The grief and outrage that Cindy Sheehan and the other dissenting military families have evoked this week in Washington, D.C., is palpable, as is the evidence they muster of just how careless this administration was in putting their loved ones at risk for the Iraq war.
But in calling for an immediate withdrawal, the peace movement can’t duck a central question: Just how do we leave?
On Friday, Sheehan appeared on a Congressional Black Caucus breakfast panel with General Wesley Clark, the former NATO commander and presidential hopeful, who was there to address the issue of whether the U.S. can “win” the war in Iraq.
“We’re involved in a war that we didn’t have to fight. That’s the simple truth,” Clark said. “Now it’s in trouble, deep trouble. I wish it was just as simple as saying, Mr. President, you made a mistake, get those troops out now.”
The trouble is, he continued, that the Islamic extremists “really do want to attack us. Getting out of Iraq will be a great defeat for us unless we do it in the right way.”
Clark said the anti-war movement should demand that Bush establish a “regional dialogue with other Arab states, including people we don’t like, like Syria and Iran,” and focus on “changing the minds and cutting off the recruiting” of those now blowing up tanks and buses in Iraq.
“We need to turn off the flow of weapons and fighters going into Iraq and turn off the invective and fears and create a climate where the Iraqis don’t need to fight each other,” he said. “And then we can come home.”
Speaking of the expected 100,000 strong anti-war march on Saturday, Clark told Sheehan and the other military families arrayed in the audience that they should “march with the flag, because this is about the future of America.”
It was all too much for Carlos Arredondo of Roslindale, Massachusetts, who lost his 20-year-old son in Iraq. He ran up to the podium holding a hand-lettered “IMPEACH” sign.
Clark smiled and shook his head. “This should not be a partisan issue,” he said. “America is only strong when we come together. This is really about changing the direction this country is heading in. We have to bring people together from all walks of life.”
At this, Charles Rangel, the moderator, stepped in: “I’ve been here 35 years, and I know impeachment when I see it,” said the New York congressman. “If the president knew there were no weapons of mass destruction and knew there was no connection between Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, and if the president knew the Iraqis were not involved in the attack on the twin towers and still allowed our nation to believe that we had to invade Iraq for it, then I’m a lawyer and a former federal prosecutor, and these are impeachable offenses,” he said, to a burst of applause from the audience.
When it was her turn to speak, Sheehan stuck to her demand that we get out now. “Yes, there are people who want to kill us. But they want to kill us because we’re killing innocent Arabs and Muslims,” she said. “I’m afraid we’re creating enemies that are going to endanger my grandchildren. That’s why I do what I do.
“Right now they’re spending billions of dollars building military bases in Iraq the size of Sacramento,” Sheehan continued. “If there’s one thing we as a peace movment have to agree on, it’s that we have to get out of Iraq now, as soon as possible, because these maniacs plan on our children never coming home.”