For the past ten days, Cindy Sheehan has been camping outside of President Bush's ranch near Crawford, Texas. Her son Casey died on April 4, 2004 while fighting in Iraq, and she is responding in her grief by wanting some accountability, and her search for accountability has led her all the way to the president. To President Bush she asks, "You said he died for a noble cause. What cause?" She wants to meet with him, and has even invited him to a prayer service at noon this Friday.
There is a wide diversity of opinion about Sheehan's protest, as is to be expected. (See Michelle Malkin or Gold Star Families for Peace as examples). Supporters of the war in general do not support her, and opposers of the war in general do support her - with every shade of gray in between. Here's what I think.
Someone, somewhere high up in the halls of our government needs to say something like, "We were wrong. The Iraqi regime had little to no connection with Al-Quaeda, and in particular no connection with the specific terrorists who attacked the United States in 2001. And we were also wrong when we said that the Iraqi regime had weapons that were capable of wreaking unimagined mass destruction in the region. We understand that these were both rationale given for going to war, and they turned out to be wrong. We are very sorry."
There would be so much healing if something like that would happen. Oh, not for everyone, I'm sure. There would still be some who continued to push for complete and immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops, which in my opinion would not be at all helpful. But many, many people are primarily hurt by the attitude of the Bush administration, which comes across as stubbornly defensive in most public appearances. I don't know exactly what Cindy Sheehan wants to hear from President Bush, but maybe some humble contrition would be welcomed. Maybe she wants him to quit saying her son was killed for a "noble cause" and start being honest about what exactly that cause was. One of the most difficult things we learn in kindergarten is how to say, "I am sorry." It is hard to do, but it makes everyone feel so much better when it is done.
I am thankful that Saddam Hussein is being held accountable for the atrocities he committed as dictator of Iraq. I am relieved that he is no longer in power. In his case, it seems that either violence (revolution, assasination, war) or his own death at a ripe old age would have worked to get rid of him. And the argument that Saddam at least provided a steady supply of basic needs for the people doesn't work with me, either. Peace is more than the absence of open conflict, and Iraq under Saddam was unquestionably not at peace.
And neither is it at peace today, going on three years and counting from the beginning of the U.S. invasion. And there is no end in sight. There is no mission accomplished. There is no peace.
Cindy Sheehan is the person at the tip of an enormous ice berg. She is articulating the feelings of more Americans than President Bush likes to consider. Many of us just want someone to say they are sorry and to be honest about it. Instead, we get smug grins and belligerent squints. Instead of honest responses to Cindy Sheehan's questions, we get, "This is America and she is entitled to her opinion." Yes, this is true - not open for debate. Now, put down that straw man and answer her questions!
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51.17)