The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Tuesday, August 09, 2005  

Operation Camp Casey Takes West Texas By Storm
Welcome Guest Blogger Gloria Hayes

Interesting, I think, and for me gratifying and a pleasure, that the too-long-delayed return of regular publishing at The Rittenhouse Review should come in a post from a guest blogger, my friend and fellow Philadelphian, writer Gloria Hayes. Please join me in welcoming Ms. Hayes to the Review, with this, her first contribution to the weblog.

“If combat means living in a ditch, females have biological problems staying in a ditch for thirty days because they get infections and they don’t have upper body strength. I mean, some do, but they're relatively rare. On the other hand, men are basically little piglets, you drop them in the ditch, they roll around in it, doesn’t matter, you know.” -- Former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich

Conservatives of Newt Gingrich’s ilk, hawks who opted not to serve during Vietnam, in the past have expressed curious and implausible opinions about women and their effectiveness in combat. Of course, few who planned the ill-fated 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq actually ever served in combat, so their hypotheses on the lack of fortitude of women in ditches, unsupported by experience or evidence, may well turn out to be as thoroughly discredited as the delusional images of throngs of grateful Iraqis greeting invading American troops bearing chocolate and rose petals.

But there are ditches and there are ditches, and since Saturday, August 6, Cindy Sheehan has been relegated to a ditch on a dusty road outside President George Bush’s Crawford, Texas, home. It is in Crawford, at the getaway widely referred to as a “ranch,” where the president recently began a five-week vacation that will distinguish his presidency as setting the record for time spent off the clock only months into his second term.

Of course, in light of disturbingly mounting casualties in Iraq, a grand jury investigation into the White House spy-leaking scandal, a controversial recess appointment, and plummeting approval ratings, some part of the respite may theoretically include a session or two in damage control and rebranding the War on Terror.

Nobody, least of all those who have lost family members in the war on Iraq, said this latest respite would be without controversy. Sheehan, whose son Casey Sheehan died in Iraq in April 2004, has vowed to remain at her post -- the ditch -- until President Bush answers her questions about the “noble cause” that has claimed the life of more than 1,800 servicemen and women, and his insistence that staying the course is the only way to honor the fallen. Purported biological frailties notwithstanding, Sheehan’s vigil will last every bit as long as the president’s lengthy vacation.

The immovable object of President Bush’s resolve is about to be met by the irresistible force of a grieving mother who wants real answers to her questions -- far more than the mere platitudes so readily accepted by the media. In response to her patient determination, the soft-spoken Sheehan says she has been told by authorities that she poses a security risk and will be arrested on Thursday when Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice make a scheduled visit to the Bush vacationstead. The nature of the risk Sheehan poses has not been explained, and whether the threatened arrest will occur remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, Camp Casey is becoming a focal point for growing public restiveness with President Bush’s handling of the increasingly violent deadly Iraq resistance and his apparent lack of a contingency plan or perceived need for one. Activists from several organizations have pledged their support for Cindy Sheehan and the swelling ranks of supporters are sure to draw even more media attention.

The visibility of the Peaceful Occupation, and the sympathetic protagonist at the center of it, should be a matter of concern for the Bush administration, which is renowned for shaping the message in its favor. The right-wing smear machine is kicking into gear and it remains to be seen who will be the victor in the battle for the hearts and minds -– a gold-star mother whose son has made the ultimate sacrifice in service to his country, or the perpetually vacationing commander-in-chief who last year didn’t trouble himself to meet her nor even bother to learn her departed son’s name.

Gloria Hayes lives and writes in Philadelphia.

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