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News & Comments

On Loyalty - An Open Letter to US Troops in Afghanistan and Iraq


I Have Never Seen A Freer Man - The Case of Sergeant Benderman

How Best Support The Troops?

Hypocrites and Liars By Cindy Sheehan

Cindy Sheehan: She's Paid For Her Access In Blood

Why Casey Sheehan was killed

A Simple Question and the Power of Shame

Support The Troops -- Bring Them Home!

Please Dont Support My Troop

Members of Congress Ask Bush to Stop Undercounting U.S. Casualties

see also


VIDEO Enemy Image

Boots on the Ground -- A Photo Essay


Recruiting at Schools - Lies and Practices


The New Draft


Feres Doctrine vs. Oath of Allegiance


Crude Facts about Combat


Health Issues & Redress

Veterans Sites:

V.F.V.S. - Voice For Veterans Services

Portland Oregon POW/MIA'S

Veterans For Peace

Veterans For Common Sense

Very Pissed Off Combat Veterans -- And Blueprints For Change By John McCarthy

Recruiting Lies vs Military Reality

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To all who still believe in the noble cause of this war and that the troops are trying to protect and defend the country -- may they be spared to learn the truth the hardest possible way by losing a spouse or a child

A Simple Question and the Power of Shame

by Steven Laffoley
Published on Thursday, August 18, 2005 by CommonDreams.org

For nearly two weeks, sitting on a roadside, in the heat of the Texas sun, amid a growing, raucous circus of supporters, detractors, and media mouthpieces, bereaved mother Cindy Sheehan has done something many thought not possible in America anymore: she has reminded us of shame.

She has done this by asking a simple question: why did my son have to die? And by asking that question, she has revealed something that has come as a surprise to many Americans: the president has no morally defensible answer.

As a consequence, many Americans who have long believed President Bush's chest thumping and bible thumping to be moral character and moral righteousness can only stare with something close to wide-eyed wonder and genuine humility at the real thing.

How do I know Ms. Sheehan's moral character and moral righteousness are the "real thing"?

Because, unlike so many before her who dared to criticize the president and his administration for their inglorious rush to war, Ms. Sheehan has not been so easily dismissed as a caricature of the radical left or dissuaded to speak by the Rovian-style outings of family members' feelings or irrelevant personal matters. Indeed, nothing said or done by President Bush or his political chop shop machine to date has managed to snuff out Ms. Sheehan's most brilliant light of honesty and truth in this dark age of unreason. Her simple question reminds us that real moral character and moral righteousness offer us a formidable high ground, not so easily assailed.

Consider: in response to Ms. Sheehan's simple question, and to her request to meet and talk, the president claims he is mindful of Ms. Sheehan's concerns, but declines to meet saying, "I've got a life to live and will do so." But why not answer her question about a war he believes is so just?

Bill O'Reilly of Fox News says Ms. Sheehan "is associating with the most radical elements in this country, " and that Americans "don't have time for extremism." But what is so extreme about asking a simple question and politely waiting for an answer?

Matt Drudge of the Drudge Report says Ms. Sheehan supports Palestinians, won't pay her taxes, "gets support from her son Andy," doesn't have the support of many family members, and has "dramatically changed her story." But what has any of this to do with her simple question?

Radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh says of Ms. Sheehan's story, "There's nothing about it that's real, including the mainstream media's glomming onto it. It's not real...It's the latest effort made by the coordinated left." But what is not real about losing a son to war and asking why?

Because Ms. Sheehan's simple question has such moral clarity, moral authority, and moral certainty, these attacks only draw more attention to Ms. Sheehan's moral character and moral righteousness. And not surprisingly, not one of her attackers wants to provide an answer to Ms. Sheehan's question. Not one wants to address the truth. Because the truth is this: Ms. Sheehan's son died for no morally defensible reason.

Ms. Sheehan's question - and the yawning, silent absence of an answer from the president - reminds us, so clearly, that those who support this war have failed morally. And with that moral failure comes guilt. And humiliation. And dishonor.

By asking this simple question of the president - and by showing extraordinary courage and grace under fire from the president and his supporters while waiting for an answer - Ms. Sheehan reminds us that young men and women should never die in war, but when they do, the reasons for it must be morally defensible.

By asking this simple question of the president, Ms. Sheehan is asking us to remember shame.

Steven Laffoley is the author of Mr. Bush, Angus and Me: Notes of an American-Canadian in the Age of Unreason. You may e-mail him at stevenlaffoley@yahoo.ca or steven_laffoley@yahoo.com.

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