It All Goes Back to Casey

I met Cindy Sheehan on Sunday afternoon while her mother was still in the intensive care unit. Listening to her, I just wanted my teenage daughters to meet her. Because it's never too early to teach young women fearlessness. And despite everything Cindy Sheehan has been through in the last year and a half, including weeks of sliming and smearing and swift-boating by Bush's attack machine, what she exudes, above all, is fearlessness. Fearlessness and authenticity.

With her was her sister Dede, eleven months younger and, as Cindy put it, "Casey's second mom."

"The fun mom," bantered Dede.

"Well I was fun too," Cindy shot back. "You were just the funnest one."

Somehow whatever we were talking about, the conversation would always steer back to Casey. Never more chillingly than when Cindy described that night in April 2004 when she and her husband were watching CNN and the news from Iraq came on about a Humvee burning... eight soldiers killed.

"I just knew at that moment," she told me, "that one of them was Casey. My husband got angry with me. 'You can't do that to yourself every time there is news of a dead soldier in Iraq,' he said. 'There are a hundred and thirty thousand American soldiers there, so what are the chances?' Still, I knew. After a while I just went out walking with my dogs, crying all the way. On the way back, as I turned the corner, I could see three Army officers in my living room. They were waiting for me. Casey had designated me 'first of kin,' so I was the one to whom they had to give the news of his death. I just collapsed on the floor."

It's that unfathomable pain that, through the months that followed, she turned into a take-no-prisoners stand. And it's that pain that continues to fuel her determination -- no matter what's thrown at her. The more unreal and disconnected Bush becomes, the more real and engaged Cindy is.

And instead of just summoning the small amount of courage it would take to meet with her and answer her questions, the president retreats to his fraudulent allusions to a link between Al Qaeda and Iraq as the justification for the war. (This will culminate next month in the "Freedom Walk," Bush's plan to commemorate those who died on Sept. 11th by using them in a political stunt to save his sagging presidency.)

And now there is Bush's newest fabrication about the Iraqi constitution, or at least the latest draft of a draft of a constitution. Holden at First Draft caught this fiction right away:

Q If [the constitution] is rooted in Islam, as it seems it will be... is there still the possibility of honoring the rights of women?

THE PRESIDENT: I talked to Condi, and there is not -- as I understand it, the way the constitution is written is that women have got rights, inherent rights recognized in the constitution, and that the constitution talks about not "the religion," but "a religion."

In fact, that's not at all what Article 2 Para. 1 says: "Islam is the official religion of state, and is a fundamental source for legislation."

So is this version of Islamic theocracy what we are fighting for? Is this the "noble cause" Cindy's son died for?

Cindy Sheehan, in personifying the human cost of the war, has exposed the fault lines in the administration's policies. Her real concern for the troops highlights the president's lack of concern, and her sacrifice makes nonsense of Bush's questioning the patriotism of anybody who disagrees with him. Here is the latest on this:

Meeting briefly with reporters Monday aboard Air Force One, Trent Duffy, a White House spokesman subbing for Scott McClellan, said that President Bush believes that those who want the U.S. to begin to change course in Iraq do not want America to win the overall "war on terror."

Cindy Sheehan returns to Crawford as the smear machine has moved into overdrive. Its talking points are now in the mouths of supposedly neutral anchors. Example: Norah O'Donnell subbing for Chris Matthews, on Hardball, referred to those at Camp Casey as "anti-war extremists."

Welcome back to Crawford, Cindy.

Cindy Sheehan