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There was something truly repulsive about the way Bush and his handlers latched onto poor Tammy Pruett, the Idaho mother whose husband and four sons have already served or are still serving in Iraq.
I have no doubt but that this woman, despite all the smiles and cheering at the rally at which she received the presidential peck on the cheek, spends lonely nights wondering darkly what is happening to her three sons (her husband and one son are back from their tours). Any parent would, knowing their children were living in a shooting gallery and were the targets.
It was a travesty for Bush, as a way of striking back at the powerful anti-war protest by Cindy Sheehan and the other Gold Star Mothers who have lost loved ones, to parade this particular mother before the media and to quote her as having said that "if something happens to one of the boys, they would leave this world doing what they believe, what they think is right for our country."
Maybe Pruett really said it, though Bush’s record with quotes is pretty god-awful. That quote, to me though, sounded awfully scripted. It reeked of Rove-speak, for really, what parent would knowingly contemplate the possible loss of a child and speak of it in even remotely positive terms.
Besides, there is a fundamental difference between Pruett, who has not lost a child or a husband in Iraq, and Sheehan or Gold Star co-founder Celeste Zappala, who each lost a son in that war. For Pruett, the idea of losing a child is still basically just an idea. For Sheehan, Zappala and several thousand other grieving parents and siblings, it is a terrible reality.
And only when it becomes a real loss does the question really become asked in earnest: What did this young person die for?
That, after all, is the question Cindy Sheehan wants answered. She’s not asking for President Bush’s sympathy or for the Presidential Kiss, though that is how much of the media are portraying her quest. She wants a presidential answer. Why did her son, and all those other sons and daughters, have to die? What great cause did they give their lives for? What justification is there for her inconsolable loss?
And to that, the president has no answer-at least no satisfactory answer.
It is not saving the world from Weapons of Mass Destruction. Celeste Zappala’s son was in a unit of troops who were protecting and working with the Survey Group that was "searching" for those WMDs. In fact, as she notes with a face tight with anger, the president had already been before the Washington press corps doing a skit that had him looking under chairs and tables making fun of the whole effort several weeks before her son was killed. He was, she says, by that point only engaged in a charade designed to keep the illusion going that there was a serious search going on at the time he was killed. Put another way, he died in a PR campaign designed to make the president look good in an election year.
It is not bringing democracy to Iraq. At best, his war will produce some variant of an Islamic religious state, at worst a region of warring tribes.
So far, the best Bush can offer is that more should die so that those who’ve died already will not have died in vain. That’s some answer. At least it has the merit of being endlessly applicable, but that’s the most you can say for it.
So far, Pruett has been lucky. Her men have survived, and some have even made it home in one piece. For her and their sakes, I hope that’s the way they’ll all come home, but I suspect should she suffer the kind of loss that Sheehan and Zappala have suffered, the Bush White House will have a harder time getting her up there on a stage shilling for the war.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled "This Can’t be Happening!" is published by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.
He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org