffected with Bush and the war. Last February, she wrote of her dead son: “Casey was told that he would be welcomed to Iraq as a liberator with chocolates and rose petals strewn in front of his unarmored Humvee. … Hundreds of our young people and thousands of Iraqis have been needlessly and senselessly murdered since George Bush triumphantly announced an end to ‘major combat’ almost 2 years ago.”

Administration attack dogs like Bill O’Reilly have been unleashed against Sheehan. O’Reilly says she’s a dupe of “the most radical elements in this country.” This is the same Bill O’Reilly who once said that if no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq, he would never trust the Bush administration again.

Throughout his presidency, Bush has been carefully sequestered, appearing only before specially selected crowds of partisans or at dinners with well-heeled contributors. The politically embarrassing fact of Cindy Sheehan waiting outside his ranch may yet force Bush to offer her a better justification for her son’s death than she’s been given thus far.

She deserves that explanation. We all do.