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Iconic mother must seek answers: guilt, shame and sorrow motivate Cindy Sheehan.

I have opposed the war in Iraq from the very beginning. I also opposed the sanctions imposed on that country. But I support the liberation of Afghanistan and refuse to embrace any of the simplistic solutions of either Left or Right.

The Christian response to the conflict demands balance and moderation, as does the Christian response to any important issue. And that bring us to the case of Cindy Sheehan, who has become symbolic of a fundamentally important division in North American society.

This woman, of course, lost her son in the war. Casey Sheehan joined the military, re-enlisted and then volunteered to take part in a specific military action when as a mechanic he was not required to do so. His actions were selfless and heroic.

The question is whether his mother's actions are similarly so. Opponents of the war have no doubts and have given her an iconic status, transforming Sheehan into a living testimony to the futility and error of President's Bush policies.

The Right has reacted, using what are sometimes thuggish personal attacks and accusing her of being a stooge and a fool who has allowed herself to be used by dangerous groups and individuals.

The truth, as so often, is somewhere in the middle. Cindy Sheehan seemed not to have any politics for the longest time, met with the President after her son's death and praised George W. Bush's warmth. Then the change occurred.

Suddenly the Bush regime was conducting "an evil war", the United States government was "a morally repugnant system" and "the biggest terrorist is George W. Bush." She compared Lynne Stewart, a lawyer convicted of providing material support to terrorism, to the greatest of civil rights campaigners.

She made numerous inflated statements, demanded that the President meet with her again and marched with Marxist revolutionaries who are far more concerned with the violent overthrow of democracy than with the well being of the Iraqi people.

All of which she has a perfect fight to do. And all of which may well be provoked by guilt and shame and sorrow. The guilt that she was unable to prevent her son from going to war. The shame that as a mother she could not protect her boy. The sorrow at unimaginable loss.

Of course it was not her fault and of course she should not blame herself. But of course she may well do so and you and I may do the same in such a hellish circumstance.

The tragedy is that even moderates on this issue now see an exploitation of Casey Sheehan's death and resent his mother and her friends for it. Those moderates include her husband of 28 years, who has filed for divorce.

Also Casey Sheehan's paternal grandparents, who have stated that, "We do not agree with the political motivations and publicity tactics of Cindy Sheehan. She now appears to be promoting her own personal agenda and notoriety at the expense of her son's good name and reputation. The Sheehan family lost our beloved Casey in the Iraq War and we have been silently, respectfully grieving. The rest of the Sheehan family supports the troops, our country and our President, silently, with prayer and respect."

I find it impossible to take an absolute stand on this case, partly because I am not sure how I would react if, God forbid, such a fate ever befell me.

I would, however, respectfully advise Cindy Sheehan to ask her comrades certain questions, ones that I am convinced all opponents of the Iraq war, and in particular Christian opponents, should ask.

Why did they not march against Saddam Hussein when he was murdering hundreds of thousands of people?

Why are they so angry with their own government but so quiet about the routine torture and incarceration of political and religious dissidents in, for example, Cuba?

Why are they not demanding an end to the murderous regimes of Syria and Iran and why are they so selective in condemning flawed democracies but ignoring or even supporting brutal dictatorships?

The answers will tell us if they are enlightened opponents of an unjust war or hateful extremists with a poisonous agenda. Demand answers Cindy, for your sake and for the sake of your son.

Michael Coren is a broadcaster, author and speaker. Visit his website at
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Title Annotation:american activist
Author:Coren, Michael
Publication:Presbyterian Record
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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