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Cindy Sheehan: Symbol of Anti-War Movement
Mother of slain soldier brought respectability to critics of Bush administration
Timothy Savage (yamanin)     Print Article 
Published 2006-11-21 12:35 (KST)   
Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq, is in South Korea this week to speak out against the expansion of Camp Humphrey, a U.S. military base in the city of Pyeongtaek, south of Seoul.

Land for the base is being seized from local farmers, and much unrest and violence has already occurred over the last two controversial years.

Along with her Korean counterparts, she is also scheduled to speak against the proposed Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement at a prominent university in Seoul, Tuesday.
  <Editor's Note>
Cindy Sheehan meets with Iraq war protesters and Korean farmers facing eviction from land to make room for a U.S. military base in Pyongtaek, south of Seoul, Nov. 20.
©2006 Nam S.Y.
Love her or hate her, there is little doubt that Cindy Sheehan emerged as the face of the movement against the Iraq War in the United States.

Sheehan became an anti-war activist after her son, Casey, was killed in action in Baghdad on April 4, 2004. In June of that year, she met with U.S. President George W. Bush along with other military families. Dissatisfied with the results of that meeting, Sheehan began giving interviews to newspapers in which she criticized Bush's policies and questioned his reasons for the invasion of Iraq.

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In an open letter to the American president later that year Sheehan wrote: "It has been seven months since your ignorant and arrogant lack of planning for the peace murdered my oldest child. It has been two days since your dishonest campaign stole another election."

In January 2005, Cindy and eight others founded "Gold Star Families for Peace," an organization of military families against the war. But what really garnered her national and international attention was her decision, in August 2005, to set up camp outside of Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, demanding that he meet with her during one of his extended vacations.

Sheehan's often blunt criticisms of Bush's foreign policy have earned her condemnation from some quarters. She has also been accused of antisemitism, most notably by the political journalist Christopher Hitchens, based on comments attributed to her saying that her son died for Israel -- comments she has denied making.

While critics have accused Sheehan of exploiting her son's death, or of being exploited by others, her actions did bring about a sea change in the U.S. national debate over the Iraq War.

Prior to her arrival on the scene, supporters of the Bush administration had successfully portrayed opponents of the war as just a handful of Hollywood elitists and other members of the "loony left." As the mother of a slain soldier, Sheehan added an aura of respectability to the anti-war movement that was otherwise lacking. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, a critic of the war and supporter of Sheehan, stated, "the moral authority of parents who bury children killed in Iraq is absolute."

But while Sheehan's personal story was an important factor in her rise as symbol of the anti-war movement, timing also undoubtedly played a role. In June 2004, when Sheehan was meeting with Bush, polls for the first time showed that a slight majority of Americans believed that sending troops to Iraq was a mistake. With the presidential election campaign in full swing, critics of the war were emboldened to speak out publicly, and Sheehan provided the perfect mouthpiece.

As support for the war, and for President Bush himself, has continued to erode, the anti-war movement has become increasingly mainstream, and Cindy Sheehan's role consequently less prominent. But for both her supporters and her detractors, she will likely long be remembered as the face of the rapid erosion of support for a once-popular president and his "war of choice."
©2006 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Timothy Savage

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