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Crank Call

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My position has been clear, and therefore, the position of this government is clear. Obviously, the conditions on the ground depend upon our capacity to bring the troops home."

G.W. Bush

These words from our fearsome, fearless and fatheaded commander-in-chief were delivered last week in Crawford, Texas, more or less in response to the protest of Cindy Sheehan. If you don't know who Cindy Sheehan is by now, it's because you haven't been reading, or listening, or watching, or "surfing," or whatever it is you fiddle with while Rome burns. She's the California mother and peace activist whose son, Private Casey Sheehan, was killed in Baghdad in 2004. Cindy Sheehan has been camped outside Bush's holiday ranch since August 6, demanding an explanation for the ongoing war in Iraq.

And if you can't tell that Ding-Dong, in the above quotation, got the whole thing backwards, either you can't read or you're so inured to Bushspeak that your eyes and ears are permanently shut.

Obviously, what Bush meant to say, having read and tried to memorize the lines fed him for these occasions, was exactly the opposite of what he did say -- namely, that "bringing the troops home" depends on "conditions on the ground," not the other way around. As frequently happens, Bush told the truth inadvertently: "Conditions" in Iraq do depend entirely on our getting the hell out, just as Cindy Sheehan insists.

As it happens, Ms. Sheehan insists on more than that. She insists on a meeting with this strutting punk of a president -- this "sneer on legs," as my mother calls him (and that's not the worst she has to say). Sheehan wants an explanation of this "noble cause" Bush keeps talking about, for which her son ostensibly died. She wants to know -- to her eternal credit -- why, if the "cause" in Iraq is so "noble," Bush's daughters, Jenna and Barbara, aren't over there right now, doing their bit for all that nobility. (After all, there are lots of things the twins could accomplish in Iraq. If they didn't want to be soldiers, they could always be "camp followers," serving the troops as the troops serve their country -- ever a noble cause in time of war.)

Cindy Sheehan makes no secret of her desire to see George W. Bush impeached and, as of Saturday, had actually called him "a s--" (modesty courtesy of the Fourth Estate, which apparently believes that the sight of a good old Anglo-Saxon expletive will bring America apart at the seams). Her "intemperate" outburst, her lack of "civility," her "name-calling" will win Sheehan a lot of friends on one side and a lot of enemies on the other, but she has those already, and it doesn't faze her. As Bush himself remarked last week, "She feels strongly about her position. She has every right in the world to say what she believes. This is America."

It sure is, Junior, and something tells me that Cindy Sheehan's example is going to make you realize it in a way you've never had to face it before. While her opponents are busy smearing Sheehan as "treasonous," an "America-hating idiot," a "tool," a "pawn," a "peacenik" and -- whatever this means -- "more antiwar protester than grieving mother," let's not forget that she isn't the only one out there. She's not even the only grieving mother in Crawford.

"Isn't it interesting," asks columnist David Rossie, "that it is women, from Joan of Arc to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony to Rosa Parks, and now Cindy Sheehan, who have given impetus to great movements?"

Interesting, yes; also historically verifiable. There are others Rossie didn't mention, beginning with the heroine of Aristophanes' Lysistrata, the comic saga of a group of women in ancient Athens who, disgusted by the Peloponnesian War, embark on a "sex strike" to force their husbands to put down their spears and "vote for peace." Laura ought to try that one, although I doubt she will (her husband once described her as "the lump next to me in bed.") Ding Dong's explanation for not meeting Sheehan is enough to turn your stomach. According to wire reports on Sunday, he is "aware" of her "antiwar sentiments," but, you know, he's a very busy man.

"Whether it be here [in Crawford] or in Washington or anywhere else," says Bush, "there's somebody who has got something to say to the president, that's part of the job. And I think it's important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say. But I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life."

This excuse is more than lame, since Bush's life consists of nothing but staged appearances, maniacal bike rides and "brush-clearing" on the ranch. How much "brush" can there be in Crawford, anyway? What do they do, scatter it around the place when they hear that Goofus is coming for another five-week vacation? It's a revolting insult. And I think that Cindy Sheehan, if he dared to hear her, would tell our "commander" that her son would have liked to go on with his life, too.

"When the last Marine leaves Iraq, dead or alive," writes former Senator Gary Hart on his website [http://www.garyhartnews. com], "she can claim more credit than them all. Because of the courage of one brave woman, she quite possibly will have had more to do with finally bringing this great nation back to its senses ... and to its principles. Remember her name. It is Cindy Sheehan."

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