Thursday, September 29, 2005

Katrina Is the New Monica 

Trust us: the lengthy excerpts below merely hint at the riches to be found in our venerated colleague Tom Engelhardt's quite extraordinary interview with the quite extraordinary Cindy Sheehan:
Cindy Sheehan: If [President Bush] had met with me, I know he would have lied to me. I would have called him on his lies and it wouldn't have been a good meeting, but I would have left Crawford. I would have written about it, probably done a few interviews, but it wouldn't have sparked this exciting, organic, huge peace movement. So he really did the peace movement a favor by not meeting with me.

TomDispatch: I thought his fatal blunder was to send out [National Security Advisor Stephen] Hadley and [Deputy White House Chief of Staff Joe] Hagin as if you were the prime minister of Poland. [She laughs.] And it suddenly made you in terms of the media…

CS: …credible.

TD: So what did Hadley and Hagen say to you?

CS: They said, "What do you want to tell the President?" I said, "I want to ask the President, what is the noble cause my son died for?" And they kept telling me: Keep America safe from terrorism for freedom and democracy. Blah-blah-blah… all the excuses I wasn't going to take, except from the President. Then we talked about weapons of mass destruction and the lack thereof, about how they had really believed it. I was: Well, really, Mr. Stephen (Yellowcake Uranium) Hadley… I finally said, "This is a waste of time. I might be a grieving mother, but I'm not stupid. I'm very well informed and I want to meet with the President." And so they said, "Okay, we'll pass on your concerns to the President."

They said at one point, "We didn't come out here thinking we'd change your mind on policy." And I said, "Yes you did." They thought they were going to intimidate me, that they were going to impress me with the high level of administration official they had sent out, and after they explained everything to me, I was going to go [her voice becomes liltingly mocking], "Ohhhh, I really never saw it that way. Okay, let's go guys." You know, that's exactly what they thought they were going to do to me. And I believe it was a move that did backfire because, as you said, it gave me credibility and then, all of a sudden, the White House press corps thought this might be a story worth covering.

CS: Well, the invasion of Iraq was a serious mistake, and the invasion and occupation have been seriously mismanaged. The troops don't have what they need. The money's being dropped into the pockets of war profiteers and not getting to our soldiers. It's a political war. Not only should we not be there, it's making our country very vulnerable. It's creating enemies for our children's children. Killing innocent Arabic Muslims, who had no animosity towards the United States and meant us no harm, is only creating more problems for us.

Katrina was a natural disaster that nobody could help, but the man-made disaster afterwards was just horrible. I mean, number one, all our resources are in Iraq. Number two, what little resources we did have were deployed far too late. George Bush was golfing and eating birthday cake with John McCain while people were hanging off their houses praying to be rescued. He's so disconnected from this country -- and from reality. I heard a line yesterday that I thought was perfect. This man said he thinks Katrina will be Bush's Monica. Only worse.

TD: Would you like to speak about your bluntness a little because words you use like "war crimes" aren't ones Americans hear often.

CS: All you have to do is look at the Nuremberg Tribunal or the Geneva Conventions. Clearly they've committed war crimes. Clearly. It's black and white. It's not me coming up with this abstract idea. It's like, well, did you put a bullet in that person's head or didn't you? "Yes I did." Well, that's a crime. It's not shades of grey. They broke every treaty. They broke our own Constitution. They broke Nuremberg. They broke the Geneva Conventions. Everything. And if somebody doesn't say it, does it mean it didn't happen? Somebody has to say it, and I'll say it. I've called George Bush a terrorist. He says a terrorist is somebody who kills innocent people. That's his own definition. So, by George Bush's own definition, he is a terrorist, because there are almost 100,000 innocent Iraqis that have been killed. And innocent Afghanis that have been killed.

And I think a lot of the mainstream opposition is glad I'm saying it, because they don't have to say it. They're not strong enough or brave enough or they think they have something politically at stake. We've had Congress members talk about impeachment and war crimes. I've heard them. But they're the usual suspects. They're marginalized too. They've always been against the war, so we can't listen to them.

You know, I had always admired people like the woman who started Mothers Against Drunk Driving or John Walsh for starting the Adam Walsh Foundation after his son was killed. I thought I could never do anything like that to elevate my suffering or my tragedy, and then, when it happened to me, I found out I did have the strength.

TD: You met with Hillary Clinton yesterday, didn't you? What do you think generally of the Democratic... well, whatever it is?

CS: They've been very weak. I think Kerry lost because he didn't come out strong against the war. He came out to be even more of a nightmare than George Bush. You know, we'll put more troops in; I'll hunt down terrorists; I'll kill them! That wasn't the right thing to say. The right thing to say was: This war was wrong; George Bush lied to us; people are dead because of it; they shouldn't be dead; and if I'm elected, I'll do everything to get our troops home as soon as possible. Then, instead of seeing the failure Kerry was with his middle-of-the-road, wishy-washy, cowardly policies, the rest of the Democrats have just kept saying the same things.

Howard Dean came out and said he hopes that the President is successful in Iraq. What's that mean? How can somebody be successful when we have no goals or defined mission or objectives to achieve there? They've been very cowardly and spineless. What we did at Camp Casey was give them some spine. The doors are open to them, Democrats and Republicans alike. As [former Congressman and Win Without War Director] Tom Andrews said, if they won't see the light, they'll feel the heat. And I think they're feeling the heat.

I can see it happening. I can see some Republicans like Chuck Hagel and Walter Jones breaking ranks with the party line. We met with a Republican yesterday -- I don't want to say his name because I don't want to scare him off -- but he seems to be somebody we can work with. Of course, as it gets closer to the congressional elections, we'll be letting his constituents know that he can be worked with.

TD: So you're planning to go into the elections as a force?

CS: It's totally about the war, about their position on the war. If people care about that issue, then that's what they should make it about too. We're starting a "Meet with the Moms" campaign. We're going to target every single congressman and senator to show their constituents exactly where they stand on the war. People in the state of New York, for instance, should look at their senators and say, if you don't come out for bringing our troops home as soon as possible, we're not going to reelect you.

TD: And what do you actually expect? We have three and a half more years of this administration…

CS: No we don't! [She chuckles.] I think Katrina's going to be his Monica. It's not a matter of "if" any more, it's a matter of "when," because clearly… clearly, they're criminals. I mean, look at the people who got the first no-bid contracts to clean-up and rebuild New Orleans. It's Halliburton again. It's crazy. One negative effect of Camp Casey was it took a lot of heat off Karl Rove for his hand in the [Valerie] Plame case. But I hear indictments are coming down soon. So that's one way it's going to come about. George Bush is getting ready to implode. I mean have you seen him lately? He's a man who's out of control.
SIDEBAR (via our distinguished colleagues at Crooks & Liars and Greatscat): Cindy Sheehan says in the interview above that "the invasion and occupation have been seriously mismanaged. The troops don't have what they need." If you are tempted to imagine that she is exaggerating in any particular, then please do us the great courtesy of reading this.

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