Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

The material I post on this blog represents my views and mine alone. The material you post on this blog represents your views and yours alone.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

CROSSROADS COMMENT -- "It’s up to you now."

[Cindy] Sheehan began a grass roots peace movement in August 2005 when she camped outside Bush’s Crawford ranch for 26 days, demanding to talk with the president about her son’s death. Army Spc. Casey Sheehan was 24 when he was killed in an ambush in Baghdad in 2004.

Cindy Sheehan’s protest started small but swelled to thousands and quickly drew national attention. Over the next two years, she drew huge crowds as she spoke at protest events. But she also drew counter-protests of Bush supporters, including a large downtown rally after a cross-country tour called “You Don’t Speak for Me, Cindy!” sponsored by Move America Forward.

Sheehan wrote Monday in her online diary that she was leaving the peace movement because of the “smear and hatred” she had endured, not only from the right but the left.

ANGELA K. BROWN, Associated Press
Posted Friday, June 1, 2007

Here is what Cindy Sheehan wrote in her online diary. The Bush cartoon was not a part of the diary entry--though I'm certain Sheehan would approve.

"Good Riddance Attention Whore"

Mon May 28, 2007 at 09:57:01 AM PDT

I have endured a lot of smear and hatred since Casey was killed and especially since I became the so-called "Face" of the American anti-war movement. Especially since I renounced any tie I have remaining with the Democratic Party, I have been further trashed on such "liberal blogs" as the Democratic Underground. Being called an "attention whore" and being told "good riddance" are some of the more milder rebukes.

  • Cindy Sheehan's Diary

I have come to some heartbreaking conclusions this Memorial Day Morning. These are not spur of the moment reflections, but things I have been meditating on for about a year now. The conclusions that I have slowly and very reluctantly come to are very heartbreaking to me.

The first conclusion is that I was the darling of the so-called left as long as I limited my protests to George Bush and the Republican Party. Of course, I was slandered and libeled by the right as a "tool" of the Democratic Party. This label was to marginalize me and my message. How could a woman have an original thought, or be working outside of our "two-party" system?

However, when I started to hold the Democratic Party to the same standards that I held the Republican Party, support for my cause started to erode and the "left" started labeling me with the same slurs that the right used. I guess no one paid attention to me when I said that the issue of peace and people dying for no reason is not a matter of "right or left", but "right and wrong."

I am deemed a radical because I believe that partisan politics should be left to the wayside when hundreds of thousands of people are dying for a war based on lies that is supported by Democrats and Republican alike. It amazes me that people who are sharp on the issues and can zero in like a laser beam on lies, misrepresentations, and political expediency when it comes to one party refuse to recognize it in their own party. Blind party loyalty is dangerous whatever side it occurs on. People of the world look on us Americans as jokes because we allow our political leaders so much murderous latitude and if we don’t find alternatives to this corrupt "two" party system our Representative Republic will die and be replaced with what we are rapidly descending into with nary a check or balance: a fascist corporate wasteland. I am demonized because I don’t see party affiliation or nationality when I look at a person, I see that person’s heart. If someone looks, dresses, acts, talks and votes like a Republican, then why do they deserve support just because he/she calls him/herself a Democrat?

I have also reached the conclusion that if I am doing what I am doing because I am an "attention whore" then I really need to be committed. I have invested everything I have into trying to bring peace with justice to a country that wants neither. If an individual wants both, then normally he/she is not willing to do more than walk in a protest march or sit behind his/her computer criticizing others. I have spent every available cent I got from the money a "grateful" country gave me when they killed my son and every penny that I have received in speaking or book fees since then. I have sacrificed a 29 year marriage and have traveled for extended periods of time away from Casey’s brother and sisters and my health has suffered and my hospital bills from last summer (when I almost died) are in collection because I have used all my energy trying to stop this country from slaughtering innocent human beings. I have been called every despicable name that small minds can think of and have had my life threatened many times.

The most devastating conclusion that I reached this morning, however, was that Casey did indeed die for nothing. His precious lifeblood drained out in a country far away from his family who loves him, killed by his own country which is beholden to and run by a war machine that even controls what we think. I have tried every since he died to make his sacrifice meaningful. Casey died for a country which cares more about who will be the next American Idol than how many people will be killed in the next few months while Democrats and Republicans play politics with human lives. It is so painful to me to know that I bought into this system for so many years and Casey paid the price for that allegiance. I failed my boy and that hurts the most.

I have also tried to work within a peace movement that often puts personal egos above peace and human life. This group won’t work with that group; he won’t attend an event if she is going to be there; and why does Cindy Sheehan get all the attention anyway? It is hard to work for peace when the very movement that is named after it has so many divisions.

Our brave young men and women in Iraq have been abandoned there indefinitely by their cowardly leaders who move them around like pawns on a chessboard of destruction and the people of Iraq have been doomed to death and fates worse than death by people worried more about elections than people. However, in five, ten, or fifteen years, our troops will come limping home in another abject defeat and ten or twenty years from then, our children’s children will be seeing their loved ones die for no reason, because their grandparents also bought into this corrupt system. George Bush will never be impeached because if the Democrats dig too deeply, they may unearth a few skeletons in their own graves and the system will perpetuate itself in perpetuity.

I am going to take whatever I have left and go home. I am going to go home and be a mother to my surviving children and try to regain some of what I have lost. I will try to maintain and nurture some very positive relationships that I have found in the journey that I was forced into when Casey died and try to repair some of the ones that have fallen apart since I began this single-minded crusade to try and change a paradigm that is now, I am afraid, carved in immovable, unbendable and rigidly mendacious marble.

Camp Casey has served its purpose. It’s for sale. Anyone want to buy five beautiful acres in Crawford , Texas ? I will consider any reasonable offer. I hear George Bush will be moving out soon, too...which makes the property even more valuable.

This is my resignation letter as the "face" of the American anti-war movement. This is not my "Checkers" moment, because I will never give up trying to help people in the world who are harmed by the empire of the good old US of A, but I am finished working in, or outside of this system. This system forcefully resists being helped and eats up the people who try to help it. I am getting out before it totally consumes me or anymore people that I love and the rest of my resources.

Good-bye America are not the country that I love and I finally realized no matter how much I sacrifice, I can’t make you be that country unless you want it.

It’s up to you now.


And for a magnificent analysis and appreciation of Cindy Sheehan, her work, the lies about her, the person she is, see this by Stephanie Salter of the Terre Haute Tribune Star.

Monday, May 28, 2007

CROSSROADS COMMENT -- 3500: When a Real Benchmark Is Not a Benchmark

Soon the count will reach 3500. Is it disrespectful to speak of 3500 courageous Americans dead in Iraq as a “benchmark”? Would you prefer “milestone”? “signpost”? Someone should be paying attention. Someone should be giving these deaths in the Iraq War a title that will mean something to the wonks who have been making and supporting policies of death and assured defeat.

Someone should ask how these “benchmarks” fit our “goals.” Have the 3500 pointed the way to the “victory” in Iraq expected four long years ago? Does reaching this “touchstone” of 3500 make you feel safer? Does this life-ending, dream dissolving “yardstick” of 3500 allay the fears you’ve been conditioned to accept?

And now Bush and Congress obscenely lock arms in a loathsome grip insuring an even higher level of death and destruction in Iraq. What number of deaths in Iraq will be reached by September of this year, the period covered by the just passed legislation funding the war? Will that number be a clearer “gauge” than 3500?

And what fine and resonant proclamations on sacrifice did Senators and Congressmen who voted these billions for a death measure deliver this past Memorial Day? Why do we still agree to listen to double-speak speeches telling us how votes for more war, more deaths, are cast in order to “keep the troops out of harm’s way”? Did their speeches mention “target dates” or “timetables”?

And where did our Commander in Chief sign this war is the only answer legislation? In front of media lights and microphones, flags snapping in the open air, fitted out in his “Mission Accomplished” flight jacket? Or was he somewhere off in the shadows, in the leafy, silent as death, woods of Camp David? He probably spoke out on what Congress failed to deliver last week, “target dates” and “timetables.” We all know from bitter and bloody experience that Bush is big on “peemption.” He would describe “target dates” and “timetables” as “artificial,” giving this term his very best lip-curling sneer. 3500 is as far as you can get from "artificial." You won't hear that number on Bush's lips.

And, speaking of retreating, in shadows and dark forests of their own making, Senator Evan Bayh, Senator Richard Lugar, and Representative Brad Ellsworth, have not exactly stepped forward to trumpet their votes on the misery and death funding bill. Nothing from them on “milestones” reached or “measures” to guide us to a conclusion to this devastating, four years and counting, war. Will their “constituent friendly” offices send voters updates on their war friendly votes? Is their support for more war, more death, proudly displayed and ballyhooed on their slick web sites? What we need to see from them is what the Kurds call, ar akakan — ‘the responsibility of the government to act.’

Is 3500 dead an important benchmark? 3501 will be just as important. It takes courage and devotion to duty to give your life for your country. What does it take to admit lies and mistakes? Apparently a benchmark of 3500 isn’t enough.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


Oh my name it is nothin'
My age it means less
The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
I's taught and brought up there
The laws to abide
And that land that I live in
Has God on its side.

So now as I'm leavin'
I'm weary as Hell
The confusion I'm feelin'
Ain't no tongue can tell
The words fill my head
And fall to the floor
If God's on our side
He'll stop the next war.

---Bob Dylan, "With God On Our Side"

Last Sunday in our Crossroads community U.S. Marine Col. J. Tyler Ryberg signed up his God for active duty. He gave a sermon at Good Shepherd Baptist Church’s Armed Forces Day. The Tribune Star reports that he brought the news, I won’t call it good news, that “God is a powerful soldier.” He also declared “the global war on terrorism was a ‘just war’ and a ‘God-ordained war.’”

I try not to get flip when people start quoting God to support their views on international politics. These people pray hard, they point to Bible passages, and they step forward to testify. It’s all sincere and heartfelt. But why is it so difficult for some to remember that many God-loving, God-fearing, church-going individuals regularly go through this same process and come to entirely different conclusions. So Col. J. Tyler Ryberg is welcome to the path his experience and faith leads him along–it’s just his crooked path and his misdirection.

On “just wars.” The Trib Star report (and perhaps Col. J. Tyler Ryberg) was not clear on whether or not this statement: “the global war on terrorism was a ‘just war’ and a ‘God-ordained war’” was meant to be applied specifically to the disaster in Iraq or only in general to an amorphous enemy, a “global war on terrorism.” I’ll assume that Col. Ryberg, along with the rest of the nation, has finally been convinced that there was absolutely no link, no dots to connect, no evidence whatsoever showing the terrorism of Saddam Hussein and the terrorism of Bin Laden to be in league in any way. 9/11 had absolutely nothing to do with Iraq–the Iraq fiasco has everything to do with bad policy decisions in the Bush war camp.

Iraq is not a ‘just-war” as the term is understood by most theologians. I quote at length from an article by Peter Steinfels the religion columnist of the New York Times. (Yes. The New York Times has a religion columnist and it provides coverage on a host of issues and events spiritual and church related.)

“Michael Walzer, [is] the political scientist whose book "Just and Unjust Wars" has become a classic in the field.

“[For those like Professor Walzer who value the just-war tradition] The criterion, these just-war theorists say, is essentially a prudential one. Establishing what is or is not a last resort is a matter not of abstract mathematical demonstration but of practical, concrete wisdom, acquired through experience and reflection.

“War must be the last resort, Professor Walzer writes, 'because of the unpredictable, unexpected, unintended and unavoidable horrors that it regularly brings.' As for the notion of lastness, it is essentially 'cautionary,' he states: 'look hard for alternatives before you let loose the dogs of war.'"

This definition and concern with what is and is not a ‘just-war” is one that I can live with and abide by. Iraq did not and does not meet this definition and concern. Tragically, Iraq does provide copious evidence of the “unexpected, unintended and unavoidable horrors” of a war taken up in the spirit of arrogance and the weakness of ignorance.

I thank Colonel Ryberg for his long service to this country in the military.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

CROSSROADS COMMENT -- Remembering the Veto

I’ve marked May 1 on my calendar every year for five years. It’s the “Mission Accomplished” date in Bush’s illustrious career as a military leader. I used to inwardly laugh at the memory of his rehearsed strut and swagger across the deck of U. S. S. Abraham Lincoln. But by year three this laugh was forced and hollow. Now I just sigh with sadness.

So try this. Circle October 1, 2007, on your calendar.

By that date, phased withdrawals of American troops should have taken place. But Bush vetoed the $124 billion emergency military funding bill proposed by the newly elected Democratic majorities in Congress. He did it because it included time tables for the careful redeployment of our military forces. And now, following Bush’s veto, in a narrow lockstep display of political partisanship, the Republicans in the House of Representatives have upheld his veto.

This means that between now and October 1, 2007, we will not be reading reports of troops coming home or being reassigned to posts where they can make a difference in the war against terrorism.

October 1, 2007, will be another day of news reports of the deaths of brave women and men serving in Iraq. On October 1, 2007, every member of Congress who upheld Bush’s exercise in stubborn and misguided righteousness should stare at his or her calendar and think about the true patriots they have left in Iraq and those they continue to send into the crossfire of a sectarian civil war.

And the rest of us at home? On October 1, 2007, look up at your marked calendars, take out a pen and write in the five-month total of casualties amassed in Iraq, that false front in the war on terrorism. Repeat on October 1, 2008. This exercise should make it easier to cast your vote in November 2008.